“Star Wars”: Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey

Portrait of Joseph Campbell

See photo credit below.

This post is dedicated to my nephews, Spencer Rebman and Trevor Rebman. 

Do you love Star Wars? Ever wonder why?

Mythologist Joseph Campbell’s theory of the “monomyth” may just be your answer.

In his 1949 book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell (1904-1987) describes the monomyth – or hero’s journey – that lies at the heart of many stories around the world:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

Bill Moyers conducted a famous series of interviews with Campbell, and the result is a six-episode documentary, The Power of Myth, first broadcast in 1988, a year after Campbell’s death. Watch short clips from each of the episodes:

Perhaps most memorable is the moment in which Moyers and Campbell discuss George Lucas’s  Star Wars as a prime example of the hero’s journey.

“It’s perfect,” says Campbell. “It does the cycle perfectly. It’s not a simple morality play. It has to do with the powers of life and their inflection through the action of man.”

Star Wars, heroes, the meaning of life – what a great place to begin our exploration of stories!

Consider purchasing your own six-DVD set of The Power of Myth or read Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

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Image reproduced by permission of Joseph Campbell Foundation (jcf.org).