Harry Potter, Moana, Frodo Baggins, Katniss Everdeen, Hercules, Steve Rogers.
They all left home after receiving a call to adventure. They passed a threshold into the unknown where they met a mentor. They journeyed into the belly of the beast where they were transformed. They returned home a hero.
All these stories follow the same formula laid out by Joseph Campbell in his lifetime’s work studying the myths of cultures since the beginning of time. He calls this formula “The Hero’s Journey.”
Even the life of Jesus Christ follows the hero’s journey. While I believe He is the one true myth, there’s no denying his life follows the same arch and lays a foundation upon which many modern stories are built.
Take the story of Luke Skywalker for instance. Not only does he follow the hero’s arch but for him it goes a step further. George Lucas perfected the Star Wars story after reading Campbell’s “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.” Lucas openly says that Luke’s adventure follows every step of the hero’s journey, one much more detailed than I laid out above. One only needs to rewatch A New Hope to see every step. The cycle then repeats itself in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi only to be repeated again by Rey in The Force Awakens.
I enjoyed this book a lot and since completing it three weeks ago I’m having a hard time watching or reading any fictional story without seeing it through the eyes of Joseph Campbell. His analysis of historical storytelling has influenced every current story told. It’s all the same journey.
I cannot say I recommend this book to everyone because many of you won’t find it fascinating. I certainly recommend it to all writers, lovers of fiction and especially, Star Wars fans. Just Google “George Lucas and Joseph Campbell” and you will understand why.
Lastly, this book is a transcript of Campbell’s interview with Bill Moyers a couple years before his death. You can find the whole interview on YouTube and Audible. It’s a really good listen.