As I stated last time, the ordeal occurs about midway through the story. It often represents the hero’s opportunity to obtain the thing he has been seeking in the special world. Perhaps he came seeking a restorative elixir, or a magical sword. The ordeal represents a test for the hero. Now that he has survived the test, he receives his reward.
The Reward stage of the Hero’s Journey allows the hero and audience a temporary reprieve from the relentless pace of the journey. The reward phase of the story can serve numerous purposes.
Surviving death and seizing a prize is a major achievement. It’s not inconceivable that there would be a celebration. Such a scene could be used to cement certain relationships, or secure a character’s position within their social group. Perhaps the prize here allows for the hero to finalise a rite of passage.
Recap and Reflection
The hero and his allies may gather around a campfire, or in a restaurant. They could recap their experiences so far, perhaps giving some important insight into what the events meant to them. This could also be used to introduce themes that will play an important role during the Road Back phase.
Until the reward stage, the hero has struggled. Chances are he hasn’t proved himself worthy of his heart’s desire until this point. More likely, there’s been little time for love during the height of the quest. Now that there is a moment to breathe, the hero might look to finally give himself to love.
Surviving death can change how you perceive things. The hero might gain new insight. With this, he might
- See through characters who have been deceiving him
- Realise his true destiny and/or heritage (son of a god etc.)
- Have a moment of clarity to see new paths for his quest
Downfalls of the Reward
People are far from perfect. Having survived a great ordeal, the hero might become over-confident. He might see himself as being stronger, smarter, or more valuable than he really is. This can lead to a great downfall, perhaps setting up the conflicts that will carry through to the end of the story.
The Short and Long of it
The reward stage is about action. Not the edge of your seat questioning-if-anyone-will-survive type of action, but the action of taking. The hero must seize this moment. He must take the elixir, draw the magic sword, take hold of his love, embrace his destiny or all of the above. The hero has spent much time reacting and doubting. Through conquering the ordeal, he has earned this moment to take the action he has desired since answering the call.
Next, our hero begins traveling the long road back.