THE HERO'S JOURNEY MEME
There is pattern in many stories. Many center around the concept of the hero himself, and his path into the unknown, for either something he has to save or as a form of growth, in what Joseph Cambell studied and defined in his book The Hero of a Thousand Faces as the Monomyth, a classic sequence of events that follow the hero or heroines and their similarities with the human experience.
All steps in the heroes journey are all able to be repeated, mixed, or even skipped over, in events that can be roughly categorized as forms of departure, initiation, and return.
Much like all memes, events can be either chosen or randomized through 1-3 and then 1-6, at the players’ choice, as portions of a story they might want to tell.
① The Call to Adventure
② Refusal of the Call
③ Acceptance of the Call
④ Supernatural Aid
⑤ Crossing the Threshold
⑥ Belly of the Whale
① The Road of Trials
② The Meeting with the Goddess
③ Woman as Temptress
④ Atonement with the Father
⑥ The Ultimate Boon
① Refusal of the Return
② The Magic Flight
③ Rescue from Without
④ The Crossing of the Return Threshold
⑤ Master of Two Worlds
⑥ Freedom to Live
1) The Call to Adventure
From whatever home or known world the hero lives in, stories begin with a calling, either internal or external, towards a new land, a new world, to fulfill a task or to simply know.
The call takes many forms: An old master coming to request help from a new student, the possibility of a better life in another land, or a need to prove oneself or to others, people receive the request, to either accept it...
2) Refusal of the Call
… or reject it. Much like the Buddha was horrified upon witnessing the aging man, the sick man, and the dead man, there may be a moment in which the person rejects the call, terrified of the great unknown, and the choices become clear: Either reject the call, and return to the life that is, or go deep into the rabbit hole.
3) Acceptance of the Call
However, there might be a reason the hero accepts, either by choice or by having his hand forced by events outside of his control, in which the hero ultimately begins. It may be a desire for knowledge, a desire for treasure, a desire to find something he has felt missing his entire life, or in a quest to simply survive as he realizes there is little left for him, the hero accepts the call to adventure.
4) Supernatural Aid
Among the ways in which a potential hero is called, and accepts the quest either consciously or subconsciously, is by something, or someone, coming to aid the hero in his new path. With knowledge, luck, a talisman, a weapon, a tool, or even the mentor himself, the hero is given the aid he needs for the perils ahead, preparing for the great unknown.
5) Crossing the Threshold
The hero leaves his home and the known, and ventures into the world that was alien to him. He may have to face somebody protecting the barrier between both worlds, wanting to keep the hero inside of his known world, but once he crosses that threshold, there is a new world waiting for him...
6) Belly of the Whale
Akin to Jonah inside the whale, or a knight into a dragon's lair, the hero enters the zone of danger, the definitive moment in which he is forced to evolve, and to which there is no return to the person that he was. For either a path to heroism, or a path to darkness and death.
1) The Road of Trials
The path ahead is fraught with peril. There are many dangers beyond the home of the adventurer. From bandits roaming the countryside, to the great soldiers of the tyrant, to dragons and beasts of many mythological tales that will stand in the way of the journey, either with an enemy the hero is far too familiar with such as in the case of the Brother Battle, or a great enemy to destroy akin to the Dragon Battle, both necessary for the survival and growth of the hero.
2) The Meeting with the Goddess
Not everything outside of the known world is misery. On the path, the hero might be able to find a loved one that could grant him support, synergy, or a bond, something that will make him whole. As either an ordinary person, or a supernatural being, this becomes part of the hero, as someone powerful that symbolizes creation, birth, and nurture.
3) Woman as Temptress
And yet, the world offers its temptations as well. Unlike what the name says, not necessarily in the form of a woman. The hero might be tempted for great riches, for a position of tyranny, for a false way to succeed his journey. Much like how the devil presented himself to Jesus in his days in the desert, these temptations can be intentional or unintentional, something the hero will have to go through, or else fail in his mission.
4) Atonement with the Father
Popularized in Star Wars through Darth Vader, the hero might face a ‘father figure’, either in person or as an idea, to be persuaded, to gain his approval of, or to be defeated. This can be for several reasons, to either become the master himself, to be allowed to go into a higher plane of existence, or to take his power.
The becoming of a god. It is no longer the person that walked out of his home, but a powerful being that has become greater for his experiences, and can now face all dangers and foes that come against him, after a death and rebirth through the perilous journey.
There is no more need to be afraid. Now it is the turn of the hero's enemies to fear him.
6) The Ultimate Boon
After everything that has happened, the hero achieves his mission. After all trials, the ultimate villain might have been defeated, the great treasure might have been found, or finally learn the lesson the hero had for so long wanted to understand.
Often done at the climax of the story, this is when everything the hero has worked for has reached its conclusion.
1) Refusal of the Return
After hours, days, months, or perhaps years in that strange world, one might have decided he does not want to leave. Much like the beginning of the journey, perhaps it is fear of what kind of world will the hero return to, perhaps there is something the hero is attached to that he does not want to leave the new world for, or the hero might choose instead to continue his adventures.
2) The Magic Flight
The homeward journey. Either as a mad dash back home, or as a calm path to see everything that the hero went through, the hero might be in danger of losing of the boons he gained in his journey, there might be something that saves him from a great peril at the end of the adventure, or instead simply wanders back home, finally getting to rest.
3) Rescue from Without
The hero is rescued from a final plight from an unexpected source. Either as somebody saving the hero during the magic flight or during the hero’s darkest hour, it may not even be something that intended to save him. Such as how Gollum fought with Frodo and unwittingly destroyed the ring, or Han Solo came to aid Luke at the last moment, this is one more point where the hero might need help.
4) The Crossing of the Return Threshold
Home sweet home. But what did you return to? Would people recognize you? The hero finally returns to the known world, finally to the safety of his home, to either finally rest or save it from another threat, just as he sees how the world he once knew changed during his time away.
5) Master of Two Worlds
Having completed the journey, the hero now knows both worlds, and can now cross the threshold without further trial. Both his home and the alien outside are familiar, having overcome his fears, becoming a ruler or a teacher, either as the paragon for those to follow, or as somebody that knows the dangers, cruelties, and responsibilities of everything inside and outside of the known world.
6) Freedom to Live
The knowledge of the outside world, more than any treasure he gains in his quest, becomes what separates the hero that returned from the people of his land. With it, he instead lives the way he chooses, either to spend their time in solitude, to begin another journey in time, to rule over the land...
Or, as it is often the case, instruct the next generation, whose task will be to live in here, and perhaps begin the hero cycle anew.