Study Guide

Spellbound Hero's Journey

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Hero's Journey

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.)

Ordinary World

Usually you wouldn't think of a psychiatric institution as the "ordinary world." But in Spellbound it's a normal place, where Constance sits around being boring and staid. Until…

Call to Adventure

..."Edwardes" shows up and says, Hey, I look like Gregory Peck, love me!

Refusal of the Call

Constance hesitates a little with the whole falling-in-love thing. But then she realizes Edwardes has amnesia and may have killed the real Edwardes, and she says, "Hey, a psychologically damaged, maybe-murderer—this is the man for me."

Then she follows him to New York to help him hide from the police, and the real adventurey bit begins

Meeting the Mentor

You can tell mentors by their beards. Constance's old teacher Dr. Brulov has a beard. So the bit where she and "Edwardes" (now John Brown) go to his house is the meeting-with-the-mentor bit.

Crossing the Threshold/Tests, Allies, Enemies

The creepy scene where John Brown sleepwalks with a straight razor could be seen as crossing the threshold, or as a kind of test.

Approach to the Inmost Cave

The inmost cave here has curtain eyes and giant scissors. The dream sequence is the bit where secrets are revealed—though not as many secrets as Hitchcock originally planned to reveal. The sexy costume on the "kissing bug" showed too much, according to the studio. Some things need to be covered up, even in the inmost cave.


Usually skiing is a fun, sporty activity, but here it's the ordeal. John and Constance recreate the skiing accident. It's an ordeal because they worry that John may kill Constance, or maybe go over a cliff. It doesn't seem all that dangerous, honestly, but they do their best to sell it.

Reward (Seizing the Sword)

Hey, this is the happy bit. John Brown remembers his name is "Ballantyne" and that he didn't kill anyone. He and Constance can go off and live happily ever after, skiing to their hearts content.

The Road Back

But, whoops, there's a glitch here. The police still think Ballantyne's the murderer and arrest him. Constance has to go back to Green Manors while Ballantyne goes to prison. That's a sad road back. (It'll work out though; don't worry.)

Resurrection/Return With the Elixir

Constance figures out that the real killer is Dr. Murchison. Ballantyne gets out of prison. Happiness ensues. The end.

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