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  • The Hero's Journey


    Glove and Boots explain Joseph Campbell's famous theory about the Hero's Journey.

    The Hero's Journey in 12 steps

    Also called "the monomyth", it involves 12 steps or stages along which the hero travels. These can be organised into 3 "acts".


    1st act: Departure and separation from the known world. In brief, the Hero is living in the so-called “ordinary world” when they receive a call to adventure. Usually, the Hero is unsure of following this call—known as the “refusal of the call”—but is then helped by a mentor figure, who gives them counsel and convinces them to follow the call.

    1. The Ordinary World. The story starts here. This is the place where we meet our Hero. It's up to the opening to set the stage, introducing the Hero to readers.
    2. Call to adventure. Here we kick the Hero out of their comfort zones. They're confronted with a problem or challenge they can't ignore.
    3. Refusal of the call. The Hero might first refuse the call to adventure. There are going to be risks involved, enough to stop and think about. This must be accepted or you have no story.
    4. Meeting the mentor. The Hero decides to accept the call and go on the adventure. But they're not ready yet because of inexperience. At this point, the Hero meets a mentor to guide them.


    2nd act: Initiation into the special, unknown world.

    In the initiation section, the Hero enters the special world, where they face a series of tasks until he reaches the climax of the story: the main obstacle or enemy. Here, the Hero must put into practice everything they've learned on the journey to overcome the obstacle. Campbell talks about the Hero winning some kind of prize for their troubles. This can be a physical token or “elixir”, or just good, old-fashioned wisdom. (Or both.)

    1. Crossing the threshold. Marking the end of the Departure stage, this is when our adventure really kicks into a higher gear. From this point onward, there's no turning back.
    2. Tests, allies, enemies. This stage often expands the cast of characters. Once the Hero is in the unknown world, he will meet friends and enemies. Or enemies that turn out to be friends and vice versa. Our Hero discovers this through trials and failures.
    3. Approach to the inmost cave. The "inmost cave" refers to the most dangerous place in the unknown world. Usually, this is where the ultimate goal of the adventure is located. This can be the antagonist's evil lair.
    4. The ordeal. The Hero must now confront their greatest fear, the shadow self, or even death. If they survive it, they will emerge transformed, reborn, or having gained new skills. This is the most critical moment in the story.
    5. Reward and revelation. The Hero's been through a lot. And now their perseverance is rewarded. Our Hero receives the object or knowledge they've fought for throughout this entire journey. Sometimes this is stage is also called "seizing the sword."


    3rd act: return to the known world. Feeling like they are ready to go back to the world, the Hero must now leave. Once back in the ordinary world, they undergo a personal metamorphosis in the realisation of how the adventure has changed them as a person.

    1. The road back. Our Hero has the reward, but the story isn't over yet. They still need to return to the known world. There can still be dangers on the road back.
    2. Resurrection. This is the true climax of the story. Everything that happened prior to this stage culminates in one final, crowning test for the Hero.
    3. Return with elixir. Finally, the Hero gets to return home. However, they return as a different, changed person than when they started out. They've grown and matured as a result of their journey.


    This framework appears in many known stories. I'm sure you'll know at least a couple of them.

    • Aladdin
    • Avatar
    • E.T.
    • Finding Nemo
    • Harry Potter
    • Hobbit, The
    • Jane Eyre
    • Jumanji
    • Lion King, The
    • Lords of the Rings, The
    • Matrix, The
    • Moby Dick
    • Oddysey, The
    • Rocky
    • Star Wars
    • Spiderman
    • To kill a mockingbird
    • Wizard of Oz, The

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