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The Hero With a Thousand Faces – myth in stories


“Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.”

Joseph Campbell

Joseph John Campbell was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience.

In 1949 Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) made a big splash in the field of mythology with his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces. This book built on the pioneering work of German anthropologist Adolph Bastian (1826-1905), who first proposed the idea that myths from all over the world seem to be built from the same “elementary ideas.”

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961) named these elementary ideas “archetypes,” which he believed to be the building blocks not only of the unconscious mind, but of a collective unconscious. In other words, Jung believed that everyone in the world is born with the same basic subconscious model of what a “hero” is, or a “mentor” or a “quest,” and that’s why people who don’t even speak the same language can enjoy the same stories.

Jung developed his idea of archetypes mostly as a way of finding meaning within the dreams and visions of the mentally ill.  A while ago I was lucky enough to attend a screening of Dr Marie-Louise von Franz’s     “The Way of the Dream“,    being very interested & attracted to Jungian psychology.  This series of films is available via 4 videos to watch on You Tube if you are interested in doing so.  Click on the link below.

The Way of the Dream

The Way of the Dream and my own personal studies of Jungian psychology have contributed to my personal sense of understanding that we are all inter-connected by common mental themes or concepts, and that Life is very metaphorical.  Click on the link below to go to a forum where I post about Jungian archetypes, if you want to.

The Meaning of Dreams

Some say that if you dream, you have a cluttered mind, but I like dreaming and have had astral experiences, like visiting other places or dimensions perhaps; and try to record dream messages that are significant to me.

DDreams are private myths, myths are public dreams….Joseph Campbell

To read more about Joseph Cambpell,  click   HERE.

The Power of Myth is a book and six-part television documentary originally broadcast on PBS in 1988 as Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth.  You can watch the parts on You Tube    HERE

Now onto an analysis of Star Wars as a MONOMYTH or the Hero’s Journey.

Campbell’s contribution was to take the idea of archetypes and use it to map out the common underlying structure behind religion and myth. He proposed this idea in The Hero With a Thousand Faces, which provides examples from cultures throughout history and all over the world.

Campbell eloquently argues that all stories are fundamentally the same story, which he named the “Hero’s Journey,” or the “monomyth.” This sounds like a simple idea, but it suggests an incredible ramification, which Campbell summed up with his adage

“All religions are true, but none are literal.”

That is, he concluded that all religions are really containers for the same essential truth, and the trick is to avoid mistaking the wrappings for the diamond.

Lucas had already written two drafts of Star Wars when he rediscovered Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces in 1975 (having read it years before in college). This blueprint for “The Hero’s Journey” gave Lucas the focus he needed to draw his sprawling imaginary universe into a single story.

Campbell Star Wars
I: Departure
The call to adventure Princess Leia’s message
Refusal of the call Must help with the harvest
Supernatural aid Obi-wan rescues Luke from sandpeople
Crossing the first threshold Escaping Tatooine
The belly of the whale Trash compactor
II: Initiation
The road of trials Lightsaber practice
The meeting with the goddess Princess Leia
Temptation away from the true path1 Luke is tempted by the Dark Side
Atonement with the Father Darth and Luke reconcile
Apotheosis (becoming godlike) Luke becomes a Jedi
The ultimate boon Death Star destroyed
III: Return
Refusal of the return “Luke, come on!” Luke wants to stay to avenge Obi-Wan
The magic flight Millennium Falcon
Rescue from without Han saves Luke from Darth
Crossing the return threshold Millennium Falcon destroys pursuing TIE fighters
Master of the two worlds Victory ceremony
Freedom to live Rebellion is victorious over Empire
Common Mythic Elements
Two Worlds (mundane and special) Planet side vs. The Death Star
The Mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi
The Oracle Yoda
The Prophecy Luke will overthrow the Emperor
Failed Hero Biggs
Wearing Enemy’s Skin Luke and Han wear stormtrooper outfits
Shapeshifter (the Hero isn’t sure if he can trust this character) Han Solo
Animal familiar R2-D2, Chewbacca
Chasing a lone animal into the enchanted wood (and the animal gets away) The Millennium Falcon follows a lone TIE fighter into range of the Death Star

Save THIS  Word document to use a template to map out your very own personal “Hero’s Journey” if you like, or map that out of a movie or book that you love.  There are loads of movies / stories that I would love to analyse in this way, as well as map out my own as the Heroine’s Journey.

It also maps out the Hero’s Journey for the popular movie, The Matrix.

FINALLY, but not least, below is a link to some GREAT quotes by Josesph Campbell.  Such a wise man !

Good Reads Joseph Campbell Quotes


Author: Star Wise

Bookaholic and Peace-aholic, and Animal lover, I try to spread peace and fairness for all, and appreciation of, and proper use of the wonderful world we live in. Mitakuye Oyasin - we are all related.

2 thoughts on “The Hero With a Thousand Faces – myth in stories

  1. Wow, what an interesting piece. The fact you took such a universally loved movie like Star Wars and analyzed it mythologically and philosophically was fascinating. You may anger a few folks, or maybe Joseph Campbell will, by comparing religion to mythology, but anyone with half a brain can see the correlation. This is such fertile ground that you could probably write a whole book on the subject. I think I need to read Campbell’s book.

  2. I got the analyses from the internet, link below. It also looks at The Matrix, and you may find other analyses by other people (not me) on the world wide web. I have come across a Christian religion here Down Under that correlates religion with mythology, which is refreshing. Yes, Campbell’s works are refreshing and thought provoking. Thanks for the comment.