Storytelling: What is the Monomyth?

The monomyth, or the hero’s journey, is the common template of a broad category of tales that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed.

The concept was introduced by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), who described the basic narrative pattern as follows:

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 pattern is closely followed in many of the world’s spiritual narratives, in shamanism, initiation rites, mystery religions (descent to the underworld), and in the mythologies of the world’s major religious or spiritual systems, including the stories of Gautama Buddha, Moses or Jesus.

There are twelve stages of the hero’s journey monomyth, following the summary by Christopher Vogler (originally compiled in 1985 as a Disney studio memo):

1. The Ordinary World,

2. The Call to Adventure,

3. Refusal of the Call,

4. Meeting with the Mentor,

5. Crossing the Threshold to the “special world”,

6. Tests, Allies and Enemies,

7. Approach to the Innermost Cave,

8. The Ordeal,

9. Reward,

10. The Road Back,

11. The Resurrection,

12. Return with the Elixir.


Monomyth: The Heroes Journey