Explaining The Three Stages In "The Hero's Journey"

1938 words - 8 pages

During the course of this World Literature class, several stories have been covered that accurately describe Joseph Campbell's mono-myth, or basic pattern found in narratives from every corner of the world. The Hero's Journey in it's entirety has seventeen stages or steps, but if boiled down can be described in three; the departure, the initiation, and the return (Monomyth Cycle). Each stage has several steps, but the cycle describes the hero starting in his initial state, encountering something to change him, and this his return as a changed person. To further explain this concept, there are a few stories covered in this class that can be used.
Beowulf is an epic poem telling the story of Beowulf, a legendary Geatish hero who later becomes king in the aforementioned epic poem. While the story in and of itself is quite interesting, for the purpose of this paper it is important to look at the character more so then his deeds, or rather why he did what he did.
In the story, Beowulf travels to Heorot to help King Hrothgar with a problem involving a monster named “Grendel”. This is the first step of Mr. Campbell's guidelines for a hero; the “call to adventure” (Monomyth Website). There is a conflict (Grendel, the monster and the killing he is doing), and Beowulf is answering that call to solve this problem. Mr. Campbell describes this as “the first stage of the mythological journey- which we have designated the call to adventure- signifies that destiny has summoned the hero...” (Monomyth Website). It is important to note that this is a voluntary action, that “the hero can go forth of his own volition to accomplish the adventure...” (Monomyth Website), however, at this point Beowulf begins to deviate from the traditional mono-myth. The next step is the refusal and Beowulf clearly has no issues with the task at hand. He also does not at this point, receive supernatural aid. In fact, he removes any sort of advantage man might have over monster as he removes his gear and weapons, fighting the monster truly mono a mono, hand to hand. So while Beowulf so far h as followed the mono-myth on it's major points (the three described earlier), in the finer details he has deviated from the set path (Beowulf Study Guide).
Beowulf's victory over Grendel should be considered as “crossing of the first threshold”. Prior to his victory, Beowulf had only triumphed over man. This victory over monster provides him with more (personal) glory, and causes a bit of a dip into the next major step of the Hero's Journey, the initiation. Beowulf is interesting in that he combines two distinct events into the initiation stage of the hero. The appointment as king is the obvious choice for pinpointing the exact point of the story in which the hero undergoes the greatest change, but really it is the entire time from after Grendel's death to when Beowulf actually becomes king. His core character changes, a maturation from warrior to leader possible only because of his trial...

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