Taking a page from Vladimir Propp
's book (who in turn took a page from
' book) Lord Raglan
took a structuralistic
the hero legend
s of the cultures of the world in his book The
Hero: A Study in Tradition, Myth and Dreams
. In the book Raglan
explains a structural pattern
that he believes is common to all hero
legends. There are twenty-two points in the structure and they move
in a chronological
order, from conception, to birth, to life, and then
to death. Not all points apply to every hero, that is no hero
actually follows all twenty-two points, but most hit ten or more,
generally over fifteen. The points are as follows:
- Hero's mother is a royal virgin
- His father is a king, and
- Often a near relative of his mother
- The circumstances of his conception are unusual
- He is also reputed to be the son of a god
- At birth an attempt is made, usually by his father or his
maternal grand father to kill him, but
- He is spirited away, and
- Reared by foster parents in a far country
- We are told nothing of his childhood, but
- On reaching manhood he returns or goes to his future Kingdom
- After a victory over the king and/or a giant, dragon, or wild beast
- He marries a princess, often the daughter of his predecessor and
- And becomes king
- For a time he reigns uneventfully and
- Prescribes laws, but
- Later he loses favor with the gods and/or his subjects, and
- Is driven from the throne and city, after which
- He meets with a mysterious death
- Often at the top of a hill
- His children, if any do not succeed him
- His body is not buried, but nevertheless
- He has one or more holy sepulchres.
Raglan and others have applied this pattern to a great many legends.
A few are included as examples:
Heracles - Greek
His mother, Alcmene, is (1) a royal virgin,
- and his father is (2) King Amphitryon,
- who is (3) her first cousin.
- He is reputed to be (5) the son of Zeus,
- who (4) visited Alcmene in the guise of Amphitryon.
- At his birth (6) Hera tries to kill him.
- On reaching adulthood he (11) performs feats and fine victories,
- after which he (10) proceeds to Calydon,
- where he (12) marries the king's daughter,
- and (13) becomes ruler.
- He remains there (14) quietly for some years,
- after which an accidental manslaughter compels him (17) to flee from the country.
- He disappears (18) from a funeral pyre
- (19) on the top of Mt. Oeta.
- His sons (20) do not succeed him.
- His body (21) is not found,
- and (22) he is worshipped in temples.
Romulus - Roman
His mother, Rhea Silvia, is (1) a royal virgin.
- His human father is (2) King Amulius,
- his mother's (3) uncle.
- He is said to be (5) the son of the god Mars who
- (4) appears to his mother.
- The king, Amulius, tries (6) to kill Romulus and his twin Remus,
- but they (7) are saved and reared by
- (8) foster parents.
- We hear (9) nothing of their childhood,
- but on reaching manhood they (10) return to Alba Longa.
- Romulus (11) overcomes his wicked uncle, and later his brother,
- and (13) becomes king of his new city Rome.
- He rules (14) for many years,
- making (15) laws;
- but loses favor (16) with his people.
- The circumstances (18) of his death are unknown.
- His body is (21) not found but he has
- (22) a hero shrine.
- His children (20) do not succeed him.
Jesus - Christian
His mother, Mary, is (1) a royal virgin (descendant of King David),
- and his father is (2) Joseph,
- who is (3) her close relative.
- He is reported to be (5) the son of God,
- who (4) sends his Holy Spirit to Mary.
- At his birth King Herod (6) tries to kill him,
- but he and his parents (7) flee to Egypt.
- We are told (9) almost nothing of his childhood,
- but on reaching manhood he begins to enter (10) his future kingdom.
- He teaches successfully (14) for some time,
- prescribing (15) ways of behavior and belief.
- His enemies (16) persecute him,
- and he is executed (18)
- on top of a hill (19).
- He defeats the forces of evil (11)
- and eventually returns (10) to his heavenly kingdom.
- He has (20) no children to succeed him.
- His body is (21) not buried,
- but he has a sepulchre (22) in Jerusalem.
Beowulf - Anglo-Saxon
His parents are unknown but probably royal (2).
- As a baby he was set adrift in a boat (6 & 7),
- laden with armor and weapons.
- He is adopted by (8) the king and queen of the country to which he drifted.
- We know (9) nothing of his childhood,
- but as a man he is banished from the kingdom (17?).
- While he is in exile, the monster Grendel ravages the kingdom, and when he hears of this,
- he (10) returns.
- He (11) slays the monster and his mother,
- and (12) marries the princess Freeware.
- He and his wife (13) rule
- for many years (14),
- and he (15) makes laws about religious and political life.
- He dies (18) in a fight with a dragon.
- His body (21) is placed on a ship and sent to sea,
- and the people (22) build a monument to his memory.
Watu Ganung - Javanese
His mother, Sinta, appears (1) to be a princess,
- and his father is (2) a holy man.
- Since his mother sees his father only in a dream, the circumstances of his conception are (4) unusual.
- When quite young, he incurs his mother's wrath,
- and she (6) gives him a wound on the head.
- He (7) flees into the wood and does not return.
- We are told (9) nothing of his childhood,
- except that he is brought up by a holy man in (8) a far country.
- On reaching manhood he (10) journeys to a kingdom
- where (11) he kills the King,
- and (13) becomes king in his stead.
- After this he (12) marries his own mother and sister, who do not recognize him.
- For a long time he (14) reigns uneventfully, and has a large family, but eventually his mother recognizes the scar she gave him when a child, and is overcome with grief.
- The gods having (16) refused his request for another wife,
- he (17) invades heaven, but the gods, having learned by a strategm the answer to his riddle and the secret of his invulnerability,
- put him to death (19) here by
- (18) separating his arms.
- His sons do not (20) succeed him,
- and (21) there is no mention of his burial.
As one can see, the hero pattern is not just found in a single culture, but across the world. Both Otto Rank and Alan Dundes feel that there is a Freudian reason for this, somtheing endemic to the human race.