Book Review: "Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell

This book has single handedly altered the way I understand stories.

Perhaps no other book in history has influenced storytellers more than “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” and I bet people will remember it as one of the most important books of the 20th century.

The book is wonderful not only because it gives any potential writer insight into the general arc of a story from beginning to end and an outline for the three-act structure—but also because he explains how the Hero’s Journey is rooted in psychology, religion, mythology, and the collective unconscious of the human mind.

I think that because this formula so effectively appeals to a wide audience, it has been over exploited, especially in Hollywood films. For that reason, many foreign films and low-budget American films have sought to break the pattern—through non-linear narrative, through multiple protagonists, and through open and unresolved story endings.

Here are the phases of Campbell’s hero’s journey:

(Act 1): 1. Ordinary world. 2. Call to Adventure. 3. Refusal of the Call. 4. Crossing the first threshold.

(Act 2): 5. Tests, Allies, Enemies. 6. Approach Inmost Cave. 7. Ordeal/Crisis. 8. Reward.

(Act 3): 9. Road Back. 10. Resurrection/Showdown. 11. Return with Elixir/Resolution.

Articles often cite that George Lucas used the book while he created Star Wars. No wonder the film series was so successful -- it drew on these universal elements of the human condition and experience to appeal to a wide audience.

Even if you are not a writer, I recommend this book highly because you will never see a movie or read a novel the same way again. You will begin to see the underlying patterns in these works and realize that what you just read or watched is not so original after all.