The Hero Monomyths of Herkales and Odysseus via Joseph Campbell’s Hero Archetype

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The monumental piece of non-fiction work titled “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” first published in 1949 by Joseph Campbell points out an apparent monomyth of the hero through superb use of example and literary analysis. In this book Campbell presents three main phases of the archetypal hero; The Departure, The Initiation, and The Return. Within these three main phases there exist numerous sub-phases that describe nearly all aspects of the hero’s journey and its’ impact upon the entire monomyth. I have chosen to analyze the amazing journeys of the heroes Herakles, and Odysseus.

Herakles (whose name can be translated as ‘Glory of Hera’) was a first generation descendent of the great god Zeus; a result of the offspring produced by a disguised Zeus and Alcmena. The first indicator of a hero is the claimed hero being of a sacred lineage, even if by association, which being a first generation descendent of Zeus Herakles more than fits. Further, upon examination of hero myths I draw a connection between the hero having an adversary (close to the start of the myth), and there appears to be a stage where the hero and this adversary come to terms and even become friends or lovers. Hera, Zeus’s wife, is angry that Zeus has had another child from another female and as a result attempts to destroy Herakles when he is but an infant, by sending two snakes to kill him which he strangles even as a child. Though she expresses hate towards him, she eventually relents when Herakles is lifted upon his death towards Mount Olympus. Herakles gets the call to adventure, the first stage in the monomyth, when Eurystheus calls upon him to complete ten labors for Eurystheus fears that Herakles would become a threat to his power. Zeus promised to Hera that...

... middle of paper ... that Odysseus encounters is his return phase, namely the approach to the innermost cave sub phase. He approaches his inmost cave when he finally accomplishes his task and returns to his homeland after waking up from being dropped off by his crew (Phaecian sailors). After being dropped off he is immediately embraced by Athena and given the disguise of an old man by her, and advises him to travel to the swineherds home. This house is where he learns that suitors have taken over his home in an attempt to marry his wife Penelope. After discovering this he and his son begin to develop a plot to overthrow all of the suitors, which they succeed in.

The heroes presented within this essay adequately fit into Joseph Campbell’s archetype monomyth of the hero. Both follow most of the phases and sub phases presented in Campbell’s book, and in that right qualify as heroes.

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