One of the things I’ve seen many times over in literature and media is the idea of a hero. A hero is someone who has been called to adventure, to take up a cause and lead it, and to meet with the climax of the situation only to come out on top.
Or fail miserably.
But what about the other characters in the story? I’ve often wondered why so many people focus on the hero’s journey, in particular because so many people besides the hero are around. I’ve thought about a lot of archetypes that are used in literature, and part of me wonders, since they are universals, how are they not all some kind of direct result of a ‘hero’s journey’ in their own way? What happens after a hero completes his or her journey?
Granted, there are exceptions to this. I wouldn’t say a ‘natural disaster’ for example, is an example of a ‘hero’ who has overcome a challenge and has suddenly morphed into some other hero’s obstacle. I think it is required for a person, or conscious being, to be using the hero’s thread.
Part of this is true just based on moral reason. When God said that the Earth was ‘good,’ he wasn’t just giving us a word for ‘convenient’ or ‘good for mankind’ like ‘healthy.’ He declared it to be ‘good.’ Perfect. But hero’s journeys are set in sin-infested, fallen worlds, where good and evil exist. C. S. Lewis has maintained through his book Mere Christianity that badness is not able to live apart from goodness. Badness is just twisted goodness; these themes are recurrent throughout life, too, but goodness provides a starting point on which we build our lives.
In literature, I don’t think it’s a far off assumption to say that a hero is a starting point for readers. After all, we are most of us narcissists, admitted or not, medicated for it or not. We all see ourselves as the hero, or at least, by and large, the majority of us.
Here are some highlights:
1. The Mentor – a failure as a hero
2. The Father – an ideal for the hero
3. The Mother – a hero’s comfort
4. The Lover – a hero’s prize
5. The Villain – a cynical hero, a failed idealist hero
6. The Innocent – the hero’s legacy
7. The Outcast – The hero’s social complement
This is not so much about a journey but about a hero. And understanding where heroes come from is just as important in writing and reading as knowing where they are likely to end up.