Rush hour must be a real ditch
: [On seeing where Loki is heading the ship]
: If it were easy, everyone would do it. Thor
: Are you mad?! Loki
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 a Walk 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
), and No Sidepaths, No Exploration, No Freedom
and But Thou Must
Compare That One Level
. Contrast Took a Shortcut
and Shortcuts Make Long Delays
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- The Lord of the Rings. 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 obstacles 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, so if they don't time their approach perfectly, they'll be crushed, burned alive, or both.
- The book By The Great Horn Spoon takes place in 1849, during which the ways to California to join the Gold Rush were by land, sea, or both. Land meant several months in a cattle wagon crossing mountains, rivers, and risking attacks by Indians. Sea meant going around South America by sailing all the way across the southern tip, and would take even longer. Land-and-sea meant sailing to Panama, crossing it, and then boarding another ship, risking yellow fever in exchange for a shorter voyage. The protagonists take the purely sea route, and their ship hits many storms during the round of South America. It also turns out the captain took a shortcut through the Strait of Magellan, a tiny passage that would let them cut the corner off the trip, but is perilously narrow.
- 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.
- 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.
- In the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Serpent's Pass", Team Avatar has to take a family of Earth Kingdom refugees through The Serpent's Pass after an Obstructive Bureaucrat denies the family entry to the (much safer) ferry.
- 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.