Comparison between Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins using the stages of Jason Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces
It is no doubt that Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins are two of the most well known heroes today. Both were introduced as heroes from literary works but their popularity was skyrocketed when they were featured in a full length movies.
The first hero was created by J.K. Rowling in her Harry Potter series, the son of two powerful mages who died protecting him from a very powerful evil wizard. He was marked with a lightning scar in his forehead and he became famous in the wizard world.
The latter was created by J.R.R Tolkien in his Lord of the Rings epic tale trilogy, the Hobbit who was the successor of a very powerful item – the One Ring. Bilbo Baggins, Frodo’s uncle, decided to left their home, The Shire, in search of adventure and decided to leave everything he owned to his nephew, including the ring of power. And with this Frodo’s world was changed drastically.
Using Jason Campbell’s hero formula, we can view how these heroes would fit in each of Campbell’s hero stages. The two have many aspects that are common and different. The biggest difference is that Harry Potter has to undergo all these stages each time for every title of J.K Rowling’s series but for the purpose of this essay we would focus on the first work, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
The Hero Stages
Introduction of the hero
This is the first stage and this is where the hero is introduced and can be seen in his ordinary world and normal lifestyle before he embarks on his adventure.
Both heroes were presented at the start of their stories. For Frodo, he was introduced along with his home, The Shire, and his kin, Bilbo Baggins (Tolkien The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings) while for Harry we can glimpse his foster family and how he was being treated. Both have different circumstances wherein for Frodo his home was merry and blissful while for Harry he was maltreated and pathetic. (Rowling)
Off to Adventure
At this stage the hero is presented with an event that would make him decide to embark on his journey. This is where the journey begins and hardship for the hero starts.
For Frodo leaving his home was the hardest thing for him to do at this stage it was very abrupt and already filled with danger and uncertainty. As they run for their lives, together with his friends from his home, from Black riders who are in pursuit and hot on their heels (Tolkien The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings).
For Harry it was very much anticipated and welcomed although the main obstacle he experienced was the hindrance of his foster family to have him go. But the trip was filled with exciting things and developments. Harry had a glimpse in the magical world that he would be entering. (Rowling)
Mentors and friends
Usually our hero would not make it alone. He must have help from a very experienced character who would support and advice him. And if needed keep him on track of his quest and adventure.
This stage is true for both heroes but it was presented differently. The difference lies in their familiarity with these mentor type characters. Frodo already knew Gandalf the Grey Wizard beforehand while Harry has yet to meet the Hagrid and Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Professor Dumbledore. But still there were other influential characters that both will meet along the way and they would help define the character of our heroes.
The first threshold and test
At this point, our hero would be beset with trials and danger that they need to overcome. Usually this would be seen at the earlier part of the story. This stage would usually help our hero decide to embark on the journey.
Frodo’s first ordeal was surviving the Ringwraiths in their flight to escape from the Shire and eventually meeting Strider up to the formation of the Fellowship with Frodo accepting the most dangerous of task of destroying the One Ring (Tolkien The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings).
Harry on the other hand, his journey and entrance to Hogwarts and undergoing the House selection process seems to be his first obstacle that he needed to overcome (Rowling).
The innermost cave is usually the part where our hero nearly reaches the climax of the adventure. This is what he needs to overcome first before reaching the grand battle or completion of his quest.
Frodo’s innermost cave would be the hardship and trials experienced (Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers) upon reaching Mount Doom with emphasis on the cave entrance guarded by the giant spider Shelob, Our hero would not be able to perform this feat if it was not for the support of his companion Sam (Tolkien The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King).
For Harry, finding the true identity of his enemy Voldemort in the personality of one of his professors, Professor Quirrel, and the trouble of going into his lair. With the help of his loyal friends they were able to reach it and come face to face with the enemy (Rowling).
At this stage our hero have reached the climax of the adventure. This is usually the great battle with the evil enemy, the great big boss.
For Frodo it was a battle within himself. The hardest thing that Frodo ever did was to cause the destruction of the One Ring and fighting the temptation of having supreme power. His attachment to the ring may very well bring the ultimate evil back to their land. At this stage it was evident our hero lost since he decided to keep this power but its destruction was brought about by another character, Gollum, who was also tempted to the Ring. Their struggle for ownership resulted in the destruction of the Ring along with Gollum (Tolkien The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King).
Harry’s ordeal was his confrontation with Voldemort, using the body of Professor Quirrel, and surviving his first encounter with the arch-fiend since his parents died. The curse of the lightning scar proved to be his ultimate protection agains the arch-fiend and his friends were able to rescue him in time (Rowling).
Hero seizes the sword
The ultimate knowledge, weapon or artifact is obtained by the hero. But this “sword” does not always mean something beneficial as with the case of Frodo.
Frodo’s “sword” was something he lost, a part of him was destroyed along with the ring since he was reluctant to part with it and completion of his mission was by chance an accident. Having the resolve to overcome his addiction of the ring and rehabilitate his Uncle Bilbo became his motivation. (Tolkien The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King).
For Harry it was vindication, a magical experience and the resolve to become more powerful to defend not only himself but his friends from his nemesis next attack since it was confirmed that was not the last they have seen of Voldemort (Rowling).
Our hero starts back to journey home and return to their ordinary lives. This is the stage that pour hero comes back after attaining the needed quest item or answer.
For Frodo this stage was the start of his rehabilitation or cure from the Ring’s influence. Although tit was already destroyed, the Ring left a taint in Frodo’s soul which he needs to cleanse (Tolkien The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King).
For Harry it was back to school as usual. Although knowing that it was filled with threats of danger afterwards but the road back was a brisk stride.
This stage shows the life changing results of our hero’s adventure. This is where the effect of their quest is felt or seen.
For Frodo, there was a drastic change in his worlds. He has to permanently leave his home and be cured of the effects of his addiction for the one ring with the help of Gandalf and the elves. But to do this they have to leave Middle Earth and go back to the home of the elves where his recovery would take place (Tolkien The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King).
It was back to school again for Harry as they finish the remaining time in their first year in the but this time with greater confidence in his ability as a magician and greater trust in his friends and mentors (Rowling).
Return with the elixir
In the Lord of the Rings story, the destruction of the ultimate evil was the greatest good that Frodo gave Middle Earth but with a very high price to pay, his leaving his home the Shire and fighting the negative effects of his addiction to the one ring which has left him tainted (Tolkien The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King).
For Harry Potter it was the knowledge of magic and hope of becoming a powerful mage and use his powers just like his parents – for the greater good. But we can also attribute the support and help of his loyal friends to overcome his coming trials and hurdles (Rowling).
The hero within us.
Both heroes may have undergone these stages but the difference lies in the effect of each of these hero stages to the character and as well as the readers. For The Lord of the Rings epic, it was a triumphant moment with Frodo destroying the ring although it was devastating on his part
For Harry Potter in the Philosopher’s Stone title, it was like an ordinary year in his school life, filled with danger and adventure and of course wonderful magic everywhere
There maybe stages that we can glimpse in how heroes and patterns that we can discern from stories of heroes and villains. Stories might be seen as the same or similar due to these patterns but still each story is unique. Each character has their own unique personality, frailties and great moments. But these stories still inspire us and at the same time entertain us.
Campbell’s hero stages can be easily used to structure a literary work. But most readers look up to these heroes with them searching also for the hero within themselves. And would it be nice if we can dissect our lives into these Hero stages. That would be grand.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Bloomsbury, 1997.
Tolkien, J. R. R. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings. United Kingdom: Allen & Unwin, 1954.
—. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Allen & Unwin 1954.
—. . The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Allen & Unwin, 1954.
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