I noticed how much Jack’s journey to become a Guardian matched the Hero’s Journey archetype outlined by Joseph Campbell. I saw a post tonight outlining all seventeen steps, and I was inspired to (finally) write out and post how the story of Jack Frost matches the Hero’s Journey.
If you don’t know about the Hero’s Journey, or the Monomyth, please click here and read through that page before reading under the cut, since it can get kind of confusing sometimes if you don’t know the exact meaning of each step.
Feel free to argue any of my points here, or criticize it (nicely, please) so that I can improve.
STAGE 1: DEPARTURE
Call to Adventure: Jack’s call to adventure begins when North reveals that Jack is to become the newest Guardian. Although he is clearly aware of the Guardians, their role in the world and their purpose are unknown to him,
Refusal of the Call: Jack clearly refuses said call several times throughout the scene in the main part of North’s workshop. This refusal to joining the Guardians comes from both how it is forced upon Jack as well as his resentment towards Guardians for ignoring him for 300 years.
Supernatural Aid: This is a slight anachronism with the standard pattern that the Hero’s Journey typically takes, as Jack received supernatural aid long before any of the other steps. Jack was given both a weapon and magic powers from the Man in the Moon in the form of his staff and control over winter weather, although that happened right after Jack awoke as Jack Frost, instead of after the Refusal to the Call. Regardless, Jack does receive supernatural aid.
Crossing the First Threshold: Although Jack initially refuses to work with the Guardians, he agrees – somewhat, anyway – to travel on North’s sleigh to the Tooth Palace in order to help the Guardians fight Pitch. Despite Jack’s assertion to Pitch that he’s not involved in the Guardians, Jack is now definitely ingrained in the fight between the Guardians and Pitch. The gatekeeper in this step is represented as the Nightmares, which Jack tries to help fight and does partially defeat when he rescues Baby Tooth.
Belly of the Whale: Here, Jack is now on the side of the Guardians. He’s discovered his purpose for going on the journey, which is to get his teeth, and in turn, his memories, back. (And his unstated purpose is to learn his purpose in the world.)
STAGE 2: INITIATION
Road of Trials: Here, we encounter another slight anachronism, though less so than before, since the other steps break up the scenes listed. Jack’s road of trials appear when he must work with the Guardians to collect the teeth, when he fights Pitch in the battle of the clouds, and in Bunny’s warren, when he must again work with the Guardians to save Easter. Instead of doing his own thing, Jack must now work with the Guardians to fight Pitch’s attacks.
Meeting with the Goddess: The goddess representing fulfillment of the hero’s quest in this journey is actually not a woman at all, but Jamie Bennett His belief in the Guardians is magnified when he wakes up with all of them in his room. Sadly, he cannot see Jack. This is Jack’s unstated goal throughout the film, to find his purpose and be believed in. Jamie represents the belief that kids may one day have in Jack.
Woman as the Temptress/Temptation from the True Path: Again, the temptress here is not female, but instead Pitch. Pitch has Jack’s teeth and memories, which to reclaim is Jack’s stated goal throughout the film. And the temptation of getting those back really, really makes Jack make a mess of things. Instead of heading back to the Guardians after delivering Sophie, he chases after his past, thus allowing Pitch to ruin Easter.
Atonement with the Father: The father figure in Rise of the Guardians is the Man in the Moon. Jack definitely needs to have some atonement with Manny. This happens after Jack’s apotheosis. After Jack is given his memories back from his tooth box, he realizes why Manny made him a Guardian, and no longer holds the resentment he had earlier in the film.
Apotheosis: This step is yet another anachronism, as it technically happened 300 years before the film and all the subsequent steps. Jack literally died and was given god-like powers.
The Ultimate Boon: Jack gets his memory back and realizes that, yes, he is a Guardian, and always has been, albeit unofficially. Both Jack’s stated and unstated goals are achieved. He has his memory back and realizes his true purpose.
STAGE 3: RETURN
Refusal to the Return: This is the one step that never happens in the film. Jack is not hesitant at all to return to the world and share his new-found knowledge. He fixes his staff and flies off to try and save the Guardians and stop Pitch. There is no refusal here.
The Magic Flight: This step is represented in the Jamie’s bedroom scene. Jamie, as the only child who still believes, is having doubt and almost stops believing in the Guardians. After flying away from Pitch’s lair, Jack helps Jamie regain his faith in the Guardians, and in turn, gets Jamie to believe in him.
Rescue from Without: Jack is rescued by Jamie in this step. When the rest of the Guardians are all but powerless, Jack is the only supernatural being with power, surrounded by a bunch of children that he feels he must protect. But, as it’s revealed, Pitch is too strong for Jack to singlehandedly defeat. This is where Jamie comes in, bravely volunteering to protect the Guardians instead of them protecting him.
Crossing of the Return Threshold: Jack returns to Burgess, his home in the film, where he uses his power to try to defeat Pitch. Although Jack does not deliver the final blow, he uses his power, and now his center, to help free the trapped Guardians and bring fun to Jamie and his friends to help them defeat Pitch.
Master of Two Worlds: Jack is now a Guardian in everything but the name. He has realized his purpose and his center and regained his memories.
Freedom to Live: Jack is now officially a Guardian. He has realized the truth behind a Guardian and that he has been meant to be one for a long time. He gets on the sleigh with the rest of the Guardians before it takes off, flying away into the clouds near the moon while blowing a snowflake at our faces. He has combined his experience and powers as Jack Frost with his memories of his life and death prior to being pulled from the lake. The journey is complete.