Beyond Literary Landscapes—The Hero’s Journey

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


This week, we focus on a well-known literary theme, namely the hero’s journey.  Also known as the monomyth, the hero’s journey refers to “a basic narrative pattern that is commonly found in many myths or stories told in a variety of cultures from around the world.”

The term monomyth was first introduced by American author and editor Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  It contains 17 different steps, which can be divided into several sections or stages.

During the first stage, termed the departure, the hero is presented with a quest that they can refuse.  During the second stage, termed the initiation, the hero faces challenges and tests and begins to understand themselves.  Finally, during the third, and final, stage, termed the return, the hero returns home after completing the quest.

Please note that not all monomyths will contain all these steps.


Some well-known works related to the hero’s journey include J.R.R.  Tolkien’s trilogy, Lord of the Rings and Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, The Hunger Games.


These two trilogies are set in various fictional locations, including Middle-earth and Panem.


These works are set in the past and in the future.


These novels may be of interest to AU learners who would like to understand the world of myth, particularly as it relates to literature found across the globe.  This topic may also be intriguing to AU students who enjoy film studies and communications studies.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to the Hero’s Journey are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning more about this topic may enroll in CMNS 419: Digital Storytelling, a senior-level, three-credit course, which “explores a variety of storytelling frameworks.”  (No prerequisites are required for this course).  Happy reading!

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