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Australian children’s picture books, the Frontier Wars, and Joseph Campbell’s hero with a thousand faces


Margaret Baguley, Martin Kerby, Alison Bedford, & Mia O'Brien


Frank Uhr and Debra O’Halloran’s Multuggerah and the Sacred Mountain (2019) is one of the few children’s picture books that explore the Australian Frontier Wars. In terms of message, the author and illustrator subsume First Nations’ resistance into the nation’s broader celebration of its participation in foreign wars. In terms of medium, they use the overwhelmingly conservative genre of picture books to deradicalise a potentially controversial topic, one that they frame using Joseph Campbell’s conception of the monomyth. Campbell’s development of the monomyth, widely referred to by his major work The hero with a thousand faces (1949/2008) was drawn from his sustained academic study of comparative mythology. He found a similar pattern emerging in a multitude of story forms, fairy tales, songs, and sonnets, and within sacred writings, dreamings, and monologue accounts.  The canonical narrative arc of the hero’s journey has three core elements.  It begins as the hero receives a ‘call to adventure’ and leaves the ordinary world (Separation or Departure). He or she enters an extraordinary world that requires engagement in a range of trials and challenges (Initiation), before returning home to the ordinary world, irreversibly transfigured (Return). Multuggerah and the Sacred Mountain is framed by this trajectory, thereby ensuring a familiarity that belies the reader’s lack of knowledge as to its origin. The author and illustrator thereby avoid too overt a challenge to the ideological and genre-based expectations of their readers.


European empires, Frontier Wars, Genocide, Small Wars

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Date Published

21 December 2023

How to Cite

Baguley, M, Kerby, M., Bedford, A., & O’Brien, M. (2023). Australian children’s picture books, the Frontier Wars, and Joseph Campbell’s hero with a thousand faces. Historical Encounters, 10(2), 73-83.


  • Issue Published 21 December 2023

  • Double Blind Peer Reviewed

  • Author Retains Copyright

  • Distributed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0​ License

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