The Hero’s Journey pattern was identified by Joseph Campbell in his book,The Hero with a Thousand Faces (first published in 1949). It is a common pattern in many myths and stories from around the world. The basic pattern consists of these elements: call to adventure, crossing into an unknown world, path of trials, magical help, meeting friends and enemies, a final ordeal, gaining gifts, and return to the normal world as a changed person.
Although I only became aware of the hero’s journey pattern a few years ago, I was surprised to realize that I had already written a children’s novel following the hero’s journey pattern some years ago! This pattern is so common that I think everyone is unconsciously familiar with it.
Below are modern novels that exemplify the hero’s journey pattern, and that feature girls or women as the “heroes” . I have included my own as the first one.
Please feel free to comment if you have another “heroine’s journey” novel to suggest!
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The Moon Over Crete by Jyotsna Sreenivasan. Eleven-year-old Lily travels back in time 3,500 years to ancient Crete, where women and men were equal. Lily has to figure out how to warn the Queen about an impending fatal attack by patriarchal warriors.
Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor. This adventure takes place in a parallel civilization in which “technology” is based on a symbiotic relationship with plants. The author is a child of immigrants from Nigeria, and the novel is filled with references to Nigerian culture.
A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer. One of the few non-fantasy books that follow the hero’s journey pattern, this novel tells the story of Nhamo, an orphan from Mozambique who flees a marriage to a cruel man and makes a treacherous, year-long journey to find her father’s family.
A Riddle of Roses by Caryl Cude Mullin. Meryl, a young bard-in-training, decides to go on a quest to become a bard the “old” way — by experience — rather than the “modern” way — by book-learning. She seeks an ever-blooming rose bush in Avalon, and returns home wiser, more confident, and ready to continue her travels. For ages 9 and up.
The Secret of the Ruby Ring by Yvonne McGrory. Lucy, a spoiled Irish girl, is transported to the Ireland of the late 1800s, where she learns to appreciate her own comforts and family. Kids who enjoy historical fiction should enjoy the details of Irish upper-class life in this charming novel.
The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester. A small-town girl discovers that she has an amazing gift. However, she and her family are shunned because of her gift, and she is sent to a mysterious “school” which turns out to be more of a re-education concentration camp. This book is a favorite among my middle-school students.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Coraline discovers a mysterious door in the old house she has just moved into. The door leads her to a new mother and father who, at first, seem to be everything a kid could desire in a set of parents. Will she be able to escape once she discovers the chilling truth? This book is quite scary for younger readers.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. This classic novel features tons of wonderful female characters, as well as a smart girl protagonist.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. If you’ve only seen the movie, you definitely want to read the book!
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim (for older teens and adults). Four women, tired of their lives in London, embark on a trip to an Italian castle. There, perhaps due to the magic of beautiful views, flowers, and rest, their lives are changed. This is an adventure of the emotions and spirit, rather than a physical adventure. This novel was a best-seller when it was first published in 1922, and was made into a movie in 1991.