First Lines: The Hero with a Thousand Faces

The monomyth or hero’s journey is the pattern that underlies most, if not all, myths, folk and/or fairy tales that have been told since the dawn of mankind, and was first described in The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. It goes a little bit like this: a hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

The monomyth is divided in several stages, which I won’t go into here. If you want more, there’s a practical guide to the hero’s journey, that originated as a memo in the movie industry. Which should come as no surprise, because aren’t they in the business of telling stories that appeal to as wide an audience as possible? You can imagine how a framework that has developed autonomously in numerous cultures from all over the world would be helpful in achieving that aim.

Back to the book. I included it on my list of 40 books to read before my 40th birthday because it’s basic premise, all myth boils down to the same thing is relevant to my interests. There are many parallels between current religious myth and all those that have now been degraded to ye-olde fairy tales of yore—I mean, it’s not as if virgin births and/or resurrections are unique to christian mythology—and I thought it would be informative to read some more about that. And that it was. It also reminded me why I don’t usually read non-fiction: the parts between the abundant examples of the various myths can be dry as a very dry thing.

Book read
Joseph Campbell — The Hero with a Thousand Faces
First line
The truths contained in religious doctrines are after all so distorted and systematically disguised, writes Sigmund Freud, that the mass of humanity cannot recognize them as truth. […] —from the preface.