Take the Hero’s Journey

By Charlie Peverett. Strategist. Published 03-10-16

Cartoon illustration of a horseriding hero leaps from a cliff

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

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When mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote those words, in his 1949 book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, he was already thinking on a grand canvas. He was fascinated by stories that endure, not for just a few years, but across millennia, and in different places and cultures. The tales that resonate because they are true to the human condition, whatever the context.

So we can guess he wouldn’t have been too surprised that his most famous achievement is inspiring storytellers almost 70 years later.

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The Hero’s Journey, or ‘Monomyth’, is Campbell’s narrative structure for mythic storytelling. It describes the stages so often encountered by the ‘hero’ protagonist of a story, whether a Greek myth, a novel, a film or a religious parable. A tale endlessly retold, in different ways, but with the same rhythms and patterns.

As an analytical tool, The Hero’s Journey can help us understand why some stories stick, and so it’s been picked up enthusiastically in the intervening years by those wishing to tell more powerful tales.

Famously, George Lucas looked to Campbell’s work when he created Star Wars, and in the mid-80s Hollywood really got excited about how to apply the lessons, after Disney story consultant Christopher Vogler wrote a brief, accessible guide to using the Hero’s Journey, and adapted its stages slightly with the needs of writers in mind.

For those seeking to make change in the world, we think the Hero’s Journey is more relevant than ever. In an era when stories can travel fast and wide, the better storytellers we become, the more impact we can have.

Inspired by Christopher Vogler’s 12-step version of the Hero’s Journey, we’ve created illustrations for each stage, and we’re making them available under Creative Commons licence for everyone to use.

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Download the full set as a PDF or take them individually as images from our Hero’s Journey on Flickr.

For a presentation, a workshop exercise, a wall decoration – use them however you like. Please acknowledge Neo as the source, and if you’re using them online please include a link to weareneo.com.

Would you like to know more about using storytelling for your brand project or campaign? Get in touch with the Neo studio.

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