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Monomyths Within Ancient Societies Essay

1676 words - 7 pages

Have you ever wondered what the seemingly different societies of the Anglo-Saxons, ancient Greeks, and ancient Indians have in common? All three of these societies wrote epics that use the concept of a monomyth in the various stages through their stories. According to the American mythologist Joseph Campbell “The standard path of the mythological of the hero is a magnification of the formula represented in the rights of passage…” (Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth) is a monomyth. Different parts of a monomyth that describe a series of events in a character throughout a story include the ordinary world (what life was like before the story), crossing the threshold (the character leaving for a battle, adventure, etc.), the call to adventure (what caused the character to leave), mentor (who assists them in their journey), and reward (what do they receive as a result of their actions). Although epics differ between the ancient societies in which they came from, the cycle that the character takes will be similar in many ways throughout the story.
The ordinary world is an important beginning for all stories, as it shows what the main character’s life is like before the book, and gives readers a glimpse of their personality and more importantly, the values that are most important to them. The poem Beowulf depicts the ordinary world of Beowulf, stating that, “…Beowulf, Higlac’s Follower and the strongest of the Geats – Greater and stronger than anyone anywhere in this world…” (Beowulf 26). The poem later goes on to describe prior events, such as the race with Brecca, that show his honor. Achilles’ personal character from The Iliad is shown from a series of other pieces of Greek Literature preceding this story and shows that, “Achilles distinguished himself as an undefeated warrior” (Hunter). The introduction to the Ramayana, which is provided by the authors of The Language of Literature, states that, “Rama is the son of King Dasaratha, the ruler of Kosala. Exceptionally strong and brave, he wins the hand of the princess Sita” (Ramayana 131). The epic poems and stories of Beowulf, The Iliad, and the Ramayana, all show the ordinary world of their characters to be brave and heroic. Anglo-Saxons and the Ancient Greeks emphasize the strength and power of their characters based on prior events. On the other hand, Ancient Indian literature shows Rama as someone who likewise is brave but doesn’t have an honorable past like that of Beowulf’s and Achilles’.
Although many monomyths slightly differ in how the author portrays the story of an epic hero, most are centered on how the main character crosses the threshold. These include how the character either says goodbye to friends and family or travels to the location of the battle or event. In the story Beowulf, news of Grendel, a terrifying monster, reaches the land of the Geats, where the brave Beowulf decides he could be of help. “So Beowulf chose the mightiest men he could find, the bravest and best of the Geats,...

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