You might have noticed that there was no Friday with Freakazoid! last week. This was intentional, after the fact. I've decided that, since December is a month dedicated to celebrations of various sun (and son) gods, and since many of those gods conform to the Monomythic Hero Cycle (and related Hero models), and since I already get a bunch of hits for Monomyths despite never really discussing it, it seemed a good time to implement a new weekly feature.
Also, what with the dearth of Freakazoid videos on YouTube, I may just prolong the life of my only other regular feature.
So, to start things off, I'm going to briefly (yeah, right) run down the characteristics Joseph Campbell's Monomyth, Lord Raglan's Hero, and the literary Christ Figure, all of which will be considered throughout the rest of the month. Today we'll be covering the Campbell contribution, and I'll hit the other two a little later in the week.
"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."--Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, p. 30.
That's it folks, it's as simple as that. Onto the next thing.
What, that's not simple? Okay, fine. The Monomyth consists primarily of the Hero Cycle, a plot that recurs in mythology and fiction all over the world. A hero begins in his homeland, where all is at peace, except perhaps the Hero, who may feel ostracized, outcast, or different. This is usually because the Hero was born under special circumstances, or has had a significant childhood. The Hero then experiences a Call to Adventure, which may be an event or may be a literal calling, and often the Hero will initially Refuse this call, entering the Reluctant Hero stage. Eventually the Hero accepts the Call to Adventure, because otherwise there wouldn't be much of a story. The Hero receives some sort of aid, often a weapon or device, usually supernatural, usually presented to the Hero by a mentor. Having received this boon, the Hero crosses the First Threshold into the land of the unknown, the land of darkness, usually vanquishing a Threshold Guardian in order to pass. The threshold might be literal or more figurative, and the guardian may become an ally to the Hero after he passes this test. Following this, the Hero descends deeper into the land of darkness, facing various tests in the portion of the cycle which Campbell called "The Belly of the Whale." These tests often take place underground or in the underworld, but always occur in the land of the unknown, the land alien to the Hero. Despite the odds and various doubts, the Hero passes these trials, moving the plot onward. As the Hero faces these seemingly impossible tests, they are accompanied by helpful allies, though among those allies may be an untrustworthy 'shapeshifter' who actually seeks to hinder the hero's progress. The Hero faces temptation on this journey, often in the form of a lover, and the Hero must choose between this pleasure and the completion of the journey.
This leads ultimately to the Ordeal, where the Hero faces a Nemesis (dark mirror image of the self) or encounters some other major event (often a battle) which causes a change in the Hero's character. This change may be an epiphany, it may be an expansion of consciousness, or it may be a literal physical death and rebirth. It is this event that leads eventually to the Hero's apotheosis. Following the major Ordeal, the Hero receives some reward, possibly in the form of greater wisdom or enlightenment. This reward is often called the Elixir, and may be key to the Hero's return home. Of course, there's always the chance that the Hero doesn't want to return, in which case there is a Refusal similar to the Refusal of the Call. Eventually, the Hero decides that home is the place to be. This proceeds to the Flight, where the Hero ascends out of the darkness of the unknown world, usually at a fairly quick pace. During the Flight, the Hero might face more trials, or the same trials faced during the descent, but will overcome them with the knowledge gained from the previous ordeals. This culminates in the crossing of the Second Threshold, where the Hero defeats the final Guardian, achieving mastery over the world of darkness. The Hero is reborn into the familiar world of light, forever changed (sometimes having literally become a god), and bringing the Elixir or enlightenment from the world of darkness which improves life for the Hero at home. This act proves that the Hero has achieved mastery of both worlds, the world of common day and the world of supernatural wonder, and can thus be at peace.
There are a few other points that Campbell included, some of which have been reinterpreted in recent years (for instance, when he came up with "Woman as Temptress," his sexist Catholicism was showing--many now just go with "Temptation"), others which are more or less subcategories. Following the trials, the Hero may meet the Mother Goddess, who offers love and/or some greater boon or purpose. During the trials the Hero may meet with their father, and must come to reconciliation with him. At some point, the Hero will often dress as one of the enemies. But these aren't quite as important to the cycle as the other points.
That's a lot to take in, I know. So, I'll put it into more familiar terms.
Luke Skywalker lives on peaceful Tatooine (land of common day), but wishes for something more. Little does he know that he is the son of a Queen and the Dark Lord of the Sith (Special Birth). He ends up with a couple of old droids, one of whom contains a holographic distress message (Call to Adventure). R2-D2 runs off, and Luke chases after him with C-3P0 in tow, eventually catching up with the Astromech droid in the desert. He plans to go back home, so Uncle Owen doesn't get too mad (Refusal of the Call). He encounters Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi, who gives him his father's lightsaber (Supernatural Aid) and tells him the truth (sort of) about his father's life, and about the Force. There's some more call-refusing ("Look, I can take you as far as Anchorhead. You can get a transport there to Mos Eisley or wherever you're going.") as Luke whines his way through the Reluctant Hero phase, but eventually (thanks to the slaughter of his Aunt and Uncle) Luke accepts the Call. The group cautiously approaches Mos Eisley Spaceport, a wretched hive of scum and villainy, where Obi-Wan fends off Ponda Baba (Crossing of the First Threshold), and they meet the smuggler Han Solo (Ally/Shapeshifter), who shot first. Luke and the crew head off into space (The Belly of the Whale) where they face various trials (Imperial Star Destroyers, Luke's Force training, "that's no moon, that's a space station!"). They head into the Death Star, rescue Princess Leia (Meeting with the Goddess), while dressed as Stormtroopers (Wearing the Enemy's Skin), and ultimately encounter Darth Vader (The Ordeal). Obi-Wan dies, leaving Luke feeling alone and giving him new resolve to beat the Empire. They retreat with the Princess and the Death Star plans in their possession (Flight with the Elixir), and make their way to the Rebel Base. Eventually, they head out to take down the Death Star. Using the knowledge he gained through his trials, specifically of the Force, and with some help from his allies, Darth Vader is defeated (Crossing of the Second Threshold), and thanks to the Death Star plans, Luke is able to destroy the Death Star (Return with the Elixir), and returns home (not his literal home, but the "home" of being on-planet again) to the world of the familiar, having achieved Mastery of Both Worlds. He is happy now, no longer feeling the pull of adventure as he did before these events unfolded, he has achieved enlightenment and is at peace.
It all fits so well...why, you'd think George Lucas wrote Star Wars with Campbell in mind specifically.
Oh, wait. He did. Nevermind.
Coming tomorrow: Lord Raglan and some other Lord!