Joseph 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?