The monomyth elaborated by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces sets down a universal pattern that codifies earlier studies of myths and archetypes and invests the heroic adventurer with psychic motives and symbolic gain. The quest, the journey, and the sea voyage, metaphors for the great circle of life emerge in myth and literature in varied but universal forms. Encompassing excursions, trials, and quests for boons, Campbell formulizes them a triadic pattern·separation, initiation, and return·and categorizes mythic and heroic figures within the wheel of the monomyth.
The hero of the monomyth is goal-directed. His fate is to depart, encounter initiation and struggle, and to return with a boon for his fellow men. Classic myths abound with monomythic heroes like Gilgamesh, Oedipus, Aeneas, and Ramayana. To complete the monomyth, each hero must gain access to a supernatural realm, engage and defeat hostile forces, and return with a beneficent power to share with humankind.
Gilgamesh, a legendary king, completes the monomyth in an ancient epic named for him by setting off (Separation) into strange lands to subdue a monster and deliver the sacred cedars to his home. However, he yearns for the secret of immortality, enters an enchanted area, and plunges to the bottom of the sea to fetch an immortality-conferring plant, which he loses to the gullet of a snake (Initiation.) Besides the cedars, moreover, Gilgamesh brings back home an enlarged self, what C. Jung calls an individuated self (179). (Return)
In Aeneas's qualifying excursion, he ventures to the underworld, (Separation) braves Cerberus,(initiation) and obtains from the shade of his father foreknowledge that he will found the city of Rome.(Return) Rama, an Eastern hero, whose exploit are glorified in the Rayamana, ventures into the jungle (Separation) and struggles against simian opponents and the savages in magical Rakshas.(Initiation) Rama is Vishnu in disgu...