This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.
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What happens during the rescue from without the stage of the hero’s journey? Why does the hero require external help?
The rescue from without stage of the hero’s journey is the step where the hero requires aid from a powerful external benefactor to escape the realm of the supernatural and return home. A hero will be in this situation when he has won the ultimate boon through trickery and is been chased by gods seeking to recover what was stolen.
Read on to discover more about the rescue from without stage of the hero’s journey.
Rescue From Without
Sometimes, the rescue from without stage of the hero’s journey happens when the hero will require aid from a third party in order to return home from the realm of the supernatural. The hero, indeed, may need to be rescued himself.
The Eskimos tell the story of Raven which describes the sort of trickery that triggers the rescue from without stage of the hero’s journey. Raven ventured into the belly of a whale with fire-sticks, where he meets a beautiful girl. This girl is, in fact, the soul of the whale. Raven also notices a strange tube running along the backbone of the whale, dripping oil. The oil is delicious, and because he’s impatient for more, he rips off a piece of the tube, killing the whale and causing oil to pour into the belly. The girl never returns—he has extinguished the whale’s soul. The whale washes ashore, where the villagers carve up pieces of it to take home as food and fuel, freeing Raven from his captivity inside the beast. Raven uses his firesticks to force his way out of the whale (a symbol of rebirth). The villagers look at him curiously. When they find the fire-sticks he has left behind, Raven tells them that fire-sticks found inside a whale are a deadly omen. The villagers flee, leaving Raven to enjoy all the whale meat for himself.
In a legend from Japan, we see another example of the sort of trickery that triggers the rescue from without stage of the hero’s journey. The sun goddess Amaterasu retreats into a cave in fear, depriving the world of light. Her fellow gods devise a plan to entice her to come out. They cause roosters to crow, bonfires to be lit, and liturgies to be recited, making Amaterasu think that her retreat into the cave has had no ill effect and that the world is carrying on merrily as before. As she emerges, the gods hold a mirror up to her (symbolic of the world, which is reflected in her light) and tie a rope behind her around the entrance to the cave, telling her that she can retreat into the cave no further than the line of the rope. This is the origin of sunrise and sunset, the daily retreat and emergence of the sun goddess.
The Escape of Inanna
If you recall, the Sumerian goddess Inanna descended into the underworld, guarded by her sister/double Ereshkigal. When she goes down, she leaves instructions for her messenger Ninshubur to rescue her if she fails to return. When we left her, she was left to face the seven judges of the underworld, as she stood naked before them. The judges turn Inanna into a snake and then fasten her to a stake, where they leave her for three days and three nights.
Alarmed, Ninshubur triggers the rescue from without stage of the hero’s journey. He goes to the god Enki, who creates two sexless creatures who bring the food of life and the water of life to sprinkle over Inanna’s corpse. This causes Inanna to rise up and ascend from the underworld, with an army of demons at her side, with whom she wanders through the streets of all the cities of Sumer.
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Hero with a Thousand Faces summary:
- How the Hero's Journey reappears hundreds of times in different cultures and ages
- How we attach our psychology to heroes, and how they help embolden us in our lives
- Why stories and mythology are so important, even in today's world