Courage, humility, and the Hero’s Journey


In May, with spring in swing, we are looking at stages of growth.

Today, we look at the teens and twenties, which means, of course, The Hero’s Journey.


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All of us want to be the heroes of our own lives—not victims or villains, neither the whiners nor the addicts, never the self-centered patricians, and certainly not the slobs.

Of course, life happens, and we become all of the above at different times, hopefully gaining a modicum of wisdom as old age approaches. 

Joseph Campbell studied myths and realized that many cultures had stories based on what he called the hero’s journey. He wrote about this in The Hero With a Thousand Faces.

Beverley Glick a British ‘story archeologist’ who helps her ‘clients find their voice, tell their stor[ies] and bring clarity of purpose and fresh meaning to their work, lives and businesses,’ says that by learning the hero’s journey we can look back over parts of our lives, tell those sections according to the journey, and gain perspective.

She links us to a TedEd video that deftly illustrates the hero’s journey. Let’s look at this three-minute explanation. It is the structure most used, turned inside out, or abused in stories. Please do click on it; it’s short and really clear—-lots of info in a moment. And I won’t have to bore you with my bullet point description.

Next, Beverley Glick shows us a chart of the hero’s journey.



The journey can be external or internal. How well we know that our inner demons are as monstrous as any physical villains could be!

Never is the desire to be a hero stronger than in our teens and twenties. What mountains will we climb, which villains will we defeat, and just how perfect can we become? 

Middle Grade and Young Adult novels ride these waves in boats made of character flaws and all-out bravery: Katniss Everdeen, Tris Prior, and quieter, more conflicted heroines such as Jo in Little Women, Lily Owens in The Secret Life of Bees, Kit Tyler in The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and Liesel of The Book Thief.

I mention heroines simply because the list of male heroes is so very well known and long. Women’s Studies in colleges do search for and name heroines, fictional and nonfictional. Until relatively recently, though, many of those names have not easily come to mind. How much do we know about Letitia Geer and the one-handed medical syringe or Anna Connelly and fire escapes?

Let’s stay with fiction and look at one MG/YA fictional heroine from the early 1960s who has had a revival: Meg Murray in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. L’Engle made her  female character traverse the hero’s journey in science fiction to boot. Now commonplace, it was groundbreaking at the time.

We all know the story, so I’ll be brief: Hero’s Journey—Meg is at home, Dad is lost, the three mentors come, Meg refuses the call, she goes and fights with baddies and herself (lack of confidence but love of her family,) finds her father and is chased home, where the family reunites and Meg has new understanding of herself and life.

I found a quick lesson on Emaze. It was created by Amy B. Hatcher and can be used by teachers, students, or parents to recognize the hero’s journey in the book.

(For those interested in a breakdown of the differences between the book and the recent movie, see

The hero’s journey can become old and worn, especially when paired with shallow characters and clichéd villains, but when internal depth and wrestling with personal angels and demons are required, the journey comes to life. Think Jane Eyre, Ponyboy in The Outsiders, Not Regina (a Mennonite novel! by C. C. Kaufman,) and absolutely everyone except Lydia in Celeste Ng’s stunning debut Everything I Never Told You—if that story contains any heroes at all.

Look, maybe wisdom is stepping off the path of the hero’s journey and mapping a reserved life of humility and service, one in which we support others as heroes. But within even that life, there are elements of the journey: sacrifice, hard work, and doing things we are convinced we can’t. Lives lived loudly or softly cannot escape moments of self reckoning, bravery, and (sigh) dealing with difficult people. Sometimes those difficult people are ourselves.

Whether we are the sword-wielding young or the prudent old, maybe the saddest thing would be to refuse all ‘Calls’ and just hang out, until our time on this planet is done.


I welcome your comments: Please enjoy a few short stories on the Home page, as well.

{Thank you to my niece, Addie Liechty, for taking the picture above that is this blog’s featured image. Her blog is:}

Best wishes and have a good week.


Greta Holt


  1. Mary Thomas Watts on May 17, 2018 at 9:37 am

    As these things will happen, your fresh reflection on the Hero’s Journey comes at just the right moment in my current writing project. Many thanks.

    • Greta Holt on May 17, 2018 at 12:20 pm

      Great, MT. See you soon at writers’ group. Looking forward to your new short story.

  2. Diane Gottlieb on May 17, 2018 at 11:26 am

    I really enjoyed the Hero’s Journey refresher class! The Hero’s Journey
    never loses its power.
    My favorite part of the blog was the ending though: “Whether we are the sword-wielding young or the prudent old, maybe the saddest thing would be to refuse all ‘Calls’ and just hang out, until our time on this planet is done.”
    There are calls all around us. We need to listen to them and find the courage to answer!

    • Greta Holt on May 17, 2018 at 12:22 pm

      Amen, Diane. The amount of time wasted on endless worry, oh my.

  3. Beverley Glick on May 17, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Hello Greta – I really appreciate you referencing me in your blog. I very much agree with you – the saddest path would be a lifelong refusal of the call. Thank you for your insights.

    • Greta Holt on May 17, 2018 at 3:58 pm

      Beverley, your website and mission are wonderful. I will read more, and I hope others do, as well. Thanks so much for your comment and your generosity.

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