The Hero’s Journey (conclusion)

Vaughn C. Hardacker

Vaughn Hardacker here. In my last couple of blog posts, I discussed the 17 steps of Campbell’s Monomyth and how they can develop into that vital thing that we call plot (also known as a story). In this post, I will reduce the seventeen steps to twelve stages and the components of each stage. I will attempt to compare The Lord of The Rings trilogy.

Stage 1: The Ordinary World. We see the hero’s normal life at the start of the story. Frodo’s life in The Shire. He and his companions are shown as youthful young Hobbits with little, if any, sense of responsibility.

Stage 2: Call to Adventure. The hero is faced with an event, conflict, problem, or challenge that makes them begin their adventure. Bilbo Baggins is visited by the dwarfs in The Hobbit and Gandalf finds the one ring and tells Frodo he must be the one to take it.

Stage 3: Refusal of the call.  The hero refuses the adventure due to fear, hesitation, insecurity, or any reason. We see this when Frodo refuses Gandalf’s quest using fear as his reason. He had never before left The Shire and was afraid of the unknown.

Stage 4: Meeting the  Mentor. In the Lord of The Rings, Frodo will meet several mentors Initially there is Gandalf and several of them appear with Aragon becoming the most influential.

Stage 5: Crossing theThreshold. The hero leaves their ordinary world and embarks upon the quest. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf tells Frodo that he has confirmed that the Ring is the one lost by the Dark Lord Sauron long ago and counsels him to take it away from the Shire. Gandalf leaves, promising to return by Frodo’s birthday and accompany him on his journey, but fails to do so.

Note: These stages appear twice in the trilogy. First, there is a departure from The Shire and again the departure from the home of the elves. Both of which appear in The Fellowship of The Ring.

Stage 6: Tests, Allies, and Enemies. Instances of these throughout the trilogy. The hobbits’ first ally is a ranger, named Strider (later identified as the King Aragorn), who takes the adventurers to Rivendell,  where the fellowship is formed. The members of the fellowship encounter Sauron’s minions, the Orcs. I have always thought that the character that fits all of these is Gollum. He is introduced as an enemy, becomes an ally (for devious reasons), and again becomes an enemy.

Note: Although often called a trilogy, the work was intended by Tolkien to be one volume of a two-volume set along with The Silmarillion.[3][T 2] For economic reasons, The Lord of the Rings was published over the course of a year from 29 July 1954 to 20 October 1955, in three volumes titled The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. The work is divided internally into six books, two per volume, with several appendices of background material. Some later editions print the entire work in a single volume, following the author’s original intent. Tolkien’s work, after an initially mixed reception by the literary establishment, has been the subject of extensive analysis of its themes and origins. Influences on his earlier work, and on the story of The Lord of the Rings, include philology, mythology, Christianity, earlier fantasy works, and his own experiences in the First World War.

Stage 7: The Approach. The initial plan to take on the central conflict begins, but setbacks occur that cause the hero to try a new approach or adopt new ideas. One member of the fellowship, Boromir, attempts to steal the ring. Orcs attack and Boromir is killed. The remaining members ward off the Orcs and Frodo realizes that the ring’ s allure is too great and decides to set out alone. He and Samwise Gamgee sneak off.

Stage 8: The Ordeal. Things go wrong and added conflict is introduced. The Hero faces more difficult hurdles and obstacles, some of which may be life-threatening. In the trilogy, there are too many of these to list. I believe that what Campbell is saying is: once the hero is juggling three balls; throw him a fourth…and a fifth.

Stage 9: The Reward. After surviving The Ordeal, the hero seizes the reward they’ve earned that allows them to take on the biggest conflict.  It may be a physical item or piece of knowledge or wisdom that will help them persevere. There are a number of rewards in the trilogy, one of which is the sword the heroes have that glows blue when Orcs are near.

Stage 10: The Road Back. The hero sees the light at the end of the tunnel, but they are about to face even more tests and challenges.  Gollum leads Frodo and Sam around the Black Gate and they enter Mordor, Sauron’s home and the location of Mount Doom. The only way to destroy the ring is to throw into the fires of the volcano, where it was forged. Sam has suspected that Gollum has been sabotaging them and convinces Frodo. Frodo, however, refuses to kill Gollum and they drive him away.

Stage 11: The Resurrection. The hero faces a final test, using everything they have learned to take on the conflict once and for all. Frodo and Sam enter Mount Doom. However, the ring will not go away easily. Frodo cannot resist the Ring any longer. He claims it for himself and puts it on. Gollum suddenly reappears. He struggles with Frodo and bites off Frodo’s finger with the Ring still on it. Celebrating wildly, Gollum loses his footing and falls into the fire, taking the Ring with him. When the Ring is destroyed, Sauron loses his power forever.

Stage 12: The Resurrection. The hero returns home bringing with them knowledge back to the ordinary world. The four hobbits make their way back to the Shire, only to find that it has been taken over by men directed by “Sharkey” (whom they later discover to be Saruman). The hobbits, led by Merry, raise a rebellion and scour the Shire of Sharkey’s evil. Gríma Wormtongue turns on Saruman and kills him in front of Bag End, Frodo’s home. He is killed in turn by hobbit archers. Merry and Pippin are celebrated as heroes. Sam marries Rosie Cotton and uses his gifts from Galadriel to help heal the Shire. But Frodo is still wounded in body and spirit, having borne the Ring for so long. A few years later, in the company of Bilbo and Gandalf, Frodo sails from the Grey Havens west over the Sea to the Undying Lands to find peace.

Note: At this point, the films depart from the books. In the film, Sam and Frodo are rescued and the final battle against Saruman is not covered.

In conclusion. If followed, Campbell’s model can assist the writer in a number of ways. It provides a map by which the plot can be developed and it also works as an outline that you can utilize when writing your story. BTW. You may not be a fan of Tolkein but if you compare the Monomyth Model to the majority of successful books and films you can see all of the elements and stages have been utilized.


About Vaughn C. Hardacker

Vaughn C. Hardacker has published six novels and numerous short stories. He is a member of the New England Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, and the International Thriller writers. Three times he has been a finalist in the Maine Literary Awards Crime Fiction category, SNIPER, in 2015, THE FISHERMAN in 2016, and WENDIGO for the 2018 award. The second installment of his Ed Traynor series, MY BROTHER'S KEEPER was released in July 2019 and is available through all major booksellers. A signed copy can be ordered directly from Vaughn ( THE EXCHANGE his most recently published crime/thriller was released on September 4, 2020. His next thriller, RIPPED OFF, is scheduled to be released by Encircle Publications in January 25, 2023. He is a veteran of the U. S. Marines and served in Vietnam. He holds degrees from Northern Maine Technical College, the University of Maine and Southern New Hampshire University. He lives in Stockholm, Maine.
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3 Responses to The Hero’s Journey (conclusion)

  1. Pingback: The Hero’s Journey (conclusion) | Maine Crime Writers – Maine Reportings

  2. John Clark says:

    Very good summary/analogy. Thanks Vaughn

  3. jselbo says:

    Love to see this again – I am a huge fan of Campbell – great how you’ve laid it out

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