The herald and the call to adventure

I’m currently reading Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which documents the concept of “the monomyth” referred to as “the Hero’s Journey.”

Campbell contends that all journeys, whether comedic or tragic, begin with the “call to adventure.” Superficially, this makes sense. An interesting nuance, though, is that as part of the call to adventure, there is often a character or event or thing that is referred to as “the herald.” In Star Wars, which was heavily influenced by Campbell’s work, the herald is R2D2, bringing Luke Skywalker the message from Princess Leia. In Superman, the herald is a green crystal. The point is that the herald signifies the call to adventure.

As a somewhat random aside, as I sat down to write this, I started thinking about The Americans and the sort of anti-hero narrative that has been popular in the past decade or so. I haven’t yet learned whether Campbell contemplates an anti-hero narrative, but I can’t help but think about the small delight in the fact that it’s ambiguous as to who gets the call to adventure and/or what is the herald. Are the Jennings the heroes, and the herald is the fact that they have a new next-door neighbor? Or is Stan Beeman the hero, and the herald the fact that he has a new beat in counter-intelligence? I love this ambiguity and twist on the monomyth.