Definitions and Origins

Types of Myths: Creation, Gods, and Heroes

What is the nature of hero myths?

As Joseph Campbell, in his The Hero with a Thousand Faces, shows us, heroes exist in most mythologies around the world, and they pass though similar stages, making it possible for us to speak of a “hero archetype.” Heroes represent whole cultures. They are different from “normal” people. Often they are miraculously conceived and even born of virgins. Almost always they go on important quests. The Greek hero Jason searches for the Golden Fleece, Odysseus searches for home, King Arthur’s knights search for the Holy Grail. Culture heroes are heroes who aid the creator in creating particular cultures and who, in some sense, teach those cultures how to live properly. The Native American Corn Mother is such a hero. Campbell uses the term “monomyth” to represent a universal or archetypal hero life that includes many common motifs such as the miraculous conception, the quest, and the descent into the Underworld.


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