June 3, 2013
CLA204 Classical Mythology Week 9
Introduction to the Greek Hero
Myths of Perseus
The Greek Hero (345-6)
Vladimir Propp (the hero’s quest, “functions”)
Joseph Campbell (the monomyth)
Vladimir’s (Russian man) idea was that any kind of folktale could be broken down
into what he called functions and he defined 31 different functions that account for
all possible narratives. Russian folktale. Don’t have to have all 31 functions in every
story because not all stories are that long. Ex. The function of leaving home OR
putting on disguised OR being pursued by an enemy, vague generic idea that show
up in same order no matter what kind of quest story.
The Monomyth Campbell (American) was exactly the same thing as Vladimir. Hero
quests always follow the same pattern/order and can be applied to Hamlet, Beauty
and the Beast anything. Called them steps not functions, didn’t have official
terminology. Receiving supernatural aid help you along you way, another step could
be meeting with the goddess. Steps/functions allows us to fill in the blanks. Vladimir
was interested in organizing/labeling things; Campbell was more interested in what
it said about human nature and society we are looking for some kind of fundamental
truth. All doing same thing expressing same fundamental question.
Best steps functions/patterns that come out of the theories.
• Usually one divine parent (usually leading to an extraordinary birth or
childhood) Zeus is usually the divine parent.
• Extraordinary in some way (often strength) Heroes are stronger then
average person. Homer describes battle scenes.
• Persecuted or pursed by enemies. Heroes have to go out and slay a monster
or more often someone doesn’t like them and they have a dark cloud hanging
over them, somebody is hoping they will fail.
• Divine or human allies help (sometimes with magical objects) Usually from a
god. Might be offered hospitality by a human helper. Or receives a magical
piece of armour or cloak or device directions to get to a person or to monster
they have to kill.
• A human companion. Somebody who travels with them but is not as strong
or awesome as hero himself (sidekick)
• Labours. slaying monster whatever task they have to do. Ex. Hercules had to
perform 12 labours in a row. Perseus is another ex.
• Transgression of taboos and atonement horrible crime, crosses boundary not
suppose to cross. Hercules murders his own family in a fit of insanity,
perform labours and earn forgiveness for crimes they commit.
• Rewarded with marriage and/or political power. Marriage to a princess
usually so you get to be ruler. Romance elements at end of hero story
common. June 3, 2013
• Conquering death (temporarily or permanently). Actually die and come back
to life or become a god, they are able to cross boundary that normal human
beings can not
Greek Hero Cult
Helping Friends and Harming Enemies
Greeks worshiped heroes in the same way that they worshiped gods by making
offerings to the gods and sacrifices.
Depiction of tomb of Oedipus Heroes (sacred place) used to be human at some point
but not quite human, hero is half way between a human and a god. They hang
around their gravesite. Reciprocity >if you maintained it showed respect had ability
to protect land were they are buried. Oedipus protected Athens from Thebes.
Oedipus Hero cuz (Sophocles play) saved Thebes from plague and defeated Sphinx.
Heracles has some heroic qualities ex. Has interesting birth story, help