The Hero’s Journey The Structure of an Epic Tale

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Epic. -a.  . long.  poetic.  composition, usually centered upon . a . hero. in which a series of great obstacles and majestic achievements occur.. Myth. -. a story that explains an unexplainable event.. ID: 681249 Download Presentation

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The Hero’s Journey The Structure of an Epic Tale

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The Hero’s Journey

The Structure of an Epic Tale


Epic -a

 long poetic composition, usually centered upon a hero in which a series of great obstacles and majestic achievements occur.



a story that explains an unexplainable event.


To Understand the Greeks, You Must Understand Their Values


1. *cunning over strength

2. *homeland

3. *respect for the gods

4. *spiritual development

(“know thyself”)

5. *youth and beauty

6. *rhetorical abilities (admiration for those who speak well)


Traits of the Epic Hero

1. An epic hero is superhuman. He is braver, stronger, smarter, and cleverer than an ordinary person is. 2. The epic hero is on a quest

for something of great value to him or his people


3. The epic hero

fights monsters

. The villains that try to keep the hero from his quest are usually uglier, more evil, and more cunning than anyone we know in ordinary life.


4. The epic hero is often of mixed divine and human birth

and so possesses human weaknesses. 5. The divine world (the gods) interferes with the human world.

6. The epic hero

returns home significantly transformed

by his journey


7. In his journey, the epic hero covers great geographical distances and even

visits the underworld

, other worlds, and/ or other times.



The setting of an epic is usually vast in scale.


Modern Epics

Modern “epics” take the reader on a hero’s journey while often adapting the storyline and setting.


Stages of a Hero’s Journey


The Call

An invitation to adventure either by a herald or an external event

The event is often traumatic

Voluntary or involuntary

Shrek decides to rescue Princess Fiona

Marlin decides to leave home to search for


Odysseus goes to battle in Troy






Refusal of the Call

Often, the hero refuses to answer the call, or is reluctant to do so.


Supernatural Help

Hero often has spiritual guidance from a wizard, elderly person, dwarf, fairy godmother,





A particular item that holds special power for the hero that helps him navigate the unknown.


The Guardian

Often there is a character who helps guard the hero. This character helps the hero to understand his life situation or helps him train for battle.



There are usually friends or other companions who follow the hero on his journey.


The Threshold

The place that marks the boundary from the known to the unknown

Sometimes there


something or someone that

blocks the


The hero defeats, conciliates, or is murdered by the shadow and enters the unknown such as a cave or the belly of a



Road of Trials/Challenges

The hero is faced with challenges and battles which test his strength and goodness.

Night or Sea Journey

The hero usually travels a great distance,

often in the dark or across an ocean.


Entering the Belly of the Whale

This is the part of the story wherein the hero must face his deepest, darkest fear or most evil enemy.


Journey to Hell/Death and Rebirth

Hero descends into a hell-like area (land of the dead?). His return is like returning from the dead. Symbolically goes where normal humans can’t and finds truth about self.

The hero may just die symbolically or people may think he’s dead for a while.


Atonement (Payment for Wrongdoing) with

FatherHero either redeems father’s evil

deeds, his own mistakes,

or gains recognition by his

father, creator, god, or parent figure.



Hero is treated as a god (deified) or is rewarded spiritually at the end of his life


Ultimate Boon/Magic Elixir

Sometimes the hero steals or receives something that benefits humans, such as fire, an elixir of long life, or a



The Return

Because of the new knowledge, the hero may not want to returnThere is a flight from a pursuer which marks the return back to the known worldOnce the hero returns, he is a product of 2 worlds with strong powers. He restores and heals societySometimes the society accepts his gifts while other times they may not be ready.


A Few Examples of Archetypal

JourneysThe quest for identity


quest for vengeance

The warrior’s journey to save his people

The search for love (to rescue the princess/damsel in distress)

The journey in search of knowledge

The tragic quest: penance or self-denial

The fool’s errand

The quest to rid the land of danger

The grail quest (the quest for human perfection)

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