Miniatures in Mythos

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In his book Hero With A Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell coined the term monomyth to describe the “common heroic narrative in which a heroic protagonist sets out, has transformative adventures, and returns home.”1 The monomyth provides a formula for comparing myths across time and culture.

File:Joseph Campbell at Feathered Pipe Ranch, Montana.jpg
Joseph Campbell at Feathered Pipe Ranch, Montana. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The monomyth’s existence suggests that a set of similar traits characterize compelling stories.

A common theme in many famous stories is miniatures coming to life. The theme often engenders wonder, intrigue, and contemplation. To see what makes this theme so popular among storytellers and compelling to humankind, we can examine examples from The Indian in the Cupboard.

The Indian in the Cupboard

The Indian in the Cupboard.jpg
First Edition cover of the Indian in the Cupboard. Source: Wikimedia Commons


The Indian in the Cupboard, written by Lynne Reid Banks, is a well-known children’s novel that features miniatures.

Omri, the protagonist in the novel, receives unique gifts on his birthday—a plastic figurine of an Indian and an antique wooden cupboard.

At first, Omri is slightly displeased with his gift of the plastic figure, “The trouble was…Omri was getting a little fed up with small plastic figures, of which he had loads” (Banks, 6). Disinterestedly, Omri puts the plastic figure in his pocket. Later, his mother finds the Indian while washing Omri’s clothes. She returns the figure to Omri, and he places it in his new cupboard.2

By emphasizing Omri’s disenchantment with the plastic figure, the author prepares Omri for a surprise—that evening, the plastic figure comes to life as an Indian called Little Bear. The anticipation builds suspense, and the payoff excites the reader.


Miniatures in stories allows for creative worldbuilding. Miniature characters will interact with everyday objects in unusual ways. Storytellers can experiment with scale to amplify danger or provide audiences with a new sense of awe of the ordinary.

An example of the way scale can influence worldbuilding can be found in the film “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” released in 1989, directed by Joe Johnston. The story revolves around the accidental shrinking of a group of kids to a minuscule size and their subsequent journey to find their way back home.

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A new set of perils awaits the kids after they are shrunk. Tiny insects become monstrous, an ordinary lawnmower becomes lifethreatening, water droplets become drowning hazards, and the grass becomes a treacherous jungle to navigate. Stories that incorporate high stakes keep audiences at the edge of their seats, since survival is one of the most innate human instincts. Miniaturizing characters shifts perspective and makes ordinary objects suddenly perilous.

As we’ve seen, miniatures can be used as compelling devices for storytelling. Miniatures coming to life instills wonder and suspense. Shrinking characters allows storytellers to experiment with unique environmental perspectives.

In a future article, we’ll talk about how you can incorporate miniatures into compelling stories about your brand.

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By Joshua Knopf

Joshua Knopf is a Production Expeditor at Pacmin Studios. In addition to mixing and matching colors for silkscreen printed decals, Josh writes creative content for our newsletters.


  1. Monomyth: The Hero’s Journey.
  2. Banks, Lynne Reid, The Indian in the Cupboard. Garden City, N.Y. :Doubleday, 1980.
  3. Pacmin Studios’ Daniel Price suggested using the film Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.