The influence of "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell is well documented. I have picked up the version published in the "Collected Works of Joseph Campbell" series and have sadly found it to be disjointed and in many cases extremely difficult to understand or find the through-line of thoughts or ideas of 'The Hero's Journey'- in fact, the clearest representation of the journey I can find in this volume is in the table of contents.

I am not critiquing the work itself (due responsibility should first be placed on me, the reader); however, given the 'Collected Works' version I am forced to wonder if there is a volume for background reading from Campbell that makes this volume more clear? In other words - in this book, have I walked into Part II or III when I'm expected to have read Part I and I simply don't have the necessary background the author is expecting?

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    Maybe one of the reasons why you're finding The Hero with a Thousand Faces unclear is that it's not really a valid way to understand literature
    – user111
    Feb 1, 2017 at 18:33
  • ah thanks for the link - I saw this question as the only other one tagged with joseph-campbell but I think it only showed me the question and not the full thread. I'll read here and see if I need to modify or remove my question in case this is a dupe. Thanks
    – NKCampbell
    Feb 1, 2017 at 18:37
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    this question isn't a dupe. My answer would be that, no, reading other books by Joseph Campbell doesn't make The Hero With a Thousand Faces clearer.
    – user111
    Feb 1, 2017 at 18:38
  • ok - so I'm not alone in finding it somewhat shapeless or as though it is written as snippets of conversations or lectures. It does feel to me as though I was just dropped into the middle of a talk and was wondering if that was intentional or if it is just bad writing / editing
    – NKCampbell
    Feb 1, 2017 at 18:41
  • I removed the second question about the best version/translation of the work. that's a separate question worthy of its own answer I think
    – DForck42
    Feb 1, 2017 at 19:15

1 Answer 1


I think the best way to understand Hero is to read or watch The Power of Myth; the book is a transcript of the series of interviews by the same name. Bill Moyers sat with Campbell to discuss Hero, and frankly I wouldn't have attempted Hero without it.

The Power of Myth is also a bit rambling, but it's two people talking, which is a lot easier to understand than the dense copy of the original book. Once you've listened to two smart people just talk about this stuff, you learn the idea of it and you can understand the disjointed "here's a bunch of stuff I found" nature of Hero.

Separately, The Writer's Journey is a really good explanation of the Hero's Journey as a structure, which will help you to understand Campbell as well.

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