Heroism cannot be measured by the overt grandeur of the act, not even by the ensuing consequences, but by the swelling conquering heart commiting the act--Nina Munteanu
In this article I map out the Hero’s Journey for two popular mythic stories, STAR WARS and FARSCAPE using Christopher Vogler’s 12-stage description of the 3-act storyline (based on Campbell’s 8-step transformation model) and discussed in my writing guide, The Fiction Writer:
ACT ONE: SEPARATION
- Ordinary World: Describes the Hero’s world with its problems and how the hero may or may not quite fit in.
- Call to Adventure: the herald presents the hero with a problem, challenge and/or adventure; irrevocably changing the ordinary world—in STAR WARS this is when Obi Wan approaches Luke to join him on his mission to Alderaan; in FARSCAPE it is when John conducts his test and is sucked into the wormhole.
- Refusal of the Call: Our reluctant hero balks at the threshold of adventure. In STARWARS Luke refuses at first until he finds his relatives killed. In FARSCAPE this is Crichton during most of Season One.
- Meeting with the Mentor: The mentor provides the hero with a gift to help her through the threshold. In STAR WARS Obi Wan gives Luke his lightsaber; In FARSCAPE Crichton’s father presents him with his lucky chain. His father’s “form” reappears as a wise alien who provides Crichton with ancient knowledge of wormhole technology, another talisman that will represent Crichton’s further transformation into mythic hero status in Season Four.
- Crossing the Threshold: The hero commits to the adventure and enters the Special World.
- Tests, Allies, Enemies: The hero must face tests, makes allies and enemies and begins to learn the rules of the Special World. In STAR WARS Luke is initiated into his special world by Obi Wan in A New Hope; in FARSCAPE Crichton’s initiation and transformation occurs throughout Season One, where he must continually prove his worth to his challenging companions aboard Moya.
- Approach to the Inmost Cave: The hero reaches the edge of the most dangerous place, often where the object of her quest resides. In STAR WARS this is the scene in The Empire Strikes Back when Luke willingly enters the trap set for him and confronts Vader in Cloud City; in FARSCAPE Crichton also willingly enters a trap to save his love, Aeryn and is captured and tortured.
- Ordeal (the Abyss): Our hero hits bottom, where she faces “death” and is on the brink of battle with the most powerful hostile force. In STAR WARS Luke steps into the abyss, choosing almost certain death when forced to surrender at his father’s bidding to the dark side in Cloud City; in FARSCAPE John loses his mind (his most valuable tool and weapon as hero) and kills what he loves the most, his beloved Aeryn (end of Season Two).
- Reward/seizing the sword(Transformation & Revelation): Having survived “death” (of fear or ignorance) our hero—and the reader—receives a reward or elixir in the form of an epiphany and transforms. In STAR WARS this happens. In STAR WARS, Luke returns in Return of the Jedi transformed and mature with new powers; in FARSCAPE Crichton receives a revelation from his “copy” who had died and his call to action. By the end of Season Three, Crichton has his second transformation into hero of mythic stature. “This is my path,” he informs his companions as he calls on them all to join him on his largest most ambitious quest as true hero to stop Scorpius on the Command Carrier in a suicidal mission.
- The Road Block: Our hero must deal with the consequences of confronting the dark forces of the Ordeal (e.g., often the chase scene). In STAR WARS this is when Luke is forced to fight his father on board the Death Star, overseen by the evil Emperor; in FARSCAPE this occurs throughout Season Three with the culmination of the infamous coin toss.
- Resurrection/Atonement: The hero is transformed in this climactic moment through her experience and seeks atonement with her reborn self, now in harmony with the “new” world; the imbalance which sent her on her journey, mostly corrected or path made clear. In STAR WARS this is when Luke makes the choice not to kill his father, is almost destroyed by the emperor but for Vader’s intervention and Luke reconciles with his father; In Season Four Crichton comes to terms with the revelation of his true path with news of Aeryn’s pregnancy and her departure…he must deal with his new focus (to protect his beloved and her world) when she—and Scorpius—return.
- Return with the Elixir: Our hero returns to the Ordinary World with some elixir, treasure, or lesson from the Special World. In STAR WARS the last scenes with Luke and his Jedi “family” suggest a new life rich in lessons; in FARSCAPE Crichton returns to his old home, Earth, with alien technology. However, his true gift is how he secures the safety of his new home and is presented with the gift of his child.
You can read my previous posts on the Hero's Journey, the first on "The Journey" and the second on "Archetypes".
This article is an excerpt from The Fiction Writer: Get Published, Write Now! (Starfire World Syndicate, 2009) (Part One of the Alien Guidebook Series). The Hero's Journey is also part of my online writing class and workshops. This lecture/workshop series will be available summer 2010 on DVD at Amazon.
Campbell, Joseph. 1970. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. World Publishing Co. New York.
Henderson, Mary. 1997. Star Wars: The Magic of Myth. Bantam Spectra. New York. 214pp.
Vogler, Christopher. 1998. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. 2nd Edition. Michael Wiese Productions, Studio City, California. 326pp.
Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit www.ninamunteanu.me. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for more about her writing.