The archetypal Hero Journey is one of the most commonly used formulas in both books and movies. After I describe the parts, go back and look at movies like Meet the Robinsons, Cars, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Akeelah and the Bee, Shrek (it’s backwards) and many more and you’ll see this formula applied to entertain us.
The hero journey is like a 12 step program. A circular 12 step program. I will use the ever familiar Harry Potter for brief examples before I delve into explaining the hero journey in terms of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The 12 steps are as follows:
- The hero’s journey begins is the NATURAL WORLD. This could be where the hero comes from (e.g. Little Winging in Harry Potter).
- The hero receives a CALL TO ADVENTURE (e.g. Harry’s letter of acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry).
- The hero doesn’t want to answer the call (in the case of Harry Potter, he had no idea what the call meant).
- The hero meets his MENTOR/TEACHER/GUIDE (we can argue for both Hagrid and Dumbledore in the role of Harry’s teacher, but in the case of the journey, let’s call this one Hagrid. Hagrid, we meet when Harry’s still in the NATURAL WORLD; he knocks down the door of the boat/cabin).
- The hero crosses the THRESHOLD into the SUPERNATURAL WORLD. Sometimes something will happen that will move the hero to accept the call. (The THRESHOLD in Harry Potter is the barrier at Platform 9 3/4, at this point, Harry moves from the NATURAL WORLD to the SUPERNATURAL WORLD).
- The hero is TESTED. Here he meets both friends and enemies. (This spans a couple of scenes… First Harry meets Ron and Hermione, then Harry meets Draco and rebuffs him.)
- The hero enters the INMOST CAVE, the source of the item he seeks. (Harry doesn’t know it at the time, but he runs across the Mirror of Erised [interestingly, “desire” spelled backwards] long before he knows it will contain the Philosopher’s Stone.)
- The hero comes to the HEART OF DARKNESS (no, not the Conrad story). Here, he almost dies, and almost finds what he seeks.
- The hero finds what he’s looking for. (Harry finds the Philosopher’s Stone in his pocket).
- The hero embarks on the road back (or wakes up in the hospital wing).
- The hero experiences RESURRECTION (this is extremely obvious in the 7th Harry Potter book more than the first).
- He returns home, to the NATURAL WORLD with the knowledge that he’s saved society.
One of the reasons Harry Potter works so well with the idea of a circular hero journey is because he embarks on this journey multiple times, moving from the NATURAL WORLD of Surrey to the SUPERNATURAL WORLD of Hogwarts. That, and he’s continually fighting the bad guy.