What is the Path of Trials?

This is the fourth of a series of posts detailing the hero’s journey.  It expands on this post: The Hero’s Journey.  See the earlier posts here: The Mundane World, The Call to Adventure, and Crossing the Threshold.

Walking the unexplored path

The bulk of the hero’s story occurs on the Path of Trials.  If this were a movie, the path would take up at least an hour.  If it were a book, three quarters of the chapters would be dedicated to it.  It is here that the hero meets new people, learns new skills, and overcomes challenges.

I will take it.  Though I do not know the way.

Frodo’s Path of Trials begins with the utterance of these words and the subsequent formation of the Fellowship of the Ring – his Hero Team (discussed here).  Along with these friends or mentors, Frodo meets enemies.  Like the allies, the enemies come in all shapes and sizes.  They range from annoyances to serious opponents.

Challenges are events and conditions that force the hero to struggle.  Frodo was challenged by the weight (literal and metaphorical) of the One Ring.  He was also challenged by the different rules and customs of the world outside of his comfortable Shire.  Working out who he could trust was a struggle.  The Path of Trials was an extreme hardship for him.

The path also forces the hero to learn new skills.  Some of these skills may come from the people they meet, or the process of overcoming the challenges may foster new abilities.  Frodo learns to fight.  He becomes educated in the ways of Middle Earth.

The Path of Trials leads the hero through the mysterious new world.  A large part of the journey is dealing with the unknown.  With the help of friends and newly acquired skills, the hero overcomes the challenges and begins to change.

Wow, you’ve changed…

After my first two year stint at camp I returned home to Australia.  Everyone noticed the transformation.  I was confident, happy, and had direction.  This change was directly related to my Path of Trials.

I met mentors in James and Mark who taught me how to be respected.  I met friends in Crystal, Shannon, and Kim.  I met enemies too.  That group of people were often part of the skill-learning process.  I got first hand experience in group dynamics and public speaking.  I was taught how to connect with children.  I even had crash courses in horse riding and car driving – actual crashes included.  The challenges were numerous.  Some encountered in public and some suffered through in private.

My Path of Trials changed me forever.

Think back to your most recent hero’s journey and write down the people you met, the skills you learned, and the challenges you overcame.  Feel free to share in the comments, as usual.

image from Flickr

4 Responses to What is the Path of Trials?

  1. Shannon Gimenes December 2, 2010 at 12:44 am #

    I can remember the “kid” that showed up at camp and looked around wide eyed and eventually became the “man” who took over after I left. It has been an honor to be your friend Matt, and I wish you all the best.

    • matt December 2, 2010 at 3:15 am #

      Thanks a lot Shannon. I remember the first weekend with you vividly – 16 years later.

  2. Lainey December 2, 2010 at 9:19 am #


    I love The Path of Trials! I have grown over the years, and once was the rebel who didn’t know where I fit in at my first attempt of becoming an adult on my own at Camp. I often wish I could go back in time and change some of my ways and took the opportunity to really soak up all the opportunities/life lessons bestowed on me during that time.

    You really showed me what a Hero was, never unbalanced or indecisive during your managment. I look up to you!

    What is a leader? :

    It’s ethics and honesty,
    integrity and compassion.
    It’s backbone and relationships,
    and appreciation, too.

    It’s organization and decisiveness,
    strength and motivation.
    It’s humor and humility,
    and visionary, as well.

    It’s positive and focused,
    collaborator and listener.
    It’s supportive and affirming,
    and motivator, to boot.

    It’s agile and flexible,
    perceptive and intelligent.
    It’s appropriate and timely,
    and present, for sure.

    It’s being in charge…not in control,
    desire to serve…not to impress.
    You may not always agree…
    but you can respect.

    • matt December 2, 2010 at 9:43 am #

      Thanks Lainey. I saw you change while you were there. I’d be curious to see your thoughts on the other steps of the journey too. I think I remember what your Call to Adventure was.

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