Hero’s journey: A Hero with a Thousand Faces

Joseph Campbell asserts in his book, A Hero with a Thousand Faces that most Greek myths have much of the same structure in that they involve the protagonist transforming himself. According to Campbell, the hero’s journey takes place in seventeen phases where the hero journeys from the common world to a supernatural region of wonder, encounter fabulous forces and wins a decisive war, and the hero reports back from the adventure with the ability to issue blessings on other people (Campbell 2008 4). Similarly, Campbell’s assertion of the hero’s journey concept has been applied in most of the modern literature and films including the Whale Rider. The character Paikea follows somewhat of a similar hero’s journey throughout the film’s plot. During one’s life, it is almost inevitable for one to avoid the hero’s journey, as a result, this makes the concept an essential concept in the modern world. It is ultimately important to pay close attention to the hero’s journey concept since with it, our unconscious content is activated, an important aspect in our lives since there exists unrealized potential in the unconscious, which in the event of discovery, it may lead to personal transformation.

Heroes are important characters not only in literature but in film making as well. They offer readers and viewers escapism. As described by Campbell, the “thousand faces” of the hero acts as the conventional representation of the individual self, which is undergoing constant change (Indick 2004 114). The voyage accepted by the hero determines the message that the hero puts across. Throughout literature and film making, the hero acts as an illustration of the struggle faced by both the reader and viewer in the day to day life. The term hero is associated with protection and defending. A hero describes someone willing to forego his or her own needs and wants on behalf of other individuals which shows that rather than just an obligation, he must protect and defend.

In the chapter “the call to adventure”, Campbell describes unknown places or lands in which the hero is called and in which have to yet be explored by the hero including above the sky, amidst the waves, a secret island, a forest, an intense dream state, or a high mountaintop; more often than not, it is a place of intolerable delight, unbearable torments, strange fluidity, superhuman actions, and diverse beings (Campbell 2008 48). A hero is drawn to a strange territory where he fears to uncover by himself. Heroes are drawn from the typical world to issues of the world of fantasy through a strange event. Similarly, in the film Whale Rider Paikea receives her call in the event of her dad’s visit from Germany, in Australia. She had already decided and made up her mind on moving with her dad to Germany but on the way to the airport, she encounters a strange event when she hears the cry of a whale, prompting her to head back home.

In Campbell’s chapter “Refusal to Call”, Campbell asserts that at times the hero is hesitant in embracing his call of duty amid fears and insecurities of leaving behind the ordinary world. Although Paikea is way too wise and determined for a girl her age, she is seen to hesitate a bit in deciding whether to leave for Germany or head back home. Although it pains her to choose not to move to Germany with her dad, Paikea is determined to become a hero. Similarly, a hero’s uncertainty commits to a cause that illustrates the common fear factor present in all individuals in the event one is faced with crucial life transitions and choices. Paikea’s reaction signifies just how any person would react after getting a call from a source one is not sure of. As Campell writes, one’s refusal for the call signifies the refusal to abandon what one views as his interest (Campbell 2008 49). However, the hero is obsessed with already laid out life for them and they are aware that they have to abandon their current life in pursuit of the journey they are reluctant to embark on.

However, as Campbell explains in the chapter “Supernatural aid”, in the event the hero accepts the call, supernatural aid manifests pushing the hero to abandon the ordinary life to quench his thirst for adventure. The hero is offered psychological, emotional or emotional power by supernatural aid. The supernatural aid may manifest itself in the form of a mentor and is at all times present in the hero’s journey nurturing and protecting the hero. As illustrated in the film Whale Rider, Paikea accredits her grandfather in a speech completion. Were it for her grandfather’s tests and guidance, Paikea would have found it difficult to achieve her goals in her journey. As Campbell writes, for those who have accepted the call, the initial encounter of their journey is with an authoritative or protective figure, in most cases an elderly man who gifts the adventurer with lucky charms to face the forces of the dragon that he has to deal with (Campbell 2008 57).

In the hero’s journey, the “protective figure” is a type of mentor, one who plays a significant role in the hero’s quest. According to Campbell’s myths, the concept of Mother Nature in aiding the hero in times of trials also comes into play. In the real world, the hero’s journey starts in darkness. We often experience feelings of anger, restlessness, irritability, and dissatisfaction not only with ourselves but also with others. In real life, the hero’s journey may be described as our personal life experience. It involves being conscious of our actions and goals as individuals. In our self-becoming journey, we all possess a unique gift, one only we can identify to and no else possesses.

As we begin in our self-becoming journey and quest to find our identity, we are prone to feelings of pain and fear. More often than not, the stakes feel like a matter of life and death. The hero’s journey not applies to the chosen few, but each and every individual. In simpler terms, the hero’s journey is undoubtedly universal. Since failure itself is part of our journey’s tale, one concludes that their journey is or was unsuccessful. In fact, more often than not, failure itself is part of the bigger tale. By undergoing a hero’s journey, we acquire history, one that is forever engraved in our utmost souls, and one that is ours alone to bear. Most important of all, by undergoing this journey, we change and find purpose in life to do what we were meant for.


Campbell, J. (2008). The hero with a thousand faces. Novato, Calif.: New World Library.

Indick, W. (2004). Psychology for screenwriters. Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions.


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