Filmmaking Lifestyle

Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey: The Definitive Guide

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey is a timeless blueprint that’s shaped storytelling across cultures and eras.

It’s a narrative pattern that guides our favorite heroes from humble beginnings to epic triumphs.

We’ll explore how this framework resonates in everything from ancient myths to modern blockbusters.

Get ready to uncover the stages that make characters’ adventures universally compelling.

Joseph campbells heros journey

Who was joseph campbell.

Joseph Campbell (March 26, 1904 – October 30, 1987) was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion.

His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience.

He wrote and spoke about religion, mythology, paleontology, archaeology, literature, philosophy, anthropology, science, and psychology.

As a scholar he influenced a generation of modernist writers and thinkers.

Campbell’s work covers many different aspects of the human experience.

The Hero’s Journey: A Timeless Blueprint

The Hero’s Journey, conceptualized by Joseph Campbell, isn’t just a literary tool – it’s the backbone of countless storytelling traditions.

It has enabled writers and filmmakers to craft narratives that resonate deeply with audiences, regardless of cultural or temporal divides.

The familiarity of the journey’s pattern provides a comforting predictability that, paradoxically, allows for incredible creativity within its framework.

When we observe the Hero’s Journey in action, we can break down the narrative into several key stages.

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Characters are first introduced in their ordinary world, then called to adventure and plunged into an entirely new and often hazardous domain.

The subsequent trials and revelations that they undergo help shape their character arcs and keep viewers and readers fully engaged.

Films like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings have become timeless by employing this narrative structure.

In dissecting these iconic tales, one can clearly identify the crucial checkpoints of the Hero’s Journey such as the meeting with the mentor, the ordeal, and the eventual transformation.

Our connection to these films is no accident – the mastery of the journey’s blueprint in their storylines speaks directly to our collective unconscious.

This narrative device is also a critical tool for us in filmmaking.

Not only can it guide scriptwriting and character development, but it influences casting, cinematography, and editing too.

  • Scriptwriting – aligning the plot to the stages of the journey ensures a solid narrative structure,
  • Casting – selecting actors who can authentically embody the hero’s evolving persona,
  • Cinematography and Editing – creating visuals and transitions that reflect the hero’s internal and external journeys.

By embracing the Hero’s Journey, we craft stories that are not only compelling but also strike the same mythic chords that have echoed throughout human history.

It’s our pathway to creating works that linger in hearts and memories long after the credits roll.

Understanding The Narrative Pattern

Understanding the narrative pattern of the Hero’s Journey helps us grasp why some stories stick with us long after the credits roll.

It’s not just about a sequence of events – it’s about a deep structure resonating with the human psyche.

The narrative unfolds typically across twelve stages, though some adaptations may vary.

These stages can be distilled into three distinct acts – the Departure, where the hero leaves the ordinary world; the Initiation, featuring trials and growth; and the Return, where the hero comes back transformed.

Each stage serves a unique purpose in forwarding the story and the character’s development.

Let’s look at a few:

  • The Ordinary World – Here, the hero is introduced in their regular life.
  • The Call to Adventure – Something disrupts the hero’s routine.
  • Refusal of the Call – The hero hesitates to take on the challenge.
  • Meeting the Mentor – Guidance is provided to the hero.
  • Crossing the Threshold – The hero fully enters the new world of adventure.

Filmmakers apply these steps thoughtfully to produce unforgettable journeys.

For instance, films like The Matrix and Harry Potter thrive on this formula, ensuring audiences see parts of themselves in the heroes they admire.

By recognizing these patterns, we’re better positioned to construct our narratives or analyze those we find particularly compelling.

In doing so, we gain a clearer understanding of the magic woven into the fabric of classic and contemporary tales.

Uncovering The Stages Of The Hero’s Adventure

As we jump deeper into the heart of Joseph Campbell’s model, it’s essential to break down the Hero’s Journey into digestible segments.

These stages form a framework that artists have employed to craft some of the most compelling narratives in cinema.

Departure Act

The Departure Act marks the beginning of the Hero’s journey.

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Here, call to adventure propels the protagonist into a world beyond their familiar boundaries.

  • The Ordinary World – establishes the hero’s normal life,
  • Call to Adventure – offers the initial spark for change,
  • Refusal of the Call – highlights the hero’s reluctance,
  • Meeting with the Mentor – provides guidance for the journey,
  • Crossing the First Threshold – marks the hero’s commitment to the adventure.

Initiation Act

The Initiation Act, often the bulk of the journey, thrusts the hero into trials and tribulations.

Challenges faced here are pivotal for growth and transformation.

  • Tests, Allies, and Enemies – reveals the complexities of the new world,
  • Approach to the Inmost Cave – signifies preparation for the central ordeal,
  • Ordeal – tests the hero’s resolve in a fierce confrontation,
  • Reward – confers an achievement or object of great value.

hero's journey joseph campbell video

From Ancient Myths To Modern Blockbusters: How The Hero’s Journey Resonates

When we jump into the motifs of ancient myths, we uncover the timeless structure of the Hero’s Journey that continues to echo through modern cinema.

Films such as Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings have their foundations steeped in the classic stages of Joseph Campbell’s narrative framework.

Our fascination with heroic tales is not merely a cultural coincidence.

Instead, it’s deeply rooted in our collective psyche – propelling narratives from mere stories to profound journeys that mirror our own lives.

Blockbusters continue to draw on the Hero’s Journey for a very compelling reason – the universality of its theme.

Whether it’s the longing for adventure or the ultimate triumph over adversities, these stories tap into a shared human experience.

While the settings and characters change, the core stages of the Hero’s Journey remain as relevant in today’s stories as they were centuries ago.

As storytellers, we find a powerful ally in this narrative arc:

  • Character development that fosters an emotional connection with the audience,
  • Plot progressions that feel both exciting and familiar.

Our ability to reinvent and reimagine these stages keeps the Hero’s Journey fresh yet recognizable.

Heroes may falter and stray, but their stories will always find resonance with us, making their final return something we can all aspire to.

The Hero’s Journey isn’t just a template for crafting narratives; it’s a master key.

It unlocks the doors for us to create compelling, deep, and wide-reaching stories that span cultures and time periods.

The Compelling Nature Of Characters’ Adventures

The allure of the Hero’s Journey isn’t just in its structure; it’s deeply embedded in the characters we meet and the adventures they embark upon.

These are not just mere escapades; they are reflections of our own life’s quests.

Through their trials and triumphs, we see parts of ourselves, making their journey our journey.

Characters crafted on the bones of the Hero’s Journey reveal much about human nature and our eternal quest for meaning.

Whether it’s Luke Skywalker wrestling with his destiny in Star Wars or Dorothy seeking her way home in The Wizard of Oz , the narrative digs deep into the psyche, revealing universal truths through personal trials.

By taking note of these pivotal elements –

  • Transformation,
  • Inner conflicts,
  • Mentorship,
  • Ultimate boon.

We grasp the essence of why these stories resonate with us so profoundly.

It’s not merely the victory of the heroes that we celebrate; it’s their entire journey, marked by growth, resilience, and the human spirit’s indefatigable quest for a better self.

The immersion into fantastical worlds, whether it’s the expansive universe of The Lord of the Rings or the intricate politics and family drama of Game of Thrones , invites us to lose ourselves in stories that feel both incredibly distant yet intensely personal.

In witnessing the characters’ adventures unfold, we’re reminded of our potential for greatness in the face of adversity.

We’re not just passive observers; we’re participants in an emotional odyssey, rooting for characters as they make difficult choices that will forever change their worlds and ours.

Their journey becomes a mirror, and in that mirror, we catch glimpses of who we are and who we might become.

Joseph Campbells Heros Journey – Wrap Up

We’ve explored the depths of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey and discovered its timeless impact on storytelling.

This narrative structure isn’t just a tool for writers; it’s a lens through which we view our own lives.

Our fascination with these tales stems from their universal appeal—they echo the very essence of the human experience.

By identifying with the hero’s trials and transformations, we’re inspired to embark on our personal quests.

As storytellers, we wield the power to craft narratives that not only entertain but also enlighten, offering a reflection of our collective journey.

The Hero’s Journey continues to guide us, proving that at the heart of every great story lies the potential for connection and growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the hero’s journey.

The Hero’s Journey is a narrative structure that outlines a hero’s adventure and transformation through a series of stages.

It is divided into three acts: Departure, Initiation, and Return.

How Does The Hero’s Journey Influence Storytelling?

The Hero’s Journey serves as a blueprint for storytelling, resonating with human emotions and creating cinematic experiences that stick with audiences across different cultures and time periods.

What Are The Three Acts Of The Hero’s Journey?

The three acts are Departure, where the hero leaves the ordinary world; Initiation, where the hero faces trials and gains wisdom; and Return, where the hero comes back, often with something beneficial for their community.

Why Do Stories Following The Hero’s Journey Resonate With Audiences?

These stories tap into our collective psyche and reflect shared human experiences, such as growth, resilience, and the quest for self-improvement, making them universally compelling.

What Makes A Character’s Development In The Hero’s Journey Impactful?

Character development is impactful because it showcases a transformation that includes overcoming inner conflicts, learning from mentors, and enduring trials, which mirrors our own life’s quests.

How Does The Hero’s Journey Impact The Audience?

The audience participates emotionally, rooting for the characters as they encounter hardships and make choices that lead to personal growth and transformation, reflecting our own potential for greatness.

Best Jump Scare Movies: 20 Super Jumpy Movies

Shooting In The Rain: The Filmmaker's Definitive Guide

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Matt Crawford

Related posts, antonomasia in writing: definition & usage, what are frame narratives: a guide to stories within stories, what is psittacism in writing: its impact & avoidance, script dialogue formatting: master the basics fast [ultimate guide], what is metasemantic poetry ultimate guide [with examples], what is mystery fiction a writer’s guide to crafting suspense, leave a reply cancel reply.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

Username or Email Address

Remember Me

Registration is closed.

Pin It on Pinterest

hero's journey joseph campbell video

hero's journey joseph campbell video

  • Rent or buy
  • Categories Categories
  • Getting Started

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Joseph Campbell: The Hero's Journey

Customers also watched.

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Other formats

151 global ratings

How are ratings calculated? Toggle Expand Toggle Expand

  • Amazon Newsletter
  • About Amazon
  • Accessibility
  • Sustainability
  • Press Center
  • Investor Relations
  • Amazon Devices
  • Amazon Science
  • Sell on Amazon
  • Sell apps on Amazon
  • Supply to Amazon
  • Protect & Build Your Brand
  • Become an Affiliate
  • Become a Delivery Driver
  • Start a Package Delivery Business
  • Advertise Your Products
  • Self-Publish with Us
  • Become an Amazon Hub Partner
  • › See More Ways to Make Money
  • Amazon Visa
  • Amazon Store Card
  • Amazon Secured Card
  • Amazon Business Card
  • Shop with Points
  • Credit Card Marketplace
  • Reload Your Balance
  • Amazon Currency Converter
  • Your Account
  • Your Orders
  • Shipping Rates & Policies
  • Amazon Prime
  • Returns & Replacements
  • Manage Your Content and Devices
  • Recalls and Product Safety Alerts
  • Conditions of Use
  • Privacy Notice
  • Consumer Health Data Privacy Disclosure
  • Your Ads Privacy Choices
  • Mental Health

Want to Give Your Life More Meaning? Think of It As a ‘Hero’s Journey’

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Y ou might not think you have much in common with Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, or Katniss Everdeen. But imagining yourself as the main character of a heroic adventure could help you achieve a more meaningful life.

Research published earlier this year in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology touts the benefits of reframing your life as a Hero’s Journey—a common story structure popularized by the mythologist Joseph Campbell that provides a template for ancient myths and recent blockbusters. In his 1949 book The Hero with a Thousand Faces , Campbell details the structure of the journey, which he describes as a monomyth. In its most elementary form, a hero goes on an adventure, emerges victorious from a defining crisis, and then returns home changed for the better.

“The idea is that there’s a hero of some sort who experiences a change of setting, which could mean being sent off to a magical realm or entering a new thing they’re not used to,” says study author Benjamin A. Rogers, an assistant professor of management and organization at Boston College. “That sets them off on a quest where they encounter friends and mentors, face challenges, and return home to benefit their community with what they’ve learned.”

According to Rogers’ findings, perceiving your life as a Hero’s Journey is associated with psychological benefits such as enhanced well-being, greater life satisfaction, feeling like you’re flourishing, and reduced depression. “The way that people tell their life story shapes how meaningful their lives feel,” he says. “And you don’t have to live a super heroic life or be a person of adventure—virtually anyone can rewrite their story as a Hero’s Journey.”

More From TIME

The human brain is wired for stories, Rogers notes, and we respond to them in powerful ways. Previous research suggests that by the time we’re in our early 20s, most of us have constructed a narrative identity—an internalized and evolving life story—that explains how we became the person we are, and where our life might go in the future. “This is how we've been communicating and understanding ourselves for thousands of years,” he says. Rogers’ research suggests that if people view their own story as following a Hero’s Journey trajectory, it increases meaning regardless of how they initially perceived their lives; even those who thought their lives had little meaning are able to benefit.

While Rogers describes a “re-storying intervention” in his research, some psychologists have used the Hero’s Journey structure as part of their practice for years. Lou Ursa, a licensed psychotherapist in California, attended Pacifica Graduate Institute, which is the only doctoral program in the country focused on mythology. The university even, she notes, houses Campbell’s personal library. As a result, mythology was heavily integrated into her psychology grad program. In addition to reflecting on what the Hero’s Journey means to her personally, she often brings it up with clients. “The way I talk about it is almost like an eagle-eye view versus a snake-eye view of our lives,” she says. “So often we’re just seeing what’s in front of us. I think that connecting with a myth or a story, whether it’s the Hero’s Journey or something else, can help us see the whole picture, especially when we’re feeling lost or stuck.”

As Rogers’ research suggests, changing the way you think about the events of your life can help you move toward a more positive attitude. With that in mind, we asked experts how to start reframing your life story as a Hero’s Journey.

Practice reflective journaling

Campbell described more than a dozen key elements of a Hero’s Journey, seven of which Rogers explored in his research: protagonist, shift, quest, allies, challenge, transformation, and legacy. He says reflecting on these aspects of your story—even if it’s just writing a few sentences down—can be an ideal first step to reframe your circumstances. Rogers offers a handful of prompts that relate back to the seven key elements of a Hero’s Journey. To drill in on “protagonist,” for example, ask yourself: What makes you you ? Spend time reflecting on your identity, personality, and core values. When you turn to “shift,” consider: What change or new experience prompted your journey to become who you are today? Then ponder what challenges stand in your way, and which allies can support or help you in your journey. You can also meditate on the legacy your journey might leave.

Ask yourself who would star in the movie of your life

One way to assess your inner voice is to figure out who would star in a movie about your life, says Nancy Irwin, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles who employs the Hero’s Journey concept personally and professionally. Doing so can help us “sufficiently dissociate and see ourselves objectively rather than subjectively,” she says. Pay attention to what appeals to you about that person: What traits do they embody that you identify with? You might, for example, admire the person’s passion, resilience, or commitment to excellence. “They inspire us because there’s some quality that we identify with,” Irwin says. “Remember, you chose them because you have that quality yourself.” Keeping that in mind can help you begin to see yourself as the hero of your own story.

Go on more heroic adventures—or just try something new

In classic Hero’s Journey stories, the protagonist starts off afraid and refuses a call to adventure before overcoming his fears and committing to the journey. Think of Odysseus being called to fight the Trojans, but refusing the call because he doesn’t want to leave his family. Or consider Rocky Balboa: When he was given the chance to fight the world’s reigning heavyweight champion, he immediately said no—before ultimately, of course, accepting the challenge. The narrative has proven timeless because it “reflects the values of society,” Rogers says. “We like people who have new experiences and grow from their challenges.” 

He suggests asking yourself: “If I want to have a more meaningful life, what are the kinds of things I could do?” One possible avenue is seeking out novelty, whether that’s as simple as driving a new way home from work or as dramatic as finally selling your car entirely and committing to public transportation.

Be open to redirection

The Hero’s Journey typically starts with a mission, which prompts the protagonist to set off on a quest. “But often the road isn’t linear,” says Kristal DeSantis, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Austin. “There are twists, turns, unexpected obstacles, and side quests that get in the way. The lesson is to be open to possibility.”

That perspective can also help you flip the way you see obstacles. Say you’re going through a tough time: You just got laid off, or you were diagnosed with a chronic illness. Instead of dwelling on how unfortunate these hurdles are, consider them opportunities for growth and learning. Think to yourself: What would Harry do? Reframe the challenges you encounter as a chance to develop resilience and perseverance, and to be the hero of your own story.

When you need a boost, map out where you are on your journey

Once you find a narrative hero you can relate to, keep their journey in mind as you face new challenges. “If you feel stuck or lost, you can look to that story and be like, ‘Which part do I feel like I’m in right now?’” Ursa says. Maybe you’re in the midst of a test that feels so awful that you’ve lost perspective on its overall importance—i.e., the fact that it’s only part of your journey. (See: When Katniss was upset about the costume that Snow forced her to wear—before she then had to go fight off a pack of ferocious wolves to save her life.) Referencing a familiar story “can help you have that eagle-eye view of what might be next for you, or what you should be paying attention to,” Ursa says. “Stories become this map that we can always turn to.” Think of them as reassurance that a new chapter almost certainly awaits.

More Must-Reads From TIME

  • What Student Photojournalists Saw at the Campus Protests
  • How Far Trump Would Go
  • Why Maternity Care Is Underpaid
  • Saving Seconds Is Better Than Hours
  • Welcome to the Golden Age of Ryan Gosling
  • Scientists Are Finding Out Just How Toxic Your Stuff Is
  • The 100 Most Influential People of 2024
  • Want Weekly Recs on What to Watch, Read, and More? Sign Up for Worth Your Time

Contact us at [email protected]

Joseph Campbell's Hero Journey - Featured

  • Scriptwriting

Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey: A Better Screenplay in 17 Steps

  • What is a Scene
  • What is The Three Act Structure
  • What is Story Structure
  • What is a Story Beat
  • What Is a Plot
  • Plot vs Story
  • What is a Non-Linear Plot
  • What is a Plot Device
  • What is Freytag’s Pyramid
  • Screenplay Structure Examples
  • What is a Story Mountain
  • Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey
  • What is Save the Cat
  • Dan Harmon’s Story Circle
  • What is Aristotle’s Poetics
  • What is Exposition
  • What is an Inciting Incident
  • What is Rising Action
  • What is the Climax of a Story
  • What is the Falling Action
  • What is Denouement
  • How to Write the First Ten Pages of a Screenplay
  • Plot Structure Tools
  • The Ultimate Film Beat Sheet
  • Secrets to Great Exposition in Screenwriting
  • Writing Exposition in Film
  • Best Inciting Incident Examples
  • Examples of Midpoint In Movies
  • Write Your Script For Free

dds are that if you’ve had any interest in writing a script within the past fifty years you’ve heard of the Hero’s Journey. A writer you got drinks with swore by it, a film professor suggested you read about it.  Or you overheard the barista at your local coffee shop talking about how Die Hard is a picture-perfect template for it. But… what is it? I’ll explain all of the Hero’s Journey’s 17 steps and provide examples in the modern canon. Then you can kick writer’s block and get a strong script into the hands of agents and producers.

Watch: The Hero's Journey Explained

Subscribe for more filmmaking videos like this.

  • Call to Action
  • Refusal of Call
  • Supernatural Aid
  • Crossing The Threshold
  • Belly of the Whale
  • The Road of Trials
  • Meeting the Goddess
  • Atonement With the Father
  • The Ultimate Boon
  • Refusal of Return
  • Magic Flight
  • Rescue from Without
  • Crossing the Return Threshold
  • Master of Two Worlds
  • Freedom to Live

Hero’s Journey Examples

The Hero’s Journey - 17 Steps to Craft the Perfect Screenplay - Graphic

The monomyth featuring three of your favorite franchises!

The hero's journey begins, 1. call to action.

The Hero’s Journey - 17 Steps to Craft the Perfect Screenplay - Cell Phone

Adventure is calling. Will your hero pick up?

The initial step in the first act of the Hero’s Journey - known as the departure - is the “call to action." The Hero is beckoned to go on a journey. Think Frodo Baggins meeting Gandalf. Or the Owl inviting Harry Potter to Hogwarts. 

If having a tall wizard extend a hand may be a little too on the nose for you, don't worry. This comes in all forms. In   Citizen Kane , the mystery surrounding Charles Foster Kane’s final words is the call to action for the reporter, Jerry Thompson, to get to work.

The Hero Hesitates

2. refusal of call.

Next is the Hero’s “refusal of call.” The Hero initially balks at the idea of leaving their lives. The Shire is beautiful, after all, who wants to embark on a dangerous journey across the world? 

This refusal is typically because of a duty or obligation they have at home. Be it family, or work, it’s something our Hero cares deeply about. But, as pressure mounts, they eventually succumb and decide to leave with the help of “supernatural aid.”

The Hero Receives Assistance

3. supernatural aid.

Once the Hero has committed themselves to embarking on whatever that quest may be (keep in mind, a Hero’s Journey can apply to a modern, emotional story, as well), they receive “supernatural aid.”

Individuals give the Hero information or tools at the start of their journey to help their chances of completing the task. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it definitely wasn’t built alone. Every hero has a set of allies helping them get the job done. From Luke, Han, and Chewie to Harry, Ron, and Hermoine, these teams are iconic and nearly inseparable.

The tools provided come in handy as the Hero begins…

The Hero Commits

4. crossing the threshold.

Now the hero ventures into a new, unfamiliar world where the rules and dangers are unknown. They’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto, and that becomes evidently clear when monkeys start flying. 

This stage often requires a few examples to crystalize the change in environment from familiar to dangerous. The contrast is key to play up how ill-prepared they initially are.

The Hero is Challenged

5. belly of the whale.

Next thing you know, we're in “the belly of the whale.” The first point of real danger in the Hero’s Journey. Taken from the Biblical story of Jonah entering a literal whale’s belly, it’s here that the dangers we’ve been warned about are manifested into tangible characters. Like hungry Orcs with swords.

The Hero’s Journey - 17 Steps to Craft the Perfect Screenplay - Anicient

This is Jonah moments before actually being in the belly of the whale.

Now our Hero must make a decision to continue and, in turn, undergo a personal metamorphosis in the process. 

They will not be the same individual at the end of this tale as they were in the beginning.  This must be made clear while in the belly of the whale, as we enter Initiation, or act two. Which is the longest slice of the Hero’s Journey pie.

This part is filled with the most failure and risk, and ends with the climax. But first, it starts with... 

The Hero is Tested

6. the road of trials.

“Road of trials” is a set of three tests that the Hero must take. Usually they will fail at least one of these tests. This could be a montage. It could also be a series of obstacles leading to a smaller goal in the journey. 

Here is where the Hero learns to use his or her tools and allies while on their way to a...

The Great Advisor

7. meeting the goddess.

At this point in the monomyth, our Hero needs a break to adjust perspective and digest the ways they've changed. It’s here that they meet with an advisor, or a trusted individual, who will help them gain a better insight into the next steps of the journey. Frodo met with Galadriel, an elf who enlightened him with visions of potential futures.

The Hero’s Journey - 17 Steps to Craft the Perfect Screenplay - Harry Potter 3

This is Frodo meeting with the goddess

Luke met Leia, and the two formed of a bond of kinship, motivating them to commit more to their cause. This individual doesn’t have to be a woman, but whoever it is our hero will gain something from the wisdom they impart.

But no good deed goes unpunished, and as we reward our Heroes in storytelling, we must also tempt them to failure.

The Hero is Torn

8. temptation.

Much like “road of trials,” “temptation” is a test in the Hero’s Journey. It presents a set of, well… temptations... that our Hero must either overcome or avoid. These temptations pick and pull at the insecurities of the Hero. A microcosm can be found in our own everyday lives with the simple act of getting out of bed.

The temptation to stay in the cozy confines of our comforters (and comfort zones) can be strong and sometimes overwhelming. This must be manifested in our story with some type of a cheap way out. Or an opportunity to throw in the towel. Our Hero must decline and press forward, nobly facing danger.

A Moment of Catharsis

9. atonement with the father.

Once they’ve thrown away their temptations, the Hero enters the “atonement with the father.” This is always an emotional part of the Hero’s Journey. It's a point in the monomyth where our protagonist must confront an aspect of their character from act one that has been slowing them down.

Something that could be fatal to their journey in the coming climactic stages. While this is actuated as a confrontation with a male entity, it doesn’t have to be.

The point here is that the Hero finds within themselves a change from who they were into someone more capable. Harry has to reconcile with the loss of his father figure, Dumbledore. Now take on Voldemort alone, using the lessons he’s learned on the way. Just like Luke...and every other hero ever. This is the emotional climax of the story.

The Hero’s Journey - 17 Steps to Craft the Perfect Screenplay - Darth Vader

"Tell your sister... you were riiiiiiiiiight..."

Death of the hero, 10. apotheosis.

With a new sense of confidence and clarity we must then make our Hero deal with “apotheosis.” This is the stage of the Hero’s Journey where a greater perspective is achieved. Often embodied by a death of the Hero’s former self; where the old Frodo has died and the new one is born.  

But this is sometimes interpreted as a more “a-ha!” moment — a breakthrough that leads to the narrative’s climax. This, too, can be tied to the death of Dumbledore and Harry’s reconciliation with the loss. This step is usually the final motivator for the Hero, driving the story into...

THe Hero Victorious

11. the ultimate boon.

This monomyth step is the physical climax of the story. This is often considered the MacGuffin of a film — the physical object that drives our Hero’s motivation. But it's a MacGuffin, to use Hitchcock's famous term, because ultimately... it doesn't matter.

In  Pulp Fiction , we never find out what’s in the briefcase, but it’s the briefcase that led them on the wild journey. When we find out what “Rosebud” actually means, it simply forms a lynchpin to help us understand who Charles Foster Kane was. The mission is accomplished and the world can rest easy knowing that it is safe from evil.

The Hero's Journey Home

12. refusal of return.

Upon a successful completion of the Hero’s Journey, and a transformation into a different person, the Hero has a “refusal to return.” The Shire seems so boring now and the last thing Harry wants is to go back to that drawer under the stairs. 

And, oftentimes, the return can be just as dangerous. This is the beginning of the third act of Campbell’s Hero’s Journey (known as the Return) and, while shorter, should still contain conflict. Our next step is an opportunity for that...

The Hero Transported

13. magic flight.

This is the point in the Hero’s Journey where they must get out alive, often requiring the help of individuals they met along the way. Dorothy still has to get back to Kansas, the solution to which may seem like a leap of faith.  

The Hero’s Journey - 17 Steps to Craft the Perfect Screenplay - Birds

The eagles rescue from without with a magic flight to Frodo and friends

The hero's rescue, 14. rescue from without.

Bringing us to the “rescuers from without” point in the monomyth. Just because Frodo destroyed the one ring to rule them all doesn’t mean he gets a free ride back to the Shire. Remember those giant eagles we met a while back in act two? Well their back just in time!

Homeward Bound

15. crossing the return threshold.

Once the Hero is back home, it’s time to acknowledge their change in character. “Crossing the return threshold” is the stage in the monomyth where the hero has left the chaos of the outer world and return home.

But it's hard to adjust to the old world. Remember that scene where Frodo tried to enjoy a beer back at the shire? Hard to go back to normal when you essentially live with Dark Lord PTSD.

A Triumphant Return

16. master of two worlds.

The hero survived an adventure in the chaos realm, and now survives in the normal order realm. This makes him or her the master of two worlds. Not many people come back and live to tell the tale.  

The Hero’s Journey - 17 Steps to Craft the Perfect Screenplay - Darth Vader

Frodo and Gandalf wandering off into the sunset post accomplishing their mission

Plus which, throughout the story, they’ve become someone much more capable and resilient than they were in act one. They've learned lessons, and brought what they learned home with them. 

Whatever issues they may have had before embarking on this chaotic tale (often the ones preventing from taking the call to action) now pale in comparison with what they’ve been through.

It’s easier to deal with your annoying cousin, Dudley, after you’ve defeated Voldemort. This, in turn, leads to...

The New Status Quo

17. freedom to live.

In many ways the Hero's Journey is about death and rebirth. The story may manifest as the death of an aspect of character, and the birth of some new way of life. But the metaphor behind any story is one about mortality.

Change is constant. Hero's living through the Hero's Journey are models for us. Models that we can travers the constant change of existence, face our mortality, and continue. In a religious sense, and religions are all part of the monomyth, this is about the eternal spirit. 

Look no farther than the prayer of St. Francis to understand this final step in the Hero's quest. "It is in dying that we are born to eternal life." 

The Hero’s Journey - 17 Steps to Craft the Perfect Screenplay - Star Wars Yoda

The Hero’s Journey Concludes

Cinematic heroes.

The monomyth is practically ubiquitous in Hollywood. As you’ve read earlier, Harry Potter , Star Wars ,   Lord of the Rings ,  and   Citizen Kane all follow the Hero’s Journey. But, because this concept was built upon the foundations of major mythologies, it's truly a "tale as old as time." 

Because Campbell discovered the Hero's Journey. He didn't make it up. Neither did those older myths. He realized as an anthropologist, that every culture all around the globe had the same story beats in all their myths. 

Sure, some myths, and some movies, use 10 of the 17, or even just 5. But throughout human history, around the world, these story beats keep showing up. In cultures that had nothing to do with one another. 

The Hero's Journey is a concept innate to being human. 

And if remembering these 17 steps may seem a little daunting, fear not. Make sure to check out Dan Harmon's abridged 8-step variation of the Hero's Journey monomyth.  Same structure, just made more digestible.

Dan Harmon’s Story Circle 

Practically speaking, the Hero’s Journey is an excellent tool for structuring an outline in a clear and familiar way. It has the power to make your script much more powerful and emotionally resonant. 

It’s circular, allowing for repeat adventures (which works well if you're learning how to write a TV pilot ) and each aspect drives the hero to the next. From the Goddess, the Hero finds temptation. From reconciling with the father, the Hero is now prepared for the final boon.

Story Circle  •  8 Proven Steps to Better Stories

Using a Hero’s Journey worksheet can help you write a treatment or create a well-structured outline , which is a valuable tool for creating a strong first draft.

By putting in the 17 steps of the Hero’s Journey before building the outline, you can ensure that the writing process will flow smoothly and efficiently. Let us know in the comments how the monomyth has helped you craft a story that escalates with every beat to an exciting climax.  

Up Next: Dan Harmon's Story Circle →

Write and produce your scripts all in one place..

Write and collaborate on your scripts FREE . Create script breakdowns, sides, schedules, storyboards, call sheets and more.

Summed up in a brilliant way. This proves once again that I was right to study English and then go where my passion lays: Film and Video, including on Instagram (@moritzxbauer) and Youtube. At University I wrote a term paper on “Archetypes of mythical heroism on the example of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings”. Campbell’s Journey of the Hero has been one of my main references. I have never seen the structure being adapted so well to film in general.

None of these include the hero's journey of Buffy Summers in BtVS. As a result, it's hard to take these essays as seriously as one might otherwise.

I love this!! It's going to help so much with writing my book, thank you!

Thank for for the brilliant template. It will help me as a catholic priest to examine the journey of disciples in the Bible for deeper understanding through the contemporary literary lens.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Pricing & Plans
  • Product Updates
  • Featured On
  • StudioBinder Partners
  • The Ultimate Guide to Call Sheets (with FREE Call Sheet Template)
  • How to Break Down a Script (with FREE Script Breakdown Sheet)
  • The Only Shot List Template You Need — with Free Download
  • Managing Your Film Budget Cashflow & PO Log (Free Template)
  • A Better Film Crew List Template Booking Sheet
  • Best Storyboard Softwares (with free Storyboard Templates)
  • Movie Magic Scheduling
  • Gorilla Software
  • Storyboard That

A visual medium requires visual methods. Master the art of visual storytelling with our FREE video series on directing and filmmaking techniques.

We’re in a golden age of TV writing and development. More and more people are flocking to the small screen to find daily entertainment. So how can you break put from the pack and get your idea onto the small screen? We’re here to help.

  • Making It: From Pre-Production to Screen
  • VFX vs. CGI vs. SFX — Decoding the Debate
  • What is a Freeze Frame — The Best Examples & Why They Work
  • TV Script Format 101 — Examples of How to Format a TV Script
  • Best Free Musical Movie Scripts Online (with PDF Downloads)
  • What is Tragedy — Definition, Examples & Types Explained
  • 299 Facebook
  • 238 Pinterest
  • 12 LinkedIn

  • Green Spaces in Urban Places
  • To Give is To Grow: Community Gardens Fight Food Insecurity
  • Are Words The New Weapon To Fight For Social Justice?
  • Europe has Changed: How I turned my Upset about Russia Invading Ukraine into Action
  • Dangerous Realities of Medical Misogyny
  • Student Success: Spotlight on ADHD

Love Letter to Uncertainty: A Photo Essay

Walter’s story: leaving nazi germany.

Odyssey Online

Joseph Campbell & The Hero’s Journey

In 1949, scholar  joseph campbell published his 1st book, the hero with a thousand faces. in this book, campbell introduced us to his theory that myths from around the globe share a fundamental structure, the monomyth ..

C ampbell formulated this theory over 5 years, spending 9 hours a day reading mythology from around the world. The Monomyth structure is divided into 3 events with additional stages in between. The stories of Osiris, Prometheus, Buddha, Moses, Jesus, and many other tales from history use this structure. It has inspired many artists and storytellers, such as, Jim Morrison of The Doors, Bob Dylan, creator of Star Wars George Lucas, Bob Weir, and Jerry Garcia of the band, The Grateful Dead. While countless stories follow this Monomyth structure, we will use the original Star Wars Trilogy as an example for exploring this process.

The Seventeen Stages of the Monomyth

The Seventeen Stages of the Monomyth

The Cycle of Mythology

Stage 1: Separation

I n the first stage of the hero’s journey, we find our protangonist living life in a typically mundane situation. The  Star Wars , Luke Skywalker lives as a talented yet lowly and pretty damn whiny moisture farmer on Tatooine.


1. Call to Adventure – By some chance the hero will become aware of information or actions that call for them to go on a quest. The lovable and recently acquired droid R2-D2 plays a holographic message of Princess Leia pleading for Luke’s soon to be mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s assistance.

2. Refusal of the Call – Overwhelmed by the information, the hero refuses the call and makes excuses as to why they cannot answer it. Luke refuses Obi-Wan’s request to join him on his mission, stating that he has responsibilities at home.

Luke's Supernatural Aid is in the form of a Lightsaber

Luke’s Supernatural Aid is in the form of a Lightsaber and newfound Knowledge of the Force

3. Supernatural Aid – Once a commitment to the quest is made by the hero, they are provided with a special weapon or power that will assist them along the way. Obi-Wan gifts Luke his fathers lightsaber and explains some Force 101.

4. Crossing the Threshold – The moment when the hero actually embarks upon the journey. After Luke discovers that his family has been murdered and that nothing is left for him at home, he decides to join Obi-Wan on the quest to save Princess Leia, cause that sounds way cooler than hanging at the farm where your entire family was just massacred.

5. Belly of the Whale – The final separation between the hero and their home. Luke and Kenobi bail out from Tatooine with their new bros Han Solo and Chewbacca.

Stage 2: Initiation

The Empire Strikes Back is nothing but a road of trials for our hero, Luke

The Empire Strikes Back is nothing but a road of trials for our hero, Luke.

6. The Road of Trials – A series of usually 3 trials and tests, the hero often fails one or more of these test. In Luke’s journey the destruction of the Death Star is his first test and one that he passes. His second and third tests do not end so well. While training with Yoda on Dagobah, Luke fails in his truly mastering himself and the force. Thirdly, in the duel between himself and his newly revealed father, Darth Vader, he is defeated, injured, and almost killed.

7. The Meeting with the Goddess – Our hero experiences a love that has the power and significance to that of a mother. Luke begins to have strong feelings for Leia, his unbeknownst sister.

8. Woman as Temptress – The temptation to abandon the journey for material or other gain. Luke is close to being seduced to the dark side as the Emperor feeds his rage against his father and especially with the prospect that if he will not turn, perhaps his sister will.

9. Atonement with the Father – In this stage, the hero must confront and be initiated by whoever holds the ultimate power in their life. Luke battles Darth Vader and once again is on the losing side of the fight. Nearing death from the Emperor’s attacks, Luke begs his father to help save him from certain death.


Anakin & Luke Meet for the 1st Time

10. Apotheosis – The spiritual death and rebirth of the hero. Darth Vader hears his son’s cries for help and returns to the light, deciding to destroy the Emperor in a self sacrificial action. By bringing his father back to the light, Luke has finally become a true jedi.

11. The Ultimate Boon – The stage of achievement of the goal. Luke is a jedi, has defeated the Empire, the dark side, saved his father, and all his friends and family are safe.

12. Refusal of the Return – The hero basking in their newly found bliss, may not want to return to their previous life and share this bliss with his fellow man. Luke does the opposite of this, upon his reunification with his friends, he shares with Leia that they are siblings. He then goes on to train her and new jedi in the ways of the force.

Stage 3: Return

13. The Magic Flight – The daring escape made after obtaining the boon. Luke carries his fathers body onto a transport and flees the Death Star before its complete destruction.

The Return

The Millennium Falcon in Magical Flight

14. Rescue from Without – When powerful guides or mentors help bring the hero back to normal life. When Anniken, Obi-Wan, and Yoda appear from the ether to acknowledge Luke and his newfound jedi knighthood.

15. Crossing the Return Threshold – Retaining, integrating, and sharing wisdom learned on the quest. Luke shares his knowledge of the force with future jedi.

16. Master of Two Worlds – The hero has achieved a balance between the material and spiritual world. Luke has sorted all of his family issues, become a man and a jedi.

17. Freedom to Live – By becoming a master of the two worlds, the hero is free from regrets of the past and worries of the future, this leaves them to live in the moment. Luke has resolved all the  conflicts in his life, he is free to live at one with the force.

Each of Us are the Heroes in Our own Journey

The Monomyth is a method of story telling that is innate to humans. Cultures from around the world share it’s structure in their stories. Every human, whether they are aware of it or not, is on their own hero’s journey. By studying Joseph Campbell’s work we can better our own understanding of the tests, trials, and progress along our journey.

About Author

' src=

Tamlorn Chase

Tamlorn Chase hails from the coastal town of Santa Barbara, where he works as a wilderness guide, wildlife filmmaker, and environmental activist. Protecting the natural world is his profession and passion.

Related Posts

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Father Figures

Comments are closed.

Powered by

Are you monomythic? Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Creative Practice Research Leader & Senior Lecturer in Screenwriting, RMIT University

Disclosure statement

Craig Batty does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

RMIT University provides funding as a strategic partner of The Conversation AU.

View all partners

hero's journey joseph campbell video

When you tell someone a story, do you plan it out beforehand so that it’ll sound good? Do you carefully plot what you’ll say, in a specific order? Or does the story find a way of telling itself, the plot coming from within you – from an inherent understanding of story structure?

This is what American mythologist, anthropologist, writer and professor Joseph Campbell (1904–1987) was interested in. Inspired as a child by Native American culture and artefacts, he spent his life comparing myths and religions from around the world in an attempt to understand humanity and its fascination with stories.

hero's journey joseph campbell video

This resulted in numerous publications, including the books The Mythic Image (1974), The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), and with journalist Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth (1988).

Throughout his writing, Campbell draws from a range of influential historical figures, including James Joyce, Thomas Mann, Pablo Picasso, Abraham Maslow, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. This combination of writers, artists and psychologists provides not only a rich source of inspiration for Campbell’s theories, but also strong responses to his work from a number of disciplines.

The most widely known application of Campbell’s work, particularly his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, is to the area of film.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

In this book, Campbell studies many hundreds of fairy tales, folk tales and legends in order to unearth a common “pattern” in the structure of stories. Campbell defines this as the “monomyth” – the typical trajectory of a story, across all cultures and religions. This monomyth is known as the “hero’s journey”.

Comprising three stages – separation, initiation and return – the hero’s journey offers a narrative framework for understanding the progression of a character, namely the protagonist. The journey, Campbell argues, usually includes a symbolic death and re-birth of the character. The religious idea of “cleansing” is also important, giving a sense of the character transforming from old to new – the character arc.

Campbell summarises the monomythic character journey as:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Within this overall structure, Campbell proposes 17 story stages:

  • The Call to Adventure
  • Refusal of the Call
  • Supernatural Aid
  • Crossing the First Threshold
  • Belly of the Whale
  • The Road of Trials
  • Meeting with the Goddess/Love
  • Atonement with the Hero’s Father
  • Peace and Fulfilment Before the Hero’s Return (Apotheosis)
  • The Ultimate Boon
  • Refusal of the Return
  • Magic Flight
  • Rescue from Without
  • Master of Two Worlds
  • Freedom to Live

The journey undertaken sees the character undergo both physical and emotional battles, which work together to bring them to a better understanding of their life and their place in the world. As such, the journey is full of duality – symbol and spirit; body and soul; manifest and myth; plot and story. In other words, as the character does (action), he or she becomes (character arc).

Lucas and Campbell

Hollywood filmmaker George Lucas openly declared the influence that Campbell’s theories had on his work. As American philosopher John Shelton Lawrence wrote in his paper on Campbell, Lucas and the Monomyth (2006):

In Joseph Campbell the evangelically inclined Lucas had found a kindred spirit, since the younger man also felt a mythic decline that left youth drifting without the moral anchor sensed in the heroic genre films of his own youth.

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Screenwriter Keith Cunningham also talks about Campbell’s influence on Lucas’ work, noting more broadly that:

The era of the blockbuster mentality was born, and a high-concept, high-stakes approach to story development was initiated.

Cunningham’s comment is specifically about the development of the quest story – the hero’s journey being a very useful model for this type of structure.

hero's journey joseph campbell video

In 1983, Lucas invited Campbell to his Skywalker Ranch in California to share with him a viewing of the completed Star Wars trilogy. Here they discussed the mythical structure employed in the films’ narratives, which led to the creation of the PBS series, The Power of Myth (1988), filmed at Lucas’ ranch.

Campbell tells Moyers in the series that as humans we purposefully probe stories in order to extract meaning that will help us move forward in life. He says that we’re seeking myths (themes; meaning) within manifestations (films; stories). For Campbell, the remnants of mythology “line the walls of our interior systems of belief, like shards of broken pottery in an archaeological site”.

This series was eventually published as a book of the same name , further connecting Campbell’s work with that of film.

The Writer’s Journey

Some years later, in the early 1990s, screenwriting author Christopher Vogler studied Campbell’s work at the University of Southern California. Vogler was already working in Hollywood, as a story analyst, and began to see strong connections between the monomythic hero’s journey and the piles of scripts and stories he was reading day in, day out.

Vogler decided to create a short summary document of how he saw Campbell’s work in relation to Hollywood. It was intended initially for just himself and his story analyst friends working in the studios – but the response was so overwhelming that he was encouraged to turn the summary into a more official guide.

What emerged was The Writer’s Journey (2007), one of the most successful screenwriting books of all time and still extremely popular with today’s students, writers and industry professionals.

In the book, Vogler adapts Campbell’s 17-stage monomyth into a 12-stage model for mapping the hero’s journey in film. This translates as:

  • Ordinary World
  • Call to Adventure
  • Meeting with the Mentor
  • Tests, Allies, Enemies
  • Approach to the Inmost Cave
  • The Road Back
  • Resurrection
  • Return with Elixir

The success of The Writer’s Journey has certainly kept the work of Campbell alive. Vogler is honest about his inspiration from The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and like all scholarship his book became an extension of the original – a new way of applying prior research.

I followed this trajectory myself when I went back to Campbell’s work to help expand Vogler’s model, differentiating between the character’s physical journey and emotional journey. This became the basis for the book Movies That Move Us: Screenwriting and the Power of the Protagonist’s Journey (2011).

Although Joseph Campbell died more than 25 years ago, he is still heralded as one of the great story theorists and his work is studied and applied in practice around the world.

So when you next tell a story and find yourself structuring it in a particular way, think about how and why you’re doing it. And if you haven’t read Campbell’s work, try it and see whether you think his ideas were on the mark.

See if it’s true or not that despite the story you’re telling, you’re always framing it in a monomythic way – as some kind of hero’s journey.

  • History of cinema
  • Screenwriting
  • Joseph Campbell

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Events and Communications Coordinator

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Assistant Editor - 1 year cadetship

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Executive Dean, Faculty of Health

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Lecturer/Senior Lecturer, Earth System Science (School of Science)

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Sydney Horizon Educators (Identified)

Scott Jeffrey

A Practical Guide to Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey

OVERVIEW: What are the hero’s journey steps? That is, what’s the psychological process we go through that can lead to inner transformation? This guide answers these questions.


Treasure, love, reward, approval, honor, status, freedom, and survival … these are some of the many things associated with the hero’s journey.

However, we don’t find the meaning of the hero’s journey in slaying the dragon or saving the princess.

These are but colorful metaphors and symbols for a more significant purpose.

Battling inner and outer demons, confronting bullies, and courting your ideal mate symbolize a passage through the often treacherous path of self-discovery toward adulthood.

If you complete one of these “adventures,” you’re different. Sometimes visually, but always internally.

Here, we’ll explore the meaning of the hero’s journey steps and see how it applies to psychological development and our ability to actualize our potential.

Let’s dive in …

What is the Hero’s Journey?

The hero’s journey refers to a common motif, or set of patterns, found in many ancient mythologies around the world.

The hero’s journey steps are said to be universal and found throughout recorded history.

The popularization of the hero’s journey is attributed to the late mythologist Joseph Campbell.

These stages lead an individual (the would-be hero) through a challenging process of change that often includes great hardships.

This well-known story structure is used in many modern films and storytelling. However, the true meaning of the hero’s journey motif is psychological in origin.

What is the Monomyth?

Joseph Campbell was a curious mythologist. In the field of comparative mythology, most scholars examine how one culture’s myths are different than another.

Instead of focusing on the many differences between cultural myths and religious stories, however, Campbell did the opposite: He looked for the similarities.

His studies resulted in what’s called the monomyth . The monomyth is a universal story structure.

Essentially, it’s a story template that takes a character through a sequence of stages. Campbell began identifying the patterns of this monomyth (the hero’s journey steps).

Over and over again, he was amazed to find this structure in the cultures he studied. He also observed the same sequence in many religions including the stories of Gautama Buddha, Moses, and Jesus Christ.

Campbell outlined the stages of the monomyth in his classic book  The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949).

What is the Hero?

The main character in the monomyth is the hero .

The hero isn’t a person, but an archetype —a set of universal images combined with specific patterns of behavior.

Think of a protagonist from your favorite film. He or she represents the hero.

The storyline of the film enacts the hero’s journey.

The Hero archetype resides in the psyche of every individual, which is one of the primary reasons we love hearing and watching stories.

What is a Myth?

We might ask, why explore the hero’s journey steps?

Sure, Hollywood uses it as their dominant story structure for its films (more on that later). But what relevance does it have for us as individuals?

Today, when we speak of “myth,” we refer to something that’s commonly believed, but untrue.

Myth, for minds like Campbell and Carl Jung however, had a much deeper meaning. Myths, for them, represent dreams of the collective psyche .

That is, in understanding the symbolic meaning of a myth, you come to know the psychological undercurrent—including hidden motivations , tensions, and desires—of the people and culture.

What is the Power of Myth?

Campbell explains to Bill Moyer in The Power of Myth : 1 Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth , 1991, 193.

Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth–penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told.

As Campbell eloquently puts it in The Hero with a Thousand Faces ,

Mythology is psychology misread as biography, history, and cosmology.

Because the hero’s journey steps represent a monomyth that we can observe in most, if not all, cultures, it represents a process that is relevant to the entire human family .

hero's journey steps joseph campbell quote

What is this Process Within the Hero’s Journey?

It’s the process of personal transformation from an innocent child into a mature adult.

The child is born into a set of rules and beliefs of a group of people.

Through the child’s heroic efforts, he must break free from these conventions (transcend them) to discover himself.

In the process, the individual returns to his soul.

If we think of the hero’s journey as a roadmap for self-development, it can hold a lot of value for us.

A Quick Note About Gender: Masculine vs Feminine

This psychological decoding is based on a “Jungian” understanding of the psyche.

The hero is ultimately a masculine archetype. The female counterpart would be the heroine. While the hero and the heroine certainly share many attributes, they are not the same.

Similarly, the hero’s journey is predominantly a process of development for the masculine psyche. The hero archetype is associated with autonomy, building structure, and learning about limitations, which are qualities associated with masculine energy.

However, note that “masculine” and “feminine” are not the same as “man” and “woman.” The psyche of a man has a feminine counterpart—what Jung called the anima . The psyche of a woman has a masculine archetype called the animus . For this reason, the hero’s journey does have universal relevance.

While Western culture seems riddled with gender confusion, there are distinct differences between the masculine and the feminine psyche.

Okay, now back to our story …

The 3 Main Stages of the Hero’s Journey

Okay, so now let’s begin to break down the structure and sequence of the hero’s journey.

As Campbell explains:

The usual hero adventure begins with someone from whom something has been taken, or who feels there is something lacking in the normal experience available or permitted to the members of society. The person then takes off on a series of adventures beyond the ordinary, either to recover what has been lost or to discover some life-giving elixir. It’s usually a cycle, a coming and a returning.

This cycle of coming and returning has 3 clear stages:

Stage 1: Departure

Campbell called the initial stage departure or the call to adventure . The hero departs from the world he knows.

Luke Skywalker leaves his home planet to join Obi-Wan to save the princess. Neo gets unplugged from The Matrix with the help of Morpheus and his crew.

In the Departure stage, you leave the safety of the world you know and enter the unknown.

Campbell writes of this stage in The Hero with a Thousand Faces :

This first step of the mythological journey—which we have designated the “call to adventure”—signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown.

That is, the hero must leave the known “conventional world” and enter a “special world” that is foreign.

Stage 2: Initiation

Now the hero must face a series of trials and tribulations. The hero’s journey isn’t safe.

The hero is tested in battle, skill, and conflict. He may not succeed in each action but must press on.

The protagonist will meet allies, enemies, and mentors with supernatural aid throughout the initiation stage.

Stage 3: Return

Having endured the trials and hardships of the adventure, the hero returns home.

But the hero is no longer the same. An internal transformation has taken place through the maturation process of the experience.

Luke is now a Jedi and has come to peace with his past. Neo embraces his destiny and liberates himself from the conventions of The Matrix.

The Hero’s Journey in Drama

In Three Uses of a Knife , famed playwright David Mamet suggests a similar three-act structure for plays and dramas: 2 David Mamet, Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama , 2000.

Act 1: Thesis . The drama presents life as it is for the protagonist. The ordinary world.

Act 2: Antithesis . The protagonist faces opposing forces that send him into an upheaval (disharmony).

Act 3: Synthesis . The protagonist attempts to integrate the old life with the new one.

We note that problems, challenges, and upheavals are the defining characteristic of this journey.

Without problems, the path toward growth is usually left behind. (More on this topic below.)

Assessing Your Place in the Hero’s Journey

Before we explore the stages of the monomyth more closely, let’s look at what these three phases reveal about self-mastery and psychological development.

Stage 1 represents our comfort zone. We feel safe here because it is known to us.

Stages 2 and 3, however, represent the unknown . Embracing the unknown means letting go of safety.

Abraham Maslow points out that we are confronted with an ongoing series of choices throughout life between safety and growth, dependence and independence, regression and progression, immaturity and maturity.

Maslow writes in Toward a Psychology of Being : 3 Abraham Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being , 2014.

We grow forward when the delights of growth and anxieties of safety are greater than the anxieties of growth and the delights of safety.

Is it now clear why so many of us refuse the call to adventure?

We cling to the safety of the known instead of embracing the “delight of growth” that only comes from the unknown.

hero's journey steps campbell

Campbell’s 17 Stages of the Hero’s Journey

Joseph Campbell didn’t just outline three stages of the monomyth. In The Hero with a Thousand Faces , he deconstructs every step along the journey.

The stages of the hero’s journey are the common sequence of events that occurred in the monomyth motif.

Technically speaking, Campbell outlined 17 stages in his The Hero with a Thousand Faces:

  • 1: The Call to Adventure
  • 2: Refusal of the Call
  • 3: Supernatural Aid
  • 4: The Crossing of the First Threshold
  • 5: Belly of the Whale
  • 6: The Road of Trials
  • 7: The Meeting with the Goddess
  • 8: Woman as the Temptress
  • 9: Atonement with the Father
  • 10: Apotheosis
  • 11: The Ultimate Boon
  • 12: Refusal of the Return
  • 13: The Magic Flight
  • 14: Rescue from Without
  • 15: The Crossing of the Return Threshold
  • 16: Master of the Two Worlds
  • 17: Freedom to Live

These 17 stages or hero’s journey steps can be found globally in the myths and legends throughout recorded history.

The Modified 12 Hero’s Journey Steps

Now, let’s review these stages of the hero’s journey in more detail.

I’m going to outline these steps below using a slightly simplified version from Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers .

Vogler’s model, which is used throughout Hollywood, only has 12 steps (compared to 17), and I think it does a solid job of keeping the essence of Campbell’s monomyth structure intact.

As you read these hero’s journey steps, see if you can determine how they apply to your development.

Step 1: The Ordinary World

Before a would-be hero can enter the special world, he must first live in the ordinary world.

The ordinary world is different for each of us—it represents our norms, customs, conditioned beliefs, and behaviors. The ordinary world is sometimes referred to as the “conventional world.”

In The Hobbit , the ordinary world is the Shire where Bilbo Baggins lives with all the other Hobbits—gardening, eating and celebrating—living a simple life.

Novelist J.R.R. Tolkien contrasts this life in the Shire with the special world of wizards, warriors, men, elves, dwarfs, and evil forces on the brink of world war.

Step 2: The Call to Adventure

The first hero’s journey step is the call to adventure.

The call to adventure marks a transition from the ordinary world to the special world. The hero is introduced to his quest of great consequence.

Obi-Wan said to Luke, “You must come with me to Alderaan.” That is, Luke is invited to leave the ordinary world of his aunt and uncle’s farm life and go on an adventure with a Jedi knight.

Joseph Campbell explains: 4 Joseph Campbell, The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell On His Life And Work , 1990.

The call to adventure signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of this society to a zone unknown.

Step 3: Refusal of the Call

Fear of change as well as death, however, often leads the hero to refuse the call to adventure .

The ordinary world represents our comfort zone; the special world signifies the unknown.

Luke Skywalker immediately responds to Obi-Wan, “I can’t go with you,” citing his chores and responsibilities at home.

mentor archetype heros journey steps

Step 4: Meeting the Mentor

Campbell called this archetype the “mentor with supernatural aid.”

Generally, at an early stage of the adventure, the hero is graced by the presence of a wise sage . Personified in stories as a magical counselor , a reclusive hermit, or a wise leader, the mentor’s role is to help guide the hero.

Think Obi-Wan, Yoda, Gandalf, Morpheus, or Dumbledore. Sometimes cloaked in mystery and secret language, a mentor manifests when the hero is ready.

Sadly, our modern world is depleted of wise elders or shamans who can effectively bless the younger generation. (A topic for a different day.) For most of us, it is best to seek wise counsel from your inner guide , the Self within.

Step 5: Cross the First Threshold

The hero resists change initially but is ultimately forced to make a critical decision: embark on the adventure or forever remain in the ordinary world with its illusion of security.

Although Luke refuses the call to adventure initially, when he returns home to see his aunt and uncle dead, he immediately agrees to go with Obi-Wan. He crossed the first threshold.

In one sense, the first threshold is the point of no return. Once the hero shoots across the unstable suspension bridge, it bursts into flames.

There’s no turning back, at least, not how he came.

The first threshold can mark a major decision in our personal lives:

  • “I’m going to travel around the globe.”
  • “I’m going to transform my physical health.”
  • “I am going to write a book.”
  • “I’m going to master the flute.”
  • “I’m going to realize my true nature.”

This first breakthrough is a feat within itself; however, it is only the first of many turning points.

Step 6: Tests, Allies, Enemies

Along the hero’s journey, the main character encounters many obstacles and allies.

Luke meets Obiwan (mentor), Han Solo, Princess Leia, and the rebel alliance while fighting many foes. Neo meets Morpheus (mentor), Trinity, and the rest of the Nebuchadnezzar crew while having to fight Agents in a strange world.

Some people may try to stop you along your quest—possibly saying you’re unreasonable or unrealistic. These “dream-stoppers” are often cleverly masked as friends and family who appear to have positive intentions but hinder your development nonetheless.

Your ability to identify obstructions on your path and align with support along your adventure is critical to your adventure.

Unfortunately, because few complete their hero’s journey to mature adulthood, most people will unconsciously attempt to sabotage yours.

Step 7: Approach to the Inmost Cave

The next significant threshold is often more treacherous than the first.

Entering the villain’s castle or the evil billionaire’s mansion, this second major decision usually puts the hero at significant physical and psychological risks.

Neo decides to go save Morpheus who’s being held in a building filled with Agents.

Within the walls of the innermost cave lies the cornerstone of the special world where the hero closes in on his objective.

For a man, the innermost cave represents the Mother Complex, a regressive part of him that seeks to return to the safety of the mother. 5 Robert Johnson, He: Understanding Masculine Psychology, 1989.  When a man seeks safety and comfort—when he demands pampering—it means he’s engulfed within the innermost cave.

For a woman, the innermost cave often represents learning how to surrender to the healing power of nurturance—to heal the handless maiden. 6 Robert Johnson, The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden: Understanding the Wounded Feeling Function in Masculine and Feminine Psychology , 1995.

hero's journey steps joseph campbell

Step 8: Ordeal

No worthwhile adventure is easy. There are many perils on the path to growth, self-discovery , and self-realization.

A major obstacle confronts the hero, and the future begins to look dim: a trap, a mental imprisonment, or imminent defeat on the battlefield.

It seems like the adventure will come to a sad conclusion, as all hope appears lost. But hope remains and it is in these moments of despair when the hero must access a hidden part of himself—one more micron of energy, strength, faith, or creativity to find his way out of the belly of the beast.

Neo confronts Agent Smith in the subway station—something that was never done before. The hero must call on an inner power he doesn’t know he possesses.

Step 9: Reward

Having defeated the enemy and slain the dragon, the hero receives the prize. Pulling the metaphorical sword from the stone, the hero achieves the objective he set out to complete.

Whether the reward is monetary, physical, romantic, or spiritual, the hero transforms. Usually, the initial prize sought by the hero is physical—the sword in the stone or a physical treasure of some kind.

Step 10: The Road Back

Alas, the adventure isn’t over yet. There usually needs to be one last push to return home. Now the hero must return to the world from which he came with the sacred elixir.

Challenges still lie ahead in the form of villains, roadblocks, and inner demons. The hero must deal with whatever issues were left unresolved at this stage of the journey.

Taking moral inventory, examining the Shadow , and performing constant self-inquiry help the hero identify weaknesses and blindspots that will later play against him.

Step 11:  Resurrection

Before returning home—before the adventure is over—there’s often one more unsuspected, unforeseen ordeal.

This final threshold, which may be more difficult than the prior moment of despair, provides one last test to solidify the growth of the hero. This threshold represents the final climax.

Neo is shot and killed by Agent Smith. And, he literally resurrects to confront the enemy one last time following his transformation.

The uncertain Luke Skywalker takes that “one in a million” shot from his X-Wing to destroy the Death Star.

Step 12: Return with the Elixir

Often, the prize the hero initially sought (in Step 9) becomes secondary as a result of the personal transformation he undergoes.

Perhaps the original quest was financially driven , but now the hero takes greater satisfaction in serving others in need. The real change is always internal .

In this final stage, the hero can become the master of both worlds , with the freedom to live and grow, impacting all of humanity.

Returning with the prize, the hero’s experience of reality is different. The person is no longer an innocent child or adolescent seeking excitement or adventure.

Comfortable in his own skin, he has evolved and is now capable of handling the demands and challenges of everyday life.

The Hero’s Journey in Films

Are you now more aware of how these hero’s journey steps play out in popular films and television series?

George Lucas was friends with Joseph Campbell. Lucas used these hero’s journey steps from Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces to produce the original Star Wars film. 7

It’s difficult to appreciate the impact Star Wars still has on American culture and around the world. It’s even more difficult to articulate how much of that impact is attributed to Campbell’s insights.

However, one challenge our culture faces is that many popular film franchises produce movies that, most often, never complete the hero’s journey.

Many popular characters in action films like Marvel and DC Comics superheroes, James Bond, Ethan Hunt (Mission Impossible), Indiana Jones, etc. never actually transform.

heros journey steps

These characters stay in the adolescent stage of development (and we tend to celebrate that reality).

These heroes don’t evolve into the warm, vulnerable, generative adults who no longer seek adventure and excitement.

That said, since I originally published this guide in early 2018, this has begun to change.

For example, in the final Bond film, No Time to Die (2021), James Bond did demonstrate some generative growth.

The same goes for Tony Stark’s character (Ironman) in Avengers: Endgame (2019).

Where Are You On Your Hero’s Journey?

More importantly, do you see how these hero’s journey steps are unfolding in your life?

Although each of our stories is unique, they have common threads—elements of this universal structure we all share.

Returning from the moment of despair—from inside the dragon’s lair—without the reward (or lesson), you are presented with a similar adventure repeated ad infinitum —until you either learn the lesson or give up.

In the beginning, the hero’s journey is about achievement.

Whether you’re trying to build a successful business, raise a family, write a screenplay, travel to a distant land, or become a skilled artist, these all represent external achievements that often launch us into our hero’s journey.

But through this external quest—if we become more conscious—the journey transitions to an emphasis on internal growth that leads to transformation.

The Hero isn’t an expression of mature adulthood. This archetype is a by-product of adolescence. The archetypes of adulthood are different, but to access them, we must complete the hero’s journey first .

The Primary Ingredient in Every Hero’s Journey

Compelling stories and real life comes down to one thing: problems .

The protagonist faces a problem and tries to overcome it. Problems represent the essence of drama and the key to good storytelling.  Without problems, there’s no story. Problems engage us, tantalizing the human mind.

The hero must face his problems, surmount his fears, resolve his tensions, or fail.

The same is true for our development: without problems and tensions, there can be no growth.

Psychological development is the process of overcoming setbacks, limitations, and conditioned behavior to reach maturity.

hero's journey call to adventure

Refusing the Call to Adventure

Few people ever fully embrace the Hero’s Journey, a psychological odyssey that leads the individual to wholeness .

Because of our fear of the unknown, many refuse the call to adventure. We delay our journey in many ways:

  • Put important things aside.
  • Procrastinate.
  • Distract ourselves with TV, social media, and other people’s lives.
  • Make excuses.
  • Stay stuck in the lazy part .
  • Focus on competing with others.

But something brews inside of us. An internal tension builds. The tension may be small at first, but it grows stronger in the darkness. Tensions are those opposing forces at play within us. This internal conflict creates disharmony.

Humans don’t like disharmony when it bubbles into consciousness, and so these internal tensions can catapult us out of the familiar. The feeling of discord can lead to action and ultimately, some resolution.

Maybe you’re currently embracing your hero’s journey. Or perhaps you’ve been refusing the call. It matters not. What matters is what you do today— right now .

How to Embrace Your Hero’s Journey, Step by Step

The main thing you need to do to embrace your hero’s journey is stay present.

Remember, as Campbell explained, “You are the hero of your own story.”

Psychological development is supposed to be a natural process. But we aren’t currently in a world that supports healthy development.

As such, it’s vital to listen within .

Here are a few guides that may serve you:

  • Access Your Inner Guide
  • How to Ground Yourself
  • How to Stay in Your Center
  • How to Overcome Internal Resistance

Ultimately, be mindful of your fears and aspirations.

Left unchecked, your fears can subconsciously lead you to endlessly refuse the call to adventure.

In contrast, your aspirations can help you embrace your adventure.

As Joseph Campbell often said,

Follow your bliss!

Videos Related to the Hero’s Journey Steps

Book related to the hero’s journey steps.

The hero’s journey steps are outlined in the books referenced throughout this guide:

joseph campbell the hero with a thousand faces

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

the power of mytho joseph campbell

The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

mythos series joseph campbell

Joseph Campbell’s Mythos Lecture Series (DVD)

the writer's journey christopher vogler

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

how to be an adult david richo

How to Be an Adult by David Richo

What Do You Think?

Are you going through the hero’s journey steps?

About the Author

Scott Jeffrey is the founder of CEOsage, a self-leadership resource publishing in-depth guides read by millions of self-actualizing individuals. He writes about self-development, practical psychology, Eastern philosophy, and integrated practices. For 25 years, Scott was a business coach to high-performing entrepreneurs, CEOs, and best-selling authors. He's the author of four books including Creativity Revealed .

Learn more >

I would like to understand the Hero’s journey. Joseph Campbell describes it as something that has been taken/lost or life giving. How do I know if my hero’s journey has been done?

If you’re examining the hero’s journey from the perspective of individuation — that is, the journey to mature adulthood — it takes many years to come to wholeness within oneself.

Psychologically speaking, the hero’s journey is inward. The characters you meet (like the Mentor) are within yourself. So it involves active imagination in bringing the archetype into some form of harmony within yourself.

You have mentioned a choice to stay in the comfort of safety or the unknow for growth. I am wondering if this is done in a Psychological manner where your life’s circumstances stay as they are or you physically live in a different environment, leaving your surroundings, people and material responsibilities etc.. Hope you can answer this for me.

If you’re a young adult, there’s often an external aspect to the hero’s journey — for example, leaving home and separating from one’s parents. But what Campbell was highlighting with the monomyth is ultimately a psychological process akin to Jungian individuation:

I want to share my thoughts on the heroes journey. After reading the twelve steps, and what you said- I quote “Step 12: Return with the Elixir Often, the prize the hero initially sought (in Step 9) becomes secondary as a result of the personal transformation he undergoes.

Perhaps the original quest was financially driven, but now the hero takes greater satisfaction in serving others in need.

The real change is always internal.

In this final stage, the hero can become the master of both worlds, with the freedom to live and grow, impacting all of humanity.”

My favorite movie for a while now has been The Peaceful Warrior, I have just watched Coach Carter. They seem to tell the same story and I think the story of The Heroes Journey. You have mentioned Star Wars, James Bond and the Matrix.

In the movies The Peaceful Warrior, and Coach Carter, the achievement earned is an inward spiritualism that is, I quote” impacting all of humanity.” Thank-you.

If The Peaceful Warrior is your favorite movie, read Dan Millman’s “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” — the book the film is based on. Much deeper insights. It’s a magical book — especially when you’re just setting out on your self-discovery journey.

I have read about 25% so far, I am not a good reader. I give myself three pages each day, yet often I’m reading more. It is as if the movie is replaying and I’m able to go with it, imaging the main characters. There is more information from reading than watching the movie, though I am thinking there is a lot of fiction, as it has been described on the net. Though I just need to adhere to the believable parts. I don’t know if it is possible to remember the day’s events that happened during college. For example, what people said, what they were doing throughout the day. My college day’s I can only remember situations that happened all dispersed from one another, with only a few minutes recalled. Does someone like yourself able to recall conversations and put them as dialogs for a book? Or is it a writer’s privilege to invent these for the book?

“The Peaceful Warrior” is a work of fiction. The genre is technically called “visionary fiction.”

There is a passage in the book where Socrates say’s “Mind is an illusory reflection of cerebral fidgeting. It comprises all the random uncontrolled thoughts that bubble into awareness from the subconscious. Consciousness is not the mind; awareness is not mind; attention is not mind. Mind is an obstruction, an aggravation, a primal weakness in the human experiment. It is a kind of evolutionary mistake in the human being. I have no use for the mind.” I don’t think think this way because what we have as humans is natural and so it has a purpose. I am interested if you would give an opinion on this statement Socrates said.

For the most part, I agree with Millman’s statements. They are also consistent with much of the Eastern traditions. An essential aspect of the meditative traditions is to “pacify the mind”. They sometimes even use stronger longer of “killing the mind.” But at other times, they make the distinction between the “aware mind” versus the “monkey mind” or the “shining mind” versus the “stirring mind.” But in terms of the untrained mind (which is the mind of over 99% of people), I agree with Millman. I just wouldn’t call it “evolutionary.”

Millman would have already made ethical judgment towards any begger, so, he should not have thought twice about ignoring him. But because his story, is going through a transformation, he had these menacing mind talks. Do you think if you were in the same situation as him, would you give the begger money or use your self-consciousness to clear negative mind noise? I am wondering if a second time in the same situation would make one change their reaction…

This is quoted from the book; “A scrawny young teenager came up to me. “Spare some change, can’t you?” “No, sorry,” I said, not feeling sorry at all. As I walked away I thought, “Get a job.” Then vague guilts came into my mind; I’d said no to a penniless beggar. Angry thoughts arose. “He shouldn’t walk up to people like that!” I was halfway down the block before I realized all the mental noise i had tuned in to, and the tension it was causing – just because some guy had asked me for money and I’d said no. In that instant I let it go.”

I finished the peaceful warrior and found it enjoyable. The preview of Dan’s second book (Sacred Journey of the peaceful warrior) sums up what he was expressing through his life.

There was one part I have heard before where the dialog between Dan and Soc was flat, with no meaning. Thank-you.

I would like to balance the four functions Jung describes (thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition) in your Individuation Process page. How do I know when feeling and sensation are active in everyday events? Could you give me an example? Thank-you.

Brett, please use the related guide page to address your questions.

The Individuation process page has not got a comments section.

I was walking in the bush on a moonlit windy night. The moving branches displayed a moving shadow, I was startled at first thought someone was behind me. Then I put the moonlight and the moving branches together and summed up what had happened without turning around. Was my thinking a Feeling, thinking, intuition or sensation? Thank-you.

I didn’t realize the comment sections weren’t open on that other guide. The psychological types represent our dominant orientations for processing information. When you were startled, was your attention on your body or the fear itself? Was your mind focused on “what could that be”? No need to answer here.

But the main thing about psychological types, from a Jungian perspective, is to understand what your dominant and inferior types are so you can develop your weakest side. Taking an Enneagram assessment test can help you determine your dominant type. In that system, it’s either thinking, feeling, or sensing.

Thank-you for your reply. You gave me an example of what I believe would be my dominant (being the first impression of the event) type. The second instance you described, is that too my dominant type? I do already know what it was that brings me fear. Can you follow up with this scenario? I have done enneagram questions before, and I am hopeless in giving a true response as all multiple question apply to equally.

“I have done enneagram questions before, and I am hopeless in giving a true response as all multiple question apply to equally.”

In my experience, when people say things like this, it’s often because they are “out of center” and analyzing things in their heads. If, for example, you read detailed descriptions of each Type, there’s no way you’re going to relate equally to all of them. Only one (sometimes a few) will strike a deep cord within you. It may leave you feeling “raw” and exposed.

Using the example you provided isn’t really going to help in this context. Do you mostly live in your head (mind/thoughts/analysis), your body (gut/sensations/sensory perception), or feelings? We all use all of them, but one tends to be more dominant than the others.

Thank-you. I agree with you Quote “If, for example, you read detailed descriptions of each Type, there’s no way you’re going to relate equally to all of them”. You might think I’m procrastinating as I want to work this out. Quote” Superior Function versus Inferior Function We like to do things we’re good at and avoid doing things in which we feel inadequate. Thus, we develop specific skills while undeveloped capacities remain in the unconscious. Jung grouped these four functions into pairs: thinking and feeling, sensing and intuiting”. Follow me for a sec, I have determined my superior function is Thinking, that would leave my inferior function to feeling. I assume sensing and intuition would be in the middle. I’m going to give the answer that you will give to my question, how do I bring the four functions to the middle? Answer ; center yourself. Do you agree or tell me what I should be doing?

Brett, I can’t really speak to what you should be doing. From a Jungian perspective (as well as transpersonal psychology), you would develop your inferior function and grow in that line of intelligence. I borrow the concept of the Center from the Taoist tradition. Western psychology mainly seeks to build a healthy ego while Eastern traditions mainly focus on transcending the ego.

Is the answer to “center yourself”? Sure. But most likely you’ll only be able to do this temporarily (representing a “state” of consciousness), while if you develop via various practices, you establish different structural changes that become more stable.

How to Center Yourself.

I like this article and want to learn more. I’m sending you my questions in this article as there isn’t a comments section.

I have so many questions, do I really need these answered to be comfortable with learning? Or should I take a calming with acceptance approach, that will eventually find the answers I seek? Should I go ahead and ask… ok I will ask. In the four centers, take in information via the physical center, interpret experience via the emotional center, evaluate the world via the mental center. Could all be take in information? Thank-you.

Brett, I just opened the comment section on that centering guide. Please post your question there and then I’ll reply.

Is it always a Heroes journey to take on what seems an insurmountable task? I see this at the beginning of inspirational films. Thank-you.

Always be careful with the term “always.”

Remember that what Campbell was ultimately highlighting with his monomyth structure was a psychological process of development. So it’s best to keep that in context.

Insurmountable tasks can sometimes be a catalyst for one’s journey, but this is not always the case.

In films and storytelling, you need major a problem for the hero/protagonist to face. Otherwise, there’s no story.

With what you said in keeping the psychological process in context. I was thinking of the film where a football coach leaves a successful career in the city, to coach no-hoper orphans in the country. My first impression was that the coach is on a hero’s journey with much to lose but great inward comfort to gain. Now I think it is the orphan footballers who are on a hero’s journey, (by leading as an example of being an orphan and becoming successful to inspire them to do the same) to stand up with confidence to be equal to the rest of the world. The movie is twelve mighty orphans. Is this reasonable thinking and do you see different interpretation? Thank-you

I can’t really comment as I haven’t seen the film. In any decent film, multiple characters have “arcs.” In many cases, the coach in sports films plays the mentor/sage role but then has his own transformation as well. This is the case with Gandalf the Gray who has to “die” and be resurrected, transforming into Gandalf the White.

Merry Christmas Scott digital guide. Type to you soon:)

Does the hero’s journey have the same thoughts and feelings for a woman as a man?

From a Jungian perspective, the process would be different.

As Jungian Robert A. Johnson highlights in many of his books, the myths related to the feminine psyche are different than the myths related to the masculine. As such, they follow a different structure and aim.

That said, because there’s an anima in each male psyche and an animus in each female psyche, a part of us can relate to the hero’s journey in its totality. Hence, a heroine can go on a similar hero’s journey as a man.

What an excellent and thorough treatment. Thanks for these invaluable insights for my writing class.

Thank you for the feedback, Craig!

I love this observation about modern cinematic heroes: “Many popular characters in action films like Marvel and DC Comics superheroes, James Bond, Ethan Hunt (Mission Impossible), Indiana Jones, etc. never actually transform.”

Have you written elsewhere at greater length on this topic? I thought I read an article on this topic a few years back but don’t remember where! Certainly the weightiness of the observation was such a lightbulb moment.

Thanks and kind regards M.

You can find a more detailed archetypal decoding of the hero here:

Session expired

Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Holiday Savings

hero's journey joseph campbell video


The hero's journey: a story structure as old as time, the hero's journey offers a powerful framework for creating quest-based stories emphasizing self-transformation..

Nicholas Cage as Benjamin Gates in Disney's National Treasure, next to a portrait of mythologist, Joseph Campbell.

Table of Contents

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Holding out for a hero to take your story to the next level? 

The Hero’s Journey might be just what you’ve been looking for. Created by Joseph Campbell, this narrative framework packs mythic storytelling into a series of steps across three acts, each representing a crucial phase in a character's transformative journey.

Challenge . Growth . Triumph .

Whether you're penning a novel, screenplay, or video game, The Hero’s Journey is a tried-and-tested blueprint for crafting epic stories that transcend time and culture. Let’s explore the steps together and kickstart your next masterpiece.

What is the Hero’s Journey?

The Hero’s Journey is a famous template for storytelling, mapping a hero's adventurous quest through trials and tribulations to ultimate transformation. 

hero's journey joseph campbell video

What are the Origins of the Hero’s Journey?

The Hero’s Journey was invented by Campbell in his seminal 1949 work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces , where he introduces the concept of the "monomyth."

A comparative mythologist by trade, Campbell studied myths from cultures around the world and identified a common pattern in their narratives. He proposed that all mythic narratives are variations of a single, universal story, structured around a hero's adventure, trials, and eventual triumph.

His work unveiled the archetypal hero’s path as a mirror to humanity’s commonly shared experiences and aspirations. It was subsequently named one of the All-Time 100 Nonfiction Books by TIME in 2011.

How are the Hero’s and Heroine’s Journeys Different? 

While both the Hero's and Heroine's Journeys share the theme of transformation, they diverge in their focus and execution.

The Hero’s Journey, as outlined by Campbell, emphasizes external challenges and a quest for physical or metaphorical treasures. In contrast, Murdock's Heroine’s Journey, explores internal landscapes, focusing on personal reconciliation, emotional growth, and the path to self-actualization.

In short, heroes seek to conquer the world, while heroines seek to transform their own lives; but…

Twelve Steps of the Hero’s Journey

So influential was Campbell’s monomyth theory that it's been used as the basis for some of the largest franchises of our generation: The Lord of the Rings , Harry Potter ...and George Lucas even cited it as a direct influence on Star Wars .

There are, in fact, several variations of the Hero's Journey, which we discuss further below. But for this breakdown, we'll use the twelve-step version outlined by Christopher Vogler in his book, The Writer's Journey (seemingly now out of print, unfortunately).

hero's journey joseph campbell video

You probably already know the above stories pretty well so we’ll unpack the twelve steps of the Hero's Journey using Ben Gates’ journey in National Treasure as a case study—because what is more heroic than saving the Declaration of Independence from a bunch of goons?

Ye be warned: Spoilers ahead!

Act One: Departure

Step 1. the ordinary world.

The journey begins with the status quo—business as usual. We meet the hero and are introduced to the Known World they live in. In other words, this is your exposition, the starting stuff that establishes the story to come.

hero's journey joseph campbell video

National Treasure begins in media res (preceded only by a short prologue), where we are given key information that introduces us to Ben Gates' world, who he is (a historian from a notorious family), what he does (treasure hunts), and why he's doing it (restoring his family's name).

With the help of his main ally, Riley, and a crew of other treasure hunters backed by a wealthy patron, he finds an 18th-century American ship in the Canadian Arctic, the Charlotte . Here, they find a ship-shaped pipe that presents a new riddle and later doubles as a key—for now, it's just another clue in the search for the lost treasure of the Templars, one that leads them to the Declaration of Independence.

Step 2. The Call to Adventure

The inciting incident takes place and the hero is called to act upon it. While they're still firmly in the Known World, the story kicks off and leaves the hero feeling out of balance. In other words, they are placed at a crossroads.

Ian (the wealthy patron of the Charlotte operation) steals the pipe from Ben and Riley and leaves them stranded. This is a key moment: Ian becomes the villain, Ben has now sufficiently lost his funding for this expedition, and if he decides to pursue the chase, he'll be up against extreme odds.

Step 3. Refusal of the Call

The hero hesitates and instead refuses their call to action. Following the call would mean making a conscious decision to break away from the status quo. Ahead lies danger, risk, and the unknown; but here and now, the hero is still in the safety and comfort of what they know.

Ben debates continuing the hunt for the Templar treasure. Before taking any action, he decides to try and warn the authorities: the FBI, Homeland Security, and the staff of the National Archives, where the Declaration of Independence is housed and monitored. Nobody will listen to him, and his family's notoriety doesn't help matters.

Step 4. Meeting the Mentor

The protagonist receives knowledge or motivation from a powerful or influential figure. This is a tactical move on the hero's part—remember that it was only the previous step in which they debated whether or not to jump headfirst into the unknown. By Meeting the Mentor, they can gain new information or insight, and better equip themselves for the journey they might to embark on.

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Abigail, an archivist at the National Archives, brushes Ben and Riley off as being crazy, but Ben uses the interaction to his advantage in other ways—to seek out information about how the Declaration of Independence is stored and cared for, as well as what (and more importantly, who) else he might be up against in his own attempt to steal it.

In a key scene, we see him contemplate the entire operation while standing over the glass-encased Declaration of Independence. Finally, he firmly decides to pursue the treasure and stop Ian, uttering the famous line, "I'm gonna steal the Declaration of Independence."

Act Two: Initiation

Step 5. crossing the threshold.

The hero leaves the Known World to face the Unknown World. They are fully committed to the journey, with no way to turn back now. There may be a confrontation of some sort, and the stakes will be raised.

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Ben and Riley infiltrate the National Archives during a gala and successfully steal the Declaration of Independence. But wait—it's not so easy. While stealing the Declaration of Independence, Abigail suspects something is up and Ben faces off against Ian.

Then, when trying to escape the building, Ben exits through the gift shop, where an attendant spots the document peeking out of his jacket. He is forced to pay for it, feigning that it's a replica—and because he doesn't have enough cash, he has to use his credit card, so there goes keeping his identity anonymous.

The game is afoot.

Step 6. Tests, Allies, Enemies

The hero explores the Unknown World. Now that they have firmly crossed the threshold from the Known World, the hero will face new challenges and possibly meet new enemies. They'll have to call upon their allies, new and old, in order to keep moving forward.

Abigail reluctantly joins the team under the agreement that she'll help handle the Declaration of Independence, given her background in document archiving and restoration. Ben and co. seek the aid of Ben's father, Patrick Gates, whom Ben has a strained relationship with thanks to years of failed treasure hunting that has created a rift between grandfather, father, and son. Finally, they travel around Philadelphia deciphering clues while avoiding both Ian and the FBI.

Step 7. Approach the Innermost Cave

The hero nears the goal of their quest, the reason they crossed the threshold in the first place. Here, they could be making plans, having new revelations, or gaining new skills. To put it in other familiar terms, this step would mark the moment just before the story's climax.

Ben uncovers a pivotal clue—or rather, he finds an essential item—a pair of bifocals with interchangeable lenses made by Benjamin Franklin. It is revealed that by switching through the various lenses, different messages will be revealed on the back of the Declaration of Independence. He's forced to split from Abigail and Riley, but Ben has never been closer to the treasure.

Step 8. The Ordeal

The hero faces a dire situation that changes how they view the world. All threads of the story come together at this pinnacle, the central crisis from which the hero will emerge unscathed or otherwise. The stakes will be at their absolute highest here.

Vogler details that in this stage, the hero will experience a "death," though it need not be literal. In your story, this could signify the end of something and the beginning of another, which could itself be figurative or literal. For example, a certain relationship could come to an end, or it could mean someone "stuck in their ways" opens up to a new perspective.

In National Treasure , The FBI captures Ben and Ian makes off with the Declaration of Independence—all hope feels lost. To add to it, Ian reveals that he's kidnapped Ben's father and threatens to take further action if Ben doesn't help solve the final clues and lead Ian to the treasure.

Ben escapes the FBI with Ian's help, reunites with Abigail and Riley, and leads everyone to an underground structure built below Trinity Church in New York City. Here, they manage to split from Ian once more, sending him on a goose chase to Boston with a false clue, and proceed further into the underground structure.

Though they haven't found the treasure just yet, being this far into the hunt proves to Ben's father, Patrick, that it's real enough. The two men share an emotional moment that validates what their family has been trying to do for generations.

Step 9. Reward

This is it, the moment the hero has been waiting for. They've survived "death," weathered the crisis of The Ordeal, and earned the Reward for which they went on this journey.

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Now, free of Ian's clutches and with some light clue-solving, Ben, Abigail, Riley, and Patrick keep progressing through the underground structure and eventually find the Templar's treasure—it's real and more massive than they could have imagined. Everyone revels in their discovery while simultaneously looking for a way back out.

Act Three: Return

Step 10. the road back.

It's time for the journey to head towards its conclusion. The hero begins their return to the Known World and may face unexpected challenges. Whatever happens, the "why" remains paramount here (i.e. why the hero ultimately chose to embark on their journey).

This step marks a final turning point where they'll have to take action or make a decision to keep moving forward and be "reborn" back into the Known World.

Act Three of National Treasure is admittedly quite short. After finding the treasure, Ben and co. emerge from underground to face the FBI once more. Not much of a road to travel back here so much as a tunnel to scale in a crypt.

Step 11. Resurrection

The hero faces their ultimate challenge and emerges victorious, but forever changed. This step often requires a sacrifice of some sort, and having stepped into the role of The Hero™, they must answer to this.

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Ben is given an ultimatum— somebody has to go to jail (on account of the whole stealing-the-Declaration-of-Independence thing). But, Ben also found a treasure worth millions of dollars and that has great value to several nations around the world, so that counts for something.

Ultimately, Ben sells Ian out, makes a deal to exonerate his friends and family, and willingly hands the treasure over to the authorities. Remember: he wanted to find the treasure, but his "why" was to restore the Gates family name, so he won regardless.

Step 12. Return With the Elixir

Finally, the hero returns home as a new version of themself, the elixir is shared amongst the people, and the journey is completed full circle.

The elixir, like many other elements of the hero's journey, can be literal or figurative. It can be a tangible thing, such as an actual elixir meant for some specific purpose, or it could be represented by an abstract concept such as hope, wisdom, or love.

Vogler notes that if the Hero's Journey results in a tragedy, the elixir can instead have an effect external to the story—meaning that it could be something meant to affect the audience and/or increase their awareness of the world.

In the final scene of National Treasure , we see Ben and Abigail walking the grounds of a massive estate. Riley pulls up in a fancy sports car and comments on how they could have gotten more money. They all chat about attending a museum exhibit in Cairo (Egypt).

In one scene, we're given a lot of closure: Ben and co. received a hefty payout for finding the treasure, Ben and Abigail are a couple now, and the treasure was rightfully spread to those it benefitted most—in this case, countries who were able to reunite with significant pieces of their history. Everyone's happy, none of them went to jail despite the serious crimes committed, and they're all a whole lot wealthier. Oh, Hollywood.

Variations of the Hero's Journey

Plot structure is important, but you don't need to follow it exactly; and, in fact, your story probably won't. Your version of the Hero's Journey might require more or fewer steps, or you might simply go off the beaten path for a few steps—and that's okay!

hero's journey joseph campbell video

What follows are three additional versions of the Hero's Journey, which you may be more familiar with than Vogler's version presented above.

Dan Harmon's Story Circle (or, The Eight-Step Hero's Journey)

Screenwriter Dan Harmon has riffed on the Hero's Journey by creating a more compact version, the Story Circle —and it works especially well for shorter-format stories such as television episodes, which happens to be what Harmon writes.

The Story Circle comprises eight simple steps with a heavy emphasis on the hero's character arc:

  • The hero is in a zone of comfort...
  • But they want something.
  • They enter an unfamiliar situation...
  • And adapt to it by facing trials.
  • They get what they want...
  • But they pay a heavy price for it.
  • They return to their familiar situation...
  • Having changed.

You may have noticed, but there is a sort of rhythm here. The eight steps work well in four pairs, simplifying the core of the Hero's Journey even further:

  • The hero is in a zone of comfort, but they want something.
  • They enter an unfamiliar situation and have to adapt via new trials.
  • They get what they want, but they pay a price for it.
  • They return to their zone of comfort, forever changed.

If you're writing shorter fiction, such as a short story or novella, definitely check out the Story Circle. It's the Hero's Journey minus all the extraneous bells & whistles.

Ten-Step Hero's Journey

The ten-step Hero's Journey is similar to the twelve-step version we presented above. It includes most of the same steps except for Refusal of the Call and Meeting the Mentor, arguing that these steps aren't as essential to include; and, it moves Crossing the Threshold to the end of Act One and Reward to the end of Act Two.

  • The Ordinary World
  • The Call to Adventure
  • Crossing the Threshold
  • Tests, Allies, Enemies
  • Approach the Innermost Cave
  • The Road Back
  • Resurrection
  • Return with Elixir

We've previously written about the ten-step hero's journey in a series of essays separated by act: Act One (with a prologue), Act Two , and Act Three .

Twelve-Step Hero's Journey: Version Two

Again, the second version of the twelve-step hero's journey is very similar to the one above, save for a few changes, including in which story act certain steps appear.

This version skips The Ordinary World exposition and starts right at The Call to Adventure; then, the story ends with two new steps in place of Return With Elixir: The Return and The Freedom to Live.

  • The Refusal of the Call
  • Meeting the Mentor
  • Test, Allies, Enemies
  • Approaching the Innermost Cave
  • The Resurrection
  • The Return*
  • The Freedom to Live*

In the final act of this version, there is more of a focus on an internal transformation for the hero. They experience a metamorphosis on their journey back to the Known World, return home changed, and go on to live a new life, uninhibited.

Seventeen-Step Hero's Journey

Finally, the granddaddy of heroic journeys: the seventeen-step Hero's Journey. This version includes a slew of extra steps your hero might face out in the expanse.

  • Refusal of the Call
  • Supernatural Aid (aka Meeting the Mentor)
  • Belly of the Whale*: This added stage marks the hero's immediate descent into danger once they've crossed the threshold.
  • Road of Trials (...with Allies, Tests, and Enemies)
  • Meeting with the Goddess/God*: In this stage, the hero meets with a new advisor or powerful figure, who equips them with the knowledge or insight needed to keep progressing forward.
  • Woman as Temptress (or simply, Temptation)*: Here, the hero is tempted, against their better judgment, to question themselves and their reason for being on the journey. They may feel insecure about something specific or have an exposed weakness that momentarily holds them back.
  • Atonement with the Father (or, Catharthis)*: The hero faces their Temptation and moves beyond it, shedding free from all that holds them back.
  • Apotheosis (aka The Ordeal)
  • The Ultimate Boon (aka the Reward)
  • Refusal of the Return*: The hero wonders if they even want to go back to their old life now that they've been forever changed.
  • The Magic Flight*: Having decided to return to the Known World, the hero needs to actually find a way back.
  • Rescue From Without*: Allies may come to the hero's rescue, helping them escape this bold, new world and return home.
  • Crossing of the Return Threshold (aka The Return)
  • Master of Two Worlds*: Very closely resembling The Resurrection stage in other variations, this stage signifies that the hero is quite literally a master of two worlds—The Known World and the Unknown World—having conquered each.
  • Freedom to Live

Again, we skip the Ordinary World opening here. Additionally, Acts Two and Three look pretty different from what we've seen so far, although, the bones of the Hero's Journey structure remain.

The Eight Hero’s Journey Archetypes

The Hero is, understandably, the cornerstone of the Hero’s Journey, but they’re just one of eight key archetypes that make up this narrative framework.

hero's journey joseph campbell video

In The Writer's Journey , Vogler outlined seven of these archetypes, only excluding the Ally, which we've included below. Here’s a breakdown of all eight with examples: 

1. The Hero

As outlined, the Hero is the protagonist who embarks on a transformative quest or journey. The challenges they overcome represent universal human struggles and triumphs. 

Vogler assigned a "primary function" to each archetype—helpful for establishing their role in a story. The Hero's primary function is "to service and sacrifice."

Example: Neo from The Matrix , who evolves from a regular individual into the prophesied savior of humanity.

2. The Mentor

A wise guide offering knowledge, tools, and advice, Mentors help the Hero navigate the journey and discover their potential. Their primary function is "to guide."

Example: Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid imparts not only martial arts skills but invaluable life lessons to Daniel.

3. The Ally

Companions who support the Hero, Allies provide assistance, friendship, and moral support throughout the journey. They may also become a friends-to-lovers romantic partner. 

Not included in Vogler's list is the Ally, though we'd argue they are essential nonetheless. Let's say their primary function is "to aid and support."

Example: Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings , a loyal friend and steadfast supporter of Frodo.

4. The Herald

The Herald acts as a catalyst to initiate the Hero's Journey, often presenting a challenge or calling the hero to adventure. Their primary function is "to warn or challenge."

Example: Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games , whose selection at the Reaping sets Katniss’s journey into motion.

5. The Trickster

A character who brings humor and unpredictability, challenges conventions, and offers alternative perspectives or solutions. Their primary function is "to disrupt."

Example: Loki from Norse mythology exemplifies the trickster, with his cunning and chaotic influence.

6. The Shapeshifter

Ambiguous figures whose allegiance and intentions are uncertain. They may be a friend one moment and a foe the next. Their primary function is "to question and deceive."

Example: Catwoman from the Batman universe often blurs the line between ally and adversary, slinking between both roles with glee.

7. The Guardian

Protectors of important thresholds, Guardians challenge or test the Hero, serving as obstacles to overcome or lessons to be learned. Their primary function is "to test."

Example: The Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail literally bellows “None shall pass!”—a quintessential ( but not very effective ) Guardian.

8. The Shadow

Represents the Hero's inner conflict or an antagonist, often embodying the darker aspects of the hero or their opposition. Their primary function is "to destroy."

Example: Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender; initially an adversary, his journey parallels the Hero’s path of transformation.

While your story does not have to use all of the archetypes, they can help you develop your characters and visualize how they interact with one another—especially the Hero.

For example, take your hero and place them in the center of a blank worksheet, then write down your other major characters in a circle around them and determine who best fits into which archetype. Who challenges your hero? Who tricks them? Who guides them? And so on...

Stories that Use the Hero’s Journey

Not a fan of saving the Declaration of Independence? Check out these alternative examples of the Hero’s Journey to get inspired: 

  • Epic of Gilgamesh : An ancient Mesopotamian epic poem thought to be one of the earliest examples of the Hero’s Journey (and one of the oldest recorded stories).
  • The Lion King (1994): Simba's exile and return depict a tale of growth, responsibility, and reclaiming his rightful place as king.
  • The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo: Santiago's quest for treasure transforms into a journey of self-discovery and personal enlightenment.
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman: A young girl's adventure in a parallel world teaches her about courage, family, and appreciating her own reality.
  • Kung Fu Panda (2008): Po's transformation from a clumsy panda to a skilled warrior perfectly exemplifies the Hero's Journey. Skadoosh!

The Hero's Journey is so generalized that it's ubiquitous. You can plop the plot of just about any quest-style narrative into its framework and say that the story follows the Hero's Journey. Try it out for yourself as an exercise in getting familiar with the method.

Will the Hero's Journey Work For You?

As renowned as it is, the Hero's Journey works best for the kinds of tales that inspired it: mythic stories.

Writers of speculative fiction may gravitate towards this method over others, especially those writing epic fantasy and science fiction (big, bold fantasy quests and grand space operas come to mind).

The stories we tell today are vast and varied, and they stretch far beyond the dealings of deities, saving kingdoms, or acquiring some fabled "elixir." While that may have worked for Gilgamesh a few thousand years ago, it's not always representative of our lived experiences here and now.

If you decide to give the Hero's Journey a go, we encourage you to make it your own! The pieces of your plot don't have to neatly fit into the structure, but you can certainly make a strong start on mapping out your story.

Hero's Journey Campfire Template

The Timeline Module in Campfire offers a versatile canvas to plot out each basic component of your story while featuring nested "notebooks."

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Simply double-click on each event card in your timeline to open up a canvas specific to that card. This allows you to look at your plot at the highest level, while also adding as much detail for each plot element as needed!

If you're just hearing about Campfire for the first time, it's free to sign up—forever! Let's plot the most epic of hero's journeys 👇

Lessons From the Hero’s Journey

The Hero's Journey offers a powerful framework for creating stories centered around growth, adventure, and transformation.

If you want to develop compelling characters, spin out engaging plots, and write books that express themes of valor and courage, consider The Hero’s Journey your blueprint. So stop holding out for a hero, and start writing!

Does your story mirror the Hero's Journey? Let us know in the comments below.

hero's journey joseph campbell video

  • Personal Development

The Hero's Journey, According to Joseph Campbell

The Hero's Journey, According to Joseph Campbell

The hero’s journey

The hero’s journey is a structure noted for its flexibility, as it’s capable of mutating without sacrificing its magic. The different phases attempt to explain the circular story in which a protagonist begins a journey that will change their life , facing different difficulties to achieve a goal and be able to return home.

The hero’s journey’s circularity mimics the world’s traditional compass : Life and death, order and chaos, consciousness and unconsciousness . The protagonist goes through several phases that take the action to the end, completing what’s called the hero’s journey arc: Their evolution.

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” -Joseph Campbell-

The 17 phases of the One Myth structure

Campbell describes seventeen stages or steps along this journey, although very few myths fulfill all seventeen. Some add many of the stages and others only some. The seventeen stages can be organized in different ways.

To understand their development, they’re usually divided into three sections: Departure (sometimes called “separation”), initiation, and return .

The output deals with the adventure of the hero before fulfilling the mission. In this section, the following aspects are highlighted:

  • The Ordinary World and the Call to Adventure:  Amidst a context of normality, something happens that functions as a call to action.
  • Refusal to the Call:  Obligations, insecurity, weakness, and fear influence the hero to reject the call and prefer to remain as they are. But finally, by force, they must embark on the adventure.
  • Supernatural Aid:  The guide or instructor appears who will introduce the hero to this new world. They often prepare the hero for what’s to come and offer them tools and amulets of protection. In this way, the protagonist is prepared to cross the border from the ordinary world to the extraordinary world.
  • The Crossing of the First Threshold:  The hero enters the field of adventure, venturing into unknown and dangerous terrain where no rules or limitations are known. They have crossed the door. The hero is now ready to take action and truly begin their quest, be it physical, spiritual, or emotional.
  • In the Belly of the Whale: This represents the hero’s final separation from the known self and world. By participating in this stage, they’re willing to undergo a metamorphosis.

The initiation deals with the hero’s various adventures along the way:

  • The Road of Trials: This stage involves various tasks that are seemingly impossible, which the hero must overcome. They make mistakes and discover their weaknesses, strengths, and talents through them.
  • The Meeting with the Goddess: The hero discovers how boundless and powerful love and unconditional surrender are. True love personified.
  • Woman as the Temptress: Many activities, pleasures, and rewards tempt the hero to give up.
  • Atonement with the Father/Abyss: The hero confronts whoever it is who holds the ultimate power in their life and is initiated.
  • The Apotheosis:  The ultimate metamorphosis or transformation elevates the hero to a higher plane.
  • The Ultimate Boon: This symbolizes the achievement of the mission, the climax. All the previous steps served to prepare the hero for this moment in which he achieves that precious transcendental objective. This is the climax of the hero’s story where everything they love is put on the line.

A spiral staircase.

Heroes: A Video Game Symphony

Be transported on an epic hero's journey with this unique concert experience perfect for gamers and non-gamers alike! As set forth by Joseph Campbell's monomyth; a narrative framework that can be seen in many of the games, films, and books throughout history, this concert is the story of a hero told in an unforgettable concert that is not to be missed.

Kevin Zakresky , Conductor   Oregon Chorale  Oregon Symphony

Enter Promo Code:

Tickets start at $25

Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall (1037 SW Broadway, Portland)

hero's journey joseph campbell video

Buy Tickets

  • © 2024 Oregon Symphony
  • Legal Disclaimers
  • Photo Credits


  1. The Hero's Journey according to Joseph Campbell

    View the full video and lesson at: learn about how to leverage myth-making in marketing head ov...


    This is a quick summary of The Hero's Journey stages by Joseph Campbell.Subscribe:

  3. Joseph Campbell and the Hero's Journey

    Joseph Campbell. & the Hero's Journey. A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow men. The Hero With A Thousand Faces 23.

  4. Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth

    Joseph Campbell encourages the audience to discover what excites them, and to make that the basis for their personal journeys.Watch Episode 2: https://youtu...

  5. The Timeless Tale of the Hero's Journey: Full Film!

    This film is an exploration of famed Mythologist Joseph Campbell's studies and their continuing impact on our culture.Through interviews with visionaries from a variety of fields interwoven with enactments of classic tales by a sweet and motley group of kids, the film navigates the stages of what Campbell dubbed The Hero's Journey: the challenges, the fears, the dragons, the battles, and the ...

  6. Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey: The Definitive Guide

    The Hero's Journey: A Timeless Blueprint. The Hero's Journey, conceptualized by Joseph Campbell, isn't just a literary tool - it's the backbone of countless storytelling traditions. It has enabled writers and filmmakers to craft narratives that resonate deeply with audiences, regardless of cultural or temporal divides.

  7. Prime Video: Joseph Campbell: The Hero's Journey

    Writer, teacher, mythologist, storyteller, and scholar, Joseph Campbell had a profound influence on how we view ourselves and the world. This new portrait brings us closer to his work and the life to which he said "yes." The hero's journey, Campbell's own quest, was a pathless journey of inquiry, discovery, delight, and joy. IMDb 8.1 57min 1987.

  8. Watch Joseph Campbell: The Hero's Journey

    The hero's journey, Campbell's own quest, was a pathless journey of inquiry, discovery, delight, and joy. Writer, teacher, mythologist, storyteller, and scholar, Joseph Campbell had a profound influence on how we view ourselves and the world. This new portrait brings us closer to his work and the life to which he said.

  9. The Psychological Value of Applying the Hero's Journey to Your Life

    Campbell described more than a dozen key elements of a Hero's Journey, seven of which Rogers explored in his research: protagonist, shift, quest, allies, challenge, transformation, and legacy ...

  10. Welcome to the Joseph Campbell Foundation

    You'll learn about The Hero's Journey and the enduring cultural impact of Campbell's groundbreaking book. ... In 2024, the Joseph Campbell Foundation will be celebrating the groundbreaking video series, Joseph Campbell a nd the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers. Our featured episode in May is Episode 5: Love and the Goddess. You can watch ...

  11. Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey: A Better Screenplay in 17 Steps

    The Great Advisor. 7. Meeting the Goddess. At this point in the monomyth, our Hero needs a break to adjust perspective and digest the ways they've changed. It's here that they meet with an advisor, or a trusted individual, who will help them gain a better insight into the next steps of the journey.

  12. The Hero's Journey

    In his best-known work The Hero with a Thousand Faces published in 1949, Joseph Campbell describes the archetypal Hero's Journey or "monomyth" shared by the ...

  13. Hero's journey

    The phrase "the hero's journey", used in reference to Campbell's monomyth, first entered into popular discourse through two documentaries. The first, released in 1987, The Hero's Journey: The World of Joseph Campbell , was accompanied by a 1990 companion book, The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work (with Phil Cousineau and ...

  14. Joseph Campbell & The Hero's Journey

    In 1949, scholar Joseph Campbell published his 1st book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In this book, Campbell introduced us to his theory that myths from around the globe share a fundamental structure, the Monomyth. C ampbell formulated this theory over 5 years, spending 9 hours a day reading mythology from around the world.

  15. Are you monomythic? Joseph Campbell and the hero's journey

    Campbell defines this as the "monomyth" - the typical trajectory of a story, across all cultures and religions. This monomyth is known as the "hero's journey". Comprising three stages ...

  16. Hero's Journey Steps: Campbell's 12 Vital Stages Explained

    Step 2: The Call to Adventure. The first hero's journey step is the call to adventure. The call to adventure marks a transition from the ordinary world to the special world. The hero is introduced to his quest of great consequence. Obi-Wan said to Luke, "You must come with me to Alderaan.".

  17. The Hero's Journey: A Plot Structure Inspired by Mythology

    The Hero's Journey is a famous template for storytelling, mapping a hero's adventurous quest through trials and tribulations to ultimate transformation. A portrait of Joseph Campbell (©Joseph Campbell Archives and Library); Christopher Vogler's model of the Hero's Journey from Myths and Movies (1999) by Stuart Voytilla.

  18. Ep. 1: Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth

    Bill Moyers and mythologist Joseph Campbell begin their groundbreaking and timeless conversation with an exploration of the classic hero cycle, including con...

  19. The hero's journey, according to Joseph Campbell

    There are different theories, and one of them was proposed by Joseph Campbell. It describes a path of personal development, which he called The Hero's Journey, that each of us lives at different times in our lives. The choice of a path would depend a lot on the energetic resonance of the person, their courage, and their bravery in the face of ...

  20. The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell's Vision of the Hero's Path

    Here I will go into the steps that Campbell describes as the essential points of a hero's journey, to the best of my ability and in the simplest way that I can (there is also a helpful story ...

  21. Heroes: A Video Game Symphony

    Salem. Heroes: A Video Game Symphony. Be transported on an epic hero's journey with this unique concert experience perfect for gamers and non-gamers alike! As set forth by Joseph Campbell's monomyth; a narrative framework that can be seen in many of the games, films, and books throughout history, this concert is the story of a hero told in an ...

  22. The Hero's Journey in 5 Minutes

    The Hero's Journey is a concept that was developed by Joseph Campbell in his book the Hero with a Thousand Faces. This story arch can be seen in our most pop...

  23. The Hero's Journey on Vimeo

    The Hero's Journey ... Inspire employees with compelling live and on-demand video experiences. Video monetization. Build a site and generate income from purchases, subscriptions, and courses. ... Joseph Campbell, a famous mythologist, was the first to discover similarities within all ancient myths. He called it the Monomyth. According to him ...