A Hero’s Journey: Part III

A cave

Tests, Allies, and Enemies

            The phase of Tests, Allies, and Enemies, according to Vogler, sets the hero up to encounter challenges and to learn the “rules” of the “special world”. The idea of the Test, Allies, and Enemies allows for the character to develop and test the protagonist; tests the “hero” in them. Dorothy is tested throughout her journey to Oz, to prove her dedication and commitment to finding her way home. Dorothy is able to face the presented tests with allies she has gained while following the Yellow Brick Road. Dorothy’s allies include the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. As the story unfolds, Miss Gulch, Dorothy’s neighbor from Kansas, and the Wicked Witch of the West serve as Dorothy’s enemies. “Here’s what I’m taking him [Toto] in so he can’t attack me again, (9:17-9:20, Wizard of Oz).” Miss Gulch tests Dorothy and develops her sense of how to achieve her dream to be somewhere “over the rainbow.” “Very well — I’ll bide my time and as for you, my fine lady, it’s true, I can’t attend to you here and now as I’d like, but just try to stay out of my way…. just try! I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too! (34:28-34:33, Wizard of Oz).” The Wicked Witch threatens Dorothy with future challenges and problems that will happen if Dorothy were to get in the Witch’s way.

According to Vogler, the hero meets people in the “Special World”, and the people he meets befriend him or they challenge him. In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy gained the friendships of the Scarecrow, the Lion, the Tin Man, and Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West tests and challenges her. In Beowulf, he meets different Danes and creatures who challenge and befriend him. “Unferth, a son of Ecglafs, spoke contrary words. Beowulf’s coming, his sea-braving, made him sick with envy: he could not brook or abide the  fact  that anyone  else alive under  heaven  might  enjoy  greater regard  than he  did:  “Are you  the Beowulf  who took on Breca in a swimming match on the open  sea,  contest risking the water just to prove that you  could  win?  It was sheer vanity made you venture out on the main deep. And no matter who tried, friend or foe, to deflect the pair of you, neither would back down: the sea-test obsessed you.  You waded in, embracing water, taking its measure, mastering currents, riding on the swell. The ocean swayed, winter went wild in the waves, but you vied for seven nights; and then he outswam you, came ashore the stronger contender. He was cast up safe and sound one morning among the Heathoreams, then made his way to where he belonged in Bronding country, home again, sure of his ground in strongroom and bawn. So Breca made good his boast upon you and was proved right.  No matter, therefore, how you may have fared in every bout and battle until now, his time you’ll be worsted; no one has ever outlasted an entire night against Grendel, (Heaney 500-528).”

Beowulf, then defends himself from Unferth’s challenge by saying Unferth is a drunk. Beowulf speaks of Breca as friends, “”Well, friend Unferth, you have had your say about Breca and me. But it was mostly beer that was doing the talking, (530-533).” Beowulf compliments Breca in his refute, saying that Breca was a good swimmer, but Beowulf was better, and he was the one held up by killing nine sea monsters. Beowulf tells Unferth at the end that, he would have been able to kill Grendel, if he was any good, (530- 606).

Approach to the Inmost Cave

The inmost Cave represents the “dangerous place” in the story’s setting. According to Vogler, this is where the hero crosses the second most major “threshold” in their adventure. For Dorothy, the approach to the inmost cave occurs in the Witch’s castle where she is forced to choose between giving up her magic slippers and Toto, whom the Witch has threatened to drown if Dorothy doesn’t relinquish the slippers. If the Witch gets the slippers, she will become the most powerful force in Oz, and Dorothy will have lost the ability to return home. “That’s the castle of the Wicked Witch! Dorothy’s in that awful place! (1:31:11-1:31:19, Wizard of Oz).” “I — I’m here in Oz, Auntie Em.  I’m locked up in the Witch’s castle and I’m trying to get home to you, Auntie Em! (1:38:02-1:38:50, Wizard of Oz).” According to Vogler, the “dangerous place” in the Wizard of Oz, is the “awful place” of the Witch’s Castle.

However, in Beowulf, Vogler’s “dangerous place” is considered is Heorot during the battle with Grendel. Heaney uses the phase in the Hero’s Journey, The Approach to the Inmost Cave, as a way to make the enemy, in this case Grendel, aware of the Hero’s presence in the story. “Then out of the night came the shadow-stalker, stealth and swift; the hall-guards were slack, asleep at their posts, all except one; it was widely understood that as long as God disallowed it, the fiend could not bear them to his shadow-bourne. One man, however, was in fighting mood, awake and on edge, spoiling for action.  In off the moors, down through the mist bands Grendel strikes God-cursed Grendel came greedily loping. The bane of the race of men roamed forth, hunting for a prey in the high hall. Under the cloud-murk he moved towards it until it shone above him, a sheer keep of fortified gold. Nor was that the first time he had scouted the grounds of Hrothgar’s dwelling although never in his life, before or since, did he find harder fortune or hall-defenders. Spurned and joyless, he journeyed on ahead and arrived at the bawn. The iron-braced door turned on its hinge when his hands touched it Then his rage boiled over, he ripped open the mouth off the building, maddening for blood pacing the length of the patterned floor with his loathsome read, while a baleful light, flame more than light, flared from his eyes. He saw many men in the mansion, sleeping, a ranked company of kinsmen and warriors quartered together. And his glee was demonic, picturing the mayhem: before morning he would rip life from limb and devour them, feed on their flesh; but his fate that night was due to change, his days of ravening had come to an end, (703-735).”


The next phase of the Hero’s Journey is the Ordeal, the moment in the story where the hero faces their “greatest fear” and the audience feels a moment of “suspense and tension”, wondering what will happen to the hero. When the Witch torches the Scarecrow and his straw starts to burn, Dorothy cannot stop herself from protecting her new profound ally. She grabs a bucket of water and douses the fire, accidentally wetting the Wicked Witch, who begins to melt into a puddle on the floor, killing her. “Help! I’m burning!  I’m burning!  I’m burning! Help! Help! Help! (1:47:56-1:48:59, Wizard of Oz).” Dorothy throws a bucket of water on the scarecrow, however, the water splashes on the Witch as well. As the water hits her, the Witch begins to scream, “Ohhh — you cursed brat!  Look what you’ve done!  I’m melting!  Melting!  Oh — what a world — what a world! Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness!?  Ohhh! Look out!  Look out!  I’m going.  Ohhhh! Ohhhhhh…. (1:51:26-1:52:59, Wizard of Oz).” The Witch’s voice fade, leaving behind her cloak and hat laid on the floor.

Dorothy leaves the audience in full suspense as the bucket of water is picked up and then thrown over the Scarecrow. The audience is left to wonder if the witch will live and if the guards and minions of the Witch will hurt Dorothy and her allies. The suspense left to the audience represents the idea of Vogler’s theory on the Ordeal of a Hero’s Journey. In the Ordeal, the hero confronts the challenge and leaves the audience with a sense of “tension and suspension”.

In the story of Beowulf, the hero, Beowulf, confronts Grendel and fights him using only their bare hands. “Venturing closer, his talon was raised to attack Beowulf where he lay on the bed; he was bearing in with open claw when the alert hero’s comeback and armlock forestalled him utterly. The captain of evil discovered himself in a handgrip harder than anything he had ever encountered in any man on the face of the earth. Every bone in his body quailed and recoiled, but he could not escape. He was desperate to flee to his den and hide with the devil’s litter, for in all his days he had never been clamped or cornered like this. Then Hygelac’s trusty retainer recalled his bedtime speech, sprang to his feet and got a firm hold. Fingers were bursting, the monster back-tracking, the man overpowering.  The dread of the land was desperate to escape, to take a roundabout road and flee to his lair in the fens. The latching power in his fingers weakened; it was the worst trip the terror-monger had taken to Heorot.  And now the timbers trembled and sang, a hall-session that harrowed every Dane inside the stockade: stumbling in fury, the two contenders crashed through the building. The hall clattered and hammered, but somehow survived the onslaught and kept standing it was handsomely structured, a sturdy frame braced with the best of blacksmith’s work inside and out. The story goes that as the pair struggled, mead-benches were smashed and sprung off the floor, gold fittings and all.  Before then, no Shielding elder would believe there was any power or person upon earth capable of wrecking their horn-rigged hall  unless the burning embrace of a fire engulf it in flame. Then an extraordinary wail arose, and bewildering fear came over the Danes. Everyone felt it who heard that cry as it echoed off the wall, a God-cursed scream and strain of catastrophe, the howl of the loser, the lament of the hell-serf keening his wound. He was overwhelmed, manacled tight by the man who of all men was foremost and strongest in the days of this life. it But the earl-troop’s leader was not inclined to allow his caller to depart alive:  the did not consider that life of much account to anyone anywhere. Time and again, Beowulf’s warriors worked to defend their lord’s life, laying about them as best they could with their ancestral blades. Stalwart in action, they kept striking out on every side, seeking to cut straight to the soul. When they joined the struggle there was something they could not have known at the time, that no blade on earth, no blacksmith’s art could ever damage their demon opponent. He had conjured the harm from the cutting edge of every weapon.  But his going away out of this world and the days of his life would be agony to him, and his alien spirit would travel far into fiends’ keeping, (Heaney 710-807).”

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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