Hero or Father and Son Archetype in Greek Mythology
A monomyth is basically a Hero’s journey. Such kind of a story describes the various stages a hero goes through throughout their journey (Wise Geek).
The very first man to introduce a narrative description of this kind was Joseph Campbell. In his description, he explains all the three stages coupled with the steps in each stage in which the hero must go through. In the first stage, departure of the hero occurs. In every heroic Greek Mythology, we realize that every hero possess some form of courage that is brought out by using the strength of an enemy against the enemy as it is evident in the case of Theseus.
The first stage includes the call to adventure, call refusal, supernatural help, first threshold cross and the belly of the whale. Onto the second stage, Campbell discusses the number of trials the hero goes through.
The steps in the second stage involve road to trials, an encounter with the goddess, the temptation (being a woman), and amends with the father, apostasies, the final boom and rejection to fight.
The third stage, the hero returns. The hero’s return involves rescue from without, magic fight, crossing the return threshold, being a master in two worlds and finally obtaining the freedom to live. These steps of a heroic journey can be found in numerous Greek Mythology books as well as modern day stories (Wise Geek). Perseus and Theseus Greek stories are classic instances of Greek Mythology stories that narrate to the audience about the journey of hero’s and the challenges they face in order to earn the title hero. In the heroic story of Theseus, (Morford, Lenardon and Sham 1) begin by narrating to the audience how the hero’s mother Aethra and the father Aegeus who is the king of Athens made a decision before the hero was born that in the event they give birth to a boy then the mother should bring up the child without having to tell him who his father is.
When the boy would grow to be older, he should be sent to Athens and charged to lift up a rock by himself and beneath the rock, there would be a pair of sandals and a swords hidden for Theseus. To help the king recognize his son, these items were kept as a means to reveal Aegeus real son in the future (Morford, Lenardon and Sham 2). When the boy continues to grow older, he would eventually be stronger and therefore he should not be withheld from proceeding to lift the rock and acquire the hidden items.
It is at this point that the first step of the hero’s journey comes into play that is the call to adventure. The call for Theseus now happens in reality when he is asked to meet the talking gull who happens to be a messenger from his father. The messenger would tell him do not fear the size of your enemy but instead use it against him. These were the exact words from Aegeus. Because Theseus was still young and always being beaten, when this message was delivered to him, he ran immediately to the bully and to his face, he slapped him.
The bully later threw a punch to Theseus making him swing out of balance, landing on the ground on his head. The quote above that acts as the message from the king to his son is significant because as we see it gave Theseus great courage and confidence to face the enemy (Wise Geek). So, the gull later tells Theseus that he would be receiving an unexpected gift that would make him take a dangerous route to Athens (the threshold).
Upon interacting with the gull, Theseus decides that he would go out in the search for his father. He chooses to go through the journey by land and refuses to do so by ship and this brings us to the second step acceptance to the call/the refusal. The supernatural aid he end up receiving from Ariadne on his search for his father brings us to the third step. Ariadne was not discussed by but she is seen to provide help to Theseus when he needs to escape the Minotaur Monstrous (Morford, Lenardon and Sham 3). Another helper for Theseus in his third step is Aegeus who is seen giving Theseus the sandals and the sword.
Aegeus also gives help to Theseus by providing him with a challenge that would at the end change his life and transform him into a real hero. The cross of threshold brings us to the fourth step where Theseus accepts the challenge of finding his father and later proceeds with his journey to Athen not knowing what awaits him ahead of his journey considering he is going to a place he has never been before. From his hometown (Troezen) to Athens, Theseus is faced with numerous obstacles which are a series of trials and temptations. In this part of Theseus journey, we learn that a hero in the making must be tough regardless of the challenges thrown at him during his journey.
As he keeps going, each challenge gets difficult and we see how he builds skills, maturity and confidence to keep going. Theseus realizes he must face this alone in the absence of a mentor. It is from these challenges that Theseus was transformed. He was transformed into a courageous and brave young compared to how he was in the beginning where he could not beat the village bully. It is at this juncture that he indeed used his enemy’s strength against them and by so doing he defeated the Corynetes, Sciron, Procrustes, Pityocamptes and Minatour. After his transformation, Theseus returns home with two beautiful princesses and took back the crown he once received after his call.
For some reason, on his way back, Theseus abandons he become a jerk by abandoning the princess. Unlike many other heroes, Theseus at this juncture does not become a better person as expected. This section is followed by a resurrection where Theseus is preoccupied with thoughts of how awesome he is and I think these thoughts at this time makes his forget to change his sail to white. As the black-sailed ship approaches, Aegeus sees it black colored and thinks Theseus is dead and kills himself too. At this point, Theseus becomes a hero because he does not face any challenge and he emerges alive but instead causes the demise of his own father. His return is a famous one because he is considered a hero for defeating minotaur. He is also a hero after being made king of Athens after the death of his father. His final reward is bittersweet because he manages to accomplish everything but at the sight of his father’s dead body.
Theseus manages to use his wisdom as Athens hero to restore order of the land.
Morford, Mark. Lenardon, Robert., and Michael, Sham. Classical Mythology. 9th Edition. Oxford, New York. Oxford University Press. 2011.
Wise Geek. What is the Mythology? December 4, 2003. Retrieved from http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-classical-mythology.htm