The hero’s other journey

Strangely, the very day after I posted the first installment of my little RIPRAP (rhyming iambic pentameter robotic adventure poem), a friend showed me a cool flash game that starts out by plunging an entire world of robots into darkness and unconsciousness.

While the intro for this game was playing on my friend’s computer screen, I started narrating out loud, in my best movie announcer’s voice: “In a world plunged into darkness, one young hero will rise. A humble yet intrepid little robot, with the courage to bring light back into his world.” And that is, indeed, exactly what happened next in the game. One little robot woke up, and your job, as the player, was to help him to bring his entire robo-world back to life.

My foresight in this matter seemed to impress my friend, who clearly did not know that I had just started, on the previous day, to tell almost the same story — albeit in a different medium. By the way, the on-line game, entitled “Little Wheel”, is very cool. Here is a link to it. It should work on any computer platform that doesn’t start with a lowercase ‘i”. 😉

Of course the reason I could with such authority predict what was about to happen next is that both my poem and this game are essentially the Joseph Campbell / Star Wars / Lion King / Harry Potter / Avatar tale — the classic hero’s journey. You know, the oldest story in the book: Young protagonist conquers great evil and saves the world, and in the process learns valuable lessons about life and about growing up. To a first approximation, they are all Gilgamesh done as an after-school TV special.

I’m starting to think there should be a different way to look at this scenario. Perhaps the hero’s journey ends up being very different from what we expected at the outset. Perhaps the form can be used to illuminate an entirely different space, one not so well travelled. The only really great example of this that I can think of off-hand — of an author radically thinking the entire idea of the hero’s journey, and taking it someplace truly new and different — is Dennis Potter’s “The Singing Detective”.

Not really sure I can do that with robots…

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