Study Guide

The Story of Oedipus 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 Oedipus 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

Oedipus is living the good life as the prince of Corinth. He spends most of his days being princely and awesome.

Call To Adventure

Some drunk guy at a wedding messes up Oedipus's awesome life by yelling out that Polybus and Merope aren't Oedipus's real parents.

Refusal Of The Call

Oedipus doesn't really refuse the call. After his so-called parents deny the truth, he sets off to the Oracle of Delphi to find out what the real deal is.

Meeting The Mentor

Our hero comes face to face with the Oracle of Delphi, who's kind of a crap mentor. Instead of answering his question, the Pythia tells him that he's destined to kill his father and sleep with his mother.

Crossing The Threshold

Usually, the mentor is supposed to encourage the hero to go on the quest. In this case, though, Oedipus sets out to do everything he can to not do what the Pythia says he'll do.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

Oedipus meets some enemies in the form of some unruly guys at a crossroads. No worries, though, he makes mince meat of them all with his amazing ninja skills. Not long after, he hears that the city of Thebes is being terrorized by the Sphinx, and he sets a new enemy in his ninja-tastic sights.

Approach To The Inmost Cave

We're guessing that even Oedipus is a little nervous as he approaches the Sphinx's rock.


Oedipus comes through his ordeal with flying colors. When he figures out the Sphinx's riddle, she kills herself, and Thebes is saved.


Our hero is rewarded with the throne of Thebes and hand of Queen Jocasta. How could things be better? They can't be. They get worse.

The Road Back

Oedipus doesn't literally head back to where he started in Corinth, but he does return to a royal lifestyle, this time as a king. His defeat of the Sphinx has won him the respect and admiration of all.


Oedipus faces his greatest challenge when a horrible plague comes to Thebes. The Oracle declares that the plague will only cease if the guy who murdered Laius is found. Oedipus relentlessly pursues the truth, even though the full awfulness that is the truth of his life becomes more and more clear as he goes forward. The story climaxes when Oedipus learns that one of the guys he killed on the road was his real dad, Laius, and that his wife, Jocasta, is actually his real mother.

Return With The Elixir

The elixir of knowledge tastes pretty bitter to Oedipus, especially after his mother/wife, Jocasta, kills herself. Driven nearly insane, he blinds himself and heads off into exile. For Oedipus, victory is also defeat, and its taste is far from sweet.

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