The Heroine with a Thousand Faces

An interesting read for any writer examining myths and folk tales:

Evolutionary Psychology 3: 85-103
The Heroine with a Thousand Faces: Universal Trends in the Characterization of Female Folk Tale Protagonists

Jonathan Gottschall, First Year Program, c/o English Department, St Lawrence University, Canton, NY 13617, USA.
with fifteen St. Lawrence University undergraduate students: Rachel Berkey, Mitch Cawson, Carly Drown, Matthew Fleischner, Melissa Glotzbecker, Kimberly Kernan, Tyler Magnan, Kate Muse, Celeste Ogburn, Stephen Patterson, Christopher Skeels, Stephanie St. Joseph, Shawna Weeks, Alison Welsh, Erin Welch.

Abstract: Literary scholars and psychologists have long remarked striking similarities in the depiction of male heroes in the world’s folk tale traditions. The best-known attempt to document and explain these similarities is Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1936). Campbell’s work differs in detail from other prominent attempts to define universal features of heroes, however its grand thesis is much the same: while the details of heroes “faces” may change as the investigator crosses geographical, ethnic, cultural and chronological borders, certain details of the hero’s life and challenges are everywhere the same. However, in contrast to the many determined efforts to generalize about heroes, scholars have expended little effort generalizing about cross-cultural features of heroines. The present article, based on a quantitative content analysis of folk tales from 48 culture areas around the world, represents the first systematic attempt to identify and explain cross-cultural trends in the characterization of heroines. This study was designed to improve substantially on previous attempts to define literary universals by drawing upon theory and methods used by human scientists to fruitfully explore and explain human universals.