Objective: To apply the hero’s cycle to your own life.
1. According to Joseph Campbell, many events in our lives follow the mythological hero’s cycle. We experience the three major stages of departure, initiation and return many times throughout our lives. After familiarizing yourself with the hero’s cycle as explained in our course module, please write about a person in your life – a family member, friend, etc. – who went through the hero’s cycle and write an Introductory Paragraph.
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2. In the subsequent 5 paragraphs, identify and explain how the following aspects of the hero’s cycle apply to your personal hero. You’ll need to clearly indicate which part of your story is which part of the cycle…don’t assume I know.
- Call to Adventure
- Crossing the First Threshold
- Road of Trials
- Any variables experienced along the way
- Ultimate boon
Even though this is an informal essay, it still requires good organization and academic writing. Remember that in a Gordon Rule class one of the objectives is to communicate effectively. Please do not choose a celebrity or someone famous in any way. When you are finished, you will have a strong paper that illustrates the steps of the heroic cycle, and you will have a nice tribute to a family member or a friend that you can share with them. Two for one!!
- Your paper should be organized and written according to academic standards.
- Your paper should be approximately one to two pages in length, typed, double-spaced.
- Your paper needs to be formatted according to MLA style. Some of this includes using a 12pt. font and setting 1” margins all the way around. There are many good online resources for formatting papers according to MLA (see module for the some good writing resources).
- Be sure to submit the paper before the deadline (see syllabus policy). The system will only allow you to submit your paper once, so be sure you select the correct file before submitting it.
The Hero Archetype
The hero is the major archetypal symbol of the psyche; the hero archetype is
fundamental to human storytelling. Because the human psyche is universal in its
makeup, all humans share a common archetypal structure just as all share a common
physical nature. As the individual human psyche develops it goes through the same
archetypal stages that have governed the evolution of consciousness in the whole of
humanity. The hero archetype exemplifies that course
The hero archetype embodies in person, in action, and
in idea, the important values of the culture. But the
hero is not conservative; the hero leads the way to
constructive change. An advance in the spiritual level
of a culture begins with one individual who builds upon
and then transcends the collective beliefs of his people.
The hero discovers new paths; the hero charts the unknown.
Every culture has its heroes. According to Joseph Campbell, the mythologist who has
done the most complete study of the hero archetype, a hero is a person who can go
beyond his personal limitation as well as the limitations imposed upon him by his
culture. A true hero’s goal is to achieve an understanding of the universal truths of
mankind’s existence, and when he achieves this objective, he must return to this people
to teach the lessons he has learned. As the great mother archetype was feminine in
nature, the hero is considered to be masculine in nature – even if the hero figure is
Campbell suggests that “the standard path of the mythological adventures of the hero is
a magnification of the formula represented in the rites of passage: separation – initiation
– return.” These ceremonies celebrate the birth and naming of a child, a young
person’s growth into puberty, as well as milestones like marriage and burial. They mark
the physical, mental and spiritual changes that young women and men undergo as they
grow and develop to fill a variety of roles in society. “Apparently,” says Campbell, “there
is something in these initiatory images so necessary to the psyche that if they are not
supplied from without, through myth and ritual, they will have to be announced again,
through dream, from within.”
Fate seldom requires the hero make his journey to
enlightenment without assistance. Early in his quest he
meets a protective figure who by the use of some wisdom or
power helps the hero to survive the trials of the initiation.
These helper figures are also archetypes; they are the wise
old man, the helpful animal, or even aspects of the mother archetype.
The challenges the hero must face differ considerably in their particulars but are
universally similar. Whatever the details of the trials, there is always a battle between
the forces of good and evil.
According to Campbell the true hero figure must return to his people and bring to them
the “boon” he has earned. This may be a special ritual or ceremony, a period of peace
and prosperity, or an insight into the real truths of mankind’s existence which the hero
will try to teach to his people.