Archetypes: A Hero's Journey Part 1
Archetypes: A Hero's Journey Part 2
In school we recently picked up Archetypes and it got me thinking about them all over again. I figured since I haven't written about them since February, it wouldn't be a bad idea to reopen the topic.
When I wrote about them last time, I discussed both the origin of archetypes and the different journeys that characters can go on. Today I'll go through the different recurring situational settings that come up in archetypal stories. Situational settings are basically the premise of stories.
FUN FACT: Carl Jung, the psychiatrist that came up with the idea of archetypes, also came up with the idea of introverts and extroverts along with other personality types.
All of us are living, breathing archetypes! I'm not sure why, but I find this really cool.
1) The Desert
The desert is commonly associated with spiritual sterility and barrenness but shouldn't be confused with the wasteland archetype.
If you've ever seen the movie Hidalgo, you would know that this archetype fits it perfectly. The main character, Hopkins, has close relations to the Native Americans and their spiritual traditions but refuses to acknowledge this side of him until the climax.
By the end of a story in the desert, the hero will likely come out of their spiritually stale place after leaving the desert or just before they do.
The hero may also contrast the others in the desert and become the only one who isn't barren. Throughout the story they may be the only character that's taking their beliefs anywhere and their battle involves changing the minds of others.ex. Hidalgo, Quarantine by Jim Crace
2) The Orphaned Ruler
In this story, our hero grows up ignorant to the power he/she really holds. He could be anything from a prince separated during a war and raised by a young peasant girl to the son of a mafia leader sent away for his own protection.
So how does the hero discover their power? It could happen through a number of ways but according to the archetype it happens after they're rediscovered by their parents.
|Rapunzel in Tangled|
The hero in this story always, always discovers their true identity and this discovery will bring both good and bad to the character.
ex. Tangled, Alex Rider by Anthony Horowitz, Jupiter Ascending
3) The Damsel in Distress
This one is pretty self explanatory but incase you're not familiar with it: a beautiful young woman is rescued from a monster by a handsome young man who later marries her. Tons of fairytales follow this settings.
Shrek is the complete reverse of this archetype. The creators flip everything on it's head. The monster isn't really a monster, neither the hero or the damsel are drop dead gorgeous and while they get married, it's certainly not expected.
The monster in this story doesn't have to be a beast, it can also be a monstrous person like in Cinderella. Simplified, the monster is the villain.
ex. Cinderella, King Kong, Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi
4) The Long Journey
|Hiro (Masi Oka) and Peter |
(Milo Ventimiglia) in Heroes
The hero could be physically trekking across miles of land (The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien), waging war on an empire (Code Geass) or saving New York from destruction...again (Heroes).
ex. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, Code Geass, Heroes, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
|Hades and Percy in the movie |
adaptation of The Lightning Thief
Katabasis is a Greek word meaning "going down". In literature and especially greek mythology, it refers to a decent into the underworld. This one can be taken both literally or metaphorically. The hero could literally descend into the underworld or could enter an 'underworld-like' place in hellish conditions such as a dystopian land.
Our hero in this story is brave, very motivated and sacrificial—they have to be, it's the underworld! In these stories, our main characters may spend quite some time in the underworld or they may visit it briefly. An important element to note is that the hero can not die or it would not be true Katabasis. Anabasis (a Greek word meaning "going up") should always follow Katabasis.
ex. Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, Orpheus and Eurydice from Greek mythology, Alice In Wonderland
6) The Garden
The Garden is known in the archetype world as one of the 'Big Four'. It's a symbol for birth, fertility, abundance, growth, peace, tranquility—you get the idea. Characters can find refuge in gardens and while the entire story may not take place in one, it's something that our hero will continuously return to.
Gardens can sometimes be ruined or 'poisoned' which will force the hero to leave, sending them on their journey.
ex. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden
|A still from the film adaptation of Beastly|
At the beginning of these stories, the protagonist screws up. The premise will then surround their redemption.
The ritual could be a set thing that they must do according to society, a contract or a spell, or something they believe they must do in their own heart to make things right.
A famous example is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Our protagonist has a bitter heart and is shown through three spirits that he needs to change.
Redemption must always be found in these stories or the premise is worthless.
ex. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Beastly by Alex Flinn
8) The End of the World
Another self-explanatory archetype: so many popular young adult novels fall under this archetype. Whether it's a dystopian/post-apocalyptic society or the impending doom of a city, danger will always be looming over the heads our our heroes. There might be a time limit like there is in Heroes but that's not always the case. Instead, the danger may be the world they live in or the people that want to destroy the world.
ex. Oblivion, I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, The Scorch Trials by James Dashner, Enders Game by Orson Scott Card
Which archetypes do your stories fit into?