In 1949, writer Joseph Campbell launched the idea of the monomyth, or Hero’s Journey, as the most appealing way to tell a story to mass audiences across cultures.
But critics, especially feminists, immediately asked, what about the Heroine? Local author Kim Hudson has responded in her book The Virgin’s Promise.
“What was missing,” says Hudson, “is that nobody tracked what growth looks like or how we go on that journey.”
Hudson describes the Virgin’s Promise as “a story structure that helps people reach the deeper meanings of a story.”
Since publication in 2010 by Michael Weise Productions, Hudson’s book has made a solid impact in the catalogue of stage and screen writers’ handbooks.
After graduating from F.H. Collins, Hudson went on to complete a masters degree in geology at Queen’s University.
“I spent my last $1,700 to buy a truck and find the motherlode.”
Her search brought her back to home soil where she worked first as a field geologist, then land claims negotiator, until turning to film studies in Vancouver.
Enter the Hero’s Journey. Further study, in analytical psychology in Zurich, Switzerland, introduced her to the Jungian character archetypes of the Hero and the Virgin and their supporting casts of fools, misers, mentors, crones, hags and healers.
The combination became The Virgin’s Promise, mapping the journey of both the Virgin and the Hero to discover who they are as individuals [see chart].
“The Hero is about self-sacrifice and overcoming fear through the development of bravery, ruggedness and skill,” writes Hudson. Her examples include action-adventure, horror films, murder mysteries, revenge plots, treasure hunts and myths.
By comparison the Virgin is about self-fulfillment and realizing potential.
“Coming of age, wish-fulfillment, and underdog sports movies, dreams-come-true themes and fairy tales are centered on the Virgin archetype in action.”
Hudson finds that First Nations and other oral cultures are “highly aligned to the Virgin’s Promise.” The difference, she says, lies in the sense of meaning, which “is more about ‘the meaning I bring to life’, how am I best ‘to be’ in the world.”
For example, Hudson analyzed the play Café Daughter by Kenneth T. Williams, recently produced by Gwaandak Theatre:
Yvette’s dependent world is the one in the café run by her Chinese and Cree parents. The price of conformity is to deny her Cree heritage and disregard her dreams of becoming a doctor, realized when she had opportunity to shine: once when picking medicines with her grandfather, and again when discovered reading a text book far above her grade level.
Yvette’s secret world is at school where she follows her mother’s advice to keep her heritage secret and her teacher/mentor believes she can be a doctor. But when she meets Maggie, a sassy proud “half-breed”, who helps her dress the part for a party where they are caught drinking, the teacher/mentor declares her “worse than Chinese” and Yvette no longer fits her world.
At the same time, Yvette’s dependent and secret worlds collide and she is caught shining when she’s forced to introduce her teacher to her Aunt Doris from the Cree nation. In the chaos, Yvette “wishes my life were a math problem.”
She wanders in the wilderness, betrayed by her mentor, hated by Maggie, and “not one of the good kids anymore” until she chooses her light, manifested by forging her father’s signature on a university application and defying him when he announces he’s moving back to Hong Kong.
She gives up what made her stuck when she accepts a feather from her Aunt and realizes she must recognize her whole self to stop living with fear of discovery.
Her world is reordered when her Aunt moves closer to support Yvette and the university disregards her mentor’s allegations. Proof that the kingdom is brighter is when she says “I’m afraid/I’m not afraid” at her valediction as the first Chinese-Cree graduate and we see Yvette on her way to becoming a doctor.
“On the surface, Yvette wants to be a doctor,” says Hudson. “But in reality she wants to live in a world where all parts of her are celebrated. In the end Yvette is proud of her origins and the community is a better place overall.”