Myths and legends have been apart of human history since the beginning of time. Stories of heroes overcoming obstacles and giving hope to the people who believe that all is lost. But the stories that stick with us most of all are the stories that we relate to. The stories that were we feel that we understand what our hero is feeling and can relate it to our own lives.
It is because of this connection that many of the movies and plays and books we have today become so popular. There is a system and pattern that our favorite tales follow that make them more appealing to us. This system of a hero’s journey through life is what keeps us coming back for more.
If you look at the new Broadway musical Anastasia, for example, you can see that her story follows this system set up for heroes and is full of many archetypes that are essential in helping such a story progress and unfold. The story of Anastasia, like so many others, is literally about a journey. There is even a song called “Journey to the Past” sung by Anastasia as she embarks on her quest to find who she is. Anastasia doesn’t remember who she is and her journey is all about finding love, family, home, a place of belonging, and – most importantly – who she really is.
This type of journey is one that resonates with every person in the world. We might not have forgotten who we are, but the search for finding out who we are in a moral, personality, and/or purpose sense helps us relate on that sensitive level. Discovering who we are is a natural human desire; one that leads us to a sense of home and belonging. This is exactly what Anastasia is searching for on her journey.
Anastasia’s story continues to follow the path of a Hero Myth as she starts off by living an ordinary life as an orphan named Anya in Russia. She sweeps streets for a living and can’t seem to find a way out. The revolution and new communist reign makes her future seem bleak. But she receives a call to action as the archetype trickster/”bad boy” character, Dmitri, shares his plan to teach her how to be a princess and take her to Paris to prove she is royalty to the empress. Anya continues to follow the pattern as she changes her mind and doesn’t want to go. But with the help of Dimitri and ex-aristocrat Vlad, Anya is given hope and a will to go on her journey to discover if she is really is a princess.
A hero’s journey is not complete without going to a new place where the he or she can have a chance to change and grow. Anya, along with her companions, leave their homeland of Russia behind and make their way to Paris. It is in Paris that they face many obstacles such as impressing Lily – the empress’s lady in waiting – proving to the empress that Anya is Anastasia, and even facing an office or the Russian government that is determined to end the Romanov line. Amongst these obstacles Anya hits rock bottom and is ready to pack up and leave Paris behind. But when the empress pays Anya a surprise visit Anya is armed with a music box and determination that leads her back home to the family she had forgotten that she had.
Of course, such a story would never be worth telling if the Hero didn’t change and grow from the journey. Anastasia not only discovered where she belonged, she truly found herself in a way that regaining her memory could never have brought on. She found confidence, strength, compassion, and love that changed her into the person she ended up being; a person who also helped the archetypical trickster, Dimitri, find loyalty and love inside of himself.
These are the type of stories that always stay with us. They are the stories that help us connect with a hero and give us hope that we too will be able to find ourselves on our own journey of life. That is why stories like Anastasia continue to be popular today. They reach our inner desire to be the hero of our own story.