The Hero’s Journey- Return with the Elixir

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Intellectual Credit Joseph Campbell

Last time we delved into The Flight, today it’s all about our last stage Return with the Elixir.

Return with the Elixir

The flight has ended, the journey is done. It’s time to relax, the war is won.

Or is it?

Just like the title says, the hero returns with his prize from the journey. The prize can be a literal, tangible object, or skills acquired. But as the journey comes to a close, there are two basic ways the Hero’s Journey ends.

 

Medals and Party

In this final stage, the protagonist has reached the end of the journey. He/she has become a hero. He/she has saved the world from certain doom. The hero should be celebrated. Laurels need to be given. Wine needs to be drunk. In other words: party!

And very often the heroes will celebrate the victory. They will enjoy their accomplishments and mourn their losses.

Take for instance Star Wars. (A New Hope or Return of the Jedi). In both examples the Death Star has been destroyed, certain doom has been avoided, awards are given and a party is thrown.

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And as happens so often in Disney movies: they live happily ever after.

But at the end of the Hero’s Journey, this isn’t always the case.

 

Another Journey Begins

Sometimes the hero cannot leave the World of Adventure and gets swept away onto another fantastic journey. Sometimes the journey never ends. Sometimes the ending is just the beginning.

Remember Batman or Iron Man or Spiderman or Superman or really any other superhero out there? Remember how there is always another villain to conquer and plot to foil? Yeah, it’s basically like that.

Superheroes

The hero will live his/her life vanquishing foes and saving the world constantly reliving the Hero’s Journey.

 

And there we have it. The Hero’s Journey in tiny, bite site, easy to swallow chunks. I do so hope this series has been helpful and insightful. I hope it has brought a smile to your face, aided with a term paper, helped informed your teaching, or simply enlightened your day.

Until next time,
Peace and Long Reads

Justin

The Hero’s Journey- Flight

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the-hero_s-journey

Intellectual Credit Joseph Campbell

Last time we delved into The Supreme Ordeal, today it’s all about the Flight.

Flight

Okay, so the hero has defeated the enemy (or at least escaped unscathed, well maybe scathed, but he/she is definitely still alive.) Great, but what’s next?

Now, it’s time to run. Run like heck. Run like he/she has never run before and never look back. Chances are the hero is being pursued most likely by someone or something really big, really mean, and with one agenda, to kill him/her.

The goal is one fold: Get back to Common Day.

It’s like there is this idea that common day is safe. (Oh yeah, because it is.) And if the hero can just cross that Threshold, everything will be all right.

 

But it can NEVER be as simple as that can it? Of course not! We’re talking about heroes here!

 

So to understand the stage of Flight, it is necessary to understand that all important Threshold Crossing, that moment that is supposed to bring joy and peace and happiness and ever after.

What You Need to Know:

Threshold Struggle

There will be another threshold struggle that the hero must undergo. After all, he/she didn’t get into this world without a fight, so what makes them think they can get out so easily. Oh, they’re heroes now? Big, strong saviors of the world? Well, that just means that their struggle will be that much harder, multiplied exponentially.

Four ways this will be played out in what we in the biz call The Road Back: (And by the biz, I really just mean me at me keyboard…)

1. The Return

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One of the greatest examples of a Return appears in the Lord of the Rings (novel version). The films had to cut this scene due to the 50 endings already in the movie. (Even though when the hobbits return to the Shire the events that transpire are absolutely critical to one of the themes in the story and by not including it they nearly destroyed the entire brilliance of the epic reducing it to a minor farce, nearly.)

But that is a rant for another day.

Instead, what I’m referring to is the all important “Scouring of the Shire”. For those who haven’t read it, when the four hobbits return to their eutopic Shire after saving Middle-Earth, they find that it is over run by Saruman and evil men. They then lead a force to expel Saruman and the men from the Shire thus saving their paradise. Thus in the midst of their Return, they must once and for all fight an enemy to ensure their safety.

 

2. Resurrection

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What can be better than an example from Lord of the Rings? One from Disney of course! One of the best, and my personal favorite, of the Disney Princess movies is Beauty and the Beast. In here we have a glorious example of a resurrection.

Okay, take yourself back to that moment. Gaston has just stabbed the beast, and now Beast throws his sorry behind off the castle roof. Belle sees Beast is hurt. Beast is dying. Belle is crying. Beast is dead.

 

“What the crap?! I thought Disney movies were love stories! Man, I hate this movie!” Says my 6 year old self, and yours too.

But wait. What’s this? Belle says she loves him before the rose pedal hits the floor and BOOM! Evil magic undone, Beast is now a handsome BEAST, and they live? H.E.A. That’s right. He came back from the dead. No way! (But then again, this happens often in Disney doesn’t it? It’s like they have a resurrection complex.)

 

3. Rescue

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Also known as Deus Ex Machina in Latin for Cop Out (I mean God from the Machine), a Rescue is the moment when all is lost then Whoa! (like Joey form Blossom) everything gets fixed. One of the best examples is Superman the Movie (1978). Okay, full disclosure, I love me some Supes. And Christopher Reeves Supes is iconic. BUT, you have to scratch your head at the ending. So, there’s this horrific earthquake, Lois dies and all is lost. But wait. If Superman flies fast enough in outer space, he can reverse the Earth’s rotation? (Nevermind the gravitational forces and tide issues this can cause.) But besides all that, reversing the Earth’s rotation can reverse time!? Oh man! Talk about a cop out awesome ending or in other words, a Rescue! God comes down (or flies up?) at the last moment and saves everyone.

And if you don’t like Supes, then what about the Eagles in Lord of the Rings? See, it’s always a good example.

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4. Refusal of Return

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Sometimes the new World of Adventure is so exciting and changes the hero so much that he/she cannot return. Such is the case with Coach Bombay in The Mighty Ducks.

For those who can’t remember my childhood coaching idol, Gordon Bombay, his journey started as a star lawyer in a high priced law firm, Ducksworth and Assoc. When he gets arrested for drunk driving, he is sentenced to coach an ailing pee wee hockey team, District 5. (A sport which we know from the opening credits that he was really good at playing as a kid.) Antics ensue, a love interest is formed, and Gordon fights against being in his new world.

Then towards the end before the big game against his old coach and rival, Bombay is given the opportunity to leave the coaching world and return to the law firm. But Gordon doesn’t take it. Instead, he gives his old boss and namesake of the Mighty Ducks a very inspiring lecture about what being a part of a team means.

“You may have paid for that jersey, sir, but you didn’t earn it,” says he to Ducksworth. (Of course after having repeatedly quacked at him.)

 

And for those of you who question whether Gordon Bombay can be included in the list of heroes, consider this:

(Special thanks to Jose Mendoza at instagram @greenzombify)

 

Next time we will discuss the final stage of the Hero’s Journey in The Return With The Elixir.

Until then,
Peace and Long Reads

Justin

Five Warning Signs Your Story Needs Revision

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Took this from Kristen Lamb’s blog. It’s a great reminder of what to focus on when editing especially for me as I currently edit the second book in my series The Stones of Revenge: The Arising.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 11.38.45 AM Original image via Jenny Downing Flikr Creative Commons

We can have the best story ideas in the world, but to be blunt? There’s a lot to be said for delivery. While these problems might seem picky, there are some fundamental errors that can weaken the writing. If our writing loses power, this can become distressing or distracting to readers.

Many readers (not being editors or professional writers) might not be able to articulate specifically why they lost interest in a story, but often the answer is simple. It can be an accumulation of the small things. The little foxes spoil the vine.

Most of us make one or more of these errors, especially when we’re new. Hey, that’s called “being NEW.” No one is born with the natural ability to write brilliant, perfect novels coded into their DNA. It takes time and practice, so give yourself permission to make…

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The Ball Game

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He tosses the ball into the air to get a feel for the weight. The pain in his shoulder is getting worse, and he knows he only has a few more pitches left in him. He gazes over to the bullpen where the reliever is warming up; a smile sweeps across his face. The young man stands on the rubber with such poise and strength, confident in his abilities. The kid tosses a pitch and the loud clap can be heard over the roar of the crowd. The old man on the mound has spent his career teaching him everything he knows about the game, and soon it would be his turn to lead the team. He is proud of the younger player’s accomplishments.

The old man took a deep sigh. “But I still have a few more pitches to go, son,” he says to himself.

The infielders are still taking throws from each other. These players have been with him for as long as he can remember. Like a family he loves every one of them. Each has played a special part in their success over the years, at times saving him from a critical situation. Together they had survived. Together they would live on. But the pain in the old man’s shoulder made him wonder for how long.

He tosses the ball into his glove now and prepares for the batter standing in the on-deck circle. He raises the glove to his face as he has countless times before. Immediately the sweet aroma of leather and oil hits his nostrils. It reminds him of a summer from long ago.

 

His son had been only five then, just learning how to play the game. The old man had gone from store to store to find the perfect glove, genuine American leather stitched together with durable leather straps. The one built to last a lifetime. He wanted his son to have the finest, to have what he couldn’t. At home, he had spent hours upon hours rubbing oil into the leather letting it soak up the liquid just the way his father had taught him when he was a kid. Each night the old man had wrapped the glove with rubber bands around a ball inside to break it in. He wanted to present it to his son before his first practice.

“Here, son, this is for you.”

“What is it?”

“Just a little something.”

The son excitedly ripped open the plain brown box and extracted the dark, mahogany mitt ready for use. A smile as wide as the Grand Canyon swept over the boy’s face as he fit the glove over his small hand.

“You got me one!” he shouted. “Thank you!”

“Let’s go. We’re going to be late.”

 

Now standing on the mound, the old man feels a pang of regret as he remembers the sudden change of expression on his son’s face. I wish I had said what I wanted to say, he thinks. I wish I had said, ‘I got it for you because I love you.’ But that wasn’t how he was raised. Expressing feelings was never a natural thing for him. He did it in other ways like taking his time working on the glove. But still.

The umpire signals to him that he is ready to begin this last inning. All balls on the field find their way back to the dugout; all except for the one in his hand. He grips it tighter remembering the memory. He twists it in his glove. He can feel each rough stitch and coarse cross seam. Above the brim of the glove the batter steps into the box and digs his front foot into the dirt. His bat twirls like a windmill as he readies himself. This is the third time they have faced off. (The first time the batter had swatted his first pitch down the left baseline for a double scoring two runs. The second time he had belted his second pitch over the center field wall.) The old man catches arrogance in the batter’s eyes. Beneath him the catcher squats down awaiting the first pitch. His fingers flicker below his mitt in a ritualistic dance. The old man nods with approval at one of the combinations, but his right shoulder pulses with fire.

“Just a few more pitches,” he reminds himself.

He stands erect both feet square on the white strip of rubber elevating him above all others. He rotates the ball in his glove and places his two forefingers on the seams. He focuses in on the mitt leveled between the batter and the plate. The batter takes another practice swing anticipating where the ball will land. The old man musters all of his strength ignoring the throbbing in his arm. He begins his wind-up.

“TIME!” the umpire behind him calls. The old man aborts his throw and spins around to see the man with his arms spread out wide.

A pudgy man wearing a pullover wind breaker and baseball pants exits from the third base dugout and walks toward him. He signals two fingers to the bullpen for the reliever to join him. Immediately the young player trots onto the field and meets the two men at the mound.

“The kid’s going to take your place,” the manager says.

“I’ve got a few pitches left,” the old man pleads.

“You’ve carried the ball this far, it’s time to let the kid pick it up.”

He hesitates, but with a nod and a grin the old man eventually places the ball into the new pitcher’s hands. The young man grips the ball tight feeling the intermingling of rough and smooth, soft and coarse surfaces. They remind him of one from his past.

 

It had been given to him when he was eight years old. A lone ball resting in a plastic case molded just for its size sitting atop a golden colored plastic stand. It was a cheap trophy but one that came from the heart. On the ball had been written a date, one that had seeming little importance but to him meant everything. Just below it were written the words: “First Home run, First Grand slam.” It had sat on his shelf for years gathering dust amidst the trophies and accolades he had amassed throughout the years.

 

He watches his elder stroll confidently off the field amidst the cheers and applause. His had been a good game. He had played it right. But now that turn was ending. The old man had been the heart and soul of this team. He had willed them forward when no one else had believed, and he had steered the ship for years convinced of their destination. Now that job was his.

The old man stops short of the dugout and turns. He catches the young man’s eyes and stares. His eyes seem to say, “This is your game now. I believe in you,” but no words are ever spoken. The young man understands. He felt it when the ball hit his palm. Then the elder player turns, descends into the home team’s dugout, and fades into the darkness of the clubhouse.

 

Next to that baseball had sat his first glove that his father had given to him.

 

This moment reminded him of it. It had been one of the greatest treasures of the young man’s life. When he received it, his father had said no words of love, nor offered any of encouragement. But he hadn’t needed to. The hours spent with the oil had spoken what his father couldn’t.

“Thanks, dad,” the young man says then turns his attention onto the batter. He knows how dangerous this guy has been, but he is determined not to let the game get away this time. He steels his eyes on the catcher, receives his signal, and winds up into his motion. His eyes never waver from his target as he releases the ball toward the catcher’s mitt.

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