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.

Yamato

Image of Yamato Takeru from 19th century woodblock print

The tales of Prince Yamato Takeru are told in the Japanese chronicles Kojiki, Nihon Shoki, and others. This image, from a 19th century woodblock print, depicts Yamato as he is about to set off on his adventures.

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.

Yamato Bibliography of Sources

Literary Histories


Keene, Donald. Seeds in the Heart: Japanese Literature from Earliest Times to the Late Sixteenth Century, New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1993.

Konishi, Jin'ichi. A History of Japanese Literature: Volume One. Trans. Aileen Gatten. Princeton: Princeton University press, 1984. (Chapter One: The Kojiki (33-61)).

Ramayana through Dance

Music and dance are core aspects of retellings of the Ramayana. As part of the Hero's Journey Project, ORIAS contributors interviewed dancer and choreographer, Jyoti Rout. Footage of the dance she choreographed and performed for ORIAS, the Navarasa, has been lost. However, comments from her interview can help unfamiliar viewers interpret performances.

On The Classical East Indian Temple Dance of Orissa