Section One – Ordinary World
In Which we meet our hero
This is the start of the journey where we meet our hero at home in what he perceives to be his ordinary life. It usually depicts our hero as ordinary or mundane. It helps us to identify with him as an average person. This section of the cycle sets the stage and introduces the hero to us.
The start of Harry Potter sees him as a downtrodden orphan living in a small room under the stairs. The beginning of The Hobbit introduces us to a very cautious and unadventurous Hobbit who lives in a hole under a hill. I both cases our hero is nothing special ad eve a little underwhelming.
Section Two – Call To Adventure
In Which an adventure starts
This section usually kicks our hero out of their comfort zoe. The stage is generally characterised by a problem or challenge that they cannot ignore. This event can take all sorts of forms Cambel wrote: The hero can, for instance:
- Decide to go forth of their own volition, i.e. Theseus upon arriving in Athens,
- Be sent abroad by a benign or malignant agent, i.e. Odysseus setting off on his ship in The Odyssey,
- Stumble upon the adventure as a result of a mere blunder, i.e. Dorothy when she’s swept up in a tornado in The Wizard of Oz,
- Be casually strolling when some passing phenomenon catches the wandering eye and lures one away from the frequented paths of man, i.e. Elliot in E.T. upon discovering a lost alien in the tool shed.
“Hero with a Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell”
At this point I the story the stakes are beginning to be made clear ad our hero’s goals are laid out now he has to decide if he will rise to the challenge.
In the Philosophers stone, Harry receives a letter from Hogwartz, and his uncle tries to prevent him from reading it. The call to action happens when Hagrid turns up on the island and tells Harry he is a Wizard and is going to Hogwartz.
Section Three – Refusal of the Call
In which the Hero digs in their feet.
Once the Hero is called to action, they typically refuse the call. They may think it too risky, not want to face the peril. There is often some form of resistance to the change that the call to adventure is about to impose on our Hero. This is a pause point where the Hero tries to reverse up from the brink.
Harry Potter tells Hagrid he can’t be a Wizard. Luke Skywalker tells Obi-Wan he cat just leave, and Bilbo tries to ignore Gandalf, as does Frodo in the Lord of the rings.
Section Four – Meeting the Mentor
In which the Hero acquires a personal trainer.
Once the Hero decides he will undertake the adventure, it is usually clear that he is woefully unequipped to do so. In every good story, there is a mentor or trainer or guide to set our Hero o the right course.
Mentors seem to often come in the shape of wise old wizards, Gandalf, Dumbledore, Anallon, Walker Bow, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda to name but a few.
These mentors often equip the Hero with the tools for the job and give them experience and training to enable the Hero to live ad succeed.
The mentor is often taken away at some point to force the Hero to stand on their own, and this often plays as a tragedy. I can’t tell you how sad I was when Gandalf the Grey fell to the Balrog in Kazadum the first time I read the book ad how elated I was when Gandalf the White was reborn.
Mentors come in all shapes and sizes, and while the primary mentor in both Lord of the rings and the Hobbit is Gandalf, Aragorn is also placed In the role of Mentor to Frodo who would ever have made it to Riverdale without him.
Section Five – Crossing the First Threshold
In which the Hero enters the other world in earnest.
At this point, the Hero is committed to the journey. Something happens to make the Hero depart his world and journey into the other world. This is the point that the balloon goes up and the story kicks into high gear.
This is a checkpoint for our story, a place to pause and reassess before plunging on into the unknown. At this point, the story should have:
- Launched the central conflict
- Established the theme of the story or book
- Made some headway into the character development
This is the point I Starwars that Luke fids his Aunt and Uncle killed by stormtroopers ad agrees to go with Obi-Wan and learn the ways of the force.
Section Six – Tests, Allies, Enemies
In which the Hero faces new challenges and gets a squad.
When our story steps into the Special World, there is a definite shift. The Hero is unsettled by this unfamiliar reality and its new rules. This is generally one of the longest stages in the story, as our Hero gets to grips with this new world.
It is at this is the point in the story where we start to introduce a set of challenges or tests that our team have to pass. There are many ways for our protagonists to get into trouble. This stage allows us to add colour to the story.
In this phase, we often add extra characters to the story; some will be enemies and some additional members of the team. We can add plot twists that turn would-be foes into allies and visa versa. Our Hero often learns new rules from them. Popular locations for this stage are Saloons, and seedy bars places with a hint of danger or roughness work well so long as the Hero survives them.
There are so many examples of this stage, but one that fits all of the description given by Campbell and Volger is the canteen at Moss Eisley in Star Wars where Luke and Obi-Wan hire Han Solo and Chewbacca to transport them to Alderaan. The ensuing flight from the imperial storm troopers is also integral to the plot mechanics for this stage.
Section Seven- Approach to the Inmost Cave
In which the Hero gets closer to his goal.
The title of this section is not necessarily referring to an actual cave but rather to the most dangerous place in the story; it is often the heart of our goal or the lair of the big enemy. It could be the villain’s headquarters the lair of a dragon or the death star.
Joseph Campbell wrote, “the cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” At this point, our Hero has not entered the cave yet. This stage is all about our approach to that cave; it often covers the preparation required to defeat the villain.
The Millenium Falcon jumps out of hyperspace they think at Alderaan only to find a meteor storm where it should have been. They are attacked by some Tie fighters which head for a large moon, Obi-Wan utters the immortal words “That’s no moon it’s a space station.” And the Millenium Falcon is caught in the tractor beam of the Death Star.
Section Eight – Ordeal
In which the Hero faces his biggest test of all thus far.
This is the point in the story where our Hero faces the most significant challenge, yet our Hero has not hit rock bottom until this point. Vogler describes this phase as a “black moment.” Campbell refers to it as the “belly of the whale.” Both indicate some grim news or a very low point for the Hero. Our Hero will often feel like they have been defeated at this point.
The Hero must now confront their greatest fear. If they survive it, they will emerge transformed. This is a critical moment in the story, as Vogler explains that it will “inform every decision that the Hero makes from this point forward.”
Often this point I the story is not the climax but rather the end of the second act, there is usually more to come. It is often the point where the Hero earns the title of Hero.
In Starwars, the team evade capture o the Death Star Luke and his allies rescue Leia and Obi-Wan disables the tractor beam. Our team escapes the Death Star amid the tragedy of the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi Knowing that Darth Vader and the Death Star are tracking them to the rebel base.
Section Nine – Reward (Seizing the Sword)
In which the Hero sees light at the end of the tunnel.
Our Hero’s been through a lot. However, the fruits of their labour are now at hand, If they can just reach out and grab them. The “reward” is the object or knowledge the Hero has fought throughout the entire journey to hold.
Once the Hero has it in their possession, it generally has more significant ramifications for the story. Vogler offers a few examples of it in action:
- Luke rescues Princess Leia and captures the plans of the Death Star — keys to defeating Darth Vader.
- Dorothy escapes from the Wicked Witch’s castle with the broomstick and the ruby slippers — keys to getting back home.
Luke escaping from the Death Star with Leia and the plans contained in R2D2, allows him to contemplate beating Darth Vader and destroying the Death Star.
This sets up the plot removing Obi-Wan forces Luke to step up to the plate the knowledge that Vader is tracking the Falcon sets up the tension for the final act.
Section Ten- The Road Back
In which the light at the end of the tunnel might be a little further than the Hero thought.
The story’s not over just yet, as this phase marks the beginning of Act Three. Now that he’s seized the reward, the Hero tries to return to the Ordinary World, but more dangers (inconveniently) arise on the road back from the Inmost Cave.
More precisely, the Hero must deal with the consequences and aftermath of the previous act: the dragon, enraged by the Hero who’s just stolen a treasure from under his nose, starts the hunt. Or perhaps the opposing army gathers to pursue the Hero across a crowded battlefield. These are all further obstacles for the Hero, who must face them down before they can return home.
Luke and the team arrive on the fourth moon of Yavin to the Rebel Base. Grand Moff Tarkin has tracked them. The Death Star is charging its superweapon to destroy the moon as soon as the Death Star emerges from the shadow of the planet Yavin.
This scene sets up a tense race to defeat the Death Star before it defeats them.
Section Eleven- Resurrection
In which the last test is met.
Here is the true climax of the story. Everything that happened before this stage culminates in a crowning test for the Hero, as the Dark Side gets one last chance to triumph over the Hero.
Vogler refers to this as a “final exam” for the Hero — they must be “tested once more to see if they have learned the lessons of the Ordeal.” It’s in this Final Battle that the protagonist goes through one more “resurrection.” As a result, this is where you’ll get most of your miraculous near-death escapes, à la James Bond’s dashing deliverances. If the Hero survives, they can start looking forward to a sweet ending.
The race to destroy the Death Star is on in one of the most iconic cinematic moments in history. The X-wing fighters race down the gully on the Death Star. All hope seems to be lost until Han Solo rejoins Luke. Obi-Wan Kenobi reaches out from the depths of the Force to convince Luke to use the Force instead of the targeting computer.
Section Twelve – Return with the Elixir
In which our Hero has a triumphant homecoming.
Finally, the Hero gets to return home. However, they go back a different person than when they started out: they’ve grown and matured as a result of the journey they’ve taken.
But we’ve got to see them bring home the bacon, right? That’s why the protagonist must return with the “Elixir,” or the prize won during the journey, whether that’s an object or knowledge and insight gained.
Of course, it’s possible for a story to end on an Elixir-less note — but then the Hero would be doomed to repeat the entire adventure.
With the Death Star destroyed our Heros return to Yavin as victors and there are happy greetings, and the film ends with an award parade where our Heros are decorated for their bravery.