Professor Peter Bolland
6 December 2011
The Last Airbender and The Hero’s Journey
When the average person thinks of mythology, they are most likely to think about archaic stories about gods and heroes with fantastic powers and histories. While living in our technologically advanced time period, these myths that we learn about were once common teachings in ancient lands used to explain natural phenomenon and teach moral standards to people. As fantastic as the stories of myth sound like, many people dismiss them and assume these stories of fantasy no longer play a role in out modern-day lives. What most people do not realize, however, is that many aspects of myth are still involved with the media we see every day. Just as the stories of Krishna enlightened the people of their time to understand the world and society around them, movies and television shows act as our storytellers and influence our thoughts and morals. One television show not only acts as one of these modern-myths, but reuses some of the same motifs commonly present in past and current mythology: Bryan Konietzko’s and Micheal DiMartino’s Avatar: The Last Airbender. The motif we see in this series is commonly known as “The Monomyth” or “The Hero’s Journey” as originated by Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
To get an understanding of the presence of the motif in the referred television series, we need to understand what exactly is “The Hero’s Journey”. Joseph Campbell describes this common mythological motif, “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man” (Campbell 23). One of two most basic aspects in this motif is the hero and the problem he must overcome. Campbell has developed seventeen stages in between the hero... [continues]
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