For the next post in my literary concepts series, I’m going to be discussing the hero’s journey. The hero’s journey is the basic storyline that many protagonists follow, beginning with a “Call to Adventure” and ending with great personal growth and triumph. It can be seen in everything from classical mythology to modern stories like Star Wars and Harry Potter. The stages of the hero’s journey have been defined in various ways, but I’ll be using Joseph Campbell’s seventeen stages as described in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I was going to use Sorcerer’s Stone for this, but when I got to thinking about it, Fantastic Beasts is an even better example.
Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts does not follow a classical hero’s journey. There is no call to adventure or refusal thereof – he’s already been called and is in the middle of an adventure – and there’s no transition for Newt from the ordinary world into a special world, since he is already a wizard and very much a part of the magical world. However, there is a very clear, almost exactly step-by-step hero’s journey story in Fantastic Beasts, and it is Jacob Kowalski who finds himself following it.
Some of the names for the stages of the hero’s journey are overly-specific and don’t give a clear indication of their purpose, so I have paraphrased them. I have also moved “The Meeting with the Goddess” and “Crossing the Return Threshold” out of their typical order to reflect the order in which Jacob’s story unfolds.
The Call to Adventure: Jacob begins in the ordinary world, unhappy working in a canning factory and longing to open a bakery. He meets Newt at the bank and is accidentally exposed to magic.
Refusal of the Call: He is understandably confused by what he has seen and makes a run for it, accidentally taking Newt’s suitcase with him. Ironically, it is by doing so that he avoids having his memories wiped and ends up being part of the adventure.
Supernatural Aid: When Jacob is attacked by Newt’s murtlap, Newt, Tina, and Queenie help him.
Crossing of the First Threshold: Newt invites Jacob into his magical suitcase and shows him his creatures. Jacob realizes he is not dreaming and does not want to forget.
Meeting a powerful and helpful woman (“The Meeting with the Goddess”): Obviously, this would be Queenie.
Entering into danger (“Entering into the Belly of the Whale”): In this stage, Jacob, along with Newt and Tina, is arrested by MACUSA. The others are sentenced to death, and Jacob to having his memories wiped.
The Road of Trials: Jacob, Queenie, Tina, and Newt travel all around New York City trying to recapture Newt’s escaped magical creatures.
Temptation (“Woman as Temptress”): This really doesn’t apply. The main force of temptation in the movie is Grindelwald, but he never tries to influence Jacob.
Atonement with the Father: I’m not sure this applies to Jacob, but if it does, it might actually be his grandmother, rather than a literal father figure. He wants to become a baker partially because of her and apologizes to his picture of her when he believes he won’t be able to. By the end of the movie he has achieved his dream.
Apotheosis: Jacob finally comes to terms with the fact that he won’t be allowed to remember his time in the magical world and accepts it.
The Ultimate Boon: Realizing that Queenie is in love with him and that Newt considers him a friend. Later, Newt will make sure he does not have to return to the canning factory.
Refusal of Return: He spends most of the movie refusing to return to the muggle world but does so willingly when the moment is right.
Magic Flight: Not applicable. He does not have to escape with a treasure. His “Ultimate Boon” is simply realizing his new friends care deeply for him, which will lead to their helping him achieve his original dream.
Crossing the Return Threshold: When he steps out into the memory potion rain and lets himself forget.
Rescue from a final danger (“Rescue from Without”): When it seems that Jacob will be forced to return to the canning factory, Newt anonymously gives him a suitcase full of silver occamy eggshells to fund his bakery.
Master of the Two Worlds/Freedom to Live: Jacob is happier and better off for his experiences in the magical world even though he no longer remembers. He now has his bakery, and he bakes breads in the shape of magical creatures, indicating that he still has some memory of his encounter with magic. At the end of the movie, he meets Queenie again.