The Hero With a Thousand Faces

The hero's journey and women

One of the questions that has been raised about the way that Campbell laid out the monomyth of the hero's journey in Hero with a Thousand Faces was that it focused on the masculine journey. Although this was not altogether true—the princess of the Grimms' "The Frog Prince" tale and the saga of the hero-goddess Inanna's descent into the underworld feature prominently in Campbell's schema—it was, nonetheless, a question that has been raised about the book since its publication.

Late in his life, Campbell had this to say:

All of the great mythologies and much of the mythic story-telling of the world are from the male point of view. When I was writing The Hero with a Thousand Faces and wanted to bring female heroes in, I had to go to the fairy tales. These were told by women to children, you know, and you get a different perspective. It was the men who got involved in spinning most of the great myths. The women were too busy; they had too damn much to do to sit around thinking about stories. [...]

In the Odyssey, you'll see three journeys. One is that of Telemachus, the son, going in quest of his father. The second is that of the father, Odysseus, becoming reconciled and related to the female principle in the sense of male-female relationship, rather than the male mastery of the female that was at the center of the Iliad. And the third is of Penelope herself, whose journey is [...] endurance. Out in Nantucket, you see all those cottages with the widow's walk up on the roof: when my husband comes back from the sea. Two journeys through space and one through time.[7]


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