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The Journey of the Hero

May 2, 2011

The Hero's Journey (click on image to find source)

“The Hero’s Journey is a pattern of narrative identified by the American scholar Joseph Campbell…. 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.”

To be clear, I’m quoting’s_journey.htm.

This site seems to make the stages of the Hero’s Journey succinct and accessible… IT ALSO SHOWS HOW THE QUEST MAPS ON TO THE HERO’S INTERNAL DEVELOPMENT… (so go directly there and read what they say!)

Basically, to sum up, the Journey goes like this:

1. the hero is introduced in the Ordinary World, where…

2. they receive the Call to Adventure

3.  the hero is reluctant at first, or Refuses The Call, but…

4. meets a Mentor (who teaches the Hero special skills or gives powers or items, etc., but can’t go with him/perform the quest for the hero) and is encouraged by the mentor to…

5. Cross The Threshold and enter the special world where…

6. the hero encounters Tests, Allies and Enemies. (NB how the hero acts here determines how things pan out – how the hero responds to these characters, for example, may determine the path the Hero follows)…

7. the hero then approaches The Innermost Cave, crossing a second threshold..

8. where the hero endures the Supreme Ordeal (he is utterly tested in every way, but is willing to undergo such trial for the greater good (after all, the Hero carries the hopes of the Ordinary World)!)…

9. he takes possession of The Reward and…

10. is pursued on The Road Back to the ordinary world…

11.  The hero crosses the Third Threshold, experiences a resurrection and is transformed by the experience…

12. The hero returns with The Elixir, a boon or treasure to benefit the Ordinary World…

ie.  – and please note! – the Hero leaves the familiar to explore the unknown… but at the end of his quest, the Hero comes home

This idea of the return is so much a part of the pattern that it often goes unnoticed, or at least unquestioned, by the reader.  However, when reading adolescent literature critically (and perhaps with an eye for didacticism or cultural expectation or social construction), this last part is worth bearing in mind! To what does the adolescent return?

How is this idea used?

Famously used by George Lucas in his Star Wars films

this pattern can be seen in several novels directed at Young Adults.  I am wondering, for example, if Mandy Hager’s The Crossing is following this pattern. I’ll wait til I finish it of course, but perhaps The Hero’s Journey offers a critical path into this novel and the adolescence it mythologises… just a thought

as a construct, The Hero’s Journey has even been adopted as a path to personal growth (see Life Coaches Blog or  It’s worth knowing about….

See also:  

wikipedia, of course, or do a simple google or YouTube search for heaps of other sites…. For a more academic resource, try:

The hero with a thousand faces / Joseph Campbell (available at the University of Auckland Library)

There are also plenty of applications of this idea.  The following looked interesting to me because of the scifi jokes surrounding this series (it has that undercurrent of geek cult power about it):

Investigating Firefly and Serenity : science fiction on the frontier / edited by Rhonda V. WIlcox and Tanya R. Cochran  (available at the University of Auckland Library)

among many others!!!

I also wonder if the following text gives a basic background: Psychology for screenwriters : building conflict in your script / William Indick (available at the University of Auckland Library)


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