StoryGraph Saturday: The Heroine with 1001 Faces

The Heroine with 1001 Faces
Maria Tatar
History/Literary Criticism
304 pages

From The StoryGraph:

How do we explain our newfound cultural investment in empathy and social justice? For decades, Joseph Campbell had defined our cultural aspirations in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, emphasizing the value of seeking glory and earning immortality. His work became the playbook for Hollywood, with its many male-centric quest narratives.


Challenging the models in Campbell’s canonical work, Maria Tatar explores how heroines, rarely wielding a sword and deprived of a pen, have flown beneath the radar even as they have been bent on social missions. Using the domestic arts and storytelling skills, they have displayed audacity, curiosity, and care as they struggled to survive and change the reigning culture. Animating figures from Ovid’s Philomela, her tongue severed yet still weaving a tale about sexual assault, to Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander, a high-tech wizard seeking justice for victims of a serial killer, The Heroine with 1,001 Faces creates a luminous arc that takes us from ancient times to the present.


I read Josephs Campbell’s book, The Hero With 1000 Faces several years ago, and saw how it has been influencing stories since it came out years ago. I’m interested to continue exploring the foundations of the stories we tell and have been telling for years. I read Ebony Elizabeth Thomas’s The Dark Fantastic and Gail Carriger’s The Heroine’s Journey last year, and they were fascinating, making me want to read more. I’m hoping that The Heroine with 1001 Faces will teach me even more.

6 thoughts on “StoryGraph Saturday: The Heroine with 1001 Faces

  1. When my daughter was a high school freshman their curriculum in English was loosely based on Campbell and the heroes journey/quest. I don’t know if she would embrace this book or throw it out

  2. I’m not sure if I have a complete thought here yet but this had me thinking about the paths different folks take when creating their stories. Some folks just create their stories, not necessarily consiously thinking about what’s come before or any of the tried and true motifs, but obviously influenced by them as we’re all influenced by what we’ve heard or seen before. And others take these sorts of books that attempt to find and describe these well-used motifs and very deliberately craft stories using them. No judgement either way, just interesting how we can approach storytelling from very different perspectives with each potentially producing great work. These sound like fascinating books.

  3. There are so many paths for stories out there. It’s part of the reason I want to read more works in translation- because there are so many different kinds of stories out there. Campbell might have studied folklore from all over, but he didn’t include every story in his Hero’s Journey. Only the ones that suited the narrative. It’s given us a lot of wonderful stories, but it’s not the only archetype out there.

  4. Excellent point about translated works. Some cultures have a very different way of looking at the world than we do and reading works from them can really open our eyes if we’re willing.

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