The History and Variations of the Hero’s Journey

The hero's journey has been present in stories pretty much since the beginning of story telling itself. However, officially pinning down the hero’s journey and distilling its steps can largely be credited to one Joseph Campbell over sixty years ago.

Campbell called it the ‘monomyth’ in his book: ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’.

Campbell’s original version did apply more explicitly to fantasy and myths, and refers to strange powers. His interpretation includes seventeen stages:

  1. Call to adventure
  2. Refusal of the call
  3. Supernatural aid
  4. The crossing of the first threshold
  5. Belly of the Whale
  6. The road of trials
  7. The meeting with the Goddess
  8. Woman as Temptress
  9. Atonement with the father
  10. Apotheosis
  11. The ultimate Boon
  12. Refusal of the return
  13. The magic flight
  14. Rescue from without
  15. The crossing of the return threshold
  16. Master of two worlds
  17. Freedom to Live

Later writers, wuch as Phil Cousineau and David Adams, cut down the steps to eight (though they chose different ones) in order to apply to a wider range of genres.

Perhaps the version most appropriate to modern fiction is Christopher Vogler's ‘A Practical Guide to The Hero with a Thousand Faces’ which details the structure which is evident in a vast number of successful Hollywood films.

The phrase ‘the hero’s journey’ came about much more recently than the ‘monomyth’ and the phrase was used in documentaries, books and interviews with Joseph Campbell, though he never deliberately penned it as a description for his monomyth.

Read my interpretation of the hero's journey steps here.


Do you want to write a novel? Our software guides you every step of the way, from idea to publication. Click here for a free trial of The Novel Factory writing software.

The Novel Factory. Designed by writers, for writers.