The Transformative Power of the Hero’s Journey: How Literature’s Timeless Narrative Structure Shapes Characters and Changes Lives

After introducing two popular story structures in the last articles — the three-act structure and the five-act structure — today I’ll show you a metastructure that you can mix with the other two, very specific structures. Welcome to the Hero’s Journey.

René Junge
4 min readFeb 1, 2023
Photo by Lino Ogenio on Unsplash

The hero’s journey is a timeless narrative structure that has captivated audiences for centuries. This structure, which was popularized by mythologist Joseph Campbell, involves a protagonist who goes on a journey, faces challenges and obstacles, and ultimately emerges victorious and changed.

This journey can take many forms, from epic adventures to personal quests, but it always follows a similar pattern. In this article, we’ll explore the different stages of the hero’s journey, using examples from literature to illustrate the transformative power of this narrative structure.

In the beginning, the hero is in their normal world, living a mundane existence. But something happens to push them out of their comfort zone and into a new adventure. This could be a call to action, a quest, or a challenge.

The hero’s journey often begins with a “call to adventure,” which is a moment of crisis or opportunity that forces the hero to leave their normal life behind. For example, in the classic novel “The Odyssey,” the hero Odysseus is called to leave his home and embark on a journey to reclaim his kingdom and his wife. In “The Lion King,” Simba is forced to flee his home after the death of his father and confront his own destiny as the rightful king of the Pride Lands.

In the middle, the hero faces numerous obstacles and challenges on their journey. They may encounter helpful allies and fearsome enemies, and they may have to overcome their own personal flaws and weaknesses. This stage of the journey is often referred to as the “initiation,” and it is here that the hero truly begins to transform.

For example, in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” Harry learns to overcome his fear and insecurity as he battles against the evil Lord Voldemort. In “The Hunger Games,” Katniss Everdeen learns to be a leader and a symbol of hope as she fights for survival in the brutal arena.

In the end, the hero reaches their destination and achieves their goal.

They may have to face a final, climactic battle or challenge, and they may have to make a difficult decision or sacrifice something dear to them. But in the end, they emerge victorious and have been changed by their journey.

This final stage is often referred to as the “return,” and it is here that the hero returns to their normal life, but they are no longer the same person. For example, in “The Lord of the Rings,” Frodo returns to the Shire after destroying the One Ring, but he has been forever changed by his journey and the weight of the burden he has carried. In “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Scout returns to Maycomb after learning about the injustices of the world and her own community, and she is no longer the innocent child she once was.

The hero’s journey is a powerful narrative structure that has been used in literature for centuries. It allows writers to tell compelling stories that explore the human experience and the transformative power of growth and change.

Whether it’s a hobbit, a wizard, or a mockingbird, the hero’s journey is a universal story that speaks to the human heart and the human spirit.

Whether you’re reading a classic novel or a contemporary bestseller, you’re sure to encounter the hero’s journey in some form, and you’re sure to be moved and inspired by the transformative power of this timeless narrative structure.

Maybe you’ll try your hand at a classic hero’s journey yourself in one of your next stories. Your readers will greedily snatch it from your hands if you do it well.

What’s your favorite story written along the lines of the hero’s journey? Write it to me in the comments. i look forward to numerous examples.

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René Junge

Thriller-author from Hamburg, Germany. Sold over 200.000 E-Books. get informed about new articles: