Should We Question the Hero’s Journey?

Sarah E. Bond and Joel Christensen at the LA Review of Books:

Like many tales of compulsion, Campbell’s Hero brings dangers to those who put their faith in it. The first is a serious misunderstanding of how myth works. Myths and traditional stories function in specific environments for reasons bounded by time and place. Common traits are interesting, but the differences — what we might call variations or multiforms — cannot be ignored.

The second is the existence of an ideal form in myth. How we talk about and choose to accept differences is important. Calling one version of a story a “variant” implies, wrongly, that there is an authoritative and original form. This is a top-down version of storytelling that often misses the significance of the differences themselves. Famous things we think we know about ancient myths are mere possibilities contingent on their time and place. In many stories, Medea did not kill her children. In a majority of tales, Oedipus had children with someone other than his mother.

more here.