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Monday: June 27, 2011


Heroes (Part 3)


Last week we discussed the manner in which the archetype of the Hero remains stable and yet changes with the spirit of the age. 


Campbell’s concept of the Hero’s Journey creates a framework of transformation which defines the making of the hero – separation,

initiation and return – and this lends a stable element to the concept. 


In archetypal terms, the journey can be a literal journey like Jesus entering into the wilderness

for forty days to return to the people to share the wisdom of his experience, Orpheus' descent

and return from Hades whilst endeavouring to save Eurydice or Dante's fantasised travels

through the Circles of Hell and Purgatory before being delivered to Paradise in his search for



The journey may also be figurative, like the descent into madness to reclaim one’s sanity, as

is told in the tale of Don Quixote (albeit that in this case, the return to sanity for Don Quixote

was fleeting).


There remains, however, a disparity between what we commonly hold in our mind as being

Heroic and it is still based upon stereotypes with masculine standards.





On the right, we show a depiction of Orpheus and Eurydice from the suite prepared

by Edmund Dulac and published in "Gods and Mortals in Love" (1935).



When a woman is portrayed in the popular media as being a Hero it is because she has taken on the traits of a man by acting in a clever

and aggressive manner. As Jenny Wilson writes in her song ''Hardships'':


Push, push the pram, all right
I push till my hands are getting white
Salty tears are rolling down my cheeks
Where's the cigar the awards
Come on before my breasts will start to leak
You know what I mean
Do you know what I mean

If I'd returned from a fight
From a battlefield with some new scars on my face
And shot holes in my knees
If I was bloodstained and wild
If I held a trophy in my arms oh man
Not a newborn child
If I'd returned from a fight
Then people would have called me a hero…


Womanly pursuits such as motherhood are not typically afforded the Hero label despite quite clearly fitting in with the profile as outlined

by Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. 


Nevertheless, despite this archaic machismo hangover, people are opening up to more expansive views.  Edgar Watson Howe writes:


A boy doesn't have to go to war to be a hero; he can say he doesn't like pie when he sees there

isn't enough to go around.


We all can be Heroic in simple ways in our everyday lives but perhaps we continue to hold the concept of Hero on a pedestal as an

excuse to say that acting Heroically is a rare event beyond the means of mere mortals, that is, it is too hard or perhaps we are just too


Interestingly, while the majority of the Western World still castigates feminine aspects

of Heroism, Germany has a long history of the female Hero, although she’s not exactly

feminine by popular standards. 'Sigurd and Gudrun', and 'Siegfried and Kriemhild' are

both early medieval epic poems describing legendary tales of the Pre-Christian Norse

and Germanic oral tradition wherein the female hero, Gudrun (in the Norse tradition)

who becomes  Kriemhild,in the German tradition avenges the death of her husband

through a bloody rampage and clever subterfuge. This may explain in part the cultural

differences between Germany and the rest of the Western World with respect to

feminine norms and archetypes.






On the right, we show a depiction of Kriemhild prepared by

Frank C Papé for "Siegfried and Kriemhild" (1912)


Next week we will discuss the changing nature of what constitutes being feminine and masculine.





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Blog Archive


Saturday, 30 July, 2011

A Brief History of the Illustrated Book


Friday, 22 July, 2011

Masculinity and Femininity (Part 2)


Saturday, 16 July, 2011

Masculinity and Femininity (Part 1)


Friday, 20 June, 2011

Heroes (Part 2)


Tuesday, 14 June, 2011

Heroes (Part I)


Friday, 7 June, 2011



Friday, 27 May, 2011

Morality through Narrative


Monday, 16 May, 2011

"The Sea Battle" by Arthur Rackham

and comparisons between Buccheim's

variant and the description of Thor's

battle with the Midgard Serpent in

the original from the "Norse Edda of

Snorri Sturluson"


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