[[caption-width-right:350:Simplified Journey Illustration by [[http://www.yourheroicjourney.com/ Reg Harris]]]]

->''"Wallace, when my journey began, I was living in an ordinary world. Ramona skated through my dreams, and it was like a call to adventure, a call I considered refusing, but my mentor, that's you, told me if I want something bad enough, I have to fight for it! So I did, there were tests, allies, enemies. I approached a deep cave and went through a crazy ordeal, during which I totally seized the sword! Sadly I died, then I resurrected! Now I realize what I should've been fighting for all along, but before I do, I have to ask one final favor of you… could you put a robe on and hand me the phone?"''
-->-- '''[[Film/ScottPilgrimVsTheWorld Scott Pilgrim]]''' [[note]]It's from a [[DummiedOut deleted scene]], but it still fits.[[/note]]

The Hero's Journey is an archetypal story pattern, common in ancient myths as well as modern day adventures.

The concept of the Hero's Journey was described by mythologist Joseph Campbell in his book ''Literature/TheHeroWithAThousandFaces'' and refined by Christopher Vogler in his book ''The Writer's Journey''.

It can be boiled down to three stages:
* '''Departure:''' the Hero leaves the familiar world behind.
* '''Initiation:''' the Hero learns to navigate the unfamiliar world of adventure.
* '''Return:''' the Hero returns to the familiar world.

More elaborate taxonomies usually include the following stages, not all of which need be present:
* '''[[WonderChild Miraculous]] or [[MysticalPregnancy unusual]] circumstances around the Hero's conception or birth.''' Bonus points if there was a prophecy. Less common in modern stories, which tend to emphasize the role of personal choice in defining a hero, although there may still be a ProphecyTwist involved.
* '''[[EasingIntoTheAdventure Begins]] in [[{{Muggles}} the ordinary world of the Hero's hometown]]''', often in one of two flavours:
** TheGoodKingdom, for a story in which the Hero must ''[[SaveTheWorld save]]'' the world from impending doom, and
** [[CrapsackWorld The Wasteland]], for a story in which the Hero must ''[[WorldHalfFull restore]]'' their world.
** {{Suburbia}} can be either, depending on where the story falls on the SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism.
* TheHero may be [[SmallTownBoredom dissatisfied with the ordinary]] and express a desire for adventure. In musicals this can be expressed through an IWantSong.
* '''The {{Herald}} brings a CallToAdventure.''' The Hero learns that they must leave the known world behind and travel into the land of adventure.
* The Hero must then decide how to answer the Call:
** RefusalOfTheCall: More common in classic stories. The Call will often try again because TheCallKnowsWhereYouLive. CantStayNormal and ResignedToTheCall are special cases of call refusal.
** JumpedAtTheCall, sometimes even in the face of AdventureRebuff: More common in modern stories. The modern subversion of this is when the hero is ResignedToTheCall. They accept it, but only because they feel [[YouCantFightFate it would be pointless to resist]], and not because they're particularly happy about the thought of adventure. If the hero finds themself abducted by destiny [[TheCallHasBadReception before even knowing what the Call is]] [[IgnorantOfTheCall or even that they were addressed]], then they may be a CosmicPlaything. Resigning oneself to fate becomes easier in these situations. Just like its enthusiastic counterpart, this version of the narrative is more common in modern tales than classic ones.
* Frequently, the first step on the Journey is [[ItMayHelpYouOnYourQuest receiving some kind of magical tchotchke]] or other '''SupernaturalAid'''
* '''Crossing the First Threshold''': The Hero must make a conscious, willing decision to embark on the adventure and leave the known world behind. This is ''the First Threshold''. The Hero may have to defeat ThresholdGuardians, who are not necessarily adversarial but ''do'' test the Hero's resolve. DownTheRabbitHole is a special case for young heroines embarking on supernatural adventures.
* '''The Land of Adventure:''' the Hero enters a strange, dreamlike realm, where logic is topsy-turvy and the "rules" are markedly different from the ordinary world. Carl Jung identified the Ordinary Realm with the conscious mind, and the Realm of Adventure with the subconscious mind.
** One may meet their [[TrueCompanions Hero Partners]] here and [[SaveThePrincess rescue a]] DamselInDistress.
* '''The [[CantRefuseTheCallAnymore Spiritual Death and Rebirth]]''' represents a symbolic death for the Hero: the Hero is defeated and killed, their flesh scattered, ready to be reborn and emerge as a new person. If you think the symbolic death ought to come later, don't worry: ''The Writer's Journey'' omits this step altogether in favor of a ''Resurrection'' step just before the end.
** Part of this step involves the Hero [[MentorOccupationalHazard Losing the Guide]].
* '''Road of Trials''': the path out of the Belly of the Whale. Usually the meat of the story; ''The Writer's Journey'' calls it ''Tests, Allies, Enemies'', while [[Literature/TheSevenBasicPlots Booker]] goes into detail on different types of tests (deadly terrain, monsters, temptations, deadly opposites, and a journey to the underworld). Stops along the way might include:
** [[HeelFaceRevolvingDoor The Shapeshifter]]: someone you don't trust but nonetheless need for their capabilities or knowledge.
** [[HerosMuse The Goddess]]
** [[TheVamp The Temptress]]
** [[WellDoneSonGuy Atonement With the Father]]: Creator/GeorgeLucas loved this step. [[Theatre/OedipusRex Oedipus]] probably didn't. Variants include a final showdown with an ArchnemesisDad (sometimes still ending in atonement if DeathEqualsRedemption) and CallingTheOldManOut
** At least one LeaveYourQuestTest, usually after meeting the Goddess or Temptress.
* '''Night Sea Voyage''': the Hero must sneak into the BigBad's ElaborateUndergroundBase and retrieve something or someone. Campbell noted that these [[StealthRun Stealth Runs]] were usually at night and often involved water; hence the name.
** Link's initial attempt at rescuing Aryll from the Forsaken Fortress in ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTheWindWaker'' is a near-perfect example of one of these.
** Perhaps the best known example is the infiltration of the [[StarWars Death Star]] by Luke Skywalker to rescue Princess Leia.
* [[ActionFilmQuietDramaScene Time out just before the big battle]]: the Heroes gather around a campfire and prepare for the battle, tell stories, confess their feelings, etc. It reminds them of what's at stake, and serves as a [[BreatherEpisode breather]] after all the action of the Road of Trials.
* '''Apotheosis / Fight against the BigBad / Ultimate Boon''' (These are typically very closely related, often intertwined.)
** ''Apotheosis:'' The Hero comes to view the world in a new and radically different way, either because of a critical breakthrough they've made or some crucial information they've uncovered. If it is something to do with themself then this is a good time for an IAmWho.
** ''The Hero confronts the BigBad'': Typically this plays out in a DavidVersusGoliath fashion. They are usually called upon to sacrifice themself, or something or someone important to them. A FriendOrIdolDecision is a common scenario. Note that ''asked'' is the key word here--it's usually [[SweetAndSourGrapes enough that the Hero be willing to sacrifice something without actually having to do it]]. Someone else will sacrifice themself in the Hero's stead, or [[TakeAThirdOption the Hero will prove to have outwitted the Big Bad somehow]] (so that the apparent sacrifice isn't really a sacrifice), or it was all a SecretTestOfCharacter, or…
** ''The Ultimate Boon'': getting the reward the hero's been chasing all this time, often but not always a MacGuffin.
** TheFinalTemptation is often involved in one or more of these three events: A hero [[NotInThisForYourRevolution originally motivated by a self-serving goal]] may receive their Ultimate Boon with the option to take it and run before saving the day. A hero on a [[TheHomewardJourney Homeward Journey]] may find a way home, but [[SendMeBack turn back]] after their Apotheosis makes them realize their work isn't done. Another may be offered the Ultimate Boon or a tempting substitute by the Big Bad…in exchange for stepping aside. Still another may find that the Ultimate Boon is exactly the sacrifice they are required to make to defeat the Big Bad.
* '''[[IChooseToStay Refusal of the Return]]''': At this point in the story, the Hero has mastered the strange world they were thrust into. They probably have earned a permanent place here, if they want it. They may even ''want'' to stay, but usually there are forces at work that propel them home.
* '''The Return''': Also called the ''[[ShapeShifterShowdown Magic Flight]]''; the Hero now has the boon and high-tails it away, with the villain and/or their forces in hot pursuit, the two parties locked in a battle of wits and magic ([[ShapeShifterShowdown especially shapeshifting]]) during the chase. (See the Celtic story of Taliesin's escape from Cerridwen for a textbook example of this.) The Hero's escape may not require actual magic, but ''will'' [[FinalExamFinale require all of the new skills they've learned]] and new [[JustForFun/HowToGatherCharacters allies they've made.]] Or alternately they could realize the AwfulTruth that [[YouCantGoHomeAgain they can't return home]] because sometimes FailureIsTheOnlyOption…
* '''Crossing the Return Threshold'''. Sometimes a fight against the forces of the {{Muggle}} world, which the Hero wins thanks to help from their {{Muggle}} allies. This is where the PostClimaxConfrontation happens, as the remaining antagonistic forces have followed the Hero beyond the threshold and attacked them at a time when the plot should be wrapping up. In the absence of any action, it may be a BoringReturnJourney instead, a chance for the Hero to reflect on what they've gained and experienced throughout their journey.
* '''[[SoWhatDoWeDoNow Freedom to Live]]''': The Hero grants the boon to their people.
* '''Celebration''': A DancePartyEnding is often in order.

The pattern of the Hero's Journey can be found in shows ranging from ''Franchise/StarTrek'' to ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer''. George Lucas claims to have used it as a guide when writing ''StarWars''. Traditionally, the Hero's Journey was cyclic; a female Hero's Journey is more likely to be cyclic than a male's. ''Buffy The Vampire Slayer'' fits this to a tee; the movie is the first cycle, and each season roughly corresponds to one additional cycle. The game ''VideoGame/{{Journey}}'' intentionally fits this model exactly, even referring specific steps in the soundtrack's titles. This sequence is so ubiquitous that even ''WesternAnimation/TheSpongebobSquarepantsMovie'' can be shown to follow it.

The ''Literature/HarryPotter'' books can also be seen to be cyclic in this fashion, although the journey was followed more closely in the earlier installments. The sixth and seventh books are arguably one cycle divided into two parts. With the final book having been split into [[Film/HarryPotter two films]], the last three films kind of form their own mini-trilogy, with each installment covering a step in the departure-initiation-return model. An interesting element is the fact that in the first five books/films, the Muggle world is the ordinary world and Hogwarts is the world of adventure, but in the ''Prince''/''Hallows'' duology/trilogy, Hogwarts has become the ordinary world and now it is the world beyond Hogwarts which is the world of adventure.

This approach is not without critics, however. Some critics argue that Campbell's theory has become a [[StrictlyFormula formula]] on how to make hit stories and thus discourages originality since it is unsuitable for every type of story. Others feel that the pattern is too [[Administrivia/PeopleSitOnChairs vague and general]] to be a notable pattern among both classical and modern stories. Still others feel that the approach focuses far too much on what good stories do when ''how'' they get there and the problems they must solve are more important.

Compare Campbell's description of the journey with Booker's ''Literature/TheSevenBasicPlots'', especially the plots of ''Overcoming the Monster'', ''The Quest'', and ''Voyage and Return''. Like Campbell, Booker invests a lot of symbolism in the various elements, to the point where messing up the symbolism kills the story for him (for example, he calls ''StarWars'' flawed because they rescued the princess way before they killed the BigBad, when ideally those should happen at the same time, since the death of the Monster ''causes'' the release of the Anima).

Compare TheQuest. See also ProppsFunctionsOfFolktales. If you experience a HeelRealization mid-Journey and realize your efforts so far have been for the wrong side or wrong reasons, please take the detour to your RedemptionQuest.