Monday, October 02, 2006

The Hero's Journey

By Candie Kelty

The Hero’s Journey is a common tale, as told by Joseph Campbell in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The Hero’s Journey, also known as the Monomyth, has many steps, all of which are laid out in Joseph Campbell’s work, and have been repeated thousands of times in countless stories throughout history, including the stories of Jesus, Hercules, and Buddha.

The stories about our heroes follow, more or less, the same formula. You would think that “the same ol’ story” would get tiresome, but for whatever reason, it works. Joseph Campbell would tell us it is because this hero’s journey is buried in our mass consciousness, and therefore, resonates with us all.

In The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and The Muppet Movie, all of our heroes take the Hero’s Journey.

In every hero’s journey, the hero is Called to Adventure. Dorothy has to go meet with the Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter receives his letter from Hogwarts, Luke Skywalker is supposed to go rescue the princess from the Empire, and Kermit is called upon to go to Hollywood and audition, to make “millions of people happy”.

Secondly, our hero Refuses the Call. Dorothy is apprehensive about going to see the Wizard, Harry Potter doubts that he is a wizard; Luke says he has to stay behind and help his uncle, and Kermit doesn’t want to leave the swamp.

Somewhere around the time our hero Answers the Call, he receives Supernatural Aid; an amulet or a talisman. Dorothy gets the ruby slippers, Harry buys himself a magic wand, Luke gets a light saber, and Kermit has the newspaper ad that is asking for frogs to come to Hollywood to audition.

During the Separation from the Known, they all take Companions with them. Dorothy meets up with the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion along the way, Harry has Hedwig, Ron, and Hermione, Luke has Han Solo and Princess Leia, and Kermit meets up with Fozzie and the rest.

There is also The Crossing of the Threshold, or leaving their known world. Dorothy goes to Oz, Luke leaves Tatooine, Harry gets on the train to Hogwarts, and Kermit gets on his bicycle and starts out into the world.

The threshold itself could be a tavern. Did you ever wonder why so many of our heroes wind up in bars? Think about the Mos Isley Cantina, The El Sleezo Café in The Muppet Movie, and the Leaky Cauldron in Harry Potter, each with its own cross-section of characters. Dorothy doesn’t go down to the local pub for a few shooters, but she did run away and meet up with the charlatan beside the road.

Inside The Belly of the Whale, the hero is at a low point. That could be a tornado, being sucked into the Death Star, pursued by Doc Hopper, or facing expulsion when being caught flying without permission.

Along the hero’s journey, sometime after Initiation, you will proceed down the Road of Trials. I don’t need to touch on every trial that each of our heroes has to endure, but they are many.

The Meeting of the Goddess is a common stop on the hero’s journey. Dorothy meets up with Glinda, Luke meets Leia, Harry discovers Quidditch, and Kermit meets Miss Piggy. Remember, the Goddess doesn’t have to be a woman, it can also be a great love, or something that makes the hero feel complete.

The hero can also meet with the Woman as Temptress, be Atoned by the Father, Battle his Brother, find himself Abducted, receive a Ritual Death, be Deified, reach the Ultimate Boon, Refuse to Return, have a Magic Fight, be Rescued from Without, Cross the Return Threshold, Master the Two Worlds, and receives the Freedom to Live.

To go through every step, piece-by-piece, would take too long, but you get the idea. Not all stories touch on every point exactly, but if you think about it, most of our favorite heroes follow this formula. I wonder if writers ever follow this formula without being conscious of it?

What other movies have you seen that involve the Hero’s Journey? Be sure to share what you have found on our message board.


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