The Hero With A Thousand Faces * Joseph Campbell (1972)

A Hero With A Thousand Faces

The modern intellectual will without hesitation admit that the symbology of mythology has a psychological meaning. Especially since the work of psychoanalysists there can be little doubt that myths are of the same breed as dreams and that dreams are the driving force of the psyche.

I did not really plan on reading this book, but I ran into second hand and also I was a little curious about this often-mentioned writer. Campbell has an approach that is not mine. As you can read in the opening quote, he finds modern psychology to be a good starting point to explain mythology and on many occassions, Campbell goes even so far to compare myths with dreams. Especially in the beginning of the book, this view comes around the corner irritatingly often, but this becomes less furtheron. As a matter of fact, Campbell differentiates his ideas a little. However I do not agree with the approach, I still find the book recommendable. Somewhat thematically Campbell displays a massive amount of myths, fables and folklore, making comparisons and giving interpretations. I noticed some sloppy mistakes in the Norse parts, so I cannot guarantee that the writer is 100% accurate in his retellings, but A Hero With A Thousand Faces is a very nice read.

Mythology is often understood by the modern mind as a primitive, clumsy attempt to explain the world of nature (Frazer); as a product of poetic fantasy from prehistoric times, that in later centuries was understood incorrectly (Müller); as a reservoir of allegorical lessons, meant for the individual to adjust to the group (Durkheim); as a collective dream, symptomatic for the primal urges in the depths of the human psyche (Jung); as the traditional means to convey metaphysical awareness (Coomaraswamy); and as the Divine Revelation to His children (the Church). Mythology is all this at the same time.

(My translation of the Dutch translation back to English…)

The writer even says that mythology has a function in our time and age and describes the downfall of our society to the loss of mythology. That is something that I agree with wholeheartedly!

princeton university press, isbn 0691017840

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