Hero Stories

Your challenge is to see yourself as a hero and write your life story as a hero story.  The final product can be a fable or a metaphorical story in which you star as the princess or knight – or it can be more true to life and realistic.  Be as fanciful and creative as you like.

Warning: This challenge can be very rewarding and life-changing, however it requires that you write out your life story and address any big trials or challenges that you have faced.  This may be very difficult or even impossible if you have any current or past psychological trauma.  If you are in counseling it is strongly recommended that you go over the assignment details with your counselor before starting and make appropriate adjustments to the challenge based on the advice of your counselor.  You may also choose to do the alternative assignment.

Alternative Assignment: Follow the directions below but analyze the life of a famous hero or fictional character from a movie or book.  At a later point in your life you may find these analytical tools useful for analyzing your own life.



Step One: If your life were a book, what would the chapter headings be? Use these to identify the key turning points and phases of your life.

Step Two:  Apply these key elements of the hero story to your own life.

  1. The Call to Adventure. The hero often lives a quintessentially mundane life but longs for something more.  Something happens that calls the hero forth into the adventure.  Have there been any major turning points in your life in which you were “called to adventure”?  What do you feel called to do?
  2. The Mentor. There is usually someone who helps the hero.  Who have been the key influences of your life? Who has been there for you at critical moments?  (Note that sometimes a mentor appears as an enemy when you first encounter them.  It might only be years later that you realize their importance.)
  3. The Trials. The hero must face many tests and trials, each one offers a lesson and helps the hero overcome fear.  What challenges have you faced in life and what did you learn from them?
  4. Your Dragon: Your biggest fear is often represented by a dragon or ultimate threat in a hero story.  What is your biggest fear?  What trials have helped you overcome it?  Or how is it still shaping your life?
  5. The Temptations. There are usually some temptations trying to pull the hero away from the path. These test the hero’s resolve and ability to move past their attachments and live for something greater than themselves. Some of these might seem obvious: vices or distractions that take up precious time and allow for easy escapism.  But look deeper as well.  What are your core temptations?
  6. The Ultimate Temptation: The ultimate temptation is usually the demands of social life, a “duty” we feel to be and act a certain way.  For example, many people are tempted to take a safe route toward financial security.  Others might seek fame, but only for fame’s sake.  Or some might be tempted to just make their parents proud, thereby failing to live from their own true center.  What is your true center? Joseph Campbell implores us to “Follow your bliss and doors will open where you thought there ought not be a door.”  What is your bliss?  What do you desire beyond all the desires that have been decided for you by society?
  7. Ultimate Boon. If the hero can move past fear and desire he is granted a revelation and transforms into a new being that can complete the adventure.  You may not feel like you are here yet, but if not, try to write the ending of the story like you think it must end.  Look carefully at the trials and temptations you face and think about how you might overcome them.

Step Three: The most important step. We have been using the anthropological lens of seeing big, seeing small, and seeing it all to nurture empathy for others.  Use this assignment to nurture empathy for yourself.  Accept yourself wherever you are.   You do not have to be a hero in the traditional sense of the word.  The goal of this assignment is to see yourself as a hero no matter where you are.  Maybe you are grinding away in the trials of life, or maybe you just feel lost like you have not even heard the call to adventure.  The goal is for you to be able to see yourself with compassion in the same way that you might see a hero in the midst of a book or movie that is not over yet.

If you struggle with the final step, please contact your professor or counselor.

Your final write-up should be 1,000+ words and include significant insight and self-reflection.

Instagram Post: Draw a picture of yourself as a hero and if you like, share an excerpt from your story.  #anth101 #anth101challenge9 #yourgroup