Salon article describes the influence that Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces had on George Lucas and Star Wars.

Nov 7, 2015
John Higgs

John Higgs, "The Hero's Journey: The idea you never knew had shaped 'Star Wars,'" Salon, November 7, 2015, accessed March 7, 2023

John Higgs, George Lucas, Joseph Campbell
Internet Public

The script for George Lucas’s 1977 movie Star Wars was influenced by The Hero with a Thousand Faces, a 1949 book by the American mythologist Joseph Campbell. Campbell believed that at the heart of all the wild and varied myths and stories which mankind has dreamt lies one single archetypal story of profound psychological importance. He called this the monomyth. As Campbell saw it, the myths and legends of the world were all imperfect variations on this one, pure story structure. As Campbell summarised the monomyth, “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

Campbell found echoes of this story wherever he looked; myths as diverse as those of Ulysses, Osiris or Prometheus, the lives of religious figures such as Moses, Christ or Buddha, and in plays and stories ranging from Ancient Greece to Shakespeare and Dickens. This story is now known as “The Hero’s Journey.” It is a story that begins with an ordinary man (it is almost always a man) in a recognisable world. That man typically receives a call to adventure, encounters an older patriarchal mentor, undergoes many trials in his journey to confront and destroy a great evil, and returns to his previous life rewarded and transformed. George Lucas was always open about the fact that he consciously shaped the original Star Wars film into a modern expression of Campbell’s monomyth, and has done much to raise the profile of Campbell and his work.

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