For Christmas during my freshman year at Virginia Tech, my father gave me a copy of The Power of Myth.
“Wendy, you might not understand this right now – but keep revisiting it.”
Joseph Campbell’s life centered around finding the commonalities between mythologies and cultures. His work and perspective influenced the way I approach life. The constant search for common themes between disparate cultures and activities.
The Hero with a Thousand Faces is the combined, comprehensive exploration of Joseph Campbell’s academic work. The foundations of the hero’s journey are here. The recognition of the similarities between creation and destruction myths is here. Essentially, this is (and has been) the foundational book in the comparative mythology corpus.
That said, this is also very academic and not the most approachable read. Even in audio, the text is dense and professorial. The over-dramatic reading by the 3 narrators doesn’t help. Furthermore, it felt like it took 5-10 chapters for the editors to determine the best balance between the narrators.
Hearing the material DOES help get a sense of the poetry and repetition inherent in the stories told in oral cultures. The stories are designed to be remembered and re-told around the fire.
The audiobook is long and I found myself alternately drifting elsewhere or being aggravated by the British accented male narrator’s over-dramatic delivery. My taste in audiobook narration leans towards straight-forward. You may find it charming if you are into fiction.
This does not negate the importance of this book. Dense, richly layered, and comprehensive.
As an introduction to Joseph Campbell, however, I would show them The Power of Myth. The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell) is the deep dive for those who want to explore further.
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