The Hero’s Journey

Behold the Tree that Bears the Golden Apples of Immortality

 

Part 1 of a Three-Part Series:

“Finding Creative Inspiration”

 

The Power of Stories

Hesperidian Productions takes its creative inspiration from an appreciation of the beauty and power of story.  Story embodies everything that makes us human: our ability to dream, to desire, to imagine, to learn and to feel.   Our creative passion is fueled by the narratives that surround us —  in the films we watch, the characters we’ve loved and the stories that have been passed down to us in literature, myth and legend.  Sparked by others’ achievements and our own experience, the Hesperidian Tribe together creates, explores and celebrates the stories, genres and archetypes that have resonated with us, extending and, hopefully, surpassing the work that originally incited our imagination.

The Hero’s Journey

Certain stories have the power to inspire artists in each generation in a variety of media and over thousands of years.  Mythology from diverse cultures embody eternal questions, hopes and struggles.  While every story has its own unique qualities, certain tropes recur again and again throughout the world.  The Hero’s Journey is one of these narrative forms that can be traced to ancient times and that underlies not only literature, drama and visual art, but religion and spirituality as well.

Popularized by Joseph Campbell in his book, Hero with a Thousand Faces, the hero’s journey, has been reclaimed and reinterpreted for modern audiences not only by Campbell but many other writers in a variety of fields.   Its psychological implications and motivational power have been exploited endlessly in popular culture.

The Hero’s Journey follows a specific individual on a path that extends beyond the familiar prosaic reality that has been formerly taken for granted.  The individual who undertakes this journey must cast aside their certainties about themselves and their limits in order to encounter new experiences, unfamiliar worlds and difficult challenges.  To travel this path requires not just an initial commitment, but a continual recommitment to the journey. The process of the journey is what produces heroes:  seekers learn novel ways of seeing themselves, the world around them and their own place in it.  They come to see a reality that is bigger, stranger and more open than they had ever imagined.  Their experiences teach them a series of lessons, expanding their vision as they encounter a series of hardships that must be endured and surmounted.  This process can be seen as a cycle that drives the protagonist to continually expand their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual capacities, driving them to further explore and thereby achieve a greater destiny.

Following a dream,searching for love, fighting a war, yearning for truth — these are some of the motivations that incite potential heroes to undertake this arduous journey.  The archetypes that have been crystallized within humankind’s stories allow people to recognize and understand this pattern as one possible path to enlightenment and transcendence.  Familiarity with these stories provides a template for the average person to examine their own lives and to consider their own achievements in light of the heroic possibilities that others have embraced.  Absorbing the narrative structure of the hero’s journey also opens up possible interpretations of cycles in culture, history and individual societies, providing a common language for exploring these ideas with others.

For the hero, the personal evolution experienced throughout the journey culminates in an awakened perception of his or her own place in a reality that is now perceived differently than at the journey’s start.  Processing the lessons learned leads the hero to a new view of him/herself in terms of personal limitations, possibilities and responsibilities.  Achieving a new personal and world view becomes the final and necessary step in each cycle for the hero.   Only then can the last cycle be fully absorbed and the journey of self-discovery and personal growth begin anew.

The Hero’s Journey as Creative Inspiration

The protagonist of “Awakening” embarks on a hero’s journey that challenges his perceptions of reality.

Awakening, employs the narrative framework of the hero’s journey.   The protagonist of the film stumbles upon an unfamiliar world and, in classic hero’s journey form, engages his curiosity in a process of exploration and discovery.  He uncovers masterpieces of art from a lost past, from a time that enjoyed a measure of creativity and freedom that no longer exists in the post-apocalyptic reality the hero inhabits.  He witnesses a magical transformation that challenges his perceptions of reality.  We are left to speculate about what he will do with this glimpse into another reality, how it may change him and how he may in turn change the world from which he came. Watch “Awakening” here.

The invitation to dream, the belief in magical elements hidden in forgotten places — these are cornerstones of fairy tales and fantasy.  When we shed our disbelief in extraordinary events, we open ourselves to the possibility of hope and imagination, to love and kindness, to good triumphing over evil — in short, to all the best attributes of human nature.  These fantasy stories reward the struggle of the hero with the satisfaction of having created a better future while finding and successfully embracing a hidden personal destiny.

The Hero’s Journey in Popular Culture and Fantasy/Sci Fi Genres

The extraordinary popularity of the Star Wars series, The Lord of the Rings (both the books and the films) and comic book superheroes demonstrate the power of the hero’s journey to captivate us, whatever the setting and however many times we encounter it.

In the comments section below, please share with us your favorite examples of the hero’s journey in film, literature, popular culture, history, mythology . . . or wherever you believe you’ve encountered it in art or reality.  


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