According to Joseph Campbell, a scholar of mythology, the following list identifies some of the characteristics of a hero. Campbell believes that the characteristics of a hero have their roots in most myths.
- A hero gives his or her life to something bigger than him/herself, to some higher end.
- A hero performs a courageous act, either physical or spiritual.
- A hero is usually someone from whom something has been taken or who feels there’s something lacking in the normal experience available, or permitted, to members of his society.
- A hero embarks on a series of adventures to recover what is lost or to discover some life-giving information.
- The hero usually moves out of the known, conventional safety of his/her own life to undertake the journey.
- The hero undergoes trials and tests to see if he or she has the courage, the knowledge and the capacity to survive.
- A hero has to achieve something.
- A hero’s journey usually consists of a departure, a fulfillment, and a return.
Source: Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth (1988, New York: Doubleday)
Choose a heroic figure you read about in your assigned reading for the week. Examples might be: Theseus, Oedipus, Calaf in Turandot, King Arthur, Siddhartha, Moses, Mohammed, cowboy hero, Frodo.
Or, choose a heroic figure from a book, a film, or a comic/cartoon series with which you are familiar.
Write a 1-2 page essay explaining how your hero exemplifies two of Campbell’s characteristics of a hero. Offer specific details, examples, and explanations for each feature.