reading · Writing

The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Chapter 1.1

The first chapter is entitled: The Call to Adventure

It says:

This first stage 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. This fateful region of both treasure and danger may be variously represented: as a distant land, a forest, a kingdom underground, beneath the waves, or above the sky, a secret island, lofty mountaintop, or profound dream state; but it is always a place of strangely fluid and polymorphous beings, unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds, and impossible delight.

So, the call to adventure is something that wants to transport the hero from the comfort of his world to someplace else, someplace the hero doesn’t know, someplace full of treasure and danger.

I think “. . . unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds, and impossible delight.” means adventure. So the Call to Adventure must take the hero someplace (anyplace!) filled with, well, adventure.

So how does your character know they are being issued a Call to Adventure?

The herald or announcer of the adventure, therefore, is often dark, loathly, or terrifying, judged evil by the world; yet if one could follow, the way would be opened through the walls of day into the dark where the jewels glow. Or the herald is a beast (as in the fairy tale), representative of the repressed instinctual fecundity within ourselves, or again veiled mysterious figure – the unknown.

Darth Vader as the Herald

I take this to mean that the herald announces the adventure and the herald could be:

  • The enemy: I have no difficulty with the idea that evil deeds can constitute a call to adventure. Bad deeds anyway, someone trying to harm you and yours.
  • a symbol of the hero’s fertility: The love interest? Like Helen of Troy? Um. From Frozen, does Anne constitute a herald for Kristoff? She did issue a call to adventure to him, didn’t she?
  • a symbol of the unknown: I don’t quite know what to make of this one. A foreigner? A hurt foreigner?
  • All of the above: Throwing this one out there just because. I think it is possible that the enemy, the fertility symbol and symbol of the unknown to be one and the same.

 

Whether dream or myth, in these adventures there is an atmosphere of irresistible fascination about the figure that appears suddenly as guide, marking a new period, a new stage, in the biography. That which has to be faced, and is somehow profoundly familiar to the unconscious – though unknown, surprising, and even frightening to the conscious personality – makes itself known; and what formerly was meaningful may become strangely emptied of value: like the world of the king’s child, with the sudden disappearance into the well of the golden ball. Thereafter, even though the hero returns for a while to his familiar occupations, they may be found unfruitful. A series of signs of increasing force then will become visible, until – as in the following legend of “The Four Signs” which is the most celebrated example of call to adventure in the literature of the world – the summons can no longer be denied.

This is such long quote! Well. The guide sounds like a symbol of change in the hero’s life, a change so profound that their routine life becomes less satisfying and everything goes wrong.

The Four Signs is the story of Buddha, how he saw something he’d never seen before and his life changed just a little with each sign. The signs foreshadowed his becoming the Buddha. I suppose each figure he saw constitute a guide.

Or maybe a herald – I am not sure. But I think they were probably guides, guides to what happens in the future.

And, finally, the hero gives in to the inevitable and can no longer deny the Call to Adventure. Because everything in the hero’s life is going wrong. So the hero has no choice except to say: Yes, I accept the call to adventure.

What do you guys think? About the herald, the guide and Call to Adventure?

Advertisements

16 thoughts on “The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Chapter 1.1

  1. Great summary! It’s interesting to think of stories in these broad structural terms. I’ve been having some fun applying them to Austen, where the herald more often than not says things like, “Have you heard? Netherfield is let at last, to a Mr. Bingley! Five thousand a year, and single!”

    Not exactly Theseus in the labyrinth. But then again, it is, it most definitely is.

  2. I didn’t find this till I was looking through your posts for my own. Sorry I missed it! I think you did an amazing job of summarizing what he posits, and I’m pretty sure of the two yours is more helpful. Seriously.

    FWIW, I took the “Symbol of the Unknown” to be more of an artifact than a person. Like a fresh conch shell in Nebraska, or rusty sword found in an abandoned mine. This kind of thing, to where the “Hero” is pulled to investigate its existence.

Say something and make my day!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s