Valerie Estelle Frankel’s The Villain's Journey: Descent and Return in Science Fiction and Fantasy


  • Brian Breed


Valerie Estelle Frankel's The Villain's Journey proposes that villains—especially those who are well-developed—often follow a "villain's journey." As one might suspect, this path cleaves to "the hero's journey" monomyth which Joseph Campbell popularized.

Campbell argued that the hero's journey typically proceeded through three acts comprised of as many as seventeen separate stages. Briefly, the protagonist in a "hero's journey" myth chooses (or is compelled) to leave their community in Act I (Departure). The hero endures a variety of trials—which are often directed (or at least facilitated) by divine agents and supernatural events—that lead the hero to develop wisdom and refine their capabilities in Act II (Initiation). Finally, the hero more or less reluctantly returns to their home community in order to integrate their wisdom into their society in Act III (Return).