Thursday, January 01, 2009

L'hero ... c'est moi?

By reading "Seven Basic Plots" by Booker before Campbell's "Hero with a Thousand Faces", I am doing things in the wrong order. Campell's is the older book, and Booker's is far broader in scope. So the newer will probably have subsumed the older by the time I read it.

In broad terms, Campbell's thesis is that the travail of the ultimate hero is a representation of the journey of the self. I suspect that Booker's conclusion will be similar - the archetypal narrative is symbolic of the experiences that we have to face in our own lives.

I have said before that I'm not convinced (though it should be pointed out that I've not followed the argument from beginning to end in either case). Having read 7BP as far as I have, I can certainly see the case convincingly made that narrative does in some cases show us the challenges that we face (aligning ourselves with light or allowing the darkness to consume us). However, I hitherto assumed that the hero was always someone who faced challenges tthat we couldn't - that is, a representation of the great hero, who faces the challenges of darkness on our behalf and defeats them.

I am now wondering if there should be a bit of a synthesis thingy here. In a sense, Jesus is "the proper man" as it is translated in "A Safe Stronghold". Yes, he is defeating enemies that no-one else can, but he is doing it as one of us, and the call for us is to be like him. So although these great heroes from narrative are doing things that nobody else can, we are to identify with them, and to expect to be able to face this sort of enemy. The images of heroes, then, show what we are capable of - our ability as humans to face down the darkness. However, in our experience, wwe will find that we are simply not able to do this in our own strength. Only because a hero has defeated our enemies for us can we contend with them ourselves.

Hmm. Not sure how coherent that is. Oh well, it's not as if anybody reads it...

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