Well-Read Wednesday – Joseph Campbell

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Jully 1, 2020 – Day 107of my quarantine

I own so many books and lectures on CD by this man it would take me all day to collect them from all my bookcases and assemble them for a photo for this blog.

From Wikipedia –

Joseph John Campbell (March 26, 1904 – October 30, 1987) was an American professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College who worked in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work covers many aspects of the human experience. Campbell’s best-known work is his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), in which he discusses his theory of the journey of the archetypal hero shared by world mythologies, termed the monomyth.

Since the publication of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell’s theories have been applied by a wide variety of modern writers and artists. His philosophy has been summarized by his own often repeated phrase: “Follow your bliss.”[6] He gained recognition in Hollywood when George Lucas credited Campbell’s work as influencing his Star Wars saga.[7]

Campbell’s approach to folklore topics such as myth and his influence on popular culture has been the subject of criticism, including from folklorists, academics in folklore studies.


My All-Time Favorite Joseph Campbell story is this one –

A starving and pregnant tigress comes upon a flock of goats and pounces on them with such fervor that she brings about the birth of her little one, as well as her own death. The goats scatter but soon come back to find the newborn tiger by the side of its dead mother.

Tho goats adopt the baby tiger and it grows up believing it is a goat. He learns to bleat and eat grass, but the trouble is that grass doesn’t nourish tigers well, and he grows into a weak and miserable member of his own species.

One day, a large male tiger pounces on the flock and the goats scatter. The young tiger, not being a goat, remains standing there. The big male is surprised to find a young tiger living with goats, and when he enquired into it, the young one simply bleats, “Ma-a-a-a.” Mortified, the old tiger swats him back and forth a couple of times, but the only response coming forth was more bleating and grass nibbling.

The old tiger brings the young one to a pond and makes him look at his own reflection for the first time. He leans over and points out to him, “See, you look like me. You’re not a goat. You are a tiger, like me. Be like me!” He then brings the young tiger to his den and shows him bloody chunks of gazelle meat from a recent hunt. Taking a big chunk, he says “Open up and eat this!” “Oh no, I’m a vegetarian,” says the little one. But the old tiger would not take no for an answer, and shoves a piece of red meat down the little one’s throat, causing him to gag a little. Now the real tiger food is in his gut, getting into his blood. Spontaneously, the young one gives a tiger-like stretch, and then a small little tiger roar.

“Now you’ve got it! Now go into the forest and eat tiger food!” says the big one.

Is there something larger than our ego that wants to come through, to demand authenticity and genuineness in the way we live? Are we to cruise onwards toward that inevitable ending, that certain exit on terms that were assumed and purchased for the first half? The second half of life is not a chronological issue, but a psychological one, in which we question what values and paradigms we are living by.
This is a question for each of us, whatever stage of life we’re in – are we tigers living as goats? If the answer is in the affirmative, then a second question – what is good tiger food? In other words, if we are not living as we ought to be, activating our fullest potentials, then what must we do, what would nourish us towards that?


My first introduction to Campbell was over 32 years ago and has lead to my own continued fascination with and voracious studies of World Folklore, Children’s Literature, Mythology, and Jungian Psychology.

I hope this post finds you all doing what you love and following your bliss.

Sending you all my Love and Light. Stay Safe. Stay Smart. Stay Sane. Stay Strong out there.

Until next time … Here’s Peace Orchestra with, “Who Am I?”