Hero’s Journey

A film that reminds me of the heroes journey is The Wizard of Oz. The journey begins with Dorothy’s call to adventure when she is forced to leave her home in order to save her dog Toto. She then enters her departure when she meets a fortune teller who tells her that her aunt is ill. Which causes her to rush home and get caught up in the tornado that carries her to Oz. Leading to another forced departure down the yellow brick road after Dorothy discovers that she landed upon the Wicked Witch of the East in her arrival.

Upon her arrival Dorothy gains aid from two sources and also two objectives from those sources of aid. The first bit of help that she gets is a pair of ruby slippers from the victim of her transportation into this new world. The slippers give her the objective to be killed by the Wicked Witch of the West. Which causes another witch, Glinda, to appear and send Dorothy off to find the man who may be able to bring her home.

The film continues along this vein. With mentors and helpers appearing in the Scarecrow, the Lion, the Tin woodsman, and Dorothy herself. Each of the characters beginning their own heroes journey and alternating between the roles of mentor and helper for each other. These ties also lead directly to most of the challenges that each of the characters face. Like when the Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Woodsman face their fears and attempt to rescue Dorothy from the Wicked Witch of the West.

Many points in the film play directly to the stages of the journey as described by Joseph Campbell. Its seen through the call to adventure that each character experiences as they gather up the courage to leave their home in order to gain something from the Wizard of Oz. The road of Trails that the characters go through together on the way to meet their goals. Then in the end of the movie as Dorothy goes through the crossing of the return threshold when she wakes up in her bed changed by her journey. While the Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Woodsman take the final step of their journey by undergoing the freedom to live. With the Wizard of Oz pointing out that they had what they were searching for all along.

As to whether or not the Wizard of Oz is a film that uses the general formula of the heroes journey well I think can be answered in two ways. Through my own personal opinion which is a firm yes. Then by how well the movie has stood the test of time considering that many people are still watching and analyzing this movie to this day.

When it comes to if todays current cinema is meeting all four functions of mythology I think it depends on the individual person. I say this because everyone interprets a movie differently based upon their own life experiences and whether or not they can relate to the story being told by the film. Its very easy to see this type of thing when if you were to compare the reactions of a very faithful christian to an atheist who both watched the movie Heaven is For Real. Either of those two individuals would be able to see that movie and experience all four functions of mythology or none of them. The difference between the two is how they would interpret the elements of mythology played throughout the movie depending their own outlook on life.

The only difference that I can see between many of the films being created today and many of the movies of the past is time. When I say time I don’t mean how movies can show their age but that the majority of the population and the film critics have had the time to sort out the brilliance of films like Groundhog Day from whatever else was released that year. Movies that are able to stay in people minds to that amount of time tend to be able to satisfy the same storytelling traits that many old tales have. Like the journey of the hero and the four functions of mythology. So when all of the new movies being created in this day and age are viewed to see if they have these traits in a well told form. It might take a little time to see if they are to be judged worthy of joining the ranks of many other great pieces of cinema.

3 thoughts on “Hero’s Journey

  1. Mary Filbin

    I like your references to the Wizard of Oz. I agree with it lasting the test of time and still being relevant today. Great post, I enjoyed reading your thoughts. Blessings.

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  2. bdfleagle

    Nelson,

    Outstanding! Its too easy to pick LOTR or Star Wars and the many warrior films of the past decade. I like that you point out that each character on the Yellow Brick Road is facing their own “Call to Adventure”, must each grapple with their own threshold moments. I personally do not think that writer’s sit down and say to themselves, “we need to make sure we follow the Hero’s Journey graphic in our story!”, although some might. I think that movies and myths run this way, because that is how we enjoy and take meaning from a story. Other formats don’t hit the mark the same way.

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  3. megkwag

    I love your comparison to the Wizard of Oz! That’s a great movie to use, I would have never thought of it. I agree with your comment about it still being watched today and being analyzed. In one of my teacher education classes, we actually watched a clip of this film to teach us about the ways in which students don’t always see the same things when looking at the same object.

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