Hero’s Journey – Belly of the whale

Belly of the whale

It is a turning point in the Hero’s Journey where the hero is swallowed by a larger monster or representative of evil and comes out with a new sense of self. The hero is consumed but emerges alive.

The whale is the personification of all that is unconscious; it is powerful, dangerous and it must be controlled by the conscious.

The purpose is to prepare the hero, physically and mentally for the challenges ahead. It is to reinforce in the mind of the hero that he is in a deadly situation. It is to understand and come to terms with death.

It’s also understood as the final separation from the hero’s previous world and the new world.

Baptism – Dipping someone in water – is symbolic of being emersed in something and people think the person has died. Then he comes back to life but is reborn anew.

The stage of Belly of the whale takes its name from the story of Jonah and the Whale.

God commanded Jonah to go and preach in Ninaveh about repentance but Jonah didn’t like that city so instead he went to another city by ship. A storm hit the boat and Jonah ended up overboard and was swallowed by a whale. He spent three days inside the whale and realized he must fulfill his obligation and face his responsibilities.

For Han solo in the Original Star Wars Trilogy, his Belly of the Whale moment is when he is put into carbon freeze. He is near death but when he emerges from this experience and has recovered the first thing he does is volunteer for the dangerous mission to take out the deflector shield. This is a shocking transformation of character, so much so that when Princess Leia finds out about it her jaw drops open. He is now, no longer a swashbuckling adventurer but a hero.

Breakdown of Belly of the whale


Definition – to consume or destroy as if by ingestion.


Engulf, destroy, demolish, envelop completely, overwhelm, consume


Definition – a ceremony, trial or experience by which one is initiated, purified or given a name.


Purification, emersion, submerge, initiation


Definition – An enlightenment causing someone to lead a new life


Resurgence, revitalization, salvation, revival

How to use in your script

Once your hero has crossed the First threshold, he shouldn’t conquer it, instead he should be overwhelmed and consumed by it. Has this happened in your script?

Does your hero have a near death experience?

Does this experience prepare them for challenge ahead?

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