Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.
About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)
Harry Potter lives with his aunt and uncle and cousin. They're not very nice to him so he's pretty anxious for school to start. Just a normal kid, right?
Call To Adventure
Not exactly. Harry is also a wizard. He gets a visit from a house-elf named Dobby one night. Dobby warns Harry not to return to Hogwarts this year. There's a plan afoot to make things really, really unpleasant for Harry. Just wait.
Refusal Of The Call
But Harry's says, essentially, "No way, Dobby." Harry lives for school (and getting away from his awful relatives for a solid nine months). He's totally going back to Hogwarts. That's why he jumps at the chance to leave when Ron comes to rescue him in a flying car.
Meeting The Mentor
Harry meets the rest of Ron's family for the first time (they'll become a bit of a surrogate family for him in future movies). He also runs into Lucius Malfoy in Diagon Alley. This guy is kind of like a reverse mentor. He teaches Harry what you would do if everything you wanted to do were evil.
Crossing The Threshold
Harry and Ron try to board the train to Hogwarts, but end up having to fly there in the Ford Anglia. These kids are determined to get to school one way or another though. Seriously, Hogwarts students are very devoted to their education.
Tests, Allies, Enemies
Everyone is freaked out by scary messages about the Chamber of Secrets being opened. More and more students are being found petrified every day. Who is the heir of Slytherin and can they be stopped before someone dies?
Approach To The Inmost Cave
Finally, Hermione is petrified and Ginny is taken into the Chamber of Secrets. Harry and Ron have to act. They are able to find the entrance to the chamber and head down themselves. Good luck, boys.
Down in the Chamber of Secrets, Harry runs into a "memory" from a diary of a former Hogwarts student named Tom Riddle. He reveals that he possessed Ginny Weasley to open the chamber and release a monster called a basilisk to attack students. Oh, and he also mentions that he's a younger version of Lord Voldemort. Whoa.
Reward (Seizing The Sword)
When Tom Riddle orders the basilisk to attack, Harry manages to slay the snake with the sword of Godric Gryffindor, which he pulls out of the Sorting Hat. Talk about literally seizing the sword.
The Road Back
Harry is wounded but he uses the basilisk fang to stab Tom Riddle's diary. This gets rid of Tom Riddle for good. Smart thinking, Harry.
Harry nearly dies, but he's saved by Dumbledore's pet phoenix, Fawkes, who lets a few tears flow on Harry's arm wound and heals the Boy Who Lived. Yay for tears with healing powers.
Return With The Elixir
Harry comes back from the chamber with Ginny and gets some additional info from Dumbledore. Then, he frees Dobby from his eternal servitude to the Malfoy family. It's wizard high fives all around.