Myth and Campbell’s Stages of Heroic Myths Essay
Gilgamesh In Gilgamesh, we see several of Campbell’s stages of the heroic myth. We see Gilgamesh introduced in his ordinary world, he is called to adventure twice, he passes the first threshold, he meets several helpers and encounters tests, he reaches the innermost cave, endures the supreme ordeal, seizes the treasure, is resurrected, and returns home with the treasure. Gilgamesh begins the tale at home as the restless king (introduction of the hero in their ordinary world). He soon meets his helper Enkidu and the two of them go off on their adventure to the forest to defeat Humbaba (call to adventure). Enkidu dies.
This prompts the grief stricken Gilgamesh to seek the answer to immortality (another call to adventure and passes first threshold). While in the underworld Gilgamesh passes many tests before he meets Utnapishtim and his wife (more helpers) who help him find the magical flower of everlasting life (reaches innermost cave/most dangerous part of the adventure). But Gilgamesh loses the magic plant to the trickster snake who steals immortality for itself (endures supreme ordeal). So Gilgamesh returns home with the understanding that immortality is reserved for the gods and that he is human (seizes treasure and returns home with treasure).
He will experience death and he realizes that he must live his life and enjoy it (resurrection). Beowulf In Beowulf, we see almost all of Campbell’s stages of the heroic myth. We see Beowulf called to adventure, he passes the first threshold, encounters tests and helpers, endures the supreme ordeal, seizes the treasure, takes the road back, resurrection, and returns with the treasure. Beowulf is called to adventure by the kingdom of King Hrothgar because they need his help to fight the monster Grendel, so Beowulf sets out to Denmark.
Beowulf never refuses the call to adventure because he is confident that he can defeat Grendel. The first night that Beowulf arrives, he faces a test. Unferth is jealous of Beowulf and tries to make him look like a fool in front of the Danes. Beowulf ends up insulting Unferth for killing his brother. At the same time, Beowulf meets his helpers which are King Hrothgar and Welthow. Later in the night, Beowulf meets Grendel and kills him (another test/passes first threshold). After this encounter, Beowulf has to fight Grendel’s mother (reaches innermost cave).
Beowulf’s helmet and sword fail him while he is fighting Grendel’s mother. Beowulf finds the magical sword and is able to kill Grendel’s mother (sword can also be looked at as a helper). Beowulf returns to his people after this battle (return home). After 50 years of being king, Beowulf must fight a dragon (another call to action and test). The dragon fatally wounds Beowulf and he dies. The resurrection stage is seen by the way Beowulf wants to be remembered, he wants a tower built by the sea next to the dragon’s treasure that he will be remembered.
The returning with treasure stage is having the tower built by the treasure. The Ramayana In The Ramayana, we see basically all of Campbell’s stages of the heroic myth. We see the hero introduced in his ordinary world, the call to adventure, passes the first threshold, encounters tests and helpers, reaches the innermost cave, endures the supreme ordeal, seizes the treasure, resurrection, and returns with the treasure. Rama is the first born in a royal household and hence destined to become king (hero introduced in his ordinary world).
Rama’s stepmother forces Dasa-ratha to give the throne to her son instead of Rama and he is exiled for fourteen years (call to adventure). After this there is no turning back. The citizens of Ayodhya follow Rama in his exile. He leaves them sleeping and with his wife and brother crosses the river in the wee hours of the morning (the hero passes the first threshold). In the early part of his exile Rama visits the hermitages of several sages who prepare him for the future. In the assault on Lanka he has the assistance of the monkey brigade of Sugreeva.
Rama’s wife is abducted and he fights with Ravana to rescue her (encounters tests and helpers). The monkeys build a bridge over the ocean to enable Rama and his army to reach Lanka, Ravana’s capital (reaches the innermost cave). Rama comes close to death after which there is a reversal of fortunes in his favor. In the battle, Rama is mortally wounded by Indrajeet’s divine weapon. Poisonous snakes released by the weapon bind him and Lakshmana and they are on the verge of death. At the last moment Hanuman brings Garuda the vulture to eat the snakes and free Rama and his brother (hero endures the supreme ordeal).
Rama uses the final magic with which he slays the villain. Rama invokes the Brahmastra, the ultimate weapon created by Brahma when all else has failed (hero seizes treasure). The entry to his original world is again marked by a near death experience. In Rama’s case it his brother Bharat who is undergoing such an experience. Rama had promised to return precisely at the expiry of fourteen years. Bharat prepares to immolate himself in case Rama is delayed (resurrection). Rama has vanquished the evil race of Demons so that righteousness can now flourish unabated under his guidance (return with the treasure).