Short Stories to Teach the Heroic Journey

Written by siobhan egan
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Short Stories to Teach the Heroic Journey
A hero's journey takes him through unfamiliar territory. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Joseph Campbell's "The Hero With A Thousand Faces" identifies the elements common to modern and ancient stories of the hero's journey: separation, initiation and return. Initiation includes the road of trials, which teaches the hero adult responsibility. A goddess sometimes guides or a temptress imperils his path. Atonement with father and apotheosis happen as the hero finally reaches the benefit of his struggle, such as finding true love or his life's meaning. Finally, on the hero's return, he shares his newly acquired knowledge.

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The Wizard of Oz

Dorothy is the protagonist in the Wizard of Oz story. Her hero's quest begins with a tornado in Kansas that lifts her out of her familiar farm life. She steps onto the fantastical yellow brick road in search of the Wizard of Oz, finding danger on the way, but also companions with whom she finds true friendship tested through trials. She learns she has the capacity to find her way through difficulty and returns home sharing the knowledge that the mutual love for her family exists wherever she is.


Pinocchio, a wooden puppet, has a desire to become a real boy and heads off on a journey to find his way. He is distracted at Pleasure Island, avoids many villains and discovers with his true friend Jiminy Cricket that his father who made him, Geppetto, needs his help. He risks his life in the belly of the whale, Monstro, to save his father. With the help of the Blue Fairy, the goddess figure, he saves his father and earns his humanity, finding a true family and happiness in the process.

Beyond Rangoon

In Beyond Rangoon, an American doctor named Laura Bowman struggles on a hero's journey through the darkness of her grief. At the start, she emotionally sleepwalks as a vacationer in Burma, grieving after the violent death of her husband and young son, then is jolted into the reality of the country's political turmoil. She finds her goddess guide in the form of the people's political leader based on the real life Aung San Suu Kyi. Laura takes on the struggles of a repressed people on her dangerous journey and comes to reclaim her healing power.

Monarch of the Glen

In this BBC television series set in Scotland, the reluctant hero Archie MacDonald comes home to Glenbogle to rescue his family's failing business, a 14th-generation monarch estate crumbling under 21st-century pressures. Archie meets helpful goddesses and finds true love with one of them. The atonement of the father is played out in Archie's struggles with his father, a dying monarch, reluctant to give up his power. Archie finds his destiny through the success he achieves in turning the estate around.

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