Skip to main content


  • 57 Accesses

Mythologist Joseph Campbell has demonstrated that when we consider heroes and their myths comparatively, we discover a universal hero myth that speaks to us all and addresses our common need to move forward psychologically as individuals and as a species. “The Hero,” writes Campbell, “is the man or woman who has been able to battle past his personal and local historical limitations to the generally valid, normally human forms” (1949/1972, pp. 19–20). The hero does not stand for the status quo; he or she breaks new ground. The striving hero is our cultural and collective psyche out on the edges of knowledge and existence.

Taking a word coined by James Joyce, Campbell calls the archetypal hero the “monomyth.” The hero of the monomyth, our representative of self, the totality of our individual and collective unconscious and conscious psyches, passes in his “adventures” through a series of transformative thresholds, which are representative of the psychic and, to an extent, the physical...


  • Mother Earth
  • Dark Night
  • Divine Essence
  • Burning Bush
  • Hero Journey

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  • Campbell, J. (1949/1972). The hero with a thousand faces. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jung, C. G. (1969). Archetypes of the collective unconscious (CW, Vol. 9, Part. 1). Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leeming, D. A. (1998). Mythology: The voyage of the hero. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leeming, D. A. (2005). The Oxford companion to world mythology (p. 179). New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lord Raglan, F. (1937/1966). The hero: A study in tradition, myth, and drama. New York: Vintage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rank, O. (1936/1966). The myth of the birth of the hero. New York: Knopf.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to David A. Leeming .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2016 Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany

About this entry

Cite this entry

Leeming, D.A. (2016). Monomyth. In: Leeming, D. (eds) Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-642-27771-9

  • eBook Packages: Springer Reference Behavioral Science and PsychologyReference Module Humanities and Social Sciences