Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey taken step-by-step by Expedia

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The Hero’s Journey is a narrative identified by the American scholar Joseph Campbell that appears in drama, storytelling, myth, religious ritual, and psychological development. It describes the typical adventure of the archetype known as The Hero, the person who goes out and achieves great deeds on behalf of the group, tribe, or civilisation.

In Brand storytelling, the Hero can relate to your customer who becomes the hero of the story, the founder, who developed the brand against all odds. A material that transformed something into something new and innovative or of remarkable quality or a product or invention which changes the world of the user.

Its stages are:

1. THE ORDINARY WORLD. The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma. The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history. Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress.

2. THE CALL TO ADVENTURE. Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of change.

3. REFUSAL OF THE CALL. The hero feels the fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure, however briefly. Alternately, another character may express the uncertainty and danger ahead.

4. MEETING WITH THE MENTOR. The hero comes across a seasoned traveler of the worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey.

Or the hero reaches within to a source of courage and wisdom.

5. CROSSING THE THRESHOLD. At the end of Act One, the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values.

6. TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES. The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the Special World.

7. APPROACH. The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special world.

8. THE ORDEAL. Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear. Out of the moment of death comes a new life.

9. THE REWARD. The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death. There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again.

10. THE ROAD BACK. About three-fourths of the way through the story, the hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought home. Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission.

11. THE RESURRECTION. At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home. He or she is purified by a last sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level. By the hero’s action, the polarities that were in conflict at the beginning are finally resolved.

12. RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR. The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed.

A few years ago, Expedia created a series of excellent videos with the themes of Find your Strength and Find Your Understanding. This is one of them… 

If you watch this video you will see the same steps as above:

  1. The Ordinary World – the world in which the Father and Mother live without the notion of their daughter’s gay marriage.


  1. The Call to Adventure – the invitation to the wedding arrives.

photo album

  1. The Refusal of the Call – the Father is not sure if he can go through with this.
  2. Meeting with the Mentor – The Father reaches within to find his inner strength.
  3. Crossing the Threshold. The journey – organised by Expedia – they take care of everything. Airplane, Taxi, Hotel, Airplane…
  4. Tests… The Father is tested in the New World.
  5. Approach. The Father finds a way to face this ordeal the next day.

the two brides

  1. The Ordeal – the Father confronts his greatest fear. Out of the moment of death comes a new life – with a 2nd daughter.
  2. The Reward. The Father realises that he has not lost his daughter but gained a 2nd one.
  3. The Road Back to his old life has changed.
  4. The Resurrection. He has changed. His life too. It will never be the same again.
  5. Return with the Elixir. He has learnt a lot by looking within and facing his fears and has gained back the love of his daughter and her newly wed wife. His 2nd daughter.

the elixir

Try and think about these steps the next time you write the strategy for your next story. It could help you structure it. All the great movies are based on this structure. The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, Star Wars… Joseph Campbell studied them all, and found that they all had this special pattern. And of course, a great hero!

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