Step 4

Crossing of the First Threshold

Also known as:
Entering the Unknown

As they embark on their journey, the heroes enter a world they have never experienced before. Very often it is filled with supernatural creatures, breathtaking sights, and the constant threat of death. 

Unlike the heroes’ home, this outside world has its own rules, and they quickly learns to respect these rules as their endurance, strength, and mettle are tested time and time again. After all, it is not the end of the journey which teaches, but the journey itself. 


  • In Star Wars, Luke leaves his home planet of Tattoine.

  • Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson leave the comfort of 221b Baker Street and set out for the scene of the trouble.
  • In the Lord of the Rings, Frodo crosses the threshold both of his house at Bag End and also out of the Shire, into lands totally foreign to him.
  • The Wizard of Oz: Dorothy must learn the rules of Oz 
  • The Matrix: Neo must come to grips with the realities and unrealities of the Matrix

Further explanation from Joseph Campbell's Hero with A Thousand Faces:

"With the personifications of his destiny to guide and aid him, the hero goes forward in his adventure until he comes to the "threshold guardian" at the entrance to the zone of magnified power. Such custodians bound the world in four directions - also up and down - standing for the limits of the hero's present sphere, or life horizon. Beyond them is darkness, the unknown and danger; just as beyond the parental watch is danger to the infant and beyond the protection of his society danger to the members of the tribe. The usual person is more than content, he is even proud, to remain within the indicated bounds, and popular belief gives him every reason to fear so much as the first step into the unexplored"
-- (Campbell 78)

"The adventure is always and everywhere a passage beyond the veil of the known into the unknown; the powers that watch at the boundary are dangerous; to deal with them is risky; yet for anyone with competence and courage the danger fades"
-- (Campbell 82)