Once upon a time, there was a hero.

Source: Shanta Rohse "Der Frieder und das Katherlieschen"
Source: Shanta Rohse “Der Frieder und das Katherlieschen”

(S)he lived in a world where things weren’t perfect, but they were livable. Then something happened to change all that. At first (s)he denied it. Then someone convinced the hero otherwise. (S)he set off to do something. Things challenged the hero along the way. Eventually, (s)he got to the destination and faced the big ordeal, which was of utmost psychological significance to the hero. (S)he got something in return and went on with life, but it was never the same.

Sound familiar?

It should because, according to the monomyth theory, it’s basically the plot of every story, campfire tale, bard song, book, movie, and plot-based video game ever created since the dawn of humans.

Here’s the basic story progression:

  1. Ordinary World
  2. Call to Adventure
  3. Refusal of Call
  4. Help from Mentor
  5. Crossing First Threshold
  6. Tests, Allies, Enemies
  7. Approach to Innermost Cave
  8. Supreme Ordeal
  9. Reward
  10. Road Back
  11. Resurrection
  12. Return with Elixir
Sweet Star Wars stairwell! Source: River Seal Band on Flickr.
Sweet Star Wars stairwell! Source: River Seal Band on Flickr.

George Lucas was an avid fan of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, which detailed this story recipe. You see it in play in the first Star Wars movie:

  1. Call to Adventure: “Help me … You’re my only hope.”
  2. Refusal of Call: Luke says no. Granted #3 and #4 are switched from the norm, but the order isn’t set in stone.
  3. Help from Mentor: Luke meets Obi-Wan.
  4. Crossing First Threshold: His foster parents are killed.
  5. Tests, Allies, Enemies: Luke blasts out, meets Hans and Chewie, and fights Storm Troopers.
  6. Approach to Innermost Cave: He’s sucked into the Death Star.
  7. Supreme Ordeal: Luke rescues Lea.
  8. Reward: He takes Lea back with him.
  9. Road Back: They escape the Dark Star assault.
  10. Resurrection: Luke returns to the hangar.
  11. Return with Elixir: Luke and his companions are honored in a ceremony.

So, here’s the big question:

Can you chart your life’s journey on this outline?

Or if you’re not ready for that leap yet, how about your favorite book, game, or movie? Feel free to note your musings in the comments.

And if you’re a writer, happy-hour philosopher, or just find this subject interesting, I highly recommend Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s With a Thousand Faces and his PBS interviews, The Power of Myth (online, Netflix streaming, etc.).

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