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Reply To: The Hero’s Journey in Contemporary Literature/Fantasy


The two earliest recorded myths we know of, from the same period in ancient Mesopotamia, are the Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Descent of Inanna. Joseph Campbell definitely references the latter, in which the Goddess Inanna undergoes the original heroic birth-and-death experience, in his The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

But Campbell also mentions somewhere that when he was looking for examples of the female hero for The Hero with a Thousand Faces, he turned to fairy tales. One huge reason for that is that myths, even those of Goddess-oriented cultures, were recorded by male priests and scribes, filtered through the masculine mindset. Fairy tales, by contrast – which are often the lingering traces of past mythologies no longer active – are part of an oral tradition handed down in the nursery by grandmothers, nannies, aunts, and moms, so the female perspective isn’t edited out.

Ah – I found the reference I was looking for – this is from a Q & A session with Joe during a monthlong workshop:

When I was writing The Hero With a Thousand Faces and wanted to bring in female heroes, I had to go to the fairy tales. These are told by women to children, you know, and you get a sense of the woman’s journey.

There is a feminine counterpart to the trials and the difficulties, but it certainly is in a different mode. I don’t know the counterpart—the real counterpart, not the woman pretending to be male, but the normal feminine archetypology of this experience. I wouldn’t know what that would be.


Women will have to tell us the way a woman experiences the journey, if it is the same journey.

Fairy tales are a good place to look for that – but today, there are so many wonderful examples in literature. Women’s voices are finally being heard; seems they are telling us how they experience the journey.