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Hero’s Journey Theory of Joseph Campbell: Analytical Overview

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Hero’s Journey Theory

According to Joseph Campbell’s theory in The Hero with A Thousand Faces, the myth can be taken on an unlimited variety of forms. Campbell identified the basic pattern that is found within myths all around the world. This basic pattern is called the Hero’s Journey. It appears when a mythological character goes in a quest. Throughout the quest the hero endures different trials and ordeals that change her or his character from the way it used to be. The hero becomes better. Campbell considers the Hero’s Journey applicable not only to the mythological characters but to any individual. The Hero’s Journey is composed of three sections it begins with “Separation” then “Intention” finally the “Return”.

The standard path of the mythological adventure of the hero is a magnification of the formula represented in the rites of passage: separation-initiation-return: which might be named the nuclear unit of the monomyth = a hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man. (p. 28)

Each of these sections split into different stages. The Separation section, is composed of “the call to adventure”, “refusal of the call”, “supernatural aid”, “the crossing of the first threshold”, and “the belly of the whale”. The Initiation, is consisted of six stages: “the road of trials”, “the meeting with the goddess”, “woman as temptress”, “atonement with the father”, “apotheosis”, and “the ultimate boon”. The Return, is consisted of six stages “refusal of the return”, “the magic flight”, “rescue from without”, “the crossing of the return threshold”, “master of two worlds”, and “freedom to live” (34-35). We should be aware that not all of the myths contain all these stages and some myths represent them in different order. This research will cover only some of these stages. (Supernatural aid, the meeting with the goddess, Apotheosis, the ultimate boon, Rescue from without)

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This theory is applicable to the Lightning thief (2005) In which main character Percy Jackson embarks on a quest in order to find the real lightning thief to clear his name from a crime he has never committed, therefore they have to face many Greek mythological creatures along the way.

First stage is the supernatural aid. In this stage, the hero will come across a protective figure. This figure will help him. He will instruct and direct the hero throughout his journey. In the lightning thief, we have figures helped Percy in his journey. The first figure is his friend Grover. ‘Yes, it was. I was supposed to protect you.'(Riordan.65). Grover is a satyr, but his appearance is different from the classic description in Greek mythology. In the Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome The Satyrs was described as “grotesque and repulsive; they had flat broad noses, pointed ears, and little horns sprouting from their foreheads, a rough shaggy skin, and small goat’s tails” (Brens.147). As for the novel, he is represented to us as a normal human being only from waist up, goat from the waist down. ‘I’m a goat from the waist down.” (Riordan.49). The second figure that helps Percy is Mr. Brunner, He is a Centaur Chiron. Centaur is human from the waist up, horse from the waist down. He gives him a lot of advice and also a magical sword. “I snatched the ballpoint pen out of the air, but when it hit my hand, it wasn’t a pen anymore. It was a sword-Mr. Brunner’s bronze sword, which he always used on tournament day.” (Riordan.15).

The second stage is Apotheosis. This term means to be raised to a divine status or to become like a god. “The hero has become, by virtue of the ceremonial, more than man.” Apotheosis doesn’t necessarily mean that the hero will literally become a god, sometimes it indicates that he has transcended his former mental or physical being and has gained a new, more sophisticated, mental or physical state. (Campbell. 142). The protagonist Percy is a normal kid with no power. He did not know who his father is nor that he has any special powers of any kind, but he changes through the journey; he discovers things about himself he never thought possible. These powers make him defeat Minotaur, Medusa, and hydra. The third stage, the ultimate boon. It is seen as achieving the victory in the journey. “The adventure accomplished signifies that the hero is a superior man … the [hero] encounters no delaying obstacle and makes no mistake … a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” (Campbell.28). Percy’s first victory is against the Minotaur. The minotaur is a horrific monster with the head of a bull and the body of a man. He is mated with a bull because of a curse from Poseidon. ‘That’s what they call him in the Greek myths, isn’t it?’ I demanded. ‘The Minotaur. Half man, half bull.” (Riordan.63). The Minotaur kept chasing Percy and his friends until they enter the forest. Percy defeats the monster, by ripping his horn off and kills him with it. “Without thinking, I rolled to one side and came up kneeling. As the monster barreled past, I drove the broken horn straight into his side, right up under his furry rib cage.” (Riordan.60). His second battle was against Medusa. “Medusa was the most terrible of the three, but also the only one who was still mortal. She had writhing serpents for hair, and her stare could turn a man instantly to stone.” (Sharpe.624-6250). I followed the hissing and spitting sounds of Medusa’s hair. (Riordan.190) In the original myth, Perseus has to kill Medusa because King Polydectes ordered him to “Medusa and her sisters were asleep. Percy is watching her only from the reflection of the shield-mirror, because if he looks at her he will turn into stone. he swung the sickle and felt it cut through Medusa’s neck. Not daring to look away from the image in the shield, he forced Medusa’s head into the magic wallet. As Medusa’s sisters woke to attack, Perseus quickly flew away.” But in

Riordan’s version it is portrayed in a different way. Percy, Grover, and Annabeth were on a mission to find the ancient gold coins. They entered to a shop for statues then Medusa appeared to them and Percy cut her head with his sword. In the original myth, Perseus used a shield in order to see Medusa’s reflection to kill her but in Riordan’s version Percy used a glass ball. ‘She tossed me the glass ball. ‘Just look at her in the glass. Never look at her directly.’ (Riordan.190). Later on, we discover that in her shop she sells statues of real people by turning them to which she stores in her front yard and in her warehouse. After cutting Medusa’s head Percy and his friends tossed it in a plastic bag and took it with them. “We found some old plastic grocery bags behind the snack counter and double-wrapped Medusa’s head”. (Riordan.193). Moving on to Percy’s third conflict with the Hydra. In the original myth, it is a monster serpent (the off spring of Typhon and Echidna), bristling with nine heads, one of which was immortal. Heracles cut them off (Brens.199). Percy cuts off each of the Hydra’s Heads with Riptide but he did not know that if you cut Hydra’s head ten heads will regrow. They were able to defeat it by using Medusa’s head, the Hydra turned to stone.

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Hero’s Journey Theory of Joseph Campbell: Analytical Overview. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/heros-journey-theory-of-joseph-campbell-analytical-overview/
“Hero’s Journey Theory of Joseph Campbell: Analytical Overview.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/heros-journey-theory-of-joseph-campbell-analytical-overview/
Hero’s Journey Theory of Joseph Campbell: Analytical Overview. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/heros-journey-theory-of-joseph-campbell-analytical-overview/> [Accessed 5 Feb. 2023].
Hero’s Journey Theory of Joseph Campbell: Analytical Overview [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Feb 5]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/heros-journey-theory-of-joseph-campbell-analytical-overview/
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