The Heroine’s Journey

Writers must be cognizant that creating a truly believable heroine is not a matter of simply putting lipstick on a hero. Men and women tend to respond to adversity in different ways. It is these differences that help define the heroine’s journey. Jennifer Stiller who sat on a panel at GeekGirl/Con 2014 in Seattle said:


The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph CampbellJoseph Campbell’s model of the Hero’s Journey … creates significant problems when applied to contemporary Heroine’s Journeys, which are characterized by their support network and drawing strength from interpersonal and sometimes romantic relationships.

Once you start looking at female hero stories you start to see this emphasis on collaboration. And it’s not just cooperation, where we’re combining our skills to work together. There’s this real aspect of nurturing. So instead of having a hero, who’s above everyone else, and then sidekicks, the female hero nurtures everybody around them.



Spoiler Alert ButtonThe Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne CollinsHeroines, like Katniss in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, undertake their departure as part of a team. Katniss is accompanied by Peeta as they leave for the Capital. Her motivation is a self-sacrifice to save her sister’s life, a member of her close caring circle. Instead of using violence to show her strength, she uses surprise and skill by shooting an arrow into the apple in a roasted pig’s mouth. She uses the pretend romance with Peeta to manipulate and twists the rules. In the end of the first book, Katniss negotiates her win by threatening to kill herself and Peeta by eating poison berries.

In her book, The Heroine’s Journey, Maureen Murdock—defines 12 keep points in a herione’s story…

  1. Separation from the feminine
  2. Identify with the masculine
  3. Road of trials’ meeting ogres and dragons
  4. Finding the boon of success
  5. Awakening the feeling of spiritual aridity and death
  6. Initiation and descent to the Goddess
  7. Urgent yearning to reconnect to feminine
  8. Healing mother/daughter split
  9. Healing wounded masculine
  10. Integration of masculine & feminine

In The Hunger Games, Katniss rejects the female role to accept a more masculine one in order to volunteer and accept the “Call to Adventure.” A heroine usually adapts a more male archetype when she begins her journey, the hero remains the same. Collins gives Katniss a troubled relationship with her mother. This split represents the character’s rejection of the “soft” feminine self.

Murdock’s third point in her model is the Trials, the Meeting of Ogres and Dragons—a Capital full of self-centered people, ogres. Katniss passes the trials and then experiences Murdock’s forth element and Finds a Boon of Success. The Capital citizens cheer her, and fawn over her pretend romance with Peeta. Their happiness is not long lived which leads into Murdock’s fifth element, Spiritual Aridity and Death. Collins places Katniss in the training arena where she must compete with the rivals who force her to face death, but help is on the way. Having been initiated, the heroine descends into the Goddess, she meets Cinna, a male who is like her “fairy godmother.”

Points seven, eight, and nine all involve reconnection to the feminine, healing the mother daughter split and healing the wounded masculine. Collins accomplishes this when Katniss creates an alliance with a girl called Rue. In this alliance Katniss reconnects to the anima (feminine). By acting “motherly” Katniss reconnects to her own mother, and when she mourns Rue she heals the wounded masculine within her.

The last stage, number 10, is the integration of masculine and feminine. At the end of book one, Katniss should, become whole. Carl Jung refers to this as a reunification of the anima (female) and animus (male). Yet, it is questionable if Katniss does accomplish this 10th step at all. In the end of Mocking Jay she is still emotionally absent. But after what she went through…who can blame her.

Collins, a brilliant author, transfigures Katniss through her journey that follows the Murdock model. These changes make her act like a heroine with distinct motivations that are different than other typical young adult hero counterparts.  Although the hero and heroine may physically go through the same monomyth described in The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell, they do so with different motivations, values, and methods.

Who is your favourite heroine? How is she different from a typical hero? 

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