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What is the “Hero’s Journey”?. Notes on The Pattern of Human Experience. The Hero’s Journey. We usually divide the Hero’s Journey into THREE BASIC CATEGORIES Separation Initiation and Transformation The Return to the known world. Step One: “The Separation”.

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What is the “Hero’s Journey”?

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what is the hero s journey

What is the “Hero’s Journey”?

Notes on The Pattern of Human Experience

the hero s journey
The Hero’s Journey
  • We usually divide the Hero’s Journey into THREE BASIC CATEGORIES
    • Separation
    • Initiation and Transformation
    • The Return to the known world
step one the separation
Step One: “The Separation”
  • The Separation is divided into TWO steps:
    • “The Call,” where a hero is invited to undergo a journey, mission, or question
    • “The Threshold,” which contains guardians, helpers, and a mentor.
the separation from the known
The Separation from the Known
  • What is the Call?
    • The call invites the hero into adventure
    • Offers him/her the opportunity to face the unknown
    • Allows him/her to gain something of spiritual value
the separation from the known1
The Separation from the Known
  • The Response to the Call . . .
    • The Hero may choose willingly to undertake a quest.
    • The Hero may be a “Reluctant Hero,” one who would prefer not to undergo the trouble of a journey.
    • The Call may come boldly as a “Transformative Crisis,” a sudden, often traumatic change in his or her life.
    • The Call may be only a vague feeling of discontentment; a longing for “more”
consider the call for these epic hero s
Consider the Call for these Epic Hero’s . . .
  • Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz
    • Discontentment in Kansas . . . Desires something “over the rainbow”
  • Luke Skywalker in Starwars
    • Discontentment . . . Until traumatic experience (Death of Aunt and Uncle)
  • Odysseus or Telemakhos inThe Odyssey
    • Odysseus chooses willingly . . . Honor
    • Telemakhos is reluctant to act; must first undergo his own Odyssey
  • Moses in The Bible (a “reluctant” hero)
    • “If you please Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past, nor recently. . . I am slow of speech and tongue”
    • “If you please, Lord, send someone else”
the separation from the known2
The Separation from the Known
  • STEP 2: “The Threshold”
    • Once called to adventure, The Threshold is the “jumping off point” of the adventure
    • The “barrier” between the known and unknown worlds
    • Guarded by “Threshold Guardians,” who protect us from taking journeys we are not ready for
the separation
The Separation
  • What is the Threshold?
    • At the Threshold, the Hero encounters a Helper, Guardian, or Mentor, who provides assistance and protection
    • The Helper often brings a “divine gift,” known as a talisman, which aids the hero
the separation from the known3
The “Guardians” of Epic Heroes


Gilda, the Beautiful Witch of the West

Luke Skywalker:

Ben Kinobe or Yoda

James Bond:

His gadget guru

Odysseus and Telemakhos

Athena, Hermes, Leukothea



The “Talisman” of Epic Heroes


The Ruby Slippers

Luke Skywalker

The Light Saber

James Bond

His high-tech cars. . . .

Odysseus and Telemakhos

Eloquence, Re-assurance, Disguises, Beauty, Potions, “immoral veil”


Staff (“take this staff in your hand; with it you are to perform the signs”)

The Separation from the Known
the initiation
The Initiation
  • Step Three: The Challenges
    • Once past the threshold, we journey into the “unknown”
      • Hero Faces “Temptations” and “Challenges”
      • Great Threat comes from “Tempters,” who attempts to convince the hero to end the Journey
        • Luke Skywalker: Darth Vader, “Come to the Dark Side”
        • Christ’s “temptation” by Satan . . . . . To give up his journey
      • Temptations almost always reflect Hero’s greatest fears or needs
        • Odysseus: Tempted by comfort and dangerous beauty
the initiation1
The Initiation

Step four: What is the Abyss?

The Abyss represents the great challenge on the journey.

The Abyss is where the hero must “slay the dragon,” which often represents their greatest fear.

Luke Skywalker: Challenging and killing Darth Vader

Dorothy: Throwing Water on the Wicked Witch of the East

Odysseus: Journey to the Underworld

Christ: The Crucifixion

the initiation2
The Initiation
  • Steps 5: “Transformation and Revelation”?
    • As the hero conquers the Abyss, he or she is “transformed” or “changed”
    • The Hero is literally a new person
    • Transformation is a symbol for “re-birth” (Dying and Living again); “Resurrection”
      • Christ and Odysseus are obvious examples of this
      • Dorothy’s revelation that “there’s no place like home” (story is a circle), just like Odysseus . . .
the initiation3
The Initiation
  • Step 6: What is “Atonement”?
    • After Transformation, the hero becomes “at-one” with new self
    • There is Harmony between Self and World (no more “discontentment”
      • Think of Wizard of Oz: each character realizes they already possess what they sought
      • Odysseus “purifies” his hall of sin, the suitors
      • Christ’s resurrection established “Harmony” or “Reconciles” sinners with God
      • Telemakhos is recognized as “Odysseus’s one True son”
final category the return
Final Category: The Return
  • Step 8: What is The Return?
    • Upon his or her return, the hero realizes their gift . . . (leadership, new levels of awareness, spiritual enlightenment)
      • Dorothy’s realization that “there is no place like home”
the return
The Return
  • Some Heroes return to create a great nation or city
  • Some Heroes return to Rejection
  • Often Enlightened Heroes are Killed because of their gift or level of Enlightenment
    • Socrates (forced to drink Hemlock for corrupting the minds of the young)
    • Christ
    • Martin Luther King Jr.
    • John Lennon (if you consider him a Hero)
final thoughts
Final Thoughts
  • Why are we not all “heroes”?
    • We reject our Call
    • We reject true mentors and their gifts, embrace Tempters
      • Reject our gifts (talents, educational opportunities, wisdoms)
      • Embrace “what everyone else” is doing
      • Heroes must be “unique”
    • We give in to Temptation
      • Delays or Ends our journey to Enlightenment
      • Laziness, greed, envy, materialism, selfishness, fear, dishonesty
  • Write TWO paragraphs
      • Discuss two heroes (examples may come from history, literature, film, or personal experience).
        • Explain their separation
        • Explain their initiation and transformation
        • Explain their return to the known
  • Topic Sentences for each paragraph:
    • “Jem Finch, from Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, depicts each of the basic attributes of the an epic hero, a separation from the known world, an initiation and transformation, and a return.”
    • “Not only does Jem Finch, a character from literature, depict the characteristics of an epic hero, so does Neo, a character from the film The Matrix.

Paragraph Examples:

  • The Separation (Atticus kills Tim Johnson, changing Jem’s perception that Atticus is incapable of bravery)
  • Initiation and Transformation
    • Ms. Dubose’s cruel ranting and Jem’s punishment of reading to her
    • Jem’s retrieval of his pants from the Radley gate
  • Return
    • Jem’s decision to become a lawyer like his father