Ida from Spark!

The Hero’s Journey: Return to the Known World

What a long, strange trip it’s been… but it’s not over yet.

The Hero’s Journey, in its final stages, sees our hero return from whence they came: the Known World. From lofty mountain peaks to craggy chasms low, you’ve conquered your fears, slain the mighty dragon, and unearthed the treasure you so valiantly earned.

As you exit the gorge and eagerly set back toward home, unexpected challenges will arise. This is your chance to put to use the skills you’ve learned along the way, to confidently face your greatest trial and complete your journey stronger than when you answered the call to the BIG dream.

The “Known World,” which you departed at the beginning of your journey, has changed, but more importantly, so have you. On your travels, you have uncovered truths about yourself, others and captured a greater understanding of the world you live in. But how can we use this knowledge to make the world a better place? How can we use our experiences to benefit those who follow in our footsteps? One of our favorite poems at Spark! Is “The Bridge Builder” by Will Allen Dromgoole:1

"An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”

While this poem was published over 120 years ago, the message rings true and is seen in many popular stories today. For example, in Disney’s “Encanto,” Mirabel Madrigal2 and her abuela return to rebuild their ruined home, having discovered the true miracle of their family, restoring their magical powers in turn.

In “Coco,” Miguel Rivera visits the land of the dead, uncovers the mystery of his great-great-grandfather, and returns home to repair his family’s ofrenda, reintroducing them to music and paving the way for future generations of musicians.

In “Moana,” the main character, Moana, returns from her great journey to restore the heart of Te Fiti, and reinstates her people’s forgotten tradition of exploration.

Each of the examples above depict a character returning to the known world. Upon return to the known world, each character upheld their duty to share what they learned with those around them. Sharing lessons learned can help to inform, inspire, and empower others - it can potentially even build hypothetical and tangible bridges.

At Spark!, we use the Hero’s Journey as a tool in all of our storytelling efforts. The Hero’s Journey is a tool that is recognizable and can be seen in our daily lives as well as around us. While it may seem counterintuitive, we have also seen the power in first understanding yourself and your own personal story so you can begin to better understand the stories of those around you.

Then you, too, can build bridges, mentor, and serve as a guide.
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1  Allen, W. (n.d.). The Bridge Builder by Will Allen Dromgoole. Poetry Foundation. Retrieved May 11, 2022, from
2  Howard, B., & Bush, J. (Directors). (2021). Encanto [Film]. Walt Disney Pictures.
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