The Hero's Journey

posted Sep 23, 2016, 9:08 AM by Jason Brunken   [ updated Sep 23, 2016, 9:10 AM ]
Joseph Campbell, an American psychologist, put forth a theory in the 1940's that nearly all heroic tales across time and cultures share a pattern of events and certain archetypal characters and settings. He coined this pattern "the monomyth" and wrote about it in a famous book called The Hero With a Thousand Faces. This idea of the monomyth has also been called the Hero's Journey and has been very influential since the idea was first put forward. One of the Campbell's greatest fans was none other than George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars movies. If you look closely at the journey each Skywalker takes in the Lucas's movies, it is scene for scene a match to the pattern identified by Campbell. Nearly all successful movies and novels today follow this pattern. Harry Potter, Toy Story, Hunger Games, Lion King, and Divergent are all retellings of the same story. A hero (or heroine) begins life in an ordinary world, gets a call to adventure which he first refuses, and eventually sets off on a journey to a new, unknown world. There, with the help of a mentor and allies, the hero faces enemies and other trials on his way to face off against the Shadow (or the ultimate evil). In this journey the hero falls, but gets back up stronger to defeat the Shadow and be reborn as a stronger, wiser person. He takes this power home where he helps others. 

Sound familiar? It should.


Beginning this week we will begin to look closely at the Hero's Journey and how it has shaped our literature and media and what it can tell us about ourselves as human beings. We will also compare Campell's Hero's Journey to Percy Jackson's own quest in The Lightning Thief and see if Percy is an archetypal hero on a familiar journey. Below are some of the resources I will be using to teach the Hero's Journey in class. Take some time to look through, read, and watch the material. If you feel ready, go ahead and test your knowledge by taking the quiz at the very bottom.