The tale of the hero's journey has played a prominent role in creative works since Greek mythology, and these tales exist in all literary genres. In many of the stories, the hero goes on a quest in order to reach some sort of tangible goal. Oftentimes, the physical journey is a means by which the hero receives some form of enlightenment or solves some sort of questions that he or she faces before the journey commences. There are usually obstacles that heroes face before the end of the journey that test their physical and mental fortitude. Each obstacle serves as a lesson and peels away to the core issue being faced. Thus, journey in literature is a catalyst toward a hero's better understanding of his life and as a way to reveal what is truly important to other characters. Although journey is used to point out the greatness of a character, it can also illustrate that a hero many come in unexpected forms, even characters that may be considered physically weak.
The tale of the hero's journey appears in children's literature as well as adult literature. One of the most popular stories of journey is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. The central character of the story, Dorothy of Kansas, is transported to a strange land. Like Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey, she encounters strange new creatures and individuals along her trip. She is joined on her quest by the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion, each of whom is on his own search. Instead of slaying mythical creatures, they must fight a slew of other strange beasts on their journey toward The Wizard. All these strange beasts, such as bees, wolves, and winged monkeys, are sent by the one individual who wants to thwart their travels, the Wicked Witch of the West. At the end of their journey, each realizes that the powers they longed for were with them all the time. The journey reveals that Dorothy could have used her Silver Shoes to get her home. Thus, in this children's story, journey serves as a catalyst, revealing that there is no need for anything special for a person to be able to accomplish a goal.
In Native American literature, journey also plays a major role in many of their tales. Just as children's literature grants power to children who must go a quest, Native literature presents characters that may otherwise be seen as weak and incapable of combating the obstacles placed before them. In Two Old Women by Velma Wallis, the two main characters, Sa' and Ch'idzigyaak, are abandoned in the snow by their tribe. They are considered too old to make the journey, so the Chief thinks that it would be better for them to die. Like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, these women seem physically weak on the surface and must fend for themselves in an inhospitable world. However, the creatures they face are not as threatening as the creatures in Oz or in Greek Mythology. Instead, they have to use their resourcefulness to find food and shelter. The funniest scene in the story is when one of the elderly women tries chasing a moose for food. On the other hand, their chief, who abandoned them, is struggling for survival and unable to care for the needs of the tribal members. Nevertheless, journey in this story serves as a cautionary tale to individuals who discount the importance of one individual.
Thus, not all stories of journey have strong men as their lead characters. The most intriguing tales that utilize journey are those that demonstrate that heroes come in many forms. Nonetheless, all journey stories share similar elements no matter the genre in which they fall.