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56. The Heroes Journey

56. The Heroes Journey

Many, many, many great stories from Lord of the Rings to Juno are told basically within the format of a Hero’s Journey.

The Hero’s Journey is a narrative structure formalized by Joseph Campbell (who we will talk about in a couple of segments) that has a reluctant protagonist go on a journey, change in some material way and then confront some type of adversity.

Some movies might change a few things around, but generally the follow these twelve steps (from amateur moving making),

  • Protagonist starts in his familiar world. (Let’s say Tatooine)
  • He is confronted with a problem or opportunity. (The moisture farm is destroyed)
  • He’s reluctant to go. (Mourning his aunt and uncle)
  • He meets a mentor. (Obi-Wan Kenobi)
  • He leaves his familiar world. (Escape from Tatooine)
  • He receives training. (“Use the Force Luke”)
  • He confronts the adversary. (Like meet Darth. Darth meet Luke)
  • There is chaos and he loses everything. (Cloud city, Han is captured etc . . .)
  • He recovers from chaos and reaches his destination. (The second Death Star)
  • He tries to go home. (Deep existential depression)
  • The adversary launches one more attack. (“Submit to the Dark Side Luke!”)
  • He starts living as a changed man. (Cue theme music)

I choose Star Wars because frankly, it’s easy and it’s one of the more classic examples of the Hero’s Journey in modern film, but this format can be used for just about any story that tracks a Hero’s progress through adversity.

For another look at how Star Wars fits into the Hero’s Journey structure, take a look at the clip above. It was a PhD assignment by Richard Kemp of Northcentral University. As you can see, the structure of the steps is a little different, but the overall tone remains identical.

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