The Hero as an image gets a lot of press; (especially if there is fame or notoriety involved). But my sense of it is the Hero is not a concretized pattern like a figure to be modeled after, but a dimension of the individual human spirit that is potential in everyone.”
Though I haven’t done this since Covid landed, prior to that junior high teachers often invited me into the classrooms to introduce their students to the concept of the Hero’s Journey. Of course, if you want 12 and 13 year olds to pay attention, you really can’t approach it like schoolwork (if they know they’re being taught a lesson, kids automatically tune it out)), so I would start by mentioning a dream I’d had the night before, and then we’d spend ten minutes talking about dreams. No surprise everyone would clamor to talk about a strange dream they’d had, and the energy level would ratchet up as students assumed they hd succeeded in pulling me off task.
Eventually I’d circle around to types of dreams (“How many of have dreamed you were falling and then jerk awake? What about flying dreams? Or scary bad guys/witches/monsters trying to break into your house? Or coming to school naked?” etc.) . . . and then I would discuss patterns, introduce the concept of motifs, relate that to stories (like “The One Forbidden Thing,” whether it’s Adam and Eve being told what not to eat, or Bluebeard telling his bride what house to never go into, etc.), and back into a discussion of the Hero’s Journey as a recurring motif.
At some point, I’d ask the class if they ever thought of themselves as heroes – and, of course, the universal response would be “No,” since they’d grown up watching movies and thinking of heroes as bad ass dudes who beat the villains with guns or martial arts in a life-or-death struggle. But then I’d bring up asking someone to the junior high dance for the first time ever, or studying for that killer math test, trying out for the track team, making new friends, and other things they could relate to, and point out how those were examples of, in one sense, slaying dragons, and then launch into what the arc of the Hero’s Journey in stories they’d read, and in their own lives.
That stereotype of what a hero is gets impressed upon us at an early age. Just as it’s essential to re-frame the concept for adolescents, even more so for adults, who have lived with that Hollywood-fueled image their entire lives. It’s so important to get past the sense that “I could never be a hero” to embrace the realization that “the hero” is potential in everyone.
Thanks for bringing that up.