The Hero with a Thousand Faces

By Joseph Campbell,

Book cover of The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Book description

Joseph Campbell's classic cross-cultural study of the hero's journey has inspired millions and opened up new areas of research and exploration. Originally published in 1949, the book hit the New York Times best-seller list in 1988 when it became the subject of The Power of Myth, a PBS television special.…

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Why read it?

9 authors picked The Hero with a Thousand Faces as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This will be one of my more controversial picks – there are plenty of people who disagree with Campbell as a folklorist, a mythographer, and with his depiction of the Hero’s Journey. But, what is important about Campbell is his exploration of why the elements that appear in stories have the impact they do on our psyche, and how they fit together. One may not agree with all of Campbell’s conclusions, but I don’t think there’s a writer out there who won’t benefit from his exploration of the subject. I know I did.

I have to include this book because, just as it was for the original Star Wars film, it was a direct inspiration for my first novel. To be a good writer, you have to be aware of the existing patterns and how it relates to the collective unconscious. And Joseph Campbell dedicated his life to understanding the impact of storytelling and mythology and how it relates to the growth of civilization. If you’ve never read this book, it may just blow your mind. It is a bit long though, so you may want to find an audiobook version.

This classic treats humanity's myths as coherent stories attempting to make sense of the world, with the hero the prime bearer of the quest for sense and the power to set things right. He starts from a troubled real world, sets off on increasingly supernatural adventures to find a cure for what's wrong, overcomes all obstacles, and returns with the magic sword or elixir that fixes everything. Sam and his father’s adventures follow a similar pattern, although their elixir is family and love regained.

It’s almost impossible to discuss the Hero’s Journey without paying homage to Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces. This work by a noted mythologist and scholar is so instrumental in helping us to understand the story of humanity. This book helps me to appreciate that we are all storytellers, and our individual and collective stories are rooted in archetypes, myths, and heroic tales. I love his ability to dissect the cross-cultural features of the stories we tell. Campbell’s seminal work is among the most influential books of the twentieth century. It helps me to understand my own…

From Victor's list on the hero's journey.

I first encountered Joseph Campbell through a series of PBS interviews with Bill Moyers. His insights about myths, modern and ancient, reveal truths about human nature, love, life, and death that changed my life. With this book, he reveals common threads to heroic myths from many ages and cultures. The book outlines universal elements and describes why and how these elements resonate just as much today as they did thousands of years ago. George Lucas used Campbell’s ideas in writing Star Wars. For authors, the hero’s journey gives a detailed blueprint for epic sagas, no matter what the genre.…

From Max's list on writing fiction.

When we encounter a book is significant. Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces has had a lifelong impact on my spiritual journey. That each of us is the hero(ine) of our own life story and will undergo a recurring series of challenges, from which we emerge transformed, continues to speak to me in my senior years. Many years after a remarkable PBS series of interviews with Bill Moyers, when Campbell pointed to an icon of the Crucifixion and said (shockingly at the time): “That’s you, kiddo!”—I continue to view my life—both good and difficult times—as a spiritual journey and…

From Marjorie's list on women's spiritual journeys.

Joseph Campbell is an expert on the mythologies of the world. Using this as background information, he famously chronicles, in various forms, the Hero’s Journey, “a universal motif of adventure and transformation that runs through virtually all of the world’s mythic traditions.” Campbell describes the “monomyth” (one myth), his theory that all mythic tales are variations of a single integrated narrative. The hero’s journey is a quest to reach the divine beyond the travails of this world, and via intense suffering to touch the transcendent, to experience it, and to return with sublime gifts with which to transform society.  

This…

From Andrew's list on celebrating heroes and heroism.

Remarkably similar myths recur throughout the world: the ordinary person who becomes a killer of giants, or the many legends of The Flood. Many scholars in the nineteenth century believed the first versions of these myths originated in a now lost ancient civilization, perhaps Lemuria or Atlantis. Campbell’s book examines elements that are common to many legends and concludes that societies independently develop similar stories that reflect our life journeys. We are unique, yet the pattern imprinted on our life is, so often, one we share with every other human being.

From Simon's list on the development of the human mind.

Campbell’s work on the phenomenon of mythology came to prominence in the late 1970s when George Lucas named this book as an influence on the story of Star Wars (known today as Episode Four: A New Hope). While the field has advanced since the book was first published in 1949 and there has been some backlash in response to Campbell’s sudden Star Wars popularity, there is still a lot here that is interesting, especially the idea that some story structures have a cross-cultural appeal because they speak to a part of the human mind that is common to all…

From Graeme's list on mythology and its impact on the world.

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