What is the hero’s journey?
Researchers of stories in literature and cinema wanted to see the general trends of all the works and masterpieces for a long period of time. All of them were curious: can we say that there is a unique way to write an interesting and successful story. Joseph Campbell is the man who found these patterns by studying practically all the myths of all nations. His titanic work is worth to respected, and books have to be read. Think about your favorite book or film and answer the question: ‘Does the main character follow the same pattern?’. Let’s try to find this out.
Hero’s journey essay cannot be full without Joseph Campbell — the author of this theory. He was born in 1904 in New York. He is the author of nine works, including books and essays. Indian myths were interesting to Campbell, he considered them as a receptacle of spiritual truths that do not depend on time. Then he decided to find, read and understand all the known myths and to outline something common in them. He saw these basic aspects — for example, the flood, the abduction of fire, the resurrecting hero, the virgin birth, the land of the dead. His two most famous works are ‘The Hero with a thousand faces’ and ‘Masks of God.’ George Lucas (author of ‘Star Wars’) admitted that he was inspired by these works and his films in their structure contained the concepts of Campbell. Joseph Campbell is sure that any good narrative has in its structural similarities with other good stories, that everything was invented a long time ago and any deviation from this structure makes the viewer and the reader puzzled. So, what kind of structure does Campbell consider the same from a millennium to a millennium?
Hero’s journey structure
The main characteristic of Hero’s journey is its cyclic quality. Everything begins and ends on the same stage. So, let’s look closer to this theory:
- Status quo.
This is the introduction. The usual world of the hero. This is the place where the story begins — a completely normal environment for the main character.
- Call of adventure.
The hero receives a mysterious message, a challenge. It may be a non-accidental encounter with a person or phenomenon that will show him that he is elected.
The world has changed, and the hero needs support. Most likely, from someone who is smarter and wiser than him.
The hero had a chance to leave everything as it was, but he mustered up courage, abandoned his familiar environment and entered a new, alien world full of dangers and adventures. There is no way back; bridges are burned.
Being a hero is hard work, it has to be capitalized. He has to solve riddles, avoid traps, cut the heads of monsters. For one hero, the test is to cross the road, for another — enter the cave, fight evil, for the third — go on a date with the girl of his dreams and not disgrace yourself.
It’s time for a harsh meeting with the hero’s worst fear. It does not have to be a real collision; we can only show the viewer or the reader what our hero fears more than anything else in the world or force the hero to engage in a fight with him and see the fear in his face.
This is the most difficult moment in the life of the hero, the culmination. He can get an incredibly heavy physical or moral blow and be on the verge of death (may even die). Everything is very bad, and there is no chance of salvation. But the hero is reborn.
When the hero has overcome the most powerful obstacle in his life, met with the greatest fear and evil, he must receive a reward. It can be anything — glory, recognition, real treasure.
It can be different. Monsters can finally obey the hero or can pursue him to the borders of his terrible world.
After all his adventures, our hero returns to his familiar world, however, much has changed.
- New life.
Analysis of what happened helps the hero to change his mentality. He grew out of his old life, learned new things, destroyed the old.
There comes the denouement. All the storylines need clarification, all of these topics have to be ended.
- Status quo.
However, its level is higher than at the beginning. Life of a hero is completely different now. People treat him in another way; he has changed, the world too. This is the conclusion.
If you’ve read a series of ‘Harry Potter’ books by J.K. Rowling, if you’ve watched ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Avatar,’ you can easily trace the similarities of the same structure in all these works. Why does this structure work? Any story is above all about ourselves. All of these artworks describe our life, or rather, the life that we all want. That is exactly why it gets to the point, that’s why it catches us.