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

scouring

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

The Hero’s Journey- The Supreme Ordeal

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Intellectual Credit Joseph Campbell

Last time we delved into the Belly of the Whale, today it’s all about the Supreme Ordeal.

The Supreme Ordeal

This is the seminal moment in the story. This is where it all comes together. The moment we’ve all been waiting for. This is the moment the protagonist finally takes on the mantel of the hero and has his/her standoff with the main antagonist.

There are four ways in which this occurs:

1. Sacred Marriage

trinity neo0201

This type of ordeal can sometimes be named the the “Goddess Meeting”  but this is more of a misnomer. The idea is that the protagonist needs help from the opposite sex. If the hero is a boy he needs a girl’s help, and vice-versa. There could be an actual meeting with a goddess, or this help can come from the female character using her powers to join with the male character’s, or she could simply save the hero from certain doom. Either way, the significance is found in the protagonist needing the opposite sex. A number of examples include Trinity and Neo, Frodo and Galadriel, or Luke and Leia.

2. Father Atonement

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This is where the hero must defeat his father as the main antagonist. Often, it is a reconnecting for the two of them. For a classic case, just think of Luke and Darth Vader. (Or Buzz and Zurg, if you’re a kid at heart.)

3. Apotheosis

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The apotheosis is where the hero must finally become a full master of his powers in order to defeat the enemy. Sometimes he doesn’t become a master, but discovers his powers in victory. Either way, think of it as becoming godlike. A great example is Neo. Once he accepts his true identity as “the one” he can do anything.

4. Elixir Theft

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This is the hero confronting his arch-enemy and in defeat of him, steals a prize possession. Sometimes the hero kills his enemy, sometimes he lets him live, but the focus should be on a stolen item. Classic case: Bilbo Baggins and Smaug.

At the conclusion of this stage we should see a quick unravelling of the story as we speed through our last two stages beginning with, Flight.

Until then,
Peace and Long Reads

The Hero’s Journey: The Belly of the Whale

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Intellectual Credit Joseph Campbell

Last time we discussed the Road of Trials in the Hero’s Journey, up next is the Belly of the Whale.

The Belly of the Whale

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Credit: Disney

After a long and arduous journey from leaving the comfort zone and traipsing through untold toils, the hero will eventually find himself/herself trapped in the antagonist’s backyard.

The name for this stage obviously comes from the Biblical story of Jonah famously misinterpreted by Disney in a scene in Pinocchio, (Jonah was neither in a whale nor alive). But just as Pinocchio faced certain death with no escape, so too do heroes.

A classic example is Frodo and Sam in Mordor.

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Credit: New Line Cinema

But the convention has existed in myriad other stories such as the aforementioned Pinocchio as well as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, or Luke in Return of the Jedi just to name a few.

The overarching idea here is that the hero is trapped and must somehow defeat his/her enemy to find a way out. Frodo is stuck in Mordor, Pinocchio is in the Whale, Dorothy is locked in the Witch’s castle, and Luke is on the New Death Star.

All of this stage really accomplishes is to foreshadow and set-up the Supreme Ordeal which we will unravel next time.

Until then,
Peace and Long Reads

The Hero’s Journey- The Road of Trials

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Intellectual Credit Joseph Campbell

As I have mentioned before, this is not a comprehensive study of the Hero’s Journey. The goal here is simply to present an overview of the ideas for reference.

Having said that, last time in our discussion of the Hero’s Journey we looked at Crossing the Threshold.

Today we will examine the danger of The Road of Trials.

The Road of Trials

The road of trials is important from a standpoint of characterization as well as story development. As an author, creating more trials can not only extend the story but give more opporunities to allow the protagonist to adapt and grow into the hero. It is best used to steadily build tension and conflict within stories and is often the focus of many Role Playing Games (RPGs).

The Road can be broken into five main divisions or types of trials.
Brother Battle

This battle occurs in one of two ways:

1) The hero placates his enemy in some way. An example of this can be seen in “Star Trek into Darkness.” During the climax of the movie, Kahn orders Spock to transfer over the 72 missiles holding his crew to the USS Vengeance. Spock decides to comply rather than fight and ensure the destruction of th Enterprise.

Star-Trek-Into-Darkness-Spock

sybokmaybe Credit: Paramount Pictures

Or

2) The hero faces a familiar foe. An example of this can be seen in “A New Hope” as well as “Revenge of the Sith” when Obi Wan Kenobi must face his long time apprentice and friend Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker respectively. (or is that in reverse order?)

star-wars-vader-vs-obi-wan

Credit: 20th Century Fox and LucasArts

Anakin_vs_Obi_Wan_by_SithJammies

Credit:20th Century Fox and LucasArts

Dragon Battle

This battle is the hero facing off against an enemy who in the end he/she must vanquish and defeat. A good example of this is in the “Fellowship of the Ring.” Here, Frodo and company are attacked by a band of orcs and trolls in the Mines of Moria whom they must defeat in order to escape.

troll

Credit: New Line Cinema

Dismemberment

In this type of battle, the hero with lose a body part during the battle. A classic example is Luke Skywalker in “Empire Strikes Back” during his first battle with Darth Vader. (Note: this type of battle recurs often in Star Wars i.e. Anakin, Count Dooku, Jango Fett etc.)

lukehand

Credit: 20th Century Fox and LucasArts

Crucifixion

This type of battle is where the hero dies. The death can be either metaphorical or real and sometimes the hero comes back to life. A good example of this is in the “Fellowship of the Ring” where Boromir dies.

boromir

Credit: New Line Cinema

Abduction

In this type of battle, the hero is kidnapped and forced along the journey. A great example of this is the “Wizard of Oz.” Dorothy is picked up by the tornado, a force she cannot escape from nor fight against, and tossed into the silly land of Oz. Immediately, she kills the Wicked Witch of the East and becomes a sort of de facto hero.

oz3

Credit: MGM

All of these types of trials will challenge and change the hero ultimately preparing him/her for the final battle he/she will face. But first the hero must descend into the Belly of the Whale. We will discuss that next time.

Until then,
Peace and Long Reads

The Hero’s Journey- Crossing the Threshold

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Intellectual Credit Joseph Campbell

Last time in our discussion of the Hero’s Journey we looked at The Helper.

Today we will examine the danger of Crossing the Threshold.

The Threshold

percy gateway

Credit: 20th Century Fox

The point of no return.

Once this line is crossed the hero has only two options: Succeed or Die. The danger gets exponentially higher making option two seem more likely and option one less attainable. But make no mistake, there is a clear distinction now for the hero. His/Her eyes have finally opened, and he/she is not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

A good example of this is seen in The Matrix.

matrix-red-pill

Credit: Vintage Roadshow Pictures

Neo gets unceremoniuosly pulled from his day job into a trail of mystery leading him to his infamous meeting with Morpheus. Here, he is offered a choice: red or blue. Blue lets him go back to his boring office job (World of Commn Day) while red leads to truth and the “real world”. (or is it just real world?)

Obviously, we know what he chooses. (Or do we? Seriously, it can get too confusing if you really think about it.)

Anyway, the point is that he made the choice and, therefore, Crossed the Threshold.

Now, don’t expect the hero to leave this world easily. Standing between the threshold and the hero most often is a Threshold Guardian.

The Threshold Guardian

This character’s job is simple- keep the hero from crossing the threshold by killing him/her. And usually, this villain is an expendable, one-time use bad guy.

For example, look no further than Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.

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As Percy tries to make it to Camp Half-Blood, he is pursued by a Minotaur who wants nothing more than to kill him.

He is forced to battle his way past this mythological creature before he can gain entrance into his world of adventure. Lucky for him, and us, he wins. Otherwise there would be no story.

And once this line has been crossed we celebrate our hero for the accomplishment, but fear for the worst as we know that the danger only grows from here.

We will discuss that growing danger next time when we study The Road of Trials!

Until then,
Peace and Long Reads

The Hero’s Journey- The Helper

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the-hero_s-journey

Intellectual Credit Joseph Campbell

Last time in our discussion of the Hero’s Journey we looked at The Refusal of The Call.

Today, we will unravel the necessity or or lack thereof of The Helper.

The Helper

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In this deadly and unknown world of adventure fraught with hazards at every turn, the hero will unwittingly need assistance to finish the task.  His life hanging in the balance, this help will come in 4 different archetypes some of which can be played by the same character.

The Ally

The Ally comes along the journey with the hero in one of two ways.

First, you have:

The “Already a Hero” Ally

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Credit: moviestore.nl

This is the character with the expertise, experience, and exponential reserve to see the hero to the end. He has walked in the hero’s shoes therefore giving him/her the best perspective on what the hero is dealing with. An example of this archetype might be Strider from Lord of the Rings. (I know you might argue that since he is really Aragorn he fits in the lower category, but just remember that these are fluid archetypes. Characters can slip in and out depending on the story. But just for the sake of argument, this is the Aragorn from Fellowship whom we called Strider when we first met him.)

Or you might have:

The “Becoming a Hero” Ally

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Credit: councilofelrond.com

Here, the ally is on the journey for the same reasons as the hero. Both are searching for their confirmation in the hero realm. This ally might have special abilities that separate him/her from the hero, and he/she might be on his/her own hero’s journey. But it is the lack of experience that defines this archetype. There are a million to choose from, but keeping with the Lord of the Rings theme, any one of the three hobbits accompanying Frodo would fit this description.

Moving on to the second archetype.

The Sidekick

In this case, the helper is either one of two extremes. He/she is either essential or just filler.

Case in point, take Robin.

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Credit: batfriend.com

At times Robin is the most ridiculous, annoying, in-the-way-hero helper… ever! I look at him and want to slap the lame out of him. It’s as if DC Comics thought Batman needed someone to stand next to to make him look cooler.

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(As if that were possible.)

But then came George Clooney’s nipple suit, and suddenly the boy wonder was not only much tougher, he seemed necessary. (He still looked stupid, but at least he saved Batman’s life on occasion.)

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(What were they thinking?)

Archetype number 3.

The Mentor

This archetype is similar to the “Already a Hero” Ally except for one small difference. The Mentor will be an experienced member of the journey who has “been there before” much like the similar Ally. This archetype might even pass on knowledge like the Ally. But the distinction between Ally and Mentor occurs when the Mentor steps out of the way to allow the hero the grow up and become the hero. Without this subtle action, the hero would never rise to the occasion. He/she would rely on the Mentor instead of solving his/her own problems.

A great example of this is Qui-Gon Ginn.

quigon

(Yoda doesn’t go on the journey with Luke.)

(The caption is for those purists out there. I know what you are thinking.)

Just think about the end of A Phantom Menace.

Last archetype.

The Supernatural Aid

This is the helper who uses, you guessed it, supernatural forces i.e. magic to accomplish the end goal. It’s really just as simple as that. The Supernatural Aid uses magic. A good example would be Merlin. (Gandalf is just too easy.)

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(No, that’s not Agent Smith. Yes, it is the dude from Jurassic Park.)

And there you have it. Remember, some characters may play one or more archetypal roles. For instance, Gandalf would be considered, a Mentor, and a Supernatural Aid. Aragorn could, at times, be considered an Ally, a Mentor, and a Supernatural Aid. (If you count him being the only person able to get the army of the dead to fight in the war.)

Next time, we will discuss The Threshold of Adventure and what happens when it is crossed.

Until then,
Peace and Long Reads

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