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The Hero's Journey

An explanation of Joseph Campbell's archetypal Hero's Journey.

Laura Randazzo

on 23 February 2016

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Transcript of The Hero's Journey

The Hero s Journey
You'll be amazed at how many of your favorite stories follow this pattern:
• Lord of the Rings
• Spiderman
• The Matrix
• Harry Potter
• Kung Fu Panda
• Finding Nemo
• So many more...
According to Joseph Campbell, a famous scholar who studied mythologies across the world...
...many cultures' myths follow specific patterns in their characters or plots.
He called these,
We all know about archetypes, without even realizing it! They show up in myths, religion, fairy tales, fables...
Archetypes are images and ideas, or basic units of expression, that appear in art and mythology around the world.
Some common archetypes are:
Mother figure
Father figure
Wise old man
Wizard or Wise Man
Father Figure
Part II: Initiation
Part III: The Return
Part I: Departure
Archetypes can also be kinds of stories that appear in many different cultures.
An example is a creation myth (or a destruction myth), whether by flood or fire or some other means.
Unusual Birth
(or Early Childhood)
Call to Adventure
Crossing the Threshold
The Challenges or Trials
Special Weapon
The Mastery of Two Worlds
The Return Home
The main kind of archetypal story that we're concerned with, however, is the HERO'S JOURNEY.
The hero's journey is what Campbell called the quintessential (or best example) of an archetypal myth.
It outlines the steps a character will likely take on his or her path to become a hero.
It generally follows three main portions: the departure, the initiation, and the return.
And remember, not every hero will fit every step, but they will often fit most of them.
The Abyss or Temptation
The Transformation
There is something unusual about the hero's birth or childhood – something that sets him apart from the beginning.
Ex: Harry Potter
Part I consists of:
• An Unusual Birth/Early Childhood
The Call to Adventure
Crossing the Threshold
The hero's call to adventure is something that spurs him or her to action. Hero is forced to leave everyday world/life.
The hero may at first reject the call, but he will eventually come around and decide he has to take action. This acceptance is the hero's first voluntary step.
Ex: The Matrix
Watch as Neo chooses to take the journey.
The threshold is the boundary between the life the hero has known before and the unknown challenges that await him. Behind him is his home and his past life – before him is uncertainty and danger.
Crossing the threshold, then, is when the hero takes the first steps on his adventure, leaving home and setting off on his journey.
Ex: Sam and Frodo leaving the Shire,
The Lord of the Rings
Part II contains most of the rising action and most of the excitement. It includes:
The Challenges or Trials
Supernatural Helper or Mentor
The Special Weapon
The Abyss or Temptation
The Transformation
The challenges make up the bulk of the hero's journey. They are the things the hero must overcome, the monsters the hero must fight and the battles the hero must win, in order to complete his journey.
A few of Harry Potter's...
The hero usually has a mentor who looks out for him, teaches him what he needs to know, gives him advice and guidance, and maybe even gives the hero a weapon or magical object.
Unfortunately, the mentor usually also has to be out of the picture in order for the hero to come into his own and truly show his worth. For this reason, mentors have to leave the hero in one way or another – and they often end up dying.
Obi-Wan Kenobi
...a pen from a mentor, a magical sword named Excaliber, his father's lightsaber, or even a wand chosen just for him.
This special weapon can come in many forms...
The hero also has a weapon, often one that only he can wield. This may be something given to him by the mentor, or perhaps something he has to earn.
Here's where things get tricky for our hero.
An abyss is defined as "an immeasurably deep chasm, depth, or void."
So, the abyss is the darkest, most perilous part of the hero's journey.
They may even face the temptation to become evil or to desert their quest.
This is the point where the hero achieves his goal, wins the battle, finishes the quest, saves the girl, kills the bad guy...
...and, most importantly, is changed by his experiences. He becomes a true hero.
Finally, the character is ready to return home and claim his place as a true hero. His journey is coming to a close. The final part of the journey consists of:
The Return Home
The Mastery of Two Worlds
This step is pretty much just what it sounds like. In order to prove himself a changed person and a true hero, the hero must return home. He may decide not stay there, but he will usually return at least temporarily.
Not all heroes can do this. For instance, Frodo, in Lord of the Rings, cannot go back to his old world and instead chooses to go join the elves.
This final step refers to the hero's ability to reconcile his experiences on his journey with his life back home.
He has seen and learned things that have changed him.
How can he live in the world he is used to, but still stay true to his new role as a hero?
Ex: The Wizard of Oz
Now, it's your turn to examine how Campbell's pattern is used in one of your favorite films. Yes, it's team speech assignment time! Choose a partner and go have a seat together.
Supernatural Helper or Mentor
Full transcript