The Journey of the Hero


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The Journey of the Hero Essay for Latin 2 with Randy Schur 1/22/2006

Greek Myth: Hercules

The Greek myth of Hercules follows the path of a hero as interpreted by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The story starts out when Hercules kills his wife and three children. He does this under the influence of a curse put on him by the god Hera. As soon as he finds out what he did, he wants to commit suicide. However a wise old man, in this case Theseus, forces him to reconsider killing himself. Instead, Hercules should pay for his family's lives by going to Eurystheus, a king who would issue him twelve almost impossible tasks. As Theseus tells Hercules not to kill himself, and as Hercules is completing the first few tasks, Hercules goes from being an ordinary, strong man to being a real hero. Thus, he crosses the gateway into the world of heroes. Eurystheus issues Hercules twelve very, very difficult tasks. These tasks force him not only to use his raw strength, but to use his mind and logic to beat the tasks. Each task grows increasingly more difficult and dangerous. In the twelfth and final task, Hercules must go into the underworld, and recover the three-headed dog, Cerberus, using only his hands and no weapons. In doing this, Hercules traveled to the inner-most cave, the place where no people ever return from. In there, Hercules had to undergo a supreme ordeal; he had to subdue a three headed dog using no weapons. Once he was back, Hercules seized the sword (also called the reward), the forgiveness for his family’s death. However, Hercules could never return to normal. He was a hero, and could never go back to his normal world. Retirement didn't serve him well either, so Hercules kept going on miscellaneous tasks and adventures, into the sunset.

The Wizard of Oz and the Path of the Hero

The Wizard of Oz very closely follows the extended twelve steps of a hero as laid out in The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. Step one, “The Heroine is Introduced in her Ordinary World,” is very clearly explained in the movie. Dorothy starts out in the sepia-toned world of Kansas, going around her daily life on the farm. In step 2, the “Call to Adventure,” a mean old lady is trying to take away Dorothy's dog to be killed. Toto, the dog, runs away from the lady, but Dorothy knows the lady will be back for the dog again. They decide to run away, getting the encouragement needed in Step 3. On their way, they meet Professor Marvel, an old man (Step 4). He tells Dorothy not to run away, and to return home. When Dorothy reaches her home, a tornado suddenly appears. This tornado picks up Dorothy’s home and transports her to a shadow realm; the land of Oz. Dorothy has passed the “First Gateway” or Step 5. However, some people may have a different interpretation of where Steps 2 through 5 take place. These people list “The Call to Adventure,” as the house landing on the Wicked Witch of the East (step 2). Then Dorothy does not want to continue (step 3) on her adventure, but the Good Witch of the North gives her the famous Ruby Red Shoes (The encouragement; Step 4). Dorothy then starts her journey for real by following the yellow brick road (Step 5). However, everyone can agree that Step 6, “The Heroine Encounters Tests and Helpers,” is the meat of the story in The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy meets the scarecrow, the tin man, and the cowardly lion. Also, they encounter a few tests to prove themselves along the way. At last Dorothy arrives at the Emerald City, and meets the wizard in the Innermost Cave (Step 7). The wizard tells them that they must get the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West. The journey to get the broomstick is the “Supreme Ordeal,” or Step 8 of the extended Hero Path. Dorothy manages to find and kill the witch and seize the sword (Step 9), or in this case, a broomstick. In Step 10, Dorothy returns to the city of Oz, and they sing “Ding, Dong, the Wicked Witch is Dead.” Dorothy then returns to the wizard who then awards her companions with what they thought they were missing, but had all along. Dorothy and her friends leave the wizard’s room, transformed by their experiences (Step 11). Dorothy learns that there is, “no place like home,” and leaves Oz. She uses the magic elixir of knowledge she gained to change her mind about running away from home. Dorothy just complete the last of the twelve steps laid out in the extended version of The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. The Wizard of Oz is a very good example of the hero path not only because it follows the steps clearly, but because Dorothy is really going on a journey down the yellow brick path.

Our Own Myth

Not so long ago, there was a race of people called the Fre---Franch. Everyone hated them, because they ruled the world, and were very cruel. They taxed everyone heavily, and made them work like slaves. If someone committed a crime, they were thrown in jail, no matter how insignificant it had been, and they often were never seen again.

There was, however, one porcupine that stood up to them. He was born in the middle of nowhere, away from the influence of the Franch. Eventually he went out into normal society, and figured out how things worked. He was very disturbed at how the Franch ran things, and he really wanted to do something about it.

He found out about a secret, underground group who was plotting a rebellion. The only problem was, no one knew where they were meeting, seeing as how it was a secret. But he went looking anyway.

He searched every cave, abandoned basement, and cranny he could find, but in vain. Finally after searching for hours, he went into a restaurant. He overheard four people talking over dessert at the next table. He realized that they were members of the very group he wanted to join!

Now, he was smarter than to just walk up and ask to join, because he knew he wasn’t even supposed to know that they existed. So he followed them when they left the restaurant, and through the city, into a library that had been shut down because the roof leaked.

He waited outside for a little bit, not sure what he should do. He decided to risk it, and went up to the door. A guard stopped him and asked him what he thought he was doing. He said, “I want to join your secret underground resistance group.”

The guard stared at him for a minute, just long enough to be uncomfortable, and said, “I’m sorry, but that library is most definitely above the ground. And anyways, you can’t join, ‘cos I said so.”


“Oh all right, what’s your name?”

This was a problem, because he didn’t have a name. Porcupines generally don’t. He couldn’t lie because he didn’t know how---porcupines didn’t do that, either. So he took out a quill from the few the porcupines had given him as a gift, and said, “I’ll poke you with this if you don’t let me in!”

The guard pulled out a sword and threatened to poke him, also. There went that plan. So he reached around and tapped the guard on the other shoulder, and the guard turned around, and he ran in.

The group decided to let him join anyway, since he was so determined, and obviously very talented. He went up in the world, and eventually became leader of this secret, aboveground group. He started a huge battle against the Franch, and even though he was outnumbered, he led them to victory. Through great danger, and through foreign lands, into Franchia, he led them, and still dominated. Encouraged by his success, and having nothing else to do with himself, he led another battle, but sadly, he was captured.

He was tortured, but he refused to give in to the enemy, so they killed him. Everyone got all upset, and in his honor, they went and kicked the Franch’s butts. They couldn’t exactly name anything after him, though, so that’s why no one remembers him today. The moral of the story is that even though a person can do a lot of good for his entire life, it doesn’t mean that anyone will care in 10 years. Some reward….