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The Call to Adventure


Disciplines > Storytelling > Campbell's 'Hero's Journey' > The Call to Adventure

Description | Discussion | See also


Next: Refusal of the call



The hero starts off in a mundane situation of normality from which some information is received that acts as a clarion call to down tools, take up sword (literally or figuratively) and head off into the unknown.

The information may be a problem, a challenge or request. It critically acts to trigger desire, whether this is to win the hand of a lady, recover a lost object or defeat Ming the Merciless.


In Sherlock Holmes, stories start in 221b Baker Street, where a startling letter is received or a frantic lady bursts through the door.

In Star Wars, Leia's holographic plea is received 'Help us, Obi-Wan, you're our only hope!'

Across a crowded room, the hero sees the beautiful maiden and falls immediately in love.


The objective of the adventure is often generically referred to as the 'treasure', even though this treasure may be of non-physical or non-pecuniary nature, such as a freed captive or acquired knowledge.

The initial situation of normality is useful in creating a bond between the audience and the hero. If the hero is normal, then the audience can easily associate with the hero, joining their identities together in vicarious comradeship.

The appearance of the call provides the first step into tension. Will the hero accept the call? Would you? The audience wills the hero to accept and do what is right and moral. It also fears the hero, in what danger may be encountered if the challenge is accepted.

The call may be a gradual realization or it may be from a cataclysmic event, such as the destruction of ones home (typically by the villain).

The call may well be refused until internal pressures are powerful enough. Adventures are ok in books but often frightening and possibly deadly in experience. They thus may need some encouragement, such as worsening conditions or further attacks by the villain. A mentor may help this along, urging the hero to respond.

See also

Communication, Absentation: Someone goes missing


Campbell, J. (1949). The Hero With a Thousand Faces, New York: Bollingen

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