Study Guide

Phaeton The Hero's Journey

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The Hero's Journey

The Hero's Journey is a framework that scholar Joseph Campbell came up with that many myths and stories follow. Many storytellers and story-readers find it a useful way to look at tale. (That's actually putting it lightly. Some people are straight-up obsessed.) Chris Vogler adapted Campbell's 17 stages of a hero's journey, which many screenwriters use while making movies. Vogler condensed Campbell's 17 stages down to 12, which is what we're using. Check out a general explanation of the 12 stages.

The story of Phaeton doesn't fit perfectly into the Hero's Journey structure, but we're giving it a shot. As the gross old saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat.

Ordinary World

Phaeton lives in Egypt with his mom Clymene, and thinks he's super cool because he's the son of Helios.

Call To Adventure

When a kid accuses Phaeton of not really being Helios' son, Phaeton is determined to find out the truth and squash the haters.

Refusal Of The Call

There's no refusal of the call here; Phaeton jumps right on it.

Meeting The Mentor

You could see Clymene as the first mentor Phaeton meets. When Phaeton doesn't want to take her word for it that she conceived him with Helios, Clymene is the one who suggests he travel to the Palace of the Sun and ask his father himself.

Crossing The Threshold

Phaeton is all about traveling to his Dad's castle and sets out on the journey to the gleaming Palace of the Sun.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

When Phaeton arrives at the palace, he finds a friendly father willing to give him anything he wants (you could see Helios as yet another mentor figure). Though Helios warns him of all the dangers he'll face if he takes the sun chariot, including the wild horses that draw it, the dangerous zodiac monsters, still Phaeton is determined to take his cruise across the sky.

Approach To The Inmost Cave

The fiery horses act up from the moment Phaeton leaves his dad's palace, and the dangers Phaeton is about to face look pretty awful to say the least.


The horses lurch upward where Phaeton is almost stung by the venomous constellation, Scorpio. When Phaeton drops the reins, things really get crazy, and he incinerates half the earth. Unlike a lot of hero's journeys, Phaeton totally fails in his ordeal.


Phaeton gets an F in the hero-book, so there's no reason for him to get a reward. (Sorry, chum.)

The Road Back

There's no road back either. There's no going home for Phaeton. He's a bit of burnt bacon at the bottom of a riverbed.


In lot of hero's journeys, the hero faces his worst challenge here, almost dies, and rises triumphantly. This is not so for Phaeton. Zeus cooks him with a thunderbolt, and poof! Game Over for Phaeton.

Return With The Elixir

Sorry, Phaeton. You just didn't rise to the challenge. No elixir for you. Maybe some SPF120 would do the trick.

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