In my English class, we've been discussing movies and TV shows, and I've never had so many conversations with a professor and classmates about Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, and other such influential media. In other words, being a geek is fun this semester, and I thought it would be fun to enlighten my fellow geek readers at Constant Collectible all about what I've learned so far: the basis for all the stories we love. That would be the myth. Basically, stories are myths that have been with us ever since mankind even started telling stories, and the myth is the barebones of every story, bringing more depth and meaning than simply excitement and action. The most important characteristic of a myth is the hero’s journey, as the story revolves around the hero and his or her adventures. The hero’s journey is very similar to each individual life we lead, which is why we relate to and root for the protagonist (the hero).
Myths are (and probably forever will be) still grounded in the modern stories of today. Take any book or movie or TV show you love, and a little bit of analysis will take you underneath to view the mythology in that story, the hero's journey. As an example, we'll be looking at Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and breaking down the hero's journey in just this movie into six main points:
- Like most heroes, Harry starts as an innocent boy in a mundane environment, mistreated by his aunt and uncle and forced to do their chores. We as the audience immediately connect with such a situation. Harry has no idea that he is a hero, the Chosen One, since he has yet to discover the truth about his parents, his own magical blood, and his relationship with Voldemort, the Dark Lord.
- But in every hero’s journey, the protagonist is met with a catalyst that gets the plot started. You could argue that such an occurence is the frenzied arrival of hundreds of acceptance letters at Harry's uncle's house. But I think the most driving catalyst is when Harry meets Hagrid, a wizard, who not only gives him an admissions letter from Hogwarts so that Harry can read it in the peace and quiet away from his uncle, but also tells Harry that he is a wizard, like this parents before him.
- Harry Potter undergoes beginnings of the hero’s transformation when he enters the strange and wonderful new world, and obstacles arise that the hero must surmount. These tests refine the hero’s character and builds up strength and endurance for the main climax ahead. Harry arrives at Hogwarts and makes friends, as well as enemies in the form of bullies and shady professors. There are trolls in the bathrooms, three-headed dogs, a violently realistic game of chess, and an encounter with Voldemort himself as they go into the forest as punishment for trying to hide Hagrid’s illegal ownership of a dragon.
- Yes, the hero himself is important, but nearly every story with a myth has something else: Archetypal characters!!! These are characters who must be present to help the hero’s characterization, keep him on track, and to aid him throughout his adventures. You've got Harry's friends Ron and Hermione, fellow students who support him in his quest to find the Sorcerer’s Stone, a magical item giving eternal life and wealth to its owner, before Voldemort can get to it and take the power for himself. Dumbledore, the Headmaster at Hogwarts, can be seen as the wise, old mentor. He tells Harry at the end of the movie that Harry was the only one who was able to defeat Voldemort and keep the entire school safe because he had something Voldemort didn’t: Love. Or, more specifically, his mother’s protection, but I don't think we understand that until later in the series. (The entire series of Harry Potter could be summed up as thus: "In which a mother unintentionally gives her son immortality and her son tries to destroy a bad man fueled by demonic powers who wants to take the immortality for himself." Obviously there is much more to the story of Harry Potter than just that, but I thought it was interesting.)
- It becomes clear in every myth story when the hero reaches a near-death experience, which finalizes the hero’s transformation as he or she is forced to rely on his own strength and willpower to rise from the ashes and complete the main task at hand: in this case, Harry defeating Voldemort and keeping the Sorcerer’s Stone safe from the enemy’s hands. Later, Dumbledore and the rest of the school honors Harry and his friends as heros.
- There is always the completion of the hero’s transformation at the very end of the story. In The Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry’s characterization is only beginning, as it is the first movie in the series of eight, but at the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, we see a change in the boy that once was innocent, weak, and afraid. I believe that this is when we relate with the hero on a deeper level. We identify with the hero and root for him, because his hero’s journey is, though often much more risky and dangerous, similar to each of our own journeys through life. The adventure Harry goes through in Sorcerer’s Stone transforms him, and he sees himself, as we see him, in a different light than from the beginning, with more respect, resolve, and a newfound belief in himself: a true hero with a story that we, as the audience, can relate to, learn from, and be inspired by.
So, there you have it. Examining the myth and hero's journey using the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. What are some of your favorite myths or hero journeys? What are some of your favorite archetypal characters? Thanks for reading, and have a stellar day. Cheers!