Mythologist Joseph Campbell discovered recurring themes in myths and other stories from cultures around the world. From these he created a narrative structure, the “Hero’s Journey.” And he showed us the profound human need for symbolic stories that reflect our transformative journeys. Understanding the different phases—such as the urge to adventure, meeting the mentor, or crossing the threshold—can help us better meet our own potential and challenges.
These universal aspects of our stories help us navigate and make sense of our own experiences. They also foster empathy, connect us with others, and inspire us to embark on our own heroic quests of discovery and transformation.
Marco Aslan put toether this remarkable step-by-step Hero’s Journey description. 34 min.
Short description of the Hero’s Journey concept. 3 min.
12 Phases of the Hero’s Journey
Screenwriter and educator Christopher Vogler developed a 12-stage structure based on Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” that outlines the typical narrative pattern of many myths and stories. Here’s our brief summary of each stage, along with examples of people who have gone through them:
1. Ordinary World
Even though his intellectual passion foreshadows his future, Martin Luther King Jr. is a Baptist minister in Montgomery, Alabama before becoming a leader in the Civil Rights Movement.
2. The Call to Adventure
The hero is called to leave their ordinary world and embark on a journey.
A student in Sweden, Greta Thunberg was drawn to learn about climate change and its impact on the world. After realizing the severity of the climate crisis, she decides to take action by staging a solo climate strike outside the Swedish Parliament in August 2018.
3. Refusal of the Call
4. Meeting the Mentor
5. Crossing the Threshold
6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies
David Hogg and Emma González became activists for gun control after surviving the Parkland school shooting in 2018. David and Emma answered the call to become vocal advocates for gun control. Besides facing death threats, for David and Emma, the test, allies and enemies phase might include facing opposition from gun rights activists and politicians, as well as building alliances with other activists and lawmakers.
7. Approach to the Inmost Cave
Frida Kahlo was known for her self-portraits that depicted her physical and emotional pain, which she endured throughout her life due to polio and a bus accident.
Legal clerk turned environmental activist Erin Brockovich helped build a case against the powerful Pacific Gas and Electric Company of California for contaminating the drinking water of a small town.
Miami, Florida journalist and author in Marjory Stoneman Douglas wrote a book in 1947 on the beauty and importance of the Everglades. Her call to adventure was learning about their destruction. Battling developers, politicians, and the “airport of the future,” she helped lead an effort that protected the Everglades, leaving a lasting legacy for future generations.
10. The Road Back
After years of fighting for justice as a public defender and founding the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson faced burnout and disillusionment with the criminal justice system. However, he used his experience to write a best-selling book and continue to advocate for criminal justice reform.
Maya Angelou experienced trauma and abuse in her childhood, but used her writing to heal and inspire others.
12. Return with the Elixir
Aldo Leopold is known for his contributions to the field of wildlife ecology, conservation, and environmental ethics, particularly through his book “A Sand County Almanac”. His work inspired a new way of thinking about the relationship between humans and nature.
Podcast featuring a number of heroes in the field of food justice. The Center for Food Safety: “organizing a powerful food movement that is fighting the industrial model and promoting organic, ecological, and sustainable alternatives.”
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