Hero’s Journey, please see Hero’s journey (game). The neutrality and factual accuracy of this article are disputed

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This article is about the general monomyth concept of a hero’s journey. For the graphical MMORPG Hero’s Journey, please see Hero’s journey (game).
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The monomyth (often referred to as the hero’s journey) is a cyclical journey found in myths suggested by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949) [1] (http://ias.berkeley.edu/orias/hero/). As a noted scholar of James Joyce (in 1944 he authors the text, with Henry Morton Robinson, A Skeleton key to Finnegans Wake [2] (http://www.jfc.org/works.php?id=331), Campbell borrowed the term, monomyth from Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake.
This pattern was adopted by Gorge Lucas in both original Star Wars trilogy and its prequels.
Holly wood screenwriter, Christopher Vogler, also used Campbell’s theories in the creation of first a memo for Disney and later the book, The Writer’s Journey: mythic structure For Writers. This infuenced Disney’s The Lion King in 1994 and the Wachowski brothers’ The Matrix in the 2000’s.
Campbell’s account of the monomyth explains its ubiquity through a mixture of Jungian archetypes, unconscious forces of mind from the Freudian conception, and Arnold van Gennep’s structuring of rites of passage rituals.
Since the late 1960’s, with the introduction of Post – structuralism, theories such as the monomyth (which are dependent upon approaches based in Structuralism) have lost ground in the academy. This pattern of the hero’s journey is still influential among artists and intellectuals worldwide, however, which may indicate the continued usefulness and ubiquitous of Campbell’s works ( and thus as evidence for the importance and validity of Freudian and especially Jungian psychological models).

  • 1.1 departure (or separation)

    • 1.1.1 The Call to Adventure

    • 1.1.2 Refusal of the Call

    • 1.1.3 Supernatural Aid/ The Meeting with the Mentor

    • 1.1.4 The Crossing of the First Threshold

- 1.1.5 The belly of the Whale

  • 1.2 initiation

    • 1.2.1 The road of Trials

    • 1.2.2 The Meeting with the goddess

    • 1.2.3 Women as Temptress, or Temptation From the True Path

    • 1.2.4 Atonement with the Father

    • 1.2.5 Apotheosis

- 1.2.6 The Ultimate Boon

  • 1.3 Return

    • 1.3.1 Refusal of the Return

    • 1.3.2 The Magic Flight

    • 1.3.3 Rescue from Without

    • 1.3.4 The Crossing of the Return Threshold

    • 1.3.5 Master of Two Worlds

    • 1.3.6 Freedom to live

  • 2 Criticism

  • 3 References

    • 3.1 Books based upon interviews with Campbell

- 3.2 DVD/Discography

  • 4 external links

The Monomyth is divided into three sections: Departure (sometimes called Separation), Initiation and return.
This was laid out by Joseph Campbell in the First par of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, “The Adventure of the Hero.” His thesis was that all myths follow this structure to al least some extent. To take several examples: the stories of Prometheus, Osiris, Buddha, and Christ follow this structure almost exactly, whereas the Odyssey features frequent repetitions of the Initiation section and the Cinderella story follows thesis structure somewhat more loosely.
Departure deals with the hero venturing forth on his quest; Initiation deals with the hero’s various adventures along his or her way; and return deals with the hero’s return home with knowledge and powers he or she has acquired along the way.

Departure (or Separation)
The quest begins with the hero receiving a call to action. Such as a threat to the peace of the community, or the hero in a state of neurotic anguish or simply falls into or blunders into the quest. The quest is often announced to te hero’s by another character who acts as a “herald”. The herald is often represented by a benign forest creature (frog, rabbit, deer) or a chthonic creature (serpent, spider).
In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker, the hero, begins the story in frustration over being unable to leave home. The heralds are the two droids who carry a message from Princess Leia. In the Matrix, the call comes in the form of Morpheus and his followers who encouraged the hero, Neo, to question reality. Morpheus literally calls Neo on a cell phone and Neo’s phone at home. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf acts as the herald who gives Frodo his mission to destroy the One Ring. Aragon, in a separate hero’s journey, is told by Elrond of his true name and game, Graff, Head of the Battle School informs Ender that he has been chosen to be trained to fight the Formics, an alien race intending to destroy the human race. In the origin story of Spider – Man, Peter Parker’s first call to adventure comes when he is first bitten by the radioactive spider and is granted superpowers but later answers a ad promising money if he can last three minutes in a ring with a wrestler. At the beginning of Prey, Tommy Tawodi wants to convince his girlfriend to leave the reservation where they live, and soon after he is abducted by aliens. In the Wheel of Time, Rand and his friends are warned by Moraine that the Dark One is hunting them. In The Neverending Story, Bastian is interested at the idea of neverending story and “borrows” the book, while the book, Atreyu is summoned to save Fantastica from The Nothing.
In Herman Hesse’s book Siddhartha the main character, Siddhartha, becomes weary of his way of life and decides he must venture away from his accustomed life in order to attain spiritual enlightenment. Most Buddhist myths describe the Buddha as becoming bored with his royal life and venturing into the world.
Refusal of the Call
In many stories, the hero initially refuses the call to adventure. When this happens, the hero suffers somehow, and eventually chooses the quest.
In The Matrix, Neo refuses to take the window washing scaffold to escape and is captures by the Agents. In Star Wars, Luke is refused adventure by his uncle, a man who seeks to protect Luke from the inevitable dangers of fate. As a result, Luke’s family is killed by stormtroopers. In The lord of the Rings, Frodo is unwilling to set out on an adventure. Because of his delay, he is nearly captured by the Ringwraiths. In Ender’s Game, Ender is reluctant to leave the Earth because he knows he will not see his sister Valentine Wiggin for many years. Peter Parker at first uses his powers for personal gain, ignoring Uncle Ben’s advice “With great power, comes great responsibility.” It is only after Uncle Ben is killed by a burglar that peter takes his uncle’s mantra and adopts the mantle of Spider – Man. In Prey, Tommy’s girlfriend does not want them to leave the reservation because that is the land of their ancestors. In “The Neverending Story” Cairon the centaur refuses to believe that Atreyu is a young boy, not a full grown warrior. Later Bastian refuses to help because he’s afraid that the characters in the book will mock him for his appearance like the children at school, and is forced to go when the Old Man of Wandering Mountain puts him in the Circle of Eternal Return.

Supernatural Aid/Meeting with the Mentor
Along the way, the hero often encounters a mentor, usually a wise old man, who gives the hero both psychological and physical weapons.
In Star Wars, Luke encounters the Jedi – Master Obi – Wan Kenobi who presents Luke with a lightsaber and teaches him the Force. In The Lord of the Rings Frodo and Sam Gamgee receive help early in their journey from several figures, notably Tom Bombadil, Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf. In the James bond series of movies, the character of Q, acting as a Shaman, gives agent 007 guidance. Hannibal Lecter, in The Silence of Lambs gives Agent Starling many psychological weapons. In Ender’s Game, Mazer Rackham the hero of the second buggers’ invasion returns from a light speed journey that kept him a live in order to train Ender. In Prey, Tommy meets a premature end (from which he is then resurrected) and meets again with his grandfather in the spirit world, who teaches him to use the power of spirit walk. In The Wheel of Time, Moiraine plays the role of a mentor to Rand, though she and Rand often struggle to be in charge, and Rand doesn’t trust her. In American Beauty, Ricky Fitts plays the role of mentor to Lester Burnham as Ricky is the embodiment of everything Lester used to be in his youth before becoming essentially castrated by his own life.
The Crossing of the First Threshold
The hero eventually must cross into a dark underworld, where he will face evil and darkness, and thereby find true enlightenment. Before this can occur, however, the hero must cross the threshold between his home world and the new world of adventure. Often this involves facing off against and quelling a “threshold guardian”.
In Star Wars, the threshold is Mos Eisley, a spaceport that acts as a doorway between Luke’s home planet and the wider universe; Luke must avoid capture by the threshold guardians, the imperial stormtroopers. In The Matrix, Neo takes the “red pill”. In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo finally accepts his mission in Rivendell and crosses the threshold once he leaves there. Also Rivendell, Aragorn meets Boromir who tells the plight that Gondor is now in while at the same time confronting those present for not aiding Gondor; Aragorn sees that he must now save Gondor and claim the kingship. In The Odyssey, Odysseus must pass the island of the Sirens. In The Silence of the Lambs, Agent Starling must enter not only Lecter’s hospital, guarded by the semen –flinging guarding , but also the second threshold of the sealed storage facility Lecter directs her to. In Prey, this is a literal threshold: a wall of fire through which Tommy must pass to pick up his spirit bow. In The Wheel of Time, The heroes must elude the Draghkar and escape across the Taren River that isolates their community.

The Belly of the Whale
Having defeated the threshold guardian, the hero finds himself in a place of darkness where he begins his true adventure, perhaps discovering his true purpose. This ‘bell of the whale’ may be an ambiguous place of dream-like forms. The name for this stage of the monomyth is based upon the story Jonah.
In Star Wars, it is the death Star, in which Luke is engulfed and in which he learns how to be a hero. In The Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship passes through the abandoned mines of Moria. In The Matrix, Neo finds himself waking up in a bio-electric cell where he is one of the humans being harvested by the machines. In The Silence of the Lambs, Starling finds the serial killer Buffalo bill’s first victim within the dark, womblike storage facility. In Prey, Tommy ventures through a semi-organic Dyson sphere, with corridors resembling intestines, to save his girlfriend. In The Wheel of Time, the company must make their way through the cursed ruins of Shadar Logoth. In “The Neverending Story” Bastian finds himself in Perilin, the night Forest.
The Road of Trials
Once in the other world, the hero is repeatedly challenged with mental and physical obstacles that must be overcome. Often these take the form of a test, by which the hero improves his skill and proves his worth.
In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke undergoes his training with Yoda. Aragorn, after the loss if Gandalf in Moria, must now take the position of leader of the fellowship, and struggles to lead them as well as Gandalf wanted to. In The Silence of the Lambs, Starling must deal with sexism and her own fear while investigating Buffalo Bill. In The Matrix, Neo must deal with “the difference between knowing the path and walking the path” while rescuing Morpheus from the Agents.
The Meeting with the Goddess
After overcoming the road of Trials, the hero often encounters a goddess-like woman: beautiful, queenlike, or motherly. The hero faces the goddess and in doing so, faces his anima. By uniting with the goddess, he becomes a whole person, reconciling his feminine nature with his masculine nature. This can also be a negative encounter when the goddess is replaced by The Temptress (see next section). Campbell cites the lure of the woman; leading the hero astray (the hero is assumed to be male). Other cultural mythologists broaden this to include all temptation, and sometimes lump this stage in with the Road of Trials.
Examples: In The Matrix, Neo confronts Oracle. In The Matrix Reloaded, Neo takes Trinity as a lover. In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo meets Galadriel, who shows him the future. Aragorn also meets Galadriel, who counsels him on his future actions. In The Silence of the Lambs, Buffalo Bill Kidnaps a senator’s daughter and the female senator initially appears as a benevolent, matriarchal force. In Garden State, the actress Natalie Portman plays an epileptic young woman named Sam who helps the hero, Large, feel and live again. In “the Neverending Story” Bastian meets The Childlike Empress, while Atreyu her and the southern Oracle.

Woman as Temptress, or Temptation From the True Path
In some Hero’s Quests, the hero will encounter the goddess, but before he can with her, he must prove his worthiness by overcoming the temptation of the Woman as Temptress.
There is some debate as to weather this is truly a universal feature off myths, or a specific example of a broader category of “temptation away from the truth path”. Although most of Campbell’s book uses examples from may cultures, his chapter on “Woman as the Temptress” draws examples exclusively from Judeo – Christian stories. [3] (http://www.jitterbug.com/origins/myth.html) Some examples of temptations which do not cast woman as the villain are Satan tempting Christ (and similarly, various saints), and the seductive ‘Dark Side’ in the Star Wars series.
Some examples which do involve women in the role of temptress: The Matrix Reloaded, Persephone attempts to seduce Neo. In The Odyssey, the temptress is the nymph Calypso. Interestingly, in Star Wars, there is tension between Luke and Han Solo over their love for Princess Leia –this is resolved in Episode VI, Return of the Jedi when Luke finds out that Leia is actually his sister. Luke is also tempted by the dark side itself, as demonstrated by his vision in the cave on Dagobah. In this way, George Lucas broke away from the Campbellian model and put the Woman as Temptress into the road of Trials category. In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo is tempted to give the Ring to Galadriel and forsake his mission. An interesting twist here is that Frodo also tempts Galadriel into becoming a “Lady of the Ring”. In The Silence of the Lambs, Starling’s offer of a reduced sentence for Hannibal Lecter, supposedly authorized by the senator, is revealed as a trick. In the “Neverending Story” Xayide tempts Bastian into trying to become the Childlike Emperor and abandon his friends. Similarly, a majority of the citizens of Fantastica, now rendered hopeless, give in to the temptation of jumping into The Nothing.
Interesting twists on this theme van be found in love stories, love-based dramas, and romantic comedies. For examples, in the movie Almost Famous, the character of William Miller must give in to the temptation of the band groupies to prove to Penny Lane that he is worldly enough to love her.
Atonement with the Father
The hero may encounter a father –like figure of patriarchal authority. “Father” and “son” are often pitted against each other for mastery of the universe. To understand the father, and ultimately himself, the hero must reconcile with this ultimate authority figure.
In the Empire Strikes Back, Luke confronts Darth Vader and learns that he is his father; in Return of the Jedi, he is reconciled with the reformed Vader. In The Matrix Reloaded, Neo meets The Architect, a program who identifies himself as the father of the Matrix. In The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn must face the legacy of his ancestor Isildur, by rising above the darkness where he failed. Aragorn directly faces this legacy most clearly when he decides to ride the Paths of the Dead and gain the allegiance of the Army of the Dead, a feat which only the true heir of Isildur can perform. In The Silence of the Lambs, Starling comes to terms with the death of her father through Hannibal Lecter. In “The Neverending Story” Bastian brings the Water of Life to help both him and his father get over his mother’s death.
The Hero’s Ego is disintegrated in a breakthrough expansion of consciousness. Quite frequently his idea of reality is changed; he may find himself able to do new things or able to see a larger point of view, allowing him to sacrifice self.
In The Empire Strikes back, Luke sacrifices himself rather than turn to the dark side. In The Matrix, Neo decides to face off against agent Smith resulting in his eventual initiation as The One. In The Matrix Reloaded, Neo destroys several Sentinels in the real world only using his mind. In The Matrix Revolutions, Neo Realizes that machine life is as valid as human life and decides to give his own life in order to reconcile the worlds if man and machine. Aragorn gains command of the immortal Army of the Dead, making his forced undefeatable. In the Silence of the Lambs after atonement, Starling gains knowledge from Lecter and must challenge Buffalo Bill on her own.
The Ultimate Boon
Having reconciled with the father and achieved personal enlightenment the hero’s psychological forces are again balanced. His new found knowledge, or boon, also has potential to benefit society.
In the Christ story, Jesus surrenders himself to the Romans, setting in motion his ultimate fate of crucifixion. In The Lord of the Rings, all of the hobbits gain wisdom and experience during their journey which allows them to easily set thing right in the Shire on their return. By calling upon his heritage as the Heir of Isildur to take command of the Army of the Dead, Aragorn is now more in tune with his true nature and purpose as rightful heir to throne of Gondor than ever before. In The Silence of the Lambs Starling graduate into an agent, her psychological frces balances despite Lecter’s escape. At the end of The Return of the Jedi, Luke has made peace with his father, and recognizes that he has saved him from the Dark Side.
Refusal of the Return
Having found bliss and enlightenment in the underworld, the hero may not want to return with the boon.
In Enders Game ender and Valentine choose to leave the Earth by opting to go on a starship to colonize the conquered Bugger worlds.
In “The Neverending Story” Bastian refuses to return to the Human World, being caught up in Fantastica.
In “The Lord of the Rings,” Frodo returns to the Shire only to relocate to the Undying lands.

The Magic Fight
A mad dash is made by the hero to return with the prize.
In The Matrix Revolutions, Neo takes a ship to the Machine City. In The Lord of the Rings Frodo and Sam are rescued from the slopes of Mt. Doom by Gandalf and the Eagles (which is also a “Rescue from Without”). Aragorn, after exiting the Paths of the Dead with his new invincible Shadow Army, must now make a mad dash across Gondor in a race against time to liberate the coast from an invasion of Corsairs, and then lead the Southern army of Gondor north to save Minas Tirith from destruction, all in only six days. In “The Neverending Story” Bastian takes the Water of Life and runs through Auryn to return home.
In many fairy tales and folktales, it is literally a magic flight, with the hero or heroine transforming objects to stop the pursuit ( The Master Maid, the Water Nixie) or transforming himself and any companions to hide themselves (Farmer Weathersky or Foundling-Bird).
Rescue from Without
The hero may need to be rescued from without by humiliating.
In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo is ultimately unable to destroy the Ring without the help of Gollum, who is unaware of his contribution to the plot.
In The Return of the Jedi, Luke is unable to destroy the Emperor, and must rely on his redeemed father.
The Crossing of the Return Threshold
Before the hero can return to the real world, he must confront another threshold guardian. The first threshold was a symbolic death; this is a now symbolic rebirth.
In The Matrix Revolution, Neo again confronts Smith. In Return of the Jedi, Luke again confronts Darth Vader; this is the culmination of the plot. Luke faces Vader and uses the talents that have been building throughout the story to overcome the enemy. In The Lord of the Rings, the final threshold for the hobbits re-entering the Shire is guarded by Saruman and his Ruffians. For Aragorn, this means making a final confrontation with Sauron’s forces in a suicidal attack on his massive army at the Black gate. In “Pleasantville”, David must confront the mayor, Big Bob, about the inevitable “coloring” of the townspeople as well as himself.
It is important that the Finale Threshold is confronted with a new strength, thus initiating a change in character and an evolution from average man to hero. It is with the variable trait growing throughout the story that the hero accomplishes his ultimate goal.

Master of Two Worlds
Once the final threshold is crossed, the hero is now free to move back and forth between the two worlds at will. He has mastered the conflicting physiological forces of the mind.
In Return of the Jedi, Luke becomes a Jedi. He has mastered the force and defeated the one true temptation, the Dark Side. In the Christ story, Jesus is resurrected. In The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn is crowned King of Gondor and Arnor, and has defeated Mordor (later re – distributing its conquered lands to the former slaves that tilled the fields in its southern regions.) Aragorn then marries Arwen, daughter of his father figure Elrond, uniting the Worlds of Elf and man. Finally, Aragorn finds a new sapling of the White Tree of Gondor, Gandalf informs him that he is leaving Middle-earth now that Sauron is defeated: Gandalf now officially “passes the torch” of responsibility for protecting Middle Earth and its peoples from himself on to Aragorn and his descendants.
Freedom of Love
Wit the journey now complete, the hero has found true freedom, and can turn his efforts to helping or teaching humanity.
In “ The Return of the Jedi” Luke has overcome the Empire and his rebellion is free to live and thrive, the ending scene the peacefulness established by Luke’s victory.
In The Lord of the Rings, the hobbits become prominent citizens of the Shire with the wisdom they have gained. Aragorn reigns as King for many decades and ushers in a new age of peace and the rebuilding of Middle-earth. He then starts a family with Arwen, his Queen.
In “The Neverending Story” Bastian feels more confident when he returns, and prepares to help other humans reach Fantastica.
Many myths and stories do not follow monomyth pattern. Supposed general nature of monomyth may have come from overlooking non – monomythic stories or deeming then a prorial less interesting. [Examples needed].
American novelist Kurt Vonnegut satirized Campbell’s views on the monomyth as being excessively complicated by offering his interpretation called the ‘In The Hole’ theory; loosely defined as “The hero gets into trouble. The hero gets out of trouble.”
American philosopher John Shelton Lawrence and American religious scholar Robert Jewett have discussed an “American Monomyth” in many of their books, the American Monomyth, The Myth of the American Superhero and Captain America and the Crusade of Zealous Nationalism.
The theory may “beg the question:” one of may look in a story for the elements and subsequently discover them, although the conclusion rests on the premise that the elements would be found. The scope for interpretation on each stage may allow any story to fit it if analysis is undertaken, making any insights from the theory useless.
Similarly, works written after the popularization of Campbell’s theory may have been deliberately structures to conform to it; this cannot be taken as supporting the theory that the elements of the monomyth arise unconsciously and inevitably. The most famous example of a story consciously written as a monomyth is the Star Wars series.
Common use of monomyth was blamed for lack of originality and clichés in popular culture, especially budget Hollywood films [4].

  • Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1949.

  • --with Henry Morton Robinson. A Skeleton Key to Finnegans wake, 1944.

  • Joyce, James. Finnegans Wake, 1939.

  • Vogler, Christopher. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structures For Writers. Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese.

Books based upon interviews with Campbell

  • The Hero’s journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work. Edited and with an Introduction by Phil Cousineau. Forward by Stuart L. Brown, Executive Editor. New York: Harper and Row, 1990.

  • The Power of Myth (with Bill Moyers and Betty Sue Flowers, ed.) 1988.


  • Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth (1988)

  • The Hero’s Journey: The World of Joseph Campbell (1987)

External Links

  • 188+ stages if the Hero’s Journey / Monomyth (http://www.clickok.co.uk/index4.html)

  • MonoMyth.org –Unraveling Monomyth in Past and modern Stories and Movies (http://www.monomyth.org/)

  • The monomyth Cycle (http://www.wiu.edu?users/mudjs1/monomyth.htm)

  • Examples of Each Stage of a Hero’s Journey (http://www.spookybug.com/origins/myth.htm1) in Star Wars and The Matrix

  • Hero’s Journey (http://www.mythichero.com/what_is_mythology.htm)

  • Monomyth, U.C Berkeley (http://ias.berkley.edu/orias/hero/)

Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/monomyth

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