A hero's Journey la class Handout



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A Hero's Journey

LA Class Handout


A Hero's journey is similar to the rite of passage in many cultures. The basis of the journey requires a separation from the comfortable, known world and an initiation into a new level of awareness, skill, responsibility, and then a return home. In myths and stories this journey is a metaphor for the growing up process. Each stage must be passed successfully if the initiate is to become a hero. To turn back at any stage is to reject the need to grow and mature. The initiate is a person who is on a quest in the hopes of becoming a hero.

Characteristics of a Hero:





The hero can be either male or female. Most of the time however the hero in stories is usually male. This is not in anyway saying anything negative about women. As a matter of fact, women are usually used to represent creation and ultimate wisdom - therefore they don't need to make a journey.




The hero is usually of low birth but may secretly have special powers or a high birthright he is unaware of.




The hero's parents (mainly the father) are dead, absent or uncaring. A hero usually can't begin a journey to become a man/woman if his/her father figure is still present.




A hero must be judged by the things s/he does and the way he reacts and relates to people. His/Her deeds must be marked by a nobility of purpose, and he must be willing to risk his life for his ideals.

Stages of Journey:


1) The Call - Is the opportunity to face the unknown and gain something of physical or spiritual value.

Selection for Quest:



The town leaders select the initiate in order for him/her to face danger in order to save everyone from an evil fate like disease or famine.



The initiate can begin a journey because of a mistake - something is lost and h/she must find it.



The initiate is told to go on a quest by a god or force - this usually happens in a dream or a vision.

The Types of Calls:


The initiate may go willingly or be forced to go on a quest. The call is a realization of an imbalance or injustice. The Call often comes when something has been taken away from h/her or family or society.




The Call may be a sensation that something is lacking in h/her life and h/she must search for what is missing.

Another type of Call comes when h/she realizes society is being denied something and goes on a quest to win rights for the people. Sometimes it is nothing more than the need to save honor.




Refusing the Call rarely happens but when it does the initiate gives up the ability to take positive action. H/she rejects the need to grow and mature and ends up living a meaningless life. Thus he/she can never be a hero.

2) The Helper-guide /Threshold:


The Helper/threshold is the point of adventure when the initiate leaves the known for the unknown. At this point the initiate encounters a helper or guide. Help can take the form of a divine gift like a talisman or as a guide who comes in the form of an old mysterious figure like an old man. The guide offers wisdom or protection in the form of magic weapons - made from lightening, thunder, or light are the most common. The guide keeps the initiate focused on the goal and provides an anchor when danger is the greatest. The guide also has an uncanny ability to appear at just the right moment to save the initiate - like right when the initiate is to be killed.

3) Tests and Ordeals:


On the initiate's quest, s/he is challenged both physically and mentally to h/his limits. These tests show whether s/he is growing and should become a hero. The test and ordeals could range from overcoming shyness to training to fight a particular enemy or challenge. This is the most easily identifiable aspect of the heroic journey.

4) Into the Abyss:

In the abyss, the initiate faces the ultimate danger or challenge. Facing the abyss is usually done alone. It is here where the initiate faces their greatest fear and must decide to give themselves over totally to the quest.” Slaying the dragon" becomes the fear that needs to be overcome. The initiate can fail because s/he has not grown enough or overcome some character flaw or simply due to fear. If fear prevents the initiate from succeeding, the remainder of h/her life can be bitter. If the hero however falls or fails while facing the abyss, then they completed the journey through death.

5) The Final Struggle/Transformation:


The transformation is the moment of death and rebirth - some part of the initiate dies so a new part can be born. The child part dies and re-emerges as a man. Transformation can be a revelation, a discovery, or insight about oneself or society. A change in the way h/she views the world occurs. This is the most important part of the journey. If there is no change, there is no hero.

6) Elixir/The Atonement:


The initiate is now a new person. H/she has harmony with life and the world and now is truly a hero. A gift/blessing is given to the hero based on h/her new skill and awareness. S/he may become stronger or richer, a better leader, a greater fighter, or enlightened spiritually. Upon returning home, the hero must give the "boon" or riches to the people. If the hero left on the quest to protect people from plague, drought, or famine, these disasters will be avoided because of the hero's successful journey and safe return. Other blessings can be wealth, prosperity, marriage, or childbirth. The journey is the person's search for something within himself or herself like courage, maturity, or wisdom. Most heroes are young because most hero quests are about young people growing into adulthood.

7) Flight

After accomplishing the mission, the hero must return to the threshold of adventure and prepare for a return to the everyday world. If the hero has angered the opposing forces by stealing the elixir or killing a powerful monster, the return may take the form of a hasty flight. If the hero has been given the elixir freely, the flight may be a benign stage of the journey or almost unseen stage in the journey.

8)The Return:


After the transformation and atonement, the hero faces one of the most difficult stages - returning to everyday life.

The Hero and boon may renew a community, establish a nation, create great order, or share their newfound wealth. Sometimes things don't go well and the hero finds frustration. They can't accept the changes that occurred during their absence, (homeland, wife or family may have changed) but they still try to maintain the new viewpoint obtained from their journey.



With the return home, a circle has been completed.



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