The Ordeal is the main event of the story, and a heightened point in the hero’s character arc where he transcends who he once was, and truly grows.
Death and Rebirth
Death and Rebirth is the primary point of The Ordeal. The concept is simple: The Hero has to die in order to be reborn. In some way, the hero should face death or something similar to it. This might include the end of a relationship, the death of personality, or the loss of a job.
The hero should survive this death and become literally or symbolically reborn. After this point, the hero will have passed his final test, and he can receive the reward.
After the hero experiences The Ordeal, he will come home a changed man. No hero can come so close to death without being changed in some way.
Placement of The Ordeal depends on the storyteller. The most common placement is towards the middle of the story, but it may also be placed near the end. It’s completely a matter of choice.
A witness (or witnesses) is often involved with the death and rebirth process. This witness should see the death of the hero (or what appears to be the hero’s death), momentarily mourn, and then celebrate when he sees the hero rise again.
These witnesses are solely for the audience, so they can identify, and feel the pain of death with them.
The death of the hero should have an emotional impact on the audience. The thought of the hero’s death will depress the audience, and bring them down for a moment. When they find that the hero ]has survived, their emotion will skyrocket upward. They will feel elated and satisfied, if the “death and rebirth” sequence is done correctly.
The Ordeal often involves facing an opposing force, usually in battle. This opposing force could be a villain, or it could even be a force of nature. This force should represent some of the hero’s fears and unlikable qualities.
Death of the Opponent
Sometimes, in the hero’s symbolic “death and rebirth”, the villain (or opponent/opposing force) will actually die. In this case, the hero will likely have to deal with other opposing forces on the road home.
Escape of the Opponent
Sometimes, the opponent will escape and have to be dealt with later, usually towards the end of the story.
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Initiation is the second phase of the Hero’s Journey, where the journey really starts to get interesting. This blog post will summarize this phase of the Hero’s Journey, consisting of 4 parts: “The Road of Trials”, “Approach to the Inmost Cave”, “The Ordeal”, and “The Reward”.
The Hero’s Journey truly begins here, and he has a long road ahead of him.
Part 1: The Road of Trials
The hero is now fully immersed in a mysterious new world, and has truly began his journey. There’s no turning back now. This can be both an exciting and frightening experience for the hero. All the rules are new, and he has to figure out the correct path in this strange new world. This world should create a strong contrast for the audience. The Hero will be tested, and new territory will be explored.
Part 2: Approach to the Inmost Cave
By this point, the hero has adjusted to this new world, and is ready to reach into the heart of it. He’s now reaching the very center of the Hero’s Journey, and he will again come across the Threshold Guardians, protecting it. Here, they will have to prepare for a great ordeal. At this point, the hero is about to reach the peak of the story.
Part 3: The Ordeal
The Ordeal is like the climax of the story. The hero is standing in the Inmost Cave, and he must face a fearsome enemy. At this point the hero must show true heroism. This is where the hero is reborn, and he must die in order to do so. In one way or another, the hero must face death (or a symbolic version of death, such as their greatest fear), and recover from it.
Part 4: The Reward
The Ordeal has passed, and the hero must now face the consequences of surviving death. He can now claim his reward for overcoming The Ordeal. The hero should be recognized and awarded for surviving death.
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At this point in the Hero’s Journey, the hero is teetering on the edge between the ordinary world, and the special world. He’s crossing the threshold, and he’s about to start his adventure. He has already heard the call, and expressed all of his doubts and fears. Now, he should be ready to move on, and commit himself completely to the journey ahead.
Crossing the Threshold
This is the most critical action the hero will take in the Departure phase, where he illustrates that he’s completely committed to the journey ahead. Even that he may be willing to sacrifice himself to complete it.
Approaching the Threshold
The hero won’t usually charge head on into the adventure right after he’s done meeting with the mentor. There final commitment is usually brought on by some turning point in the story that affirms to the hero that the journey has to be fulfilled. There are a number of things that may trigger this, usually some sort of tragic event. For instance, the villain may ravage the city, or kidnap/kill someone the hero loves.
It may be an internal event that pushes them forward. The hero may ask himself “Can I go on living this way? Or can I risk everything I have for the possibility of change?”
As the hero is attempting to cross, he may encounter beings that will attempt to stop him. These are called the Threshold Guardians. They may show up at any point in the story to try and block the hero from moving forward. Usually, they’re a testing or training point for the hero. Another part of his development.
The hero must figure out how to get past these figures, and continue on. Their threat is often just an illusion, and the hero must ignore them and push through. Sometimes they just need to be acknowledged, and other times, they may become allies later.
This step is where the hero acknowledges that he has reached the border between two worlds. He must take the leap of faith, and go on, or the adventure may never begin. (Or it may result in tragedy, because the hero is afraid to take a deep breath and move on.) The Crossing can be symbolized by a number of things (even a gate, or a cliff), but the audience should sense a notable shift in energy.
After the hero makes his leap of faith, there is no turning back. This action is irrevocable, and he has no choice but to cross his fingers that he’ll land safely.
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