Indo European Myth 2: #6

Explain the monomyth (aka “hero cycle”) and show how it applies to a single hero from the IE culture of your choice. (150 words min.)

A monomyth, put simply, is the “Hero’s Journey”.  The development of the hero from the plane mundane world into an epic adventure that builds him up to become the hero or legend.  This generally starts by the hero being called into an unknown adventure with unfamiliar supernatural powers and beings.  Once the hero accepts this challenge, he goes through a series of trials and tribulations to test his resolve and build up his character.  There is generally one epic challenge that must be met and defeated, and if successful, he receives a gift for his efforts and is sent back home, often through another series of trials and tribulations before making it to the end.  The entire process, according to Campbell, is a series of seventeen steps of the journey (at max) from beginning to end.  Not all hero epics contain all of these steps, but he mentions all seventeen anyway.

You could condense the seventeen steps of hero-ship into three sections: Departure, Initiation, and Return (Monomyth).  Departure would entail all of the events leading up to the departure into the trials and tribulations of the Initiation.  And then the Return would cover the heroes return home after the Initiation, and what knowledge or prize he has acquired along the way that goes with him.

An example of a hero going through these steps in the Greek culture is that of Odysseus.  At some point during his adventures he was driven off-course by storms (a blunder).  While in dock they are captured by the Cyclops Polyphemus, who starts eating his men.  The cyclops drank a barrel of wine and fell asleep, which gave Odysseus and his men the chance to light a wooden stake and blind the cyclops.  Odysseus made the mistake of revealing his identity to the cyclops as they escaped, and in return the cyclops told his father, Poseidon what had happened.  This angered Poseidon, and though they had obtained the gifts of all the winds except for the west winds, Odysseus’s men opened the back and released all of the winds.  The storm from Poseidon then drove the ship all the way back to where they had come, rather than their home of Ithaca.

(Word Count: 367)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *