What makes a hero? – Joseph Campbell

In 1949, writer Joseph Campbell published the book “The Hero With a Thousand Faces”.

In this book, Campbell discusses his theory of the journey of the archetypal hero found in world mythologies.

Since the publication of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell’s theory has been consciously applied by a variety of modern writers, artists, directors and journalists.
The best known is perhaps George Lucas who has acknowledged a debt to Campbell regarding the stories of the Star Wars films.

In the opening sequence, Campbell writes:

“It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward, in counteraction to those that tend to tie it back. In fact, it may very well be that the very high incidence of neuroticism among ourselves follows the decline among us of such effective spiritual aid.

The first work of the hero is to retreat from the world scene of secondary effects to those causal zones of the psyche where the difficulties really reside, and there to clarify the difficulties, eradicate them in his own case (i.e., give battle to the nursery demons of his local culture) and break through to the undistorted, direct experience and assimilation of what [Carl] Jung called “the archetypal images.”

The following video is an animation from TED Ed and it shows a synthesis of Campbell’s foundational framework for the eleven stages of the hero’s quest — from the call to adventure to the crisis to the moment of return and transformation:

 

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