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The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Chapter 1.2: Refusal of the Call

Chapter one was about the Call to Adventure.

Chapter two is about what happens when the hero refuses the Call.

The book says this:

Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, “culture,” the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved.

Basically, after hero refuses the Call to Adventure, life becomes a dreary bore. The hero loses all forward momentum, maybe gets into trouble, maybe gets into trouble and becomes a literal victim.

I mean, in the first Harry Potter movie, after his uncle refused to give him the letters, the whole family ended up in a little lighthouse by the shore. Little Dudley ended up with a pig’s tail. But only the people denying Harry the first book adventure got into trouble. I don’t this counts as a refusal. Well, not by Harry, but I don’t think his uncle can’t refuse for him. (Did Harry Potter have a refusal?)

The book also says this:

The myths and folk tales of the whole world make clear that the refusal is essentially a refusal to give up what one takes to be one’s own interest. The future is regarded not in terms of an remitting series of deaths and births, but as though one’s present system of ideals, virtues, goals and advantages were to be fixed and made secure.

I guess this is why Harry never really refused to be a wizard; it was never in his best interests to refuse such a thing. Never any way to make a refusal seem like a real good idea.

And also why in The Hobbit, Bilbo refused the Call to Adventure, only to be inundated by dwarves.

I think in The Belgariad by David and Leigh Eddings there was an actual refusal of the Call to Adventure sometime in the second or third book – I don’t remember. Refusing turned out badly for Garian, poor thing.

I guess the second line in that quote about the future is how the characters sees their values and goals as fixed, unchanging. They think: what’s good for me now will always be good for me. But who doesn’t? Who thinks their values might change someday?

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5 thoughts on “The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Chapter 1.2: Refusal of the Call

  1. Another great summary! 🙂 I think in dramatic terms, following the Call after a Refusal can be powerful. I am guessing this is exactly why Lucas had Luke Skywalker initially turn down Obi-Wan, only to then have his Aunt and Uncle killed, leaving Luke with little choice.

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