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Stage Nine: The Reward

REWARD: THE HERO SEIZES THE SWORD: Having survived death, beaten the dragon, slain the Minotaur, the hero now takes possession of the treasure he’s come seeking. Sometimes the “sword” is knowledge and experience that leads to greater understanding and a reconciliation with hostile forces. The hero may also be reconciled with a woman. Women in these stories (or men if the hero is female) tend to be “shape-shifters.” They seem to change in form or age, reflecting the confusing and constantly changing aspects of the opposite sex as seen from the hero’s point of view.

When hunters have survived death and brought down their game, it’s natural to want to celebrate. Energy has been exhausted and needs to be replenished. Heroes may have a party, or barbecue the spoils of victory. The heroes of the Odyssey always offered a sacrifice and had a meal, to give thanks and celebrate after surviving an ordeal at sea. There are often campfire scenes at this point, or singing, or dancing – the romantic waltz in Beauty and the Beast is the Beast’s Reward for having survived an ordeal with the townspeople and Belle’s Reward for having seen past the Beast’s monstrous appearance.

Whatever he or she does, the hero must at this point take possession of whatever he came seeking. Treasure hunters take the gold, spies snatch the secret, pirates plunder the captured ship, an uncertain hero seizes her self-respect, a slave seizes control of his own destiny. The hero has risked death or sacrificed life, and now gets something in exchange.

The Norse god Odin (or Woden in English, after whom we name our day Wednesday), in his Ordeal, gave up an eye and hangs on the World-Tree for nine days and nights. His Reward was the knowledge of all things and the ability to read the sacred runes. James Bond, in From Russia with Love, takes the Lector – a Sovie translating device, back to British Intelligence, having risked his life. King Kong, who had been young Fay’s abductor, turns into being her protector during the Approach stage (characters change) – so that, by the time he battles to the death with a giant serpent to protect her, he has become a hero, and can take possession of his Reward. Like any good hero, he gets the girl … A reward of any kind – love, money, knowledge, prestige or anything – is called a boon. After getting it, heroes must turn back to completing their quest – the danger is not yet quite over.

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