Hannah Wagener

Cronk English 12 3rd Hour

Hero's Journey

17 October 2011

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Elf is a family comedy, that is a great representation of the hero's journey: The Call, Threshold, Challenges, Abyss, Transformation, Reveltion, Atonement, and The Return (including a gift). This movie was made in 2003, starring Will Ferrell (Buddy), James Caan (Walter), Bob Newhart (Papa Elf), Zoey Deschanel (Jovie), Edward Asner (Santa), and Mary Steenburgen (Emily).

Elf is a movie about a baby that snuck into Santa's sack of presents when he was at a orphanage. Once the baby grows up, he realizes that he isn't like the other elves, and was told that his father lives in New York City. The worst part of it all is that his dad was on the Naughty List. Throughout the movie, we follow his journey to finding his father, and spreading Christmas cheer to everyone around him.

Hero's Journey Chart

The Call: Buddy over hears other elves talking about him, and begins to realize that he isn't like everyone else. Papa Elf tells him the truth about what happened, and how he was put up for adoption by his mother, and that his father didn't know he was born. He was then told that his father lives in New York and is on the "naughty list." He makes the final decision to go when he talks to Frosty the Snowman who says he's lucky that he has a dad and that it's a great opportunity to find out who he really is.

Threshold: Buddy takes the final leap of faith to finding out his real life when he jumps onto the broken piece of ice and travels through the seven layers of the candy cane forest and through the Lincoln Tunnel.

Challenges: Buddy's main challenge throughout his journey is conforming himself to life outside of the North Pole. He realizes that not everybody is happy and welcoming like the elves. Other challenges include getting his father to realize that Buddy is his son, being accepted by his stepbrother, and then the challenge within himself realizing that he doesn't belong in New York City. After finding his dad, his next challenge is to spread Christmas cheer and have everyone believe in Santa so he can deliver the presents in time for Christmas morning.

Abyss: Buddy realized that he isn't fit for the life in New York, and runs away to go back to the North Pole. On his way, he finds Santa in Central Park because the sleigh won't fly. Not enough people believe in Santa. Buddy's stepbrother goes to Times Square to get people to start believing in Santa. The sleigh finally starts to fly, but doesn't reach it's full capacity until Buddy's dad starts singing along with the crowd. Buddy finally got his dad to believe in the true meaning of Christmas which changed his outlook on life.

Transformation: After the sighting of Santa's sleigh, everyone started believing in the meaning behind Christmas and also Santa. More importantly, Buddy changes. He realizes that Christmas really is important in both the North Pole and the rest of the world.

Revelation: Buddy is now more mature and understands life other than his own in the North Pole. He has widened his aspect on people, reality, and family.

Atonement: The father son relationship has changed between Buddy and his dad. They have a stronger bond and a better understanding of each other. Buddy now feels like he belongs in the family that his dad has created.

The Return (including a gift): Buddy and Jovie return to the North Pole along with their new baby girl to visit Papa Elf.


Character Archetype

A character archetype is a type that is similar to something or patterned which is known as a prototype.


The character Buddy in Elf was known as a "bumbling fool." He is described as this because when he goes to New York, he is picking off gum from side rails and eating it, running around in the winding doors, and believes everything anyone says. This is mainly because he was raised in the North Pole where everyone is honest and sincere. When he reached New York, it was a slap in the face. He is like a fish out of water.

Walter (Buddy's Dad)

Although Walter is an adult, he is known as a "brat." First of all, he is on the Naughty List in the movie for many reasons. He wanted to take back children's books that were donated to an orphanage, he is mean spirited towards anyone who is happy, and he treats Buddy like someone who doesn't matter. All of this changes in the end of the movie when his step son makes him sing along in a Christmas carol and it seems to alter his view on life.


Jovie could be looked at as a superhero. She teaches Buddy about New York City and more importantly, love. Towards the end of the movie, she leads the crowd in a Christmas carol, helping Santa's sleigh fly. She was there to spread Christmas cheer and help everyone believe, and more importantly, understand the meaning behind Christmas. If she wasn't there, Buddy would've stayed the same "bumbling fool," and nobody would believe in Santa.

Impact of Archetype

The use of the archetypes and heros journey built a structure for the movie Elf. Because Buddy was a "bumbling fool," he was like a little kid that was growing up, and his mom was Jovie. She helped show him what life was like outside of the North Pole and taught him to be able to have faith in someone else rather than just in Santa. Aside from this, Buddy found his long lost dad. Before he went to New York, he found out his dad was on the Naughty List for many different reasons. In the end, his dad changed for the better and found who he really was before Buddy's mom died.

Each character represented each other in their steps to becoming someone different. Jovie helped Buddy view the world in a different perspective than just a happy place and Buddy helped his dad realize the meaning behind Christmas. They all played a role in each others lives in different ways. The archetypes help us view the characters as people, and what their characters mean. We can elaborate on who they are in the movie and how they can apply to our lives. It's like being able to compare them to someone in our lives.