Originally written by Campbell in the '40s-- in his pre-Bill Moyers days -- and famous as George Lucas' inspiration for "Star Wars," this book will likewise inspire any writer or reader in its well considered assertion that while all stories have already been told, this is *not* a bad thing, since the *retelling* is still necessary. And while our own life's journey must always be ended alone, the travel is undertaken in the company not only of immediate loved ones and primal passion, but of the heroes and heroines -- and myth-cycles -- that have preceded us.
Profound, World Shakingly Influential & Changing.
August 07, 2000
Reviewer: Rob opednews.com Kall from Holland, PA USA
All may roads may lead to Rome, but for me, this year, all books seemed to lead to Joseph Campbell's Hero With 1000 Faces.
I have discovered that this book is probably one of the most influential, widely read books of the 20th century. It's no wonder the author, Joseph Campbell, was featured in a Bill Moyers special on The Power of Myth (with an accompanying book, as usual for Bill Moyer's specials.)
I was reading books on writing-- on story structure-- Particularly, Christopher Vogler's excellent Writer's Journey, and it was based on this book. Ironically, I was already reading another of Campbell's series of books on myth. But then I started looking deeper into this realm-- the idea of the Hero's journey, -- the call to adventure, refusing the call, finding a mentor, encountering threshold guardians, crossing the threshold, facing the worst evil, winning the elixir--- and I discovered that dozens of books have been written about the concepts Joseph Campbell first broached.
It's such a powerful idea, and so useful in conceptualizing life's changes. I used it as an element in a presentation I just gave this past weekend on how the art and science of story can be applied to healing and helping people grow. 80% of the people attending the lecture were familiar with the concept.
This is such powerful material, you might consider essential for helping you understand the way movies are made, and how the contemporary world has been affected by advertising and the loss of sacred rituals in everyday life.
One way I gauge a book is by how many marks I make in the margins, to indicate wise ideas or quotable material ( I collect quotes, and quotation books big-time, owning over 400 quotation books) and this book's margins are just packed. The depth of knowledge in mythology and anthropology is awesome, providing a wealth of examples, metaphors, ancient stories and myths which deepen your understanding of human nature. The only problem with this book is how often, in conversations, I've found it to be relevant, whether talking about a friend who is going through some tough times, or someone who is making some changes in his business.
A landmark of 20th century literature. April 28, 1998
Reviewer: Will Errickson from Raleigh NC
Joseph Campbell was one of the great souls of our age. I've read this book twice, first on my own and the second for a class in "Myth, Religion & the Mythic Imagination." I read the paperack to tatters, literally, marking each illuminating, exhilirating insight. "Dry"? "Not a fun read"? What book did YOU read? Campbell is unlike other writers on myth; he looks not at an entire myth but at its parts. By the end of the book, he has essentially created the Ultimate Hero Myth, which takes bits of every hero myth from virtually every culture (heavy on Native Americans). Campbell was not a dispassionate academic--this was his gospel, and he lived by it. This book is alive and inspiring like no other book I know. One unique aspect of it at the time it was published was its approach to Christianity. For Campbell, Christ's life had to be seen as a myth. Before him, most Western scholars wouldn't have dare to say such a thing. Others had written on that, but in a skeptical manner. Campbell's view is that the Virgin Birth, miracles, Resurrection, etc have meaning only because they ARE myths. Look, there'd be no "Star Wars" without this. No "Sandman" comics from Neil Gaiman. No "Watership Down." This book is for the intellectual who wants to LIVE, not just to sit sterile at the desk. Recommended like mad.
January 27, 2004
Reviewer: karltyler from England, Great Britain
When this book was written, in 1948, the very idea of questioning the rightness of Freud or Jung, even though they had fallen out with each other, was (supposedly) something only an idiot would contemplate.
Today, thanks to studies such as Richard Webster's "Why Freud was Wrong", we have learnt to treat the teachings of these men with a great deal of caution, and the psychoanalytic movement as a whole enjoys nothing like the unquestioning acceptance it claimed for itself in the first half of the 20th century.
And the point is:
There are two main flaws in Campbell's book:
1. The style of the writing is hopelessly scholarly and pedestrian. In its time, no doubt this help to justify the book's claim to be academically respectable. Today it just makes it a very heavy-going read.
2. Campbell himself attaches terrific importance to the validity of Freud and Jung's work when he seeks to explain the elements of "The Hero's Journey". And since the credibility of Freudianism in particular has been seriously undermined over the last 50 years, that inevitably consigns Campbell's work to the outer fringes of valid interpretation of the material he covers.
As interesting as the basic material is, the dry-as-dust style of writing robbed it of most of its sparkle, as far as I was concerned, whilst the highly questionable interpretive/psychoanalytical sections further interrupted the flow - whilst adding nothing of any value.
If I'd known then what I know now, I wouldn't have bothered with this book.
A classic treatise on the mythological hero September 22, 2003
Reviewer: bixodoido from Utah, USA
Joseph Campbell was undoubtedly one of the most influential mythologists of the twentieth century. This, his crowning achievement, celebrates the nature of myth, and in particular the nature of the mythological hero. Drawing from sources all over the globe, from primitive stories to complex pantheistic mythologies, and including many religions still extant today, such as Christianity and Buddhism, Campbell explains the archetypal elements of the hero myth, the different forms of the heroic quest, and the purpose of the hero's life work.
Campbell's work is important because of its attempt to resurrect myth--in other words, to restore its credibility in a technological society where science rules all--and to show the important function which myth can play, even in a society as complex as ours. He argues that "whenever the poetry of myth is interpreted as biography, history, or science, it is killed" (in Chapter IV of part one, "the keys"). In other words, myth should not be viewed literally, but rather allegorically for the lesson it can teach. Furthermore, Campbell argues that truth manifests itself in many different forms, ranging from a simple fairy-tale to a complex Egyptian ritual. For Campbell, the purpose of myth is to rise above the limits set by science and reasoning, and to provide mankind with a metaphysical form of fulfillment not attainable through modern technology.
Campbell's analysis of the various parts of the hero myth is very enlightening. There are shortcomings, of course (as there necessarily must be), and the archetypes he defines are not universal in nature. Still, he does a remarkable job of showing how myths from all parts of the globe often create essentially the same hero, albeit in different forms and with different attributes dependent on local customs. My only complaint with this book is that I believe Campbell takes the parallels of psychoanalysis and myth too far, especially in Part One of the book. His argument is made good by the many examples of similar myths from distinct parts of the globe, and the use of modern dreams as examples does only little to strengthen this hypothesis.
I believe this work is a necessary part of any study of mythology. It may be dated, true, but that does not entirely discredit it as a strong analysis of the universal hero. I certainly do not regard this work as authoritative on the subject of myth, but I do think Campbell's argument is one worth considering.