The Marriage of the Hero and the Fool
(originally published 8/17/16 on epicfantasywriter.com)
In writing circles, especially fantasy writing circles, it is almost inevitable that the Hero’s Journey will be referenced from time to time. The same can be said of the Fool’s Journey in Tarot circles. By some stroke of chance, I discovered both of these sequential story structures around the same time. I realized almost immediately that, despite coming from completely different areas of study, the Hero and the Fool had a lot in common.
The Hero’s Journey, the story structure that appears time and time again in books and other stories throughout the ages, begins in the “known world” or “ordinary world,” which is then left thanks to a call to adventure. The Fool’s Journey, which is the path of life or path to wisdom as told by Tarot, begins in the “outer world,” which is departed thanks to the decision to leave home, as depicted by the Chariot card. As the journeys continue, both the hero and the fool experience a death/rebirth cycle, and just before the very end, both experience a final crossroad.
Upon discovering these thematic overlaps, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to take a closer look and perhaps unite them into one hybrid journey. Thus, the seed of their marriage was born.
First, let’s take a look at the groom. Here is the Fool’s Journey, adapted for storytelling by yours truly.
We meet the fool as he’s demonstrating his will/agency. This might be shown by a mastered skill, a rebellious decision, a recent accomplishment, learning to influence his environment. etc.
The High Priestess
A foreshadowing of thing to come. We get a hint that a much deeper world or greater opportunity is out there.
The fool’s love for his family, friends, and/or home is established.
The laws of the world are established, including expectations that are put upon the fool.
The fool’s beliefs are established. Alternatively, a mentor may give the fool guidance or warning.
A temptation that inspires departure from the status quo. The fool debates this decision and may face opposition from family, friends, or the law itself.
The fool goes all in on his decision, leaving home or loved ones behind.
The decision is tested and the fool endures. He demonstrates courage, cunning, resourcefulness, endurance, friendship, and/or kindness.
The fool regroups after his initial trial(s) and seeks out guidance as his resolve wanes. The guidance comes from either a mentor or through serious meditation.
Wheel of fortune
A world change takes place corresponding with the maturation of the fool.
Having achieved moral clarity, the fool faces his own faults and resolves to right them.
The Fool faces a new point of view that challenges his own perspective. Instead of fighting it, he listens and learns.
The Fool’s original quest is completed, perhaps at great loss, and a new goal is taken up.
The fool heals and learns to take a balanced approach in the pursuit of the new goal, incorporating the lessons he’s learned thus far.
The fool is tempted or manipulated off his path. He may be scared or even captured by an enemy for a time.
An unexpected catastrophe takes place. A known establishment crumbles, either via physical destruction or the reveal of a huge secret that changes everything.
The fool focuses on his goal, receiving encouragement and support from another when needed most.
The fool continues alone and his resolve momentarily wavers as he faces fear and confusion.
A greater power (or powerful friend) comes to the fool’s aid.
The final trial the the fool must pass. This is a there’s-no-turning-back/now-or-never moment.
The fool is triumphant. Celebration ensues.
Now, let’s take a look at the bride. Here is the Hero’s Journey, as told in my own words.
The Ordinary World.
The hero’s normal life and personal history is established. The hero is unaware of the larger problems of the outside world.
The Call to Adventure.
The hero is faced with a challenge or problem to overcome.
Refusal of the Call.
The hero refuses or hesitates out of fear. Alternatively, another character might voice their doubts.
Meeting with the Mentor.
The hero encounters a mentor (or beneficial object) that readies her for the task.
Crossing the Threshold.
The hero commits to her task and leaves the known world to start the journey.
Tests, Allies, and Enemies.
The hero learns about the new world she has entered. She encounters tests, foes, and new friends.
The hero and her new friends prepare for the major challenge ahead. A setback may occur, causing the hero to try a new approach or adopt new ideas.
The Ordeal (Death and Rebirth).
The hero encounters a major obstacle, usually a life or death scenario or the hero’s greatest fear.
A temporary celebration. Having survived the Ordeal, the hero accomplishes their goal or receives a reward.
The Road Back.
The hero sets out to return home. There is a sense of urgency to the trip - ex.) the clock is ticking or an enemy is in pursuit.
The hero faces a final test where everything is at stake. A sacrifice may be needed in order to pass this test.
Return with the Elixir.
The hero returns home with her knowledge (“elixir”), which can be used to help others or be applied to future adventures.
And finally, let’s take a look at their marriage: The Journey of the Heroic Fool
Establishment of the Known World
Introduction of the Unknown World
Warning or Inner Conflict
Commitment and Departure
Moment of Clarity
Death and Rebirth
Catastrophe or Outside Pressure
Resolve is Doubled