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The Power of Myth is a book and six part television documentary originally broadcast on PBS in 1988 as Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth. The documentary comprises six one-hour conversations between mythologist Joseph Campbell (1904 - 1987) and journalist Bill Moyers.


The interviews in the first 5 episodes were filmed at George Lucas's Skywalker Ranchmarker in California, with the 6th interview conducted at the Museum of Natural History in New York, during the final two summers of Campbell's life (the series was broadcast on television a year after his death). In these discussions, Campbell presents his ideas about comparative mythology and the ongoing role of myth in human society. These talks include excerpts from Campbell's seminal work The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

The documentary

The documentary, Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth has six episodes:

  • Episode 1: The Hero's Adventure (first broadcast 6/21/1988 on PBS)
About Campbell, hero types, hero deeds, Jesus Christ, the Buddha, movie heroes, Star Wars as a metaphor, an Iroquois story: the refusal of suitors, dragons, dreams and Jungian psychology, “follow your bliss,” consciousness in plants, Gaia, Chartres cathedralmarker, spirituality vs. economics, emerging myths, “Earthrise” as a symbol

  • Episode 2: The Message of the Myth (first broadcast 6/22/1988 on PBS)
Creation myths, transcending duality, pairs of opposites, God vs. Nature, sin, morality, participation in sorrow, the Gospel of Thomas, Old Time Religion, computers, religion as “software,” the story of Indra: “What a great boy am I!,” participation in society

  • Episode 3: The First Storytellers (first broadcast 6/23/1988 on PBS)
Animal memories, harmonization with body and life-cycle, consciousness vs. its vehicle, killing for food, story: “The Buffalo's Wife,” buffalo massacre, initiation ritual, rituals diminishing, crime increasing, artists, the Shaman, the center of the world

  • Episode 4: Sacrifice and Bliss (first broadcast 6/24/1988 on PBS)
Chief Seattle, the sacred Earth, agricultural renewal, human sacrifice, sacrifice of the Mass, transcendence of death, story: “The Green Knight,” societal dictates vs. following bliss, “hidden hands” guiding life's work

  • Episode 5: Love and the Goddess (first broadcast 6/25/1988 on PBS)
The Troubadours, Eros, romantic love, Tristan, libido vs. credo, separation from love, Satan, loving your enemy, the Crucifixion as atonement, virgin birth, the story of Isis, Osiris and Horus, the Madonna, the Big Bang, the correlation between the earth or mother Goddess and images of fertility (the sacred feminine).

  • Episode 6: Masks of Eternity (first broadcast 6/26/1988 on PBS)
Identifying with the infinite, the circle as a symbol, clowns and masks, epiphanies and James Joyce, artistic arrest, the monstrous as sublime, the dance of Shiva, that which is beyond words.

The book

The companion book for the series, The Power of Myth, (Joseph Campbell, Bill Moyers, and editor Betty Sue Flowers) was released in 1988 at the same time the series aired on PBS. In the editor's note to The Power of Myth, Flowers credits Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, as "the Doubleday editor, whose interest in the ideas of Joseph Campbell was the prime mover in the publication of this book." The book follows the format of the documentary and provides additional discussions not included in the original six hour release. Chapters:

  1. Myth and the Modern World
  2. The Journey Inward
  3. The First Storytellers
  4. Sacrifice and Bliss
  5. The Hero's Adventure
  6. The Gift of the Goddess
  7. Tales of Love and Marriage
  8. Masks of Eternity
  9. The Tale of Buddha

Star Wars

In the first episode of the series, The Hero's Adventure, and the fifth chapter of the book, "The Hero's Adventure," Moyers and Campbell discuss George Lucas' report that Campbell's work directly influenced the creation of the Star Wars films.Moyers and Lucas filmed an interview 12 years later in 1999, modeled after The Power of Myth. It was called the Mythology of Star Wars with George Lucas & Bill Moyers and further discussed the impact of Campbell's work on Lucas' films.


The letter attributed to Chief Seattle presented in the fourth episode of the series is a fake. The letter was written by Ted Perry for a 1972 film. The letter makes references to buffalo, when in fact there were no bison within 600 miles of the Puget Sound area. The letter is reproduced in all known editions of the printed book that covers the series.

See also



  • Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers (2001). Penguin/Highbridge, ISBN 1-56511-510-4.

  • Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers (1997). Bonus Interview with George Lucas on Mythology from The Mythology of Star Wars, Mystic Fire Video.


  1. Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth: The Hero's Adventure -
  2. Films for the Humanities and Sciences - The Mythology of Star Wars with George Lucas and Bill Moyers
  3. Chief Seattle Speech
  4. Newsweek May 4, 1992 p 68 [subject] the Arts "Just Too Good to Be True: another reason to beware of false eco-prophets" by Malcolm Jones Jr. with Ray Sawhill

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