A Hero’s Journey: Part IV

A mystical road


After surviving the phase of the Ordeal, the hero receives a Reward. According to the writings of Vogler, the reward represents either a symbol of their survival or a physical trophy. Dorothy is rewarded with knowledge and the trophy of the Witch’s broomstick. Dorothy’s knowledge is represented through the Wicked Witch’s death. She returns from the Wicked Witch’s castle with the old woman’s broomstick in hand. She expects that the Wizard of Oz, as promised, will send her home to Kansas. “Can I believe my eyes?  Why, have you come back? …Please, sir.  We’ve done what you told us. We’ve brought you the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West.  We melted her. … Oh …you liquidated her, eh? Very… resourceful! … Yes, sir.  So we’d like you to keep your promise to us, if you please, sir, (1:57:02-1:59:16, Wizard of Oz).”

As Vogler wrote, the reward may be represented as a physical trophy and a symbol. In Dorothy’s case, the reward is represented as both the physical trophy of the Witch’s broomstick and the symbol of the knowledge of the Witch’s death. In his writings, Vogler had stated that the hero’s reward may be a physical trophy or even the act of learning a lesson. In the story of Beowulf, the hero’s reward consists of the claw of the slayed ogre-demon, Grendel, and gifts and tools for a Warlord. “.. as the hall-thanes eyed the awful proof of the hero’s prowess, the splayed hand up under the eaves. Every nail, claw-scale and spur, every spike and welt o the hand of the heathen brute was like barbed steel. Everybody said there was no honed iron hard enough to pierce him through, no time-proofed blade that could cute his brutal, blood-caked claw, (Haney 979-989).” Hrothgar gifted Beowulf with an embroidered banner, breast-mail, a sword, and a helmet with an “embossed ridge”. Other gifts that were present to the hero are eight fine horses, a saddle with a “sumptuous design”, and the price, in gold, for the Geat who was killed in the battle with Grendel, (1019-1047).

The Road Back

According to Christopher Vogler’s writings on the Hero’s Journey, The Road Back is when the hero “begins to deal with the consequences of confronting the dark forces of the Ordeal.” The Road Back acts as a point in the story, is where the hero realizes they must return to the Ordinary World and leave the Special World behind. The Wizard gives the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man their Rewards: the degree, the medal for valor, and the ticking heart. However, when it is time for Dorothy to finally be able to travel home to Kansas in the basket of a balloon, Toto jumps out of Dorothy’s arms to chase a cat. Dorothy runs after the meager terrier, and the balloon rises out of reach, taking the Wizard away with it.

Dorothy’s first effort on the Road Back is met with failure, however, Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, appears to aid and show Dorothy the way home. “Come back! Oh, don’t go without me! I’ll be right back!  Toto! … This is a highly irregular procedure! This is absolutely unprecedented! … Oh!  Come back!  Don’t go without me! Please come back…I can’t come back!  I don’t know how it works…Oh, now I’ll never get home! …Oh, that’s very kind of you — but this could never be like Kansas.  Auntie Em must have stopped wondering what happened to me by now.  Oh, Scarecrow, what am I going to do? Oh, will you help me?  Can you help me? …You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas, (2:02:26-2:03:48, Wizard of Oz).”

Vogler had written of the Road Back being the point in the story where the hero realizes that they belong back in the Ordinary world, rather than the vibrant, “Special World”. In this scene, Dorothy comes to realize that she would rather be back in bleak, boring Kansas and with the people she loves, then in a world she isn’t used to. In the story of Beowulf, the phase of The Road Back, represents the hero confronting the consequences of the Ordeal. In the case of Beowulf, the hero fights Grendel’s Mother, once she attacks Heorot after Grendel was killed. Beowulf makes a speech to the Danes, stating he will get revenge against the murder of Aeschere, King Hrothgar’s advisor, and he also tells the King to step up and lead his people as the king he is, not as someone who grieves at the wrong time. “Wise sir do not grieve. It is always better to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning. heroic code that For every one of us, living in this world means waiting for our end. Let whoever can win glory before death. When a warrior is gone, that will be his best and only bulwark. So arise, my lord, and let us immediately set forth on the trail of this troll-dam.  I guarantee you: she will not get away, not to dens underground nor upland groves nor the ocean floor.  She’ll have nowhere to flee to. Endure your troubles to-day. Bear up and be the man I expect you to be, (Heaney 1384-196).”


            According to the writings of Vogler, the resurrection phase of the Hero’s Journey acts as a “final exam” for the hero. The hero is tested to see whether or not they have fully learned from the Ordeal. Dorothy is resurrected when she finds, courtesy of her mentor, Glinda, The Good Witch of the North, that she had the ability to return home since the magic slippers appeared on her feet. Glinda explains that Dorothy needed to learn the lessons of her Journey before she was able to receive her full reward. Dorothy comes to realize to get her Reward, she must believe in her herself as well as her ability to carry out different adventures in the world she is in. “Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself. … What have you learned, Dorothy? … Well, I — I think that it — that it wasn’t enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em — and it’s that – if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard.  Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with!  Is that right? … That’s all it is! … No.  She had to find it out for herself. Now, those magic slippers will take you home in two seconds! (2:10:00-2:12:03, Wizard of Oz).”

Dorothy’s “final exam” had been to think back on what she and learned throughout her journey. As Vogler states, the Resurrection phase of the Hero’s Journey, portrays the responding to the new threat that was introduced in the Road Back. For Beowulf, he pledges to kill Grendel’s mother, or to die trying, as he had towards the beginning of the story. (1473 – 1491).  “Then he saw a blade that boded well, Beowulf discovers a sword in her armory, an ancient heirloom slays his opponent from the days of the giants, an ideal weapon, one that any warrior would envy, but so huge and heavy of itself only Beowulf could wield it in a battle. So the Shielding’s’ hero, hard-pressed and enraged, took a firm hold of the hilt and swung the blade in an arc, a resolute blow that bit deep into her neck-bone and severed it entirely, toppling the doomed house of her flesh; she fell to the floor.  The sword dripped blood, the swordsman was elated, (1557 – 1569).”

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