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The Belly of the Whale: The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Chapter 1.5

The Belly of the Whale

The hero has heard the Call to Adventure, accepted it (the hero may have rejected it first) and has also gotten through the First Threshold. Now our brave hero is in the Belly of the Whale.

Chapter 1.1 was about the Call to Adventure.

Chapter 1.2 was about Refusal of the Call to Adventure.

Chapter 1.3 was about Supernatural Aid.

Chapter 1.4 was about Crossing of the First Threshold

This section about the Belly of the Whale concludes the first chapter of the The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It is called Departure and I imagine it means the hero has finished departing and is well into the adventure.

The book has this to say about The Belly of the Whale:

The idea that the threshold is a transit into a sphere of rebirth is symbolized in the worldwide womb image of the belly of the whale. The hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown, and would appear to have died.

To me it sounds like the hero is trapped somehow, maybe by the enemy, maybe by the world itself. Maybe the hero was kidnapped or betrayed into the hands of the enemy. Maybe the enemy has trapped him some other way and he has to shoot his way out.

I am less sure about the rebirth bit of this quote. I think it means being trapped changes the hero somehow, in some fundamental way. Traumatic experiences do change people, but usually not in a good way. A traumatic experience can also turn you into a better person, or at least a more empathic one, so it could go both ways.

In Star Wars (Episode IV: The New Hope) this is when Luke and company are trapped on the Death Star. The point where they jump into the garbage disposal place is the moment when they are in abdomen of the Death Star.

Harry Potter . . . Harry Potter is harder to say. I think this is when he gets past  Fluffy (the three-headed dog) and goes through that trapdoor. They play that  game of chess. Well, this or there isn’t a Belly of the Whale in the first Harry Potter book. What do you guys think?

As for how they change . . . Luke watches his mentor as they fight free of the Death Star. Harry learns something about himself, but after the chess scene, so I am not sure it counts. Because the things that learns about himself could also be another part of the hero’s journey.

Anyway, at the end, I think the Belly of the Whale section is about the hero getting trapped somehow. It doesn’t have to be by the enemy, though it usually is. Cultural norms and things like that could also play a part. The hero’s own emotions could also a play part in trapping him.

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2 thoughts on “The Belly of the Whale: The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Chapter 1.5

  1. I love this book. I use it when I teach the hero’s cycle in class. Great job pointing out the Belly of the Whale in the different stories, but to be honest, I always thought of the detention in the Forbidden Forest with Hagrid as the belly of the whale in Harry Potter. Harry comes out of that adventure with more knowledge of Voldemort as well as a renewed determination to stop him. But these stages are so nebulous that a lot of stuff works 🙂

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