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The Hero and His Journey
Transcript of The Hero and His Journey
Joseph John Campbell (March 26, 1904 – October 30, 1987) was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in mythology analysis.
Campbell's term monomyth, also known as the hero's journey, refers to a basic pattern found in many narratives from around the world. This widely distributed pattern was first fully described in his The Hero with a Thousand Faces which was published in 1949.
Campbell, like Carl Jung, believed in a specific structure that exists in the human psyche and is somehow reflected into myths.
The protagonist has a "home," a place that s/he thinks is normal, familiar, and common. It is familiar but not necessarily ideal or desired.
A normal occurrence motivates the protagonist to acknowledge an unknown aspect of his/her world, feel a restlessness with the constraints of his/her life, or find a new world that s/he was not aware existed.
The protagonist chooses not to move forward in life because s/he chooses to not give up his/her position, power, ideals, goals, or responsibilities; the refusal is often based on his/her fear of the unknown and comfort in the familiar. Usually secondary characters support the protagonist's refusal.
The inexperienced protagonist is provided a supernatural, guiding, and/or guarding character, or an instrumental item (sword, encouragement, etc.) to assist his/her step forward into the unknown.
The protagonist moves out of his/her comfort zone and walks alone. S/he is confronted with an obstacle that must be overcome before s/he can fully enter the dangers of the unknown journey.
The character often is forced into and then trapped deep in the heart of unfamiliar territory where they are confronted with a challenge.
The protagonist is separated from the known and steps into the unknown.
Call to Adventure
Refusal of the Call
The Belly of the Whale
Crossing the First Threshold
By crossing the threshold, the protagonist's world is changed forever. A mental journey merges with the physical journey to result in a spiritual revelation of purpose and self.
First and foremost this is directly linked to the reason the hero left the known for the unknown in departure in the first place. It is the answer to what they were seeking. It is where the hero receives a benefit, favor, or blessing. There is a drive for the hero to share the boon with humankind, whether a tangible item or an idea.
Road of Trials
The protagonist is tested and found vulnerable, but the outcome reveals a part of him/her that s/he did not know existed. The assistance given the protagonist under the "Supernatural Aid" section of "Departure" begins to come into play in the story, and s/he is not expected to face the trials alone.
Meeting a Goddess/Soul Mate
The protagonist meets an ideal (in ancient myths a goddess; in modern stories a soul mate) and sees the possibilities of his/her journey. This supernatural, human, or symbolic ideal encourages him/her forward.
Atonement Overcoming Temptation
Someone or something tries to destroy the journey itself (a father or father figure). Often the destroyer has been sent by a larger evil to stop the protagonist. The protagonist is often misled, but eventually overcomes his lack of knowledge, prejudices, and fears as s/he grows in the acceptance of his/her role as hero.
Viewing the Whole Picture
The protagonist usually realizes their gift here. They are forced to overcome death literally or through example and move beyond the final terrors of change. Her/his journey shifts its focus from self to others. S/he still in the midst of the journey but s/he is now willing to accept what is required of her/him to complete the mission.
The Ultimate Boon
The protagonist flees toward safety to thwart the attempts to take back the treasure, power, ability, or wisdom. Because the protagonist has changed, the chase characterizes his/her courage and confidence.
Through the protagonist's ultimate sacrifice of self, s/he walks in an enlightened state.
The protagonist is able to combine the workings of unenlightened (old) and enlightened (new) societies into one world, the world where the protagonist now resides. S/he understands that his/her old self had to "die" in order for the new way of life to begin. S/he no longer fears change because s/he has learned to live in the moment regardless of what that means.
The protagonist has the ability, power, or wisdom without limitations to relax in whatever world (physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual) s/he finds him/herself. S/he can adjust to who s/he was in the past and who s/he might be in the future.
Master of Two Worlds
The protagonist must face the evil or its leader and the realization that home is no longer a place but a state of being. Those in his/her past may not accept his/her new ability, power, or wisdom and may test it as a final trial to the protagonist.
Crossing the Return Threshold
The protagonist is unable to save him/herself. Others help him/her return "home," which may deflate his/her ego, but since s/he sees the entirety of the mission, s/he understands the importance of what is accomplished.
Although seldom a true refusal, the protagonist, who should return "home" with his/her powers, ability, or wisdom, remains isolated and often faces a death of sorts. Sometimes s/he prefers to live in the enlightenment than return to a "home" that might not accept the ultimate gift. The return is necessary however if the hero is to demonstrate their growth.
Refusing to Return
The Chase or Magic Flight
Archetype = Pattern
Primordial and Universal
if you are
you were born with it
or even here
if you're human, it connects to you...
...whether you like it or not
"... a forest, a kingdom underground, beneath the waves, or above the sky, a secret island, lofty mountaintop, or profound dream state; but it is always a place of strangely fluid and polymorphous beings, unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds, and impossible delight. The hero can go forth of his own volition to accomplish the adventure, as did Theseus when he arrived in his father's city, Athens, and heard the horrible history of the Minotaur; or he may be carried or sent abroad by some benign or malignant agent as was Odysseus, driven about the Mediterranean by the winds of the angered god, Poseidon. The adventure may begin as a mere blunder... or still again, one may be only casually strolling when some passing phenomenon catches the wandering eye and lures one away from the frequented paths of man. Examples might be multiplied, ad infinitum, from every corner of the world."
"Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or 'culture,' the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved. His flowering world becomes a wasteland of dry stones and his life feels meaningless—even though, like King Minos, he may through titanic effort succeed in building an empire or renown. Whatever house he builds, it will be a house of death: a labyrinth of cyclopean walls to hide from him his minotaur. All he can do is create new problems for himself and await the gradual approach of his disintegration."
"For those who have not refused the call, the first encounter of the hero journey is with a protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass. What such a figure represents is the benign, protecting power of destiny. The fantasy is a reassurance—promise that the peace of Paradise, which was known first within the mother womb, is not to be lost; that it supports the present and stands in the future as well as in the past (is omega as well as alpha); that though omnipotence may seem to be endangered by the threshold passages and life awakenings, protective power is always and ever present within or just behind the unfamiliar features of the world. One has only to know and trust, and the ageless guardians will appear. Having responded to his own call, and continuing to follow courageously as the consequences unfold, the hero finds all the forces of the unconscious at his side. Mother Nature herself supports the mighty task. And in so far as the hero's act coincides with that for which his society is ready, he seems to ride on the great rhythm of the historical process."
"With the personifications of his destiny to guide and aid him, the hero goes forward in his adventure until he comes to the 'threshold guardian' at the entrance to the zone of magnified power. Such custodians bound the world in four directions — also up and down — standing for the limits of the hero's present sphere, or life horizon. Beyond them is darkness, the unknown and danger; just as beyond the parental watch is danger to the infant and beyond the protection of his society danger to the members of the tribe. The usual person is more than content, he is even proud, to remain within the indicated bounds, and popular belief gives him every reason to fear so much as the first step into the unexplored. The adventure is always and everywhere a passage beyond the veil of the known into the unknown; the powers that watch at the boundary are dangerous; to deal with them is risky; yet for anyone with competence and courage the danger fades."
"The idea that the passage of the magical threshold is a transit into a sphere of rebirth is symbolized in the worldwide womb image of the belly of the whale. The hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown and would appear to have died. This popular motif gives emphasis to the lesson that the passage of the threshold is a form of self-annihilation. Instead of passing outward, beyond the confines of the visible world, the hero goes inward, to be born again. The disappearance corresponds to the passing of a worshipper into a temple—where he is to be quickened by the recollection of who and what he is, namely dust and ashes unless immortal. The temple interior, the belly of the whale, and the heavenly land beyond, above, and below the confines of the world, are one and the same. That is why the approaches and entrances to temples are flanked and defended by colossal gargoyles: dragons, lions, devil-slayers with drawn swords, resentful dwarfs, winged bulls. The devotee at the moment of entry into a temple undergoes a metamorphosis. Once inside he may be said to have died to time and returned to the World Womb, the World Navel, the Earthly Paradise. Allegorically, then, the passage into a temple and the hero-dive through the jaws of the whale are identical adventures, both denoting in picture language, the life-centering, life-renewing act."
"Once having traversed the threshold, the hero moves in a dream landscape of curiously fluid, ambiguous forms, where he must survive a succession of trials. This is a favorite phase of the myth-adventure. It has produced a world literature of miraculous tests and ordeals. The hero is covertly aided by the advice, amulets, and secret agents of the supernatural helper whom he met before his entrance into this region. Or it may be that he here discovers for the first time that there is a benign power everywhere supporting him in his superhuman passage. The original departure into the land of trials represented only the beginning of the long and really perilous path of initiatory conquests and moments of illumination. Dragons have now to be slain and surprising barriers passed — again, again, and again. Meanwhile there will be a multitude of preliminary victories, unretainable ecstasies and momentary glimpses of the wonderful land."
"The ultimate adventure, when all the barriers and ogres have been overcome, is commonly represented as a mystical marriage of the triumphant hero-soul with the Queen Goddess of the World. This is the crisis at the nadir, the zenith, or at the uttermost edge of the earth, at the central point of the cosmos, in the tabernacle of the temple, or within the darkness of the deepest chamber of the heart. The meeting with the goddess (who is incarnate in every woman) is the final test of the talent of the hero to win the boon of love (charity: amor fati), which is life itself enjoyed as the encasement of eternity. And when the adventurer, in this context, is not a youth but a maid, she is the one who, by her qualities, her beauty, or her yearning, is fit to become the consort of an immortal. Then the heavenly husband descends to her and conducts her to his bed—whether she will or not. And if she has shunned him, the scales fall from her eyes; if she has sought him, her desire finds its peace."
"Atonement consists in no more than the abandonment of that self-generated double monster—the dragon thought to be God (superego) and the dragon thought to be Sin (repressed id). But this requires an abandonment of the attachment to ego itself, and that is what is difficult. One must have a faith that the father is merciful, and then a reliance on that mercy. Therewith, the center of belief is transferred outside of the bedeviling god's tight scaly ring, and the dreadful ogres dissolve. It is in this ordeal that the hero may derive hope and assurance from the helpful female figure, by whose magic (pollen charms or power of intercession) he is protected through all the frightening experiences of the father's ego-shattering initiation. For if it is impossible to trust the terrifying father-face, then one's faith must be centered elsewhere (Spider Woman, Blessed Mother); and with that reliance for support, one endures the crisis—only to find, in the end, that the father and mother reflect each other, and are in essence the same. The problem of the hero going to meet the father is to open his soul beyond terror to such a degree that he will be ripe to understand how the sickening and insane tragedies of this vast and ruthless cosmos are completely validated in the majesty of Being. The hero transcends life with its peculiar blind spot and for a moment rises to a glimpse of the source. He beholds the face of the father, understands—and the two are atoned."
"The crux of the curious difficulty lies in the fact that our conscious views of what life ought to be seldom correspond to what life really is. Generally we refuse to admit within ourselves, or within our friends, the fullness of that pushing, self-protective, malodorous, carnivorous, lecherous fever which is the very nature of the organic cell. Rather, we tend to perfume, whitewash, and reinterpret; meanwhile imagining that all the flies in the ointment, all the hairs in the soup, are the faults of some unpleasant someone else. But when it suddenly dawns on us, or is forced to our attention that everything we think or do is necessarily tainted with the odor of the flesh, then, not uncommonly, there is experienced a moment of revulsion: life, the acts of life, the organs of life, woman in particular as the great symbol of life, become intolerable to the pure, the pure, pure soul. The seeker of the life beyond life must press beyond (the woman), surpass the temptations of her call, and soar to the immaculate ether beyond."
"Those who know, not only that the Everlasting lies in them, but that what they, and all things, really are is the Everlasting, dwell in the groves of the wish fulfilling trees, drink the brew of immortality, and listen everywhere to the unheard music of eternal concord."
"The gods and goddesses then are to be understood as embodiments and custodians of the elixir of Imperishable Being but not themselves the Ultimate in its primary state. What the hero seeks through his intercourse with them is therefore not finally themselves, but their grace, i.e., the power of their sustaining substance. This miraculous energy-substance and this alone is the Imperishable; the names and forms of the deities who everywhere embody, dispense, and represent it come and go. This is the miraculous energy of the thunderbolts of Zeus, Yahweh, and the Supreme Buddha, the fertility of the rain of Viracocha, the virtue announced by the bell rung in the Mass at the consecration, and the light of the ultimate illumination of the saint and sage. Its guardians dare release it only to the duly proven."
"When the hero-quest has been accomplished, through penetration to the source, or through the grace of some male or female, human or animal, personification, the adventurer still must return with his life-transmuting trophy. The full round, the norm of the monomyth, requires that the hero shall now begin the labor of bringing the runes of wisdom, the Golden Fleece, or his sleeping princess, back into the kingdom of humanity, where the boon may redound to the renewing of the community, the nation, the planet or the ten thousand worlds. But the responsibility has been frequently refused. Even Gautama Buddha, after his triumph, doubted whether the message of realization could be communicated, and saints are reported to have died while in the supernal ecstasy. Numerous indeed are the heroes fabled to have taken up residence forever in the blessed isle of the unaging Goddess of Immortal Being."
"If the hero in his triumph wins the blessing of the goddess or the god and is then explicitly commissioned to return to the world with some elixir for the restoration of society, the final stage of his adventure is supported by all the powers of his supernatural patron. On the other hand, if the trophy has been attained against the opposition of its guardian, or if the hero's wish to return to the world has been resented by the gods or demons, then the last stage of the mythological round becomes a lively, often comical, pursuit. This flight may be complicated by marvels of magical obstruction and evasion."
"The hero may have to be brought back from his supernatural adventure by assistance from without. That is to say, the world may have to come and get him. For the bliss of the deep abode is not lightly abandoned in favor of the self-scattering of the wakened state. 'Who having cast off the world,' we read, 'would desire to return again? He would be only there.' And yet, in so far as one is alive, life will call. Society is jealous of those who remain away from it, and will come knocking at the door. If the hero. . . is unwilling, the disturber suffers an ugly shock; but on the other hand, if the summoned one is only delayed—sealed in by the beatitude of the state of perfect being (which resembles death)—an apparent rescue is effected, and the adventurer returns."
"The returning hero, to complete his adventure, must survive the impact of the world. Many failures attest to the difficulties of this life-affirmative threshold. The first problem of the returning hero is to accept as real, after an experience of the soul-satisfying vision of fulfillment, the passing joys and sorrows, banalities and noisy obscenities of life. Why re-enter such a world? Why attempt to make plausible, or even interesting, to men and women consumed with passion, the experience of transcendental bliss? As dreams that were momentous by night may seem simply silly in the light of day, so the poet and the prophet can discover themselves playing the idiot before a jury of sober eyes. The easy thing is to commit the whole community to the devil and retire again into the heavenly rock dwelling, close the door, and make it fast. But if some spiritual obstetrician has drawn the shimenawa across the retreat, then the work of representing eternity in time, and perceiving in time eternity, cannot be avoided" The hero returns to the world of common day and must accept it as real."
Character and Situation/Symbol
A quest for identity that usually involves a struggle between two worlds/identities.
The hero or heroin conquers death in some form.
Mysterious, unusual or miraculous circumstances of birth.
An arduous journey with trials, tests and temptation.
A hidden childhood attended by surrogate parents.
A hidden or concealed identity known only to very few.
Education with a very old and wise teacher.
The call to adventure and the realization that the hero or heroine has special duties or responsibilities in this world.
Revelation of the nature of a hero or heroine’s true identity, birthright and their special responsibilities.
The discovery of personal virtues and strengths and usually at least one great weakness.
The discovery and development of special powers which are unique to the hero or heroine.
The realization that they need the help of others to succeed on their quest.
Ultimately the hero or heroine must rely on his or her own strength, wits and resources to emerge victorious.
The journey ascends to a high spiritual plane and returns or descends into darkness and returns.
The journey leads to transformation and/or self realization.
Something of great importance or lasting value is discovered or created.
The Modern Myth, Archetypes, the Hero and his Journey
Mythology once served a central role in human life, up until the time when science and industry somehow stole away or otherwise replaced our myths. Myths were used to explain a bizarre and often unexplainable world. Where once they were stoutly believed and practiced, they now merely serve as justification for our human condition and an explanation for our action.
Fundamentally, they are made of the same stuff. Any stories we tell, novels, movies, urban legends, could reach mythical size when we have to make assumptions to understand them and more importantly, understand our place in them. The modern myth realizes that it is all about us. It knows that it is just a fiction, a tale. It is how it illuminates us that makes simple story a myth.