[[quoteright:350:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/heros_journey4_8462.png]]
[[caption-width-right:350:Simplified Journey Illustration by [[http://www.yourheroicjourney.com/ Reg Harris]]]]
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 ''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 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.
* '''Begins in [[{{Muggles}} the ordinary world of the Hero's hometown]]''', often in one of two flavours:
** [[TheKingdom Peaceful Kingdom]]; 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]]'' his world.
** {{Suburbia}} can be either, depending on where the story falls on the SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism.
* The Hero 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 s/he 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. He accepts it, but only because he feels [[YouCantFightFate it would be pointless to resist]], and not because he's particularly happy about the thought of adventure. If the hero finds himself abducted by destiny [[TheCallHasBadReception before even knowing what the Call is]] [[IgnorantOfTheCall or even that he was addressed]], then he may be a CosmicPlaything. Resigning one's self 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.
* '''The BellyOfTheWhale''' represents a symbolic death for the Hero: the Hero is defeated and killed, his 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.
* '''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 [[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 his or her help/information
** [[HerosMuse The Goddess]]
** [[TheVamp The Temptress]]
** [[WellDoneSonGuy Atonement With the Father]]: GeorgeLucas loved this step. [[Theatre/OedipusRex Oedipus]] probably didn't.
** A 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 he's made or some crucial information he's uncovered. If it is something to do with himself then this is a good time for an IAmWho.
** The Hero confronts the BigBad in a typical DavidVersusGoliath fashion: He is usually called upon to sacrifice himself or something/someone important to him. 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 himself 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...
** Ultimate Boon: getting the reward the hero's been chasing all this time, often but not always a MacGuffin.
* '''[[IChooseToStay Refusal of the Return]]''': At this point in the story, the Hero has mastered the strange world he was thrust into. He probably has earned a permanent place here, if he wants it. He may even ''want'' to stay, but usually there are forces at work that propel him home.
* '''The Return''': Also called the ''[[ShapeShifterShowdown Magic Flight]]''; the Hero now has the boon and high-tails it away, with the villain or his forces in hot pursuit; while they engage 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 he's learned]] and new [[HowToGatherCharacters allies he's made.]] Or alternately he could realize the AwfulTruth that [[YouCantGoHomeAgain he 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 his {{Muggle}} allies.
* '''[[SoWhatDoWeDoNow Freedom to Live]]''': The Hero grants the boon to his people.

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 ''VideoGame/{{Journey}}'' game intentionally fits this model exactly, even referring specific steps in the soundtrack's titles.

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.

Compare Campbell's description of the journey with Booker's ''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.
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