The hero’s journey according to Joseph Campbell is based on his analysis of various myths of antiquity. In my opinion, however, the concept of the hero’s journey is not new, but is based, among other things, on the genre of the development novel. The similarities and differences between the hero’s journey and the development novel are to be shown in the following and in the conclusion the bow is drawn to the leadership theory.

Novel of development

The development novel[1] is a type of novel in which the protagonist’s confrontation with himself and his environment is portrayed. The hero reflects the events and the experiences help him to develop his personality. The hero grows beyond himself, so to speak.

A development novel is understood to be […] all narrative works that deal with the problem of the individual’s confrontation with the world in force at any given time, his gradual maturing and growing into the world, whatever the preconditions and goals of the path may be.

Melitta Gerhard, 1968

Famous developmental novels include Simplicissimus (Grimmelshausen, 1668), Candide (Voltaire. 1759), Homo Faber (Max Frisch, 1957), Das Parfüm (Patrick Süskind, 1985).

In contrast to the Bildungsroman, the protagonist in the Entwicklungsroman does not necessarily have to achieve a higher level of education. Rather, the hero’s journey can also contribute to the personal development of the reader by depicting the protagonist’s development and making it tangible. The process of personality maturation thus also leads to a development of the reader’s personality on a meta-level. Both genres of novel, however, have in common that they describe the protagonist’s emotional development in his or her confrontation with the environment and with himself or herself, as well as their maturing process through the processing of his or her own experiences and experiences. In contrast to the educational roamn, the hero’s journey does not necessarily end in a positive way, but rather a neutral shot or even the (final) failure of the protagonist can contribute to the personality development of the reader. The so-called edification literature, which is often misunderstood today, has in my opinion also this same hero’s journey related but on the life of the saints to object. Here too, the personal development of the reader, mostly related to the virtuous and godly life, should be strengthened by the heroic journey of the protagonist. Through these popular and religious writings, popular piety was strengthened and the reader was guided to a perfection of the Christian life of virtue. [2]

Hero’s Journey

The hero’s journey in the book “Heroes in a Thousand Figures” [3]by Joseph Campbell now deals in detail with mythology and religion. He also refers to the archetypes[4] of C. G. Jung, which according to Jung belong to the collective subconscious, simplifies them and integrates them as figures in the Heroes’ Journey. These basic mythological patterns finally lead to the presentation of Christopher Vogler’s narrative strategies and narrative structures for screenwriters, novelists and playwrights. [5]The motif of the hero’s journey is explored in detail by Holger Lindemann in his work “Die große Methapern-Schatzkiste”[6], a work that is used above all in the systemic work in linguistic images in the context of mediation.

Hero’s Journey is the name given to the mythological, literary and cinematic narrative process that most stories follow. The basic structure of the Heroes’ Journey was developed in the late 1940s by the literary scholar Joseph Campbell. He examined numerous myths, legends and stories and discovered a common underlying structure.

Holger Lindemann, 2016

According to Campbell, the hero’s journey of the protagonist can be depicted as follows:

  1. The call of adventure (vocation): The protagonist recognizes a shortcoming or an act to be accomplished as a task.
  2. Refusal: The protagonist is unsure whether he wants to give up his status quo and enter uncertainty. Not only, but also Kylie Minoque knows this under the term “Better the devil you know”.
  3. Supernatural help: The protagonist unexpectedly meets one or more mentors who are at his side.
  4. The crossing of the first threshold: He overcomes his hesitation and sets out on his journey. The protagonist leaves the securities behind and embarks on his journey of development.
  5. The belly of the whale: the problems facing the protagonist threaten to overwhelm him. The protagonist becomes aware for the first time of the full extent of the task.
  6. The path of trials: Occurrence of problems that are interpreted as tests.
  7. The encounter with the goddess: the protagonist’s counter-sexual power is revealed.
  8. The woman as tempter: As an alternative to the protagonist’s path, it can also reveal itself as a supposedly very pleasant time at the side of a (seductive) woman. The protagonist resists (more or less) the temptations and continues his heroic journey.
  9. Reconciliation with the father: The protagonist is about to realize that he is part of a genealogical chain. He carries the heritage of his ancestors within him. His true opponent is his own history and vocation.
  10. Apotheosis: In the realization of the hero’s journey, the protagonist becomes aware that he or she carries divine potential within him or her. The protagonist himself is destined to develop the story further. Apotheosis is understood to mean deification, i.e. the elevation of (simple) man to a god.
  11. The final blessing: the reception or theft of an object (symbol, figure, elixir, etc.) that could save the protagonist’s world left behind. This treasure can also consist of an inner experience symbolized by an external object.
  12. Refusal to return: The protagonist hesitates to return to the world of everyday life.
  13. The magic escape: The protagonist is moved by inner motives or external compulsion to return.
  14. Rescue from outside: An act or thought of the protagonist on the way there now becomes his rescue on the way back. A good deed on the protagonist’s development journey now pays off.
  15. Return over the threshold: The protagonist crosses the threshold to the everyday world from which he originally set out. He encounters disbelief or lack of understanding and has to integrate what he has found or achieved on his heroic journey into everyday life.
  16. Lord of the two worlds: The protagonist unites everyday life with his newly found knowledge and thus the world of his inner self with the outer demands. The protagonist thus finds his inner peace through the outer change.
  17. Freedom to live: The elixir of the protagonist has changed the normal world; by allowing his environment to share his experiences, he has led it to a new freedom of life.

The hero’s journey is now shortened by Vogler to 12 steps[7]:

  1. The starting point is the familiar, boring or inadequate world of the hero.
  2. The hero is called to adventure by a messenger.
  3. He initially refuses this call.
  4. A mentor then persuades him to embark on the journey, and the adventure begins.
  5. The hero crosses the first threshold, after which there is no turning back. The hero’s journey begins.
  6. The hero is put to the first tests and meets allies and also enemies.
  7. Now he advances to the most dangerous part of the journey and meets his (true) opponent.
  8. This is where the decisive test takes place: Confrontation and overcoming the opponent.
  9. The hero can now steal the treasure or a special new knowledge.
  10. He takes the way back.
  11. The enemy is defeated, the elixir is in the hand of the hero. He has matured into a new personality through the adventure.
  12. The end of the journey: The returnee is rewarded with recognition at home.

The hero’s journey thus follows the classic developmental stages of separation, initiation and return. From the perspective of depth psychology, it is a journey into the inner self and is thus a self-development. Any form of change can be represented by the steps of the hero’s journey. On the basis of the systematics of the hero’s journey the steps can be integrated in the context of a “management by historical analogies” also in the context of the management theory. The historical events thus serve the individual addressee as instruments for a better understanding of his own hero’s journey in the form of a meta-level. The addressee becomes the hero of his own story.


Campbell, Joseph (2019): Der Heros in tausend Gestalten; Insel Verlag.
Jung, Carl Gustav (2001): Archetypen, DTP.
Gerhard, Mellita (1968): Der Deutsche Entwicklungsroman bis zu Goethes Wilhelm Meister; Niemeyer-Verlag.
Lindemann, Holger (2016): Die grosse Metaphern-Schatzkisten; Band 2: Die systemische Heldenreise; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
Vogler, Christoph (2018): Die Odysee der Drehbuchschreiber, Romanautoren und Dramatiker; Autorenhaus Verlag.


[1] Gerhard, Mellita (1968): Der Deutsche Entwicklungsroman bis zu Goethes Wilhelm Meister; Niemeyer-Verlag; p. 1.
[2] See also Historical Dictionary of Switzerland (HLS); keyword: Erbauungsliteratur; Zeller, Rosmarie. Online verfügbar unter 25.11.2020.
[3] Campbell, Joseph (2019): Der Heros in tausend Gestalten; Insel Verlag.
[4] Jung, Carl Gustav (2001): Archetypen, DTP.
[5] Vogler, Christoph (2018): Die Odysee der Drehbuchschreiber, Romanautoren und Dramatiker; Autorenhaus Verlag.
[6] Lindemann, Holger (2016): Die grosse Metaphern-Schatzkisten; Band 2: Die systemische Heldenreise; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
[7] For further notes see Lindemann 2016, p. 16.

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