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The Hero With a Thousand Faces

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  27,194 ratings  ·  1,770 reviews

The first popular work to combine the spiritual and psychological insights of modern psychoanalysis with the archetypes of world mythology, the book creates a roadmap for navigating the frustrating path of contemporary life. Examining heroic myths in the light of modern psychology, it considers not only the patterns and stages of mythology but also its relevance to our liv

Paperback, 2nd edition Bollingen Series XVII, 416 pages
Published March 1st 1972 by Princeton University Press (first published 1949)
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Shawn According to Campbell, the function of mythology is often to circumvent the immediate need for deep knowledge or, at least, to initiate the seeker…moreAccording to Campbell, the function of mythology is often to circumvent the immediate need for deep knowledge or, at least, to initiate the seeker into the thirst for a pursuit of deeper knowledge. Campbell probably relates many more myths in this book than is necessary to get his points across and that can possibly become tiresome to some readers before the book is concluded. I, by no means, would rate this as an easy read. You'll likely know within the first fifty pages if this is something you wish to absorb fully now or perhaps reserve for a later time. (less)

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The Divine Aesthetic of Hope

Written in 1948, Hero With A Thousand Faces is only slightly younger than I am. I was introduced to it in my mid-twenties, almost half a century ago. But upon re-reading it I find it as revelatory as it was then. By avoiding the idea of faith entirely, Campbell keeps alive a religion of hope. Hero With A Thousand Faces is a theology of the God of hope. It is a description of this God as a way of perceiving both the world and oneself. It presents, therefore, not an aes
Mar 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
We studied the Myth Cycle at Uni and I was interested enough to come back to this book years later and read the whole thing. It is well worth a read – an endlessly fascinating book by a fascinating man.

The idea is that there is basically only one story, the grand story of our lives, the monomyth. This story is told in millions of different ways, but ultimately every story ever told is either just a retelling of this grand story, or it is a re-telling of certain aspects of this more complete sto
Jan 05, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: intellectual masochists
Shelves: book-club-books
I was very excited to read this work because of its potential to teach me a great deal about mythology, but found that it was a total piece of tripe. I felt like Campbell was trying too hard to prove his knowledge, which was apparent in the great diversity of myths referenced in the work, but he failed to logically plan the layout of the text. I can understand the overall layout of the text, but it didn't work on the chapter/section scale. It was so disorganized that I often felt like a member o ...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014

Full circle, from the tomb of the womb to the womb of the tomb, we come: an ambiguous, enigmatical incursion into a world of solid matter that is soon to melt from us, like the substance of a dream. And, looking back at what had promised to be our own unique, unpredictable, and dangerous adventure, all we find in the end is such a series of standard metamorphoses as men and women have undergone in every quarter of the world, in all recorded centuries, and under every odd disguise of civilizatio
Mar 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I first read this book when I was 19. It saved both my step-father's ass and my soul.

I have always been a fan of mythology and folklore, and Joseph Campbell pulls tales from many cultures to show how mankind has virtually the same heroic journey tucked away in its subconscious regardless of culture or even time. He also explains the importance of myths, which is something lots of people can't grasp because they can't get over the fact the stories aren't real. Myths were never meant to be facts a
Nandakishore Varma
Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated by the similarities between Hindu myths and Greek myths. Then during my early twenties, I discovered Campbell and said to myself: "Voila! Somebody has noticed it before me!" Ever since then, I've been a Campbell fan.

The structure of the monomyth is so prevalent in many hero cycles, fairy tales, children's stories and popular films so it's a wonder how anybody can miss it. Campbell does an exhaustive job of digging through various mythologies of th
Morgan Blackledge
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Mythology helps us experience the rapture of being alive. I think this is the central takeaway from Campbell's work.

Modern academics have (absolutely correctly) criticized Campbell's work, e.g. his broad sweeping assertions and shaky (at best) methodologies. But on this basic point Campbell was (and maybe still is) nonpareil.

You can dismiss Campbell on many levels. But on this one point. I don't think you can easily dismiss him or this impactful text - which is pretty much his master work.

I kno
May 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mala by: Nathan "N.R." Gaddis

Myths are essential to our lives because they reveal what is culturally important to us and they flourish via story telling—from the oral tradition of yore to the modern bits & gigabytes, one generation passes on its stories to the next & thusly our Collective Unconscious thrives.
Joseph Campbell's stated aim was to "uncover some of the truths disguised for us under the figures of religion and mythology by bringing together a multitude of not-too-difficult examples and letting the ancient
Sep 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books which is very difficult to read. Campbell offers mythology examples from all over the world to build his framework. It is a book you need to read slowly to digest it, and read you should - the framework for the hero is important!
Ned Rifle
Dec 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Joseph Campbell has done a lot of good work in this book and others. Unfortunately the good of the work was research. His theories themselves (not so much the pattern-spotting as his rather shallow interpretation of the material, which is basically glorified self-help) are very easy to ignore. Read him to steal his stories and then regale your friends with them, much embellished, if need be; the beauty of these stories is that they speak directly. Also get as many of the books he references as y ...more
Mar 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This book blows my mind every time I pick it up. It has taken me years to heed the advice of friends and family and read the thing (don’t wait as long as I did), but I’ve finished with a renewed sense of what it means to be an artist/writer/human and a perceived momentum I’ve found nowhere else. There is energy, wisdom and strength in the connections Campbell draws.

I’ve also placed myself firmly in the Campbell camp of dissecting story structure (suck it Robert Mckee, or better yet eat all
Feb 10, 2010 rated it it was ok
While being the first book to explore the interconnections between cultures across the globe through mythology, Campbell's use of Freudian psychology does not do his thesis much credit. He also appears to be taking some of the "myths" that I am familiar with a little out of context so that they fit as proof to some of his points. While the thoughts contained within this book are interesting and provoke a good conversation about the interconnections of all human cultures, the foundation with whic ...more
Bill Tucker
Read it. Read it and marvel.
Brad McKenna
Dec 16, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
This book joins Atlas Shrugged as the only books I've ever had to put down.

I love mythology. The myths are not only grand examples of storytelling, but they also shed light on their civilizations' way of thinking. From the doomed-to-die Norse Gods to the plagiarist Romans simply renaming Greek Gods, the mythologies across the globe are fascinating on many levels. So a book that traces the similarities between all mythological cannons sounds like a stroke of genius. Too bad Freud's psychoanalyti
Moses Kilolo
Nov 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Every one who believes in destiny, in dreams, and in the universality of human experience and their particular stories should, at least once in their lifetime, read this book.
Ross Blocher
It's hard for me to know how to feel about The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Joseph Campbell's construction-and-deconstruction of the "monomyth" has hugely influenced storytelling, and rightly earned its central position in any discussion of story structure and cultural analysis. At the same time, it is replete with Jung- and Freud-infused speculation on psychology. Nonsense, really. I would fault the book less for these long tracts of commentary if they weren't stated so definitively. Here's an e ...more
Hardly the last word on stories and how they shape our lives, but a brilliant place to start.

Analyzes collective world mythologies, and boils them down into their component parts and recreating the story of our own lives - the monomyth. Incredibly interesting stuff.
This has been a lengthy study of reading and listening and taking notes. I've summarized this book in a way that accommodates my number one goal: self-development.


1. The Call to Adventure: the future Hero is wounded, and the cause of his wound is projected outwardly: an obstacle, a blunder, an enemy.
2. Refusal of the Call: the Hero falls back into the comfort and safety of parental figures, dependence and infantilism (male's mother complex).
3. Supernatural Aid: the Hero receives aid
Juho Pohjalainen
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've been well aware of the Hero's Journey for many years now, known of its vast influences in stories and storytelling both mythical and modern, read and re-read its key points and meanings, and applied them in my stories. Now at last I thought it might be a good idea to read them straight from the source and see if I could scrape up any more of them out of it.

Can't say I expected anything quite like this.

The book has a great deal to say not just about myths and stories and how eerily similar t
Printable Tire
I enjoyed this book... mostly. I have a few qualms with it, however.
-I found Campbell's attempts to relate myth archetypes to the psychoanalytic interpretation of dreams to be outdated and more than a bit of a stretch. Dreams more often than not do not include characters like the Snake or the River; more often than not, dreams are silly and pointless. This aspect of dreams is never considered.
-Campbell's constant digs at Christianity and Western religion in general were appropriate, I suppose, b
Nicholas Whyte
Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was ok

I have to say that I was rather disappointed by this classic work on mythology. On the plus side, it is indeed fascinating to put myths from very different points in time and space beside each other to note the similarities; Campbell is consistent and clinical in subjecting the Bible to the same scrutiny as any other culture; and for myself, I learned a thing or two about Cuchulain, not just a local hero and contributor to Ulster geography but in fact an e
Mar 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Page 156 “And there takes place, then, that dramatic divorce of the two principles of love and hate which the pages of history so beautifully illustrate. Instead of clearing his own heart the zealot tries to clear the world. The laws of the City of God are applied only to his in-group (tribe, church, nation, class, or what not) while the fire of a perpetual holy war is hurled (with good conscience, and indeed a sense of pious service) against whatever uncircumcised, barbarian, heathen, “native,” ...more
Sep 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: smart-stuff
This text is one of those often-quoted, seldom read old classics. It irks many, inspires some, and baffles most. I found myself irked, inspired and baffled on nearly every page. Still, I’m very glad I finally read it—-Campbell’s ideas have re-animated my reading and thinking. Problematic, definitely, but also illuminating.

The irksome and baffling bits first: Campbell cherrypicks what myths to include in his analysis. He chooses his evidence to create a really elegant Copernican universe, with hi
Apr 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Everyone has probably heard of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey, but most people misunderstand it and I doubt many people have actually read his writing except in summary. After reading this book, I can understand why; the man was brilliant, but he was an academic and this book was written for academics, even if George Lucas's being famously inspired by it (and the popular PBS miniseries) has propelled it somewhat into pop consciousness. His prose is dense and full of psychobabble. Okay, that's ...more
Jun 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A Book with a capital "B."

First of all, I feel inadequate and unworthy to review this book, but since I have been given the chance, all I can say is that this is one of the greatest Books (with a capital "B") of my experience. I suspect that it shall be recognised as one of the single greatest products to come out of 20th century American letters.

No, I'm not setting Campbell up as a prophet or anything like that, indeed, I suspect that this book's greatness lies in the eternal truths that tran
Campbell began life as a James Joyce scholar, and his book on Joyce is absolutely required reading. I have read the Hero with a Thousand faces, at least the first few chapters, on a number of different occasions. Inevitably, I lost interest as we began to move up into godhead, chapters entitled 'Apotheosis,' 'the Ultimate Boon.' THey're my Moby Dick whaling paraphernalia chapters. But this time I'm trying to stay with it all the way through.

My difficulty with it is that as a writer, as a reader
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
2/5 fundamentally flawed. In attempting to show the general patterns of mythology and their significance ( for which he relied on psychoanalysis, which was horribly misguided: Campbell notices himself that analyzing myths as scientific/historic artifacts is wrong; why should a psychoanalytical approach be right?) he presents a ton of examples for every stage, yet in doing so, removes them from their inherent context. Of course a lot of stories will point towards the same thing if we force the sa ...more
Apr 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
The image of man within is not to be confounded with the garments. We think of ourselves as Americans, children of the twentieth century, occidentals, civilized Christians. We are virtuous or sinful. Yet such designations do not tell what it is to be man, they denote only the accidents of geography, birth-date, and income. What is the core of us? What is the basic character of our being?

The asceticism of the medieval saints and of the yogis of India, the Hellenistic mystery initiations, the an
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, reviewed
After having obstinately read The Hero With a Thousand Faces cover to cover on my own time, I can confidently say… no one should do that, unless you’re reading it for a class. This is a book that was clearly impactful when it was first published some 70 years ago; but now, with a plethora of clearer and more succinct explanations of the Hero’s Journey at your fingertips, the original is… almost irrelevant. (As an anthropological/sociological text, it might have more merit - the way similar story ...more
Dec 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a classic but it is not great as audio. They had three narrators switching off to break things up but that made it worse. There's just more detail than I needed without a bonus of extra insight. I would recommend instead the Bill Moyers interviews with Campbell, as video, audio or print. The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell Those are dated now too, but are much clearer, because of the Q & A format and the real world examples, vs. too much of the ancient texts and scholarly verbiage in this book.
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Joseph Campbell was an American author and teacher best known for his work in the field of comparative mythology. He was born in New York City in 1904, and from early childhood he became interested in mythology. He loved to read books about American Indian cultures, and frequently visited the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where he was fascinated by the museum's collection of tote ...more
“Regrets are illuminations come too late.” 314 likes
“Instead of clearing his own heart the zealot tries to clear the world.” 169 likes
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