Nov 28, 2011

Hero's Journey: Thor

I figured it was high time I did another Hero's Journey post. I've been wanting to talk about this movie for a while. It's one of the best recent examples of monomyth in film, and a damn near perfect superhero story:

Because he's worth it
Many heroes in later interpretations of the Monomyth are blessed with some form of divine or unique heritage. Well as the son of Odin, Thor's got that covered. His story starts with what is to be his coronation as the new king of Asgard. One of the key moments in this scene is when the audience is introduced to Mjonlir, the hammer of Thor, forged in the heart of a dying star. Although Thor has possessed this weapon for some time by this stage, it still qualifies as his Talisman, the symbol of his right to be a hero and challenge the forces of evil. Mjolnir, and Thor's right to wield it, will form the heart of this story.

The Call to Adventure: The frost giant attack on Asgard spurs Thor into action, leading him to defy his father's orders and take his friends on a quest to strike back at the giants in the heart of their home, Jotunheim. On the way, we meet Heimdall, the watcher of the ways and the story's Threshold Guardian, protecting Asgard from invaders and acting as gatekeeper between the worlds.

Crossing the First Threshold: Heimdall agrees to allow Thor and his friends to pass to Jotunheim, sending them across the Bifrost. The battle against the frost giants represents Thor's first challenge, to establish him as a mighty warrior and cause the offence which results in his banishment to Earth.

Belly of the Whale: Thor's separation from his mundane world is completed once Odin strips him of his power and sends him to Earth. Here, in an unfamiliar place and without any of his powers, Thor must undertake the quest to redeem himself and, eventually, restore peace and safety to Asgard.

It's a hard life

The Meeting with the Goddess: Though not a literal goddess, Jane Foster represents a stabilising force in Thor's journey. Standing above most mortals by virtue of her theories on the nature of the universe, Thor sees in her a quality that could help guide humanity to heights to rival those of Asgard. His growing feelings for her help steer him on his path to humility and redemption.

Yeah, I can make out with him. I mean, if you really need me to, I can manage it, I think

The Road of Trials: Thor is put through several trials on his path, starting with acclimatising to life as a mortal, then his failed attempt to reclaim Mjolnir, and finally facing the worst possible outcome of his actions in the lie told to him by Loki: That his father has died and peace between Asgard and Jotunheim is dependent on Thor remaining in exile, an exile which his own mother insists remains in place.

Apotheosis: In order to ensure that Thor cannot come home, Loki sends the armoured Destroyer to Earth. Realising that it's him Loki wants dead, Thor sacrifices himself so that his friends and the other innocent bystanders can be saved. The Destroyer seemingly kills Thor with one strike. However, in facing death, Thor transcends his mortal form, having learned his final lesson and proved his worth.

Still, beats New York rush hour

The Ultimate Boon: Thor's newfound humility and willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good prove his worth as a hero. Mjolnir returns to him and its power revives Thor, returning to him how power which he uses to defeat the Destroyer. With his power restored, Thor returns to Asgard to confront Loki.

The Crossing of the Return Threshold: Loki's plans threaten to destroy all of Jotunheim. Having learned the value of his responsibilities as heir to the throne of Asgard, Thor now knows he cannot allow this. Although the Jotun have been his enemies, not all are responsible for the recent attacks on Asgard, and it is wrong to destroy an entire race for the actions of a few. Applying his lessons of self-sacrifice, Thor does the only thing he can to save Jotunheim. He destroys the Bifrost, though it means he may never see Jane again.

You can't touch this!
Freedom to Live: His brother defeated and both Asgard and Jotunheim safe, Thor is free to live his life again, though not yet as king. He has learned to accept that he still has much to learn, and though he mourns for his brother and wishes to see Jane again, he neither holds on to guilt for the past, nor does he fear what trials are yet to come. Even as the story ends, he asks Heimdall if Earth is lost to them and he is told simply, that there is always hope.


  1. Excellent breakdown! THOR is one of my fave movies. Ever.

  2. Great breakdown. Other people can say what they want about Thor, but it was darn entertaining.

  3. Well done. I enjoyed this movie and can't wait for the Avengers next year.

  4. Lydia: Thanks! I loved Thor. In my opinion it outdid Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in the pre-Avengers line-up. Captain America might tie with it.

    Olene: It was everything a fun superhero movie should be.

    Heather: Same!

  5. Wonderful! I haven't seen Thor yet, but now I'm going to have to. Love the way you use Campbell's categories; I'm more familiar with Vogler's, so this was useful. :)

  6. I had just finished Captain America when Netflix recommended I watch Thor next. It was snowing and I had nothing else to do, so I clicked on it and settled in, not expecting much. But I was really thrilled. Great break down of the elements. I love how this story is expanded on in The Avengers. Can't wait for sequels.