Come Sail Away!
Peter Pan and Wendy
In the first stage of the monomyth as defined by Professor Joseph Campbell, probably the most recognized name in the field of comparative mythology, we find the hero figure in their regular state, or what they have always considered ‘normality’. The hero figure in this stage receives some sort of motivation or information that calls their attention away from their regular way of living and suggests something more outside the bounds of usual experience. If an audience can relate to the hero’s initial situation, they can more easily vicariously associate themselves with the hero and their journey.
The call often comes in the form of a Herald. A Herald can be a person, message, or culminating incident that sets the hero figure on their path of adventure. The Herald can be non-human (something on the internet, something read in an ancient text.)
The appearance of the call introduces the first tension into the story. The reader wonders, will the hero accept the call? What would they do in the same situation?
Campbell: "The hero can go forth of his own volition to accomplish the adventure…or he may be carried or sent abroad by some benign or malignant agent… The adventure may begin as a mere blunder… or still again, one may be only casually strolling when some passing phenomenon catches the wandering eye and lures one away from the frequented paths of man. Examples might be multiplied, ad infinitum, from every corner of the world."
Bilbo with a house full of dwarves
The call may well be refused until internal pressures are powerful enough. The refusal of the call may be for reasons of fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, or a sense of obligation to their ‘normal’ lives. The audience knows what the hero should do; the refusal of the call strengthens the moral imperative.
The hero figure may need some encouragement to heed the call to adventure, such as increasingly worsening conditions or attacks by a villain. A mentor may also serve to move this along, urging the hero to respond.
It becomes apparent, though, that the old ways of life have become insufficient. For the hero to ignore his call to adventure would mean stagnation and death.
The call to adventure is really a call to new knowledge. In fact, a way to view the monomyth is as the whole of the hero’s journey seen as an evolution of the individual. Whether the knowledge sought is philosophical, martial, arcane, forgotten, etc. The monomyth is as a quest of discovery for the hero’s actualization. Called from the safety of the known, they will go to a place where they will be redefined and gifted the treasure of self.