This is #9 in the series Crossing the Threshold.
The Hero With A Thousand Faces
In 1949 a book by Joseph Campbell entitled The Hero With A Thousand Faces was published. This may not seem like a very momentous occasion especially if you have never heard of the man or his book. However, on a time line for Western Civilization that lists great events for each year beginning with 2000BC and ending with 1990AD; the year 1949 has only four entries and Joseph Campbell’s book is one of them (Passions of the Western Mind). What was so important about this book that it would be given such acclaimed status?
Joseph Campbell spent a lifetime studying cultures all over the world, and he became a keen student of their stories, legends, myths, and oral traditions. He observed that all these vastly different cultures shared one universal story about a hero who went on a journey. The heroes may have had different names but the story followed the same basic pattern. He recorded his discovery in The Hero With A Thousand Faces.
Since the publication of his book many people have studied Campbell’s work and developed variations of what is now commonly referred to as The Hero’s Journey or The Monomyth. There is one version that I have found to be most helpful in understanding this foundational story; it is contained in Christopher Vogler’s book The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Mr. Vogler confesses that there is nothing new in his book; the ideas are “older than the pyramids, Stonehenge, and the earliest cave paintings….the theme of the hero myth is universal occurring in every culture in every time.”
So let’s embark on the Hero’s Journey using the twelve stages Mr. Vogler has identified as the basic pattern. After we become familiar with each stage we will introduce the characters or archetypes that inhabit the story.