Everyone loves a great story. A story filled with magic and adventure in a fantastic land. These stories are an escape from reality, but can also teach valuable lessons. They can draw a reader in and then the reader can become emotionally involved with the characters. So much so that they can become like friends you have never met. You really want the characters to win. You can become heartbroken when the characters you love have awful things happen to them. The stories have so much meaning and can actually impact a person so deeply it changes them forever. These stories have incredible lasting power. The authors who brought these stories to life become immortal. The stories and characters live on long after the writer is gone. The same can be said for the actors who portray characters in the movies.
Joseph Campbell introduced a concept in the book The Hero With A Thousand Faces which he called the Monomyth. His theory that myths and legends from around the world that have existed for thousands of years all share the same fundamental structure.
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
There are stages or steps along the journey which are organized into three different acts.
- Departure – The hero hears the call of the herald to go on an adventure. The hero is reluctant to follow the call but is helped by a mentor figure.
- Initiation – The hero travels into unknown worlds where the hero faces tasks or trials, either alone or with the assistance of others. The hero eventually faces the central crisis of the adventure and overcomes the main obstacle or enemy gaining a reward. The hero must return to the ordinary world, but is pursued by guardians of the special world or the hero is reluctant to return and he is rescued or forced to return by intervention from the outside.
- Return – The hero returns to the ordinary world with the treasure which is used to benefit others. The hero is transformed by the adventure and gains wisdom or special power over both worlds.
This theory has influenced many writers and filmmakers. George Lucas has discussed how Cambell’s theory has influenced his work in Star Wars. Christopher Vogler a Hollywood development executive was inspired by the writings of Campbell. He wrote his own adaptation guide for hollywood screenwriters. Here is a video showing these influences by using iconic blockbuster movies that follow the same structure of storytelling.
The Hero’s Journey has also been used as a metaphor for personal spiritual and psychological growth. Using bibliotherapy The Hero’s Journey can help people cope with life transitions and by projecting their struggles onto the hero in the story and draw parallels between the story and their real life.
We are all the hero in our everyday lives, but we are also the author and we can write our own adventure. As long as we are able to answer the call of the herald. Be brave and answer the call.