The Monkey Journey

‘The Hero’s Journey’ is a familiar trope in fiction and goes back to Greek myths. The basic conceit is that man (it’s usually a man) leaves his comfortable home for some reason and comes back changed, usually more of a man. Luke Skywalker’s journey in Star Wars is a perfect example. He starts out a dopy farm boy and ends up a Jedi.

I’ve been reading a book on monkey behavior (among other things) and it notes something I think we’ve all heard. Male monkeys are born into a troop but at a certain point leave their home troop and join a new one. They, of course, have to spend some time alone in the wilderness searching for the new troop.

Their are good Darwinistic reasons for this. Troops are basically a big family and you shouldn’t have children with your brothers and sisters. It’s in everyone’s interests for the males to seek out new genetic material with which to commingle. Of course, the monkey isn’t thinking, “My DNA is too similar to everyone else round here; I should find some new monkeys.” To my knowledge nobody really knows whether this tendency to wander at a certain age is caused by genetics or culture or both.

But you see where I’m going with this. Is the behavior described in the hero’s journey just a dressed up version of monkey wandering?

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