- Series: The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell (Book 17)
- Hardcover: 432 pages
- Publisher: New World Library; Third edition (July 28, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1577315936
- ISBN-13: 978-1577315933
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 512 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell) Third Edition
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Originally written by Campbell in the '40s-- in his pre-Bill Moyers days -- and famous as George Lucas' inspiration for "Star Wars," this book will likewise inspire any writer or reader in its well considered assertion that while all stories have already been told, this is *not* a bad thing, since the *retelling* is still necessary. And while our own life's journey must always be ended alone, the travel is undertaken in the company not only of immediate loved ones and primal passion, but of the heroes and heroines -- and myth-cycles -- that have preceded us. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
In the three decades since I discovered The Hero with a Thousand Faces, it has continued to fascinate and inspire me. Joseph Campbell peers through centuries and shows us that we are all connected by a basic need to hear stories and understand ourselves. As a book, it is wonderful to read; as illumination into the human condition, it is a revelation.”
Campbell’s words carry extraordinary weight, not only among scholars but among a wide range of other people who find his search down mythological pathways relevant to their lives today....The book for which he is most famous, The Hero with a Thousand Faces [is] a brilliant examination, through ancient hero myths, of man’s eternal struggle for identity.”
In the long run, the most influential book of the twentieth century may turn out to be Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.”
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The main problem is that Campbell uses Freud and Jung to justify his theory of the hero. These theories are outdated and make it very difficult for anyone trained in psychology to take seriously. Moreover, the writing style is boring and the long examples combined with Freudian analyses belabor points and make the book drag on longer than it should.
There are two problems I have with the book as it appears today, one of which is by Campbell's doing and the other not. First, the method Campbell uses to make his points, through a series of concrete examples, is overwhelming to someone who has only a laymen's knowledge of the stories. As he jumps from a myth from, medieval Judaism and then (without a segue) to, for example, ancient Egypt, makes it harder and harder to understand the point he's trying to make by linking these stories together.
The second problem has to do with the state of scholarship in both psychology and religion since the 1940s, when Campbell wrote the book. In psychology, there's a heavy reliance upon Freud and Jung in the book. While I wouldn't say that their theories are obsolete, I would doubt that an author today were to use psychoanalysis to study world religions, I would doubt that he/she would use so much unfiltered Freud and Jung.
The study of religion has changed as well. In particular, religious scholars today aren't as enthusiastic about the "history of religions" school as they were in the first half of the 20th century. While some evangelical scholars will bristle at any notion that elements of their faith looks like others, the assumptions underlying Campbell's statement that "[t]hroughout the ancient world such myths and rites abounded: the deaths and resurrections of Tammuz, Adonis, Mithra, Virbius, Attis, and Osiris, and of their various animal representatives . . .are known to every student of comparative religion" would come with some serious qualifiers today.
This isn't necessarily to say that these criticisms cripple Campbell's basic premise, or that these criticisms are even correct, but an introduction addressing these developments by a student or contemporary of Campbell would allow the reader to put more trust in the author when reading the book.
All in all, this method of studying comparative myths and religions has some value. Certainly the mysteries of life and death to which these myths point have some similarities. But if we are to suppose that psychoanalysis is a good tool to examine these similarities (a major assumption in itself), then the tools need to be sharpened a little more to reflect the development of religion and psychoanalysis since the middle of the 20th century.