The Hero’s Journey Examples in Popular Fiction

22 Jan 2021 Plot and Story

As part of our series of resources on the Hero’s Journey, we’ve put together some examples of the Hero’s Journey in popular fiction. The examples below are:

  • Interview with a Vampire
  • The Hunger Games
  • Interstellar
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

We hope to add more as time goes on.

For each story we identify how each of the stages of the Hero’s Journey is represented.

You can read the examples directly below, or click to download printable PDFs beneath.

If you’re interested in the Hero’s Journey, you should check out our Ultimate Guide to the Hero’s Journey, which covers everything from its purpose to its history to explaining each of the twelve steps in great detail.

You might also like this Hero’s Journey Quick Reference Infographic .

         

 The Hero’s Journey in Interview with a Vampire

Ordinary World Louis is a plantation owner, 1791, New Orleans, grieving the death of his wife and child. He wants to wallow in his guilt for surviving them, and rage at the unfairness of the world. He needs to release his guilt and accept that the world is beyond his understanding and control.
Call to Adventure Lestat give him the choice to become a Vampire. He watches his last sunrise.
Refusal of the Call This stage is out of order. Louis refuses the life of a vampire, preferring to drink from rats and chickens.
Meeting the Mentor Lestat is the mentor, and instead of being caring and wise, is hedonistic and destructive in reflection of the futile, unjust nature of the story world. The gift he gives Louis is The Dark Gift – strength, powers, immortality.
Crossing the Threshold Louis dies the mortal death and becomes a vampire.
Tests, Allies, Enemies Louis’s staff turn against him, and he drinks from his caring maid despite trying not to. He can’t kill the nasty woman he’s supposed to, and drinks from her poodles instead. He refuses to kill the woman Lestat half kills for him. But finally he breaks and drinks from Claudia, who Lestat then turns into a vampire to bind Louis to him.
Approach to the innermost Cave They have their settled life together, but Claudia expresses anger that she will never grow up.
The Ordeal Claudia kills Lestat. But he comes back and they have to set him on fire and flee the burning city.
Reward (seizing the sword) Without Lestat they search the world for truth, other vampires and the meaning of life, and eventually find some in Paris. Armand appears to be the vampire and life mentor Louis has always desired.
The Road Back Possibly Louis believes that Armand can give him the happiness and understanding he has been seeking for so long. But the coven will not accept Claudia.
Resurrection / climax The Paris Vampires take Claudia and kill her as punishment for killing one of ‘their own’ and lock Louis in a coffin. But after Armand gets Louis out, he burns down the Paris Vampires home and kills them all.
Return with Elixir Louis comes to terms with the fact that the world is not fair and cannot be controlled, and so accepts that he must kill humans, and releases his guilt. He watches sunrises on film. He encounters Lestat, who is broken, a shadow of his former self, while Louis is healthy, whole, comfortable in the modern world and at peace.

Click here to download a printable PDF of the Hero’s Journey Example: Interview with a Vampire

 The Hero’s Journey in The Hunger Games

Ordinary World Katniss lives in poverty in a fictional world called Panem in the near future. She wants to keep her little sister safe. She needs more of a life than just survival.
Call to Adventure Katniss’s little sister Primrose is chosen for the Reaping – and almost certain death.
Refusal of the Call Primrose repeatedly screams ‘no’ and clings to Katniss after she volunteers, and has to be carried away by Gale.
Meeting the Mentor Haymitch is an unreliable mentor who patronizes them and says they should accept they’re going to die. Reflecting the heart of the book he is broken and without hope on the surface, but actually still has hope and fight deep inside.
Crossing the Threshold Katniss is taken on the train to the Capitol.
Tests, Allies, Enemies Tests include: the introductory ceremony, the interviews, the training sessions, the sponsor session. Katniss gets to know Peta better and meets Rue. She also encounters the Career Tributes.
Approach to the innermost Cave They stand on the roof, look out over the city and Peeta talks about how he doesn’t want them to change him.
The Ordeal The tributes enter the arena, and many are killed in the Cornucopia.
Reward (seizing the sword) Katniss gets a bag, which has very useful things, such as a knife, rope, sleeping bag and water bottle.
The Road Back Katniss allies with Rue and they succeed in blowing up the career tributes’ supplies. But there are still other Tributes to defeat.
Resurrection / climax Monstrous dog bear creatures attack, and then so does Cato. Katniss and Peeta manage to defeat both. But then the Gamemakers change the rules again, forcing Katniss to kill Peeta. But she refuses, threatening to commit suicide with berries instead. The Gamemakers relent and she wins.
Return with Elixir Katniss has beaten the Gamemaker’s themselves in becoming victor with Peeta at her side. She is crowned and cheered, but there are warnings that she will be made to pay for what she’s done.

Click here to download a printable PDF of the Hero’s Journey Example: The Hunger Games

 The Hero’s Journey in Interstellar

Ordinary World Cooper is a farmer living in the near future, in the United States, where crops are dying and civilization is struggling for survival. He wants a life of adventure and exploration. He needs to realize that happiness is found in the love of those close to him.
Call to Adventure Murphy’s ‘ghost’ leads them to the secret NASA hideout, where they ask Cooper to pilot a dangerous exploratory mission into space.
Refusal of the Call Murphy begs him not to go, and says even the ghost is saying ‘stay’.
Meeting the Mentor Professor John Brand is Cooper’s old mentor who gives him knowledge about the journey he will take, as well as a spaceship.
Crossing the Threshold Cooper launches not only into space, but through a black hole through which there is no way back.
Tests, Allies, Enemies Cooper meets the crew members and robots. They land on an ocean planet where they find the wreckage of the ship of the astronaut who landed there, then are faced with giant tsunamis. A crew member is swept away and their engines are flooded. When they finally get back to the ship they have lost 23 years.
Approach to the innermost Cave They reach Mann’s planet and it seems like they might have achieved their goal. But there are hints that something isn’t right.
The Ordeal Mann admits he lied to save his own life, and tries to kill Cooper, pushing him down a giant hole and damaging his air supply. Mann’s booby trap kills Romilly.
Reward (seizing the sword) Cooper admits to Brand that she was right (and maybe they should have followed her heart?).
The Road Back Cooper jettisons himself, sacrificing himself so that Brand can reach the next planet. They lose another 51 years in the process. Cooper enters the event horizon of the black hole Gargantua.
Resurrection / climax Cooper finds himself in a Tesseract where he realizes he was Murphy’s ghost, and desperately tries to send her the data she needs. Murphy has a eureka moment when she works out the answer that will save humanity.
Return with Elixir Cooper wakes up on a new space station and meets Murphy, who is now a very old woman. Cooper sees her surrounded by her own loved ones. She tells him to go and join Brand. He has had his adventure and will now go and be with someone as his companion. He has achieved both his want and his need – though he missed out on the loving relationship with his daughter, so it is a little bittersweet.

Click here to download a printable PDF of the Hero’s Journey Example: Interstellar

 

 

 The Hero’s Journey in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Ordinary World Harry lives in modern day England with his mean family who treat him very badly. He wants to stop being bullied. He needs to find good friends.
Call to Adventure Harry is invited to Hogwarts and is told he is a wizard.
Refusal of the Call Harry has a few moments of thinking it must be a big mistake. Harry’s Uncle Dursley goes to great lengths to obstruct the invitations, including screwing the mailbox shut, burning the letters and eventually driving the entire family to the middle of nowhere.
Meeting the Mentor Hagrid is the main mentor in the first book, though Dumbledore is a secondary mentor. Reflecting the heart of the book Hagrid is kind at heart, but can be unintentionally dangerous. Hagrid shows Harry the magical world, passes him his riches, and gives him an owl as a gift.
Crossing the Threshold Harry takes the train to Hogwarts school.
Tests, Allies, Enemies Harry meets his ally Ron and enemy Draco. He also meets Hermione, Neville and a bunch of teachers, including McGonagall and Snape. He faces the sorting hat, and difficult lessons. Snape bullies him and Draco tries to get him into trouble but ends up making him the youngest seeker in history.
Approach to the innermost Cave Harry learns and excels at Quidditch. They have lessons to make objects fly, but Ron hurts Hermione’s feelings.
The Ordeal A troll is loose inside the school, and Hermione’s life is at risk as she is trapped in the girl’s toilets with it.
Reward (seizing the sword) Hermione is now their friend, quite an asset.
The Road Back Can’t find anything like this.
Resurrection / climax The friends have to battle many dangerous challenges, including three-headed dogs, strangling plants, giant chess sets and poison bottles, and finally Harry faces Voldemort, who tries to kill him.
Return with Elixir Harry is popular once more and celebrated as a hero. He is surrounded by friends and admirers and knows that Dudley will not be able to bully him anymore. He has achieved both his want and his need.

Click here to download a printable PDF of the Hero’s Journey Example: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone