When COVID hit last spring we went into strict quarantine – the biggest impact was not seeing our son and his family after they moved here from Chicago last summer. As we wind our way toward a new school year it was apparent we needed to step up our game. Talking with the kids we all did a strict 2-week quarantine – groceries on line, and such. We found a list of the risks of various activities rated from 1 to 10 with 1 being almost no risk, to 10 being a big risk. We all agreed that if we stick to activities of risk level 5 and below we can go back to a physically closer family. It’s been great! We continue to monitor and will step back if needed.
At the end of that 2-week quarantine we all went to a house on the Oregon Coast for a few days. During that time Carla read Ozma of Oz – a follow up journey for Dorothy – to our older grandson. I listened in to part of it and read a few chapters with him. I had to finish the story for myself; it’s a very fast read: 2 short evenings. I was struck that this is another hero story that fits well into Joseph Campbell’s structure of Myths. I spell Myth with the capital “M” to distinguish it from our common usage as a synonym for “lie”.
In The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Campbell describes a universal “monomyth” that is the structure of legends and Myths around the world. In a sentence, that monomyth tells a story where
“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.”
[The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton University Press 1949 p 29].
Here is a public domain image of the hero’s journey that I picked up from Wikipedia:
Once aware of the structure, it is surprising how often this monomyth crops up. I’ve written before how both The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and A Christmas Carol are excellent examples of the hero journey. In the first case, Dorothy is ushered into a supernatural land with the help of Glinda the Good Witch. She goes through many adventures and trials finally facing death and killing the wicked witch of the west and unmasking the Wizard. She shares her bounty with her boon companions: a brain for the Scarecrow, a heart for the Tin Woodsman, and courage for the Cowardly Lion. The Good Witch then helps Dorothy return (gift of the goddess).
In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is introduced to the supernatural world by the ghost of his old friend Marley. He has three adventures with the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future. Facing his grave he is reborn and returns to the real world where he shares his bounty with the Cratchet family, and many charities.
In Ozma of Oz, a storm takes Dorothy to the land of Ev, which borders Oz, accompanied by a talking chicken. She has adventures and challenges first with the Wheelers, then later with the Nome King from underground. She has a supernatural challenge to free the royal family of Ev who have been turned into Bric-a-Brac by the Nome King. She defeats the him and restores the Queen of Ev to her throne then returns back home.
The hero journey can be sublime: Christ is tempted by the devil for 40 days and night. He is murdered by crucifixion, but is reborn and shares God’s forgiveness to all of mankind.
The hero journey can be ridiculous: In Hot Tub Time Machine, a group of friends is transported to a supernatural world – the past – with the help of the repair man, played by Chevy Chase. Lou is the main character who must struggle through challenges. After the victorious struggle he stays behind and creates a fabulously wealthy world for his boon companions in the present.
If you are interested in a binge watching of Myth, try The Power of Myth, a 6 episode discussion between Joseph Campbel and Bill Moyers that explores the mythic structure that is behind cultures around the world. Here is a short clip where Joseph Campbell talks about the Mythic structures in Star Wars.
It was released on PBS in 1988 and is available – for $1.99 on Amazon Prime, or if you don’t mind hunting a bit you can find the episodes on Youtube.com. I remember this series being very popular when it was released.
As for Ozma of Oz, it’s a fun book. Our six year old grandson was entranced by it. If you read it, be sure to get an illustrated version as those pictures are enchanting.