The Hero’s Journey

One of my favorite tools for teaching literature is the model of the hero’s journey. The 12 stages of the hero’s journey are extrapolated from the writings of Joseph Campbell in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. For a simple overview, you can read through this PDF document written by Christopher Vogler. Teaching it is easy. You can watch a movie with your kids and apply it to the storyline. Good movies for this are the Star Wars movies, Lord of the Rings, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Finding Nemo.

The list of movies goes on and on. Even kids in the Finding Nemo set can glean quite a bit about the hero’s journey. That movie has a bonus: both Nemo and his dad go through the hero’s journey. Watch for clever twists like Dorie as mentor. She makes for a weird mentor except in one area: friendship. There are also very explicit references to the hero’s journey throughout the movie like the initiation scene in the fish tank. Watching that movie with the 12 stages on hand can give you a whole new level of appreciation for the story.

I encourage you to look through the PDF document and begin teaching your kids how hero stories are constructed. Then challenge them to find true life stories that fit the model. You’ll find that many success stories more or less fit the model of the hero’s journey.

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