Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

This is the 4th book that I have finished in my Two-Thirds Book Challenge. I started it 6 October 2011 and finished it 15 January 2012. I had not intended to take so long but it is somewhat complex and, in all honesty, the rampant Freudianism/psychoanalysis is simply too much at times.

I have almost 6 pages of notes but I think I will ignore them for this review.

The central thesis is, I believe, reasonably sound. Although, certainly, it is not the only way to spin a description of cross-cultural mythology. It is in some of the (psychoanalytic) interpretation that the spinning out of control happens.

This past fall semester I took a course in classic literature and mythology, and as of today I finished a quick 3-week romp through 30 of the Grimm’s fairy tales. This book explains, or at least describes, much of what is present and happening in these stories.

One of the things I appreciated and respected is that Campbell clearly includes the stories of the Christian Bible–Old and New Testaments–in his analysis of myth.

One of the things I am unsatisfied with—I fear to be expected in Western culture and, in particular, with psychoanalysis—is the gendered explanation.

I do think the book is worth reading; some parts are certainly much better than others. In most places my notes are fairly detailed but in a few I wrote “This [such and such] is crap!” or “mumbo jumbo.”

I am going to provide a detailed list of the contents as perhaps that will provide the best overview of what the book contains/discusses:

Prologue: The Monomyth

  • 1. Myth and Dream
  • 2. Tragedy and Comedy
  • 3. The Hero and the God
  • 4. The World Navel

Part I: The Adventure of the Hero

  • Chapter I: Departure
    • 1. The Call to Adventure
    • 2. Refusal of the Call
    • 3. Supernatural Aid
    • 4. The Crossing of the First Threshold
    • 5. The Belly of the Whale/li>
  • Chapter II: Initiation
    • 1. The Road of Trials
    • 2. The Meeting with the Goddess
    • 3. Woman as the Temptress
    • 4. Atonement with the Father
    • 5. Apotheosis
    • 6. The Ultimate Boom
  • Chapter III: Return
    • 1. Refusal of the Return
    • 2. The Magic Flight
    • 3. Rescue from Without
    • 4. The Crossing of the Return Threshold
    • 5. Master of the Two Worlds
    • 6. Freedom to Live
  • Chapter IV: The Keys

Part II: The Cosmogonic Cycle

  • Chapter I: Emanations
    • 1. From Psychology to Metaphysics
    • 2. The Universal Round
    • 3. Out of the Void–Space
    • 4. Within Space–Life
    • 5. The Breaking of the One onto the Manifold
    • 6. Folk Stories of Creation
  • Chapter II: The Virgin Birth
    • 1. Mother Universe
    • 2. Matrix of Destiny
    • 3. Womb of Redemption
    • 4. Folk Stories of Virgin Motherhood
  • Chapter III: Transformations of the Hero
    • 1. The Primordial Hero and the Human
    • 2. Childhood of the Human Warrior
    • 3. The Hero as Warrior
    • 4. The Hero as Lover
    • 5. The Hero as Emperor and as Tyrant
    • 6. The Hero as World Redeemer
    • 7. The Hero as Saint
    • 8. Departure of the Hero
  • Chapter IV: Dissolutions
    • 1. End of the Microcosm
    • 2. End of the Macrocosm

Epilogue: Myth and Society

  • 1. The Shapeshifter
  • 2. The Function of the Myth, Cult, and Meditation
  • 3. The Hero Today

As a follow-up book to this one, I began another of my 2/3rds Challenge books, Mircea Eliade’s The Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and History. It, too, is in the Bollingen Series. So far I am enjoying it. It is also a quite deep book and I am taking many notes. Thus, it may also take a while to get through.

2 thoughts on “Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

  1. The Hero with a Thousand Faces is a classic. Looking foward to your review of The Myth of the Eternal Return. I haven’t read it but the concept has stuck in my mind since you mentioned it at my place in reference to the Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I finally did read.

  2. Yes, it definitely is a classic.

    I am enjoying Eliade so far but then I am not very far in. It isn’t hard to read but it is, hmmm, let’s just say “thick” for now; not to be skimmed.

Comments are closed.