Study Guide

Sisyphus 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 "Sisyphus" 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

King Sisyphus is busy being one bad dude. This clever trickster spends most of his time hatching evil schemes and getting into trouble.

Call To Adventure

Zeus finally gets fed up with Sisyphus and sends Thanatos to chain Sisyphus down in Tartarus.

Refusal Of The Call

Sisyphus definitely doesn't want to die and be chained in Tartarus, but he doesn't really have much of a choice.

Meeting The Mentor

Mentor? Yeah, like Sisyphus would listen to anybody else.

Crossing The Threshold

Thanatos flies in on his dark wings and drags Sisyphus across the threshold of death.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

Well, Thanatos and Zeus are definitely on Sisyphus's list of enemies at this point, but he's never really had any friends.

Approach To The Inmost Cave

As Thanatos and Sisyphus approach the depths of Tartarus, Sisyphus starts hatching a scheme to escape.


Sisyphus tricks Thanatos into chaining himself down in Tartarus, and the wily king sneaks out of the Underworld.


For a brief time, Sisyphus gets to be in the land of the living again.

The Road Back

Having already returned home, Sisyphus knows Thanatos is going to be coming for him again as soon he gets unchained. So, he hatches another scheme, telling his wife to make sure he doesn't get a proper burial.


After being taken to the Underworld again, Sisyphus is literally resurrected when he convinces Persephone to let him go punish his wife for not burying him properly.

Return With The Elixir

In the end, Sisyphus gets what's coming to him and is forced to roll a stone up a hill for all eternity. For him, the elixir he has to share with everybody is knowledge that in the end the gods always win.

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