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THE HERO CYCLE

Dr. J. TaylorTHE HERO CYCLEMythology in Art and Literature

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In his famous study of heroes, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell claims that most heroic adventures follow the formula of the rites of passage: separation–initiation–return. Campbell calls this the nuclear monomyth:

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A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a

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region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there

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encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes

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back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow

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boons on other humans.(Campbell 30)

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DEPARTURE

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Call to Adventure – Destiny summons the hero to leave society and enter a region of treasure and danger (dark forest, great trees, babbling spring)

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Refusal of Call – Hero refuses call and brings disaster on himself and others.

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Supernatural Aid – Motherly/fatherly guide protects hero with powers of a benign destiny.

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Crossing the Threshold – First step beyond the familiar boundaries into dangerous unknown.

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The Belly of the Whale – Transit into sphere of re-birth, symbolized by womb-like belly of the whale.

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INITIATION

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Road of Trials – Hero must survive succession of trials, aided sometimes by advice, amulets, and secret agents.

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Meeting with the Goddess – Achieves mystical union or confrontation with Queen Goddess of the World, in her benign or horrible aspects.

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Woman as Temptress – Hero must withstand temptations of destructive Mother-Bride.

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Atonement with the Father – Hero abandons self and trusts that terrible Father is, in fact, benign and merciful.

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Apotheosis – Hero becomes one with God or the universe.

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The Ultimate Boon – Hero receives or captures key to happiness in social world.

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RETURN

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Refusal of the Return – Hero refuses return and denies his knowledge to social world.

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Magic Flight – Having won trophy, hero uses supernatural powers to achieve an otherwise dangerous return.

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Rescue from Without – Return requires assistance from without.

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Crossing of Return Threshold – Transit from divine back to human world.

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Master of Two Worlds – Hero able to cross and re-cross world division

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Source: Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 2nd ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Pr., 1968).

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