12 Stages Of A Hero Essay

Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.

About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)

Ordinary World

We get a beautiful view of Frodo's ordinary world: the wonderful, peaceful, vibrant green hills of the Shire. Bilbo narrates how quaint hobbit life is, and we see Frodo enjoying it with the rest of them, drinking in the pub and running around on his big hobbit feet. It's a happy-go-lucky life for the hobbits.

Call To Adventure

Like his uncle, Frodo is called to adventure by Gandalf, who thrusts the Ring into Frodo's possession and asks him first to hold onto it, and then to take it to Bree.

Frodo is uncertain, because he's never had such an adventure before, but with no alternative and with trust in Gandalf, he becomes the new Ring Bearer and heads off on his journey.

Refusal Of The Call

While Frodo does initially protest carrying the Ring, that's not where his refusals end. All throughout the film he tries to give the Ring to powerful people he trusts, like Gandalf, Galadriel, and Aragorn. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), each of them declines and Frodo is stuck with the burden.

Meeting The Mentor

In the city of Bree, Frodo and the other hobbits run into the mysterious Strider, who turns out to be named Aragorn. Aragorn takes the hobbits under his wing and guides them out of the city and away from the Nazgûl. Aragorn provides their first real introduction to the seriousness of their journey, explaining exactly what they're dealing with.

Crossing The Threshold

When Frodo finally makes it to Rivendell, it seems his journey is at an end. But, with the seductive calling of the Ring, Frodo is sucked into the real adventure, taking the Ring into the heart of Mordor.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

Luckily for Frodo, he doesn't have to cross the threshold alone. With him he's got eight allies—the Fellowship of the Ring—who will face their enemies together.

Approach To The Inmost Cave

Frodo's approach to the cave is itself underground, deep in the caverns of Moria. In the calm before the storm that is the orc attack and Balrog fight, Frodo and Gandalf have a moment where they talk about Gollum and justice and fate; a brief moment of philosophical inquiry before stuff gets real.

Ordeal

The centerpiece of action in The Fellowship is the deadly fight with the orcs and Balrog in Moria. Just when the fellowship seems doomed by the sheer number of orcs surrounding them in the halls, the Balrog scatters the orcs and saves them, only to chase them onto the bridge of Khazad-dum where it drags Gandalf down deeper into the shadows of the mines.

Reward (Seizing The Sword)

The fellowship is rewarded by their bravery and Gandalf's sacrifice with their lives. Unfortunately, that's all they can ask for, and to Frodo it's no consolation for the loss of one of his dearest friends and mentors.

The Road Back

The road back is a sad one, and still full of peril. In fact, it's not even much of a road back: there's still a long journey ahead of them.

This section consists of their stay in the elven woods of Lothlórien, where Frodo meets the Witch of the Woods and gets a glimpse into the future if his journey fails.

Resurrection

Frodo's resurrection is the final fight with the Uruk-hai. Boromir finally cracks and Frodo has to not only run from him and the orcs, but also from the rest of the fellowship as he's resolute in finishing his journey with the Ring alone. Also, Merry and Pippin are captured by orcs.

So much for the hero's life: things are not looking up.

Return With The Elixir

But never fear; friendship is here. That's right; the elixir that results from the battle at the resurrection is the lasting bonds between the fellowship.

Gimli, Aragorn, and Legolas will stay together and try to rescue their brother hobbits while Sam is bound to Frodo and forces his way onto the boat to accompany him all the way to Mordor.

Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.

About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)

Ordinary World

Sheriff Woody is a cowboy toy that can move and talk when his owner, Andy, isn't around. Woody's obviously Andy's favorite toy, and he's the de facto leader of the other toys the room.

Call To Adventure

When Andy's birthday rolls around, he gets a super-cool new Buzz Lightyear doll—Buzz has a laser and his helmet does this whoosh thing. Andy's psyched.

Refusal Of The Call

Even after Buzz shows off all his cool features and the other toys rally around him, Woody refuses to believe that Buzz can take his place in Andy's heart. He's still Andy's favorite toy, and he's determined to stay on top.

Meeting The Mentor

Toy Story doesn't really give Woody a mentor exactly, but Woody's does gain all kinds of new knowledge as he watches Andy play with Buzz day after day. When Woody finds out that Andy can only take one toy to Pizza Planet he turns to an oracle—the Magic 8-Ball—for an answer he doesn't like one bit.

Crossing The Threshold

In an attempt to make sure that he's the one Andy chooses, Woody accidentally-on-purpose pushes Buzz out of Andy's bedroom window. He tries to explain to the other toys that it was all a misunderstanding, but they rebel against him and call him out on his growing jealousy.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

With Buzz missing, Andy's forced to take Woody on the car ride to Pizza Planet. There, Woody and Buzz fight and end up stranded at a gas station. They hitch a ride to Pizza Planet only to wind up on the inside of a claw machine. Andy's vicious neighbor, Sid (who's apparently really good at claw machine games—we've never won anything), wins them and then heads home to play.

Approach To The Inmost Cave

Woody and Buzz are taken to Sid's house, but only Woody seems to realize how much danger they're in. Young Sid likes to play rough with his toys. Real rough. Gulp.

Ordeal

Woody and Buzz watch Sid torture his toys and both find out more about who they really are. Buzz realizes that he's actually a toy—not a universe-protecting space ranger—and Woody finally admits how envious he is of Buzz and his new status as Andy's favorite.

Reward (Seizing The Sword)

Woody and Buzz reconcile and decide to escape Sid's bedroom together.

The Road Back

But, just then, Sid wakes up and takes Buzz outside to blow him up in the backyard. Wow, this kid is awful.

Resurrection

Woody has a chance to escape on his own, but decides he can't leave Buzz, so he appeals to Sid's maimed toys for help. Together, they free Buzz and scare the snot out of Sid by coming to life and telling him they don't like being blown up.

Yup, that'll land you in therapy right there.

Return With The Elixir

Woody and Buzz escape Sid's backyard just as Andy's leaving to move to a new house. The two toys chase down the moving truck and (after nearly blowing themselves up) are reunited with Andy's other toys. Everyone heads to Andy's new house and all is well again in Toyland.

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