3. JOSEPH CAMPBELL’S THEORY: THE MONOMYTH
Joseph Campbell was born in New York 26thof March 1904 and died in Honolulu 30th of October 1987. When he was a student in the University of Columbia, he read some of the legends of King Arthur and found similar kinds of themes and motifs that occurred as well in the stories ofNative Americans that he had read as a child. Later in his life, he got acquainted with the theories of two renowned psychologists, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung and the literary classics of Buddhism and Hinduism. (Joseph Campbell Foundation 2006.) Campbell’s theory of ‘the Monomyth’, a term he borrowed from James Joyce, was built on the work of a German anthropologist, Adolf Bastian. He was the one to first develop the idea of all myths having the same “elementary ideas”. In Jung’s theory these are called “archetypes”, which he says we all understand unconsciously. By this he suggests that all humans have innate in them a model to tell them what a “hero” or a “quest” is. (Brennan 2001.) Campbell used the ideas of Jung’s theory of archetypes to find “the common underlying structure behind all religion and myth” (Brennan 2001). In the theory that he calls the “Hero’s Journey” or the “Monomyth”, he argues that all stories, or rather, all heroes, are fundamentally the same, hence the name of the book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, where he introduced the idea providing 28examples of myths from cultures all over the world and history (Campbell 1966). Joseph Campbell was writing after the Second World War. He admits the differences between hero myths and then stresses that his book nevertheless concentrates on the similarities in the hope of showing people that we are essentially the same. He wanted to improve “human mutual understanding” (Campbell 1966: viii) and he tries to do this by asking “Why is mythology everywhere the same, beneath its varieties of costume?” (Campbell 1966: 4). Segal (1987: 101) says that Campbell’s “answer is psychological: myths are the same because the mind, which creates them, is.” Essentially, what Campbell is trying to say, is that the myths and fairytales tell something of our subconscious. According to his theory (1966), the reason, why certain features in fairytales and myths are so common around the world, is that our minds are so alike to each other, even though we have such a multitude of different cultures.
3.1 Explaining the theory
The hero Campbell talks of can be either male or female, but Campbell uses the word ‘he’ in referring to the hero and I shall follow his lead on this. Campbell divides his theory into three sections or phases. The first major phase is Departure where the hero begins his journey from the “world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder” (Campbell 1966: 30). The following phase is Initiation in which the hero has to go through many trials in order to get what he has come to claim. The phase ends with the hero’s success. The last phase is called Return and in this phase, the hero starts his journey home bringing with him whatever boon he has secured on his journey to bestow it “on his fellow man” (Campbell 1966: 30). Each phase is divided into several different stages and I shall discuss them next. 29
3.1.1 The phases of the Hero’s Journey: Departure, Initiation and Return
The first phase, Departure, is divided into five different stages. The first stage is called ‘The Call to Adventure’. In this stage the hero receives his call to the adventure via a herald, who represents “the power of destiny” (Campbell 1966: 52). Answering the call often means going into a strange, even mystical or fairytale-like environment, but the hero can also refuse the call. In fact, ‘Refusal of the Call’ is the second stage, which not all heroes go through but even the ones that do, end up answering the call in the end. This is because after the call is given, everyday life does not taste what it used to. The third stage...
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