The Hero’s journey – The Temptress

The Temptress

The Temptress is the opposite of the Goddess, the Goddess compels the hero on but the Temptress, provides a distraction or a detour. Rather than performing the role of a blocker or threshold guardian the Temptress presents a situation for the hero where he must make a choice.

This is an internal, moral battle rather than a physical battle. After enduring the grueling road of the trials, the Temptress throws up an option to take the easy way out, to give up on the quest. But by demonstrating he has the ability to refuse this offer, he is more heroic because of it.

The Temptress role may also be played by the Goddess but is not necessarily female.

Star Wars Temptations

Han Solo “Why don’t you come with us? You’re a good pilot, we could use you.”

Darth Vader “Join me and together we can rule the universe as father and son.”

Leia “Run away, far away, if he can feel your presence then leave this place.”

Emperor “Fulfill your destiny and take your father’s place at my side.”

Sirens would lure sailors to death by singing beautiful songs which would attract the ships  to the shore where they would break up on the rocks. They are not true Temptresses as their call is irresistible; they give the hero no choice.

Temptation in the Garden of Eden. They were warned by God not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge but a snake convinced Eve there was no harm in eating the fruit so she does,  she offers Adam some and he eats it as well. God finds out banishes them from the Garden of Eden and dishes out some eternal punishments. The dilemma they faced was their curiosity to find out what would happen if they ate the fruit versus obeying God, they choose the former and as a result, suffered the consequences.

Tempt – to attempt to persuade or entice to do something, especially something morally wrong or unwise

Lure, seduce, invite, charm persuade, magnetize


Dilemma – A problem offering at least two possibilities but to choose one means you lose the other and this loss causes pain

Difficulty, problem, bind, puzzle, quandary

How to use it in your writing

Identify a moment in your story after the hero has experienced some difficulty and hazards and present him with an opportunity, from another character, to leave the quest. If he is able to resist this temptation we admire him as a hero. If he cannot resist, he is punished and made to suffer, it is a hard lesson learned.

Most often, but not always, the temptation will come from either the Goddess or the Antagonist of your story. Is this the case or does it need to come from another character, such as one of the hero’s allies?


3 Replies to “The Hero’s journey – The Temptress”

  1. Could the mentor be the temptress? The hero goes to see the mentor. But, the mentor says to the hero not to go with an action because it will bring the hero pain.

    1. This is an interesting proposition. The Mentor generally spurs the hero on, although, there are plenty of examples where the mentor issues a warning to the hero about the road ahead. I’d say a warning differs from a temptation. Temptations are usually more subtle diversions towards the easier more selfish options rather than the selfless life of the hero. Probably the best example I can think of for what you are suggesting is in Empire Strikes Back, Yoda urges Luke to complete his training, rather than save his friends.

      Maybe someone else has a better example?

      I think you could do it but usually warnings not to go on the journey fall under the Refusal of the call stage. It is common in this stage for the hero to be told of the dangers of the mission that awaits.

      1. The Yoda situation is what I had in mind. For my story, the hero is asked to come out of retirement by his son. The hero goes to his mentor asking for guidance on what to do. The son took the blame for something that the hero did and the hero feels guilty. However, the mentor says not to do it. But, finally succumbs to helping the hero.

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