Overcoming The Monster

Part of a series on what Joseph Campbell called the "one great story" of humanity.

The following are excerpts from The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker cut together and highlighted to create a dialogue between the reader and the text.


‘LEGENDS OF THE SLAUGHTER OF A DESTRUCTIVE MONSTER ARE TO BE FOUND ALL OVER THE WORLD. THE THOUGHT UNDERLYING THEM ALL IS THAT THE MONSTER SLAIN IS PRETERNATURAL AND HOSTILE TO MANKIND.’

- E. S. Hartland, The Legend of Perseus (1896)

 

The first part of the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, as we now know it,

TELLS OF HOW THE KINGDOM OF URUK HAS FALLEN UNDER THE TERRIBLE SHADOW OF A GREAT AND MYSTERIOUS EVIL.

THE SOURCE OF THE THREAT IS TRACED TO A MONSTROUS FIGURE, HUMBABA, WHO LIVES HALF ACROSS THE WORLD, AT THE HEART OF A REMOTE FOREST.

THE HERO, GILGAMESH, GOES TO THE ARMOURERS WHO EQUIP HIM WITH SPECIAL WEAPONS, A GREAT BOW AND A MIGHTY AXE. 

HE SETS OUT ON A LONG, HAZARDOUS JOURNEY TO HUMBABA’S DISTANT LAIR, WHERE HE FINALLY COMES FACE TO FACE WITH THE MONSTER.

THEY ENJOY A SERIES OF TAUNTING EXCHANGES, THEN EMBARK ON A TITANIC STRUGGLE.

AGAINST SUCH SUPERNATURAL POWERS, IT SEEMS GILGAMESH CANNOT POSSIBLY WIN.

BUT FINALLY, BY A SUPERHUMAN FEAT, HE MANAGES TO KILL HIS MONSTROUS OPPONENT.

THE SHADOWY THREAT HAS BEEN LIFTED.

GILGAMESH HAS SAVED HIS KINGDOM AND CAN RETURN HOME TRIUMPHANT.


In the autumn of 1962, nearly 5000 years after the story of Gilgamesh was placed in the library at Niniveh, a period encompassing almost the whole of recorded human history, a fashionable crowd converged on Leicester Square in London for the premiere of a new film. Dr No was the first of what was to become, over the next 40 years, the most popular series of films ever made (even by 1980 it was estimated that one or more of the screen adventures of James Bond had been seen by some 2 billion people, then nearly half the earth’s population). With their quintessentially late-twentieth century mixture of space-age gadgetry, violence and sex, anything more remote from the primitive world of those inhabitants of the first cities who conceived the religious myth of Gilgamesh might seem hard to imagine. Yet consider the story which launched the series of Bond films that night in 1962.


THE WESTERN WORLD FALLS UNDER THE SHADOW OF A GREAT AND MYSTERIOUS EVIL.

THE SOURCE OF THE THREAT IS TRACED TO A MONSTROUS FIGURE, THE MAD AND DEFORMED SCIENTIST DR NO, WHO LIVES HALF ACROSS THE WORLD IN AN UNDERGROUND CAVERN ON A REMOTE ISLAND.

THE HERO JAMES BOND GOES TO THE ARMOURER WHO EQUIPS HIM WITH SPECIAL WEAPONS.

HE SETS OUT ON A LONG, HAZARDOUS JOURNEY TO DR NO’S DISTANT LAIR, WHERE HE FINALLY COMES FACE TO FACE WITH THE MONSTER.

THEY ENJOY A SERIES OF TAUNTING EXCHANGES, THEN EMBARK ON A TITANIC STRUGGLE.

AGAINST SUCH NEAR-SUPERNATURAL POWERSIT SEEMS BOND CANNOT POSSIBLY WIN.

BUT FINALLY, BY A SUPERHUMAN FEAT, HE MANAGES TO KILL HIS MONSTROUS OPPONENT.

THE SHADOWY THREAT HAS BEEN LIFTED.

THE WESTERN WORLD HAS BEEN SAVED. BOND CAN RETURN HOME TRIUMPHANT.


The realm of storytelling contains nothing stranger or more spectacular than this terrifying, life-threatening, seemingly all-powerful monster whom the hero must confront in a fight to the death.

Any story which can make such a leap across the whole of recorded human history must have some profound symbolic significance in the inner life of mankind. 

- End of Excerpt


Why do these stories keep getting re-imagined & retold by each generation?

Who are the monsters today?

Who is slaying them?

What Does this have to do with you?

Stayed tuned as we explore these questions and more...


I MUST NOW GO A LONG WAY…

I MUST FACE A FIGHT THAT I HAVE NOT FACED BEFORE.

AND I MUST GO ON A ROAD THAT I DO NOT KNOW.

—GILGAMESH, TABLET III, 2100 B.C.