The Concept of a Hero’s Journey in American Literature
Literature can be basically referred to as the term which is used to describe some spoken materials but majorly to give an extensive description of written materials. The hero’s journey definitely without any doubt is the basic template for most of the great stories. The story was described in depth by Campbell in “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” whereby he described various stages through which one has to go to become a hero (Campbell, & Edward p. 108). Hero’s journey basically includes a pertinent call to adventure, whereby there is involvement of supernatural mentor, many difficulty trials that are meant to harden the Hero and prepare him adequately to face tough enemy ahead and an ultimate win at the end. Literary many fiction and writing courses usually focus on hero’s journey on one aspect or the other. Have you ever noticed that most stories have a beginning, middle then finally an end? Well, the stories conform to the context of the Hero’s journey. This essay will extensively discuss the “A Hero’s Journey in American Literature”
Most folklorists including some narrative scholars will agree that the hero’s story without any possible doubt forms the basis of most stories ever taught. Campbell described the “Hero’s journey” very extensively in his book “The hero with thousand faces” he portrays “Hero’s journey” to be most recurring every creature’s tale. Hero’s journey includes the explanation of the path, the calling to venture, an inclusion of a supernatural helper or maybe guide, occurrence of challenges as well as, return and victory (Baym, & Levine p. 450). Most influential American screenwriters including fiction usually emphasize very much on the Hero’s Journey this becomes evident because, its universality can be noticed in their works quite often. Hero’s journey is therefore a meshwork like template from where broad categories of tales derive their origin, particularly the tales that have a hero going for a journey and them making some vital decisive actions that finally guarantees him to win and eventually come back to the society as a transformed or a changed man (Robbins, & Ruth 767).
Most American founding writers had their works confining within the precepts of the Hero’s journey, whereby they followed greatly the pertinent steps in any folktale that was well explained by Campbell. However, some writers deviated from this and went their own way, by setting up stories that did reflect any aspect of “The Hero’s journey” as explained by Campbell. Normally every tale usually have a beginning, a body and an end, narratives in most cases have usually this one determined person who sets himself/ herself on a mission to achieve something in after having some aspiration then he/she starts his/her mission by encountering challenges and averting them then finally he ends up being successful and therefore returns home as a hero. In other instances, someone becomes a hero after accomplishing a given mission but does not come out alive. According to (Campbell, p.260) “Hero’s journey” includes standard form of edifice that was taken from the Campbell’s Monomythic particularly in the volume “A Thousand Faces” which Vogler derived 12 stages of Hero’s Journey “Stated in the terms already formulated, the hero’s first task is to experience consciously the antecedent stages of the cosmogonic cycle; to break back through the epochs of emanation. His second, then, is to return from that abyss to the plane of contemporary life, there to serve as a human transformer of demiurgic potentials. (296.1)”. Generally, the twelve steps in “The Hero’s journey” include stage one; the ordinary world. This is a stage where the hero’s life is just normal; and includes call to adventure, refusal meeting the mentor and crossing the threshold. Stage two; the special world, trials and challenges, approach to inmost cave and the ordeal. Last stage includes the ordinary world; the stage entails the road back to the society, the resurrection and the grand return.
Examining closely some of the founders of American literature you will realize that, the context of the hero’s story has been reflected in so many instances. Themes of some of their work borrow mostly the pertinent steps through which the Hero has to undergo to become victorious (Serafin, et al p.124). Nevertheless the some of the literature works do not necessary include all the pertinent steps but examining them from a wide point of view you will realize they borrowed the “Hero’s journey” significantly as analyzed in the context below;
Mark Twain’s Literature
It’s unarguable that Mark Twain was one of the prominent writers that America has ever produced. Logically looking at the journey of America’ literature journey we can find a lot of aspects of the Hero’s journey, in his work, Mark Twain who is considered as one of the America’s greatest writers as well as humorists, his works particularly about his novels which explained his boyhood life reflects greatly the Hero’s journey (Blair, p.205). He had been in a small village; Florida at Missouri and expended his boyhood life on the Mississippi’s River bank something that influenced much the person he finally came to be. From there he undertook little training that further prepared him for the challenge ahead among his greatest and most controversial included “The Adventures of Huckleberry” it was greatest because it showed some of the social issues that faced America, and borrowed the context greatly from the Hero’s journey story. This book was surrounded was surrounded by many controversies because of use of many obscene terminologies (Twain, et al 145). Twain put a logical flow of ideas that is to some extent similar to the Hero’s journey. The story starts by familiarizing us with the occasions of the novel that heralded it. Just like in Hero’s story where we have the hero as just but an ordinary person, Twain introduces us to Tom Swayer who is like any other boy in the society. His journey to victory starts by facing several challenges. First the boy I raised in a poor background by a very drunkard father who never bothers about the welfare of the boy. He, therefore, sets himself on a mission to fulfill his passion for adventure. On the journey, he collects a stash of gold. The adventure results to be fruitful for him but his drunken father always seem to pull down any effort and fortune made by the boy (Twain, et al 145). The story highlights the racism that is prevailing in the society “here was a free nigger there from Ohio—a mulatter, most as white as a white man. He had the whitest shirt on you ever see, too, and the shiniest hat; and there isn’t a man in that town that’s got as fine clothes as what he had, and he had a gold watch and chain, and a silver-headed cane—the awfulest old gray-headed nabob in the State. And what do you think? They said he was a p’fessor in a college, and could talk all kinds of languages, and knew everything. And that isn’t the wust. They said he could VOTE when he was at home. Well, that let me out. Thinks I, what is the country a-coming to? It was election day, and I was just about to go and vote myself if I weren’t too drunk to get there; but when they told me there was a State in this country where they’d let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I’ll never vote agin. (6.11)”. In conjunction with “the hero’s journey” the Mark Twain’s story takes the following stages, innocence, initiation, chaos and resolution as the ultimate victory (Twain, et al. p. 145)
Harper Lee’s “To kill a Mockingbird”
Another influential pacemaker in literature is un-doubtfully Harper Lee. Just like some of his predecessors who work had an aspect of the hero’s story, Lee’s work “To kill the mockingbird” greatly reflected the Hero’s journey story in the sense that he used an intelligent a girl that awakened the prejudice and racism in South America. Jean Louise “Scout” hi portrayed as the hero who sets herself on the mission to achieve an ultimate success; ending the prejudice and racism that characterized her society “ Scout,” said Atticus, “nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don’t mean anything—like snot-nose. It’s hard to explain—ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s favoring Negroes over and above themselves (Lee p.65). It’s slipped into usage with some people like ourselves when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody.” “You aren’t really a nigger-lover, then, are you?” I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody… I’m hard put, sometimes—baby, it’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you.” Just like in the hero who has to face numerous challenges, scout she had to fight against all odds to see her dream come true. The girl has a short temper and she is often engaged in fights to defend her identity. Harper Lee also modeled his hero; scout to be tough and be ready for any challenge. Through the constant fights that harper lee was engaged in she finally developed a tomboyish behavior and did not fancy girls things like dolls and pretty dresses, in fact, she insisted in wearing pants just like a boy (Lee p.56).“Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope to be a lady if I wore breeches; when I said I could do nothing in a dress, she said I wasn’t supposed to be doing things that required pants. Aunt Alexandra’s vision of my deportment involved playing with small stoves, tea sets, and wearing the Add-A-Pearl necklace she gave me when I was born; furthermore, I should be a ray of sunshine in my father’s lonely life”. As time passes Scout at times is overwhelmed by fear especially during the Boo’s saga but still carries on with her mission. She realizes the imminent danger ahead of her but still does not relent. Though she is a small girl scout is fully aware of the ugly racism, the injustices, and prejudice that is prevailing everywhere including in court this stands as her enemy and tries all she can to kill the enemy “Atticus, you must be wrong….How’s that? Well, most folks seem to think they’re right and you’re wrong….” Harper Lee based the work on some of his childhood experiences as the same turn of events prevailed when he was a small boy. He also incorporated the Hero’s journey context into his story so as to be effective in passing his intended message.
In conclusion, “The Hero’s journey” continues to be very significant in influencing the literature not only in America but in most parts of the world. The context of Hero’s journey is very ideal and that’s why its influencing action in literature is dominant (Campbell, et al p.340). Since it give the true representation on the follow of any tale something which gives author a better perspective of modelling his story to achieve significance.
The Hero’s Journey in a Disney Movie “Toy Story”
In the Disney movie Toy Story, Woodie, Andy’s cowboy toy, is an example of an universal hero who follows the twelves steps of The Hero’s Journey. The journey all begins with the introduction of the ordinary world, the toys’ life in Andy’s room. Everything is peaceful and all of the toys get along with each other. Then Woodie receives “a call to adventure” with the addition of Buzz to Andy’s toys. At first, Woodie “refuses the call” by rejecting the idea that Buzz would replace him and become Andy’s favourite toy. However, it can be seen through the transition of Andy’s room becoming more “spacey,” replacing the cowboy theme with an astrospace ranger theme, that Buzz is becoming Andy’s favourite. This transition signifies the “cross the first threshold.” With Woodie’s attempt to get rid of Buzz, they both go on a journey after being knocked outside from the car. Woodie encounters tests, allies, and enemies (mainly Sid and his dog), with Buzz as they try to get back to Andy. However, with Buzz still believing that he was a space ranger and not a toy, the journey becomes riddled with difficultes for Woodie. At the pizza place, Woodie and Buzz approach the second threshold when they get grabbed by the crane from an arcade game. The winner was Sid, a horrifying child with a passion to torture toys. At Sid’s house, Woodie and Buzz face their supreme ordeal, escaping Sid and his dog.
Through their time together trying to escape their doom from Sid’s experiments and toy torture, they take possession of their reward, their new friendship. With this, they are able to work together with Sid’s toys and return back to Andy safe and sound. The resurrection and the return with the elixir is signified through Andy’s reacceptance of Woodie and the new friendship with Buzz.
A Hero’s Journey in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “The Odyssey”
Many modern and old stories are being analyzed and categorized as a Hero’s Journey story if they follow a set template for what it means for there to be a hero’s journey. Both stories, The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and The Odyssey by Homer, show almost complete example of the hero’s journey, but The Odyssey shows a more clearly developed hero’s journey, because the Odyssey actually follows all the constraints of the hero’s journey, while Huck Finn does not.
In today’s day and age many people are incorrectly labeling stories as a hero’s journey. People believe that if only some of the aspects of the hero’s journey are shown, or even if the aspects are shown out of order, the story still counts as a hero’s journey, but that is false. If the order of events isn’t correct, then the story does not count as a hero’s journey, this ideal is shared by the author James R Hull, in his article Not Everything Is A Hero’s Journey, where he goes over what does and does not count for a hero’s journey, and he says “Contrary to what many Hero’s Journey enthusiasts believe, the order of events has meaning” (Hull 4). When the order of events for the hero’s journey is crucial, Huckleberry Finn fails to deliver a story with a hero’s journey. When looking at the text of Huckleberry Finn, we can find some of the events don’t correlate correctly with the hero’s journey, for example, in Huck Finn it can be argued that the threshold, which is Huck finally realizing that slavery is wrong, came before the training and discipline stage, which is when Huck is going through his adventures with Jim and begins to realize how morally incorrect his society is. Having the training and discipline come before the threshold makes Huck Finn’s story not be a true hero’s journey, and makes Huck not count as a valid hero going on a hero’s journey.
Contrasting from Huckleberry Finn, The Odyssey shows a clearly laid out and chronological order of the hero’s journey, and doesn’t sway from the definition of what it really means to be a hero’s journey. In The Odyssey we can clearly the order of events coinciding with the hero’s journey throughout the story, with Odysseus’ Journey beginning with a conventional slumber, which is when he is trapped on an island for 10 years and spends everyday doing the same things. The call to adventure follows and is also quite obviously shown when Calypso literally tells Odysseus he must embark on his adventure now “Now I am willing, heart and soul, to send you off at last. Come, take bronze tools, cut your lengthy timbers, make them in a broad reamed raft” (Homer 157). The “in your face” undeniable hero’s journey aspects are shown throughout all of Odysseus’ journey and back up the claim that The Odyssey shows Odysseus going on a true hero’s journey, while Huck Finn only shows some examples, and even then they are weak examples of the hero’s journey.
The hero’s journey also must not be vague or broken off from, but Mark Twain’s Huck Finn breaks off from the template in one of the most crucial parts of what makes the hero’s journey the hero’s journey. In the start of Huckleberry’s story, Huck is sharing what his normal everyday life is and says “The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilise me; but it was rough living in the house all the time” (Twain 4). Huck flat out tells the audience what his everyday life is, and this is a recognizable example of the hero’s journey, and is the conventional slumber stage. The audience recognizes the Widow Douglas’ home as Huck’s home, and this is where Huck should return to when he is done with his adventure and ends with the return and contribution stage, but he doesn’t. In the end of Huckleberry Finn’s story, when he has finished everything, it is expected he will go back to his hometown and finally lock in the fact that he went through a hero’s journey, but instead Huck ends his story by saying “But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before” (Twain 407). With Huck deciding not to go back home he can’t accomplish one of the important aspects of the hero’s journey, the returning stage. Adhering to all the points of the hero’s journey is crucial to prove that a character is going on a hero’s journey, and as James R Hull says in his article “For a paradigm to be accurate, there should be no need to warp it or bend it to fit stories” (Hull 2). Not following all the conditions for the hero’s journey doesn’t make someone qualify as a hero who goes on a hero’s journey, and Huck doesn’t follow the hero’s journey.
Both stories, Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, and The Odyssey by Homer are powerful stories in which a character goes through a great journey and finds a change in their life, but only one of the stories follows the correct ruling for being a hero’s journey, so only one of the stories truly shows a hero going on a hero’s journey. Following all the aspects of the hero’s journey in correct order, and not missing any of the prerequisites is crucial in solidifying the hero’s journey, and The Odysseys’ Odysseus is an example of someone completing all the steps in order, and having them all shown, which makes him a hero going on a hero’s journey.
Heroe’s Departure, Initiation, and Return in Back to Future
The Hero’s Journey is a theory discussed in Joseph Campbell’s non-fiction book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. At its most basic level, this theory states that most stories and myths are divided into three parts – the hero’s Departure,Initiation and Return. In this essay, I will break down Robert Zemeckis’classic Back to the Future into those 3 acts and point out stages from each one.
The first act of the hero’s spiritual journey is called the Departure. Usually at the beginning of the story, “the protagonist is removed from the known and journeys into the unknown”(as stated in the class slides). In Back to the Future, we see a clearly established Home Culture – the protagonist, Marty McFly is living with his family, attends a high school and lives a relatively normal life. However, a Call to Adventure soon breaks his normal routine: Marty’s friend, Dr. Emmet Brown, invents a time machine and shatters the conventional image of this world. Things quickly go awry and Marty is forced to Cross the First Threshold by traveling 30 years back in time, all by himself.
This is where the second act, the Initiation, begins. As discussed in class, this is the part where the protagonist’s world is forever changed and he has to undergo a physical and spiritual journey. In the first few minutes of his time in the past, Marty starts his Road of Trials. He has to figure out a way to come back home and get his parents to fall in love with each other. As this is not a task he can accomplish by himself, Marty seeks the aid of the 30 years younger Dr. Brown. Doc explains the necessity of getting the teen’s parents back together and pushes Marty to succeed. By doing this, he establishes himself as the Soul Mate that the protagonist meets. However, Marty is struggling with an important task. He has to Overcome the Temptation and accept his supporting role in this particular story. Marty guides his father and helps him entice his mother (god this is so confusing, what even), therefore saving his own existence and accomplishing one Ultimate Goal.
By the end, Doc and Marty figure out a way to get the teen back home and thus begins the third and final act – the Return. As usual, things don’t work out quite the way they planned and Dr. Brown has to come to Marty’s Rescue by fixing things before it’s too late. Ultimately, he succeeds and the protagonist returns to his own time safely. This way, Marty becomes a Master of Two Worlds – he has successfully time-traveled, saved the future and seen a time before he was even born. Marty understands that his past actions have saved Doc’s life and has to adjust to some other changes he unknowingly made. The teen finds Freedom in these facts and is confident enough to travel through time and change the future once again, this time with his girlfriend Jennifer and Dr. Brown.
To sum up, Back to the Future is a great example of the Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. It has a clearly defined Departure, Initiantion and Return, as well as each of those acts’ defining stages.
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