Resources on Hero Journeys
|Every culture has its own version of the hero journey tale; the path by which an individual attains wisdom, strength, and greatness. And every library’s literature shelves (especially in the sci-fi/fantasy genre) contain a wide range of these stories. Here are some of our favorites, along with other sources on taking a hero’s journey.
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Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion
A collection of mythologist Joseph Campbell’s talks and writing on hero journeys, passion, courage, and bringing meaning to life. “Life is without meaning,” Campbell says. “You bring the meaning to it.” - LW
The Power of Myth
The text companion to the 6-hour television series “The Power of Myth” (see Videos, below). A beautiful book that masterfully examines modern concerns in the context of mythology. - MS
Lord of the Rings trilogy
Tolkein’s classic epic tale of a young hobbit who is tasked with returning a magic ring to its origins to destroy it. Friendship, betrayal, hard lessons, hard-fought victories, dark nights of doubt, epic battle and small kernels of maturing wisdom and evolution of character and strength-this tale has it all. And in classic form: the reluctant departure, the initiation and trials, and the eventual battered but wiser hero returning. - LW
This is Coelho’s master work about a shepherd boy who undertakes a hero’s journey in search of his heart’s dream. - LW
The Earthsea Trilogy
Another epic hero journey tale … especially the first volume, A Wizard of Earthsea, which tells of a young, brash man whose journey toward adulthood and power is sidetracked by a mistake with serious consequences. After journeying to the ends of the earth to evade what pursues him, he finally has to face himself and wrestle his demons. He returns battered, but far wiser and a stronger human being. - LW
The Quest of the Riddle-Master trilogy
A complex hero journey tale, this is still one of my favorites in the genre. Strong female hero to match the main protagonist–a young ruler of a minor principality whose love of riddles and yearning for answers sets him on a journey across three books to find out who he really is. Delves into the pain of betrayal, the complexities of friendship and power, and very human traits of love, loneliness, and where to find strength in the dark of the night. All while following the classic genre structure of the departure, the initiation, and the return. - LW
The Magic Life: A Novel Philosophy
A classic hero’s story about a hard-working accountant who meets a street magician, rekindles a childhood passion, and changes his life. Author Ace Starry is a professional magician and escape artist, and applies his intimate knowledge of the boundaries between illusion and reality to this first novel about following your dreams. - MS
“Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth”
This 6-hour series, in which Bill Moyers interviewed Joseph Campbell about his philosophy and writing, is a PBS classic. Fortunately it’s still available to those who missed its original airing in the late 1980s.
Joseph Campbell Foundation