Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Roar of the Monomyth

Lady Chocolat and I watched "The Lion King" yesterday. This may well have been the first time I've seen it since it was in the cinema (the first time); it is certainly the first time for quite some time. It was also considerably better than I remembered.

Of course, the story of "The Lion King" isn't at all original. There are bits of "Hamlet" in there, and there are more than a few similarities with "Star Wars" as well (son of Darth Vader grows up in exile, is taught by some bizarre mystic, and then goes to fight the evil empire and bring balance to the For, er, Pride Lands). And, of course, there's "Kimba, the White Lion"...

That's not very surprising. After all, there are apparently only seven stories in the whole of literature. (Incidentally, one of which is "American Pie". Be afraid. Be very afraid.) And, moreover, "The Lion King" seems to map pretty closely to what Joseph Campbell termed the 'Monomyth' in his book, "Hero With a Thousand Faces".

In said book, Campbell studies a large number of mythic tales throughout history, and finds a great deal of similarity in the structure of those tales. Indeed, he identifies certain key stages in the journey, events which crop up again and again in these stories.

And so, "Lord of the Rings" has much in common with "Star Wars", which shares a great deal with "The Matrix", which mirrors "The Lion King". Plus, usefully, it's almost exactly the same pattern that is built into the career of every D&D character ever. (What? How else did you figure I knew this stuff?)

Campbell's conclusion was that the reason this story resonates so well with people (especially men) was to do with an expression of Jung's notion of the Collective Unconscious - we've told those stories so often that they're now just part of our cultural gestalt. Or something.

Tolkien's explanation of the same was the notion of 'sub-creation' - that as created works, Man has been imprinted with universal truth by God, and cannot help but express that truth in his own stories. This also has the convenient effect of explaining the similarities between various religions.

Sadly, my own explanation for this is rather simpler. The stages of the hero's journey as found in the monomyth also crop up in another place, and it happens to be in an experience that every single adult on the planet shares. Specifically, it is the story, over and over, of a child growing up.


thechrlog said...

And of course, in another similarity, James Earl Jones voices both Darth Vader and Mufasa.

A fact which I think everybody knows.

Kezzie said...

How is American pie different? Please summarise the plot for me!!