Created By: Sahira on December 2, 2013 Last Edited By: Sahira on December 29, 2013
Troped

Ridiculously Difficult Route

When a route is usually never used because it's just too difficult and/or there are other, easier ways.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Thor: [On seeing where Loki is heading the ship] ...Loki?!
Loki: If it were easy, everyone would do it.
Thor: Are you mad?!
Loki: Possibly.

Not many people use a particular route. Why? It's damn difficult, that's why, otherwise most people probably would. But, for some reason, the protagonists need to use it, probably because the usual route has been destroyed or otherwise blocked off. This is a case of Don't Try This at Home as the success of such a plan is rarely Truth in Television due to the probability of things going wrong.

The route is either difficult because the terrain is physically difficult to travel, in which case any enemies will also find it difficult, or (more commonly) there are lots of hostile mooks in the way, in which case whether enemies find it difficult to travels depends on exactly who the mooks are hostile to. Often it is a combination of both. But, either way, because of the difficulty the route is mostly never used.

Usually (though not always) this route is rather shorter than the main journey, and sometimes (though not necessarily) shorter than the usual route. Sometimes said route is the only route to a place, in which case that place is also rarely travelled to. The route may have a dangerous-sounding name like "the Devil's Backbone" or "Dead Man's Pass".

This trope is more frequently seen in media that tend to have longer stories such as Literature or a series of Films rather than things like Live-Action Television (TV series can have long story arcs but the individual stories are usually quite short). The reason being the route can take a long time to travel and is therefore impractical in shorter stories unless Played for Laughs.

This trope often appears as a part of Walking into Mordor, can be a part of The Homeward Journey, and is sometimes a necessary step in The Quest. However, this trope is not about a whole journey generally being difficult. It is more about a specific route to, or sometimes through, a specific place, which if not for the whole "difficult" thing would probably be rather frequently travelled.

If the route is picturesque then it is also a Scenic Route. If, in a game, a route is chosen deliberately because the most challanging path seems the most likely to yield good results in the long run, then the route is instead the Path of Most Resistance.

In games this trope can overlap with Railroading (Tabletop Games), and No Sidepaths, No Exploration, No Freedom and But Thou Must (Video Games).

Compare That One Level. Contrast Took a Shortcut and Shortcuts Make Long Delays.


Examples

Film
  • Thor: The Dark World. Loki and Thor use a secret "back door" from Asgard. This involves flying a ship at top speed into a tiny crevice in a very rocky mountain, with, one can imagine, disastrous consequenses if one misses. Even with Loki's 'expertise' they barely avoid crashing on their way out. See page quote.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean At World's End. Getting from the normal world to Davy Jones' Locker can be considered this.
    Barbosa: We're good and lost now.
    Elizabeth: Lost!?
    Barbosa: For certain ye have to be lost to find a place as can't be found. Elseways everyone would know where it was.

Literature
  • The Lord of the Rings. Oh so many. Here are a few:
    • Passing over(Caradhras)/under(Moria) the Misty Mountains was this trope for the Fellowship.
    • Frodo and Sam have to get into Mordor. How? By climbing up hundreds of "stairs" on an almost vertical mountain and crawling through a giant spider's lair. Because they obviously can't use the front gate.
    • Aragorn has to go through the ghost-infested mountains that no-one has ever returned from before. Though perhaps in this case the trope is not entirely played straight since he went in there to gain the alliance of said ghosts...
  • The Obernewtyn Chronicles. In The Farseekers Elspeth's expedition can't travel on the main roads due to the Corrupt Church's Burn the Witch! policy. They therefore decide to take an "olden way" through the mountains instead of the main pass. It turns out the reason no-one uses that route anymore is that it is now (after the Great White) extremely difficult to travel due to multiple landscape obsticles plus dangerous levels of radiation.
    • When they can't at first find the olden way they Take a Third Option. By rafting down a river swollen by torrential rains, through a radioactive Ghost City and down a waterfall.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe. The Kessel Run, a hyperspace smuggling route between Kessel and Tatooine, skirts a black hole cluster near the Kessel System where it's easy for a less competent pilot than Han Solo to get killed. Most people don't go that way.
  • In Elspeth Cooper's book Songs of the Earth, Whistlers Pass is this because of freezing temperatures and, well, the whistlers (ghosts).
  • Invoked in the H. Rider Haggard novel King Solomon's Mines. The heroes follow a route given in an old account that turns out to be barely survivable; at the end of the novel they discover the natives know of a longer but less risky alternative.
  • In Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident, Artemis and his friends are trying to find a way inside Koboi Labs. The good news is, Mulch has a cousin who worked as a contractor during the labs' construction, and they discovered an underground fissure that leads straight to the labs' foundations. The bad news is, the fissure opens and shuts periodically as it expands and contracts with heat from the Earth's core, it will only be wide enough for their shuttle to navigate safely for three minutes at a time, and it's at it's widest for a few moments right before the next magma flare.

Tabletop Games

Video Games
  • Half-Life 2. You end up having to go through Ravenholm (a zombie infested town on a route that "no-one uses anymore") because the other route you were originally going to take gets cut off by the Combine attack.

Western Animation
  • In the Regular Show episode "Busted Cart", to make up for lost time and to get the cart fixed before the warranty expires, Mordecai and Rigby take Highway 13 to get to the dealership faster. It's considered the most dangerous highway in the country due to the road crumbling, spikes on the road, giant boulders rolling down the valley, and a crater with a green portal in the center.

Real Life
  • Hannibal Barca during the Second Punic War famously marched his army, elephants and all, through the Alps to get them behind the Roman defense. No one saw this coming.
Community Feedback Replies: 40
  • December 2, 2013
    Arivne
    Changed a Circular Link in the description, sorted the examples by media and corrected a spelling error and an incorrect capitalization.
  • December 2, 2013
    spacemarine50
    How's this related to Path Of Most Resistance and Scenic Route?
  • December 2, 2013
    DAN004
  • December 3, 2013
    Sahira
    Because the draft description doesn't let you read notes, I'm just mentioning here that the note in the first paragraph is 'As in physically difficult to travel, not "lots of enemy mooks in the way" '
  • December 6, 2013
    SKJAM
    May have a dangerous-sounding name like "the Devil's Backbone" or "Dead Man's Pass". In books, will often be described as a goat path.
  • December 9, 2013
    Sahira
    Anyone have more examples?
  • December 9, 2013
    Alucard
    Real Life Example: Hannibal Barca during the Second Punic War famously marched his army, elephants and all, through the alps to get them behind the Roman defense. No one saw this coming.
  • December 11, 2013
    aurora369
    Another Lot R example: the mines of Moria. The Fellowship is origially reluctant to try this route, trying to cross the Misty Mountains throught the Caradhras Pass. The pass is blocked (in the books, due to the eponymous mountain's malevolence, in the movies, because Saruman conjured a storm there), so they have to brave Moria. It is originally physically difficult because it's a veritable maze. Then Pippin does something stupid and bam! Moria is also suddenly full of mooks!
  • December 11, 2013
    Sahira
    ^ I did consider that as an example, but Moria isn't actually all that difficult to travel through (apart from a few spontanious cracks opening in the floor) as long as you know the way (it was, after all, built as a place for people to live), which Gandalf does, and the only real danger comes when the orcs and then the Balrog discover the fellowship's presence, which doesn't fall into this trope.
  • December 11, 2013
    DracMonster
    Complacent Gaming Syndrome often involves this, with almost every player taking the quickest and most efficient levels/route through the game, unless the difficult route has Hard Mode Perks.

    • Half Life 2: "That's the old passage to Ravenholm. We don't go there anymore." When the combine attacks the hideout and all other escapes are being cut off, Eli is still screaming at you over the radio, "Do NOT go to Ravenholm!" Guess which zombie-infested town you end up having to go through next?
  • December 12, 2013
    dalek955
    The Magic The Gathering card "Canyon Minotaur" references this.
    "We'll scale these cliffs, traverse Brittle Bridge, and then fight our way down the volcanic slopes on the other side."
    "Isn't the shortest route through the canyon?"
    "Yes."
    "So shouldn't we—"
    "No."
  • December 12, 2013
    Sahira
    @Drac Monster I'm not entirely sure what your example has to do with this trope...
  • December 12, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ Drac Monster is talking about video game route. Apparently this trope is talking about an actual route. :P
  • December 12, 2013
    StarSword
    @sahira and aurora369: Actually, there is a second example in LOTR. Moria was actually Plan C. Plan A was the normal eastward trade route through the Gap of Rohan, which it turned out Saruman was watching.
  • December 12, 2013
    DracMonster
    ^Uh, well, actually it does match that. You end up having to go through Ravenholm because the other route you were originally going to take gets cut off by the Combine attack.
  • December 12, 2013
    Sahira
    @aurora369 and Star Sword: none of the three routes that were considered were, in themselves, particularly difficult until a) the enemy was watching the path, b) the mountain fought back, or c) they were swarmed by mooks. This means that, though that stage in their journey was very difficult, it does not fall into this trope.
  • December 12, 2013
    StarSword
    ^I fail to see how that doesn't fit the definition as laid out by the description and laconic. Easy way people usually take: Gap of Rohan, normally a perfectly safe overland route. Hard way: Pass of Caradhras, difficult climb through a mountain range. Harder way: Moria, abandoned dwarf city that you can easily get lost in if you don't know the way, and IIRC known to have been an orc stronghold in the past after the dwarves were driven out.
  • December 12, 2013
    StarSword
    Literature:
    • The Star Wars Expanded Universe implementation of Hyperspace Lanes is that they're the safest routes between point A and point B, mapped out over many millennia. There's often a faster way to get there, but civilian ships aren't usually willing to take the risk that comes with it. For example, the Kessel Run, a spice smuggling route between Kessel and Tatooine, skirts a black hole cluster near the Kessel System where it's easy for a less competent pilot than Han Solo to get killed.
  • December 12, 2013
    DAN004
    @ Sahira: I don't think a presence of Mooks would make it not this trope. Depends on the context, though.

    And technically, for Thor example, the "secret route" isn't difficult to go through - it's just difficult to find, and when you do find it, you'd be pretty crazy to crash your ship to a big rock if you don't know there's an invisible portal there.
  • December 13, 2013
    Sahira
    It has occured to me that the description didn't accurately convey my full meaning, so I have modified it slightly.
  • December 13, 2013
    Sahira
    @ DAN 004: The presence of mooks doesn't disqualify an example, but if an enemy presence is the only thing that makes the route difficult to travel, then it does not fall into this trope.
  • December 13, 2013
    DAN004
    Compare That One Level.
  • December 13, 2013
    StarSword
    ^^That strikes me as needlessly specific.

    Based on the description, you also seem to be unfamiliar with the concept of overlapping tropes. Something can be more than one trope, e.g. both this trope and Railroading.
  • December 13, 2013
    Sahira
    ^ I am aware of the concept of overlaping tropes, it's just that those tropes didn't fit in with my then-idea of exacly what this trope is.

    I give up! I have expanded the trope to include "difficult because of enemy" and changed my mental definition of it slightly.
  • December 14, 2013
    notShemp
    Western Animation
    • In Regular Show, "Busted Cart", to make up for lost times to get the cart fixed before the warranty expires, Mordecai and Rigby take Highway 13 to get to the dealership faster. It's considered the most dangerous highway in the country due to the road crumbling, spikes on the road, giant boulders rolling down the valley, and there's a crater with a green portal in the center.
  • December 16, 2013
    RedBuster
    In Yu Yu Hakusho, in one of episodes from Tournament from Genkai Sucessor, the challengers have to pass from forest to go to another side of the hill to pass the trial, but Yusuke to choice to pass the forest in straight line, but he fights with the Baldok, an Man-Bat after this, Yusuke pass to the trial in last, but proceeds to the next phase.
  • December 16, 2013
    Sahira
    ^ I'm sorry, but your english isn't very good and I'm having trouble understanding your example, or determining if it does indeed fit into this trope.

    Does anyone know of or can explain this example?
  • December 17, 2013
    StarSword
    ^One of the tests Old Master Genkai sets up to pick her successor is traveling through a forest full of hazards (mostly monsters). Yusuke travels a straight-line course, which is where Genkai stuck the strongest hazards.

    I'm not sure if it counts.
  • December 17, 2013
    Sahira
    ^I don't think that really fits this trope...
  • December 18, 2013
    Chernoskill
    Deleted
  • December 18, 2013
    Sahira
    Does the description need an image?
  • December 18, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ Perhaps.
  • December 20, 2013
    Lumpenprole
    Invoked in the H. Rider Haggard novel King Solomon's Mines. The heroes follow a route given in an old account that turns out to be barely survivable; at the end of the novel they discover the natives know of a longer but less risky alternative.
  • December 20, 2013
    dandyman

    not sure if this counts, and have no idea how to explain this (media Anime and Manga, Hunter X Hunter).
  • December 20, 2013
    Sahira
    @dandyman: I think that is edging on discussing the trope but doesn't really fall into it. People are free to contradict me, however.
  • December 20, 2013
    Astaroth
    • In Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident, Artemis and his friends are trying to find a way inside Koboi Labs. The good news is, Mulch has a cousin who worked as a contractor during the labs' construction, and they discovered an underground fissure that leads straight to the labs' foundations. The bad news is, the fissure opens and shuts periodically as it expands and contracts with heat from the Earth's core, it will only be wide enough for their shuttle to navigate safely for three minutes at a time, and its at its widest for a few moments right before the next magma flare.
  • December 21, 2013
    Sahira
    Should I mention in the description somewhere about how this trope seems to be/is rare in genres with shorter stories such as Live Action Television? (TV series can have long story arcs but the individual stories tend to be quite short making this trope impractical if played seriously)
  • December 22, 2013
    Sahira
    Well, since I haven't had a reply, I'll put it in there and see what happens...
  • December 22, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    Doesn't Dragons Crown have something like this?
  • December 22, 2013
    Sahira
    ^I have no idea as I haven't played the game, but if someone can find a specific example from it that fits this trope I will add it to the list.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

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