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Only the Worthy May Pass
"Know this. Only one may enter here. One whose worth lies far within. A diamond in the rough."
The Cave of Wonders, Aladdin

There is a barrier that blocks the progress of the protagonists unless they are worthy.

Exactly what "worthy" means depends on the work. In a videogame, it might mean your character must be at or above a certain level, or that the Karma Meter is positive (or that the dark magic hasn't been used more than X times), or simply that you've run across the right event trigger. In an idealistic show, the pure of heart or the innocent will be worthy, and the Card-Carrying Villain will be blocked. In a cynical work, the pure in heart and the innocent will be blocked; the pragmatic will be worthy.

It may happen that there are people on the far side of the barrier who shouldn't be worthy. This trope hinges on the Rule of Perception more than it ought to.

Sister Tropes include Only Smart People May Pass (you are worthy if you're smart enough to solve the puzzle), Only the Knowledgable May Pass, Only the Pure of Heart, Only the Chosen May Wield.

Compare Because Destiny Says So, Only Idiots May Pass, Secret Test of Character.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime And Manga  

  • A variant: The Gate of Judgment in Ah! My Goddess: The Movie that tests the love between a couple.
  • In Fist of the North Star, Raoh was only able to ride the legendary horse Kokuoh after he had gained its respect.
  • In the InuYasha anime, there's a sacred cave near the Demon Hunter Village where the Shikon Jewel was formed, that only people with pure intentions can enter. Inuyasha is able to enter at first, but when he starts talking about how he's going to use the jewel's power to slaughter his enemies, he's forcibly launched outside. He was able to re-enter in order to save Myoga near the end of the episode. Apparently the ejection isn't irrevocable.
  • Shaman King. Anyone that tries to enter the Star Sanctuary must prove they are worthy to Spirit Birds. The birds even say the name of the Trope. "Only the worthy may pass".
  • In Dragon Ball Z, this is how the Namekian Dragonballs were supposed to be gathered, with each village offering a different test to anyone who came looking for them. Freeza just went with a more direct route.

     Comic Books  

     Fan Fiction  

  • During the Ego Trip in With Strings Attached, the four and the Hunter must use a portgate to get to the Plains of Death. However, the portgate is guarded by the Warrior Women, who will only let the worthy go through. Slight aversion in that because so many people have died after going through the gate, the weakest in the party must prove himself worthy by defeating their champion.
    • Among the four, weak is, of course, relative.
  • In The Dresden Fillies: False Masks, the Order Triune is protected by wards operating on these principles. Bob points out how stupid it is and how relying on subjective morality is a dumb idea. Case in point, even the formerly demonicly possessed semi-villain who hadn't really learned their lesson managed to pass by being self sacrificing enough to tell the others to go on without them as they were trapped. Basically any basic decency was enough to pass.

     Film  

  • The ancient Egyptian variation below was shown in one of the Sesame Street movies, Don't Eat the Pictures.
  • A subversion in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Only the penitent man shall pass makes it sound like a worthy person is the only one who will get through. But the truth is all anyone has to do to get by this trap is prostrate themselves on the ground. And then do a somersault. You know, like you do in church.
  • Played with in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The Bridgekeeper of the Bridge of Death will only allow those who answer "his questions three" to pass. (Of course, the questions are completely random and their difficulty, if it follows any pattern at all, seems inversely proportional to the confidence of the person to whom the questions are directed).
  • The Sphinxes in the film version of The Neverending Story only allow the confident to pass (although Atreyu had to fudge it).

     Literature  

  • In the original Aladdin, Only Aladdin Could Pass, but no mention was made of it being due to his character, which is rather lacking before Disneyfication.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Red Fury, Gorn insists that Rafen give him the message intended for Lord Seth. Rafen demands to be treated with respect. Gorn's reaction is that he has some fire after all, and Lord Seth, in the back of the room, comes forward to receive it.
  • In Neverwhere, Richard must face an Ordeal in order to earn a special key.
  • A subversion occurs in the original book of The Neverending Story. Atreyu assumes that the Sphinxes guarding the Southern Oracle will only allow the worthy to pass, but the gnome who studies the Southern Oracle corrects him: the Sphinxes will sometimes block good and worthy heros while allowing evil cowards to pass. The gnome's best guess is that whether or not someone is allowed to pass is completely random.

     Live Action Television  

  • To reach the Sangraal in Stargate SG-1, one must be virtuous, pure of spirit, AND smart enough pass the multitude of tests along the way. Adria (correctly) deduces that she will not be able to retrieve the Sangraal as a result but suggests that Daniel, as a former ascended being, is a perfect candidate.
  • The rules surrounding the Great Divide in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland stipulate that only "the pure of heart" can cross. It's a Leap of Faith.

     Religion, Legends, and Mythology  

  • The sword in the stone from Arthurian legend.
    • Also, The Siege Perilous. For those who don't know their Mallory, this was the only unlabeled seat Merlin placed at the Round Table, which would incinerate anyone who sat in it except "He who shall surpass all other Knights" by finding the Holy Grail.
  • In Ancient Egyptian religion, your heart is weighed against the Feather of Justice, to see if you are worthy of their paradise. If not, a hideous monster eats your heart.
    • It's more like oblivion/destruction of the soul vs. an afterlife that's an improved version of the life you just lived, rather than Heaven or Hell, though.

     Tabletop Games  

  • Seen in D&D with its various protective and trap spells that can be keyed to, among other things, Character Alignment. Thus, a character may well run afoul of magical wards for whose purposes he or she is literally not 'good enough'.
    • Or not evil enough.
    • In the adventure module Apocalypse Stone, the Castle Pescheour can only be reached by those who pass a series of tests of character. Of course, as these things go, the player characters get a break from this rule when they're unwittingly stealing the Cosmic Keystone on the Big Bad's bidding, but when they're trying to get it back to save the world, they have to pass the tests. Or three out of five, anyway. You can't trust PCs to get it right. The tests they are given consist of focusing on their quest rather than running after XP, not selling their superior fighting skills to seriously imbalance an entire small war for treasure, giving a death knight a chance for redemption, investigating an accusation of witchcraft properly to make sure justice is done, and donating magic items to save a village.
  • In Warhammer the new king of the High Elves has to pass through the Flame of Asuryan. While Asuryan's standards aren't that high and they've had a few terrible kings, after Malekith schemed and murdered his way to the throne he ended up burned so badly he requires a magical suit of armor to give his ruined body strength. He managed to throw himself out of the flame in time, but never passed through it.

     Video Games  

  • In several Role Playing Games, you have to put a certain party member at the front of the party in order to pass a checkpoint or get past a specific guardian. In some cases, a spellcaster is not permitted in an area, or the thief has to leave the party until after you enter the building.
    • An example can be seen in Interplay's Lord of the Rings, where you can't enter a bar with a kid in your party, or with a horse in your party, or you can't enter a certain hobbit's house when a certain character is present.
  • The trope is invoked in the second Dark Parables game, where a door in the palace bears a plaque saying almost this exact phrase. You can't open the door until you're on the hard mode New Game+, when you can receive the MacGuffin that will unlock it.
  • In the end of the Urn of Sacred Ashes quest of Dragon Age: Origins, the Guardian states this out, word for word, and puts you through tests of faith. And by faith, he means logic.
    • If you bring Sten with you, he deconstructs this trope a bit when he remarks that Andraste must have a surplus of followers if she is willing to endanger them with these tests.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion does this. You must be of a certain level to begin several of the Daedric quests. In the Knights of the Nine expansion, you are only allowed to begin the quests once you have prayed at nine shrines, one for each deity and you are only allowed to wear the enchanted armor you get if your Infamy is 1 or less.
  • In Eternal Darkness, Karim and Ellia guard two of the four artifacts until the Chosen Ones (Roberto Bianchi and Edwin Lindsey) come to claim them.
  • In Heretic 2 there is a door with the message "Only those who are Pure of Heart, or possesses the Warrior's Shield, may pass." somewhat subverted in that there's no way to actually prove yourself pure of heart... You need the shield.
  • In Jak II: Renegade, Mar's heir must face "The Tests of Manhood", but since he is too young, Jak goes through it instead. Turns out, Jak is Mar's heir, thanks to a Stable Time Loop.
  • This is alternately parodied and played straight in a number of places in Kingdom of Loathing:
    • Three doors at the beginning of the Naughty Sorceress's Tower require the character to have some sort of effect. Since this is Kingdom of Loathing, they are both arbitrary and wacky (in one ascension you might need spiky hair gel, a piece of pickle-flavored chewing gum, and a potion that makes you randomly teleport in order to pass the gates).
    • See also the Altar of Literacy, aka the trial to gain access to the chat.
    • There are also three doors you need to pass into the Dank and Dark and Sinister Cave during your Nemesis quest.
  • The original Knights of the Old Republic contains either a subversion or an example of the cynical type: There is a program on Kashyyyk which asks questions of the main character, expecting the Dark Side answers that Darth Revan would give before you are able to pass. If you stick to your Light Sider convictions, it repeatedly attempts to kill you with big robots before relenting.
    • To elaborate: The MacGuffin has been programmed by you, Darth Revan, to only give out its information to yourself. Since it has been slightly damaged since then, it tries to ascertain your identity by asking you questions. If you answer "wrongly" (i.e. you made a switch to the Light Side in the mean time), it sends you a few droids to exterminate you, but finally recognizes you by your feelings while fighting.
    • A similar subversion happens in Fallout 3, where a player with significantly Bad Karma can get into Paradise Falls with no questions asked. Players with Good Karma, on the other hand, are told to go enslave somebody before they're let in.
  • Most (if not all) Zelda games have something like this in it. In the original game, no one could enter Death Mountain without the Triforce of Wisdom. This was partly about proving your worth, but also about being able to survive what was inside.
    • Only a descendant of the Hylian Knights could acquire the necessary Plot Coupons to succeed in the quest in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
    • In Ocarina of Time, the Ocarina of Time, the Song of Time, and three gems belonging to three different races are needed to get to the Master Sword, and the Master Sword itself poses as a barrier to any not worthy of the Triforce, requiring them to not ONLY be fundamentally good, but (according to some people) also physically fit.
    • In Wind Waker, one must beat The Tower of the Gods before being given access to the submerged Hyrule. And said Tower is only attainable if you have the pearls of the goddesses in the right places, which must be obtained from their respective guardians.
    • This makes up most of the plot of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Link must prove he has the spirit of a hero in order to wield the Master Sword.
    • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link has this as the entire game. Ganon's leftover goons need Link's blood to revive their boss, but the dungeons, including The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, are all a big test. Ironically, this is the hardest game in the entire franchise; the test is worse than the actual villains you must face to save the world in the other games!
  • In Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, the Star Gate (no, not that one) works like this, but it does lie to Luigi, claiming that he is unworthy when in fact he was all along. It did this ostensibly to get the group to accept a test to prove their worth, but it also seemed to derive some pleasure out of tormenting poor Luigi.
  • In Pokémon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum, there is a person blocking the entrance to Snowpoint Temple. She refuses to let you enter because you're unworthy, and you can only get in after beating the game.
    • There's a similar situation in Red/Blue (Firered/Leafgreen); the Cerulean Cave is blocked by some random guy until you become the League Champion and complete the sevii islands quest (only in Fire Red/Leaf Green). In fact, all of the games have certain areas inaccessible for one reason or another until Championship is obtained. From Generation III and on, it usually opens up some sort of enhanced trading, too, because you would need to beat the champion to get the National Pokedex, allowing you to get Mons not available already in that game.
    • And in a slightly earlier instance: you have to prove yourself worthy of the League by obtaining all eight Badges.

     Web Comics  

  • In Looking for Group, Cale is the only member of the party allowed to pass through a time travel portal to Gamlon because he has not committed murder with anger in his heart.
  • Tower of God. Only those who are worthy may climb the towernote 

     Web Original  

     Western Animation  

     Real Life  

  • A certain base-jumping training camp tests your character by requiring you write a letter to your parents, explaining why you died base-jumping, before you can even start.


Only Smart People May PassOlder Than DirtOrifice Evacuation
NPC RoadblockThis Index Is in the WayOnly Idiots May Pass
Only the Knowledgable May PassTest And Trial TropesRiddle Me This
Only Smart People May PassNarrative DevicesOrphan's Ordeal

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