There’s this thing called the Hero’s Journey, which is not the same as driving to El Paso with three kids in the back seat. It’s a type of story that is found in many different cultures at different times in history. In recent years Joseph Campbell explained it extensively. It’s sad that he’s dead now, but at least he can’t tell me I’m wrong about everything I will now say.

Most movies and many books leave out the best part of the Journey!

Every Hero’s Journey has certain parts that always come in the same order. For example, one of the parts is Refusing the Call. It shows up in Star Wars: A New Hope, which is the Real Star Wars Movie.

Obi Wan: “You must become a pilot, Luke.”

Luke: “No, I’ve got to fix evaporators and stare at the desert while my theme music plays.” (Refuse the Call)

[Then the Empire barbeques Uncle Owen and Aunt Maru]

Luke: “I guess I’m going after all. Sell the speeder!”

People often use the Real Star Wars Movie as an example of the Hero’s Journey because it shows the steps so clearly. For example, three of the last steps in the Journey are:

  • The Ordeal (destroying the Death Star)
  • The Road Home (flying back to the luckiest moon in the universe)
  • Return with the Elixir / Prize / Weapon / Magic Horse / Hope for the Future / Whatever (Luke getting a hero’s medal from his sister, which really gives the rebels new hope—until the next movie, which starts on a planet so cold they wish they’d die)

Yet the best part is left out—the Resurrection. It comes after the hero has bitch-slapped the bad guy and hit the road for home, but before he returns with the prize (not a toy unicorn). It’s the last challenge, often unexpected, that threatens to destroy the hero and everything he loves. The Real Star Wars Movie doesn’t have it, but the Lord of the Rings books do. (Peter Jackson left it out of the movie.)

When Frodo comes home to the Shire, it is being destroyed. He (and some of his very tall buddies) fight and save it. Frodo commands the defense as if he were a mighty lord, or maybe a squatty king. He is transformed from the hobbit who started the journey.

The Resurrection is where the hero is finally transformed into his new self by everything that’s happened on his journey. He becomes worthy to bring home the prize. The prize Frodo brings home is peace. You just don’t have time to put that sort of thing in a movie. It’s probably the first thing you’d have to cut.

The moral of the story: Read more books.

You want me to go where?

photo credit:

My wife and I dig Ghost Tours even though neither of us has ever seen anything in the least supernatural. We like enthusiastic tour guides, especially those playing costumed characters with conviction. We’ve ghost-toured in lots of cities such as New Orleans, Nashville, Boston, Edinburgh, and Inverness.

Savannah claims to be the most haunted city in America. A slew of websites say it’s pretty darn haunted, which is a recommendation. So, last week when we visited Savannah with family, we weren’t leaving town until we enjoyed a ghost tour.

A ghost tour in a hearse. Cool!

Along with my wife’s brother and his wife, we stood on the curb at 10:00 p.m. when the hearse pulled up as scheduled. The guide was friendly, although he looked kind of like he’d driven there straight from rehab. He wore jeans and a t-shirt, so a costumed character performance was out.

The tour folks had cut windows into the sides of the hearse and mounted eight seats where the dead people used to go. The plastic seats could have come straight from an elementary school cafeteria and were mounted on posts. They bobbled around like one of those coin-op rocket ships in front of a grocery store. We did have seat cushions. Well, we had large-ish kitchen hot pads laying on the seats. Safety clearly came first, since we had seat belts—three straps bolted to various spots on the floor. No two straps matched up to create a full belt.

If we had been t-boned, we’d have hurtled around like seeds in a cantaloupe dropped off the Tower of Pisa by Galileo.

This could all have been very bad. However, my wife and I arrived looking for reasons to be entertained. The tour provided a quite modest number of reasons to be entertained, so it’s good that we jumped on and rode them like they were Secretariat.

Our guide stopped at The Pirate House, disembarked, and stuck on a Halloween costume pirate hat. Then he gave us ten minutes of readings from Treasure Island and some ghost stories, throwing in a little Pirates of the Caribbean accent one out of every five words.

That was not the highlight of the tour. But it was close. He was enthusiastic. We were entertained. We found reasons.

After another hour of riding around listening to ghost stories, we reached the highlight of the tour. We stopped to visit a windowless concrete block building that housed a little collection of curiosities. I mean spliced-together mermaid skeletons, creepy newspaper clippings, a stuffed river otter, and so on.

The tour highlight: a two-headed turtle, an albino raccoon, and a picture of the Sacred Hairy Family of Burma, all right next to one another. Entertained. Reasons. Ride them like the wind.

I mean, they already had our money.

The Tokyo Hearse, complete with Buddhist temple. (from Dark Dissolution,