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|The 17 Stages of the Monomyth (Hero’s Journey) Worksheet|
Story Examined: Coraline
Joseph Campbell first proposed this 17 stage breakdown in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949).
“Campbell describes some 17 stages or steps along this journey. Very few myths contain all 17 stages — some myths contain many of the stages, while others contain only a few; some myths may have as a focus only one of the stages, while other myths may deal with the stages in a somewhat different order. These 17 stages may be organized in a number of ways, including division into three sections: Departure (sometimes called Separation), Initiation, and Return. "Departure" deals with the hero's adventure prior to the quest; "Initiation" deals with the hero's many adventures along the way; and "Return" deals with the hero's return home with knowledge and powers acquired on the journey.” From the Monomyth article on Wikipedia
The stage definitions here are summaries and are in no way definitive.
o The Call to Adventure
The hero receives a call to leave his or her normal life and face adventure.
The initial call to adventure is when the Coraline doll moves from the table to the little door in the wall on it’s own accord, bringing Coraline’s attention to the door. At this point though, the passageway is bricked off. This scene is when Coraline’s curiosity is first piqued. However, the real call to adventure is later that night when Coraline wakes from a dream about the little door by a mouse, who leads her to the door. This time the door leads, via a strange purple tunnel, to an alternate version of Coraline’s reality complete with “other,” button-eyed, parents.
o Refusal of the Call
Often the hero will initially reject the call to adventure due to the changes it would cause in his or her life.
In Coraline, it seems quite the opposite. Because her “real” life and her “real” parents seem so boring, she is drawn to the alternate reality were everything is fun and perfect. Essentially, the alternate reality fulfills all of Coraline’s wishes: parents that pay attention to her and love her, interesting and entertaining (as opposed to crazy) neighbors, tons of food and goodies, beauty, etc.
But when the “other” parents offer Coraline the chance to stay in the alternate reality, she becomes hesitant. Then again, there is no hesitation in Coraline’s return to the alternate reality to rescue her parents.
o Supernatural Aid
A mentor will present the hero with one or more talismans or artifacts that will aid them later in their quest.
The black cat is the mentor in Coraline. He is the only character, other than Coraline, who can travel between the two worlds. He seems to know a great deal about the rules and codes of the alternate reality. And is the first to warn her about the Other Mother’s true goals.
The two “actresses” who live in the downstairs apartment give the supernatural aid to Coraline. It appears to be a triangular piece of stone with a circle missing in from the middle. All the two actresses say is that it is good for “bad” things or “lost” things. She does not realize its potential until later. When looking for the ghost eyes, Coraline realizes the stone allows here to locate the eyes. Looking through the stone turns everything in the alternate reality black and white, while the ghost eyes glow.
o The Crossing of the First Threshold
The hero leaves the familiar behind and enters the unknown.
Coraline crosses the first threshold when enters the alternate reality without knowing if she will ever make it out again.
o Belly of The Whale
The hero willingly crosses the point of no return.
Coraline willingly crosses the point of no return when she reenters the alternate world after learning that the “Other Mother” has “stolen” her “real” parents. At this point, she realizes the true danger of entering the alternate world: she could be kept there forever, losing her soul, and her life, to the “Other Mother.”
o The Road of Trials
The road of trials is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the person must undergo to begin the transformation.
The road of trials is laid out very clearly in the form of a game. Coraline challenges the Other Mother to an exploring game. Coraline says if she finds the eyes of the ghost children and her parents, the Other Mother must set her, along with everyone trapped in the alternate reality, free. However, if she loses, the Other Mother can sew buttons into her eyes, and she will stay with her and love her forever.
The tests are as follows: She must take a ghost eye from her Other Father and his mechanical praying mantis and evil garden, she must take the second ghost eye from the Other actresses, she must take the third ghost eye from Mr. B, and she must locate her parents and outwit the Other Mother to return home.
o The Meeting With the Goddess
The hero finds his or her true love or companion.
The hero is tempted to stray from his or her quest by some offer of personal gain.
o Atonement with the Father
The hero succeeds his or her master/father figure.
This stage is marked by the death or transition to a different plane of a major character. (For Example: The death of Obi Wan in Star Wars: A New Hope)
o The Ultimate Boon
The hero reaches the final goal, gaining the final reward.
Coraline locates the three ghost eyes as well as her parents.
o Refusal of the Return
Holding the reward, the hero does not want to return to his or her old life.
o The Magic Flight
Escaping with the reward may not be simple, or the reward may hinder the act of returning.
Coraline outwits the Other Mother by having her unlock the door. Coraline’s winning the game and desire to leave angers the Other Mother, and she turns the room into a web. Coraline drops to the bottom of the web and must climb back up to the door to escape while the Other Mother chases after her like a spider.
o Rescue from Without
After the long ordeal of the quest or refusal to return, the hero may need to be rescued.
o The Crossing of the Return Threshold
The journey has changed the hero and he or she must learn to integrate this new knowledge with his or her old life.
o Master of Two Worlds
The hero accepts his or her new place in the world and the responsibility that comes with it. Often this is responsibility the hero initially feared.
Coraline is the master of the two worlds based on her knowledge of the other world’s existence, as well as, the truth about those children that died as a result of it. She is also the master of the two worlds in a more concrete sense, though briefly. She has the only key to the little door and must keep it from the Other Mother’s hand, which entered her reality seeking the key, and then find a way to do a way the key. She does this by dropping down a well.
o Freedom to Live
With the journey complete and the hero integrated back into the world, he or she is now free to live his or her life as he or she sees fit.
When Coraline returns to her reality, her parents are back. At this point, Coraline is happy to have her real family, regardless of their faults and shortcomings. This allows her to live her life without dreaming of an alternative. Her new found happiness with all the positives and negatives of life is illustrated in the final, garden party scene. She seems to have gained a greater understanding of the people and the world around her.
Total Stages Utilized: 10 of 17