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MYTHIC STORY STRUCTURE
Transcript of MYTHIC STORY STRUCTURE
THE HERO'S JOURNEY
"A beginning is a very delicate time."
>Before the beginning, however, there are a couple of important aspects to analyze:
*Title (a good title can become a multi-leveled metaphor for the condition of the hero or their world)
? Can you think of a title or two that holds deeper meaning or represents such a metaphor?
*Prologue (used to give an essential piece of backstory, cue the audience to what kind of story they are about to experience, or emphasize an important idea or theme experienced throughout the story)
? Should every story have a prologue?
THE ORDINARY WORLD
Because so many stories are journeys that take heroes and audiences to Special Worlds, most begin by establishing an Ordinary World as a baseline for comparison. The Special World of the story is only special if we can see it in contrast to a mundane world of everyday affairs. The Ordinary World is the context, and background of the Hero.
? What was the Ordinary World in World Train?
? What is the Ordinary World in some other movies you've seen or books you've read?
"It's money and adventure and fame! It's the thrill of a lifetime!...and a long sea voyage that starts at six o'clock tomorrow!"
-from King Kong
THE CALL TO ADVENTURE
> The Ordinary World of most heroes is a static but unstable condition. The seeds of change and growth are planted, and it takes only a little new energy to make them grow.
> The Call to Adventure may come in many different forms: from a message, a messenger, a stirring within the Hero, a string of accidents or coincidences may be the call, temptation is often used (e.g. an exotic travel poster, the sight of a potential lover, the rumor of treasure, etc.), the call may come as a result of loss (e.g. losing a loved one, or getting fired), or the Hero may be forced into the Call, amongst many other ways.
? Can you think of where The Call to Adventure happens in any of the movies you've seen or the books you've read?
"You're not cut out for this, Joan, and you know it."
-from Romancing the Stone
? Why is it important that, at first, the Hero refuses The Call to Adventure?
? What purpose does this serve for the reader?
REFUSAL OF THE CALL
> The problem of the Hero now becomes how to respond to the Call to Adventure. Put yourself in the Hero's shoes and you can see that it's a difficult passage. You're being asked to say yes to a great unknown, to an adventure that will be exciting but also dangerous and even life-threatening.
> The Hero, however, will eventually accept the Call or else we would have no story!
> Usually, some other influence - a change in circumstances, the encouragement of a Mentor, etc. - is required to get the Hero past this stage in the journey.
? How do you think The Refusal of the Call works in a love story or romantic comedy? What does it look like?
"She (Athena) assumed the appearance of Mentor and seemed so like him as to deceive both eye and ear..."
>The term Mentor comes from the character of that name in The Odyssey. Mentor has given his name to all guides and trainers, but it's really Athena, the goddess of wisdom, who brings the archetype into creation.
>The mentor's purpose is to get the story "unstuck", or to help the Hero of the story get past the blockades of doubt and fear.
>Keep in mind that a mentor can change "masks" during the story.
? Can you think of an example of this?
>The mentor also gives the Hero gifts (e.g. an artifact, knowledge, etc.)
? Can you think of some examples here?
>Sometimes the mentor can turn into the villain (e.g. Batman Begins) or a mentor can transform a Hero into a villain (e.g. Anakin Skywalker).
? Where have you seen some good examples of mentors in literature?
"Just follow the yellow brick road."
-from The Wizard of Oz
>Now the Hero stands at the very threshold of the world of adventure, or the Special World. The Call to Adventure has been heard, and all doubts and fears have been overcome. This is the point where the Hero whole-heartedly commits to the Adventure at hand.
>Heroes, however, don't usually go charge into the adventure on their own. Often their final commitment to the journey is brought about by some external force which changes the course and intensity of the story.
? Can you think of some examples where an external force caused the Hero to commit to the Adventure?
>As the Hero approaches the threshold, they are likely to encounter beings or obstacles that try to block their way. These characters or obstacles are called 'Threshold Guardians'.
>Threshold Guardians test the Hero and create tension within the story. The Hero must overcome Threshold Guardians, learning tricks or gaining advice that becomes valuable later in the story (oftentimes, Threshold Guardians help an author to create foreshadowing).
? What are some Threshold Guardians that you can think of in popular culture?
? What does the Hero learn be overcoming these Threshold Guardians that is important in the resolution of the story?
>"The Crossing" is when the Hero takes a "leap of faith" into the adventure. It is the act or decision the Hero makes that signifies there is no turning back.
>Heroes don't always "land" safely once they take a "leap of faith" either. Sometimes they crash into the Special World literally or figuratively (e.g. Neo in The Matrix & Jake Sully in Avatar)
>Flying comparison that Disney coined: a story is like an airplane flight. Act One is the process of loading, fueling, and rumbling down the runway. The First Threshold is the moment the wheels leave the ground.
"See, you got three or four good pals, why then you got yourself a tribe! There ain't nothin' stronger than that."
-from Young Guns
>Now the Hero fully enters the mysterious Special World.
>At this point, there should be a sharp contrast with the Ordinary World.
>The most important function of this period of adjustment to the Special World is testing. At this stage in the journey, Heroes are usually put through a series of trials that will help prepare them for the greater ordeals ahead.
? Think about some of your favorite Heroes. What tests and trials did they have to face upon first arriving in the Special World?
"The Watering Hole"
>It is also during this stage of the Mythic Story Structure where the Hero seeks to make allies and discovers who their enemies are.
>This often occurs in what has been termed as "The Watering Hole", or a place where people congregate (e.g. a school, a bar, a party, etc.).
? What are some examples of "Watering Holes" in popular culture?
> The phase of 'Tests, Allies, and Enemies' in stories is useful for "getting to know you" scenes where the characters get acquainted with each other and the audience learns more about them.
>Villains or "henchmen" are usually introduced in greater detail during this phase as well.
COWARDLY LION: There's only one thing more I'd like you fellows to do.
TINMAN & SCARECROW: What's that?
COWARDLY LION: Talk me out of going!
-from The Wizard of Oz
APPROACH TO THE
>This stage encompasses all of the final preparations that the Hero must make before the "Supreme Ordeal".
>It often brings the Hero and their companions to the stronghold of the opposition; a defended center where every lesson and ally of the journey thus far comes into play.
>Simply put, during this stage, the Hero starts to make plans on how to "Approach" the center of the Special World.
>It is also VERY common that a romance develops at this point.
? Can you think of where this stage happens in some of your favorite stories?
THE SUPREME ORDEAL
JAMES BOND: What do you expect me to do, Goldfinger?
GOLDFINGER: Why Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!!
>Now the Hero stands in the deepest chamber of the Inmost Cave, facing the greatest challenge and the most fearsome opponent yet.
"DEATH AND REBIRTH"
>The key to the Supreme Ordeal is that the Hero must die (most of the time figuratively) so they can be reborn. This "death" transforms them for the better. (e.g. in a love story, the Hero experiences death through temporarily losing their relationship with their love interest.)
? Can you think of other examples where the Hero "dies" and is reborn in the stories you've read or seen?
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CRISIS & CLIMAX
>The crisis is the central event of the story.
>The climax is the crowning event of the story.
>The crisis is revealed and occurs during this stage of the Hero's Journey.
? Can you identify the crisis in the stories you've read or seen? Can you differentiate it from the climax?
"We came, we saw, we kicked its ass."
REWARD (SEIZING THE SWORD)
>Facing death has life-changing consequences which heroes experience by 'Seizing the Sword', but after experiencing their 'Reward' fully, heroes must turn back to the quest at hand, for there are more ordeals ahead before the journey is complete...
> There will almost always be some period of time in which the Hero is recognized or rewarded for having survived "death" or a great ordeal.
>One of the essential aspects of this stage of the journey is the Hero taking possession of whatever they came seeking.
> The Hero gains physical treasure (e.g. this is where the love scene occurs in a romance), an epiphany (e.g. Neo understanding how the matrix works and how to manipulate it to gain powers), or figurative treasure (e.g. pride, honor, fame, etc.).
? What kind of rewards do some of your favorite heroes receive?
"Easy is the descent to the Lower World; but, to retrace your steps and to escape to the upper air - this is the task, this the toil."
-The Sibyl to Aeneas in The Aeneid
? After Robin Hood gains the respect of The Merry Men and has a system of stealing from the rich to give to the poor set in place, why go back to Nottingham and fight the Sheriff?
? At this stage in the Hero's Journey, why does the Hero need to go back and continue the adventure? Are there stories where they don't?
>Oftentimes the villain or "shadow" of the story wasn't fully defeated during the crisis and resurfaces to antagonize the Hero; it becomes the Hero's job to once again seek out adventure in the hope that they can finally put their resistance to rest forever using what they've learned in their previous endeavors and encounter with "death" to set things straight.
>When the "shadow" resurfaces, they usually do so in an attempt to chase the Hero out of the Special World altogether.
>It is during this stage of the journey that we most often find "chase scenes".
? Can you think of some famous "chase scenes" or examples of where the Hero returns to adventure after attaining the "Reward" they sought in the Special World?
"You don't know the power of the dark side..."
> The climax of the story happens during this stage of the Hero's Journey (usually through a confrontation with the "Shadow", villain, or opposing force of the story).
?What's the difference between the crisis and the climax again?
> The climax should provide the feeling of catharsis. This Greek word actually means "vomiting up" or "purging". The Hero must prove that they have "purged" their old self for the Hero's Journey to be complete; this is oftentimes shown by a physical change in appearance during movies (e.g. Jake Sully's character wears face paint and has changed his hairstyle in the movie, Avatar, once his character faces and survives death in the crisis).
> The storyteller must SHOW the change their Hero went through during the crisis as the climax plays out.
> To be a true hero, the protagonist must make a sacrifice of some kind. Something must be surrendered, given back, or be shared for the good of the group.
? What great sacrifices can you think of that Heroes have made in the stories you've seen or read?
"No, Aunt Em, this was a real truly live place. And I remember some of it wasn't very nice. But most of it was beautiful. But just the same all I kept saying to everybody was 'I want to go home'."
- Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz
RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR
? What is an elixir?
> Having survived all the ordeals, having lived through death, heroes return to their starting place, go home, or continue the journey. But they always proceed with a sense that they are commencing a new life, one that will forever be different because of the road just traveled.
>The "elixir" in this sense, is what the Hero gained from their most recent ordeal in the climax. Ideally, the audience also shares this elixir with the Hero (e.g. the "message" or "moral" of the story).
? What are some "elixirs" that you've gained after watching a movie or reading a book?
> Some stories end with an epilogue that serves to complete the story by projecting ahead to a future time to show how the characters turned out.
? Can you think of some examples of epilogue?
? Should all stories have an epilogue? Why or why not?