Hero's journey

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IRIS Wiki - Narrative Theories - Hero's journey


Joseph Campbell

Histo-geographical placement

This model appeared in Mid 20th century. Campbell explores the theory that important myths from around the world all share a fundamental structure (monomyth). Campbell used the work of early 20th century theorists to develop his model of the hero (ethnographers, psychologists, etc.)

Type of story

Narrative in general and Myth in particular.

Parent Theories

Campbell discusses his theory of the journey as the archetypal hero found in world mythologies.

Child Theories

Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers applies the Campbell's model to screenwriting.

Brief Description

Joseph Campbell proposes a common pattern, including strong reference symbols: a journey from the ”common” world towards another more supernatural, and the way back. The structure describes the story in 3 parts:

  • Departure:
    • The Hero begins the story in the ordinary world.
    • The Hero feels the Call to adventure, an event (or series of events) that pushes him to leave the comfort of his world for the more marvelous world of adventure.
    • Once the Hero is engaged in the adventure, he receives a Supernatural Aid, in the shape of an ally or a mentor that delivers indices or objects that will be useful to him thereafter.
    • He can then go cross the First Threshold, thus marking his entry in the supernatural world. He disappears from the common world and is found In the Belly of the Whale (in reference to symbolic disappearance of Pinocchio).
  • Initiation: Our Hero from now on is completely engaged in the adventure.
    • He will have to pass a Road of Trials that will aim at testing his courage, his determination, and the virtues relative to his quest.
    • He then encoutners a Meeting with the Goddess, who represents a protective and maternal figure and also to Woman as the Temptress as tests of his virtue.
    • He must then pass the Atonement with the Father, who makes of him an adult and opens the doors of the...
    • Apotheosis: last test of the initiation which will require him to use all its understanding of the quest and will offer him the Ultimate Boon: knowledge and experience in reward of his efforts.
  • Return: the Return mirrors the Departure and closes the narrative.
    • The Hero, from now on master of the quest, must then return and succeed in his original world.

The Hero's Journey

Relation with Interactive Storytelling

Similarily to Vladimir Propp's model, the hero's journey is linear and has general steps that can be used in IS approaches that keep some linearity (for example Moe or IDA (which use plot points)).

Systems/Tools using this theory

Maricopa Center for Learning & Instruction (MCLI) and the South Mountain Community College Storytelling Institute project [1]

In addition, in the field of educational games, an extension of Campbell's Hero's Journey was proposed. By comparing Campbell patterns to a diagramme of skills and knowledge acquisition, we can observe the following: the student, coming from the profane world, is being putin front of a problem that he cannot solve. He is then attracted towards a world of unknown knowledge, which he must cross by stages, having to prove his assimilation of determined notions in order to progress. After having triumphed over the last trial, which resumes the whole of the gained knowledge, he can then go back to his original framework, and, transforming his knowledge (theoretical) into skills (put into practice), he can solve its initial problem, thus enriching his living environment by mixing skills from both mundane and extraordinary worlds.

The Hero's Interactive Journey add new stages (Stubborn Refusal, Compelled to Adventure and Interference from Without) in order to offer a sufficient flexibility for covering the various possible behaviours of the player, and to accept the player's failures as well as his successes.

Stubborn to Refusal and Compelled to Adventure were added at the beginning of the story. They are used to manage the case of players marking a stronger refusal than that allowed by the model. If inside the Refusal of the Call stage, the player does not want to follow the adventure, events will be set up in Stubborn Refusal to encourage him to enter the world of adventure. If finally he still refuses, the stage Compelled to Adventure will draw his character in the story.

Interference from Without is reciprocal to Stubborn to Refusal but at the end of the story, when the player has the choice to return or not in the common world. If the player, after having refused a first time to return, follow his refusal, the figure of Rescue from Without can then intervene, to help the player, to push him to return and ensure that he will accede at the last stages of the narrative. Here the player is not compelled to accept the intervention, and he can leave the narrative without completing his quest.

The Hero's Interactive Journey



  • Campbell J. (1972). A hero with a thousand faces. Princeton University Press.
  • Champagnat, R., Delmas, G. & Augeraud, M (2010). A storytelling model for educational games: Hero’s interactive journey. Int. J. Technology Enhanced Learning, 2(1/2), 4-20.