The Hero’s Journey

(More information coming soon!)
Unit 1: The Hero’s Journey

Anchor Text: The Epic of Gilgamesh

  • Purpose:

The Epic of Gilgamesh is an ancient text that dates back to 2100 BCE and is one of the oldest surviving works of literature. This text is relevant and engaging to the Osborne High School student because it is a classic story that can engage students of all backgrounds and it is a perfect example of a hero quest. This is also a strong choice for our World Literature course because it is material that students will not already have studied and a new culture for them to explore. This text will be included in our “Hero’s Journey” unit.

  • Lexile: 810

Supplementary Texts:

  • “The Ramayana”
    • Purpose: “The Ramayana” is a mythological story from India which dates back to the 4th century BCE. It is a hero quest and part of the Hindu canon, and will be engaging to students because it is a classic fairy tale. This text is also something students will not have prior knowledge of, so it will be new territory, but relatively easy for them to read and understand. Students will also get to explore a new culture.
    • Lexile: 1050
  • “Aesop’s Fables”
    • Purpose:  Aesop’s Fables date back to ancient Greece, and will provide a stepping stone for students to move from their prior knowledge (most of them will know at least one of the stories already) into more complex knowledge, and also help teach them about the concepts we are learning within a framework which they already understand.
    • Lexile: 780
  •  “Cinderella”
    • Purpose: “Cinderella” is a classic fairy tale that had been retold in many different ways, including several just within our students’ lifetimes. This will be a highly relevant text for students because they will be intimately familiar with the plot and with characters. We will use this text in several different varieties (“Cenerentola,” “Aschenputtel,” and more mainstream Disney versions) to show students how a single hero’s journey story can carry across multiple cultures and time periods. This will be their first introduction to the concept of theme.
    • Lexile:
  • “The Tale of the Superman” / “A story about a giant and the cause of thunder”
    • Purpose: This short story is a myth of the Hausa people of Nigeria, and is a very early version of a “man of steel” story. This myth describes at least three different “superman” characters. It will be engaging to students because it connects the world of mythology to the modern-day world of comic book heroes. This story also lends itself well to comparison and contrasts with the current crop of superheroes, especially considering the summer blockbusters The Avengers and Spiderman.
    • Lexile: 580
  • Shrek
    • Purpose: Clips from this popular movie will be used in class to show the students a modern example of a hero quest. Although Shrek begins the story as an anti-hero, the story is a very good retelling of the classic hero quest and will engage students by connecting a movie they enjoy to the content. This will also allow students to begin to make the connections between ancient heroes and modern ones, and teach them the universality of the hero’s journey.
  • Superman Pop-art
    • Purpose: Students will view images of heroes as imagined by artists throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. These art pieces will allow students to see the progression of what we consider a “hero” based on looks alone, as well as help students become more engaged in the hero quest idea. Students will be able to connect to modern comic-book heroes, and that will allow us to bring them into the world of literary heroes.

Strategy Toolbox:

  • Pre-reading activities:
    • Circle Map on The Odyssey to review a hero quest that students already know
    • Vocabulary front-loading (literary vocabulary such as protagonist and antagonist, as well as “big words” from the texts)
    • KWL chart on Hero Quests
    • Pop-culture examples of hero quests (video games, Disney movies, etc.)
  • During reading activities:
    • Incredible Shrinking Summary for each chapter
    • Double-Bubble map to compare Gilgamesh to Ulysses or The Odyssey to The Epic of Gilgamesh.
    • Leveled texts – the original epic and lower-lexile versions from Sparknotes, etc.
    • Thinking maps to define character attributes
    • Comparisons between ancient and modern heroes
    • Short impromptu writings – “What makes a hero?” and the like
  • Post-reading activities:
    • Flow map using the summary sticky notes created during the reading
    • Quotes that relate to flow map and back up the sticky-note summaries
    • Double-bubble map comparing Gilgamesh to students’ chosen heroes
    • Essay drafting in-class
    • Peer revisions of essays
    • Presentations of essays to the class

Writing Prompt:

Expository / Informational: Gilgamesh is a hero on quest for eternal life. Think of a modern-day hero from the movies, television, fiction, or real-life who also journeys in search of a goal. Write an essay comparing and contrasting Gilgamesh to this modern-day hero. Consider such factors as the nature of the goal; the difficulties that must be overcome; the help, if any, that the hero receives; and the hero’s ultimate success or failure. When you revise your essay, make sure you have organized it logically so readers can follow your comparison and contrast.

  • Your essay should be 500 words or more.
  • You should write in MLA format, including the proper header, font, margins, etc.
  • You will need to turn in your branstorming and prewriting, your first draft, and a revised and polished final draft.

You will be graded according to the informational essay rubric that we will use all semester. Our grammatical focus for this unit is punctuation, so I will be looking for it! If you need to see a copy of the rubric, it can be accessed online at our class blog.

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