The Power of Myth Book Summary - The Power of Myth Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

The Power of Myth summary

Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers

From ancient myths to Han Solo

4.2 (144 ratings)
17 mins
Table of Contents

    The Power of Myth
    Summary of 7 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 7

    A myth is a story that provides a shared identity for a community and reflects its cultural origins.

    When you were a child, did you enjoy bedtime stories? Tales of the heroic deeds of Robin Hood, or the adventures of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table?

    Such stories, or myths, are essential in establishing and preserving the identity of a community.

    Many myths explain the beginning of life, or how a culture came to be. Through this, myths function as a tool in forming a group identity and in doing so, they also explain how one group is separate or different from other groups.

    The concept of a “chosen people” is grounded in myth. Certain religious groups believe the truth of their community is the only truth, and that they have been chosen by God for a special purpose. In contrast, people who exist outside the group need to be converted or fought.

    Religious myths foster a connection with other members of a group and create a common identity and shared destiny, while also acting as a boundary for anyone with differing beliefs.

    So how do myths happen? Stories tend to mirror the geographical or cultural roots of the place where they originate.

    The idea of a god, for instance, is a cultural construct. In religions with multiple gods, each god is responsible for some element in nature, such as the wind or sun, or even animals. The Incas of South America, for example, believed their founding ancestor was the “son” of the sun god, Inti.

    And when circumstances in a culture change, so do its myths.

    The mythology of Native American tribes in North America was centred around vegetation. The Cherokee’s “first mother” and most important goddess was Selu, meaning “maize.”

    Yet after the Spanish brought horses to the continent, which helped the tribes more efficiently hunt buffalo, the buffalo became an important mythological figure as well.

    Myths can adapt or vary over time, but their core message usually endures, allowing members of a group to continue to identify with them.

    Want to see all full key ideas from The Power of Myth?

    Key ideas in The Power of Myth

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is The Power of Myth about?

    The Power of Myth (1988) clarifies the origins, evolution and meaning of myths. By comparing stories from different cultures, myth-master Joseph Campbell demonstrates how myths give clarity to universal notions of life, love and death. As spirituality declines in Western culture, he explains that myths are more important than ever, as they help us understand the human experience.

    Best quote from The Power of Myth

    The conquest of the fear of death is the recovery of lifes joy.

    —Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers
    example alt text

    Who should read The Power of Myth?

    • Humanities students or professors
    • Writers, storytellers, scriptwriters or anyone interested in the creation of myth
    • Spiritualists or religious thinkers curious about the role of myth in religion

    About the Author

    American mythologist, lecturer and author Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was best known for his exhaustive research and insight into comparative mythology and comparative religion. His best-known works, The Hero with a Thousand Faces and The Masks of God, valued by scholars as well as storytellers, influenced films such as Star Wars. The Power of Myth was the companion book to a documentary that aired in the United States.

    Categories with The Power of Myth

    Books like The Power of Myth

    People ❤️ Blinkist
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked

    Start growing with Blinkist now
    28 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    Of Blinkist members create a better reading habit*
    *Based on survey data from Blinkist customers
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial