Joseph Campbell`s Model - St. Cloud State University

The Hero’s Adventure
Joseph Campbell’s Model: the Hero’s
• Campbell explains his model of the hero’s
adventure in a book called The Hero With a
Thousand Faces.
• Campbell’s main idea is that the basic hero
myth, found in many cultures and places
around the world, has a single, underlying
• He calls this the “monomyth,” which means
the single, mythic structure.
The Monomyth
The diagram above shows the movement of the hero from the familiar
world into the world of wonders. Campbell compares this to moving
from the ordinary waking world into the world of dreams.
Separation, Initiation and Return
• The simplest form of Campbell’s model has
three stages:
– Separation
– Initiation
– Return
• In the first stage, the hero is separated from
his ordinary life from home and the familiar.
Gandalf the
Wizard calls
Frodo Baggins to
his adventure
with the
dwarves in
Tolkien’s novel
The Hobbit.
Frodo sits
smoking his
pipe in his front
yard. Gandalf
separation from
the familiar and
comfortable, a
call to
adventure in
the unknown.
Call to Adventure: Princess Leia’s Message
Luke Skywalker and his guide, Obei-Wan Kenobi, receive Leia’s
holographic message, which serves as Luke’s call to adventure.
Threshold of Adventure
The bizarre café in Star Wars represents the border between Luke Skywalker’s
familiar world and his coming adventures in space. Here he encounters
strange beings, people who have been out where he is heading.
• The hero undergoes adventures which test his or
her character, ingenuity, persistence. The hero
suffers setbacks and achieves triumphs, all the
while growing and learning.
After the greatest
warriors fail, Arthur
pulls the sword from
the stone, thus
fulfilling the prophecy
that he shall be king
This action represents a typical
test for the hero, a seemingly
impossible task that only he or
she can perform
Yoda Initiates Luke into the Ways of the Jedi
Skywalker’s Vision
Deep in a cave, Luke has a vision in which he confronts Darth Vader. This
dream vision represents a foreshadowing of the supreme ordeal, the
decisive victory at the cycle’s end.
• The hero returns, having won a decisive battle, and
brings a boon to the community. This can be a
magical object or elixir or the result of an act, like
freeing the people from a dragon, giant or other
The Jewish heroine Judith
holds the severed head
of Holfernes, a Syrian
general sent to destroy
her city and its people
The hero returns
with a boon or
gift for the
community (a
golden fleece or
freedom from
an enemy or
monster or
some great
Hercules Returns with the Erymanthian Boar
Hercules brings the gigantic boar to King Eurystheus, the one who sends
him on his twelve labors. Eurystheus cowers in terror as Hercules offers
him the prize.
Miraculous Birth
• Some hero stories begin with a miraculous birth. The
Greek heroes Hercules and Perseus are sired by the
god Zeus, who takes different forms in each case.
Zeus appears to
Perseus’ mother
Danae as a
shower of golden
coins. In this
famous painting,
her otherworldly
look contrasts
with her maid,
who greedily
gathers the gold.
The Infant Hercules Strangles Two Serpents
Zeus’ wife, Hera, sends two serpents to kill the infant Hercules. Showing
his heroic strength and courage, Hercules easily dispatches the snakes.
Harry Potter’s Lightning-Shaped Scar
While there is nothing unusual about Harry’s birth, he bears a scar from
infancy that marks him as extraordinary. Like King Arthur, Harry is
unaware of his special status until many years later.
Call to Adventure
• The hero may choose to go on the adventure,
or may be tricked or stumble into it by
– Examples
• The Twelve Labors of Hercules
• Perseus and the head of Medusa
• The Pevensie Children enter Narnia accidentally
through an ordinary-seeming wardrobe
• Harry Potter is pulled from his miserable life with the
Dursleys into the wizarding world when he receives a
mysterious letter from Hogwarts School
Lucy Enters the Wardrobe
This represents Lucy’s encounter with the threshold, and her separation
from the ordinary world.
And Emerges into Narnia
This magical land is under an evil witch’s spell; it is always winter, but
never Christmas.
Harry Potter’s call
to adventure
comes in the form
of an acceptance
letter from
Hogwarts School
(delivered by owl,
of course).
Hogwarts represents Harry’s threshold of adventure, his entrance
into a world of wonders
Magical Helpers
• Often the hero receives aid from one or more
magical helpers.
– Perseus receives winged sandals, a cloak of
invisibility and a magical bag from his helpers, the
goddess Athena and the god Hermes.
– Gandalf serves as Bilbo Baggins’ guide and helper
in the early stages of his adventure
– Lucy Pevensie receives guidance and help from
Mr. Tumnus and the Beaver family.
Gandalf Lights the Way for Bilbo Baggins and the
Lucy Meets Mr. Tumnus at the Lantern Wastes
Hagrid Serves as Harry’s First Guide into the World of Wizardy
Let’s follow out the story of Perseus in full and see how
it corresponds to Campbell’s model
• 1. Miraculous Birth
– Zeus brings about Perseus’ birth despite his
grandfather’s attempt to prevent Danae from
having a child. Through Zeus’ aid, Perseus and
Danae survive on a raft in the open sea
“Danae” by Titian, circa 1554
“Danae” by Gustav Kimpt, 1907
Call to Adventure
2. Polydectes tricks Perseus into promising him
the head of the gorgon Medusa.
“Medusa” by Caravaggio , 1597
Magical Helpers
• Perseus receives instructions and gifts from
Athena and Hermes
Perseus and the Graeae
• In order to cross the threshold to adventure,
Perseus must force the Graeae, who serve as
boundary guardians, to help him.
These ancient
ladies share one
eye and one tooth
between them,
passing them
around so each gets
a turn to see and
Perseus steals the
eye and tooth,
forcing the Graeae
to reveal Medusa’s
mysterious lair.
The Graeae
obstacles which
the hero must
overcome on the
way to the decisive
Boundary Crossing
Using the winged sandals, Perseus flies toward his confrontation with
Perseus with the Head of Medusa
Using Athena’s
highly polished
shield as a
mirror, Perseus
able to behead
This violent act
marks the decisive
victory, the
accomplishment of
the quest
This more
image clearly
incorporates the
detail of the
polished shield
Unlike the Greek
artists and
sculptors, this
one depicts
Medusa as both
monstrous and
The winged
horse Pegasus is
said to have
emerged from
severed neck.
The Return
– Flight – Perseus flees from Medusa’s immortal
sisters under cover of the cloak of invisibility.
– During the return, Perseus has several adventures,
the most important of which deals with the
princess Andromeda
• Perseus encounters Andromeda chained to a rock, a
sacrificial offering to a sea monster.
• Using his magic sandals and sword, he kills the monster
and claims Andromeda as his bride.
Andromeda’s Parent Plead with Perseus to Save Their
The smitten Perseus agrees provided he is given her hand in marriage
Perseus Attacks the Sea Monster
Perseus rescues
Despite his heroic
act, Andromeda’s
parents renege on
their promise.
Andromeda’s former
suitor threatens
Perseus with a
company of armed
by his
Perseus turns
his head
aside, pulls
severed head
from his bag
and reveals it
to his
The head
retains its
power, and
the hall is
soon filled
with lifelike
statues of
frozen into
Medusa’s head represents the boon, an object of great power, which
allows the hero to win his bride, and when he returns, free his mother.
When Perseus
returns to
Polydectus, the
arrogant king and his
court laugh, refusing
to believe that
Perseus could have
accomplished the
impossible task.
Of course Perseus proves it, turning them all to stone.
Perseus Becomes King
• In a strange twist of fate, Perseus, Andromeda
and Danae return to Argos.
– Acrisius hears of his return and flees.
– While participating in an athletic competition,
Perseus hurls the discus but it goes awry and kills
an old man in the crowd.
– Of course this turns out to be Acrisius; the
dreaded prophecy is fulfilled.
– Perseus founds a new city, Mycenae, and rules
there with Andromeda as his queen.
The Constellation Perseus
At the end of his
reign, Perseus
ascends to the
heavens as a
Campbell’s Model
• Campbell’s model is very useful for helping to
see underlying similarities in myths that may
seem quite different on the surface.
• It is not, however, a substitute for engaged
and creative reading. It is a tool that can help
you see and identify patterns.
• Let’s end with a collage of heroes:
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