harry potter, katniss, and frodo: what makes a hero?

(h/t Patrick Eibel)

Check out this cool animated video from TED-ed on the “Hero’s Journey.”  Based on Professor Joseph Campbell’s research of the “monomyth,” the video describes how many heroes in literature–including Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, and Frodo Baggins–go through a pattern of events through their stories:

  1. Call to Adventure
  2. Assistance from a Mentor
  3. Departure from the Ordinary World into a World of Adventure, or Special World
  4. Trials and Struggles in the World of Adventure
  5. Approaching the Greatest Challenge
  6. Crisis: the Hero’s Lowest Point
  7. The Hero Obtains a Great Treasure
  8. The Result of What the Hero Has Accomplished in the World of Adventure
  9. Return to the Ordinary World
  10. The Hero Begins a New Life in the Ordinary World
  11. Resolution of Loose Ends of the Story
  12. A New Ordinary World Arising From the Hero’s Actions

A shorter way of thinking about “The Hero’s Journey,” or “The Path of the Hero” (you’ll find it addressed either way) is:

  1. Separation
  2. Initiation
  3. Return

Looking at Harry, Katniss, Frodo, or just about any other “hero” from stories or movies, you’ll find that they more-or-less follow the “Journey.”  This is not to say, however, that they have to come to each step along the way, or that the steps can’t be ordered differently.

In fact, there might be additional steps, such as “Refusal of the Call,” when the hero resists leaving the Ordinary World. Think of this scene from Episode IV of Star Wars, where the Hero (Luke Skywalker), having received Assistance from the Mentor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), explains why he can’t leave home to undertake Trials in the World of Adventure:

I’ve applied “The Hero’s Journey” in each of my published novels–Buddy in Lost Dogsand Isabella in Dragontamer’s Daughters–and in This Wasted Land, my work-in-progress (which I’ll publish this fall).

You can read more about “The Hero’s Journey” in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces. I also recommend The Power of Myth.


Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy.  His latest work-in-progress is This Wasted Land, a modern-fantasy/horror novel, to be published in 2017.

Kenton is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief.  He also wrote Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.  

Follow Kenton on Facebook for daily posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction. 

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