ENG/HUM 2433: World
The epic is a long narrative poem recounting actions,
travels, adventures, and heroic episodes and written in a
high style (with ennobled diction, for example). It may be
written in hexameter verse, especially dactylic hexameter,
and it may have twelve books or twenty four books.
Characteristics of the classical epic include these:
character or protagonist is heroically larger than life,
often the source and subject of legend or a national
covers several nations, the whole world, or even the
even though they may be fictional, provide an
explanation for some of the circumstances or events in
the history of a nation or people
often in battle, consists of courageous and heroic
deeds, often revealing the superhuman strength of the
The gods and
lesser divinities take an active interest in the outcome
of actions and sometimes intervene
All of the
various adventures form an organic whole, where each
event relates in some way to the central theme
presents the deeds of the hero objectively, revealing
his failings as well as his virtues
Typical in epics is a set of conventions (or epic
machinery). Among them are these:
with a statement of the theme ("Arms and the man I
the muse or other deity ("Sing, goddess, of the wrath of
medias res (in the middle of things)
participants on each side, ships, sacrifices)
speeches by main characters
descriptions of significant items (who made a sword or
shield, how it was decorated, who owned it from
generation to generation)
of epic simile (a long simile where the image becomes an
object of art in its own right as well as serving to
clarify the subject).
of epithets ("Aeneas the true"; "rosy-fingered Dawn";
patronymics (calling son by father's name): "Anchises'
Use of the
number three (attempts are made three times, etc.)
episodes in the story are later recounted
ENG/HUM 2433: The Epic
Hero and His Journey
From Joseph Campbell’s Power of Myth
The usual hero is someone:
The Hero’s Journey/Adventure:
The Call to Adventure: Some heroes set out
responsibly and intentionally to perform the deed prescribed
by the journey. Other heroes are thrown into the adventure.
There are still other heroes who initially refuse the call
to adventure, but eventually change their minds (if they
didn't, there wouldn't be a story). No matter why the
journey was undertaken, the hero is always prepared for the
trials he faces.
The hero takes off on a series of adventures beyond the
ordinary, either to recover what has been lost or to
discover some life-giving idea/potion/remedy. The journey
is a cycle of going and returning. The hero must move
beyond known, conventional safety in order to undertake this
Supernatural Aid: Although the hero is ultimately the
one who must face the challenges, he/she generally does not
do so alone. In most stories, the hero will have a guide,
someone who is wise in the ways of the world, and someone
who will offer the hero guidance and wisdom as he/she
progresses through the journey.
In addition to the guide, the hero will often have some kind
of a talisman, some symbolic item that offers power
or strength to the hero.
Most heroes also have companions on their journey.
The companions can serve a variety of functions. They may
offer balance for the hero, they may help the hero in
battle, they may help the hero learn valuable lessons.
Crossing the Threshold: Early on in the journey, the
hero will leave the world he/she has always known. The hero
will leave what is familiar and venture into the unknown. As
the hero leaves his/her familiar world, the hero will cross
a threshold. Sometimes this is simply symbolic, but other
times there will be some kind of physical barrier that the
hero must get through.
Threshold Guardians are those who would prevent those
who are not ready for the journey from beginning. They may
try to prevent the hero from leaving, or they may try to
prevent the hero from entering into the new realm. Whatever
side they are on, they will not let anyone pass who is not
up to the task at hand,
The Initiation: The hero must prove to be worthy of
hero status, and to prove this the hero will face a series
of challenges or trials while on the journey. The trials
fall into two main categories.
The trials the hero faces are designed to see if the
intending hero should really be a hero. Is he really a
match for the task? Can he overcome the dangers? Does he
have the courage, the knowledge, the capacity to enable him
to serve? In addition, the hero learns something about his
own character through his adventures.
There are several different challenges the hero might face:
Battle: Many heroes find themselves locked in
battle, either physical or psychological with someone
who is a "brother" whether a blood relation or a
Battle: Some heroes will battle literal dragons
guarding their treasure, but other heroes will battle
their inner dragons, the doubts and fears they have
about their own ability. Whether literal or figurative,
the dragons must be slain in order for the hero to
complete the journey.
Abduction / Sea Journey / Night Journey: Often in
the hero's journey, either the hero or someone close to
the hero will be abducted and taken away. As the hero is
transported elsewhere, or as the hero chases after the
captors, the journey may take the hero over the sea or
on a long night journey. Even if there is no abduction
involved, most hero's are traveling great distances, so
a sea journey or night journey is not uncommon.
the Belly of the Whale: This is a reference to the
story of Jonah and the Whale. When the hero is drawn
deep into the journey and must face his/her greatest
fear or the greatest evil, the hero is in the belly of
the whale. For some heroes, they are literally in the
belly of the whale, like Pinocchio, but for most this is
with the Goddess: Many heroes will meet a woman of
great power while on the journey. The Goddess may offer
the hero wisdom, or she may offer a supernatural aid
that will assist the hero has he/she faces the greatest
challenges on the journey.
Marriage: The hero will often have a special
connection with one character in the story, and this
connection can serve as a motivation to the hero to
continue the journey when all else seems hopeless.
Sometimes the sacred marriage is literally a marriage,
but often it is a symbolic union of two souls.
Death or Dismemberment: In order for the hero to be
transformed, he/she must give up his/her old life. Many
times this is done through a symbolic death. In other
stories, the hero will lose a limb, which will signify
the loss of the old self.
Atonement with Father: Many hero's have been
separated from their fathers or do not know their
fathers. The "father quest" is one motivation for a hero
to begin the journey. One easy way to remember
"atonement" is to think "at one," when the hero is "at
one" with the father or the father figure. This often
comes at the end of the hero's journey and is the
stepping stone that helps the hero take his/her rightful
place as leader in the society.
Apotheosis: This literally means the elevation of a
person to the rank of a god or the glorification of a
person as an ideal. After completing the difficult
challenges, the hero is idealized or worshipped in some
Boon or Magic Elixir: When the hero set out on the
journey, it was because there was some problem. The
Ultimate Boon or Magic Elixir is the solution to the
problem. The hero is able, through brave deeds to
procure this magic remedy and to solve the problem.
The Return: The hero's journey is a cycle that
include a going and a return. However, the return is not
always each. There still may be some challenges.
of Return: Sometimes the hero is content in the new
world and does not want return to the old world.
However, if the hero is to reach his/her destiny and
take his/her place as leader, there must be a return.
from Without: As the hero tries to return the hero
may find him/herself in a difficult situation that looks
like the end of the hero's quest. Just when things look
bleak, someone come to rescue the hero so he/she can
finish the journey.
Flight / Pursuit: Sometimes the hero wants to return
home, but there are forces that would like to prevent
him/her from doing that.
the Return Threshold: While usually not as involved
as crossing the initial threshold, the hero must still
return to the old familiar world.
of Two Worlds: As the hero completes the challenges,
the hero's bravery is noted by those around. As a
result, the hero is often looked up to in the new world
as well as in the new world. There are times when the
hero returns to the old world and his/her message is
unheard (especially if it is not what the society was
expecting) or the achievements unrecognized. In this
case, the hero may die or be killed, or sometimes
returns to the other world.
to Live: If the hero is successful on the journey,
and if the hero is accepted back into the old world, the
hero will have the freedom to live. Such heroes are
generally great leaders of their people.