Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

The Hero’s Journey

Delahoyde & Hughes


[Paraphrased from Collin Hughes, who cites C. Carolyn Sweers (1989), although the master of this material is comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell.]

The Call:

Quite unexpectedly, while you are operating as normal in your present life and surroundings, you receive a call or summons to some sort of a high adventure. The call may come in a very mysterious way, a way that might seem improbable to a modern person. Although the call represents a severe disruption to life as you have known it and creates at least doubts and misgivings in you, and maybe even creates a major crisis, it stirs you deeply, and you feel more alive than ever. You struggle with the matter for a time, but at last you feel you cannot reject this adventure, even when your friends and family all think that you have lost your mind.

The Empowerment Ceremony:

Soon after you decide to go, a guide of some kind appears. This guide leads you away from your home and the places with which you are familiar. After some transition time, the guide takes you to a place of great natural beauty such as, perhaps metaphorically, a mountaintop or forest or the shore of a mighty sea. A castle or a temple is there. You are greeted and invited to take part in a ceremony, during which you are honored and given a new name, new clothes, and a special power — perhaps something inside yourself, perhaps a magic word to say, or a magic object to use. Or you may be given an ally to assist you in the coming adventures. The guide bids you farewell and tells you that you no longer need him/her/it. With your new powers you will be able to fend for yourself.

The Adventures:

You have a series of adventures. Each time you are triumphant with the aid of your wits and your powers.

The Near Defeat:

You catch sight of your goal, the promised object or person or place which came to you as part of your call. As you draw near to it, a strong enemy appears to bar your way. You use your special powers but they do not seem to work this time. You are wounded or in some other way defeated.

The Rescue:

Just as you are about to give up completely, or to die, some sort of rescuer appears. This may be external or may be a new power in yourself. The rescuer helps you to marshal what little strength remains, and together you defeat your foe.

The Triumphant Return:

At last, the promise is yours. You have won the person, the place, the status, or whatever it was that drew you from your home initially. After a period of time in which you enjoy what you have won, you return home, transformed. You have become the hero or heroine of your own life story.