Applying Campbel’s Theory of the Hero’s Journey to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
This essay explores the use of the typical conventions of a heroic quest story in the young adult fantasy novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, according to Joseph Campbell’s theory of The Hero’s Journey, or also known as Monomyth discussed in his book The Hero with A Thousand Faces. In order to determine the extent to which the young adult fantasy novel “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” conforms to the most typical conventions of a heroic quest story, my intention is to examine to what extent the most important stages of Joseph Campbell’s template comply with the story, and how the classical motifs unite to shape the typic stages of Campbell’s The Heroic Journey theory in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Additionally, this paper will probe how the major phases, the Call to Adventure, Crossing the Threshold, Tests, Allies and Enemies, the Approach, the Reward and the Return, are evidenced in the story and will investigate what the choice of stages intend, hence how the most meaningful phases are continuously and coherently interpreted in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. According to the classical structural conventions by Joseph Campbell, it also touches on the archetypal and universal experiences of a hero and examines how explicitly the fictional story matches the classic monomyth. This topic is worth investigating as Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey Theory has not been evidenced nor demonstrated, in a considerable amount of modern young adult fantasy novels. Furthermore, it is particularly interesting to analyse whether the storyline and structural pattern of this popular novel correspond to this well-known theory.
Background to Joseph Campbell and his Theorem
The mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell spent a significant amount of his life reading world literature such as ancient mythology and philosophical works. In his own works on mythology examined the universal functions of myths in different cultures (Segal). What he observed during his readings, are similarities and reappearances of patterns. In most stories he perused, a character is requested to accomplish a task and then returns home to reveal the benefit. Intrigued by ancient mythology, Campbell studied the myth and claims in his theory that most myths reveal an almost identical structure in their pattern format. Hence, he identified the different stages as “The Hero’s Journey”. He explains all components of this pattern in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, highlighting and explicating the spread of this pattern in many stories worldwide. In the year of 1949, Joseph Campbell first published The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It is a book of comparative mythology. In his work Campbell discusses his theory of the journey of the archetypal hero in the world of mythologies (“The Hero with a Thousand Faces”). Campbell concluded the following: “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” (Campbell 23). Applicable to the hero in the young adult novel, he ventures from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder. As stated in his book, Campbell believed that myths have four functions. A mystical function, a sociological function, a cosmological function and a psychological function. Related to the background of his theory, Campbell based a section of his The Hero’s Journey theory on the psychological function. This is because a theorist that Campbell considered for his theories was Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who was engaged in psychological aspects of myths. Jung stated that story patterns are also encoded in the brain of human beings, which is why similar patterns are found in mythologies all over the world (Segal). Therefore, Campbell based his theories on ancient mythology as well as on Carl Jung’s theories. Referred to his theory of The Hero’s Journey and basing it on Jung’s psychological ideas, he identified his own theory as an archetype that is related to the psychological function of myths by which the hero incorporates the conscious with the unconscious (Hobbs). Thus, Campbell’s labelled monomyth pattern theory signifies that all heroic quest stories and most myths follow this pattern. By applying the Hero’s Journey Theory of the American mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell to the fantasy novel, the extent to which the story conforms to the most typical stages of the monomyth can be significantly proven.
Applying Campbell’s Theorem – The Call to Adventure and Crossing the Threshold
In Ransom Riggs’ young adult fantasy novel, the 16 year old narrator Jacob Portman lives an ordinary life, unaware his extraordinary abilities. Jacob grew up with his grandfather’s wondrous tales and stories about people with mesmerizing skills living in a orphanage in a time loop, young world war 2 orphans with supernatural abilities. Each individual child ostensibly has a specific supernatural capability or peculiarity, such as unlimited invisibility. As the narrator becomes older, his faith in the stories grows into doubt. On one day he experiences an unfortunate disturbance, as he finds his grandfather dying in the woods who was severely bitten by abnormal creatures that the narrator even saw with his bare eyes. The young follows his grandfather’s last words and tries to investigate whether the stories correspond to reality and discovers the peculiar children and his own peculiarity. The narrator discovers the peculiar ability that his grandfather had as well. He finds himself in an almost lifeless island and steps into the broken old orphanage where his own grandfather used to live, the place that he will find the truth about himself and everything else. The story draws to an end in which the young narrator fights the eventual enemy, and frees the peculiars from their unconditional fear. The novel involves the young orphans confronting a variety of ethical and moral issues, such as changing the past, the life-changing scarification for others at the risk to oneself, and the costs of survival.
The coverage of The Hero’s Journey has been displayed in a very typical manner in the novel. It can be proven that Riggs uses the classical arrangement of a heroic quest story by adjusting it to the typical distinct phases of a hero’s odyssey, according to Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey theory. The story of the novel begins with the narrator being in his home until his parents ask him to visit his grandfather, Abraham Portman. Arriving at his residence, his grandfather behaves quite oddly, hysterically instructing Jacob to hide as they’re both in trouble. The narrator’s grandfather semiconsciously fades in and out of lucidity telling Jacob to move, speaking his last words before he died. This gives a clear indication about what occasion happened that caused the narrator being sent on a mission. “Go to the island, Yacob. Here it’s not safe. Find the bird. On the other side of the old man’s grave. Emerson- the letter” (Riggs 37-38). In consonance with The Hero’s Journey paradigm, according to Joseph Campbell’s theory in his book, this situation embodies the Call To Adventure, the secondary phase of the typical conventions of a heroic quest story theory. This is one of the key stages in Campbell’s monomyth template, as it launches the hero’s journey and lets the narrator carefully approach their imminent adventure. This specific phase in the young adult novel has the purpose to reveal the hero’s greatest fears, through the approachment of leaving their personal limits in order to pursue the forthcoming adventure. The narrator fears and questions the unknown and denies to confront the truth. Demonstrated is this in “Why did you send me here? What was it you needed me to see?” (Riggs 107). The young hero is not aware of his supposed abilities thus far, and may not accept that the call is supposed to be for him.
As the young hero approaches to his adventure, he is absolutely not aware of all the unfamiliarities ahead of him, which is an universal segment in typical heroic quest stories, according to Joseph Campbell. Identical to other various heroic tales, the hero must complete the quest, regardless of his personal willingness. If the hero would completely deny the call to Adventure, the consequences from the supernatural world would eventually unwarily affect him in his ordinary world. Although not yet cognisant, the narrator already fears failure and his lack of skills required to meet the mentor and eventually cross the threshold. Comprising, these factors conform to the young adult fantasy novel, referring it to Campbell’s perspective.
It comes to the point where the narrator in the book celebrates his 16th birthday, on which he receives a literal piece that belonged to his grandfather. A letter directed to his grandfather slipped out, written by Alma LeFay Peregrine, the owner and caretaker of the peculiar children’s’ extraordinary orphanage. It is the representation of how the hero experiences one first sign, that will lead him to the world of the supernatural and cross the threshold from the ordinary to the extraordinary environment. The narrator’s name is written at the front of the book, in his grandfather’s handwriting. “The selected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. To Jacob Magellan Portman, and the worlds he yet has to discover -” (Riggs 60). The hero in the novel questions himself whether the letter he found was something that he was meant to find. The hero finally crosses the threshold as he discovers and enters the abandoned building, without a clear vision about who or what awaits him. By crossing the threshold the hero experiences an inner impression of danger but nonetheless sees a potential opportunity that may completely change his life.
The hero cannot just enter the supernatural world but rather has to be tested for competency before accessing the new environment. “I spent the months following my grandfather’s death cycling through a purgatory of waiting rooms and anonymous offices, analyzed and interviewed.” (Riggs 39). It is displayed how the narrator learns to approve the uncertainties ahead of him and the monomythic pattern evolves, as the hero gradually understands the situation and considers the responsibility caused by the call. “For the first time, my grandfather’s last words began to make strange kind of sense. He wanted me to go to the island and find the woman, his old headmistress”. (Riggs 62) Conclusively, according to Joseph Campbell’s overall idea of the monomyth evinced in his theory, by crossing the threshold the hero goes through a world of unfamiliar forces, with many forthcoming tests, potential support from others and critical confrontations with the enemy.
Applying Campbell’s Theorem – Allies & Enemies and The Approach
In the novel, the young hero instantaneously understands who his alliances are, and identifies who he has to cooperate with in order to face the challenge. This is an essential step for the heroic quest story pattern according to Campbell to continue in the storyline, as it shows the hero who his enemies are and what exactly they are capable of. In the novel, the appearance and strengths of the enemies that are against the hero are revealed, who are the main antagonist and threshold guardians that don’t let the hero approach the salvation too quickly in first place. “Wights have no peculiar abilities. But because they can pass for human, they live in servitude to their hollow brethren, acting as scouts and spies and procurers of flesh.” (Riggs 260). The hero now has an idea of purpose and consciously prepares himself in order to defend. According to Joseph Campbell’s idea evinced in his theory, to survive the hero must overcome and perhaps kill the opponent. However, allies are the reason why the approach might be eased, as the hero constantly receives ideas and inspiration in order to successfully defeat the foe. Additionally, he receives support through his journey, which is a source of motivation in order to fulfil the task. The allies are the one that the hero can supposedly trust. In his theory, Joseph Campbell states that the hero is aided by the advice of supernatural helpers who he met before his entering the mythical world. With the aid of the allies, it can also be possible that the hero first discovers his superhuman powers. On the other hand, there can be a potential chance that the ally that supported the hero on his journey, will want to receive something in return, and therefore turns his back on the hero at the end of the storyline.
In Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, the allies play a considerable role because in the beginning of the journey the guide the hero to the correct path that will lead him to the required destination. Following the story, the thoroughly alliances aid the hero in critical situations as they all have the same goal. “We only want to finish what we started. That’s all we’ve ever wanted.” (Riggs 325). Because they have weaker position in terms of supernatural capacities, the hero cannot only rely on their allies but rather uses their ideas, motivation and aid in incoherent emergencies. When the hero’s foe was described to him, it is remarkable that the hero has seen the abnormal creatures in his dreams before. According to Joseph Campbell’s perspective it is described that the hero’s journey includes many psychological influences on the hero personally, as the hero incorporates the conscious with the unconscious and primarily cannot differ reality and imagination, until the task and his extraordinary abilities has been fully clarified to him, either by the mentor or allies (Vogler). It is evidenced towards the end of the storyline, in which the hero concludes how much the given task has clarified and eventually influenced him. “I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.” (Riggs 351).
According to Joseph Campbell’s theory another major stage of the hero’s journey is the approach, in which the hero and his allies prepare for and confront a major challenge and later face the central ordeal. A common challenge before the narrator approaches to this important confrontation, is the occurrence of an intricate dilemma whether the hero can actually fulfil the expectations. In the novel it is illustrated what mental dilemmas and burdens the narrating hero must face by approaching the journey. “ You’re weak. Grandpa Portman knew you couldn’t handle it.” (Riggs 271). Associated with the classical structure, the hero and his allies now review and plan in order to launch the attack against the initial opponent. According to Campbell’s Theory, there can be very courageous hero that make an immediate Approach and bypass their inner fear. Because the hero has survived the entry into the supernatural world, he may have already overcome his mental burdens that were withholding him to take an approach. In the novel, the approach to face the foe starts with the expeditionary team of allies being assembled. The group in the young adult novel has been formed with several peculiar children with a variety of supernatural abilities who created a specific plan when they will have to confront the foe. “An expeditionary team was assembled. We were going to carry out Enoch’s plan.” (Riggs 284). In many heroic quest stories, the hero’s allies experience a bigger fear than the hero himself. Therefore, the hero has the responsibility to either calm or motivate his allies so they do not cause any further obstacles while approaching the enemy. That the hero has to support his allies in order for them to support him is indicated. In order to approach successfully, the hero tries to support his alliances. “What if we see a wight?” “Run like the devil’s after you” (Riggs 287). It is considerable that the peculiar children are very young, mostly under the age of 10, and have to assist the hero on his journey. When the foe reached the island’s abandoned building, the hero in the novel undergoes one of the most difficult negotiation of his odyssey. He hasn’t seen the enemy. However, because of the carefully arranged plans, the hero apprehends that there is a high chance that the foe can be defeated. What applies to a significant number of heroic quest stories is that the carefully planned, prior preparations are a tool for the hero to approach his attack and assure that no mistakes are made during the approach.
Applying Campbell’s Theorem – The Reward and the Return
The forelast most typical convention according to Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey monomyth template is the reward, in which the hero wins the treasure received by facing his biggest fear. After the hero has defeated the foe, he is primarily rewarded by his allies. This includes rejoicing and eventually handing a gift, that could aid the hero in need. In Rigg’s novel, the peculiar subsequently apologise for any obstacles that they had done or may have caused. “I’m sorry I called you a traitor. I’m glad you’re not dead.” (Riggs 308). Despite these personal rewards and received apologies, the hero has also been rewarded by the relief of further torture from any enemy. By the end of the heroic quest story the hero should have escaped the chase and defeated the foe that threatened everyone in the supernatural world. In the novel, the young hero successfully defeats the opponent and is rewarded. “I had, just for a moment, a clear shot.” (Riggs 327) “The moment Golan disappeared from view, he was forgotten.” (Riggs 328), Hence, this stage of the novel conforms to the theory of Joseph Campbell. The return of the hero to the ordinary world will not require supernatural activity, but he may need the new skills he made. According to Campbell’s Theory in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the person takes off on an adventures beyond the ordinary, either to recover what has been lost or to discover some life-giving elixir. It’s usually a cycle, a coming and a returning (Campbell). The hero is expected to return to his ordinary home living in peace after enjoying glory as he has a family waiting for him in the ordinary world. After appreciating the reward, the hero views his potential abilities and the alternate world as something he will never be able to get back to. “I realized leaving wouldn’t be like I had imagined, like casting off a weight.” (Riggs 352).Followed by the reward, the hero is nearing the final return, back to his ordinary world. The hero can feel sorrow when bidding goodbye to his allies that accompanied him throughout his entire journey, however he does know that he must return to his ordinary world as his mission has been completed. Additionally, the hero does not know whether he will be able to return to the supernatural one day. “When will you be back?’ ‘I don’t know.” (Riggs 321) When returning to his ordinary world, the narrator has to clarify to his father what he has undergone and needs to explain himself in order to not get misunderstood by his fellows in the ordinary life. “Your friends are imaginary, son! Go away.” (Riggs 344). Regarding Campbell’s theorem, the hero doesn’t fully describe his venture and describes every detail, as the human beings from his ordinary world wouldn’t be capable to understand and follow his story. The hero in the young adult novel did not experience a resurrection, as he didn’t get severely harmed or killed by the foe. However, the narrator returns with pictures of the island which he aims to later use as evidence for his courageous venture. This corresponds to the final phase of the hero’s journey according to Joseph Campbell’s perspective in his theory. In his theory, Campbell also states that the return is the point where the writer resolves subplots and answers most questions raised in the story (Campbell). Following this overpass, he undergoes a transfer from the supernatural world to the ordinary world.
While investigating the research question: To what extent does the young adult fantasy novel “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” conform to the most typical conventions of a heroic quest story?, it can be evidenced that the novel complies with Joseph Campbell’s Theory of The Hero’s Journey in The Hero with A Thousand Faces, as distinctly corresponds to the major stages the Call to Adventure, Crossing the Threshold, Tests, Allies and Enemies, the Approach, the Reward and the Return. The young narrator undergoes the archetypal mythological experiences discussed in Campbell’s Theory and therefore matches the classical monomyth template, according to the theory and perspective of the mythologist. As claimed in his theories in The Hero With A Thousand Faces, the theory and theme of the monomyth occurs in stories at all times, is always varied but yet the structure remains the same (Campbell). In addition, Campbell also states that character development is a key feature in heroic quest stories. The typical hero not only experiences the generic stages of Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, but also evolves his personality to a more courageous individual with fewer personal boundaries as the heroic quest concludes. During this investigation, a variety of demonstrations were found in the young adult novel that evince the development of the heroic character. Hence, the classical motifs of the monomyth is reflected in the young adult novel by Ransom Riggs as its storyline progresses to a shape that thoroughly corresponds to the typical stages of Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey theory in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
Analysis of “The Hobbit” by the Example of Bilbo Baggins
Throughout the novel Bilbo Baggins is on a voyage of self-discovery, uncovering unknown talents to conquer the dangers throughout his quest. The Hobbit is an adventure story that embodies the classic hero’s journey, first defined by author Joseph Campbell in 1949. The hero’s journey is a 12-step literary template through which a character is transformed from an everyman to a hero. In the traditional template the hero starts with an ordinary life in an ordinary place—like the Shire—a place that will be left behind in the journey. The character is given a call to action, or a reason to leave the aforementioned home (like helping retrieve the treasure from Smaug). Along the way the hero meets a mentor (Gandalf) and is tested by enemies.
For Bilbo the journey starts with complete trust in Gandalf and a desire to stay with the team (the dwarves) for safety and support. Through each battle, however, he learns independence and courage, eventually transforming enough to save the dwarves for a change. In the climax of the hero’s journey, the hero must encounter the mission—that is to say, the hero must face the reason for the call to action. In The Hobbit Bilbo must face the dragon hoarding the gold and ultimately emerge victorious. The hero then collects the reward (treasure), journeys home, and in the final step realizes that life will never be the same.
Greed is a central theme in The Hobbit. Nearly every character demonstrates greed—including Bilbo when he keeps the Arkenstone and ring. Thorin Oakenshield demonstrates greed the worst. He has a great treasure in front of him, a treasure so massive he couldn’t spend it in 100 lifetimes, yet he still wants to keep it for himself. He is even willing to go to war or starve to death to keep the gold all for himself. The Elvenking greedily wants to build his reputation and add more treasure to his already respectable hoard. The Master of Lake-town is exceptionally greedy, even to the extent of trying to steal the treasure from his people, who need it to rebuild their homes and lives. Even the simple hobbits are greedy. They sell Bilbo’s furnishings and want his home.
Bilbo Baggins is the epitome of loyalty. He sticks by the dwarves although they continue to disrespect and criticize him. He is loyal to them to the end, even when it almost gets him killed.
The dwarves also exhibit loyalty, although the motivation at times might be more about greed, but they save Bilbo on a number of occasions early in the story. Beorn demonstrates great loyalty when he comes to help the dwarves, men, and elves in the Battle of Five Armies. Likewise, the eagles demonstrate their loyalty to Gandalf and save the group not once, but twice. Loyalty was a huge influence in the time of the Anglo-Saxons, and Tolkien is certainly influenced by his love of Old English tales.
The influence of prior generations on their current descendants emerges in several ways in this novel. Thorin Oakenshield initiates the dwarves’ quest because he is a descendant of the King Under the Mountain and wants to reestablish that kingdom. Bilbo is influenced in two ways: first, he is often torn between his adventurous Took side and the more careful Baggins instinct. Also, at several key junctures in the novel, he remembers the wise advice of his father, which leads him to success. Bard, too, uses his heritage in claiming a portion of the hoard and uses his connection to rebuild Lake-town.
Luck and Destiny
Luck and destiny are ever present throughout The Hobbit. It is unclear whether luck or divine intervention is at work in every chapter. Bilbo is lucky enough to find a sword that lights up when goblins are around; he is lucky enough to find the invisibility ring; he is lucky to be near enough the gray stone to hear the thrush, to remember the key for the secret passage to the dragon’s lair; he is lucky enough to find the Arkenstone—but is it luck, or is it destiny? Regardless, Tolkien includes the idea in almost every chapter, and whether it is that everyone needs a little luck or that everyone needs to follow their destiny, all will work out in the end.
The Hero’s Quest: Comparison Between “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Epic of Gilgamesh”
In relatively every book you read, you will find that somebody generally needs to go on a type of journey or quest. Usually most of the quests have many similarities with each other so at some point they are created from a model example. The journey on which all these hero’s go on is alluded to as the original mission. The quest on which all these heroes go on is referred to as the archetypal quest. The hero figure in “The Wizard of Oz” Dorothy is a girl from a small town in Kansas. In the other story Gilgamesh is the hero figure. The king of Uruk, but at the same time arrogant and brutal with the people in the city. Even if the two quests were from different periods of time both “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Epic of Gilgamesh” contain similar components that make them archetypal quests. There are different stages in each of the hero’s quest.
Just about every journey it begins with character building. Introducing the protagonist while showing how they live their day to day life. One can develop a sense of understanding and appreciation for each character. Whether they are on a quest for fame, pleasuand self-fulfillment or even forced unwilling. At this point of the journey both characters are showing their everyday life in their hometown.
The character leaves his or her world and enters a new world. In the “The Epic of Gilgamesh” starts when Gilgamesh decides to fight Humbaba. It is at this point that he sets out on his journey to make himself more liked by his city. Dorothy on the other side leaves her world unwilling when a tornado sweeps her house up and she lands in the Land of Oz. During this point, their adventure has started and there is no turning back for them.
In both stories the heroes had their own mentors which usually were more superior to the hero with supernatural powers. At this point the mentors help the heroes by giving them useful advice along their journey like in Dorothy’s case or by aiding them in battle like they did with Gilgamesh. Shamash the sun god was the Gilgamesh’s mentor who with his advice help him to defeat Humbaba. On the other side Dorothy’s mentor was Glinda (Good Witch of the North) helped Dorothy since she landed in Oz. Glinda is more powerful than Dorothy and serves as a huge help throughout her quest. If it weren’t for the help of their mentors, the heroes probably wouldn’t make it through their quests.
As the heroes continues their mission they are always being tried to vanquish numerous troublesome impediments. During their way they gain some allies which help them to complete their quest. The main points of these two stories can be categorized as trials and obstacles. Gilgamesh comes across various mental and physical tests and difficulties. He must walk a dreadful four-day long journey to see Utnapishtim. Also, during his quest he must go to the bottom of the ocean to regain the sacred plant. After Gilgamesh realized that he couldn’t gain the immortality like Utnapishtim he then was tested with loaves bread from the Utnapishtim’s wife. Whereas Dorothy is tested by the Wicked Witch of the West. The witch kidnaps her and uses poppies to try to prevent Dorothy from arriving to Emerald City. Once Dorothy gets to Emerald City she is faced with an unfavorable situation when she must kill the witch of the west, only to find out the wizard of Oz is a lying crook. Throughout her journey Dorothy benefits from three main followers, the Lion, tin Man, and scarecrow. They help Dorothy get to Emerald City and by that each of them gained what they sought out for in their journey. The wizard decides to take Dorothy back home.
The hero must now travel on a different journey called the road back. Usually this road is filled with additional complications. Gilgamesh travels on his road back when he departs for his homeland of Uruk. He must take a long journey across the ocean to get back home. Now that Dorothy discovered that the Wizard doesn’t have mystical powers, she must find some other way to get back home. The heroes must now overcome additional challenges to complete their quest.
Both heroes must bring at home the treasure that they have been through all the quest. Most of the time the treasure is a physical object, but in these cases consist in life experiences and knowledge that they have gained during their journey. Gilgamesh returns to his city with new knowledge, the story of the flood and much less arrogance. Dorothy returns to her home in Kansas with great amounts of experience and knowledge. Everyone tells her she was dreaming, but she claims that it felt too real to be a dream. This is usually the point in which the story comes to an end and the mission has been accomplished.
The story of Gilgamesh is still used because it’s still a good moral story. He was a bad man then he found a friend who kind of completed him which allowed them to have a good relationship together. Then Gilgamesh’s journey made him realize that people and things pass, everything leaves, and everything dies. The quest made him a better man. For example, a good lesson he learned to overcome his superior attitude. Dorothy on the other hand despite of many trial and troubles that she continuous encounters showed her kindness to her friends and family. Her idea of helping and welcoming everyone allowed her to meet wonderful people which became her friends and helped her during her journey. Dorothy learned that our home doesn’t have to be a place it also can be some people.
The Hero’s Journey as an Effective Mean of Producing a Good Effect to Audience
Many stories, contemporary and ancient, incorporate the story of a character who embarks on a journey to become a hero. This is known as The Hero’s Journey. This journey not only shows the main character becoming a hero but also other pivotal parts of a story, like a threshold to overcome and some aid or help. Without these important parts, a hero simply would not be. Joseph Campbell wrote a book called The Hero with One Thousand Faces laying out the fundamental steps of the Hero’s Journey. Christopher Vogler, the author of “The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers” writes: All stories consist of a few common structural elements found universally in myths, fairy tales, dreams, and movies. They are known collectively as The Hero’s Journey. Understanding these elements and their use in modern writing is the object of our quest. Used wisely, these ancient tools of the storytellers craft still have tremendous power to heal our people and make the world a better place.
In texts utilizing the hero’s journey, the protagonists are put in a challenging adventure to bring out their true nature. However, one must go through change to be able to be called a hero. The protagonist undergoes life tribulations which challenge their perspective on life. They now look at the world differently, thus, the world they used to live is no longer exist. For the protagonist to be able to carry out such a journey, he/she must have a purpose. Campbell writes that the “modern hero-deed must be that of questing to bring to light again the lost Atlantis of the coordinated soul”.
A hero, then, is one who stands out of his people and goes in a journey to make things better for his people. The hero not only embarks on a journey to bring goodness for his people, he also come back with a better personality. Psychological speaking, one could say that the hero’s journey holds a symbolic meaning of personal conflict. When a problem arises, a conflict which must be dealt with begins. People initially reject to settle down with such a problem. Some may ignore it. However, with some determination and aid from someone else one can bring overbearing success to solve a problem. Whether one reads a contemporary or ancient fiction text, this structure poses itself as a backbone for most such texts. The hero’s journey posed itself onto many media platforms such as epics, novels, orally transmitted stories, and films. Mythology and storytelling are important parts of any culture because they bring about a different light to our ordinary life. However, I cannot help but wonder, why does this preset blueprint almost always work?
Looking at the global market of film and novels, one can observe how different versions of the hero’s journey make their way up for a bestseller, although eventually, they are the same thing, each with a different taste of additions. For example, the story of the great king of Uruk, Gilgamesh, can be easily recreated to be based on a more contemporary political figure. This can be done utilizing additions like the use of technology, modern advancements in communication, and better understanding of science and life in general. Just like how the ancient story lived till this very day, another story with the same backbone could. Perhaps, what ensures such continuation of a story is that human morals tend not to change over time. The principals stated by the wine-maker, Siduri, to Gilgamesh best exemplify this notion when she said: Gilgamesh, fill your belly with good things; day and night, night and day, dance and be merry, feast and rejoice. Let your clothes be fresh, bathe yourself in water, cherish the little child that holds your hand, and make your wife happy in your embrace; for this too is the lot of man.
The resemblance of what has been said thousands of years ago to today’s day and age is quite fascinating. This shows us two things, the first of which is the globality of the hero’s journey. The hero’s journey builds bridges between cultures by conveying messages relevant to people of different backgrounds. Although stories can be based on different geographical origins, the meanings of a story about the king of a Mesopotamian land can be understood similarly to how one would understand the meanings of a story of a teenage wizard in Europe.
The other effect of the hero’s journey is that it builds bridges between different times. This is evidenced by the resemblance of principals and morals from Gilgamesh’s story to our days’ principals. There is no doubt that the hero’s journey is well understood and received by people, but this does not answer the fundamental question of why does it always work?
To answer this question, one may need to dig deeper into the human psychology, or the psyche. Campbell describes this by saying: “The symbols of mythology are not manufactured; they cannot be ordered, invented, or permanently suppressed. They are spontaneous productions of the psyche.” The mythology the hero journey is promoting targets the conscience of the unsuspecting audience. Coming at them in different tastes and flavors, time after another, the hero’s journey continues its sweeping success. It works because whenever a hero is called for adventure, he is escaping the conscious reality his audience is living, to a magical endeavor, where he ventures forth into his/their unexplored unconscious psyche, an endeavor that brings in light over a blinding darkness. The darkness is what keeps people aspiring for a better future, and thus looking for a Salvatore who could bring about such future. The belief in a savior is a major motive for people’s faithful attachment to those hero led stories, but the fact that a hero is always a savior is flawed. As the hero is someone who sticks out of his people to do something extraordinary, other people who only have personal gain on their mind may stand out.
The hero’s journey also faces the scrutiny of being too artificial. For a problem wires to be unwinded in the real world, many obstacles have to be resolved. The hero’s journey conveniently skips over these hurdles in a way that is almost inapplicable to real world situation. This generates a sense of false hope to those receiving it. An example of this may be how the young wizard, Harry Potter, is able to magically overcome any burden facing him. To his young audience, this creates a discrepancy between what could be reasonably overcome or done in real world and that which is impossible.
Another problem with the hero’s journey is how almost all heroes are somehow males. Very few hero novels had a female protagonist. This feeds into the belief that human masculinity is superior to femininity. Only in recent films, women are also being portrayed as heroes to equal out the biased picture. People may seek refuge in reading such stories to, hopefully, gain the courage to overcome whatever troubles them. Example of this could be seen every day, including an adult reading Harry Potter on his commute to work; reading about an escape from the ordinary to the extraordinary, as it is much needed for him/her. Some people may turn into reading the hero’s myth because they want someone or something who could tell them they are different, they secretly have it all, when no one else does. One might think, if Harry “is a natural”4 then they may too. People tend to want things without the need of having to work in order to get them. Sometimes, the hero’s journey provides just that, in the case of Harry, for example, who since birth had his gifted magical abilities.
As stated earlier, stories must have their guiding purpose. However, nowadays, one could see how thirsty authors and screenwriters are for the unsuspecting by using a template and building upon it whatever sells. It looks like authors are abusing the hero’s journey to bring about a greater meaning for their work, while obviously, this should work the other way around. This opens up a big window for such writers to plagiarize ancient work by adding a hint of a different flare to it. This discourages the production of original content, which is very scarce these days. Although stories are about problem solving, it is the lessons learned throughout the story are what matters, both to the hero and the audience. The hero can undergo events that promote his personal growth, so does the audience. Problem solving may or may not be present in every story. An example of this is how Gilgamesh returned to Uruk a changed man, not necessarily changing his society as a result.
The hero’s journey is an effective mean of producing a good effect to audience of different cultures and times. Although flawed at some points, the hero’s journey almost always works because of peoples need and aspiration of change. Nowadays, this literary template is being used around the world, both in a good way, and in a misleading way. The use of the hero’s journey is not stopping anytime soon, however, there are alternatives which may prove as effective while getting over what the hero’s journey short comes.
A Hero of An-mei Hsu
The Hero’s Journey: An-mei Hsu
Heroes can be found in almost every genre of literature from every time period. What makes heroes entertaining is that each hero finds a different way to complete daring, superhuman feats to reach his or her end goal. Joseph Campbell, a prominent writer, describes heroes as those “…who has given his life to something bigger than himself” in an interview. He has boiled down the formula for a successful hero to what he calls the Hero’s Journey, which consists of three main sections. First is the departure into the unknown from the hero’s comfort zone. Next, the hero must overcome trials and tribulations in order to mature and to reach the third stage, the hero’s end goal. This end goal, or what Campbell deems “the return” is almost always either to recover something he has lost or to attain a life-giving elixir. In the novel The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, the character An-Mei Hsu struggles with finding her own sense of identity throughout her life in both China and America. By leaving her family with to live with her mother, facing grievous challenges in both America and China; and passing her wisdom of autonomy to her daughter, An-Mei masterfully embodies the departure into unfamiliarity, fulfillment in the toughest of trials, and return with a life-changing elixir – the three elements that constitute the Hero’s Journey.
An-mei begins her journey when, as a young girl, she leaves the family that she’s known her entire life to live with her mother, a woman ostracized by her relatives for becoming a lowly concubine. Shamed by her relatives for being a child of an unfaithful woman, An-mei at first is resentful of her mother. “…I imagined my mother, a thoughtless woman…happy to be free…I felt unlucky that she was my mother and unlucky that she had left us” (Tan, pg. 44). An-mei is told by her Popo, or grandmother, that her mother was a woman who bowed with humiliation and could not lift her head up – a woman with no face. However, when her mother arrives to honor the ailing Popo, An-mei finds that her mother is far from without face. An-mei witnesses her mother carve flesh from her arm to put into a soup for her dying Popo in a heroic attempt to save a loved one, the ultimate act of daughterly love. An-mei discovers that her mother was not a disrespectful woman, but a woman who resonates “…shou so deep it is in your bones” (pg. 48). Even though she had been shunned and shamed by her family, An-mei’s mother still returns to see her own critically ill mother. This is an act of raw love – no matter how much An-mei’s mother had been humiliated, she came back for the woman who raised her up. This is a striking contrast from the mother that An-mei had always heard stories about – unlike the subservient, dishonorable woman in the tales told to An-mei by relatives, her actual mother was a woman who was both courageous and respectful. Thus, as her mother is leaving, An-mei decides to join her mother and leave “…this unhappy place” (Tan, 43) for the house of Wu Tsing, the man who had taken her mother in as a concubine. Her mother’s arrival into her life marks a clear divide between An-mei’s old life with her relatives and her new life in an unfamiliar home.
Following her departure into her new life with her mother, An-mei faces and overcomes difficult trials that would ultimately lead her to finding her own identity. After settling in for a few days in her new home, An-mei is brought to see Wu Tsing’s Second Wife. An-mei’s first impression of Second Wife is a good one: Second Wife gives her a pearl necklace as a gift upon her return home. Although her mother protests, Second Wife puts the necklace around An-mei’s neck. An-mei exclaims, “I could see…She did not like Second Wife…Yet I had this reckless feeling. I was overjoyed that Second Wife had shown me this special favor” (Tan, pg. 231). The naive thirteen-year-old An-mei is taken aback by Second Wife’s gesture, for Second Wife has given her easily the most valuable item that An-mei has ever owned. Never has she been on the receiving end of such a generous act of kindness. However, her mother urges her to be careful, telling An-mei, “‘What you hear is not genuine. She makes clouds with one hand, rain with the other. She is trying to trick you, so you will do anything for her…I will not let her buy you for such a cheap price’” (Tan, pg. 231). An-mei’s mother then proceeds to take the pearl necklace out of An-mei’s unwilling hands and steps on it. When she lifts the necklace back up, An-mei realizes that the pearls were actually made of glass. Second Wife had almost “…bought my heart and mind…”(Tan, pg 231) with a fraud of a necklace. Her mother instead gives her a beautiful sapphire ring to remind An-mei of her own self-worth, something that no one can take away. An-mei’s mother later also reveals to An-mei that the child Second Wife calls her own is An-mei’s biological brother – she had been raped by Wu Tsing and forced to give up her son to Second Wife. When she tried to return to her old home, no one believed that she had not given Wu Tsing consent, and she was shunned by her own family. Having lost her face, An-mei’s mother did not want her own daughter to become like her. Thus, in crushing the glass pearl, An-mei’s mother teaches An-mei to become someone who can find herself within even a web of lies, a person who will not be swayed easily.
After finding out the truth about her mother, An-mei comes to realize that this new life of hers, although lavish, is not necessarily a happy one; her mother is just another concubine, virtually powerless in the household. An-mei’s mother, although quietly defiant, is rendered helpless against the will of Second Wife. Trapped in a corner, An-mei’s mother comes to the conclusion that the only solution is to “eat her own bitterness…to kill her own weak spirit so she could give me a stronger one” (Tan, pg. 240). She decides to commit suicide two days before the lunar new year. In Chinese custom, the third day after a person’s death, his or her soul returns to settle scores; in An-mei’s mother’s case, this third day was the first day of the lunar new year. Since it is the new year, any and all debts must be repaid, or misfortune would follow. As a result, Wu Tsing promises to raise An-mei and her brother up as his honored children, revering An-mei’s mother as if she had been his only wife. By killing her “weak spirit”, An-mei’s mother gives An-mei power over Second Wife: “…on that day, I showed Second Wife the fake pearl necklace…on that day, Second Wife’s hair began to turn white. And on that day, I learned to shout” (Tan, pg. 240). An-mei overcomes oppression in her household, but not without help from her mother, who sacrificed her own life to give her children better lives. However, An-mei does not only face trials in China.
An-mei also faces challenges in the country she immigrates to with her husband: America. As Rose, her daughter, states, although An-mei and her husband came to America not knowing an ounce of English, “…their belief in their nengkan, or ability to do anything they put their minds to, had brought [them] to America. It had enabled them to have seven children and buy a house in the Sunset district with very little money” (Tan, pg. 121). An-mei, who became a devout Baptist in America, believes that God was by her side. That is, she did until an event that turns her whole life upside down occurs. On a fishing trip with her seven children, An-mei assigns Rose to watch the younger half of the family. However, Rose looks away for a few minutes from the youngest child, four-year-old Bing, and he falls into the ocean. An-mei searches frantically for her child, pleading God, “Forgive us for his bad manners…now I have come to take Bing back” (pg. 128). An-mei even throws a sapphire ring, a precious gift from her mother, into the ocean in an attempt to bring back her lost son. Her faith in the power of human will is rooted in the trials that she overcame in China. However, losing Bing is one trial that, no matter how hard she willed it to happen, An-mei cannot return from. After that event, she stops going to church and uses her Bible as a wedge to prop up a table’s uneven leg. Bing’s death is one of the lowest points in her life, rivaling the death of her mother. However, years later, when her daughter Rose picks up the Bible wedged under a table with uneven legs, she finds in a section called “Deaths”, her mother had written “‘Bing Hsu, lightly, in erasable pencil” (Tan, pg. 131). This demonstrates how her mother still values her faith enough to find meaning in the act of writing Bing’s name in the Holy Book. The erasable pencil also testifies that An-mei did not lose her nengkan completely – she still believes that humans have the power to take control over their own lives.
An-mei, in the final chapter of her hero’s journey, teaches her daughter the importance of independence. An-mei sees in Rose the same quality of her mother, that of being “without wood”, a dependency on others that led to her mother’s downfall. An-mei, who saw her mother put her flesh into soup for her Popo and witnessed her mother’s sacrifice of her weak spirit in order for An-mei to become strong, believes that the bond between a mother and a daughter is stronger than any other. When Rose tells An-mei that her marriage with Ted is falling apart, An-mei notices that “…all she can do is watch it falling…she will lie there until there is nothing more to fall, nothing left to cry about, everything dry” (Tan, pg. 215). In this way, Rose echoes An-mei’s mother, who, tired of her powerless suffering in an oppressive household tells herself that there is no other choice than to commit suicide to end her own misery. However, Rose has not reached that point yet, and An-mei is determined to show Rose her own self-worth. An-mei attests that the similarity between her daughter and her mother is because “…[Rose] was born to me and she was born a girl. And I was born to my mother and I was born a girl. All of us like stairs, one step after another…but all going the same way” (Tan, pg. 215). An-mei’s belief in the bond between mothers and daughters also helps her realize that she can free her daughter from the rubble of her dysfunctional marriage by urging her to take a stand, for “If she doesn’t try, she can lose her chance forever” (Tan, pg. 215). To complete her return, An-mei influences Rose to stand up to Ted, her ex-husband, and take back her home.
An-mei Hsu leads a life that epitomizes the Hero’s Journey. She leaps into the unknown by leaving her family with her mother, a concubine for a wealthy man. In her new home, she learns her own self-worth from her mother, but she also has to cope with her mother’s death. However, she eventually learns to utilize her mother’s gift of opportunity to stand up against Second Wife’s oppression. Her life in America is also troubled, for she has to cope with the loss of her youngest son Bing. An-mei nonetheless finds a way to let go of Bing and returns to teach her daughter the importance of independence. An-mei throughout her life, perseveres through obstacles to emerge as a mother with a strong identity. Her belief in the power of human will has been a driving force in her ability to overcome the most difficult of challenges in her life, and it is a characteristic that defines An-mei as not only a strong character, but also as a hero.
The Silence of the Lambs and Its Hero
Is it possible that stories from all around the world follow a certain pattern? According to Joseph Campbell, it is. He is an American scholar who identified and described a pattern of narrative that appears in storytelling, religion, myth, drama, and psychological development called the “Hero’s Journey.” There are around 10-17 stages to the monomyth, depending on the story. It describes the steps that an individual, called the “hero”, takes on their journey. It applies very broadly, to stories from disparate cultures, times, and places. Modern stories still regularly adhere to it. The 1991 film “The Silence of the Lambs” follows the Hero’s Journey pattern.
The ordinary world is where the Hero’s Journey begins. The hero is unaware or uncomfortable with their stance in life. They might be pulled in different directions, unsure of which way to go. In “The Silence of the Lambs”, Clarice Starling is an intelligent young woman training hard to become an FBI agent. She knows that she has what it takes to excel, but she needs to prove herself. She’s out of place, as a petite young woman who is vying for a job that is traditionally performed by men. Clarice is working hard and improving her skills, and all she needs is a chance to prove herself.
The second step of the Hero’s Journey is the call to adventure. This is the point where the situation is shaken up. The call may take form as a challenge, request, or problem. It is the beginning of the adventure, the first sign that things are going to change. In this film, the call to adventure is represented by a challenge. Clarice is assigned by Jack Crawford to interview Hannibal Lecter, a respected psychiatrist turned cannibal. Crawford believes Dr. Lecter can assist them in the case of “Buffalo Bill”, a psychopath murderer who skins his victims. Clarice is intimidated, but she accepts the call to adventure because it could be her chance to show her worth.
The next step is the refusal of the call. This is a warning or uncertainty that accompanies the call to adventure. It can come from the hero, or another character who is warning the hero of what lies ahead. When Clarice is presented with her assignment, Crawford warns her not to reveal anything to the prisoner because, “You don’t want Hannibal Lecter inside your head.” When she meets him, she refuses the call by disregarding Crawford’s warning accompanying it. She is honest and blunt with Hannibal, and because of this she begins to earn his confidence.
Meeting with the mentor is the next step in the journey. The hero of the story comes across a wise person who can help them. The person may provide the hero with advice, information, training, or equipment that can help them on their journey. Clarice meets her mentor when she goes to speak with Hannibal for the first time. He is Clarice’s wise mentor. She is looking for information, and he makes it clear he can provide it, but that it won’t be easy to earn.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s intelligence is supreme. He has the knowledge of a physiatrist and the mind of a psychopath. He is very clever and outsmarts law enforcement quite a few times. He even possesses an important trait that seems unfit for a serial killer; charm. He is Clarice’s supernatural aid. This is a component of the journey where the hero receives help or wisdom from a being that is above the laws of nature. Hannibal is the perfect aid for Clarice. She needs information on a psychopath, and who knows psychopaths better than a psychiatrist? Another psychopath, and Hannibal is both.
Crossing the threshold is an important step in the journey. This is when the hero crosses into the field of adventure. The journey may have started, but this is where the adventure truly begins. There are new rules and new limits to adjust to. In the film, Hannibal gives Clarice a cryptic hint, and when she pursues it, she discovers Buffalo Bill’s first victim. Thus, the investigation truly commences. Finding the body takes her over the line between training and a real experience.
Along the road, the hero tends to approach enemies, face tests, and establish allies. These aspects of the journey show how the new world contrasts with the ordinary world. The hero finds out who they can trust. Clarice and Hannibal become allies, making a deal that is she tells him about her life, he will tell her about Buffalo Bill. Dr. Frederick Chilton becomes an enemy, because he refuses to let Clarice speak to Hannibal. She encounters other trials as well. Buffalo Bill captures a new victim, adding a sense of urgency to the case. Hannibal eats a guard’s face off and uses his extreme cleverness to escape, leaving Clarice with only a cryptic clue and a case file. These trials are frustrating for her, but they also push her to pursue the case harder than before.
Everything comes down to the ordeal. This is the stage where the hero faces their greatest fear. It is the central life-or-death crisis of the story, the “slaying of the dragon”, the ultimate test. In an unanticipated turn of events, Clarice ends up in the basement of Buffalo Bill’s home. It is completely dark, and the murderer has the total advantage because he knows the territory and has night-vision goggles. Clarice is terrified, but she stays determined. In one fateful moment, Clarice shoots Buffalo Bill and he dies instantly. She had overcome her biggest fear, and she had saved the young girl who would have been the man’s next victim.
After the ordeal comes the reward. The hero receives what they deserve for having gotten past the ordeal. They might celebrate, but there is still a chance that they could lose their treasure again. For Clarice, the reward comes in the form of the girl she saved, and a title. She finally becomes an official FBI agent, despite her setbacks. At the celebration, Crawford says to Clarice, “Your father would be proud.” Agent Starling gets everything she had wanted and more. The threat to the treasure manifests itself as a call from Dr. Lecter, who makes it clear that although he has no plans to call on her, he is still practicing his demented cannibalism.
The final step would be the return with the elixir. The hero leaves the special world, and returns to the ordinary world with the treasure that they gained on their journey. The moment that Clarice leaves the home of Buffalo Bill is symbolic of her leaving the special world, because it concludes the investigation. The elixir she brings back to the ordinary world is the girl who had been abducted.
The monomyth can easily be identified in “The Silence of the Lambs.” More than 10 of the steps can be found in it. It is a big part of what made the movie so popular and renowned. The Hero’s Journey is important to many cultures, and many people’s lives, because it contains the building blocks of a great adventure. Some of the most epic stories in history adhere to this pattern. Some of the most important people followed the cycle of it. The Hero’s Journey speaks volumes about humanity.
Main Heroes in Ancient Egypt
A Hero’s Paths
While all heroes may be unique, many follow a structured path which can be identified and even predicted. A hero is not just a person who is given great power or influence, they only truly become a hero when they choose not to abuse the power that has been given to them. In Joseph Campbell’s excerpt targeting college students, “The Self As Hero”, Campbell claims that all heroes follow a specific format with only a few possible variations along the way. The three heroes will be examining in this are Eragon, from the book Eragon by Christopher Paolini, Achilles, From The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tales of Troy by Padriac Colum, and Osiris from The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt by Richard Wilkerson. Throughout this paper I will examine the act of the hero leaving home, their call to adventure, the crossing of the threshold, the hero’s magical aid, the fulfillment of their quest, and their choice over their return.
The first step in a hero’s journey is their choice to leave home. As Campbell said in his excerpt “The first stage is leaving where you are, whatever the environment. You may leave because of the environment is repressive and you are consciously uneasy and eager to leave” (113). This is saying one of the many ways to leave where they are is because the hero feels uncomfortable where they are and believes that they may be safer or happier somewhere else. While this is often true, there is another type of leaving home, In some cases it is not a literal meaning of leaving home and it can be something that happens that changes your life. In the Story of Eragon, by Christopher Paolini, Eragon is a simple villager, however when he goes into the forest to hunt for deer, however while out there “an explosion shattered the night. […] A wisp of smoke curled in the air, carrying a burnt smell. In the center of the blast radius lay a polished blue stone. […] he decided with a shrug, tucking the stone into his pack” (10). While Eragon did not know this at the time, he would later find out that the stone was really the egg of a dragon and by taking it home he had left his old home and started a new journey. While this does follow the basic outline of Campbell’s leaving home, it does not quite fit with it in the most literal sense of the idea.
The next step in a hero’s journey is the call to adventure. This call can be a large variety of different things depending on the context of the story, as Campbell said “a call to advenrure [can be] an alluring temptation […] In european myths this call is frequently represented by some animal” (113). The call to adventure can really be anything that tempts or causes the character to leave their comfortable life and go along with the journey that lies ahead of them. In the story of Achilles he is sent away to hide in the company of King Lycomedes’ daughters due to the fact that King Agamemnon wanted him to fight among his warriors. The call however is truly heeded when Odysseus came to search for Achilles and looked among the daughters “[Odysseus] returned as a peddler carrying in his pack such things as maidens admire […] The mirrors and veils and ornaments were taken up and examined eagerly. But one of the company took up the gleaming sword and looked at it with flashing eyes. Odysseus knew that this was Achilles, King Peleus’ son” (Colum 60). This fits into the category of something luring the hero to leave because after he is found Odysseus gives Achilles the summons to come fight with Agamemnon’s men and Achilles is more than happy to comply. This is a very typical call to adventure because you see the hero being drawn away by the glory of battle.
Crossing the threshold is typically one of the most dramatic changes in the progress of a story. It is where something happens in the hero’s life that typically makes it very difficult or even impossible to go back to their own life until they have completed their journey, or even in some cases forever. Campbell’s ideal of what the crossing should look like is “the individual is invoked to engage in a dangerous adventure. It’s always a dangerous adventure because you’re moving out of the familiar sphere of your community. In myths, this is represented as moving out of the known sphere altogether into the great beyond” ( 115). This may be a very specific example, but it does a good job explaining the basic idea of the threshold. However there can be other methods of crossing it such as in the Egyptian story of Osiris, “the core myths were preserved by the greek writer Plutarch […] where essentially it is claimed that [Osiris] once ruled Egypt as a king until he was murdered and cruelly dismembered and scattered by his jealous brother Seth” (Wilkinson 119). While there are similarities between this threshold and the normal ideals of one, there are also major differences. The biggest difference is that Osiris does not make the choice to cross the threshold in this story, his brother by murdering him effectively pushes him across the threshold and into the the next stage of his journey. The murder clearly signals the end of his life while also signaling the end of his reign as king a position he may never return to.
The Hero is never able to overcome all their future challenges on their own, and it is because of this that they must always have a helper who provides you with some sort of magical aid in their journey. Campbell, however has a very narrow view of what role the helper should play in the story “[the helper] may be some little wood sprite or a wise man or fairy godmother or animal that comes to you as a companion or as an advisor […] You are given little tokens that will protect you, images to meditate on […] that will guide you and keep you on the path” (116).
While this may be true for many stories, it is not true for all. In Osiris’ story the helper plays a much larger role than Campbell ever mentions. After Osiris is dismembered, and his body scattered by Seth “ [d]ue to the loyalty and dedication of his wife Isis and with the help of their sister Nephthys, Osiris was found and revivified and became the god of the netherworld” (Wilkerson 119). While Osiris may be the hero in his story, before he is resurrected he plays no role in accomplishing anything. In this case Isis and Nephthys are much more than just helpers. They become the heroes until a time when Osiris can come back and complete his journey. This shows a situation where instead of the helper giving the hero a token or something similar to guide them on their path the helper takes a direct role in progressing the story along.
The fulfillment of a hero’s quest may have many parts leading up to it, but there is always one specific act that sets in motion the rest of the story. After this point there is nothing else the hero can do in regards to this goal they had the whole time. “In any case, once the treasure has been grabbed there is no reconciliation with the powers of the underworld […] there is a violent reaction of the whole unconscious system against the act, and the hero must escape” (Campbell 118). In the Achilles’ Journey his fulfillment comes when he kills Hector “As Hector [attacked,] Achilles drove at his neck with his spear and struck him and Hector fell in the dust. Then Achilles stripped from him the armor that Patroklos had worn. The other captains of the Greeks came up and looked at Hector where he lay and all marveled at his size and strength and goodliness. And Achilles dragged the body at his chariot and drove away towards the ships” (Colum 106). The slaying of Hector is Achilles’ fulfillment of his quest, however the only thing he must escape from in this story is himself. Achilles will never be a true hero until he learns to win his battles while maintaining respect for his enemies. By dragging Hector’s body behind his chariot, rather than allowing him a proper burial he is showing that he does not know how to win with dignity. This shows a deviation from Campbell’s path that a hero takes because after his fulfillment there is nothing more he has to worry about. He must only learn how to behave himself in the face of victory.
The last stage in a hero’s journey is their return, or in some cases the refusal to return. “There comes the crossing of the line again, what I call the return across the threshold. The line through which you passed when you went into the abyss is the line through which you pass when you leave the powers behind” (Campbell 119). Acoording to Campbell the only two paths that can be taken from here are either to return back to your old life and become a part of the regular world again, or to be forever changed by the experience and not be able to return for lack of fitting in. However in the story of Eragon something drastically different happens, after Eragon defeats his enemy a mysterious voice begins to speak to him, “He recoiled at the touch of another consciousness—one so vast and powerful it was like a mountain looming over him. This was who was blocking the pain, he realized. […] he dared ask,Who . . . who are you?
One who would help.With a flicker of an unspoken thought, the Shade’s influence was brushed aside like an unwanted cobweb. […]I can do no more than shield your sanity from the pain.
Again:Who are you to do this? There was a low rumble.I am Osthato Chetowä, the Mourning Sage. And Togira Ikonoka, the Cripple Who Is Whole. Come to me, Eragon, for I have answers to all you ask. You will not be safe until you find me” (Paolini 363). In this case Eragon chooses not to return, however it is not because he can’t fit in to his old home, in fact it is because a greater journey is still ahead of him and he is now heeding its call. This is a path which Campbell does not even consider after the fulfillment of a hero’s journey.
Campbell makes many knowledgeable and true statements about many paths that hero’s can take throughout their journey’s in “The Self as Hero”. However his paths that he lays out are incomplete and miss many different story arcs that a hero can take as alternatives to what Campbell claims. While Campbell is still a very knowledgeable source for the journeys that a hero might undertake, a reader should not think that they are the only possibilities that a story can follow. Every author can add their own twist to each stage of the quest which could confuse you if you