Story 2 – The Magic Blanket
The Hero’s Journey of Transformation
The Hero’s Journey is a mythic story told by cultures all around the world in exactly the same way. This story helps us see the human transformation process as the hero changed from one level of being to a higher or better one. Most people are intimately aware of this myth because pretty much all Hollywood movies are written using the Hero’s journey as a screenwriting template.
The transformative journey the hero takes follows the pattern described below. This model is from “The Hero Within” by Carol Pearson. This set of archetypes (a person who represents a certain role} are not several different people, but one person who transforms into five different characters in the course of the story.
The story begins with The Orphan, a person who is literally an orphan with no parents or family or someone who feels like an orphan, alone and troubled. The Orphan asks many questions about their life and condition. Questions like, “Why did my parents die?”, “Why am I alone?”, “Why am I always in trouble?”, or “what will I do with my life?”.
The Orphan needs to find the answers to their questions but they don’t know where they are at. They transform into The Wanderer. They set off to search for the answers and hope they find them without really knowing where to go.
As the Wanderer travels they meet people and befriend them. But their connection is greater than mere friendship. They become The Caretaker, and learn to care more for other people than they care for themselves. This is a very important step in human social development and is crucial for the hero to continue their journey.
Then the hero fights are battle or faces a struggle. They become The Warrior. This is what we generally think all the hero’s story is, using their strength to overcome some dangerous challenge, but as the journey demonstrates, the hero must prepare themselves first by undergoing the previous transformations. So the hero then defeats the enemy or slays the monster or saves the one in peril and by this act is transformed. But there is one more step.
The hero must return to where they started the journey as a new person, The Magician. As this archetype they must do two things; first they realize that they knew the answers to the questions that started their original quest. They knew the answers in their heart, but needed the challenge of the journey to understand this. And secondly, they bring back a gift tot heir people.
One other very important element of this story is a character that helps and teaches and guides the hero. This other person in the story is called The Elder.
Think of all the movies you know and consider how many follow this mythic story exactly.
In the movie Star Wars, Luke Skywalker is an orphan living with his aunt and uncle on a planet far, far away. He wonders about his birth family and who they are. He receives a message to go and help a princess fight a thing called the Empire. He gets on a spaceship and travels across the universe, where he has never been before. As he journeys he makes friends with the princess, Leia. He makes friends with the pilot of the ship, Han Solo and his co-pilot a Wookie named Chewbacca. They become like a family, willing to die for each other.
An elder appears to teach Luke how to become a special type of warrior called a Jedi. The elders name is Obi Wan Kenobi.
He is trained by Obi Wan to be a Jedi and then fights the most feared of all the Empire’s soldiers, Darth Vader. He defeats Darth Vader and realizes inside of him is something called the Force and he will use this power to fight the Empire.
Think of other well known films that follow this pattern. Try The Lion King or The Wizard of Oz. Look at Harry Potter or Napoleon Dynamite. How about The Matrix or The Lord of the Rings?
Now ask yourself, “Why is this story the template for so many movies?” It seems we are watching the same film over and over. What is it about this mythic story that we are drawn to?
Some people say it is popular because it shows good winning over evil. Others say it is exciting and we want to know how the hero overcomes the challenge.
And others say it is powerful because it is our own life that is being told through the story. We know we must transform many times during our life and this story gives us a model to follow and lets us know the transformation will be a struggle that we must prepare for.
Read the following story from the Puget Sound region. Does it follow the Hero’s Journey?
The Magic Blanket
A Puget Salish Story
A long time ago in a village not far away lived a boy named Toot-sa-leetsa. He was the son of the chief of the village and was always held to high standards because of the status of his family.
This boy would go out into the forest with his bow and arrow and he would shot arrows at small animals and birds. He would kill them and skin them putting their furs and feathers into a small box he would hide under and old tree. He did not hunt for food, only for the furs and skins that he would hide.
His father found out about this and called Toot-sa-leetsa to him. The father was very upset. He told his son that this is not the way of his people. Animals were not hunted for fun, only for food. He told his son to stop this behavior or the animals might leave and disappear because they were being treated in such a disrespectful way.
The boy promised he would stop.
In a few days however the boy sneaked out of the village with his bow and arrow. He again was shooting small animals and birds and skinning them of their fur and feathers and storing those skins in the small box he hid in the woods. He tried to sneak back into the village, but his father caught him and scolded him again. The father warned his son that what he was doing was very bad and he had to stop or something bad would happen.
Toot-sa-leetsa again promised he would stop and that he was sorry.
Several days later the boy got his bow and arrows and sneaked out of the village into the forest. His father saw him and was heartbroken. He knew what his son was doing and he was hurt to know the boy was not following his orders and was trying to hide his actions.
The chief told the people what his son was doing was so bad he must be severely punished. The father said that everyone should pack up their belongings and prepare to move the village and leave the boy behind alone. This was his punishment.
So all the people packed up their belongings and loaded their canoes. They all agreed Toot-sa-leetsa would be left behind to understand the consequences of his actions. They would travel far away where he could not find them again.
The boy’s grandmother was sad that this was happening and as she was packing she thought of something she might do to help her beloved grandson. She decided to leave him something to light a fire so he could cook and stay warm. She pretended to put out the fire in their house, but carefully buried some embers under the sand.
Then she went to the canoe to leave.
Everyone left in the canoes except for the boy’s dog. It refused to go and leave his master. Also a crow that lived near the village now came closer to watch what might happen when the boy returned.
When Toot-sa-leetsa finally returned he found the village empty. He was frightened and looked everywhere, but he found no sign of his people. Now he was very sad. He knew why they had deserted him. He knew his actions were wrong and this was his punishment. He did not know what he would do. He had no food or fire.
His dog began to whimper and dig at the fire pit. He was trying to tell Toot-sa-leetsa something. The boy began to dig too and soon found the embers his grandmother had left for him. He used them to build a fire. He felt a little better.
He began to take care of himself. He tried to hunt and fish, but he had little luck and was always hungry. But he missed his family and his people. He wished they would return.
Toot-sa-leetsa would sit on the beach every day looking out at the water and watching for his people’s canoes to appear. He waited for them to return for him. But day after day, no canoes appeared. He was truly alone.
One day while he was sitting on the beach he fell asleep. In his sleep he had a dream. In the dream a voice told him to go into the forest and get his box of furs and feathered skins. The voice told him to weave and sew these things together and make a blanket. When Toot-sa-leetsa woke up he knew he should follow the directions from the dream. So he got the box and wove the skins and furs into a blanket. He did not know what to do next.
Another day he fell asleep on the beach. A dream came to him again. This time the voice told him to build a fire and to wave the blanket over it to make smoke.
When he woke up he built a fire on the beach and put green branches on it to make smoke. Then he waved his blanket over the fire. The fire made a dark smoke that the flapping blanket caused to billow.
Something moved in the smoke. The boy watched closely as a figure stepped out of the smoke. He waved the blanket again and another figure appeared from the smoke. He did it again and again and each time a figure appeared. After a while there were many of these new beings standing on the beach around the fire.
Toot-sa-leetsa tried to talk to them, but they could not talk. They did not speak his language. They had no clothing. So toot-sa-leetsa began to teach them how to speak and showed them how to make clothes from the cedar tree. Then he showed them how to hunt and fish and cook the food. He began to teach them everything he knew.
These new beings learned very quickly. They were smart and listened to whatever the boy taught them.
The crow had been watching Toot-sa-leetsa and saw how he was teaching the new beings. The crow flew and flew across the water and finally found the people. They had built a new village. The crow flew to a tree and the edge of the village and began to call out.
“Toot-sa-leetsa is a leader!” the crow said. “Toot-sa-leetsa is a leader!”
The crow was making too much noise so the men tried to chase him away by throwing rocks at him. He flew to another tree and shouted, “Toot-sa-leetsa is a leader!”
Now the men were angry and got their bows and arrows to kill the noisy crow. But the chief heard what the crow was saying and told the men to stop. He said he understood what the crow was saying. Toot-sa-leetsa is a leader.
The chief told everyone that they should return to their old village to see what the crow meant. So everyone got in their canoes and they journeyed to their old village site. When they got there they got out of their canoes and entered the village.
There they found many beings they had never seen before and Toot-sa-leetsa teaching them things. Toot-sa-leetsa was happy to see his people return. He ran to his father.
He father asked him who the new beings were. Toot-sa-leetsa explained how they game from the smoke of the fire his dream instructed him to make.
His father was very upset. He told Toot-sa-leetsa that these beings were from the spirit world and did not belong here. He told his people to get out their spears and bow and arrows and to drive these beings back into the fire, back to the spirit world. So the people gathered around the new beings with their weapons ready.
Toot-sa-leetsa jumped between the people and the beings. He said that the new beings should not be harmed. They were good and smart and caused no harm. He stood in front of the weapons to protect the new beings.
The people understood he was speaking from his heart and cared very much for these new ones. They lowered their weapons.
The chief decided something special must be done for these new beings. He said a great raft should be built out of logs and the new beings should get on the raft and travel across the water. And so it was. A great raft was built and the new beings began to paddle it across the salt water.
They followed the coastline and the first night they came to the mouth of a river. They beached the raft and made a camp for the night. The next morning they broke camp and got back on the raft, but they left a few of their group behind at that river. And they did this the next night and day, making a camp at the mouth of another river and leaving some behind. And they did the same thing every night that they came to another river.
These new beings became the tribes of Indian people who live on the banks of the many rivers that flow out of the mountains that surround the Puget Sound. This is why every river has it’s people.
And that is all.
Does this story follow the pattern of the Hero’s Journey? Why or why not?
What can we learn by looking at the behavior of Toot-sa-leetsa at the beginning of the story?
How did he transform from being a selfish boy to being a teacher and protector of people?
Could Toot-sa-leetsa become a leader of his own people?