Seven Faces of the Hero
By Joseph Campbell
New World Library, $24.95, 268 pages
Mythic Imagination: Collected Short Fiction is a collection of seven short stories written primarily during the 1940s by Joseph Campbell. Six were never published during Campbell’s lifetime and all were written before he decided to devote his life to the study of comparative mythologies and wrote his classic book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
“It is remarkable how completely forgotten episodes, when touched with a word, open to the memory—at first vaguely, like the recollection of a dream, but with increasing clarity and certitude, until at last all is again present, and one wonders how such senses could have ever been forgotten.”
The era of the 1940s is captured in the slang, writing style and politics of the short stories. WWII is a frequent backdrop. There is an allure to the simple life away from civilization. Racism and sexism are rampant and, although it’s clear Campbell is attempting to criticize both, it’s not up to modern political correct standards. ||It’s difficult to criticize Campbell for these verbose, antiquated stories since he never had an option for final edits before publication. Therefore, a reader must appreciate them for what they are: stories written of an era by a man who was not yet, but would become, one of the most influential philosophers on storytelling.
Reviewed by Sarah Hutchins