Study Guide

Tantalus 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 "Tantalus" 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

Tantalus is a super rich king and a son of Zeus. Everything is awesome.

Call To Adventure

Zeus sends Tantalus a dinner invitation to come hang out with him and the other gods up on Olympus.

Refusal Of The Call

There's no refusal here. Tantalus jumps right on the invitation.

Meeting The Mentor

There isn't really a mentor situation either. Tantalus just heads on up to Olympus.

Crossing The Threshold

For whatever ridiculous reason, Tantalus decides it'd be fun to chop up his son, Pelops, and serve him as dinner to the gods.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

Because Tantalus is sort of ridiculously insane, he manages to turn the formerly friendly gods into major enemies when they figure out his sadistic scheme.

Approach To The Inmost Cave

Tantalus is hurled from Olympus down to Tartarus, the deepest pit of the Underworld. We're guessing this was a pretty darn dramatic approach to the inmost cave.


The T-man is sentenced to be forever "tantalized" by fruit and water that's just out of reach. Sounds like an awful ordeal if you ask us.


Reward? Yeah, right. Instead of a reward, Tantalus only gets eternal punishment.

The Road Back

The only road Tantalus sees is the road to nowhere, since he's doomed to be tortured in Tartarus for all eternity.


Nope, sorry. There's no resurrection for Tantalus. He's stuck right where he is.

Return With The Elixir

For Tantalus, the elixir is always just out of reach.

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