Stage Seven: Approach To The Inmost Cave, (Pg. 143 – 155)

C. Vogler, 2007, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, Performing Arts, Third Edition

Our band of Seekers leaves the oasis at the edge of the new world, refreshed and armed with
more knowledge about the nature and habits of the game we’re hunting. We’re ready to press on
to the heart of the new world where the greatest treasures are guarded by our greatest fears.
Look around at your fellow Seekers. We’ve changed already and new qualities are emerging.
Who’s the leader now? Some who were not suited for life in the Ordinary World are now
thriving. Others who seemed ideal for adventure are turning out to be the least able. A new
perception of yourself and others is forming. Based on this new awareness, you can make
plans and direct yourself towards getting what you want from the Special World. Soon you
will be ready to enter the Inmost Cave.

1. Campbell says that in myths, the crossing of the First Threshold is often followed by the hero passing through “the belly of the whale.” He cites stories from manycultures of heroes being swallowed by giant beasts. In what sense are the heroes”in the belly of the whale” in the early stages of Act Two in Thelma & Louise! Fatal Attraction, and Unforgiven
2. Campbell describes several ideas or actions surrounding the major ordeal of amyth: “Meeting with the Goddess,” “Woman as Temptress,” “Atonement withthe Father.” In what ways are these ideas part of Approaching the Inmost Cave?
3. In your own story, what happens between entering the Special World and reaching a central crisis in that world? What special preparations lead up to the crisis?
4. Does conflict build, and do the obstacles get more difficult or interesting?
5. Do your heroes want to turn back at this stage, or are they fully committed to the adventure now?
6. In what ways is the hero, in facing external challenges, also encountering inner demons and defenses?
7. Is there a physical Inmost Cave or headquarters of the villain which the heroes Approach? Or is there some emotional equivalent?

Heroes, having made the adjustment to the Special
World, now go on to seek its heart. They pass into
an intermediate region between the border and the very
center of the Hero’s Journey. On the way they find
another mysterious zone with its own Threshold Guard­ians, agendas, and tests. This is the Approach to the Inmost Cave, where soon they will encounter supreme wonder and terror. It’s time to make final preparations for the central ordeal of the adventure. Heroes at this point are like mountaineers who have raised themselves to a base camp by the labors of Testing, and are about to make the final assault on the highest peak.


A romance may develop here, bonding the hero and beloved before they encounter the main ordeal.

North by Northwest – Cary Grant meets a beautiful woman (Eva Marie Saint) on a train as he escapes from the police and the enemy spies. He does not know she works for the evil spies and has been assigned to lure him into their trap. However, her seduction backfires and she finds herself actually falling in love with him. Later, thanks to this scene of bonding, she becomes his ally.

In modern storytelling, certain special functions naturally fall into this zone of Approach. As heroes near the gates of a citadel deep within the Special World, they may take time to make plans, do reconnaissance on the enemy, reorganize or thin out the group, fortify and arm themselves, and have a last laugh and a final cigarette before going over the top into no-man’s-land.

Some heroes boldly stride up to the castle door and demand to be let in. Confident, committed heroes will take this Approach. Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop crashes into the precincts of his enemy a number of times at the Approach phase, conning his way past Threshold Guardians and flaunting his intention to upset his opponents world. Cary Grant in Gunga Din marches into the Inmost Cave of his antagonists, a cult of assassins, singing an English drinking song at the top of his lungs. His bold Approach is not pure arrogance: He puts on the outrageous show to buy time for his friend Gunga Din to slip away and summon the British army. In true heroic fashion Grant’s character is sacrificing himself and tempting death on behalf of the group. The Approach of Clint Eastwood’s character in Unforgiven is not so much arrogant as ignorant. He rides into the Inmost Cave of the town during a rain­storm, and is unable to see a sign forbidding firearms. This brings him to an ordeal, a beating by the sheriff (Gene Hackman) that almost kills him.
Our heroes cross yet another threshold, being ushered into the throne room of Oz by the Sentry, now their friend. Oz himself is one of the most terrifying images ever put on film — the gigantic head of an angry old man, surrounded by flames and thunder. He can grant your wish, but like the kings of fairy-tales, is miserly with his power. He imposes impossible tests in hopes that you will go away and leave him alone. Dorothy and friends are given the apparently unachievable task of fetching the broomstick of the Wicked Witch.
Message: It’s tempting to think you can just march into foreign territory, take the prize, and leave. The awesome image of Oz reminds us that heroes are challeng­ing a powerful status quo, which may not share their dreams and goals. That status quo may even live inside them in strong habits or neuroses that must be overcome before facing the main ordeal. Oz, Professor Marvel in his most powerful and fright­ening form, is a negative animus figure, the dark side of Dorothys idea of a father. Dorothy must deal with her confused feelings about male energy before she can confront her deeper feminine nature. The status quo might be a aging generation or ruler, reluctant to give up power, or a parent unwilling to admit the child is grown. The Wizard at this point is like a harassed father, grouchy about being interrupted and having demands put on him by youth. This angry parental force must be appeased or dealt with in some way before the adventure can proceed. We must all pass tests to earn the approval of parental forces. Parents sometimes set impossible conditions on winning their love and accept­ance. You can’t ever seem to please them. Sometimes the very people you naturally turn to in a crisis will push you away. You may have to face the big moment alone.
The three reluctant heroes evaluate the situation. The Lion wants to run, but the Scarecrow has a plan which requires Lion to be the leader. This makes sense since he is the most ferocious-looking, but he still wants to be talked out of it.
Message: The Approach is a good time to recalibrate your team, express misgivings, and give encouragement. Team members make sure all are in agreement about goals, and determine that the right people are in the right jobs. There may even be bitter battles for dominance among the group at this stage, as pirates or thieves fight for control of the adventure. However, here the Cowardly Lion’s efforts to escape responsibility are comic, and point up another function of the Approach: comic relief. This may be the last chance to relax and crack a joke because things are about to get deadly serious in the Supreme Ordeal phase.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s