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The Hero's Journey
Simplified Journey Illustration by 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 The Hero with a Thousand Faces 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:

The pattern of the Hero's Journey can be found in shows ranging from Star Trek to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. George Lucas claims to have used it as a guide when writing Star Wars. 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 Journey game intentionally fits this model exactly, even referring specific steps in the soundtrack's titles.

The Harry Potter 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 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 The Seven Basic Plots, 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 Star Wars flawed because they rescued the princess way before they killed the Big Bad, when ideally those should happen at the same time, since the death of the Monster causes the release of the Anima).

Compare The Quest. See also Propp's Functions of Folktales. If you experience a Heel Realization mid-Journey and realize your efforts so far have been for the wrong side or wrong reasons, please take the detour to your Redemption Quest.
Plot PreassumptionNarrative TropesMystery Arc
ConflictBooks on TropeThe Hero with a Thousand Faces
The HeroLit. Class TropesIn Medias Res
The HeroJustForFun/Tropes of LegendHey, It's That Guy!
Heroic BastardCharacterization TropesHidden Depths
The HeroWe Are Not Alone IndexHillbilly Horrors
Romance Novel PlotsPlotsTime Travel Tropes

alternative title(s): Monomyth; Tolkiens Cycle; Heros Journey; The Hero Cycle
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