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THE ARCHETYPAL QUEST—
THE 12-step Hero’s Journey According to VOGLER, JUNG
AND JOSEPH CAMPBELL
Introduction
• According to theorists, the hero’s quest occurs in
cultures around the world and throughout time. It
comes from the collective unconscious.
• Each storyteller bends the mythic pattern to fit the needs
of the specific culture or tale, which is why, according to
Joseph Campbell, “the hero has a thousand faces.”
• The following 12 stages of the hero’s quest archetype
do not necessarily always go in the order presented; they
may be re-arranged.
Stage 1: The Ordinary World
• Most stories take the hero out of the ordinary, mundane world
and into a special world, new and alien.
• However, to show a new world, the story must first show the hero
in the ordinary world to create a vivid contrast with the strange
new world the hero is about to enter.
Stage 2: The Call to Adventure
• The hero is presented with a problem or adventure to undertake.
• Once the hero is presented with this call to adventure, he/she can
no longer remain indefinitely in the comfort of the ordinary
world.
• The call to adventure establishes the “stakes of the game” and
makes clear the hero’s goal: to win treasure or a lover, to get
revenge or right a wrong, to achieve a dream, to confront a
challenge, to change a life, to find an object, etc.
Stage 3: The Refusal of the Call (The Reluctant
Hero)
• This stage is about fear: after all, the hero is facing the greatest of
all fears– terror of the unknown.
• At this point in the quest, the hero balks at the threshold of
adventure, expressing reluctance. The hero has not fully
committed to the quest and may be thinking of turning back.
• Some additional influence– a change in circumstances, a further
offense against the natural order of things, or the encouragement
of a mentor– is required to get the hero past this turning
point of fear.
Stage 4: Mentor
• By this time, many stories will have introduced a mentor,
who may appear in many forms.
• This relationship between hero/mentor stands for the
bond between parent/child, teacher/student, god/man.
• The function of the mentor is to prepare the hero to
face the unknown. They may give the hero advice,
guidance, or magical equipment.
• However, the mentor can only go so far with the hero–
eventually the hero must face the unknown alone. Also,
sometimes the mentor has to give the hero a “swift kick
in the pants” to get the adventure going.
Stage 5: Crossing the First Threshold
• In this stage the hero finally commits to the quest and fully enters
the special world of the story for the first time. This is the
moment where the story really takes off and the adventure begins.
• The hero, overcoming fear, has decided to take action or confront
the “problem.” The hero has fully committed to the quest, so
there is no turning back after the first threshold is crossed.
Stage 6: Test, Allies, Enemies
• Once across the first threshold, the hero encounters challenges
and tests, makes allies and enemies, and learns the “rules” of the
special world.
• Aspects of the hero’s character are revealed to the audience
during these moments– we learn about the hero’s integrity, values,
morals, etc.
Stage 7: Approach to the Inmost Cave
• The hero comes to the edge of a dangerous place, sometimes
deep underground, where the object of the quest might be
hidden.
• When the hero enters this dangerous place he/she will cross the
second threshold…but at this point in the quest the hero is
pausing at the gate of this place to prepare, plan and outwit.
This is the approach stage, which covers all of the preparations for
a very difficult ordeal, such as confrontation of death or supreme
danger.
Stage 8: The Supreme Ordeal or the Belly of the
Whale
• Here the fortunes of the hero his bottom in a direct confrontation
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with his/her greatest fear.
The hero faces the possibility of death and is brought to the brink
in a battle with a hostile force. This is a critical moment in the quest
in which the hero must die, or appear to die, so that he/she can be
reborn.
The supreme ordeal is in film terms a “black moment” for the
audience, as we are “in the dark” and held in suspense and tension,
not knowing if the hero will live or die. We identify with the hero as
well, and feel what the hero does.
At this stage in the quest, the hero and the goals of the quest
itself are in mortal jeopardy.
This stage also represents the hero’s separation from his/her old
self; by entering this stage, the person shows their willingness to
undergo a metamorphosis, to “die” to him or herself.
Stage 9: Reward (Seizing the Sword)
• Having survived death, beaten the dragon, or slain the
monster, the hero and the audience have cause to
celebrate. The hero now takes possession of the
treasure he/she has come seeking, his/her reward.
• Sometimes the “sword” may be something magical, or
an elixir which can heal a wounded land, or special
knowledge and experience that leads to greater
understanding and a reconciliation with hostile forces.
Stage 10: The Road Back
• The hero is not “out of the woods” yet. The hero
begins to deal with the consequences of confronting
the dark forces of the supreme ordeal.
• The hero may need powerful guides to bring them (or
force them) back to the ordinary world; sometimes
the hero must “escape” with the reward or face dangers
upon return.
• The hero realizes that the special world must eventually
be left behind and there are still dangers, temptations
and tests ahead; the hero may also need to be reminded
that others may need the reward– it must be returned.
Stage 11: Resurrection
• Through the supreme ordeal the hero must be reborn and
cleansed in one last ordeal of before returning to the
ordinary world.
• This is often a second life and death moment; Death and
darkness get in one last, desperate shot at the hero before
finally being defeated. The hero must draw upon all their
lessons learned to cross this last threshold.
• This is a kind of final exam for the hero, who must be tested
once more to see if he/she is really ready to share the
wisdom/ the reward with the rest of the world.
• The hero is transformed by these moments of death and
rebirth and is able to return to ordinary life reborn as a new
being with new insights; he or she has learned their
purpose and identity.
Stage 12: Return with The Elixir
• The hero returns to the ordinary world, but the quest is
meaningless unless he/she brings back the reward: an
elixir, treasure, or lesson from the special world.
• The elixir may be something magic with the power to
heal, or it may be love, freedom, wisdom, information,
or the knowledge that the special world exists and can be
survived. Sometimes it’s just coming home with a good
story to tell.
• This stage often shows the hero now free of fear;
he/she now has the freedom to live.
Conclusion
• Remember that the hero’s quest pattern/plot line is a skeletal
framework that can be altered for any individual story. The order
of these stages can be shuffled without losing any of their power.
• This archetype is infinitely flexible, capable of endless variation
without sacrificing any of its magic and will out live us all, since
it’s as old as human thought.
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Lecture Notes on the 12 Steps of the Hero`s Journey