The Hero's Journey ~ The Belly of the Whale

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"Now we must brave the long dark of Moria.  Let us hope that our passage goes unnoticed."

- Gandalf the Grey, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

In the Belly of the Whale by hogret

It is dark.
You are alone, abandoned, lost.
This feels like the loneliest place in the world. 

Panic Room by WantToDream

The Belly of the Whale is the point in the story in which the hero reaches her lowest point, or rather her "point of least self".  All the things she has known about the world and about herself must be transformed or discarded for her to re-emerge ready for the rest of her journey. The imagery of being "inside" something here is important. The hero appears to those outside the Whale as dead or gone, but where she has really gone is inside herself.  Her old self has died.

Void by SachaKalis

"Inside" in movies and stories often is a literal whale (as in Finding Nemo, or Pinocchio) or a tomb, a cave or a pyramid.  In ordinary life, this place is probably the deepest, loneliest reaches of the hero's mind. It is depression. It is despair. It is shame and loneliness and overwhelm-ment.  It is the long dark night of the soul.  Two o’ clock in the morning and you are staring into the abyss. 

"Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster... for when you gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Abyss by IMustBeDead

This stage of the hero's journey can be depicted many ways - Hansel and Gretel being taken in by the evil witch who hopes to eat them, or Indiana Jones entering the secret tomb to steal the legendary idol, or Marlin and Dory inside the whale in Finding Nemo, or Luke and company trapped in the trash compactor on the Death Star.  The psychological aspect is always the same:  the Belly of the Whale is a place where the hero must go to lose those parts of herself that were holding her back in fear or ignorance.   What this inside represents is a place of transformation. Death and birth are one in this stage. It is a return to the cosmic forge, where personality and character are redefined and re-conceived. The hero will emerge with new knowledge of self and powers of understanding that will carry her through the rest of her quest.  The Belly of the Whale is not the place where the hero conquers her ultimate enemy (that comes later), but is the place where she contends with parts of herself.  It is a transformation from who she is to who she needs to be. This is a painful, but necessary process, for if the hero encounters her enemy or attempts her great task (the Supreme Ordeal) before she has dealt with herself, the quest will end in failure.

The Clown by negateven

This is a bleak place.  In movies or in books, we know that this is a transition:  we will not stay here for ever, there is a happy ending ahead, and we know the story will take us there soon enough, while we watch, and bite our nails in pleasurable excitement.  In real life, this is not so certain.  Sometimes we feel we will be trapped here forever.  That this is the end of the story.  That there is no easy way out, no happy ending.  It is all too hard.

De Profundis by GothicNarcissus

And yet, if we know anything, it is that we have the potential to be powerful beyond our own imaginings.  That significant transformation occurs through suffering and times of despair, and that these can be followed by a profound joy as we arrive at a surer place of self knowledge and self acceptance.  The Belly is not a place you visit only once.  You will return many times, and each time you re-emerge you are more... .  I know this about you, and I hold it for you, until you can take it and hold it for yourself.

 from tight rope to life 12 by CanDaN

And brace yourself, now, for things are about to get really hectic. 

The Supreme Ordeal lies ahead. 

You are ready. 

You are. 

 Transcendent by venetas

This is Stage Six of the Hero's Journey.
The earlier stages are here:
Stage One – The Call to Adventure
Stage Two – Refusal of the Call
Stage Three – The Helpers Arrive
Stage Four –  Crossing the Threshold
Stage Five –  The Road of Trials
Next up is Stage Seven – The Supreme Ordeal

© 2016 - 2023 hogret
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