The Archetypal characters
Three main points of study:
• archetypal characters
• archetypal images
• archetypal situations
1. Archetypal Characters
• the HERO: a figure, larger than life, whose search for self-identity and/or self-fulfillment results in
his own destruction (often accompanied by the destruction of the general society around him). In
the aftermath of the death of the hero, however, is progress toward some ideal. While this applies
to modem superheroes such as Superman (Clark Kent searching for the balance between his super
self and his mortal selD, it also applies to the Christian faith's Jesus Christ (a mortal man who
comes to terms with his destiny as the Messiah), and thousands of other literary and religious
figures throughout history.
Some variations of the HERO figure include:
• the "orphaned" prince or the lost chieftain'sson raised ignorant of his heritage until he is rediscovered
(King Arthur, Theseus);
• the SCAPEGOAT:an innocent character on whom a situation is blamed-or who assumes the
blame for a situation-and is punished in place of the truly guilty party, thus removing the guilt
from the culprit and society.
• the LONER or OUTCAST:a character who is separated from (or separates him or herself from)
society due to a physical impairment or an emotional or physiological realization that makes this
character different. Jesus goes into the desert to discern his destiny; Buddha leaves society to come
to terms with his philosophy. Victor Frankenstein travels to remote locales to avoid people when
he realizes that he has created a monster. Often, the Hero is an outcast at some point in his or her
Two common variations of the LONER are:
• the UNDERDOG, the smaller, weaker, less-worldly-wise character, who usually emerges victorious
at the end of the story;
• the guilt-ridden figure in search of redemption.
• the VILLAIN:the male or female personification of evil. Note that, while nearly all literature has
an antagonist to provide conflict with the protagonist, not all antagonists are villains. Villains ~re
indeed personifications of evil. Their malice is often apparently unmotivated, or motivated by a
single wrong (or perceived wrong) from the past. The villain's malice often limitless, and rarely is
the villain reformed within the context of the story. Examples of archetypal villains are Satan, and
Loki (from Norse mythology).
Some variations of the VILLAINfigure include:
• the "mad scientist"
• the bully
• the TEMPTRESS:the female who possesses what the male desires and uses his desire (either intentionally
or unintentionally) as a means to his ultimate destruction. Examples are Eve, Juliet, Lady
• the EARTHMOTHER/GODDESS:Mother Nature, Mother Earth-the nurturing, life-giving aspect
• the SPIRIT or INTELLECT:the often-unidentified feminine inspiration for works of art and literature.
Examples would be Dante's Beatrice, Shakespeare's Dark Lady, etc.
• the SAGE: largely of Eastern origin, the sage is the elderly wise man; the teacher or mentor.
Examples from Western literature would be Merlin and Tiresias. Yoda from Star Wars and Gandalf
from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are contemporary derivations.
Some variations of the SAGEinclude:
• the wise woman, the witch. Note that, while the male SAGE'swisdom is usually spiritual or philosophical
(often with political or military applications), the wise woman's wisdom tends to be more
an understanding of the workings of nature, thus the connection of the wise woman with witchcraft,
and all of the associated superstitions.
• the stern, but loving authority figure.
• the oracle: male or female prophet, fortune-teller, sooth-sayer