Christopher Vogler’s Hero’s Journey Arc

lion kingChristopher Vogler worked within Hollywood for many years and has claimed responsibility for the fact that many well known movies explicitly following the hero’s journey. He similarly believed that his own life followed the hero’s journey. When people talk of Campbell’s hero’s journey arc, although no mention is made of Vogler, they often use his twelve stages as opposed to Campbell’s original seventeen, as Vogler’s are somewhat easier to manage and/or compare.

The stages of Vogler’s hero’s journey are:

  1. THE ORDINARY WORLD.  The hero is introduced. The reader is given a bit of personal history, setting, and cultural context. Something in the hero’s life makes them feel they are being pulled in different directions and causing stress.
  2. THE CALL TO ADVENTURE.  Something shakes up the situation, and the hero feels called to make a change, which usually involves leaving home.
  3. REFUSAL OF THE CALL.  The hero fears the unknown and considers turning away from the adventure.  Or another character tries to dissuade the hero from proceeding.
  4. THE HERO FINDS A  MENTOR.  The hero comes across someone (often a stranger, elder, or spirit) who gives them training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey.
  5. CROSSING THE THRESHOLD The hero commits to leaving the World where they started and enters a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values.
  6. TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES.  The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the Unfamiliar or Special World.
  7. APPROACH.  The hero and their new-found allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special World.
  8. THE ORDEAL.  The hero arrives in a central space in the Unfamiliar World and faces death or their greatest fear.  The hero emerges from this moment of reckoning changed in some way.
  9. THE REWARD.  The hero takes possession of the treasure they have won in the ordeal. There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again.
  10. THE ROAD BACK.  The hero must complete the adventure and leave the Special World to bring their treasure back home.  Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission.
  11. THE RESURRECTION.  The hero is severely tested once more as they near home in the climax.  The hero is changed by a last sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth—often psychological– which prepares them to be a leader upon their return.
  12.  RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR.  The hero returns home, bearing the treasure. The treasure has the power to transform the world, as the hero has been transformed. The hero is hailed as a leader by their kinsmen or community and so begins a new (and better) life and world.

Vogler’s version of the Hero’s Journey can be depicted graphically as follows:

Hero's Journey