I’m Not Dead Yet

The belly of the whale in Campbell’s journey is an important step. Your hero is going to change during their journey. The person who leaves behind their home isn’t going to come back the same. It’s why the “belly of the whale” part of the story often comes immediately after the hero crosses the first threshold.

Symbolism, symbolism, symbolism

Remember, Campbell’s journey is all about symbolism and motifs. If your hero is going to change, their old self “dies”. Who they were before is gone, and someone new will be the one to make the journey home. The “belly of the whale” symbolizes this “death” and their “resurrection”.

Campbell uses words like “born again” and “metamorphosis” to represent the change that occurs in the hero. While the hero is not fully transformed until their journey is over, their old self has already “died” simply by crossing the barrier into uncharted territory.

To make things simple, I’ll continue to use the examples from my previous post to give some examples of how you can use this imagery in your story.

  • Romance: I’d won Julia’s mother over for now, but in doing so, I’d also realized something. No matter my talk, I wasn’t the person Julia needed. Not yet. From this moment forward, I would strive to be worthy of her…to be the man she needed me to be.
  • Fantasy: At last the golumn fell, beaten and bloody. I stepped to the edge of the cavern to watch his descent. A wicked smile formed on his lips, chilling me to my core. With the last of his strength, he threw one dripping tendril at me, wrapping it around my ankle. Before I could react, I was drawn after him. As the cavern closed above us, I reached desperately for the sky, but it was too late.

In both of these examples, the hero appears to have died. In the romantic example, the hero’s death is more symbolic as he leaves behind his old self. In the second, he is swallowed up by the earth and the reader (and anyone nearby watching) may believe he is actually dead. Of course, this isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning and soon the hero will have to prove himself worthy of rebirth.

Want to continue along with this series on writing your own hero’s journey? Use the form below to subscribe and get email notifications when I post. As always, happy writing!