One of a Thousand Faces

“There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” Willa Cather

Yes, Willa, but each re-telling wears a different face and leads us to another place, perhaps never seen before, but somehow familiar. Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with One Thousand Faces and the works of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung propose that all stories, from the latest Star Wars film to Harry Potter’s epic, and—please permit me to promote my own Dragonwolder series–present a hero, among certain archetypes. To quote Christophe Vogler, “The theme of the hero myth is universal, occurring in every culture, in every time; it is as infinitely varied as the human race itself; and yet its basic form remains the same, an incredibly tenacious set of elements that spring in endless repetition from the deepest reaches of the mind of man.” (’s_journey.htm#Practical)

The hero’s journey involves a call to adventure, a break with the ordinary and every-day that leads to a personal transformation brought about by challenges and temptations. In the end, the hero finds redemption and returns to his/her origins. The narratives of Malevir: Dragons Return and its recently published sequel, Where Dragons Follow, pretty much follow the sequence of Campbell’s “monomyth” theory; but feature more than one hero. A while ago, I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Waiting for the previews to end, I wiggled in my comfy cinema seat with the expectation that I was about to see another “guy” film, an adventure story in which female characters would be more a distraction than a vital element of the tale. Instead, I met a cadre of heroes, Finn, Poe, and Han Solo; Rey and Leia Organa—three men, two women all at different stages of their quests. Rey is a tough and resilient fighter with hidden power; she mirrors a character I created in Where Dragons Follow, Alana, a young woman who becomes increasingly aware of her own powers. Rey and Alana experience physical and psychological changes as their stories develop.

Quoting Vogler again: “The…hero myth…[is] identical with the archetypes of the human mind, as revealed in dreams.  That’s why myths, and stories constructed on the mythological model, strike us as psychologically true.” The Force Awakens is the product of contemporary myth-building. Its psychologically shape-shifting Kylo Ren (a diminished version of Darth Vader} and his mentor, the Supreme Leader, Snoke, provide chilling antagonists to our heroes, so like my Malevir, forever plotting the destruction of Dragonwolder’s creatures.

My next challenge is writing the conclusion of the Dragonwolder series. Its protagonist—not human—will break with conventional hero constructs, yet experience inner turmoil and ambivalence, external pressures and trials, and ultimately, perhaps, a sort of redemption so characteristic of the human condition. Stay tuned.

One thought on “One of a Thousand Faces

  1. I wholeheartedly agree about archetype heroes which will always have a place in the human psyche because most of us identify with the underdog. The writer is challenged to reconfigure their DNA, while essentially celebrating life’s triumphs over adversity.


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