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.

frodo_sam_looking_toward_mordor


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

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The Hero’s Journey- The Road of Trials

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the-hero_s-journey

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.

20130803-121736.jpg

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

Helping-someone-up-a-mountain-resized-600

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

lotr-strider-giclee-on-paper-fine-art-print

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

grhb043

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.

robin_23

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.

batman33009

(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.)

batman-et-robin-1997-03-g

(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.)

merlin_preview2

(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

The Hero’s Journey- The Refusal of the Call

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Intellectual Credit Joseph Campbell

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

Today we will venture into the excitement of The Refusal of the Call.

The Refusal

refuse

Credit: zealoflife.blogspot.om

Once our intrepid hero has been called out of his/her World of Common Day, there is sometimes, and I emphasize sometimes, a moment or period of time where said hero does not want to go for a couple of reasons.

Hero is Unsure

obiwanwiltrainluke[1]

Credit: LucasArts

This reason is pretty self explanatory, but basically the hero is being tied down and is worried about his/her responsibilities or is just plain scared.

We see this again with Luke. Though he had an inward call, when the moment came for him to jump on a starship and head off into adventure, he tells Obi-Wan that he can’t because of his responsibilities.

Helper is Unsure

raidersofthelostark-karen-allen

Credit: Lucas Arts

In this case, the hero is all rearing to go, but his helper, more on this later, is holding him back for the same reasons as above. Once the helper, either lets go of his/her fear or his/her responsibilities are removed, then the adventure can begin.

For an example, think of Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Ark. Indiana is primed and ready to stop the Nazis and find the Ark first, but he needs the help of an old lover named Marion. When he meets up with her, she is unwilling to go because of her responsibilities in her bar. But when the Nazis burn it down, all bets are off and Marion is finally ready to embark on the adventure.

Sometimes

And sometimes, the refusal doesn’t exist at all. Sometimes, the hero goes about his/her adventure without barrier, border, or barricade and plunges head first into the foray. Sometimes.

Next time I will go into more detail about the 4 types of helpers you will encounter on a hero’s journey.

Until then,
Peace and Long Reads

The Hero’s Journey- The Call to Adventure

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Intellectual Credit Joseph Campbell

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

Today we will venture into the excitement of The Call to Adventure.

The Call to Adventure

cutcaster-photo-100132136-Businessman-taking-phone-call

Credit: cutcaster.com

In this progression of the ordinary Joe Shmoe becoming a hero, we see that there is a moment when the safety net of The World of Common Day will be taken away, and the hero is compelled to make a choice to leave. This can occur in two possible scenarios.

Scenario One: The Inward Call

obiwanwiltrainluke[1]

Credit: LucasArts

In this scenario, the hero has a strong desire to see “what’s out there”. There is often a pining for stories of other heroes and adventures and expressions of boredom with his/her common day. Sometimes the hero’s desires may be squelched, but eventually those roadblocks are taken away and he/she is free to pursue the adventure. An example for this can be found once again in the iconic Star Wars.

As we last left Luke, he was drowning his sorrows in his blue milk wanting to join the Rebels in their fight against the Empire. His uncle played the killjoy and refused to let him leave, promising just “one more season”. But as Luke runs into a stubborn little astrodroid named R2D2 with a penchant for running away, he is forced into abandoning his homestead just as Imperial troops arrive to destroy it and his family. (This is the roadblock being removed.) As sad, and slightly horrifying, as this moment is, Luke is now free to follow his longing to leave and join Obi-Wan and the Rebels and begin his journey.

Scenario Two: The Outward Call

frodo-and-the-ring

Credit: New Line Cinema

In this scenario, there is some force compelling the hero to take action and leave behind his/her boring life. Most often, the hero is not looking for adventure and is as peachy as can be in his/her comfort zone.

But along will come some person or item that will warn of danger. And in some cases, the hero simply gets kidnapped and forced on to the journey. Usually there will be a constant pining for home or at the very least a desire to know how everyone at home is coping.

The best example for this (though since this story was published many have copied it) is The Lord of the Rings.

I’ll wager to guess you were even already thinking about it.

Little old Frodo, comfy and cozy, living with his uncle in a beautiful shire has no thought of the outside world. Though he knows of his uncle Bilbo’s adventures, he spends his days having fun with his pals. Then along comes news of Bilbo’s ring and the danger with it, and Frodo is all of a sudden forced out of his home and onto the road of sure death. Goodbye safety net, hello adventure.

The next stage in our journey will find both Luke and Frodo unsure of what to do. More on this next time.

Until then,
Peace and Long Reads

The Hero’s Journey- World of Common Day

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the-hero_s-journey

Intellectual Credit Joseph Campbell

So, this post basically has to start with an apology for my absence. It has been a little more of a hectic month than I thought it would be with the newborn, finishing the school year, and starting summer school.

But now I am starting a class teaching 6th and 7th graders about reading and using Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey as the class theme.

The basic premise is to read one fantasy novel and follow the hero through the nine stages of his journey.

And since I am a soon to be a self-published author in the fantasy genre, I felt that the lessons would be very a pro pos.

The World of Common Day

bored-at-work

Credit NBC- Jim and Pam at work.

The Hero’s journey is a simple one and can be found in just about any story. These types of stories are most common in fantasy where a simple person goes off on some quest to become a hero.

But no matter how the story pans out or evolves, every Hero’s journey takes root in what is known as The World of Common Day

This world is, simply put, the protagonist’s every day life. (Think Hobbits in The Shire or the Pevensies in our world, England) It is the comfort zone. It is the bubble that cannot be shattered. (But, of course, will be shattered.) It is the ultimate boring life that nags at all heroes and makes them urge, nay desire, nay yearn for Excitement and Adventure! (Though many, I’m sure, would claim they do not want adventure. Common Hobbits fit this description.)

But do not let this stage fool you, oh no! It is the mother of all stages. It is the first stage. It is what allows all readers to get their feet wet. It is the stepping off point for all other steps the hero will take in the journey. Though sometimes lacking in drama, tension, or suspense, this first stage in the Hero’s Journey is essential in order for the reader to have a baseline for the transformation that is to take place.

And for those aspiring writers out there who envision taking the plunge into their own writing journey, I urge you, do not shrug this stage off! It can be the most beneficial to you!

How?

For a deeper understanding of this first step into the Hero’s Journey, let us take a look at an example from the iconic Star Wars. (And, yes, I do mean A New Hope.)

luke-skywalker-tatooine

Mr. Skywalker in all his awesomeness

Luke Skywalker, the protagonist, lives with his aunt and uncle on a moisture farm in the middle of a desert planet called Tatooine. Though he does not live the perfect Leave it to Beaver life, his life is pretty comfy, complete with protocol droids, igloo-like stone houses, and blue milk.

And as we find out in the infamous and aforementioned blue milk scene, Luke has a distaste for the governing empire and wants to leave this World of Common Day to join the rebels in their fight.

Now, if this was the entire story setting, we would have all bled from our eye sockets due to boredom because the common day is just that, common. There may be some minor conflict, but all in all nothing happens here.

Lucky for us, Luke does not stay in The World of Common Day for very long. His journey through the stages takes a wild turn when he meets an unexpected stranger and progresses into the Call to Adventure. More on this stage of The Hero’s Journey next time.

Until then, Peace and Long Reads.

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