Identify a book, film, video game, or television show that represents an example of the “Hero Myth.”. Using Linda Seger’s essay, “Creating the Myth” (NOTE: You must quote/paraphrase the article using APA citation style), explain why your choice represents a good example of that myth. Do NOT summarize the film, tv show, etc. You want to ANALYZE, not SUMMARIZE. In other words, do not tell me the story. Instead, explain why the hero fits the traditional pattern, including what archetypes are found throughout the story, and if he/she is a “broken” hero, describe how he/she fits the Healing Myth.
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Creating the Myth
by Linda Seger
All of us have similar experiences. We share in the life journey of growth, development, and
transformation. We live the same stories, whether they involve the search for a perfect mate, coming
home, the search for fulfillment, going after an ideal, achieving the dream, or hunting for a precious
treasure. Whatever our culture, there are universal stories that form the basis for all our particular
stories. The trappings might be different, the twists and turns that create suspense might change
from culture to culture, the particular characters may take different forms, but underneath it all, it’s
the same story, drawn from the same experiences.
Many of the most successful films are based on these universal stories. They deal with the
basic journey we take in life. We identify with the heroes because we were once heroic (descriptive)
or because we wish we could do what the hero does (prescriptive). When James Bond saves the
world, we identify with the character, and subconsciously recognize the story as having some
connection with our own lives. Itâ??s the same story as the fairy tales about getting the three golden
hairs from the devil, or finding the treasure and winning the princess. And itâ??s not all that different a
story from the caveman killing the woolly beast or the Roman slave gaining his freedom through skill
and courage. These are our stories â?? personally and collectively â?? and the most successful films
contain these universal experiences.
Some of these stories are â??searchâ? stories. They address our desire to find some kind of rare
and wonderful treasure. This might include the search for outer values such as job, relationship, or
success; or for inner values such as respect, security, self-expression, love, or home. But itâ??s all a
Some of these stories are â??heroâ? stories. They come from our own experiences of overcoming
adversity, as well as our desire to do great and special acts. We root for the hero and celebrate when
he or she achieves the goal because we know that the hero’s journey is in many ways similar to our
We call these stories myths. Myths are the common stories at the root of our universal
existence. Theyâ??re found in all cultures and in all literature, ranging from the Greek myths to fairy
tales, legends, and stories drawn from all of the world’s religions.
A myth is a story that is â??more than true.â? Many stories are true because one person,
somewhere, at some time, lived it. It is based on fact. But a myth is more than true because it is lived
by all of us, at some level. It’s a story that connects and speaks to us all.
Some myths are true stories that attain mythic significance because the people involved seem
larger than life, and seem to live their lives more intensely than common folk. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
Gandhi, and Sir Edmund Hillary personify the types of journeys we identify with, because weâ??ve
taken similar journeys â?? even if only in a very small way.
Other myths revolve around make-believe characters who might [encapsulate] for us the sum
total of many of our journeys. Some of these make-believe characters might seem similar to the
characters we meet in our dreams. Or they might be a composite of types of characters weâ??ve met.
In both cases, the myth is the â??story beneath the story.â? Itâ??s the universal pattern that shows us
that Gandhiâ??s journey toward independence and Sir Edmund Hillaryâ??s journey to the top of Mount
Everest contain many of the same dramatic beats. And these beats are the same beats that Rambo
takes to set free the MIAs, that Indiana Jones takes to find the Lost Ark, and that Luke Skywalker
takes to defeat the Evil Empireâ?¦â??The myth within the story helps explain why millions went to see
this film again and again.â?
The hero myth has specific story beats that occur in all hero stories. They show who the hero
is, what the hero needs, and how the story and character interact in order to create a transformation.
The journey toward heroism is a process. This universal process forms the spine of all the particular
stories, such as the Star Wars trilogy.
The Hero Myth
1) In most hero stories, the hero is introduced in ordinary surroundings, in a mundane world,
doing mundane things. Generally, the hero begins as a non-hero; innocent, young, simple, or humble.
In Star Wars, the first time we see Luke Skywalker, heâ??s unhappy about having to do his chores,
which consists of picking out some new droids for work. He wants to go out and have fun. He wants
to leave his planet and go to the Academy, but he’s stuck. This is the setup of most myths. This is
how we meet the hero before the call to adventure.
2) Then something new enters the heroâ??s life. Itâ??s a catalyst that sets the story into motion. It
might be a telephone call, as in Romancing the Stone, or the German attack in The African Queen, or
the holograph of Princess Leia in Star Wars. Whatever form it takes, it’s a new ingredient that pushes
the hero into an extraordinary adventure. With this call, the stakes are established, and a problem is
introduced that demands a solution.
3) Many times, however, the hero doesn’t want to leave. He or she is a reluctant hero, afraid
of the unknown, uncertain, perhaps, if he or she is up to the challenge. In Star Wars, Luke receives a
double call to adventure. First, from Princess Leia in the holograph, and then through Obi-Wan
Kenobi, who says he needs Lukeâ??s help. But Luke is not ready to go. He returns home, only to find
that the Imperial Stormtroopers have burned his farmhouse and slaughtered his family. Now he is
personally motivated, ready to enter into the adventure.
4) In any journey, the hero usually receives help, and the help often comes from unusual
sources. In many fairy tales, an old woman, a dwarf, a witch, or a wizard helps the hero. The hero
achieves the goal because of this help, and because the hero is receptive to what this person has to
There are a number of fairy tales where the first and second son are sent to complete a task,
but they ignore the helpers, often scorning them. Many times they are severely punished for their
lack of humility and unwillingness to accept help. Then the third son, the hero, comes along. He
receives the help, accomplishes the task, and often wins the princess.
In Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi is a perfect example of the â??helperâ? character. He is a kind of
mentor to Luke, one who teaches him the Way of the Force and whose teachings continue even after
his death. This mentor character appears in most hero stories. He is the person who has special
knowledge, special information, and special skills. This might be the prospector in The Treasure of
the Sierra Madre, or the psychiatrist in Ordinary People, or Quint in Jaws, who knows all about
sharks, or the Good Witch of the North who gives Dorothy the ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz. In
Star Wars, Obi-Wan gives Luke the light saber that was the special weapon of the Jedi Knight. With
this, Luke is ready to move forward and do his training and meet adventure.
5) The hero is now ready to move into the special world where he or she will change from the
ordinary into the extraordinary. This starts the heroâ??s transformation, and sets up the obstacles that
must be surmounted to reach the goal. Usually, this happens at the first Turning Point of the story,
and leads into Act Two development. In Star Wars, Obi-Wan and Luke search for a pilot to take them
to the planet of Alderan, so that Obi-Wan can deliver the plans to Princess Leiaâ??s father. These plans
are essential to the survival of the Rebel Forces. With this action, the adventure is ready to begin.
6) Now begin all the tests and obstacles necessary to overcome the enemy and accomplish
the heroâ??s goals. In fairy tales, this often means getting past witches, outwitting the devil, avoiding
robbers, or confronting evil. In Homerâ??s Odyssey, it means blinding the Cyclops, escaping from the
island of the Lotus-Eaters, resisting the temptation of the singing Sirens, and surviving a shipwreck. In
Star Wars, innumerable adventures confront Luke. He and his cohorts must run to the Millennium
Falcon, narrowly escaping the Stormtroopers before jumping into hyperspace. They must make it
through the meteor shower after Alderan has been destroyed. They must evade capture on the Death
Star, rescue the Princess, and even survive a garbage crusher.
7) At some point in the story, the hero often hits rock bottom. He often has a â??death
experience,â? leading to a type of rebirth. In Star Wars, Luke seems to have died when the serpent in
the garbage-masher pulls him under, but heâ??s saved just in time to ask R2D2 to stop the masher
before theyâ??re crushed. This is often the â??black momentâ? at the second turning point, the point when
the worst is confronted, and the action now moves toward the exciting conclusion.
8) Now, the hero seizes the sword and takes possession of the treasure. He is now in charge,
but he still has not completed the journey. Here Luke has the Princess and the plans, but the final
confrontation is yet to begin. This starts the third-act escape scene, leading to the final climax.
9) The road back is often the chase scene. In many fairy tales, this is the point where the devil
chases the hero and the hero has the last obstacles to overcome before really being free and safe.
His challenge is to take what he has learned and integrate it into his daily life. He must return to
renew the mundane world. In Star Wars, Darth Vader is in hot pursuit, planning to blow up the Rebel
10) Since every hero story is essentially a transformation story, we need to see the hero
changed at the end, resurrected into a new type of life. He must face the final ordeal before being
â??rebornâ? as the hero, proving his courage and becoming transformed. This is the point, in many fairy
tales, where the Millerâ??s Son becomes the Prince or the King and marries the Princess. In Star Wars,
Luke has survived, becoming quite a different person from the innocent young man he was in Act
At this point, the hero returns and is reintegrated into his society. In Star Wars, Luke has
destroyed the Death Star, and he receives his great reward.
This is the classic â??Hero Story.â? We might call this example a mission or task myth, where the
person has to complete a task, but the task itself is not the real treasure. The real reward for Luke is
the love of the Princess and the safe, new world he had helped create.
â?¦Whether the heroâ??s journey is for a treasure or to complete a task, the elements remain the
same. The humble, reluctant hero is called to an adventure. The hero is helped by a variety of unique
characters. S/he must overcome a series of obstacles that transform him or her in the process, and
then faces the final challenge that draws on inner and outer resources.
The Healing Myth
Although the hero myth is the most popular story, many myths involve healing. In these
stories, some character is â??brokenâ? and must leave home to become whole again.
The universal experience behind these healing stories is our psychological need for
rejuvenation, for balance. The journey of the hero into exile is not all that different from the weekend
in Palm Springs, or the trip to Hawaii to get away from it all, or lying still in a hospital bed for some
weeks to heal. In all cases, something is out of balance and the mythic journey moves toward
Being broken can take several forms. It can be physical, emotional, or psychological. Usually,
it’s all three. In the process of being exiled or hiding out in the forest, the desert, or even the Amish
farm in Witness, the person becomes whole, balanced, and receptive to love. Love in these stories is
both a healing force and a reward.
A myth includes certain characters that we see in many stories. These characters are called
archetypes. They can be thought of as the original â??patternâ? or â??character typeâ? that will be found on
the heroâ??s journey. Archetypes take many forms, but they tend to fall within specific categories.
Earlier, we discussed some of the helpers who give advice to help the hero â?? such as the wise
old man who possesses special knowledge and often serves as a mentor to the hero.
The female counterpart of the wise old man is the good mother. Whereas the wise old man
has superior knowledge, the good mother is known for her nurturing qualities, and for her intuition.
This figure often gives the hero particular objects to help on the journey. It might be a protective
amulet, or the ruby slippers that Dorothy receives in The Wizard of Oz from the Good Witch of the
North. Sometimes in fairy tales itâ??s a cloak to make the person invisible, or ordinary objects that
become extraordinary, as in â??The Girl of Courage,â? an Afghan fairy tale about a maiden who receives
a comb, a whetstone, and a mirror to help defeat the devil.
Many myths contain a shadow figure. This is a character who is the opposite of the hero.
Sometimes this figure helps the hero on the journey; other times this figure opposes the hero. The
shadow figure can be the negative side of the hero which could be the dark and hostile brother in
Cain and Abel, the stepsisters in Cinderella, or the Robber Girl in The Snow Queen. The shadow
figure can also help the hero, as the whore with the heart of gold who saves the heroâ??s life, or
provides balance to his idealization of woman.
Many myths contain animal archetypes that can be positive or negative figures. In â??St. George
and the Dragon,â? the dragon is the negative force which is a violent and ravaging animal, not unlike
the shark in Jaws. But in many stories, animals help the hero. Sometimes there are talking donkeys, or
a dolphin which saves the hero, or magical horses or dogs.
The trickster is a mischievous archetypical figure who is always causing chaos, disturbing the
peace, and generally being an anarchist. The trickster uses wit and cunning to achieve his or her
ends. Sometimes the trickster is a harmless prankster or a â??bad boyâ? who is funny and enjoyable.
More often, the trickster is a con man, as in The Sting, or the devil, as in The Exorcist, who
demanded all the skills of the priest to outwit him. The â??Till Eulenspiegelâ? stories revolve around the
trickster, as do the Spanish picaresque novels. Even the tales of Tom Sawyer have a trickster motif. In
all countries, there are stories that revolve around this figure, whose job it is to outwit.
â??Mythicâ? Problems and Solutions
We all grew up with myths. Most of us heard or read fairy tales when we were young. Some
of us may have read Bible stories, or stories from other religions or other cultures. These stories are
part of us. And the best way to work with them is to let them come out naturally as you write the
Of course, some filmmakers are better at this than others. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg
have a strong sense of myth, and incorporate it into their films. They both have spoken about their
love of the stories from childhood, and of their desire to bring these types of stories to audiences.
Their stories create some of the same sense of wonder and excitement as myths. Many of the
necessary psychological beats are part of their stories, deepening the story beyond the ordinary
Myths bring depth to a hero story. If a filmmaker is only thinking about the action and
excitement of a story, audiences might fail to connect with the hero’s journey. But if the basic beats
of the heroâ??s journey are evident, a film will often inexplicably draw audiences, in spite of criticsâ??
responses to the film.
Take Rambo, for instance. Why was this violent, simple story so popular with audiences? I
donâ??t think it was because everyone agreed with its politics. I do think Sylvester Stallone is a master
at incorporating the American myth into his filmmaking. That doesn’t mean itâ??s done consciously.
Somehow he is naturally in sync with the myth, and the myth becomes integrated into his stories.
Clint Eastwood also does hero stories, and gives us the adventure of the myth and the
transformation of the myth. Recently Eastwoodâ??s films have given more attention to the
transformation of the hero, and have been receiving more serious critical attention as a result.
All of these filmmakers â?? Lucas, Spielberg, Stallone, and Eastwood â?? dramatize the hero myth
in their own particular ways. And all of them prove that myths are marketable.
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