The Monomyth

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The Monomyth
The Hero’s Journey
Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth
 Monomyths (one myth) look surprising
alike.
 A cyclical story
– Hero undergoes a transformation
– Offers a sacrifice to save the world
The cycle has multiple steps that most heroes
follow.
The hero learns the truth about his world and
himself.
The journey symbolizes the search for
individual identity and the culture’s concept of
the idealized member of society.
The Broad Stages of the
Monomyth
 Departure (Separation) from the real
world
 Initiation into a symbolic, psychological
shadow world
 Return to the real world – with some kind
of transformation that will help that world
Departure (Separation)
 Call to Adventure
 Helpers/Amulets
 The Crossing of the first Threshold
 The Belly of the Whale
The Call to Adventure
 Hero is introduced
 In a relatively safe place (though we recognize he
cannot stay there forever).
– The hero doesn’t fit or is ostracized, or danger is
lurking.
– Though we see some obvious good traits in our hero,
he is also imperfect.
– We recognize that he has some growing to do before
we can accept him as an ideal member of society.
Examples of the Call to
Adventure
The Lion King
 Simba in The Lion King is a rather doted
upon and bratty prince, therefore he is
imperfect – not our idealized concept of a
hero, a productive member of society.
 We also see that the Pride Lands are not
safe for him, since Scar is determined to
remove Simba from the line of succession;
therefore, the real world is only relatively
safe for him – the danger of Scar is lurking.
Other Examples of the Call to
Adventure
 Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz
- happy with Aunt Em, but the nasty old lady
down the street wants to get rid of her dog, Toto.
 Odysseus in The Odyssey
- happy in Ithaca
- is called to rescue Helen from Troy.
cannot refuse the call, since he is a
tributary king to Agamemnon who
swore allegiance to Menelaus
 John Cotton in Bless the Beasts and
Children
- capable of being the leader of the
Apache’s
- as a Christ-figure, he chooses to gather
the lesser people of the camp into his
group.
- he is safe, but the people he cares for are
not
- Note: Christ also follows the cycle of the
monomyth, so of course, Cotton will as well.
The Call to Adventure Begins
 The Herald arrives
– a character or event that entices the hero to
leave his real world.
– Hero may accept the invitation or he may
refuse the call.
– to achieve heroic status, he must accept the
call, even if, like Frodo, it is an unwilling
acceptance.
The Herald as an Event
 The Twister pulls Dorothy out of Kansas
and lands her in the land of Oz
 The Golden Apple incident forces
Odysseus away from Ithaca
 In Bless the Beasts and Children both an
event and character act as the Herald.
- the slaughter of the buffalo (event)
- Lally 2’s urging (character)
forces Cotton to leave the camp to rescue
the buffalo
Helpers/Amulets
 hero encounters helpers, (inanimate
and animate)
 these help hero achieve his goal
(saving his world) and help him find
his sense of self
Amulets (Inanimate helpers)
 magic device that confers supernatural
power on Hero
 famous amulets
- Dorothy’s shoes
- Harry’s invisibility cloak
- Odysseus’ bag of winds
Characters (animate helpers)
 either human or nonhuman
 help Hero achieve goal. (Some of these
characters may die in their efforts.)
 helpers include
– Timon and Pumbaa,
– Tinman, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow
– Goodenow, Lally brothers, Teft, etc.
The Herald (Helper)
 a powerful mentor who helps the hero both
physically and mentally.
 Sometimes an ominous character that can
be scary (Gandalf)
 Heralds include
– The Fairy Godmother in Cinderella
– Rafiki in The Lion King
– Glinda, The Good Witch of the North in The
Wizard of Oz
– Athena in The Odyssey
The Steadfast Friend
 hero’s constant friend
 keeps Hero’s spirits up and helps Hero stay
focused on achieving the all-important goal
 Well-known steadfast friends include
– Sam Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings
– Ron in The Harry Potter series
– Toto in The Wizard of Oz
The Corruptible Everyman
 fairly rare, character is quite important
 symbolically represents flaws within the hero
 starts out on the side of the hero, eventually
betrays Hero
 redeems itself by sacrificing itself for the hero or
quest
 Corruptible Everymen include:
– Boromir from The Lord of the Rings
– Judas from The New Testament
– Judas Truck from Bless the Beasts and
Children

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