Joseph Campbell and The Hero’s Journey
The amazing Joseph Campbell is a personal hero of mine. When I first read his work in high school I thought he was just making it all up. But as I studied more and more books and films, I saw his theories about the hero’s journey in everything I read and saw. Read about his work online and learn more about how he studied cultures across time and space to find commonalities in so many different myths that permeate the modern stories we experience today.
Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth (Hero With A Thousand Faces)
The standard path of the mythological adventure of the hero is a magnification of the formula represented in the rites of passage: separation—initiation—return: which might be named the nuclear unit of the monomyth.
Stages of the hero’s journey:
- Birth: Fabulous circumstances surrounding conception, birth, and childhood establish the hero’s pedigree, and often constitute their own monomyth cycle.
- Call to Adventure: The hero is called to adventure by some external event or messenger. The Hero may accept the call willingly or reluctantly.
- Mentors/Helpers/Amulet: During the early stages of the journey, the hero will often receive aid from a protective figure. This supernatural helper can take a wide variety of forms, such as a wizard, and old man, a dwarf, a crone, or a fairy godmother. The helper commonly gives the hero a protective amulet or weapon for the journey.
- Crossing the Threshold: Upon reaching the threshold of adventure, the hero must undergo some sort of ordeal in order to pass from the everyday world into the world of adventure. This trial may be as painless as entering a dark cave or as violent as being swallowed up by a whale. The important feature is the contrast between the familiar world of light and the dark, unknown world of adventure.
- Tests/Trials/Ordeals/Belly of the Dragon: The hero travels through the dream-like world of adventure where he must undergo a series of tests. These trials are often violent encounters with monsters, sorcerers, warriors, or forces of nature. Each successful test further proves the hero’s ability and advances the journey toward its climax.
- Companions/Helpers: The hero is often accompanied on the journey by a helper who assists in the series of tests and generally serves as a loyal companion. Alternately, the hero may encounter a supernatural helper in the world of adventure who fulfills this function.
- Climax/The Final Battle: This is the critical moment in the hero’s journey in which there is often a final battle with a monster, wizard, or warrior which facilitates the particular resolution of the adventure.
- Flight: After accomplishing the mission, the hero must return to the threshold of adventure and prepare for a return to the everyday world. If the hero has angered the opposing forces by stealing the elixir or killing a powerful monster, the return may take the form of a hasty flight. If the hero has been given the elixir freely, the flight may be a benign stage of the journey.
- Return: The hero again crosses the threshold of adventure and returns to the everyday world of daylight. The return usually takes the form of an awakening, rebirth, resurrection, or a simple emergence from a cave or forest. Sometimes the hero is pulled out of the adventure world by a force from the daylight world.
- Boon/Elixer: The object, knowledge, or blessing that the hero acquired during the adventure is now put to use in the everyday world. Often it has a restorative or healing function, but it also serves to define the hero’s role in the society.
- Master of Two Worlds/Home: The hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
Also, here is the pdf of the Pinocchio example I showed in class: heros-journey
Mythology can be simultaneously fascinating and complex. Intrigued by mythology, author Joseph Campbell studied the myth and made the famous claim that nearly all myths, and some other story types, have similar ideas and the heroes’ adventures are almost identical in their format. The different stages of adventure identified have come to be called the "hero's journey."
Stages of the Hero's Journey
There are twelve steps to the hero’s journey. According to the Oracle Education Foundation Library, those steps are as follows.
- Ordinary World: This step refers to the hero's normal life at the start of the story, before the adventure begins.
- Call to Adventure: The hero is faced with something that makes him begin his adventure. This might be a problem or a challenge he needs to overcome.
- Refusal of the Call: The hero attempts to refuse the adventure because he is afraid.
- Meeting with the Mentor: The hero encounters someone who can give him advice and ready him for the journey ahead.
- Crossing the First Threshold: The hero leaves his ordinary world for the first time and crosses the threshold into adventure.
- Tests, Allies, Enemies: The hero learns the rules of his new world. During this time, he endures tests of strength of will, meets friends, and comes face to face with foes.
- Approach: Setbacks occur, sometimes causing the hero to try a new approach or adopt new ideas.
- Ordeal: The hero experiences a major hurdle or obstacle, such as a life or death crisis.
- Reward: After surviving death, the hero earns his reward or accomplishes his goal.
- The Road Back: The hero begins his journey back to his ordinary life.
- Resurrection Hero - The hero faces a final test where everything is at stake and he must use everything he has learned.
- Return with Elixir: The hero brings his knowledge or the "elixir" back to the ordinary world, where he applies it to help all who remain there.
Hero's Journey in Literature
This concept of the hero’s journey is one that has gained much praise and consideration of worth in the literary community. Classics such as Beowulf and Odysseus as well as more recent, but epic, tales such as that of Batman all follow the same path of the hero’s journey.
Additionally, Campbell’s ideas regarding the hero’s journey have been applied by professionals such as Chris Vogler in the creation of Disney classics. In order to understand the hero’s journey, it is important to apply the concept to stories and other work.
Oracle’s Education Foundation Library provides a step-by-step outline of how the hero in the Disney movie Lilo and Stitch follows this journey.
- Lilo's ordinary world is in Hawaii; Stitch is Experiment 626
- The call to adventure occurs when Lilo is sent away. The problem/challenge is a threat that Lilo will be taken from her sister Nani. Stitch then crashes onto earth.
- There is no refusal of the call in this story.
- The meeting with the mentor occurs when Lilo adopts Stitch. They are each other's mentors.
- The crossing of the first threshold occurs when Stitch crashes on Earth.
- The characters endure many tests as Stitch learns to become a model citizen.
- The approach occurs because Stitch causes problems and there are threats to take Lilo away from Cobra.
- The ordeal occurs when Stitch learns he has no family and is alone, and when Cobra takes Lilo who then runs away. Lilo also takes Stitch to go away after discovering he is an alien. Both characters are then captured and it appears that Stitch is dead.
- The reward for Stitch is that he wants to be a family and he must rescue Lilo.
- The road back occurs when Stitch rescues Lilo from the spaceship.
- The resurrection occurs when Stitch and Lilo get to become a family.
- The return with Elixir occurs when everyone comes together, the aliens assist with the construction of a new house and everyone becomes friends.
The hero's journey can be found in all genres of literature including mystery, science fiction, thriller, romance and historical fiction.