Endurance Requires Rewards
When Voldemort kills Harry Potter in The Deathly Hallows part II, Harry enters a Threshold existence, a “waiting station”. Dearly beloved Dumbledore is there, and we and Harry discover three things.
- Voldemort, the Half-Blood Prince, is half-dead. His horcrux soul attached to Harry is dead; only the horcrux in the python remains. Once that is destroyed, Voldemort’s physical being can be killed.
- Death is a transition. Harry can choose to move on or return and fulfill all of his destiny.
- Everything that has happened—the tortuous years at Hogwarts and with his aunt and uncle, Hermione’s wiping her existence from her parents’ memories, Dobby’s sacrificial death and the multi-layered loss of Sirius Black—all have purpose. The multiple sacrifices of the Dear will lead to a greater, freer existence.
Friendship, loyalty, and love brought Harry through the battles. These three are the ultimate reward: a reward that Voldemort mocks.
Someone said, in reaction to the white station scene with Dumbledore, “It’s all been worth it; now we know.”
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
The Treasure that Helps us Endure
- For Anne Eliot in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Frederick Wentworth’s renewed love will help her endure the last few days with her atrocious family. Through the Ordeal, she intellectually and emotionally divorced herself from her old life. In the Reward, she looks to the potential of the future.
- In The 13th Warrior, the Wendol Mother is dead. The warriors escaped from the inescapable lair. They lost comrades; their leader is dying; they must still battle the Wendol leader. But they can taste success, and they begin to reap the rewards. This is especially true for Ibn, who did not understand the Warrior Code. He understands it now. When the culminating battle approaches, he now fully understands the purification prayer he was taught and the Northmen’s Invocation of Blood.
As audience, as writers, we relish the moment of the Reward even as we anticipate the last three stages: the Road Back, the Resurrection (of the Evil and of the Protagonist), and the Return with the Elixir. It’s time, we may think, for this to be over. We want that first sip of the Elixir.
Hold on. Stay in the Reward moment. Our audience, our protagonists, and we as writers: we all need that Reward.
The Reward requires the same consideration as the Approach to the Inmost Cave: Click here to refer to that blog in a new window.
In Approach, our protagonists acknowledge their increasing transformation as they reject any return to the Ordinary World and their former Dears.
The Last Reward
Here, in Stage 9, our protagonists achieve the last necessary change to themselves, to their goals, and to their desires.
“Achieve” does not mean a change occurs. Instead, protagonists can grasp their transformed goal, their new Dear.
In Approach, that goal and Dear were merely contemplated as the once-enticing old ones were rejected.
Now, the lover embraces his beloved, the king steps foot in his restored realm, the fighter sees justice again in play instead of trampled under vengeful foot.
The Reward is tangible, a living and pulsing reality that proves “It’s all been worth it; now we know.”
Ordeal vs. Reward
As the Ordeal was all-out hatred, the Reward is all-out love. The protagonist basks in celebration at achieving the new Dear.
And the new Dear is welcoming, joyful in contemplation of union with the protagonist.
To continue any conflict between the protagonist and the new Dear is to frustrate the audience.
This is the power of Dumbledore in the Reward of The Deathly Hallows part II. He proves all points of the juxtaposition of Harry with Voldemort in the Ordeal.
This is Anne Eliot’s return home in Persuasion, in the old world as she anticipates the new and quite happy as she reject completely the old.
13th Warrior gives with one hand as it takes with the other. One great defeat waits upon the next; one heroic victory waits on an heroic death. Buliwye is rewarded—oh, not with King Vortigern’s promised treasures and great funeral bonfire that a hero deserves. “There is more, Little Brother,” as Herger says. With the queen’s quick look around at the king’s promise, we know more than gold and weapons will pass with Buliwye through that bonfire into Valhalla.
A similar both-handed Ordeal and Reward occurs in The Return of the King with Eowyn. As she killed the Nazguhl and its rider, she lost her beloved uncle. In her Reward, she has wounds to recover from and a worthy man to recover with.
The Difficult Reward
For protagonists (like Harry Potter) who did not defeat the antagonist during the Ordeal, the culminating conflict occurs in Stage 11, the Resurrection.
If the protagonists failed spectacularly in the Ordeal, they are now prisoners of the antagonistic force.
Continuing to live is not the Reward. Sorry, writers; it’s not that easy.
The Reward provides opportunities for the miraculous, the foreshadowy magical (hinted at but never seen until this moment).
A beloved ally sacrifices himself to save the protagonists (Dobby).
The stone heart finally cracks; the ice finally melts.
Or information so desperately needed earlier becomes available now.
Or the untrusted Shapeshifter becomes trustworthy; the trickster’s earlier trick percolates for hours, days, weeks and finally works out, exploding the imprisoning cage.
The impossible escape becomes possible through the others that the protagonist gathered earlier: the thunder cliffs of 13th Warrior.
To Queen Elizabeth in The Crown, episode 7, the professor reminds her that she studied with the finest Constitutional scholar of England. “You know all the fine points of our Constitution,” he tells her. “You know more than anyone else.” And this young woman, whom the world perceived as weak and lesser and not intellectual, realizes that she is more than anyone imagined, anyone including herself. Elizabeth reaches an understanding that she had but didn’t comprehend: “It is not my job to govern, but it is my job to ensure proper governance.”
The Reward is for our protagonists, our audiences, and ourselves as writers.
Be in the moment and don’t race through it.
The last three stages belong to the last segment of the Archetypal Story Pattern: Return and Re-Integration.
- The key to the antagonist’s ultimate defeat is found.
- The protagonists have their Dear and a new resolve and determination to achieve their goal.
- The protagonists think as individuals, not as the group taught them to think.
Join us on November 20 for the Road Back, Stage 10 of the 12-Stage Archetypal Story Pattern. We’re almost done.