Happy Birthday Joseph Campbell!

9781577315933_p0_v1_s260x420Joseph Campbell–mythologist and writer–would be celebrating his birthday today if he were still alive. His thoughts on mythology though continue to influence all of us, whether we’re watching a movie, reading a book, or diving into the theory that supports or refutes his original thoughts.

At the core, Campbell suggested that 1) all mythological stories followed the same narrative structure regardless of origin and 2) myths serve a very real purpose in our lives and society.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces explored how shared stories could be seen in the myths of Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, and other religious figures. This work ended up influencing Star Wars, The Lion King, Watership Down, and countless other movies and books.

The Masks of God went beyond this, studying cultural and historical variations among myths. Finally, of his more popular books, The Power of Myth is perhaps the most well-known as it contains extended transcripts of the PBS series Campbell did with Bill Moyers shortly before his death.

All of this, of course, to give you a primer to start with and a gateway to further pairings. If you haven’t read Campbell, I certainly recommend you do. If you have, you may enjoy:

  • When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone for an in-depth, academic look at the mythology of the female goddess
  • Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales from Around the World by Kathleen Ragan for an extended look at the strong female characters so often missing from Western mythology (and, admittedly, Cambell’s studies)
  • Sandman by Neil Gaiman and Hounded by Kevin Hearne to read about different myths frolicking freely together
  • Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis and Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin to watch as two classic authors take on their own retellings of popular myths

Anybody else ready to geek out in the comments? Do you love Joseph Campbell? Do you have FEELINGS about some of the stuff he wrote? Have any more suggestions for mythological readings?

About nikki_steele

Freelance writer and editor. Creator of BookPairing blog.
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  • Dani

    JCamp’s Hero with a Thousand Faces is my jam! It’s likely the most highlighted, underlined, and benoted book I own and is probably a big reason I tend to like mythpunk so much. I grew up reading myths and folktales in much the same way other people breathe: all the time and without thinking about it. Add to that that most of the stories I read were Eurocentric (other than a healthy dollop of Egyptian and Japanese), HWATF completely blew my mind when I first read it and refused to let me put it down. Till We Have Faces has been on my list for a while, so I think I’ll pick that one up as my next nonfiction read.

    • http://www.bookpairing.com/ Nikki Steele

      Yay! I love him too. It took reading myths to the next level for me. Like, yeah these are fun, but they actually mean a lot more both to the culture and an overall world mythology.

      Definitely pick it up! Til We Have Faces is actually a fictional account, so it’s a fun read through Greek mythology. I know you’ll love it :D

    • Cipriano

      I highly recommend that you read Till We Have Faces, Dani. It is an incredibly meaningful read — but it is not non-fiction. It is C.S. Lewis’s first published novel, actually, it’s the re-telling of a myth.

      • Cipriao

        Ooops, I just saw afterward that Nikki already mentioned that it is “fiction”, I’m sorry.

        • http://www.bookpairing.com/ Nikki Steele

          Hehe :D The more recommendations of this book for Dani, the better!

  • Cipriano

    I just love Joseph Campbell’s writings, and my favorite is maybe Thou Art That, which is just an incredibly good book. And — Till We Have Faces is one of my fave books of all time, and it’s the one I have re-read the most. I am somewhat of a “collector” of it, and own six different editions of this one book, one being a first edition I nabbed at an antiquarian booksale. Thank you for reminding me of C.S. Lewis and Joseph Campbell.

    • http://www.bookpairing.com/ Nikki Steele

      That is amazing! I bet the first addition is lovely.

      I’ll have to check out Thou Art That–haven’t read it!