Writing Wednesday: Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces Part III

For the last two Wednesdays, I’ve been posting about Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Campbell studied stories from mythologies around the world and found that the hero stories had certain common elements. The first phase is the separation phase. This is followed by the initiation phase. Today we’ll discuss the third and final phase of the hero’s journey. (Spoiler alert: I’ll be discussing the ending of The Odyssey and Harry Potter, so if you don’t know what happens at the end, you may want to stop reading now. 🙂 )

The return phase of the hero’s journey:

  • Refusal of Return–The hero doesn’t want to go back at first. In The Odyssey, Odysseus does find himself in a few situations (e.g. Calypso’s island) where he doesn’t want to leave.
  • Magic Flight–The hero “flies” somewhere, often this is while he’s being pursued. This could be Harry Potter on his broom, or Dorothy using her ruby slippers to go back home.
  • Rescue from Without–Someone rescues the hero and brings him back home. Hermes has to come to Calypso’s island to free Odysseus. Princess Leia has to get the Millenium Falcon back to Cloud City to get Luke after his lightsaber fight with Vader.
  • Yes, I've been to the "real" Platform 9-3/4. Too bad my cart got stuck halfway through the wall.

    Yes, I’ve been to the “real” Platform 9-3/4. Too bad my cart got stuck halfway through the wall.

    Crossing of the Return Threshold–The hero makes his way back home. This is often the opposite of a scene from the separation phase. For example, Harry Potter takes the Hogwarts Express back to the Muggle world.

  • Master of Two Worlds–Hero has control over his own world and the new world he conquered. When Odysseus returns to his home of Ithaca, he has to battle the men who were trying to marry his wife in his absence. When he defeats them, he’s won both the Trojan War abroad and the “battle” at home.
  • Freedom to Live–The object of the original quest is totally realized. Odysseus has back his wife and son. Harry Potter has defeated Voldemort. Am I giving too much away? 🙂

Parts I and II of the Hero’s Journey can be found here and here.

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3 Responses to Writing Wednesday: Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces Part III

  1. Ginny Marie says:

    Love that picture of you! And yes, I am a little jealous. Fortunately, I know the endings to all of these stories, so no spoilers for me! 😉

  2. Thanks, Amy! I’ve been struggling with the middle of my hero’s quest and this really clarified a lot for me! Now I have to find him a ‘woman as temptress’ 🙂

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