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Archive for May, 2011

Back in 1949, Joseph Campbell published his study of comparative mythology. After studying the myths of different cultures, Campbell theorized that the hero’s journey was a common theme that transcended cultures.

Many contemporary writers, artists, and filmmakers credit Joseph Campbell and his work on the hero’s journey as a major influence on their work. This lists includes George Lucas, Bob Dylan, Stanley Kubrick and Disney screenwriter, Christopher Vogler. However, the best selling and most popular example of the hero’s journey in contemporary literature was not influenced by Joseph Campbell’s work at all. This story was written a decade prior to Campbell’s work. Like Joseph Campbell, the author of this 20th century classic was very familiar with ancient myths and legend. Indeed, J.R. R. Tolkien fully intended to create a new mythology with his trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.

Perhaps the enduring power of the hero’s journey, which has survived in the form of oral stories told to generations after generation for thousands of years and which is recreated today in the form of movies about Luke Skywalker and in the form of novels about the hobbits is because we all aspire to live the hero’s journey.

In the hero’s journey, the hero lives an ordinary life in an ordinary environment. Then he is faced with a challenge. Initially, the hero tries to avoid the challenge. He likes it in his safe environment. But the hero ultimately decides to face his challenge. On his quest to overcome this challenge, the hero may find mentors, allies, and enemies. He discovers that he must learn new skills in order to meet this challenge. However, despite his best intentions, the hero fails at his quest. And with failure, the hero feels self-doubt and fears all of his efforts will end in failure. Ultimately, the hero survives this dark night of the soul. He renews his commitment to facing his greatest challenge. In the final confrontation, the hero successfully vanquishes his greatest challenge.

Most people have lived through the different stages of the hero’s journey. Perhaps, it is the comforting assurance that we will be successful in defeating our greatest challenges that makes the hero’s journey so popular. Certainly, in the fantasy genre, the hero’s journey continues to be a popular theme. In the bestselling novel, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, the unlikely hero is a thief. In The Warded Man by Peter Brett, the hero begins his heroic journey when he is just a boy. Currently, my son is engrossed in the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher. Tavi, the hero of this series is the only member of his family without the ability to control an element. Despite this lack of skill, Tavi learns to use strategy and knowledge to overcome his challenges. The series follows the adventures of Tavi as he grows to adulthood. While my son thinks the story is addicting entertainment, he is also learning a very good lesson about life’s challenges.

 

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Just a quick reminder that the Dark Horse Books Writing Group will be meeting tonight, Wed., May 11, 2011 at 6:00 p.m. This is an open group. Please bring a sample of your writing to read.

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New Book Alert

The latest Charlaine Harris book, Dead Reckoning, has arrived at the bookstore. Copies are going fast so please don’t hesitate to call and reserve your copy.

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