The Odyssey as a Hero Journey

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"All of us have similar experiences. We share in the life journey of

growth, development, and transformation. We live the same stories…the

trappings might be different, the twists and turns that create

suspense might be different from culture to culture, the particular

characters may take different forms, but underneath it all, it's the

same story, drawn from the same experiences"(Linda Seger, Creating

Myth, 1).

All people face trials and tribulations throughout their life. Thus,

what defines one from one's fellow human beings is not the trials

themselves, but how one overcomes the challenges along the journey, as

well as the psychological and physical lessons one learns from the

actions engaged. Heroes, as depicted in literature, often face the

same trials the common man must face, and learn the same lessons, but

their actions, reactions, and events are magnified to mythic

proportions. Thus, the common man and the mythic hero both follow what

Joseph Campbell calls "The Hero's Journey," which is used as a tool to

describe the framework for many of the most famous myths of all time.

While the story of the Journey first manifested itself in the ancient

myths and legends, it is still relevant to contemporary society, the

basis for almost all of the books and plays we read. For example,

J.R.R. Tolkien's, The Hobbit, an epic fantasy adventure in which Bilbo

Baggins, the connection for the reader to the fantastical world the

book takes place in, is called to action and set in motion on his Hero

Journey by Gandalf, a wizard. Another example of a famous myth

following this archetypal framework is The Odyssey. Homer's epic

story, The Odyssey, of the hero Odysseus and his son Telemakhos

follows closely the cycle of Joseph Campbell's Hero Journey, as

summarized by Linda Seger, both as a physical and psychological


The hero journey begins with a catalyst entering the hero's life, that

calls him to adventure. The hero must be summoned on his journey by

some force, either external (the will of another person) or internal,

(the need for self-growth). The call is followed by the hero's refusal

to leave a safe place, such as his home. He must be convinced that the

undertaking is worthwhile, and must then, and only then, after he has

agreed to take the journey, embark on it.

Odysseus' journey begins twenty years prior to...

... middle of paper ...

...hysical prowess,

but learns the psychological lessons of survival. Using these lessons

he can climb above the rest, a more mature and capable man, able to

use all of his abilities together to lift himself and those around him

closer to greatness. Thus is Odysseus truly a hero, as are all those

who would strive for greatness in themselves and peace and justice for

their homeland and family. "The cosmogonic cycle is now to be carried

forward not by the gods, who have become invisible, but by the heroes,

more or less human in character, through whom the world destiny is

realized. The archetypal heroes become less and less fabulous, until

at last, in the final stages of the various local traditions, legend

opens into the common daylight of recorded time"(Joseph Campbell).

Works Cited

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. 2nd ed. Princeton: Bollingen, 1968.

Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles; Intro. Bernard Knox. New York: Penguin Books, 1996.

Seger, Linda. "Creating the Myth." Signs of Life in the U.S.A.: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers. 4th ed. Ed. Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2003. 316-325.
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