I’ve written a little bit about Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, the Hero’s Journey, before on this blog (here and here). While I’ve never read Campbell himself, I’ve read plenty of articles on the results of his study, and I recently noticed an interesting quirk the Guardians of the Galaxy had in regard to the Hero’s Journey. I just wanted to write something up and see if anyone else noticed this, or if I’m totally off the mark.
Historian Joseph Campbell did a survey of the mythology of all sorts of different cultures. He looked at the stories they told and the themes and archetypes that popped up in all of them. He recorded his findings in his book, “The Hero With A Thousand Faces.” In essence, what he found, was the Hero’s Journey.
The Hero’s Journey is a story archetype that emerges in all sorts of different cultures and mythologies. The best explanation I can give would be: think Star Wars, Episode IV, “A New Hope.” That plot is the Hero’s Journey to a T.
This is a great article if you want a more in-depth look at the various aspects of the Hero’s Journey, but I want to focus on just one thing that I noticed while recently watching Guardians of the Galaxy. See, the Hero’s Journey is, in one sense, all about an individual setting out on an adventure, being changed along the way, and coming back to his home at the end.
The return home, ideally, is an emotional moment, since the Hero is finally reckoning with who he was and who he has become. In other words, the return home is the moment the Hero realizes just how much he’s changed. An alternative to the Hero changing is the Hero’s home changing. In this version of the Hero’s Journey, when the Hero returns home, it’s still an ideally emotional moment because the Hero is finally reckoning with what he wanted to come back to, and what his home actually has become.
The second you start looking for this aspect of the Hero’s Journey, you start seeing it everywhere. Guardians of the Galaxy followed the Hero’s Journey, by and large, throughout, but pulled a rather interesting twist at the end. If you recall, the main character, Starlord, has his ship rebuilt at the end of the film.
Earlier in the film, on the previous version of his ship, a character tells him his ship is filthy. At the end, when he comes back to his rebuilt ship, it’s not only been made better, it’s clean. This, of course, mirrors his change from outlaw to sort-of superhero.
In other words, much like The Lord of the Rings, Guardians of the Galaxy has both the Hero and his home change at the end. I don’t know if it worked as well in Guardians of the Galaxy as it did in Lord of the Rings, but the twist on the Hero’s Journey is worth thinking about. So what do you think? Am I totally off the mark, or did Guardians pull this twist off? Any other stories you can think of that have both the Hero and his home change?