This weekend we’ll launch a new vision series called “Hero Academy” at DCC, using the hero construct to teach people how to live on target with Jesus Christ. Since my heart and mind is already hovering over heroism, I thought I’d take some time to introduce you to The Hero’s Journey.
The Hero’s Journey is a pattern discovered within mythological stories by the American Scholar Joseph Campbell. Campbell maintained that all mythological stories (and all good stories) share a common structure or flow. This revolves around the inner and outer journey of the protagonist, whom he calls the hero.
The steps don’t always flow in perfect order. Sometimes two or more steps are combined in short order. But here is the basic structure, using Star Wars as an example (Lucas borrowed heavily from Campbell for A New Hope):
THE ORDINARY WORLD.
We get to know the day to day life of the hero. Luke is a farm boy living with his Aunt and Uncle.
THE CALL TO ADVENTURE.
Something happens to upset the normal life of the hero, which often includes an invitation or pressure to leave their normal life behind. Luke buys a droid that plays a holographic distress call from Princess Leia and a plea for rescue.
REFUSAL OF THE CALL.
The hero resists, or tries to resist the inevitable. Luke clings to his commitment to his uncle and the farm.
MEETING WITH THE MENTOR.
A wise person helps put things into perspective, encouraging the hero to accept the call to adventure. Enter Ben Kenobi.
CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.
The hero accepts the call to adventure, which propels them past the point of no return. The Lars Homestead is burned the ground and Luke leaves with Ben Kenobi.
TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES.
The hero’s resolve is tested and they meet friends and foes along the way. Luke and Ben are hunted by Stormtroopers and meet Han and Chewie.
The hero is trained or prepared for the mission they have accepted. Luke is trained in the ways of the force by Ben Kenobi and receives his first lightsaber.
THE ORDEAL (or, THE CAVE).
The hero is tested and often comes to their lowest point in the story. Luke and his friends are taken captive in the Death Star and nearly die in the trash compactor.
The hero begins to rise with a victory in the bag. Luke and friends escape the Death Star with Princess Leia and just as critical, information about how to destroy the Death Star.
THE ROAD BACK.
The hero is forced to finish what they started by renewed opposition from the enemy. Darth Vader and the Death Star zero in on the Rebel Base, forcing the Rebels to launch an all-out assault on the Death Star.
The hero is tested again and nearly dies, but in such a way that they rise stronger than ever. Luke hears Ben Kenobi’s voice, uses the force, and delivers the death blow to the Death Star.
RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR.
The hero returns home but life will never be the same. Luke is a hero but his training has just begun.
Here’s a nifty graphic that illustrates this journey. Tomorrow, in To The Threshold, we’ll unpack the significance of this epic structure.
For now, Can you see parallels to this structure in other stories or movies? Do tell!