Monomyth: Hero's Journey Project

Joseph Campbell's Monomyth, developed in Hero With A Thousand Faces, describes the common heroic narrative in which a heroic protagonist sets out, has transformative adventures, and returns home. It is a useful formula for comparing literary traditions across time and culture.

Here, ORIAS provides resources to explore and compare three different works through the lens of the Monomyth: Mali's Sunjata, South Asia's Ramayana, and Japan's Yamato.

Ramayana

Image from the Ramayana

The Ramayana originated in north India as an oral epic poem, performed with musical accompaniment and dance. Written, illustrated manuscripts of the poem were later produced from Pakistan to Indonesia. This means that the Ramayana has expressions in oral performance, dance, music, literature, and illustration. Modern iterations of the tale extend to film, television, comic books, and animation.

Sundiata

Sundiata (also spelled Sunjata, Sundjata, or Soundjata) is an oral epic celebrating the life of Sundiata, the founder of the thirteenth-century Mali Empire of West Africa. There are written versions of the epic (just as there are written summaries of movies or film adaptations of books) but its original form is as an oral poem, performed by a jali - a professional bard.

The Shahnameh

Close-up image from Mongol-era version of the Shahnameh showing Alexander and a talking horse.

Read a summary of the epic. Learn about its history and its author. Compare dozens of versions of the same scene in an extensive database. Plus, recommendations for English-language versions of the epic for children.