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120 of 124 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A landmark of 20th century literature.
Joseph Campbell was one of the great souls of our age. I've read this book twice, first on my own and the second for a class in "Myth, Religion & the Mythic Imagination." I read the paperack to tatters, literally, marking each illuminating, exhilirating insight. "Dry"? "Not a fun read"? What book did YOU read? Campbell is unlike other...
Published on 28 April 1998

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23 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Over hyped
In many ways the reviews are more interesting than the book. I read this many years ago before it was either fashionable or tied to Stars Wars or how to structure novels. It's good however I don't think this is Prof Campbell's finest work. I much prefer and have reread more often his four volume set The Masks of God. The book is interesting however don't believe reviews...
Published on 21 Mar 2007 by Robert Black


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120 of 124 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A landmark of 20th century literature., 28 April 1998
By A Customer
Joseph Campbell was one of the great souls of our age. I've read this book twice, first on my own and the second for a class in "Myth, Religion & the Mythic Imagination." I read the paperack to tatters, literally, marking each illuminating, exhilirating insight. "Dry"? "Not a fun read"? What book did YOU read? Campbell is unlike other writers on myth; he looks not at an entire myth but at its parts. By the end of the book, he has essentially created the Ultimate Hero Myth, which takes bits of every hero myth from virtually every culture (heavy on Native Americans). Campbell was not a dispassionate academic--this was his gospel, and he lived by it. This book is alive and inspiring like no other book I know. One unique aspect of it at the time it was published was its approach to Christianity. For Campbell, Christ's life had to be seen as a myth. Before him, most Western scholars wouldn't have dare to say such a thing. Others had written on that, but in a skeptical manner. Campbell's view is that the Virgin Birth, miracles, Resurrection, etc have meaning only because they ARE myths. Look, there'd be no "Star Wars" without this. No "Sandman" comics from Neil Gaiman. No "Watership Down." This book is for the intellectual who wants to LIVE, not just to sit sterile at the desk. Recommended like mad.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just the Hero's but Everyman's (and woman's) journey, 11 July 2009
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U. Sinha "Umi Sinha" (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a classic for writers and storytellers and I'm ashamed to say I've only just read it at the age of 56. However, like many profound books, it's a book that means much more when one's ready for it. I'm not sure if I'd read it younger, or at a calm period in my life, that it would have had such an impact, although it's wonderfully researched and beautifully written and would be illuminating on a purely academic level. I read it after going through one of those periods where life throws up one thing after another until it seems more than just coincidence - like some sort of extreme test of one's strength. It helped me to assimilate the experience - recognising the hero's journey in my own, with its entry into dark places, its ordeals, and the eventual emergence with invisible treasure. Looking for the treasure helped me to make meaning from what I had experienced and focus on the positive instead of the negative. Since then I have looked up the myths and started reading some of the books he uses as sources, which is also proving fascinating. It's a book I will read again and again because I know I will find deeper meanings in it with each reading, and it has also given me an insight into the themes of my own life and writing, and sources for stories to tell.
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must to have in any home library!!!, 10 Jan 2000
By A Customer
An excellent and very informative read. So absorbing couldn't put it down until finished! The author presents this book in an innovative and interesting way : a psychological interpretation of the hero throughout human history and across the continents analysing various myths and legends. A must for all budding authors because the book can be used as a blueprint for writing novels through its in depth look at the role of the hero.
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90 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MY HERO, 26 July 2000
By A Customer
"A hero is someone who has given himself to something bigger than, or other than, himself."
That sort of definition conveys the wide applicability of "the hero cycle" articulated by Campbell. His influence on George Lucas' Star Wars films is, of course, well-known.
Campbell's thrust is to blur the distinction between established religious orthodoxy and mythology. He bluntly states that "all religions are true for their time; they are true as metaphorical representations of the range of human psychological and spiritual experience".
The very substantial influence of Carl Gustav Jung is felt throughout Campbell's work. Religious ideas are METAPHORS. When one becomes "stuck to one's metaphor", one misses the point of religion, which is - to awaken one to the presence of these forces within oneself, and instead becomes embroiled in creedbound religious formalism.
Jung maintained that "religion" is a defense against a religious experience, that if one constantly projects these ideas outwardly, rather than seeking to find and elaborate them inwardly within oneself, the inner psychology is unaffected and remains barbaric.
This is a very good starting point for Campbell's work. Be certain to see "The Power of Myth" videos with Bill Moyers for an infectiously engaging introduction to comparative religion and mythology.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A work of pure genius!, 9 Aug 2006
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Marc John - See all my reviews
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The key to understanding this classic book, and getting the most from it, is to realise that it's actually all about YOU. Campbell wrote it for YOU. Just think about the title for a start. YOU are the hero and your hero's journey is all about finding your inner life, your divine spark, and being engulfed and re-born out of it. This is what all the world's great hero myths were really talking about, symbolically, and Campbell brilliantly draws together the universal themes and parallels running through all the world's mystical and religious traditions, all of which were concerned (when understood metaphorically instead of literally) with this marvellous "death and resurrection" of the human psyche - from human animal to divine incarnation. It's a heroic deed which we all have the potential to achieve, and this book vibrantly and beautifully recollects many anicent stories that have drawn Mankind's imagination toward this very real transformation, through the use of the oldest and best means at our disposal - symbolic storytelling. This book is not just for the student or teacher of mythology or comparative religion, it's for everyone on the spiritual path. In fact, this book speaks directly to you wherever you are right now in life, whether on that path or not. Simply brilliant, and possibly the most important book of the 20th century. Even the full five star rating is not enough!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The lost Atlantis of the soul, 8 Mar 2010
"Mythology is psychology misread as biography, history and cosmology."

This statement of Campbell's from "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" sets up his viewpoint as a mythologist clearly. His masterpiece is an in-depth study of the mythology of the individual (hero) and of the cosmos. Campbell draws on myth (within which he includes today's major religions) from all around the globe to illustrate the different stages of the hero's journey.

This is certainly a demanding read but should not be beyond the intellect of the intelligent layman with an interest in mythology and perhaps some familiarity with the work of Jung. The effort definitely pays off in a deeper understanding of the human soul. I almost ran out of Post-It notes to mark phrases and paragraphs of particular note.

This is a classic work that should interest anyone who seeks to understand more of what it means to be human.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A work of Major Cultural Importance, 13 April 2006
This is an academic text, albeit beautifully written, that considers a broad selection of the world's myths and demonstrates (quite conclusively) that there are common themes running through them and that common structures underpin many of the enduring myths of religions and cultures the world over.

So why is it still in print, and why should you care? Indeed, why should you bother reading it?

The reason lies in the understated conclusions that Campbell reaches when identifying these commonalities; actually conclusions that are never really made plain in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, but which come out more explicitly in his later works and lectures. These stories, the myths, the metaphors and the structures point to a set of underlying truths that are available to everyone (always have been) and are embedded not only in some religions, but in all religions. It is this set of inherent truths that unite Buddhism and Christianity to the degree that core elements of the metaphorical imagery of each religion are in some circumstances inseparable.

Campbell is erudite enough to explore both the reasons and the explanations for commonality; the reasons being the inherently useful messages behind such metaphorical structures, and the explanations being common historical heritages in some instances, common individual experiences in others.

What is meant by the Garden of Eden, and how does it relate to Nirvana? It is the place in which there is no knowledge of right and wrong, centered on the tree of knowledge. Buddhism teaches us to seek this place in our lives constantly; Christianity teaches us that it is forever lost. The myths of each culture point us in the same direction; that in the centre of the space where there is no awareness of right or wrong (what must or must not be done) there is a centre of wisdom.

Debating the accuracy of the mono-myth as a proposal is a somewhat crass and shallow misunderstanding of this book. Recognizing that there are commonalities to all spiritual and story-telling traditions, and that these commonalities hint towards an innate knowledge of a highly desirable state of being, elevates this book and the body of work that Campbell left behind to the position it deserves; one of the most important works of the twentieth century. Understand, through this book, that the story you hear repeated time after time by Hollywood film-makers is not random choice, nor is it a formula for the sake of making money; it is a theme; it is a repetition of undecipherable knowledge that has forever been slightly outside of our consciousness. No-one will ever tell you what it is; they can only show you the path, which, if you follow, will lead to understanding. Read this book and you will start to understand what following that path entails, and what the structure of that experience will be. It's a mystery.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, a book I have remembered and often refer to., 4 Feb 2000
I was brought to this book by a person who was suprised when I admitted that I hadn't read it, because I spoke as if I knew the book well. When I finally did read it, I found that it was full of ideas I had groped my own way towards over many years. In other words, Joseph Campbell writes what is instinctively and deeply true. He supports his arguments with fascinating in-depth and wide-ranging research. A history book, a book of universal myth, and a modern myth in it's own right. If you have an intellectual interest in Inner Space, you will love this book.
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39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still influential, 20 Oct 2004
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Joseph Campbell's writings have had more influence on late 20th century culture than you might expect: The Hero with a Thousand Faces resonates obviously through Star Wars, The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings and indeed almost any other contemporary Science Fiction work you could mention, and more subtly in any one of hundreds of films and novels of the last half century. Many indeed are the fruit of Campbell's tree.
In The Hero With A Thousand Faces Campbell sets out his stall early: his "monomyth" which is explained in fairly short order, and supported in more depth over the rest of the book by Campbell's account of hundreds instantiations of it embodied in myths from the Judaeo-Christian, Classical, Native American, Indian, African, Asian and Polynesian traditions. It is even illustrated, rather pointlessly, with sculptures and depictions of these various myths.
This means it's a fairly quick read: it is Campbell's argument that is interesting, not his field research in support of it, and his stentorian and humourless tone in recounting the legends is no incentive to dwell on them.
Campbell's main claim - to have extracted a solitary narrative essence common to all mythology - is unsustainable: even if you do allow the tortured interpretations Campbell makes of the myths he cites, the best that can be said is that any one of the dozen or more common features of the "monomyth" tend to show up in his examples (who knows whether they do in the myths he *doesn't* cite?); to say that they all do is false, even on the evidence Campbell presents in his book. And many of his examples don't fit comfortably into the roles which Campbell assigns them.
So in that regard, Campbell's thesis needs to be watered down to have any real value. As do the courage of his convictions in the validity of psychoanalysis: treating Freud and Jung as gospel in this day and age seems more than a little quaint.
But that's not to say there isn't something to be said for the importance of the subconscious in what makes a good story, nor that the elements of the "monomyth" do appear in mythology, nor that they don't make a great foundation for a mythology. Cogent evidence or that last point is provided by Messrs Wachowski and Lucas, who have openly used Campbell's template to create latter day myths of their - and, like it or not, our - own.
Where Campbell is persuasive is that myth a metaphor on which we can examine ourselves, and that as soon as we mistake metaphor for a genuine explanatory hypothesis, its very usefulness evaporates. In the current political climate, this is a point which can't be stressed enough.
In summary, this ought to be compulsory reading for any aspiring screenplay writer or novelist, and will be food for thought for anyone else interested in the structure of fiction. The Hero With A Thousand Faces may be the wrong side of fifty now, but it is no relic: as long as the likes of Luke Skywalker and Neo are part of the zeitgeist, Joseph Campbell's theories will have some significance in our culture for better or for worse, for some time to come.
Olly Buxton
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4.0 out of 5 stars Difficult concept, yet universal, 11 Nov 2008
By 
M.I. "migoe" (Newcastle, UK) - See all my reviews
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Campbell was one of the most distinguished figures in the continuing study of mythology, a sadly neglected subject in recent times. Legend and myth aren't identical. Legend (or saga) at least hints at some historical truth (e.g. the Trojan War). Myth, often associated with legend, is far more complex. The human mind can't think at first in terms of abstracts, such as truth. We need a mental picture of someone or something that is true, especially in dreams. What does truth itself look like? We need a symbol. All societies known have a mythology, usually treating it with more respect than our own - to our cost. A person may be the symbol of e.g. courage. We see a courageous person in dreams, not courage itself. And any given society has its own type (archetype) of the courageous character etc. Hence the title: Hero With A Thousand Faces, a face for each society, but the same concept (heroism, courage), that and many more.
A remarkable piece of work, although, for my money, I prefer Kerenyi, the overall treatment and the individual volumes on specific, particularly significant, concepts, such as motherhood and prolonged life, or death. Much to be recommended, both Campbell and Kerenyi.
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The Hero with a Thousand Faces
The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell (Hardcover - 1 Sep 1999)
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