Put the following 6 steps in the correct logical order to describe the plot of The Hobbit.
a. High adventure, fun and peril, but leading to a calamity: the party are in the mountains; they enter the goblin warren; Bilbo finds the magic ring but becomes isolated from the others and lost among the lowest levels of the mountain
b. Moral dilemma: should Bilbo selfishly stay in the safety of his burrow, knowing the world will be destroyed by the goblins and Smaug, and that the evil will eventually come to the Shire, or should he go on an exciting adventure with Gandalf that is so dangerous it may cost his life?
c. The original dilemma revisited: in the dark, Bilbo encounters Golem, a creature of Bilbo’s own species who selfishly stole the ring and murdered a friend… all leading to Golem living alone and isolated in the dark; should Bilbo use the ring to murder Golem and escape with the treasure… or should he not, and probably end up dying?
d. Results of ‘wrong’ decision: the ogres catch Bilbo; the dwarves come to rescue him and they too are caught; they are all about to be cooked and eaten; Gandalf arrives in the nick of time to save them; Gandalf warns Bilbo that if he doesn’t give up his selfishness then they are all doomed
e. Our hero makes the ‘correct’ decision this time, meaning the lesson has been learnt, he is a ‘better’ person and salvation is achieved: Bilbo realises that murdering Golem, to keep the ring selfishly, would be to repeat the same crime as Golem had committed (meaning that Bilbo would become this dark and lonely version of himself); so Biblo relies on his wits to achieve a near impossible escape instead, and becomes a virtuous and superpowered hero who is able to defeat the dragon Smaug (Satan) himself!
f. Trigger event that causes the ‘wrong’ decision: becoming boastful at the party with the dwarves, Bilbo promises to go on the adventure, and then on the adventure, as the party’s thief, he selfishly tries to steal gold for himself from the ogres.
Answer: 1b, 2f, 3d, 4a, 5c, 6e
The general plot-shape above is popularly known as ‘The Hero’s Journey’. It is a model that is used time and again in fantasy, YA fiction and science fiction narrative. It is the model used by many, many Hollywood films, including Star Wars: A New Hope, The Matrix, E.T., The Hunger Games, and so on.
Academically, The Hero’s Journey is known as ‘The Monomyth’, first described by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949). Campbell considered all the great works of classic literature and decided that the same general plot-shape was shared by all of them. There is only one story, and that story is ‘The Story of Life’.
If you think about it, The Hero’s Journey is also a coming-of-age or rites of passage tale, about a person growing up, maturing, moving from selfishness to selflessness, and entering the dangerous adult world. At the same time, we need to be aware that it is quite a Christ v Satan story, so potentially ‘too’ Christian, and that it is also a model that comes out of the literature of patriarchy and Empire, so perhaps encourages ‘toxic masculinity’. Even so, the damn thing really works!
The passage below provides you with an opening moral dilemma. Make up and write down the next five steps of the plot using the model of The Hero’s Journey.
Our hero is rushing to a job interview for their once-in-a-lifetime-dream job. They get a phone call saying that a close relative has been taken into hospital and may be about to die. Your hero is asked to come to the hospital to be with the loved one in their final moments – and the loved one has asked for them specifically. But that would mean missing the interview. Argh! What to do?
If you’d like me to look at how successful your plot-shape is, please do feel free to email me (Adam): adz_d2003 @ yahoo.co.uk – deleting the two spaces either side of the @ sign.
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