CITE: Rank, O. The Myth of the Birth of the Hero: A Psychological Interpretation of Mythology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1938

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In this book, Otto Rank explores the archetype of the hero as it appears in mythology and legend, using a psychoanalytic lens to uncover the psychological significance of these stories. Rank looks at a wide variety of Eurasian hero birth narratives, including Greek, Roman, Judeo-Christian, Indian, and Germanic legendary figures. He uses the methodology and vocabulary of classic Freudian psychoanalysis to do so. The middle part of this book, where Rank enumerates some of these tales, will be the most useful for modern readers, as he draws on a wide range of sources, some of them fairly obscure. A classic work, which much influenced later writers, particularly Joseph Campbell.


  • Rank argues that the hero myth represents an archetypal journey of self-discovery and individuation, in which the hero must confront and overcome his or her own inner demons in order to achieve mastery and transcendence.
  • He also explores the role of the mother figure in hero myths, suggesting that the hero’s separation from the mother is a necessary step in his or her psychological development.
  • Rank’s ideas about heroism and the hero’s journey have been influential in both psychology and popular culture.


  • “The hero’s journey is a psychological journey from childhood to adulthood, from dependency to autonomy, from immaturity to maturity.” (p. 22)
  • “The hero’s journey is a journey of initiation, a journey of self-discovery, a journey of transformation.” (p. 47)
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