Archetypes in The Hero’s Journey

In this article you will learn about the archetypes in The Hero’s Journey, a theory about the narrative structure of stories in literature throughout the ages and how they all share common archetypal features.

What are the Archetypes The Hero’s Journey?

Author Joseph Campbell claimed in his writings that almost all stories follow essentially the same archetypal narrative pattern, something which he termed ‘the hero’s journey’.

This archetypal journey has three stages, as follows:

Stage 1: Departure

In this stage the hero is preparing for the quest to come. In this stage the hero receives an archetypal ‘call to adventure’ but often initially refuses the call. However, they usually then meet with an archetypal mentor who helps them understand why they need to heed the call.

Stage 2: Initiation

The archetypal hero of the story crosses the archetypal threshold, often having to overcome attempts by an archetypal ‘threshold guardian’ to prevent them from doing so, and commences their journey. They meet archetypal sidekicks and allies, but are tested often, usually by an archetypal villain. They usually have to overcome a life or death crisis, for which they receive an archetypal reward.

Stage 3: Return

The hero completes their journey, having passed the final test where everything is risk and begins their redemption/road back to normality

The Hero’s Journey Book Summary

Many books and movies follow the archetypal hero’s journey structure.

For example, the structure can be seen in The Lion King.

The story commences with Simba as heir to Pride Rock until his Uncle Scar kills his father Mufasa.

Scar tricks Simba into believing Mufasa’s death was his fault, telling him to flee Pride Rock. Simbaa flees alone into the desert, where he wanders until he meets Timon, a meerkat, and Pumbaa, a warthog, who introduce him to a new life in the jungle – the completion of stage one.

Simbaa embraces his new life with his sidekicks, Timon and Pumbaa.

However, childhood friend Nala finds him and they fall in love. She asks Simba to return home and take his rightful throne from Scar, telling him of the state their land had fallen into with villainous Scar in charge.

Simbaa is forced to choose between his new and old lives. The ghost of his father appears and urges him to go home.

He does so and faces Scar, learning the truth that Scar killed Mufasa. He kills Scar, the end of stage two. Simba reclaims his throne and restores Pride Rock to its former glory in stage three.

The Hero’s Journey Archetype Examples

  • The hero’s journey
  • Call to adventure
  • Threshold guardians
  • Journey
  • Quest
  • Task
  • Hero
  • Sidekick
  • Villain
  • Departure
  • Initiation
  • Return

Want more literary archetypes?

Go check out our extensive list of archetypes in literature to find out more about the characters seen in literature throughout the ages.

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