C. Vogler, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writer’s,
Easy is the descent to the Lower World; but, to retrace your steps and to escape to the upper air – this is the task, this the toil. – The Sibyl to Aeneas in The Aeneid
Once the lesson and Reward of the great Ordeal have been celebrated and absorbed, heroes face a choice: whether to remain in the Special World or begin the journey home to the Ordinary World. Although the world may have its charms, few heroes elect to stay. most take The Road Back, returning to the starting point or continuing on the journey to a totally new locale or ultimate destination.
this is a time when the stories energy, which may have ebbed a little in the quiet moments of Seizing the Sword, is is now revved up again. If we look at the hero’s journey as a circle with the beginning at the top, we are still down in the basement and it will take some push to get us back up into the light.
Wake up Seekers! Shake off the effects of our feast and celebration and remember why we came out in the first place! People back home are starving and it’s urgent, now that we’ve cover from the Ordeal, to load up our backpacks with food and treasure and head for home. Besides, there is not telling what dangers still lurk on the edge of the hunting grounds. you pass at the edge of camp to look back. they’ll never believe this back home. How to tell them? something bright on the ground catches your eye. You bend to pick it up – a beautiful smooth stone with an inner glow. Suddenly a dark shape darts out at you, all fangs. run!Run for your life!
The Road Back marks a time when heroes rededicate themselves to the adventure.
Inner Resolve might be by a scene of a tired commander rallying dispirited troops after battle, or a parent pulling a family together after a death or tragedy.
The Road Back is a turning point, another threshold crossing which marks the passage from Act two to Act Three. Like crossing the First Threshold it may cause change in the aim of the story.
An important lesson of Martial Arts is finish your opponent. Heroes often learn that villains or Shadows who are not completely defeated in this crisis can rise up stronger than before. The ogre or the villain the Hero confronted in the Ordeal may pull himself together and strike a counterblow. A parent who has been challenged for dominance in the family may get over the initial shock and unleash a devastating retaliation.
A Martial Arts opponent knocked off balance may recover his centre rand deliver a surprise attack. Tianamen Square incident, the Chinese government rallied after days of confusion to launch a crushing response that drove the students and their Goddess of Liberty from the square.
The psychological meaning of such counterattacks is the neuroses, flaws, habits, desires, or addictions we have challenged may retreat for at time, but can rebound in a last-ditch defence or desperate attack before being vanquished for-ever.
In many cases heroes leave the Special World only because they are running for their lives. Chases may occur in any part of the story, but the end of Act Two is one of the most popular places.
Magic Flight – Joseph Campbell gives several illustrations of magical flights, and suggests the motif stands for a hero’s attempts to stall the avenging forces in anyway possible, by throwing down “interpretations, principles, symbols, rationalisations, anything [to] delay and absorbs” their power.
Villain Escapes – Another chase scene variant is the pursuit of escaped villain. A shadow captured and controlled in the Ordeal escapes at this stage and becomes more dangerous than before.
Another twist of The Road Back may be a sudden Catastrophic reversal of the Hero’s good fortune. Things were going well after surveying the Ordeal, but now reality sets in again.
The Road Back may be a brief moment or an elaborate sequence of events. Almost every story needs a moment to acknowledge the Hero’s resolve to finish, and provide her with necessary motivation to return home with the elixir despite the temptations of the Special World and the trails that remain ahead.
Heroes gather up what they have learned, gained, stolen, or been granted in the Special World. They set themselves a new goal, to escape, find further adventure, or return home.
Questioning the Journey
- What is The Road Back in a League of Their Own? Awakening? Unforgiven? Terminator 2? From the writer’s point of view, what are the advantages and disadvantages of heroes being rejected or chased from the Special World? Of leaving voluntarily?
- What have you learned or gained from confronting death, defeat, or danger? Did you feel heroic? How can you apply your feelings to you writing, to the reactions of you characters?
- How do your heroes rededicate themselves to the quest?
- What is The Road Back in your story? Is it returning to your starting place? Setting a new destination? Adjusting to a new life in the Special World?
- Find the Act Two/Act Three turning points in three current feature films. Are these single moments or extended sequences?
- Is there an element of pursuit or acceleration in these sections? In The Road Back section of your own story?