Study Guide

The Hero with a Thousand Faces What's Up With the Ending?

By Joseph Campbell

What's Up With the Ending?

The ending actually comes as…a bit of a downer. You get some sweet heroic returns and happily-ever-afters in heroic sagas, but not in a heroic academic saga about heroic sagas.

After expounding upon the cosmic significance of the Hero's Journey, and the way it can put us all in touch with the divine, Campbell laments that the modern world just isn't as in touch with the transcendent as society used to be. We've gotten so sophisticated that we've forgotten what it means to be filled with wonder. It's not a condition he thinks is healthy.

It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal —carries the cross of the redeemer—not in the bright moments of his tribe's great victories, but in the silences of his personal despair. (362.1)

Wow, Campbell. If you're lamenting the demise of society, why can't you just grumble "Kids these days" like the rest of the oldsters?

It's kind of a bring-down moment for a book that's all about finding the bliss and happiness of life. But at the same time, you might be able to look at it as a rallying cry: to reconnect with the sides of ourselves that have been lost, sides that can maybe look past the school year, the rat race, and our obsession with money.

Maybe we can all find something more meaningful out there.