Hero with a thousand Faces is by the mythologist Joseph Campbell. Since the publication of this novel Campbell’s theory of the journey of the archetypical hero has been consciously translated by many writers and artists. The best known is George Lucas, who has reportedly said he owes a great debt to Campbell for influencing him in his stories of Star Wars films.
Joseph Campbell’s main points in the story is his insight in important myths from other parts of the world. These myths have survived for thousands of years and share a basic structure, that Joseph Campbell calls “Monomyth.” This basic structure consists of stages, which are
1) The introduction of the hero. Most stories begin with the introduction of the hero and his feeling alien in his own world.
2) A hero is called to the adventure and must decide whether to take the adventure or not. The hero is introduced with a problem, challenge that must be resolved.
3) The hero is does not want to leave to go on the adventure. At this point of the story the hero is reluctant to leave at first. He is afraid of dying or afraid of leaving his mother family.
4) The wise old man or woman encourages the young hero. These stories introduce a mentor. He is world-weary and gives life advise to the hero. He is to give the hero a boost of confidence to keep him on his/her journey.
5) The hero has to pass the first threshold. This is when the hero begins his journey and the adventure begin. The hero is now dedicated to the adventure and there is no turning back.
6) The hero encounters the tests and the helper to help him through the adventure. The hero is forced make friends and enemies in this new special world as well as pass certain challenges that are a part of his training.
7) The hero reaches his innermost cave. The hero comes to the place where he meets the enemy to fight him to gain the object of his quest.
8) The hero endures the huge ordeal. This is where the hero at last finds himself in a dangerous place and faces the possibility of death. He is brought to the brink of the mythical enemy where the hero fights for his life. The audience, readers wait to see who emerges out of the battle as the winner. The hero is forced to experience death and later resurrection.
9) The hero takes the sword. The hero survives death and has beaten the enemy. He know takes possession of the treasure. It is sometimes a sword which represents knowledge and experience that lead the hero to a greater understanding and a reconciliation with hostile forces. The hero adventure gives the hero a better understanding of life and woman.
10) The hero’s return home. This isn’t the end for the hero. The hero is persued by vengeful forces that he’s stolen the treasure from. A force represents governmental authority, which leads to a happy or sad ending.
11) The resurrection. The hero is transformed as a hero with a better understanding of life from his experience on his adventure, and finally,
12). Hero returns to his/her ordinary world with prize. The hero comes back to his world with the treasure or some lesson from the adventure. It is knowledge and experience that the evil world exists and can be survived.
John Campbell writes this book as an expert mythographer. He spends most of the book illustrating his point of the re-telling of myths. There is a condensed version of the hero myth on p. 245 of the book. However, he also uses specialized technical terms which you need to go back a few pages to understand the examples he explains in the earlier chapters. In other ways his point of view is biased with his own idea of the myth. It is evident in the way he presents his basic structure. He gives evidence of his research by presenting other myths such as Arthur, Lancelot and King Arthur.
He discovered that all story-telling conscious or not follows the same patterns of myth. He discovered that all stories from the rudest joke to literature can be understood in terms of the “Hero Myth” the “Mythograph” which he explains the principals of in the book. His book “The hero of a thousand faces” research is based on Jung’s idea of the “Archetypes”- The repeating characters that appear in the dreams every person as well as the myth of all cultures. Jung believed these “Archetypes” are the reflections of the human mind- Jung believed that our minds divide these characters to play-act the drama of everyone’s lives.
These repeating characters of the hero myth, such as the hero, the mentor, the shapeshifting woman, and the enemy are the same with the archetypes of the human mind. This is shown in dreams and is why myths as well as stories are written on a mythological model is always psychologically true. These stories are the true models of the workings of an individual mind and are the true structures of the mind. These stories are psychologically true as well as realistic even when they are portraying fantastic, impossible unrealistic events.
These workings account for the universal power of the stories and myths. Campbell explains that the stories that are built on the model of “The hero with a thousand faces” are appealing and is felt by everyone because they’re based on as well as the reflect universal concerns that deal with universal questions. Campbell goes on to say that the idea in the book can apply to an understanding of any human problem. The stories and myths are a key to everyone’s life as well as a great tool for effectively dealing with a large audience of readers.
The stories of Christ, Hitler, Mohammed, and Buddha, all understood these principals in the book and applies them to influence many. Joseph Campbell I think writes for both the general audience as well as for the people who are familiar with the myths. The writing is informative and friendly you get a sense of the author knows what it is he is talking about. He has done his research and has provided proof of his knowledge. I believe the book “The hero with a thousand faces” has relevance to these modern times with modern stories such as Star Wars, The Lord Of The Rings, Jaws, and E.T. as well as millions more. All of these stories follow the basic structure which Joseph Campbell have constructed to tell stories.
The insights I have gained about people’s values and attitudes about the myths is that they are beloved and eternal. The people try to follow the stories values and attitudes in their own lives. The strongest and weakest part of the book “The hero with a thousand faces” is there are no weak parts. Joseph Campbell’s writing is strong and keeps the reader interested. He is a master storyteller. He writes as he speaks and is easy to understand. I believe Joseph Campbell has contributed to literature and has a style that appeals to people all these years without seeming lofty or pretentious. I thoroughly recommend “The hero with a thousand faces” to anyone who is acquainted with the “Power of Myth” or not.
“The hero with a thousand faces.” By Joseph Campbell. Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (march 1, 1972)