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“The Lord of the Ring”: “The Hero’s Journey” Concept


“The Hero’s Journey” concept was designed by Christopher Vogler incorporating the principles of the psychology of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell’s mythic studies to contemporary storytelling (Vogler 15). In following the archetypes of Carl Jung and the ideas of Joseph Campbell, Vogler provides the most universal myth pattern that all stories follow. These story patterns are infinitely varied over time and different cultures, but their original form is maintained as the ultimate reason to understanding stories. Vogler incorporates Campbell’s original outline of the hero’s myth so that it reflects the common frameworks of film and other contemporary media. This paper presents the stages of The Hero’s Journey eliciting examples of how it conforms to the fantasy film of The Lord of the Ring.

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The Twelve Stages of the Hero’s Journey

Despite its variations, the new myth is always a journey of the heart or the mind. However, the hero in a good story adjusts and grows during this journey. Vogler’s twelve stages of “The Hero’s Journey” can be identified in all kinds of episodes, even though the author is not always aware of them (Vogler 15). In this paper, “The Lord of the Ring” film has been used to identify the stages of the “Hero’s Journey” notes and common archetypes. These stages of the Hero’s Journey include the ordinary world; call to adventure; the refusal of call; meeting with the mentor; crossing the first threshold; tests, allies, enemies; approach to the inmost care; ordeal; reward (seizing the sound); the road back; resurrection; and return with the elixir.

Ordinary World

As a common archetype in every film, the hero’s journey commences with the introduction of a character that must undergo a series of tribulations. Often, it involves a descent into hell in order to come to a revelation and return to ordinary life. After portraying the hero in his ordinary surrounding the tale takes him out of this mundane world into a new special world. In the film, “The Lord of the Ring”, the threshold of the tale happens when Frodo accepts the duty of destroying the ring after much controversy (Tolkien 41).

Call to Adventure

According to Vogler (1998), the comfort of the ordinary world is challenged; the hero is presented with an adventure to undertake a problem to solve (15). The call to adventure determines the goal of the hero. In the “The Lord of the Ring” film, Frodo is requested to destroy the ring. When Gandalf realized that Frodo was in possession of the ring, he tells him to accompany him to attend a meeting at Rivendell to make a decision as to who will deliver the ring to Mount Doom for destruction. Willingly, accepts to deliver the ring for destruction after much controversy (Tolkien 41).

Refusal of Call

Refusal of call in the hero’s journal reveals that the hero is always reluctant to leave or refuses to follow the call. The hero is facing the fear of the unknown and is not fully convinced that he has to leave his ordinary world. He requires help in form of an event or mentor to keep him on the journey like Frodo was accompanied by a fellowship when he took the initiative of destroying the ring. The fellowship accompanied and followed Frodo in his journey. Some of the fellowship acted as Frodo’s mentor; however, Gandalf ultimately was the main mentor to Frodo. Gandolf is seen teaching Frodo on many occasions in the journey (Eaglestone 51).

Meeting with the Mentor

At this stage, the main characters of the mentor have already been introduced in many stories. The relationship, for instance, of the teacher and student as a symbolic representation is a theme that is common in mythology. In “The Lord of the Ring”, the main mentor is in the character of Gandalf, as he teaches Frodo a lot. Gandolf prepared Frodo for his journey but eventually left him to face his adventure alone (Eaglestone 51).

Crossing the First Threshold

At this stage, the hero has now agreed that he has to face his quest. He goes through the special world of adventure of crossing the first threshold. The hero now has a determined commitment and cannot turn back. This is the moment when Frodo accepted to face trials such as fighting orcs, undergoing physical challenges such as climbing mountains, and coping with the powers of the ring that took him over slowly, which made him never let it go. At some point, Frodo became corrupt in order to choose the correct path. For instance, Frodo hid Gollom’s advice of leaving his best friend Sam behind. He was later deserted by Gallon and left to fight Sheolab, a dangerous spider alone (Tolkien 42).

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Tests, Allies, Enemies

The hero is now on his journey in the special world of his quest where he meets new challenges, makes allies and enemies and gets to know the rules of the world around him. In the lord of the ring film, the pub seems to be a good place where Frodo meets new characters and obtains information. Frodo and his hobbit colleagues meet Aragorn for the first time in a pub and he became one of their most important allies (Tolkien 43).

Approach to Inmost Care

The hero has to cross the second major threshold on the edge of the dangerous place, where the object of the quest is hidden. In the approach stage, the hero pauses to plan and ready himself for the encounter with his enemy.


This is the time, where the hero is in mortal danger. In a confrontation with his arch-enemy, confronts death. The audience is left in suspense as they’ve been led to identify with the hero in the initial stage. The return of the hero brings in a feeling of elation and exhilaration for the audience. Frodo is seen battling the giant spider and seems to be subdued by its poison. He is brought to the brink of death but later emerges more alive and stronger than ever.


The hero gets hold of the treasure he came for having earned the title the hero by surviving the ordeal. The reward might be varied. In the lord of the ring film, when Gollum who was equally possessed with the ring bit off Frodo’s ring finger and it fell into the lava of Mt. doom, Frodo is relieved and transformed completely (Tolkien 42).

The Road Back

At this stage, the hero is not safe yet, as he has to meet the consequences of confrontation with his rivals on the Road Back. He is often pursued by vengeful forces. In ‘the lord of the ring’, Frodo and Sam had to endure crumbling mountains and falling castles, because they destroyed the One Ring (Tolkien 41).


In the resurrection moment, similar to the ordeal, the hero is tested before being purified and cleansed. According to Vogler (1998), the dark is defeated finally, but their heir is transformed by his ordeals and becomes a new being (p. 72). Frodo is almost dead when he is rescued by Gandalf and the eagles from Mordor. Frodo is hurt and transformed. Finally, he leaves his ordinary world for good, because he cannot find rest (Tolkien 44).

Return with the Elixir

Finally, the hero returns to the ordinary world, carrying a treasure with him. In the lord of the ring film, Frodo is relieved when the ring is finally destroyed in Mount Doom. His quest to destroy the ring was realized at that moment (Tolkien 41). This was a momentous event for him as he was transformed into the nice, happy, young hobbit he was previously.

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In sum, the hero’s journey is a framework that is flexible covered by details and peculiarities of the individual story. The story can be endless as scenes can be deleted, shuffled or added to the film structure. The basic version images are elements of universal experiences of life that can be transformed to fit the needs of contemporary stories and society without losing any of its magical appeals.

Works Cited

Eaglestone, Robert. Reading the Lord of the Ring. New York: Continuum International Publishing.

Tolkien, Pienciak Anne. J.R.R. Tolkien’s hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Barrons Online Bookstore, 1986).

Vogler, Christopher. A Writer’s Journey. California: Michael Wiesel Production, 1998.

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