The Hero’s Journey

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!!

Writing Directions:

  • 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 Start Here Buttonmodule 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

    of development.

    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.


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