Hero’s Journey/Villain’s Journey: II

Hero’s Journey/Villain’s Journey:


Part II

Read Part I for a discussion of the concept of the Monomyth and the Hero’s Journey.

A DU grad student of mine about ten years ago (back when they let me create classes with interesting and useful topics) came up with a system for a Villain’s Journey. His idea came about from the many readings in class, and he mused that villains also must go through a Journey, but the steps have got to be different than the path a hero takes. Here’s the Villain’s Journey this student concocted, in its 8 stages parallel to the Hero’s Journey:

8-Step Villain’s Journey (by Jon Thumim):

1. moral conflict

Nobody ever sets out to become a villain. Even villains like Iago, who seem to enjoy their role of Bad Guy, still make choices, moral choices, based on an Objective (for more on objective, tactics, and obstacles, revisit my 3 Rules for Protagonists). The villain is faced with a moral conflict, and must act on it to embark on their journey.

2. Precipice

Much like the hero’s Threshold, the Precipice is the boundary between the mundane everyday regular life, and the Realm within which the villain will become a villain. Once they fall over that precipice, there’s no turning back.

3. Sith Trials

These are the tests and challenges the villain must move through in order to achieve their objective. These trials are often more torturous and self-destructive than the Jedi trials, and the villain, unlike the hero, usually has no help in their endeavors.

4. The Void

This is where the villain faces total annihilation. Sometimes the Conflict with the Hero stage happens before this one, causing the obliteration; but sometimes it can be as simple as our villain getting a glimpse into the nothingness, which is (like the hero’s abyss) the biggest challenge for the villain, the most difficult trial and one it’s not certain they’ll survive. In fact, as we’ll see in stage 7, they probably won’t.

5. Conflict w/hero

The villain’s comeuppance and time to shine as the villain they are comes in this stage, where they must face off against their own Boss Monster, the hero. Very rarely does the villain win this contest.

6. Forswear mentor


Whatever you think of Episode I, this image from its poster has always struck me. It’s…illustrative. It’s actually much more compelling than the actual story the movie gave us.

The life of the villain is a solitary one, and where the hero will Atone with the Father, the villain will do no such thing, rejecting and forswearing any teachings, gifts, or help their magical guide or mentor may have supplied till now (or they’ll take the money and run, thank you very much). They’ve grown villainously beyond the fairy godperson and will face their world alone.

7. Dismemberment

Where the hero underwent a Transformation, becoming more themselves than ever before as they became the hero, the villain’s transformation is much more destructive. The villain isn’t transformed into themselves, but is instead annihilated, ripped apart, until there are only pieces left. In contemporary stories, this tends to be a metaphorical dismemberment, but in ancient folk and fairy tales, it’s literal.

8. Resurrection

The villain is obliterated, annihilated, by their journey, and when resurrected, they’re never the same. Often in old stories and in fantasy tales, the villain is now no longer a healthy human being, but an unnatural abomination, often actually undead. Voldemort and his horcruxes are a vivid example of this.

What do you think of this dark, Mirror-Mirror version of the Monomyth? Leave your thoughts in the comments.



Beast as Cyborg Notes

I have been meaning to write this article for you all, lovely lurkers, for a long time, and I haven’t gotten the wherewithal to get beyond a detailed outline. So it hit me today: why fight it? I hereby post the detailed outline of my article about villains and beasts in recent story as cyborg–in other words, why is it that the cyborg is scary today, whereas the scary monster back in the day was a beast?

This idea was inspired by musings about Marina Warner’s excellent academic work, From the Beast to the Blonde, further filled in by looking at old class lectures and materials from my DU course: Villains, Monsters and Foes, and today finally posted as I just watched Blade Runner again (a cut I hadn’t seen), and so the idea of the android “skin job” is still rather on the brain. 

I am hereby inviting you all, lovely lurkers, to add meat to this skeleton in the comments of this post. Any of these mere mentions/notes/premises that spur a thought or a tangent, please do share. Maybe together we can finally get the article written. Oh, and all page #s you see haphazardly cited here are from Warner’s book.


Outline by Jenn Zuko

  • Borg (hive mind)
  • Replicant (can’t tell who’s who)
  • I, Robot (existentialism / danger of AI) Also Terminator for both
    • [does Frankenstein’s monster fit here?]

All of the above are potentially uncontrollable.

  • Why so scary?
    • Humanoid but Not Human (uncanny valley)
    • Unstoppable (Tripods)
    • Replaces reality (how to battle?)
  • From the Beast to the Blonde –Marina Warner
    • Latin “monstrare” = to show (p.299)
      • [notes from DU Villains course: *to unveil the monster is to vanquish it*] How to unveil when it’s impossible to tell? (Voigt-Kampf test infallible?)

Replicants aren’t shown: they hide in plain sight (like Dr. Who’s plastic Autons). More difficult to unveil than a beast, as it’s hard to tell who’s the monster, who the human

    • Being Devoured = sexuality
      • “Bestiality, cannibalism, & eroticism are bound up together” (p.302)
    • Ferociousness of being a beast not so scary in this day of us overpowering and overtaking anything truly wild.
      • “Tapping the power of the animal no longer seems charged with danger, let alone evil, but rather a necessary part of healing. Art of different media widely accepts the fall of man, from master and namer of animals to a mere hopeful candidate for inclusion as one of their number.” (p.307)

      • Nostalgia for the wild: nostalgia = regret (also Noble Savage)


        …like tears in the rain…

  • The cyborg is leaving the wild at best, eradicating it at worst. Many cyborg monsters live in a world where there is no wild left. That’s terrifying.
    • The Devil:
      • Medieval image: devil has horns, goat legs, fur, tail, etc. Angels are “bloodless, fleshless” in “gleaming armor”
      • Now it’s the other way around
  • Eroticism old school:
    • Used to be: beast as male virility (beauty & the beast; satyrs; centaurs, etc.)
  • Eroticism new school (w the cyborg):
    • Why is the Borg Queen sexy? (or is she? She’s also slimy)
    • Replicants: beautiful female replicant or clone (Leeloo?)(Pris: made for sex but also deadly)
    • “Mudd’s Women” (is Data sexy? [Old Yellow Eyes])
      • Does this have to do with the female as attractive only bc of her body?
  • Scene in American Gods: man gets devoured by goddess (swallowed up literally by her sex); is the allure of the female android connected to the terror of being devoured? [Warner: in old stories, being devoured = sex]

(is eroticism a tangent, or immediately related to what it is to be human?) (another related-to-eroticism tangent in here about the living dead: why are vampires sexy? inhuman that used to be human but now dead; Walking Dead characters having trouble seeing that the zombies aren’t the person anymore. But this is another paper, methinks. Something related to the inhuman as scary here, though…)

  • CONCLUSION: Loss of humanity = terror
    • Animals = subhuman
    • Robots = non-human (or inhuman)


Who is the Bad Guy?

This, lovely lurkers, is the first lecturette from now-defunct graduate-level writing and lit course from DU called “Villains, Monsters, and Foes.” In it, I describe the overarching study of the villain character and introduce the three-pronged approach I made for the course: the Monster, Fair-Faiced Villain, and Villain Within. I’d like to hear your comments here in response to the discussion board prompt. I also want to go more into Marina Weber’s concept of the Beast-as-Cyborg, in a post of its own soon.


Who Are You?                                   

Archetypes are forms, symbols, or images that have universal meaning and inspire an original model, or prototype.[1]

He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city. He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the center of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them. He does little himself. He only plans. But his agents are numerous and splendidly organized.[2]


A classic villain with a classic design.

Okay, numerous and well-organized agents, 🙂 this is the idea for the quarter: to explore many samples of the villain archetype, hopefully to inspire your own villain prototype to emerge.

Who is the villain? The antithesis of the hero? Someone with a physical or psychological defect? The hero’s best friend? That sinister bald guy petting his cat? Why does the villain hate the hero so much, and why does he make it a point to get in the hero’s way? What does the villain want?

That’s really the question, isn’t it—as realistic villains normally are after the same goals the heroes are. A non-stereotypical antagonist may not even understand his actions as being necessarily bad, or if so, may feel that his selfish or wicked actions are a means to an end.  When discussing the villain Sauron from The Lord of the Rings, Paul Kocher asserts that evil is self-centered; that the essence of the villain is that domination-lust, the desire to be “king of other wills,” the intense (and often paranoid) protection of ego to subordination of all else, and the “lack of imaginative sympathy” is what the hero has that he lacks, which often leads to his downfall.[3]

Think about the overall theme of hubris, or overweening pride, as we explore the three types of villain this quarter:

  1. The Monster:  ugly, deformed, alien, artificial, the “other” in any way
  2. The Fair-Faced Villain:  the one whose villainy is hidden under an attractive façade
  3. The Villain Within:  split-personalities, either literal or figurative
  4. we’ll also speak briefly about the anti-hero and tragic hero—not quite goodies, not quite baddies?

Who are the already-written characters you love to hate? Why do you think they are effective as characters? Let’s talk about this on our first DB.



[1] Floyd Rumohr, from Movement for Actors, Nicole Potter, ed. NY: Allworth Press, 2002 (emphasis mine)

[2] Sherlock Holmes, from Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Final Problem

[3] Paul H. Kocher, from Master of Middle Earth, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1972.

The More You Holmes

From: ep. 3.3 (but also 3.1 and .2 a little)

Character: Charles Augustus Magnusson

Reference: Charles Augustus Milverton is the nefarious villain in the short story named after him. Holmes despises him almost more than he ever hated Moriarty, and goes to great lengths to bring him down. Thing is, he’s not the one that brings him down in fact–he’s in hiding in Milverton’s room when he witnesses a female victim of Milverton’s shoot him dead. Sound familiar? In ep. 3.3, Sherlock breaks in to Magnusson’s place (interestingly enough, the same way he does in the original story: by becoming engaged to his P.A. [in the story, it’s a scullery maid in Milverton’s household]) and does indeed witness the gun-threatening of Magnusson by a female victim of his. Of course, this doesn’t turn out the same way as the original story….

For fun, here’s Doyle’s Holmes describing Charles Augustus Milverton. I think the Sherlock series’ portrayal of Magnusson nailed the combination of sliminess and smoothness and power that Holmes describes. What do you think? 

“Who is he?” I asked.

“The worst man in London,” Holmes answered, as he sat down and stretched his legs before the fire. “Is anything on the back of the card?”

I turned it over.

“Will call at 6.30—C.A.M.,” I read.

“Hum! He’s about due. Do you feel a creeping, shrinking sensation, Watson, when you stand before the serpents in the Zoo and see the slithery, gliding, venomous creatures, with their deadly eyes and wicked, flattened faces? Well, that’s how Milverton impresses me. I’ve had to do with fifty murderers in my career, but the worst of them never gave me the repulsion which I have for this fellow. And yet I can’t get out of doing business with him—indeed, he is here at my invitation.”

“But who is he?”

“I’ll tell you, Watson. He is the king of all the blackmailers. Heaven help the man, and still more milv2the woman, whose secret and reputation come into the power of Milverton. With a smiling face and a heart of marble he will squeeze and squeeze until he has drained them dry. The fellow is a genius in his way, and would have made his mark in some more savoury trade. His method is as follows: He allows it to be known that he is prepared to pay very high sums for letters which compromise people of wealth or position. He receives these wares not only from treacherous valets or maids, but frequently from genteel ruffians who have gained the confidence and affection of trusting women. He deals with no niggard hand. I happen to know that he paid seven hundred pounds to a footman for a note two lines in length, and that the ruin of a noble family was the result. Everything which is in the market goes to Milverton, and there are hundreds in this great city who turn white at his name. No one knows where his grip may fall, for he is far too rich and far too cunning to work from hand to mouth. He will hold a card back for years in order to play it at the moment when the stake is best worth winning. I have said that he is the worst man in London, and I would ask you how could one compare the ruffian who in hot blood bludgeons his mate with this man, who methodically and at his leisure tortures the soul and wrings the nerves in order to add to his already swollen money-bags?”

I had seldom heard my friend speak with such intensity of feeling.

“But surely,” said I, “the fellow must be within the grasp of the law?”

“Technically, no doubt, but practically not. What would it profit a woman, for example, to get him a few months’ imprisonment if her own ruin must immediately follow? His victims dare not hit back. If ever he blackmailed an innocent person, then, indeed, we should have him; but he is as cunning as the Evil One. No, no; we must find other ways to fight him.”

Notice the signature of “C.A.M.?” Notice the look on Mary Morstan’s face when Sherlock reads the telegram from a “Cam” at the wedding in ep. 3.2? Yeah? Yeah me too.



The Fair-Faced villain

Here is another in the “ancient or defunct class lecturette” series–this is from DU’s Villains, Monsters and Foes. It introduces the concept of the Fair-Faced Villain. The readings/viewings that week were: the play Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Christopher Hampton (as well as the 1988 movie version), Star Wars: the Phantom Menace, and of course we revisited our previous readings: the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, as well as short critical/analytical pieces and folktales, such as Bluebeard.   ~Jenn


The Fair-Faced Villain                          

Meet it is I set it down, that one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.[1]

When confronted with a Darth Maul, we know instinctively that this is something to be shunned, and depending on the circumstances and our character we either flee or fight it. But how do we fight a Darth Sidious; how do we fight the evil that seduces rather than threatens us? In many ways, the wolves in sheep’s clothing are far more dangerous than obvious foes—their work can be done quietly, unnoticed and unchecked. The knight with the shining sword may take down dragons, but is helpless against the rot eating away at the castle’s foundation. A different sort of hero is required for this foe, for it is a completely different battle.[2]

The Fair-Faced Villain is much harder to detect than the Monster. There is no ugly face, no bestial behavior (at least not that you see, until maybe it’s too late). So how does a poor hero vanquish such a foe, let alone even find him?


Glenn Close’s Marquise de Merteuil surveys her mask in 1988’s Dangerous Liaisons.

The Vicomte de Valmont feels invincible, and so does his partner in crime, the Marquise de Merteuil. The evils they do are about domination—sexual, financial, social power. Merteuil puts it best when she asks poor Cecile about her rape. Well, it wasn’t really a rape, was it? she says, I mean did he force you? Did he threaten you and tie you up? No, responds Cecile. It’s just that “he has a way of putting things, you just can’t think of an answer.” Merteuil has the same talent for domination, she describes it to Valmont thus: “When I want a man, I have him; when he wants to tell, he finds he can’t. That’s the whole story.”  Until the Vicomte falls prey to the one flaw he never imagined would happen to him: he actually falls in love, truly, which (as any of us know who have been in love) makes masks impossible. Once the Fair-Faced Villain’s façade is removed, the villain is no longer powerful. Hence, Valmont dies in a lover’s duel. In the 1988 film Dangerous Liaisons, Merteuil is de-masked by a large audience: a big group of heroes who spot the crack in her façade, point it out loudly and publicly. Now, as you’ll recall, in the play our evil Marquise (SPOILERS) is still going along the way she always has, the villainess not even overtly affected by Valmont’s death. Only the image of the guillotine shadowing her closing lines give us any inkling her days as a Fair-Faced villain are numbered. This is why I have selected the 1988 version of this play: the ending is not of the play, but such a clear metaphor of her demise. The Academy Awards clip of Glenn Close’s Merteuil silently wiping off her makeup shows physically the metaphor of the dissipated power of the de-masking–you can see her cool smile dissolving even as the lipstick smears.

The Monster is like a mugger: you hand over your money, flee or fight him, then call the police with a description. The Fair-Faced Villain is like a con artist: once you realize you’ve given her your money, there’s nothing to say to the police. Herein lies the special danger of the Fair-Faced Villain: like Iago in Othello or Palpatine in Star Wars, the hero often doesn’t realize the villain is a villain until it’s too late.

But every Fair-Faced Villain has a crack in the façade—a fatal flaw in the mask. If a hero can find it and expose the wolf under the sheepskin, the villain can be vanquished.



[1] Shakespeare, Hamlet

[2] Shanti Fader. “In Sheep’s Clothing: the face of evil in the Phantom Menace.” Parabola Winter 1999,p. 88-91.


The Monster

This, from the series of old lecturettes from defunct courses taught at DU. This is from the class called Villains, Monsters, and Foes, which was a writing workshop as well as a literature course. We covered three kinds of villains in the class: the Monster, Fair-Faced, and Villain Within. For this week (Monster Week–rawr!), we read Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, and an article about Star Wars; Phantom Menace. I may have required the movie’s viewing too, but I don’t recall–it was right around the film’s release, I believe…   ~Jenn



Be afraid…be very afraid…[1]

The wolf is carnivore incarnate; and he’s as cunning as he is ferocious; once he’s had a taste of flesh, then nothing else will do.[2]

The word ‘monster,’ from the Latin monstrare, to show, even suggests that monstrousness is above all visible. But monstrousness is…subject to historical changes in attitudes.[3]

…and I am…cute, too![4]


The monster is terrifying because it is other. The ugly, bestial, unnatural, not of “our” tribe, what-have-you is potentially harmful and therefore decried.


Back in the day, when you lived in a hut on the edge of a wild forest, when winter came, you’d better believe the Wolf was your enemy. Livestock, children, and even adults could fall prey to hungry predators coming too close to the village in search of food. Here enters the Big Bad Wolf, savage Bear, Man-Eating Tiger, and the rest. Beasts also act according to instinct, unlike humans who have rationality to repress certain urges and behavior, so animals came to represent the “bestial” side of human nature as well. In this era of urban living and conservation, animals as such aren’t considered monstrous. In fact, we are so separated from our past struggle with animals that now beasts are cute-ified out of nostalgia. As Marina Warner says, “Tapping the power of the animal no longer seems charged with danger, let alone evil, but rather a necessary part of healing. Art of different media widely accepts the fall of man, from namer and master of animals to a mere hopeful inclusion as one of their number.”[5]  This being so, what is the Beast in recent myth and fairytale?

Beast as Cyborg[6]

The artificial intelligence, living mannequin, the constructed, man-made creature is unnatural, outside of what should be. This is a different tack on the monstrous—the robot monster “represents the apocalyptic culmination of human ingenuity and its diabolical perversion.”[7] Frankenstein’s Monster, the Borg of Star Trek, HAL from 2001-A Space Odyssey, those scary living mannequins in that one Twilight Zone episode, the rogue robots in I, Robot—all these characters are examples of the Beast as Cyborg, the man-made monster.

Our Sample Literature


Mr. Dark continues to scare the hell out of me, to this day.

Hyde is a monster because he is the distilled, separated “beast” half of Jekyll. He has none of Jekyll’s civilized restraint or rational choice of behavior, therefore he unsettles everyone he meets even before they know he’s a murderer. He represents (he is) everything Jekyll despises about himself, everything humans do that is ‘bad’ according to Victorian English society.

Mr. Dark (a yellow-eyed, pockmarked vampire himself) heads a whole sideshow circus out of monsters he has created out of human fears. The Witch, Dwarf, Mr. Electrico and the rest all used to be “normal” humans integrated with their inner darks, but Mr. Dark takes each person’s neurosis and transforms the person into a physical metaphor of that neurosis. In a way, Mr. Dark has refined what Dr. Jekyll clumsily tried. And what exactly are the “autumn people?”

Darth Maul, with his red-and-black facial tattoos, horns, black cloak, and menacing yellow teeth, was obviously designed with old illustrations of the Devil in mind: Maul the monster in this case is the less powerful villain: “the monster who terrifies, who gets what he wants through brute strength and violence.”[8]



[1] This is from The Fly, right? Is it also older than this, or is that it? Yes, she’s showing her ignorance…J

[2] Angela Carter, from “The Company of Wolves” in The Bloody Chamber.

[3] Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde, New York, Noonday Press, 1996.

[4] Grover Monster as Super Grover, Sesame Street, the place where live the biggest population of friendly and cute monsters in the world.

[5] From the Beast to the Blonde again

[6] Warner’s phrase—love it! You will be assimilated…

[7] Ibid. So it’s a good book. Go read it.

[8] Shanti Fader. “In Sheep’s Clothing: the face of evil in the Phantom Menace.” Parabola Winter 1999,p. 88-91.