Joseph Campbell, you have inspired me for years and I am only just now realizing that it’s your Monomyth Theory that has captured my imagination and it’s one of the many theories that has given me a critical mind.
First let me start by explaining the Monomyth, the theory presented in his extraordinary work The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I recently saw a video that explained it beautifully, and I just had to share with the world.
What do some of your favorite modern day heroes (Katniss, Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, etc.) have in common with the heroes of old (Hercules, Odysseus, etc.)?
First of all, let’s think of the above diagram as a clock:
12 o’clock: Status Quo – What is the Hero’s current status?
1 o’clock: Call to Adventure – The Hero receives a mysterious message, an invitation? A challenge?
2 o’clock: Assistance – The Hero needs some help, this is usually from someone older or wiser or both.
3 o’clock: Departure – The hero crosses the threshold from their normal, ordinary world and enters the special world.
4 o’clock: Trials – Heroics is hard work. The Hero solves a riddle, slays a monster, escapes from a trap, etc.
5 o’clock: Approach – It’s time for the Hero to face their biggest ordeal–usually their worst fear.
6 o’clock: Crisis – This is the Hero’s darkest hour, they face death–possibly even die, only to be REBORN.
7 o’clock: Treasure – As a result, the Hero claims some sort of treasure–special recognition, power, etc.
8 o’clock: Result – This varies by story–do the monsters bow down before the Hero? Or do they chase him?
9 o’clock: Return – The Hero returns to their ordinary world, crossing the threshold once again.
10 o’clock: New Life – This quest/journey has changed the Hero (for better or worse), they have outgrown their old life.
11 o’clock: Resolution – All of the tangled plot lines are straightened out.
12 o’clock: Status Quo – Upgraded to a new level, nothing is quite the same once you’re a Hero.
Okay, so why is this such a big deal? Why does it matter that Katniss and Odysseus share more than just a Greek name? Because the hero’s journey isn’t just Katniss’s or Odysseus’s journey, it’s your journey. See Katniss was a normal girl thrown into an extraordinary circumstance–a circumstance that seemed way beyond her capabilities to overcome. Yet through the sheer strenght of her will, she did it, she did it because she had something and someone to fight for.
In the cave you fear to enter, lies the treasure you seek.
What is the treasure you seek?
For more information on Joseph Campbell, check out the Joseph Campbell Foundation: