The Hero journey originates from a perceived gap in the hero’s environment or life. The subsequent adventure that occurs is in relation to (or in response towards) that perceived gap. It is the hero’s job to “fill the gap”. So, the hero typically strikes out into the unknown land, unaware of what adventures may be in store for them, unaware of the scope of their adventure, oblivious to the amount of time they may be about to invest.
One thing for sure…there will come a time, when the hero is called home. That calling home can come in a myriad of forms and is open to interpretation. Typically, in most hero tales, at first, the hero says, “No”. However, eventually, they come around and they do return home. One cannot really blame some heroes for not wanting to return home. After all, epic adventures have a way of changing people. If you undergo such stimuli and change, you change. Sometimes old desires, clothing and one’s sense of self no longer fits. However, it is the hero’s job to return.
It is the duty of the hero, first and foremost, to fill their perceived void or “gap”. If the gap is not filled, if the treasure is not returned to their community, who benefits? The hero journey is not as much about self (outside of the process of obtaining self-knowledge). Rather, it is a process of sacrificing personal interests in the service of an “other”, another or others.
This process, this going and return, is often one of restoring chaos to order. Such chaos can be represented through one’s mind frame, conditions in life, lack of experience, etc. This too is open to interpretation.
Sometimes this return is from one physical location to another—the hero may need to leave their adventure shore and return to their home, for instance. It might also be represented as a return to a community, a friend or lover. This too is open to interpretation, but typically is in relation to whatever void the hero experienced at the beginning of the tale and the void they were seeking to fill.
At the near-end of the hero’s adventure, they typically face a dilemma. They are made to ask the question of themselves, “Do I return”? After all, they have changed so much in the course of their adventure and, perhaps, have gotten used to the new costume they wear and the role they play. They are, quite literally, a new person. However, it is the job of the hero to return. It is their job to fill the void they perceived in the beginning.
The hero adventure is a process of change, of transformation.
The hero goes into the forest, the unknown, overcoming obstacle after obstacle and returns–to fill the void and offer what treasures they find (self-knowledge, career knowledge, skill, treasure, finance, etc), in service of others. In doing so, they fill the void, the missing puzzle piece, and restore chaos to order.
If you have committed yourself to a grand adventure, head the call of the return, emerging just as the call for adventure came–typically unexpectedly and at once.
What happens when one adventure comes to an end? Another one begins, ad infinitum.
Jim Hart is the founder of The International Theatre Academy Norway and Sleeping Hero Productions, LLC.