A Hero’s Journey-Vogler

Start of Semester two and the introduction to our new module New Narratives

For the start of this Module we’ve been introduced to the book “A Hero’s Journey”, written by Christopher Vogler. This book sets out the story structure that supposedly all stories follow in some way.

Firstly before looking at Vogler you need to look at “A Hero with a Thousand faces” (1949) by Joseph Campbell whose ideas Vogler’s work was based off. Joseph Campbell was a Mythologist that studied thousands of myths and tales and wrote the theory of his Monomyth of the journey every hero takes.

Campbell’s book is a lot more extensive than Vogler’s and essentially what “A Hero’s Journey” is Vogler taking a more modernistic take on Campbell’s work and ideas (using modern examples and movies instead of myths) and formalizing them in a way that would writers could work from.

“I wanted to once and for all get them down as creative principles, a set of reliable building blocks for constructing stories, a set of tools for troubleshooting story problems.”

(Thewritersjourney.com, 2017)

For the next week my team and I will be looking at only two specific chapters of A Hero’s Journey and presenting on them to the class through a Presentation.

  • The Road Back
  • The Resurrection


(A useful representation of the progression of The Hero’s Journey)

I thought it might be slightly difficult starting reading at chapter 10 and 11 without the context of the rest of the book, though there are loads of summarised versions of the book online which helped give a clearer idea of where our chapters fall into the story.


(Voytilla, 2017)

The Road Back

Looking at the diagram above you can see that The Road back happens at a Threshold, crossing from the Special World back into the Ordinary World, or moving from Act 2 into the final Act 3.

Think of crossing this Threshold as a challenge, it’s not something that is easily stepped over but requires effort on our Hero’s part. They need to have sufficient motivation for returning to the Ordinary World as opposed to staying in the exciting and adventurous Special World.

“This stage represents the resolve of the hero to return to the Ordinary World and implement the lessons learned in the Special World.”

(Vogler, 2007)

Vogler gives it that this motivation can come in two forms, Inner Resolve and External Force. Inner Resolve is the Hero is when the Hero rallies themselves and reminds themselves of their ultimate goal. A good example of this is in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, there’s a scene with Sam and Frodo on Mount Doom where Sam starts describing the Shire and of life back in Hobbiton, up until this point their only goal has been to destroy the Ring but there’s no point in accomplishing that unless they have something to look forward to after they destroy the Ring. Returning to the Shire becomes their new goal and that is why Sam regains his resolve enough to carry Frodo the rest of the way up the mountain.

The other form of motivation, External Force seems to be more common. This can come in the form of Retaliation from the Villain/Shadow, usually if they weren’t fully defeated during the Ordeal they re-gather their forces and strike back at the Hero.

The Villain’s motivation could be pure revenge in which they seem more dangerous or it could be to steal back the Elixir the Hero gained during the Reward, again think of Lord of the Rings and Gollum reappearing at the last moment to bite off Frodo’s finger and steal back the Ring.

The Retaliation then connects into a major element of The Road Back, The Chase scene.This has a practical purpose in terms of the story, after the Ordeal and the Reward the story takes on a bit of lull and your audience could become sleepy. So as a writer you need to build that energy back up and gain momentum going into the final Act. This then can be achieved through a literal means of placing a Chase scene in the story.

In Mad Max (2015) they decide to return back to the Citadel where they’ll be able to start a new life and gain redemption (their motivation) and then for the entire journey back they are chased by Immortan Joe’s gang. They also bring in Magic Flight and Setback in this example, having the two ladies on the motorbike, they create an obstacle that delays Immortan Joe’s Forces but are sacrificed by the Hero’s as they are ultimately killed. They are setback after they blow one of the engines of the War Rig, which allows for the Villains to catch up to them creating conflict.

Other aspects that can be included in Retaliation and Chase scenes can be Transformation, where the Hero may need to take on a disguise to elude the Villain. Any expendable friends within the Hero’s party could be useful for the Villain to return and kill, making a profound emotional impact on the Hero and instantly raising the energy/tension of the story back up.


“Resurrection is the hero’s final exam, her chance to show what she has learned. Heroes are totally purged by final sacrifice or deeper experience of the mysteries of life and death. Some don’t make it past this dangerous point, but those who survive go on to close the circle of the Hero’s Journey when they Return with the Elixir”

Typically the climax of the story happens during this chapter, here the Hero will be brought closer to death and may actually die, the stakes are usually higher with more than the Hero’s life in danger and possibly most important of all the Hero must undergo a change.

A New Personality

For the Hero to pass this final test and to bring a larger meaning to the story they have to go through a personal change. The Hero must prove to us that they’ve taken on the lessons from their mentors and trials and that they are committed to changing themselves for the better.

I think an interesting example of choice and sacrifice is in Treasure Planet, Silver the main antagonist is given the choice between saving the treasure he’s searched for all his life or saving the life of Jim who he’s come to have and tentative mentor relationship to. Considering it’s usually the Hero sacrificing something to defeat the Villain/save a friend this is an interesting twist to Vogler’s structure that plays well with the relationship built up between the two.



David in my group pointed out a great example as Kirk in Star Trek (2009). What was important about this example was that Kirk doesn’t actually go through a character arc in this film, he has the same personality throughout and hasn’t learnt anything from his mentors. You could use this as proof that Vogler is always right but then we had to take into consideration the sequel Star Trek into Darkness (2013) where Kirk does go through this character arc, catching up on the lessons he should have learnt in the first film he now goes through a resurrection.


The reason this chapter is called resurrection is because the Hero needs to go through a sort of rebirth before they can proceed back into the Ordinary World.

“Warriors need to recognise that what they did in service of their country was outside the norms of human existence and cannot be allowed in civilised society.”

(French, 2005)

This is in reference to how warriors are treated in reality, in Ancient Rome warriors were bathed by women and in Native American tribes they would have these sweat lodge ceremonies where the warriors had an isolation period before being reintegrated into society. These ceremonies are supposed to represent a re-birthing and for our Hero this can be literal,emotional or both.


Catharism was first linked to storytelling by philosopher Aristotle who believed that watching tragedies gave people the opportunity to have an emotional release that would lessen excessive outbursts in real-life. It helps us deal with real world stress and worries, we choose to go watch sappy films that’ll make us cry or comedies to cheer us up, it becomes part of the appeal. It can be quite difficult for a writer to create this cathartic release, we need to empathize with the heros in a believable way, it can be way too obvious at times when a movies trying to make you cry. Alternatively comedy is harder to write for catharism, there needs to be a good build up of comedic tension during the first half of the film that s then delivered during the second half, the best example I think is Hot Fuzz where a lot of their later jokes are references to earlier events


David Pollock-https://interestinglyanimated.wordpress.com/

Glenn O’Neill-https://glennloneill.wordpress.com/

Ruxandra Popescu


Thewritersjourney.com. (2017). hero’s journey. [online] Available at: http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero’s_journey.htm [Accessed 4 Feb. 2017].

Voytilla, S. (2017). Hero’s Journey Arch. 1st ed. [ebook] Available at: http://www.tlu.ee/~rajaleid/montaazh/Hero’s%20Journey%20Arch.pdf [Accessed 14 Feb. 2017].

Examples of Each Stage of a Hero’s Journey. (2017). [online] YourDictionary. Available at: http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-each-stage-of-a-hero-s-journey.html#G0FbBO8v3SfmzlYa.99 [Accessed 5 Feb. 2017].

Examples of Each Stage of a Hero’s Journey. (2017). [online] YourDictionary. Available at: http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-each-stage-of-a-hero-s-journey.html#G0FbBO8v3SfmzlYa.99 [Accessed 5 Feb. 2017].

French, S. (2005). Warrior Transitions: From Combat to Social Contract. [online] Isme.tamu.edu. Available at: http://isme.tamu.edu/JSCOPE05/French05.html [Accessed 7 Feb. 2017].

hero’s journey. (2017). [online] Thewritersjourney.com. Available at: http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero’s_journey.htm [Accessed 5 Feb. 2017].

Magic Flight. (2017). [online] Changingminds.org. Available at: http://changingminds.org/disciplines/storytelling/plots/hero_journey/magic_flight.htm [Accessed 5 Feb. 2017].

Canada’s Top Drug Rehab Program & Alcohol Treatment Centre. (2017). [online] Sunshine Coast Health Center. Available at: https://www.sunshinecoasthealthcentre.ca/2016/05/relapse-heroic-journey/ [Accessed 5 Feb. 2017].

Catharsis Examples and Definition – Literary Devices. (2017). [online] Literary Devices. Available at: http://www.literarydevices.com/catharsis/ [Accessed 6 Feb. 2017].

Napier, G. (2013). The Hero’s journey – Magic Flight. [online] Gordon Napier Online. Available at: http://gordonnapier.com/the-heros-journey-magic-flight/ [Accessed 5 Feb. 2017].

Peterson, D. (2016). The Hero’s Journey – The Reward and the Road Back. [online] About.com Education. Available at: http://adulted.about.com/od/howtos/a/hjrewardandroadback.htm [Accessed 6 Feb. 2017].

Peterson, D. (2017). The Hero’s Journey – The Resurrection and Return with the Elixir. [online] About.com Education. Available at: http://adulted.about.com/od/theherosjourney/a/hjresurrectionandreturn.htm [Accessed 6 Feb. 2017].

Robinson, J. (2017). Exploring The Hero’s Journey: A Writer’s Guide | The Artifice. [online] The-artifice.com. Available at: http://the-artifice.com/writers-guide-hero-journey/ [Accessed 6 Feb. 2017].

Did JJ Ruin Captain Kirk?


Vogler, C. (2007). Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. 3rd ed. [ebook] Michael Wiese Production; Third Edition edition (1 Dec. 2007). Available at: https://learning.ulster.ac.uk/webapps/blackboard/execute/content/file?cmd=view&content_id=_3325266_1&course_id=_257470_1 [Accessed 2 Feb. 2017].




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