Hero With 1 000 Faces the Classic Hero Essay

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Hero with 1,000 Faces

The classic hero seems to teach us the value of humanity, while helping us strive for excellence by understanding the value of the experiences rendered through intuition, emotions, and often feelings that are special to the hero -- often rather than logical reasoning. The paradigm of heroism transcends genre, chronology and has become so common in the human collective consciousness that it is easily recognized and repeated (Campbell).

One very interesting aspect of the human experience is the manner in which certain themes appear again and again over time, in literature, religion, mythology, and culture -- regardless of the geographic location, the economic status, and the time period. Perhaps it is the innate human need to explain and explore the known and unknown, but to have disparate cultures in time and location find ways of explaining certain principles in such similar manner leads one to believe that there is perhaps more to myth and ritual than simple repetition of archetypal themes. In a sense, then, to acculturate the future, we must re-craft the past, and the way that seems to happen is in the synergism of myth and ritual as expressed in a variety of forms (Bittarello)


Joseph Campbell, as we have noted, believed that while myth survived all these years to reflect societal organization, contemporary society can benefit by using myth to uncover deeper psychological truths about oneself. Thus, the way ritual and myth define the individual and the group allow humans the nature to reinvent, to critique, and above all -- to grow and learn:

The modern hero, the modern individual who dares to heed the call and seek the mansion of that prescience with whom is our whole destiny to be atoned, indeed, must not wait for his community to case off its slough of pride, fear, rationalized avarice, and sanctified misunderstanding. "Live," Nietzsche says, "as though the day were here." (Campbell, 2003, 199).

In many stories, there are several archetypes of behavior. It is quite interesting to note that certain themes are repetitive -- they appear again and again over time in literature, art, music, religion and culture irrespective of the time period of the geographical location (Bittarello, 2008). This mythological paradigm is so engrained in popular culture that television, print, and motion pictures focus on these focal themes regardless of the genre, and push normative values with which people can identify (Voytilla).

Modern Heroes

There are numerous examples of these archetypes in recent mythologically-based stories. We have the Jedi Knights in Star Wars, the numerous permutations of heroes and villains from comic book classics. Three popular heroes who are undergoing testing and an ultimate question, though, are Harry Potter from the series of the same name, Bilbo Baggins from the Lord of the Rings series, and especially the upcoming Hobbit, and Jen from the classic Dark Crystal. The Dark Crystal was a 1982 fantasy film directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz of Muppet fame. The story surrounds Jen, and elflike "Gelfing" to must undergo a question to return a lost shard to a broken gemstone in order to bring balance back to his world (Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal). Bilbo Baggins is the protagonist in The Hobbit and a supporting character in the rest of the Lord of the Ring Cycle, written by J.R.R. Tolkien and subsequently adapted for the movie screen by Peter Jackson (Bilbo Baggins). Harry Potter is the title character of the seven book series by J.K. Rowling (Duriez). Similar in many ways, dissimilar in age, species and even planet, these three characters nevertheless undergo both a personal evolution during their journey and become heroic in their selfless determination to help others. We can think of this as the hero's journey which begins with a call to adventure, moves through challenges during which a personal transformation takes place, to finally a return, usually through some divine intervention or the power of good (See Figure 1).

The Father Figure

For Joseph Campbell, the hero's journey, or monomyth, is a basic pattern for a number of global narratives. Not only do these patterns appear to organize the stories, they also allow us to see how humans share structure and commonality through the ages. The idea of the father is that the protagonist must confront the nature of their "father" or "father symbol" in order to move forward. Campbell…[continue]

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