The Hero’s Journey: Traveling Literature For The Quarantine

The most interesting thing about the hero’s journey is that it is not only an outline that serves to write fictional stories, but it also constitutes a guide to trace and analyze the journeys that each of us has made in life.
The Hero's Journey: Traveling Literature for the Quarantine

The hero’s journey, also known as ‘unique myth’, corresponds to the structure of an epic tale designed by Joseph Campbell. This model was published in the book The Hero with a Thousand Faces  in 1949.

Campbell observes that in the story of the myth a sequence of events is repeated that make the result shocking. Also note that this pattern is reproduced in different cultures around the world.

In the hero’s journey there is always a protagonist who must overcome multiple obstacles to reach a goal. To do this, he has the help of gods, teachers or supernatural beings who interact in fantastic contexts.

In the end he comes out victorious and more evolved. Now you understand many things that previously did not occupy your attention. So he ‘comes back to life’ to share his experience with others and help others.

The Hero’s Journey Model

Traveler on the mountain

The hero’s journey is observable both in myths, as in religions  and all kinds of artistic manifestations. Some of the most significant examples are found in the stories of Moses, Christ, or Gautama Buddha. But it is also seen in movies like Star Wars , The Matrix or The Lord of the Rings .

Campbell’s model  encompasses 17 stages or moments in the story to make it work. However, in most cases they are reduced to eight, or even less. There is no rigorous pre-established order, so it can be modified according to the interests of the creator.

Probably, the fields in which the hero’s journey is most reflected are those of literature and cinema. Even so, the model is only a guide, the difficult part is in the level of creativity  that can be achieved by following this scheme.

The hero’s journey, a space of controversy

Although the scheme has followers, it also generates controversy and detractors. Some of them question its validity based on its usefulness as a tool for critical research. Meanwhile, for others the hero’s journey is ambiguous in the epic interpretation and has a clear masculine bias.

Additionally, scholars of the subject observe in the categories proposed by Campbell an absence of meaning that does not have an academic basis. Finally, it is said that what Campbell proposed only reflects some very simplified cultural similarities and without any depth.

The beggining

It all begins with an everyday scene where we observe our hero in his day-to-day life and in his context. Suddenly something unforeseen happens and he is called upon to take on a risky challenge, something with which he is unfamiliar. This is where the story begins.

Often the protagonist rejects the offer with indifference or adducing a myriad of reasons that prevent it. However, in the end he gives in and comes into contact with a supernatural being or a teacher who gives him an object or power for his protection.


Traveler on a cliff

This protection generates a state of trust to start the journey and face the crossing of the threshold that awaits you. Leave the world of what you know behind and enter another where everything is unknown and full of dangers.

At this point, our protagonist undergoes an internal metamorphosis : he fixes his attention within himself and experiences a new level of consciousness. This stage is characterized by tests that must be submitted. Some will overcome them, and others will not.

The meeting with the teacher

After having passed all the tests, he has an encounter with the goddess or supreme being, for whom he experiences limitless love. Now he must face his inner demons and decide whether to stay there or return to the world where he came from and fulfill his goal.

Here, our character must face the most valuable power of his existence, usually represented as a transit between life and death. In other words, it consists of abandoning attachments and the ego of being.

The ultimate test and gift

Traveler meditating

All of the above necessarily forces us to observe the world beyond fear and accept it as it is in order to advance, to evolve. Only in this way is it possible to find compassion, wholeness and peace. Everything adds up as a necessary previous state for the return.

This new condition gives the hero a special gift and recognition from divine power for his effort. The hero does not seek to become a god, but to obtain from him or them his grace, his enlightenment.

The return or the resurrection

Just as our hero refused to start the adventure, now that he experiences full happiness he refuses to return to an ordinary world to share the gift he has acquired. In other cases, the hero must flee with the gift at the expense of the gods’ prohibition. This stage is often called the magic flight.

This implies taking on new challenges, and saving characters will appear to help him on the way back to life. Finally, the protagonist returns with the gift of wisdom under his belt and willing to share it with humanity, but must survive the clash he will have with the world.

The reward

When he succeeds, he becomes a guide between the two worlds, now he can feel at ease in either state. At this point he is a teacher who has the freedom to travel from one world to another without contaminating them.

Now he is not afraid of death, he is not worried about the future and he does not anchor himself in the past, he  only knows how to live the present with absolute freedom. At this point there is a question: do any of the voyages you have carried out resemble the hero’s journey?

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