What Makes a Hero?
What is a Hero? Is it something attainable for ordinary humans? Would you call yourself one?
Matthew Winkler’s TED-ed talk called “What Makes a Hero” discusses the powerful formula made famous by Joseph Campbell called “The Hero’s Journey.”
Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey has long been recognized as the outline for many of our most beloved stories. Hunger Games, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter: these all follow the cycle of Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. Therefore, it’s an important model for aspiring writers to study, as it not only helps you outline a strong storyline, it also invites us to take an introspective look into where in our lives WE have undertaken the heroic journey.
Matthew Winkler lays it out for us in his concise, visual demonstration of Campbell’s model.
“The journey begins and ends in a hero’s ordinary world, but the quest passes through an unfamiliar, special world.” - Matthew Winkler
Step One: Call to Adventure. Here, our hero is asked to leave her status quo and embark upon a new journey.
Step Two: Assistance. Our hero meets a mentor; someone equipped to help her along the way. (i.e. Obiwan Kenobi.)
Step Three: Departure. Our hero sets out on her journey, and effectively crosses the realm from her ordinary world into the unknown.
Step Four: Trials. Here, our hero is tested, entering what some call “the labyrinth” of the new world.
Step Five: Approach. The enemy is met. In fairy tales, this might be our “dragon.”
Step Six: Crisis. This is the high point of the story, where our hero undergoes her deepest crisis. Essentially, this is where she fights and defeats her dragon.
Step Seven: Treasure. The hero receives a gift, whether it is a special power, an elixir, or life renewed in a different form.
Step Eight: Result. What has our hero learned from her journey?
Step Nine: Return. Our hero crosses back into the realm of her ordinary world.
Step Ten: New Life. She has returned, but her journey has changed her. Our hero must rediscover how to live, changed as she was from her experiences, in an otherwise unchanged world. This leads to step eleven.
Step Eleven: Resolution.
Step Twelve: Status Quo. Our hero is back to her ordinary world… until the call to adventure sounds again!
Does this cycle sound familiar? It should. This is the outline for many of our most beloved stories. And yet, it does not only live on the page. You see, as Winkler tells us, Heroes are not just flying people in spandex and capes. “The hero’s journey myth exists in all human cultures, and keeps getting updated, because we humans reflect on our world through symbolic stories of our own lives. You leave your comfort zone, have an experience that transforms you, and then you recover and do it again.”
We, the ordinary, have the opportunity to answer our call to adventure and take the Hero’s Journey. You experience the hero’s journey every time you embark upon a new quest, whether that is going off to college, inventing something new, deviating from the traditional education process, falling in love, or standing up to a bully. Every instance takes you out of your status quo, forcing you from your “ordinary world” into a new, untold realm, from which you always struggle, conquer your proverbial dragon, and return, changed by what you’ve learned.
What call to action have you been reluctant to answer? Now might just be the time.
“In the cave you fear to enter lies the treasure you seek.” - Joseph Campbell
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