S. Seifert
The Fellowship of the Ring Example
S. Seifert
Sheila's Books

The table below demonstrates the plot pattern of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey. The terms for each stage are in the first column. Abbreviated definitions for the terms are in second column. An example of how these terms look in a modern movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, from the Lord of the Rings trilogy are in the third column.

Hero's Journey Chart

The stages in this table are based on Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey.

***Note: Not all steps will occur in all stories nor will they appear in any particular order. In any given journey, readers can find from seven to twenty elements, but most successful adventures average approximately fourteen recognizable steps. 

Example: The Fellowship of the Ring


The Hero's Journey





Lord of the Rings

The Fellowship of the Ring

By J.R.R. Tolkien


I: Departure (The protagonist is separated from the known and steps into the unknown.)

Home Culture

The protagonist has a "home," a place that s/he thinks is normal, familiar, and common to others in his/her culture.

The Shire, Bag Ends

Call to Adventure

A normal occurrence motivates the protagonist to acknowledge an unknown aspect of his/her world, feel a restlessness with the constraints of his/her life, or find a new world that s/he was not aware existed.

Elf script appears on the ring after it is tossed into the fire.

Refusal of the Call

The protagonist chooses not to move forward in life because s/he chooses to not give up his/her position, power, ideals, goals, or responsibilities; the refusal is often based on his/her fear of the unknown and comfort in the familiar. Usually secondary characters support the protagonist's refusal.

Frodo offers the ring to Gandalf and later to the council to rid himself of its responsibility.

Supernatural Aid

The inexperienced protagonist is provided a supernatural, guiding, and/or guarding character, or an instrumental item (sword, encouragement, etc.) to assist his/her step forward into the unknown.

Frodo leaves the Shire on Gandalf's advice. Later, he is given Bilbo's armor and sword.

Crossing the First Threshold

The protagonist moves out of his/her comfort zone and walks alone. S/he is confronted with an obstacle that must be overcome before s/he can fully enter the dangers of the unknown journey.

Frodo stops the growing dissension by volunteering to destroy the ring in the fires of Mount Doom.

II: Initiation (By crossing the threshold, the protagonist's world is changed forever. A mental journey merges with the physical journey to result in a spiritual revelation of purpose and self.)

Road of Trials

The protagonist is tested and found vulnerable, but the outcome reveals a part of him/her that s/he did not know existed. The assistance given the protagonist under the "Supernatural Aid" section of "Departure" begins to come into play in the story, and s/he is not expected to face the trials alone.

Frodo chooses to go through dwarf tunnels and Gandalf falls. Bilbo's sword and armor save Frodo's life.

Meeting a Soul Mate


The protagonist meets an ideal (in ancient myths a goddess; in modern stories a soul mate) and sees the possibilities of his/her journey. This supernatural, human, or symbolic ideal encourages him/her forward.

Frodo meets the Lady of the Forest. She encourages him to do what is already in his heart.

Overcoming Temptation


Someone or something tries to destroy the journey itself. Often the destroyer has been sent by a larger evil to stop the protagonist. The protagonist is often misled, but eventually overcomes his lack of knowledge, prejudices, and fears as s/he grows in the acceptance of his/her role as hero.

Boromir tries to take the ring from Frodo.

Viewing the Whole Picture


The protagonist moves beyond the final terrors of change that are founded in his/her ignorance. S/he adds the spiritual element to his/her journey. The protagonist is still in the midst of the journey but s/he is now willing to accept what is required of him/her to complete the mission.

Frodo uses the ring to disappear and accepts that it destroys all who come near it, especially the ring bearer.

The Ultimate Goal (Treasure)


The protagonist becomes self-assured and often receives physical gifts and/or emotional rewards. Since personal limitations are broken, the protagonist can see the big picture not only in relation to him/herself but also in relation to others. The protagonist understands how the ultimate goal can be accomplished and the mission completed.

Frodo will not allow the ring to destroy his friends. He must destroy the ring alone, knowing he probably won't ever return to the Shire or his old life.

III: Return (Through the protagonist's ultimate sacrifice of self, s/he walks in an enlightened state.)

Refusing to Return

Although seldom a true refusal, the protagonist, who should return "home" with his/her powers, ability, or wisdom, remains isolated and often faces a death of sorts. Sometimes s/he prefers to live in the enlightenment than return to a "home" that might not accept the ultimate gift.

Frodo refuses to return to the safety of the fellowship with Aragorn.

The Chase

The protagonist flees toward safety to thwart the attempts to take back the treasure, power, ability, or wisdom. Because the protagonist has changed, the chase characterizes his/her courage and confidence.

Frodo flees the orcs as Pippin and Merry act as decoys.

The Rescue

The protagonist is unable to save him/herself. Others help him/her return "home," which may deflate his/her ego, but since s/he sees the entirety of the mission, s/he understands the importance of what is accomplished.

Aragorn, Boromir, Gimli, Legolas, Pippin, & Merry fight the orcs to save Frodo.

Crossing the Return Threshold

The protagonist must face the evil or its leader and the realization that home is no longer a place but a state of being. Those in his/her past may not accept his/her new ability, power, or wisdom and may test it as a final trial to the protagonist.

Frodo gets in a boat to cross the river. Sam risks his life to keep Frodo from leaving alone.

Master of Two Worlds

The protagonist has the ability, power, or wisdom without limitations to relax in whatever world (physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual) s/he finds him/herself. S/he can adjust to who s/he was in the past and who s/he might be in the future.

Frodo is still very much alone in his mission but he has also allowed the fellowship of a true companion from his past, Sam.


(Often the theme of the quest)

The protagonist is able to combine the workings of unenlightened (old) and enlightened (new) societies into one world, the world where the protagonist now resides. S/he understands that his/her old self had to "die" in order for the new way of life to begin. S/he no longer fears change because s/he has learned to live in the moment regardless of what that means.

"I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened." "So do all who live to see such times, but that is not theirs to decide. All you have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given you."