I begin with a short review of the Monomyth courtesy of Wikipedia:
The Hero’s Journey, also referred to as the Monomyth, is an idea formulated by noted mythologist Joseph Campbell. The central concept of the Monomyth is that a pattern can be seen in stories and myths across history. Campbell defined and explained that pattern in his book THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES.
Campbell’s insight was that important myths from around the world which have survived for thousands of years, all share a fundamental structure. This fundamental structure contains a number of stages.
- The call to adventure, which the hero has to accept or decline.
- Next, there is the road of trials, where the hero succeeds or fails.
- Achieving the goal or “boon,” which often results in important self-knowledge.
- A return to the ordinary world, which again, the hero can either succeed or fail.
- Application of the boon, what the hero has gained can be used to improve the world.
Now it’s up to the individual writer to refine and expanded the hero’s journey. When this methodology is put to use by creative and talented writers, the formula appears work every single time. I have a personal soft spot for the reluctant hero/heroine. The one who either believes he/she is unworthy or that he/she is not strong enough, bright enough or whatever enough to take on such a monumental task/adventure.
Luke Skywalker is the iconic, contemporary reluctant hero. In fact, this entire exercise into the hero’s journey was originally undertaken by George Lucas, who used THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES Monomyth to help him write his screenplay for Star Wars.
Ah, but what about Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit? And Frodo Baggins, who continues the quest in LORD OF THE RINGS. Elliot in E.T. ran the gamut from reluctant young hero to enthusiastic defender of the cutest alien in the entire universe. Even Chief Martin Brody, the ocean-phobic, city cop in JAWS, is a wonderful example of the reluctant hero.
And I couldn’t leave out everyone’s favorite young magician, Harry Potter.
The female brand of heroism can also take on a similar role to her masculine counterpart. Alice, an early Victorian adventuress, fell down a rabbit hole on a curiouser and curiouser journey through Wonderland. Moll Flanders, was a thief, a wife, a mother, a whore and much more. Quite, an adventure, in my book. No, actually, that was Daniel DeFoe’s book.
The iconic modern female adventure/heroine has a tendency to be either a seer or spell-caster with powers, a vampire slayer or a gun-toting-latex-jumpsuit-wearing-karate-chopping-freelance-archeologist. What exactly is Lara Croft, anyway?
So thrill me. Who are some of your favorite heroes and heroines? Please share, I would love to know, really I would.
G. Jillian Stone
There are fields in time that burn with desire. Meet me there.
Jillian is a recent RWA Golden Heart finalist for THE YARD MAN, the first story in The Yard Men Series. Set in late Victorian London, Scotland Yard detectives have never been as wickedly sexy or as brilliantly clever. To read more about her latest work in progress, THE SEDUCTION OF PHAETON BLACK, please drop by her website: www.gjillianstone.com