Stage Twelve: Return with the Elixir

RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR: The hero comes back to his ordinary world, having survived all ordeals and lived through death, but his adventure would be meaningless unless he brought back the elixir, or treasure, or some lesson from the special world. Sometimes it’s just knowledge or experience, but unless he comes back with something, he’s doomed to repeat the adventure until he does. If he does learn something, his new life will be one forever different because of the road just travelled. True heroes will bring back something that they share with others, or with a power to heal (body, mind or soul).

This is the part the French call the dénouement (un-knotting, un-tying). A story or myth or life is like a weaving in which the lives of characters and people are interwoven into a coherent pattern. Where there is conflict, there’s a knot. It’s desirable usually to release the tension and resolve conflicts by untying these. Hollywood films have a ‘happy ending’. British, European, Australian & New Zealand films are more open-ended/realistic, with unanswered questions and ambiguity.



When the young knight, Percival, brings the Holy Grail back to his ailing King, Arthur, the King revives and rides out with his knights again. They are so filled with new life that flowers burst into bloom at their passing. Thanks to Percival, they have become a living Elixir, whose mere presence renews nature. Dorothy’s return in The Wizard of Oz shows her having learnt every lesson on the road, and finally happy in her own skin, feeling at home no matter where she is. That is her Elixir – the new idea of ‘home’ and how she sees herself.

In Casablanca (1942), Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick Blaine, makes a difficult Resurrection sacrifice, by giving up the chance to be with the woman he loves, and in doing so, puts his life in danger from the Nazis, whom he hates. His reward – the Elixir he brings away from the experience – is his new alliance with French governor, Louie. They will be unstoppable. Or, as Rick puts it, in one of the most famous lines in film history, “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”


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