Hero's journey  

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The term Monomyth (often referred to as the hero's journey) as used within the field of comparative mythology refers to a basic pattern supposedly found in many narratives from around the world. This widely-distributed pattern was described by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949).



The Monomyth is divided into three sections: Departure (sometimes called Separation), Initiation and Return.

This was laid out by Joseph Campbell in the first part of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, "The Adventure of the Hero." His thesis was that all myths follow this structure to at least some extent. To take three examples: the Christ story follows this structure almost exactly, whereas the Odyssey features frequent repetitions of the Initiation section and the Cinderella story follows this structure somewhat more loosely.

Departure deals with the hero venturing forth on his quest. Initiation deals with the hero's various adventures along his or her way. And Return deals with the hero's return home with knowledge and powers he or she has acquired along the way.

Departure (or Separation)

The Call to Adventure

The quest always begins with the hero in a state of neurotic anguish. The call comes when the psychological forces of the mind (Id and Superego) become unbalanced.

In Star Wars, Luke, the hero, begins the story in anguish over being unable to leave home. The call comes in the form of the Droids. In The Matrix, the call comes in the form of Morpheus and his followers.

Refusal of the Call

When that happens, the adventure can turn into its opposite, and things go sour.

In The Matrix, the hero refuses to take the window washing equipment to escape and is captured by the Agents.

Supernatural Aid

Along the way, the hero often encounters a helper, usually a wise old man, who gives the hero both psychological and physical weapons.

In the Christ story, this role is filled by John the Baptist. In Star Wars, Luke encounters the Jedi Master Obi-wan Kenobi

The Crossing of the First Threshold

The hero eventually must cross into a dark underworld, where he will face evil and darkness, and thereby find true enlightenment. Before this can occur, however, the hero must face off against and quell a threshold guardian.

In Star Wars, the threshold guardian is the Death Star. In The Matrix, it is Smith.

The Belly of the Whale

Having defeated the threshold guardian, the hero finds himself in a place of darkness. It's an ambiguous place of dream-like forms.

In the Odyssey, Odysseus sets sail for Ithaca.


The Road of Trials

Once in the underworld, the hero is repeatedly challenged with mental and physical obstacles that must be overcome.

In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke undergoes his training with Yoda.

The Meeting with the Goddess

With all the obstacles overcome, the hero can find bliss in the arms of a lover. This is a grand reward for the hero.

In The Matrix Reloaded, Neo takes Trinity as a lover.

Woman as the Temptress

However, this Goddess can also negate the hero's progress with lust. This can distract the hero from his ultimate goal and plunge him back into darkness.

In the Christ story, Satan takes this role.

Atonement with the Father

Father and son are often pitted against each other for mastery of the universe. To understand the father, and ultimately the self, the hero must reconcile with this ultimate authority figure.

In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke confronts Darth Vader. In The Matrix Reloaded, Neo meets the Architect.


The hero is raised to god-like status.

In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke sacrifices himself rather than turn to the dark side. In The Matrix Reloaded, Neo destroys several Sentinals in the real world using only his mind.

The Ultimate Boon

Having reconciled with the father and achieved personal enlightenment, the hero's psychological forces are again balanced. His new found knowledge, or boon, also has potential to benefit society.

In the Christ story, Jesus surrenders himself to the Romans.

In the Christ story, it is his choice to die on the cross that is the ultimate boon to humanity.


Refusal of the Return

Having found bliss and enlightenment in the underworld, the hero may not want to return with the boon.

In The Matrix Revolutions, Neo is trapped in the lair of the Trainman.

The Magic Flight

A mad dash is made by the hero to return with the prize.

In the Christ story, Christ carries his cross to Golgotha. In The Matrix Revolutions, Neo takes a ship to the Machine City.

Rescue from Without

The hero may need to be rescued from without by humanity.

In the Christ story, Judas betrays Jesus to the Romans. In The Matrix Revolutions, Trinity, Morpheus, and Seraph must rescue Neo from his imprisonment in the trainstation by the Merovingian.

The Crossing of the Return Threshold

Before the hero can return to the real world, he must confront another threshold guardian. The first threshold was a symbolic death; this is now a symbolic rebirth.

In The Matrix Revolutions, Neo again confronts Smith. In Return of the Jedi, Luke again confronts Darth Vader.

Master of Two Worlds

Once the final threshold is crossed, the hero is now free to move back and forth between the two worlds at will. He has mastered the conflicting psychological forces of the mind.

In Return of the Jedi, Luke becomes a Jedi.

Freedom to Live

With the journey now complete, the hero has found true freedom, and can turn his efforts to helping or teaching humanity.

In the Christ story, Jesus is resurrected.

See also

Other mythology

Narratology and writing instructions


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