The Hero's Journey: Applying The Twelve Stage Structure

Monday, 13 January 2020


Most of us have heard of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces or Christopher Vogler’s Twelve Stage Hero’s Journey.  Today's post is about helping you visualise & break down each step so you're able to easily apply this structure to your own writing - if you fancy it!

When rewatching Disney’s The Lion King for the 52nd time, I noticed what a great example the film was to help portray Vogler's theory, so here we are.

Let’s go!




Ordinary World

This is basically the hero’s everyday life before the adventure begins. In The Lion King, Simba is living together happily with his family and friends, excited for what the future holds for him.

Call To Adventure

Something happens which pushes the hero out of his comfort zone, forcing him to take action. In this case, Scar kills Mufasa and tells Simba to “run away, and never return”. 

Refusal Of The Call

The hero naturally has second thoughts about leaving the life they know, which in Simba’s case are reflected in the way he hopelessly wanders around the desert, not knowing what to do and almost giving up.


Meeting The Mentor

This is where the hero gets the guidance he desperately needs. Hakuna Matata! Timon and Pumbaa save Simba’s life and show him how to survive in the jungle. 

Crossing The Threshold

The hero accepts that there is no going back and crosses the line between his old and new life. Simba learns to love his life in the jungle together with Simba and Pumbaa and even adapts to a more vegetarian lifestyle. 

Tests, Allies, Enemies

More obstacles make the hero’s life harder. While Nala finding Simba and the two of them falling in love might seem like a great thing instead of an obstacle at first, it puts him in a position where he needs to make a difficult decision in the next step:


Approach To The Inmost Cave

The hero approaches the centre of the story which can possibly bring back the doubts from before. Nala asks Simba to return to the Pride Land to save everyone from Scar’s reign.

The Ordeal

The hero has to face the biggest challenge yet, which can either be physical or mental. Everything depends on the hero’s actions. Simba needs to decide whether to stay or save his kingdom and family. 

The Reward

After some sort of success, the hero transforms and becomes a more powerful version of himself. Often, this comes with a compensation. Simba gets to see his father’s ghost and finally makes his decision. 


The Road Back

The hero has to return home. Obviously in Simba’s case this means going back to the Pride Land and facing his worst enemy. 

Resurrection

We have reached the climax of the story in which the hero faces the most dangerous challenge in order to save everyone. Simba wins his final battle with Scar in which he learns that Scar killed his father. 

Return With The Elixir

The Hero comes back to the Ordinary World, stronger and more experienced than before they left. Simba becomes king and reforms the kingdom Scar had almost destroyed in his lust for power. 


I hope this helped to visualise the famous Hero’s Journey for you! It can really be a useful tool when you are struggling with structure, so keeping it in mind will definitely help clarify the steps of your own protagonist's narrative journey.

Jenny Schwender is in her second year of studying Scriptwriting for Film and Television at Bournemouth University. 

She is currently working on a dramedy pilot episode and various short scripts while exploring life on set through different film productions in Germany. 

To know what she’s up to, you can follow her insta @jennyyy_000.

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