March 22, 2014
Destiny of a Hero
Upon reading or watching the epic tales of heroes, it is easy to overlook the connection they all share. From his writings in, A Hero With A Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell brings to light the journey of a hero in “the rights of passage: separation – initiation – return: which might be named the nuclear unit of the monomyth.” (Campbell, 30) The epic tale of a hero follows the universal pattern of Campbell’s monomyth beginning with the separation, or call to adventure - leaving one’s family, friends, or tribe. Followed by the initiation of the crossing the threshold into the world unknown where he encounters trials and is victorious. S/he can then return home with a “boon” to aid and/or restore his/her world. According to Campbell, “[o]ther [monomyths] string a number of independent cycles into a single series (as in the Odyssey).” (Campbell, 246) In Beowulf, the poet has sent Beowulf on his journey of the monomyth. However, like Csmpbell has written, Beowulf’s journey consist of three miniature monomyths that can be connected into one hero’s journey that take several decades of his life to complete.
In the first cycle, consider Beowulf’s initial call to adventure. King Hrothgar was in desperate need of a hero to rid of is curse, Grendel, that terrorizes his people in the Mead Hall. Capbell writes, “[w]ith the personifications of his destiny to guide him, the hero goes forward until he comes to the ‘threshold guardian.’” (Campbell, 77) He claims “that there is a benign power supporting him in his superhuman passage.” (Campbell, 97) Recall the incredibly fierce storm in the sea Beowulf and the Geats had to endure on their journey that should swallowed them whole. Campbell claims that there are forces beyond the hero that guide him to his destiny. Upon arrival, Beowulf and his thanes are confronted at Heorot by the first threshold guardian. Here, according to Campbell, the hero must...
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