Sage: Heroine’s Journey

Illustration depicting a woman’s heroine journey. Source:
Sage’s story, like many in modern fiction, was modeled after Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey but adapted for a woman to the Heroine’s journey. To develop her story I used several books to guide me as well as feedback from female reviewers. These include Campbell’s book (1949), The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness by Maureen Murdock (1990), and The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. By Christopher Vogler (2007). I used these books to develop the structure of the plot and elements of Sage’s experiences, such as her dreams and visions. Some of the dreams used in the book were my own, experienced while on a NatureFast in isolated places.

Mythology of the Hero’s Journey

Joseph Campbell taught us that mythology is a projection of the unconscious, manifested in stories we repeat in our lives as legend, folklore, and ideology. These myths take their specific shapes from the individual’s cultural environment but certain images are found to recur in people widely separated in time and space, images that have a common meaning or elicit comparable psychological responses. As such, they serve similar cultural functions.

For example, Sage’s Hawaiian culture and her tutu’s religious beliefs serve as a guide for her throughout the story as do her ancestral spirits, or ʻaumākua. Because they had no written language, Hawaiian mythology and beliefs have been passed down through generations in chants, music (mele), and dancing (hula) in Polynesia and Hawaii.

The Hero’s Journey is an oft-repeated familiar story. It is where we venture forth to kill our Dragon — a metaphorical battle between heaven (a bird) and hell (a serpent), the light and dark sides within us all — and return victorious to enlighten humankind with our new-found knowledge. In modern culture this is Luke in Star Wars, facing his greatest fear in the cave on Dagobah, which is not Darth Vader, but his fear of turning into Vader, turning to the dark side. This is also Frodo in Lord of the Rings, his greatest fear of succumbing to the ring of power, yet he carries it towards its destruction. Each man on an impossible journey but ultimately only fighting their inner desires to gain power by denying power for themselves. The Hero’s Journey is one we all take in our lives and it is a search for our soul which is at the heart of Sage’s path in SOT.

The Heroine’s Journey

But Maureen Murdock recognized that the hero’s quest does not adequately address the journey of a woman, the Heroine’s Journey. For women, the journey involves the healing of the wounding of the feminine that exists deep within all women, manifested both mentally and physically. Early on, Sage rejected her mother and bonded with her father, the first step in her journey. Thus, his death had a strong influence on her life and resulted in her extreme focus on competitive surfing and the masculine characteristics of strength, aggression, and assertiveness. The shift helped create her world-renowned career but distanced her from her close-knit (feminine) ‘ohana (family) and her Hawaiian culture and the values of aloha, pono, and mālama ʻaina, which are decidedly feminine in nature.

As you read what Murdock (1990) wrote, think about how this scenario plays out in Sage’s life:

The heroine must become a spiritual warrior. This demands that she learn the delicate art of balance and have the patience for the slow, subtle integration of the feminine and masculine aspects of her nature. She first hungers to lose her feminine self and merge with the masculine, and once she has done this, she begins to realize this is neither the answer nor the objective. She must not discard nor give up what she has learned throughout her heroic quest, but view her hard-earned skills and successes not so much as the goal but as one part of the entire journey. This focus on integration and the resulting awareness of interdependence is necessary for each of us at this time as we work together to preserve the health and balance of life on earth.

Maureen Murdock

As you move through the plot of SOT, identify the following parts of the Heroine’s journey as Sage’s struggles to find balance in her life: The elements occur at multiple places in the story, sometimes in her journey or in her dreams. For example, who does Dina represent in the story? What is the significance of searching for a way out of barren caves and finding red on her hands as she remembered her father?

Elements of the Heroine’s JourneyPlot elements to consider
Shift From Feminine to MasculineDeath of her father; role of competitive surfing; relationship with Dina and Halina; differences between Kalena and Nani
The Road of TrialsTraveling to Thalassa; riding big waves on Colossus; travels on Thalassa’s islands and barriers to her journey
The Illusion of SuccessVictories surfing; riding Milo’s surfboard; reunion
The DescentCrossing between islands; Syzygy; searching Nesoi caves; facing the precipice
Meeting with the GoddessThe woman in her dreams: Hōkūlani e hoʻāla i ka moana; connections with lichens; experiences in cavern of light; connecting with the Ceti
Reconciliation With the FemininePono; mālama ʻaina;; ‘ohana; appreciation for Earth; reconnecting with Nani
Reincorporation of the MasculineFacing Milo; becoming a Kumu; meeting the Koholā
The Unionbecoming the message; her lecture; her dance with Maka; hearing songs

Female Archetypes

As the story progresses it is also useful to identify the female archetypes Sage identifies with and the characters she encounters that influence her life. The archetypes are a useful way to understand a woman’s journey to wholeness and are typically identified as the maiden, mother, crone, queen. Each stage is a symbol of a distinct time in a woman’s life and has particular tasks that are accomplished which lays the foundation for the next stage, with both positive and negative aspects of each archetype. For example, Sage at age 13 before her father’s death is a strong embodiment of the maiden: she is pure of heart, full of love and curiosity. Anything is possible and she is in love with the mystery of life ( But largely due to her father’s death and her obsession with big wave surfing she shows the dark side of a queen: the holoscreeen and her fans give her power which she directs back to herself and becomes consumed with acquiring more fans. As a result, she withdraws from her family connections and feels drained and becomes resentful and full of anger.

Sage’s journey is to seek balance among the archetypes and become a whole woman such that the Queen’s power is tempered by the Maiden’s compassion, and so on. Balance both within and among archetypes leads to a mature woman who channels her power to help others, to protect the defenseless, to love the loveless, and uses her leadership and intellect to set an example for others ( I’ll leave it to you to identify that moment in the story.

Further Reading:

  • The Heroine’s Journey, Maureen Murdock
  • Archetypes in women: maiden, mother, crone, queen.
  • Why (some) men are Idiots: archetypes in men
  • Campbell, Joseph. 2004. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton University Press, 403 pp.
  • Murdock, M. 1990. The heroine’s journey: Woman’s quest for wholeness. Boston: Shambhala Pub.
  • Vogler, C. 2007. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Michael Wiese Productions; 3rd edition.

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