The “hero’s journey” describes a common sequence of adventures the protagonists in stories go through. It can be found in myths from all over the world. In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell uses this phrase to specify the different stages through which a (mostly male) hero works himself.
The “true hero’s journey” is based on much older mythological material. It is found in oral folklore and wonder tales. Regardless of their gender, protagonists in fairy tales demonstrate skills on their heroic journeys that reflect prehistoric matriarchal values, rather than the heroes of written myths from a later age, which mostly display patriarchal values. Since oral folklore and its specific hero’s journey is an originally matriarchal heritage from our indigenous ancestors in Europe, the folk tales feature plenty of female heroines, such as Cinderella, Rapunzel, Beauty, Snow White, etc., whereas the male heroes are mostly called “simpletons.” However, the male heroes were considered simpletons only in the later retelling of these myths, after society had shifted to a patriarchy. In the original crafting of these tales, the male heroes demonstrating feminine values were celebrated and admired. Only later, after the societal shift from a matriarchy, were males considered weak or simple for following feminine values. So the name “simpleton” must stem from patriarchal attitudes, which deemed the heroes’ more feminine ways as simple minded. There is a huge issue of belittlement around matriarchal stories and feminine ways, which is clearly noticeable when dealing with oral folklore.
The folk tale heroines and heroes work themselves through these stages:
1. Discovering that something is missing
2. Getting to know the missing energy
3. Finding an elixir and a mission
4. Attuning to the cosmic order
5. Anchoring the new reality
6. Creating a new future
7. Reaching mastery
The heroines and heroes in wonder tales have a clear mission: By trying to attune themselves to the cosmic order, they manage to restore balance in their own lives and that of others. Thus, they can create a new and better future for themselves and their society. Along their journey they grow into true leadership.
The cosmic order consists of the cycles that shape our life on planet Earth. The Sun and the Moon are the main players in creating humanity’s daily reality, from food to nature and the landscape, to our very own bodies. Everything is influenced and shaped by their cyclical impact. The human (hero) who walks through life in awareness of the creational effect of these cycles therefore gets to witness the weaving of the tapestry of life.
Humans attuned to the cosmic order are able to participate in the weaving of that tapestry, also called the web of life. This is exactly what gets demonstrated in fairy tales, as the protagonists work themselves through the process of the true hero’s journey. It is the heroes’ aim to establish a happy, healthy and fertile life that is sustained by Mother Nature’s horn of plenty.
The number of stages does not really matter, and many experts play around with this idea. The number of stages depends on how the process is divided. I came to the conclusion that dividing the journey into seven stages makes a lot of sense considering the geometrical patterns in stone circles, which are also reflected in fairy tales. What matters most is the sequence. Since the true hero’s journey is aligned with the cosmic cycles of the Sun and the Moon, the protagonist’s journey must also reflect the process of the Sun–Moon cycle. The order is, therefore, inherently fixed.
Studies recently confirmed that some of the wonder tales are as old as megalithic monuments. “These stories have survived without being written. They have been told since before even English, French, and Italian existed. They were probably told in an extinct Indo-European Language,” Sara Graça da Silva, a researcher at New University of Lisbon, and Jamshid J. Tehrani, a Durham University researcher, found.
According to archeo-astronomers, Neoliths (the creators of these monuments) were mapping out the cycles of the Moon and the Sun with the help of stone circles. They tracked how the cycles of these two main luminaries influenced all life and growth on planet Earth (see above question on “cosmic order”). From looking at the wonder tales and the true hero’s journey, it seems that it was vitally important for Neoliths to create these “stone calendars” in order to keep track of the creational cycles. What they observed, they packed into stories.
Copyright Andrea Hofman, Fribourg, Switzerland, 2023