Joseph Campbell - The Hero with a Thousand Faces
(2008 by the Joseph Campbell Foundation - jcf.org)
I first read Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces in 2009 when my closest friend from law school loaned me her copy and said, “I think you would like this book.”
I fell in love with the book - the elegant, poetic writing and the compelling and fascinating concepts and connections across cultures that Campbell’s writing revealed. I returned my friend’s book to her a few years later after purchasing my own copy that I keep to read any time I feel like refreshing my memory on the hero’s journey.
The inside cover of my hardback, third edition copy reads:
Since its release in 1949, The Hero with a Thousand Faces has influenced millions of readers by combining the insights of modern psychology with Joseph Campbell’s revolutionary understanding of comparative mythology. In these pages, Campbell outlines the Hero’s Journey, a universal motif of adventure and transformation that runs through virtually all of the world’s mythic traditions. He also explores the Cosmogonic Cycle, the mythic pattern of world creation and destruction.
As relevant today as when it was first published, The Hero with a Thousand Faces continues to find new audiences in fields ranging from religion and anthropology to literature and film studies. The book has also profoundly influenced creative artists - including authors, song-writers, game designers, and filmmakers - and continues to inspire all those interested in the inherent human need to tell stories.
About the author (from the back inside cover):
Joseph Campbell was an American author and teacher best known for his work in the field of comparative mythology. He was born in New York City in 1904, and from early childhood he became interested in mythology. He loved to read books about American Indian cultures and frequently visited the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where he was fascinated by the museum’s collection of totem poles. Campbell was educated at Columbia University, where he specialized in medieval literature, and, after earning a master’s degree, continued his studies at universities in Paris and Munich.
Throughout his life, he traveled extensively and wrote prolifically, authoring many books, including the four-volume series the Masks of God, Myths to Live By, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, and A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake. Campbell died in 1987. In 1988, a series of television interviews with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth, introduced his views to millions of people.
I have yet to read any of Campbell’s other books but the four-volume series listed above is at the top of my very long ‘to read’ list. I’m sure The Hero with a Thousand Faces had a large influence on my writing and Campbell is one of the many teachers that has shaped my current vision of humanity.
I directly quote The Hero with a Thousand Faces in To Kill A Coyote and Campbell’s wisdom and insight illuminated the inner path to freedom and joy in my life and to a better understanding of what it means to be human.
We need myth now more than ever.
Top of page: Plaque found and displayed at Herculaneum in Italy (this city was buried by Mount Vesuvius' volcanic eruption in 79 AD along with Pompeii)
Above: 1865 sculpture by Pio Fedi depicting the Rape of Polyxena in Piazza Signoria (Florence, Italy) that nearly twists to life, creating a beautiful, flowing tension.
Below: Passage way near the Plaka area of Athens. This district was initially inhabited by the working class and is reminiscent of the Greek Island Villages with its whitewashed buildings and narrow, flora-filled passage ways and staircases.