Story beats and archetypes in the Hero’s Journey

During one of my lecturers on the Hero’s Journey based on Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, a student asked me about the nature of the relationship that exists between the eight archetypes and the twelve beats that comprise a tale of this sort. Before answering the question let me remind everyone of the Archetypes and story beats.

The Archetypes are: 1. Hero, 2. Mentor, 3. Threshold Guardian, 4. Herald, 5. Shapeshifter, 6. Shadow, 7. Ally, 8. Trickster.

The story beats are: 1. The Ordinary World, 2. The Call to Adventure, 3. Refusal of the call, 4. Meeting with the Mentor, 5. Crossing of the First Threshold, 6. Tests, Enemies and Allies, 7. Approach to the inmost Cave, 8. The Ordeal, 9. The Reward, 10. The Road Back, 11. The Resurrection, 12. Return with the Elixir.

“Story beats and archetypal characters are two sides of the same story coin .”

One of the most essential relationships between story beats and archetypes is their proximity to each other—archetypal characters tend to be evoked at specific points in the story: The introduction to the Ordinary World, for example, entails that we meet the Hero in the context of his or her world. The Call to Adventure demands that we throw the Herald into the mix. The Meeting with the Mentor means that the mentor has to persuade the hero, who has previously Refused the Call, to take it on. The Crossing of the First Threshold necessitates that the Threshold Guardian makes an appearance to defend his threshold. Tests, Allies and Enemies means that these characters interact with the hero (and to us), to aid or block his path towards his quest.

The point is that the archetypal characters are embedded in the hero’s journey—they are two sides of the same coin. Together, they tell of how a character, the hero, rises to the challenge to subdue outer threats, which necessitates integrating the warring energies within himself or herself represented by the very archetypes.


Archetypal characters appear at specific points in the hero’s journey, so much so that several of these story beats contain their very name.

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