Thinking about what makes books like The Lightning Thief and Maniac Magee and Harry Potter work, and I keep coming back to Joseph Campbell.

from Borders.com

Joseph Campbell was interested in comparative mythology and looked at myths, folktales and religious literature across many cultures for what seemed to him to be essential. In his wonderful, wonderful book The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Campbell discusses what he calls the Hero’s Journey, the core story in so many of these works. “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.”

We all enter books looking for someone with whom we can identify, looking for metaphors for the struggles we face in our own lives, for situations we can rehearse or rehash. Children don’t require that their metaphors be quite as disguised as those of adults, but they do require metaphors, and they do require an active, positive protagonist to carry them through the story: think Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, Despereaux, Ulysses and Bloom, Jesus, Moses and Buddha.

The story that is “a ripping good read” transports us along and lets us feel that we are the hero and since, in the stories we keep coming back to, the hero returns changed, we have somehow changed as well. We have gained the knowledge the hero struggled and bled to acquire, and we have experienced the return. We are masters in our own world, and have a new freedom to live.

from Amazon.com


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