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the hero s journey

The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey is a pattern of narrative identified by the American scholar Joseph Campbell that appears in drama, storytelling, myth, religious ritual, and psychological development.  It describes the typical adventure of the archetype known as The Hero, the person who goes out and achieves great deeds on behalf of the group, tribe, or civilization.

ordinary world
Ordinary World
  • Introduction
  • Audience sees him as a normal person doing normal things
  • Relatable/Identifiable/Realistic
  • Complete with flaws
  • Problems are established
  • Ex. Luke on Tatooine
the call to adventure
The Call to Adventure
  • Disrupts the hero’s Ordinary World
  • Presents the challenge to be undertaken
  • Throws the Ordinary World into a state of chaos
  • Delivered by the Herald archetype
  • Ex. a message or announcement (The African Queen), a sudden storm (Home Alone), the arrival of the villain (High Noon), a death (Jaws, Some Like it Hot), an abduction (Star Wars).
refusal of the call
Refusal of the Call
  • A Hero Refuses the Journey because of fears and insecurities that have surfaced from the Call to Adventure.
  • The Hero is not willing to make changes, preferring the safe haven of the Ordinary World.
  • Lets the Hero and the Audience know the danger that answering the call would mean.
  • Eager Heroes could skip this step.
  • Threshold Guardians
  • Repeated calls/Escalated stakes
  • Ex. Luke refusing to learn how to be a Jedi with Obi Wan Kenobi. This causes his aunt and uncle to be killed.
meeting the mentor
Meeting the Mentor
  • Gain confidence, insight, advice, training, or magical gifts to overcome the initial fears and face the threshold of the adventure.
  • Young heroes need the wisdom and age of a Mentor.
  • Variety of forms throughout literature. (e.g. a physical person, or an object such as a map, a logbook, hieroglyphics, or even just a strong inner, moral code)
  • Ex. Obi Wan Kenobi (Master Jedi)
crossing the threshold
Crossing the Threshold
  • Committed to the Journey
  • Gateway between worlds
  • Usually very difficult
  • Reestablishes the road that the hero must take
  • Threshold Guardian
  • Ex. Finding the Millennium Falcon, Chewbacca, Han Solo.
belly of the whale
Belly of the Whale
  • Transition period between the two worlds
  • Separation is being made
  • Usually something dark, foreign and frightening
  • Shows the willingness of the hero to potentially die (change) in the future
  • Ex. Flying on the Millennium Falcon to a foreign world
the road of trials
The Road of Trials
  • Having crossed the Threshold, the Hero faces Tests, encounters Allies, confronts Enemies, and learns the rules of the Special World.
  • Has many different possibilities (e.g. the emotional world of love, the future, different society, a different world)
  • First look at the special world
  • Potential allies, enemies and possibly even the cause of all the problems are encountered here
  • The struggles intensify
  • New powers are learned
  • Mentor revisited
  • Commitment is questioned
  • The road of trials is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the person must undergo to begin the transformation. Often the person fails one or more of these tests, which often occur in threes.
the road of trials examples
The Road of Trials Examples
  • Ex. Light Saber Practice, Fighting Tie-fighters, etc.
the meeting with the goddess
The Meeting with the Goddess
  • The meeting with the goddess represents the point in the adventure when the person experiences a love that has the power and significance of the all-powerful, all encompassing, unconditional love that a fortunate infant may experience with his or her mother. It is also known as the "hierosgamos", or sacred marriage, the union of opposites, and may take place entirely within the person. This is a very important step in the process and is often represented by the person finding the other person that he or she loves most completely. Although Campbell symbolizes this step as a meeting with a goddess, unconditional love and /or self unification does not have to be represented by a woman.
  • Ex. Princess Leia in white in prison
woman as the temptress
Woman as the Temptress
  • At one level, this step is about those temptations that may lead the hero to abandon or stray from his or her quest, which as with the Meeting with the Goddess does not necessarily have to be represented by a woman. For Campbell, however, this step is about the revulsion that the usually male hero may feel about his own fleshy/earthy nature, and the subsequent attachment or projection of that revulsion to women. Woman is a metaphor for the physical or material temptations of life, since the hero-knight was often tempted by lust from his spiritual journey.
  • Remember Leia is actually Luke’s sister… Also Luke is tempted by the Dark Side
approach to the inmost cave
Approach to the Inmost Cave
  • The Hero must make the preparations needed to Approach the Inmost Cave that leads to the Journey’s heart, or central Ordeal.
  • This is where the hero plans his attack, rests, weakens the central Ordeals forces.
  • Anything that needs to happen to prepare the hero for the final confrontation
  • Ex. Finding out about the Death Star’s weaknesses, finding out who’s going and who’s staying, etc.
the ordeal atonement with the father
The Ordeal(Atonement with the Father)
  • The Hero engages in the Ordeal, the central life-or-death crisis, during which he faces his greatest fear, confronts this most difficult challenge, and experiences “death”.
  • The death could be his own, his Mentor’s, a spiritual death, the loss of love, the revealing of a secret, or the hero may even cause an unintended death
  • Through this death, the hero is granted greater powers (Apotheosis)
  • Does not have to be his father, a male, or even a person.
  • This is what the story has been building up to
  • Ex. Sneaking through the Death Star to turn off the shield generator, Obi Wan is killed
  • To apotheosize is to deify. This is accomplished through various ways. Through actual death or injury (physical or spiritual), the hero is now someone different. He has become greater than his normal world self. He has transcended normal humanity.
reward the ultimate boon
Reward (The Ultimate Boon)
  • The Hero has survived death, overcome his greatest fear, slain the dragon, or weathered the Crisis of the Heart, and now earns the Reward that he sought.
  • The Hero’s Reward comes in many forms: a magical sword, an elixir, greater knowledge or insight, reconciliation with a lover.
  • Whatever the treasure, the Hero has earned the right to celebrate. Celebration not only allows the Hero to replenish his or her energy, but also gives the audience a moment to catch their breath before the Journey resumes to its climax and resolution.
  • The Hero may have earned the Reward outright, or the Hero may have seen no option but to steal it.
  • The Hero may rationalize the Elixir theft, having paid for it with the Tests and Ordeals thus far. But the consequences of the theft must be confronted as the Shadow forces race to reclaim the Elixir that must not see the light of the Ordinary World.
  • Blowing up the Death Star
the road back refusal of the return
The Road Back (Refusal of the Return)
  • The Hero must finally recommit to completing the Journey and accept the Road Back to the Ordinary World.
  • A Hero’s success in the Special World may make it difficult to return.
  • Like Crossing the Threshold, The Road Back, needs an event that will push the Hero through the Threshold, back into the Ordinary World.
  • Sometimes this event threatens the Ordinary World the hero comes from, forcing his return
  • Sometimes the the Villain has stolen back the reward
  • Most often, the road back is another factor largely separating the hero from the audience. The road back is usually just as difficult as Crossing the Threshold for the opposite reason.
  • Ex. Flying down the tunnel with the knowledge of how to destroy the Death Star.
the magic flight
The Magic Flight
  • Sometimes the hero must escape with the Reward (boon), if it is something that the gods have been jealously guarding. It can be just as adventurous and dangerous returning from the journey as it was to go on it.
  • Trying to escape Darth Vader’s Tie-Fighters in the tunnel
rescue from without
Rescue from Without
  • Just as the hero may need guides and assistants to set out on the quest, often times he or she must have powerful guides and rescuers to bring them back to everyday life, especially if the person has been wounded or weakened by the experience. Or perhaps the person doesn't realize that it is time to return, that they can return, or that others need their boon.
  • Ex. Han Solo coming back and saving Luke
the resurrection
The Resurrection
  • His most dangerous meeting with death.
  • This final life-and-death Ordeal shows that the Hero has maintained and can apply all that he has brought back to the Ordinary World.
  • This is where the Hero applies all that he has learned or gained via Apotheosis
  • Battle for more than the Hero’s life
  • Allies may also assist at this point
  • Ex. Shooting the torpedoes and blowing up the Death Star
return with the elixir master of two worlds freedom to live
Return with the Elixir(Master of Two Worlds)(Freedom to Live)
  • The Return with the Elixir is the final Reward.
  • Hero is able to return to the Ordinary world and share the elixir.
  • The Elixir can be a great treasure or magic potion. It could be love, wisdom, or simply the experience of surviving the Special World.
  • Even the tragic end of a Hero’s Journey can yield the best Elixir of all, granting the audience greater awareness of us and our world
  • The Return signals a time when we distribute rewards and punishments, or celebrate the Journey’s end with revelry or marriage.
  • In most tales, the Return with the Elixir completes the cycle of this particular Journey.
  • Balance has been restored
  • Ex. Everyone getting medals and rewarded by Princess Leia
  • 1.        THE ORDINARY WORLD.  The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma.  The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history.  Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress.
  • 2.        THE CALL TO ADVENTURE.  Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of change.
  • 3.        REFUSAL OF THE CALL.  The hero feels the fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure, however briefly.  Alternately, another character may express the uncertainty and danger ahead.
  • 4.        MEETING WITH THE MENTOR.  The hero comes across a seasoned traveler of the worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey.  Or the hero reaches within to a source of courage and wisdom.
  • 5.        CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.  At the end of Act One, the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values.
  • 6.        TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES.  The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the Special World.
  • 7.        APPROACH.  The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special world.
  • 8.        THE ORDEAL.  Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear.  Out of the moment of death comes a new life.
  • 9.        THE REWARD.  The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death.  There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again.
  • 10.      THE ROAD BACK.  About three-fourths of the way through the story, the hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought home.  Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission.
  • 11.     THE RESURRECTION.  At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home.  He or she is purified by a last sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level.  By the hero’s action, the polarities that were in conflict at the beginning are finally resolved.
  • 12.       RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR.  The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed.
where this information comes from
Where this information comes from
  • Joseph Campbell
  • Chris Vogler
  • Too general
  • Western ideas
  • Produced through the idea of oppressive governments
  • Man-centered
  • Make varied stories cliché