Mythology Creatures and the Hero’s Journey: Allies or Adversaries?

The hero’s journey is a common narrative pattern that describes the stages of a protagonist’s transformation from an ordinary person to a hero. The hero’s journey often involves a series of challenges, tests, and trials that the hero must overcome, usually with the help of mentors, allies, and supernatural forces. Among these supernatural forces, mythology creatures play a significant role in the hero’s journey, as they can act as both allies and adversaries, depending on the context and the nature of the creature.

What are Mythological Creatures?

Mythological creatures are beings that originate from legends, folklore, or mythology, and have characteristics that are beyond the natural or ordinary.

They can be animals, humans, or hybrids, and often have magical or supernatural abilities. Some examples of mythological creatures are dragons, unicorns, mermaids, giants, fairies, vampires, griffins, sphinxes, centaurs, and werewolves.

How do Mythological Creatures Act as Allies?

In the hero’s journey, mythological creatures can act as allies by providing guidance, protection, assistance, or gifts to the hero. For example:

  • In the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts, Jason receives help from various mythological creatures during his quest for the Golden Fleece. He is aided by a winged ram that carries him across the sea, a dove that shows him how to pass through the clashing rocks, a dragon that guards the fleece and falls asleep under his spell, and a nymph that gives him advice on how to placate the dragon.
  • In the Norse myth of Thor and Loki’s journey to Utgard-Loki’s castle, they encounter a friendly giant named Skrymir who offers them his glove as a shelter for the night and his provisions as food. He also warns them not to enter Utgard-Loki’s castle as it is full of illusions and dangers.
  • In the Chinese legend of Journey to the West, the Monkey King Sun Wukong accompanies the monk Xuanzang on his pilgrimage to India to obtain Buddhist scriptures. Along the way, he fights against various demons and monsters who try to harm or capture Xuanzang. He also befriends other mythological creatures, such as Pigsy and Sandy, who join him as his disciples.
  • In the English legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Arthur receives help from various mythological creatures during his reign and quests. He is given the sword Excalibur by the Lady of the Lake who is a water nymph. He is also guided by Merlin who is a wizard with magical powers. He also encounters other creatures such as dragons, griffins, unicorns, and fairies.

How do Mythological Creatures Act as Adversaries?

On the other hand, mythological creatures can also act as adversaries by opposing, hindering, or threatening the hero. For example:

  • In Jason and the Argonauts, Jason faces many dangers from mythological creatures along his journey. He has to fight against harpies that torment a blind prophet, a fire-breathing bull that he has to yoke and plow a field with, an army of warriors that sprout from dragon teeth he has to sow, and a dragon that he has to slay or enchant.
  • In Thor and Loki’s journey to Utgard-Loki’s castle, they are challenged by various giants who are actually disguised as mythological creatures. They have to compete with a giant cat that is actually Jormungandr the world serpent; a giant old woman who is actually Elli the personification of old age; and a giant horn that is actually connected to the sea.
  • In the legend of Journey to the West, Sun Wukong faces many enemies who are also mythological creatures. He has to fight against a demon king who transforms into a bull; a spider demon who seduces him with her beauty; a lion spirit who guards a magic fan; and an immortal peach tree that attacks him with its fruits.
  • In the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Arthur and his knights face many foes who are also mythological creatures. They have to fight against a dragon that ravages Camelot; a giant boar that terrorizes Cornwall; a witch who turns people into animals; and a knight who is actually a werewolf.

How do Mythological Creatures Shape the Hero’s Path to Self-Discovery?

By acting as both allies and adversaries, mythological creatures shape the hero’s path to self-discovery. They challenge the hero’s physical, mental, and moral abilities, forcing him to grow and learn from his experiences. They also reveal aspects of the hero’s personality, values, and destiny, as they reflect his fears, desires, flaws, and strengths. They also represent symbolic themes and messages that relate to the hero’s journey, such as courage, wisdom, love, sacrifice, fate, and transformation.

How do Mythological Creatures Represent Symbolic Themes and Messages?

Mythological creatures represent symbolic themes and messages that relate to the hero’s journey by embodying or expressing certain ideas or values that are relevant to the hero’s quest. For example:

  • Dragons can symbolize power, greed, fear, or wisdom. They can challenge the hero to face his own inner demons or to acquire hidden knowledge.
  • Unicorns can symbolize purity, innocence, beauty, or magic. They can inspire the hero to seek higher ideals or to protect what is sacred.
  • Mermaids can symbolize temptation, seduction, mystery, or freedom. They can lure the hero into danger or adventure or offer him a different perspective on life.
  • Giants can symbolize strength, violence, oppression, or protection. They can threaten the hero with brute force or shield him from harm.
  • Fairies can symbolize nature, enchantment, trickery, or creativity. They can help or hinder the hero with their magic or mischief.
  • Vampires can symbolize death, immortality, lust, or addiction. They can offer the hero a dark bargain or a forbidden pleasure.

These are just some examples of how mythological creatures can represent symbolic themes and messages in the hero’s journey. Depending on the story and the interpretation of the creature’s nature and role in it.

Conclusion

Mythological creatures are important elements of the hero’s journey archetype. They act as both allies and adversaries to the hero depending on their situation and nature. They help or hinder their progress towards their goal and their transformation into a hero. They also reveal and influence their character development and thematic significance.