Archetype: term derived from Carl Jung’s idea of recurring patterns of situation, character, or symbols which exist universally and instinctively in the collective unconscious of man
Personal Unconscious (Sigmund Freud): personal experience that has been forgotten or repressed
Collective Unconscious (Carl Jung): ideas that have never been conscious but is the part shared with all humanity; proof of its existence can be found in the study of the commonality of trances, dreams, delusions, myths, religion, and stories
1. The Quest: This motif describes the search for someone or some talisman which, when found and brought back, will restore fertility to a wasted land, the desolation of which is mirrored by a leader’s illness and disability. Jessie L. Seston’s From Ritual to Romance traces the facet of this archetype through the quests of Gawain, Perceval, and Galahad for the Holy Grail. (e.g. The Lion King, Excalibur, Idylls of the King)
2. The Task: To save the kingdom, to win the fair lady, to identify himself so that he may reassume his rightful position, the hero must perform some nearly superhuman deed. NOT THE SAME AS THE QUEST – A FUNCTION OF THE ULTIMATE GOAL, THE RESTORATION OF FERTILITY. Arthur pulls Excalibur from the stone and Grendel is slain by Beowulf.
3. The Initiation: This usually takes the form of an initiation into adult life. The adolescent comes into his/her maturity with new awareness and problems along with new hope for the community. This awakening is often the climax of the story. (e.g. Huckleberry Finn, Stephen Dedalus, King Arthur, the hobbits)
4. The Journey: The journey sends the hero in search for some truth or information necessary to restore fertility to the kingdom. Usually the hero descends into a real or psychological hell and is forced to discover the blackest truths, quite often concerning his faults. Once the hero is at this lowest point, he must accept personal responsibility to return to the world of the living. A second use of this pattern is the depiction of a limited number of travelers on a sea voyage, bus ride, or any other trip for the purpose of isolating them and using them as a microcosm of society. (e.g. The Odyssey, The
5. The Fall: This archetype describes the descent from a higher to a lower state of being. The experience involves a defilement and/or loss of innocence and bliss. The fall is often accompanied by expulsion from a kind of paradise as penalty for disobedience and moral transgression. (Adam and Eve, Lancelot and Guinevere,
6. Death and Rebirth: The most common of all situational archetypes, this motif grows out of the parallel between the cycle of nature and the cycle of life. Thus morning and springtime represent birth, youth, or rebirth; evening and winter suggest old age or death.
7. Nature vs. Mechanistic World: Nature is good while technology and society are often evil. (e.g. Walden, Mad Max, The Terminator)
9. The Unhealable Wound: This wound is either physical or psychological and cannot be healed fully. This would also indicate a loss of innocence. These wounds always ache and often drive the sufferer to desperate measures. (e.g. Lancelot’s’ madness, Ahab’s wooden leg)
10. The Ritual: The actual ceremonies the initiate experience that will mark his rite of passage into another state. The importance of ritual rites cannot be over stressed as they provide clear signposts for a character’s role in society as well as our own position in this world. (e.g. weddings, baptisms, coronations)
11. The Magic Weapon: This symbolizes the extraordinary quality of the hero because no one else can wield the weapon or use it to its full potential. It is usually given by a mentor. (e.g. Excalibur, Odysseus’ bow, Thor’s hammer)
The collective unconscious makes certain associations between the outside world and psychic experiences. These associations become enduring and are passed from one generation to the next. Some of the common archetypal associations are as follows:
1. Light vs. Darkness: Light usually suggests hope, renewal, or intellectual illumination; darkness implies the unknown, ignorance, or despair.
2. Water vs. Desert: Because water is necessary to life and growth, it commonly appears as a birth or rebirth symbol. Water is used in baptismal services, which solemnizes spiritual births. Similarly, the appearance of rain in a work of literature can suggest a character’s spiritual birth. (e.g. The Wasteland, the sea and river images in The Odyssey)
3. Heaven vs. Hell: Man has traditionally associated parts of the universe not accessible to him with the dwelling places of the primordial forces that govern his world. The skies and mountaintops house his gods; the bowels of the earth contain the diabolic forces that inhabit his universe. (e.g.
4. Innate Wisdom vs. Educated Stupidity: Some characters exhibit wisdom and understanding of situations instinctively as opposed to those supposedly in charge. Loyal retainers often exhibit this wisdom as they accompany them on the journey. (e.g. Sam from The Lord of the Rings, animals)
5. Haven vs. Wilderness: Places of safety contrast sharply against the dangerous wilderness. Heroes are often sheltered for a time to regain health and resources. (e.g. the Batcave, Camelot, Rivendale, the
6. Supernatural Intervention: The gods intervene on the side of the hero or sometimes against him. (e.g. The Odyssey, The Lord of the Rings, The Bible)
7. Fire vs. Ice: Fire represents knowledge, light, life, and rebirth while ice like the desert represents ignorance, darkness, sterility, and death. (e.g. the phoenix, Dante’s The Inferno)
It should be noted that the primitive mind tends not to make fine discriminations but thinks rather in terms of polarities. Thus, when archetypes appear in a work of literature, they usually evoke their primordial opposites. Good is in conflict with evil; birth symbols are juxtaposed with death images; depictions of heaven are countered by descriptions of hell; and for every Penelope, there is usually a Circe to balance the archetypal scales.
1. The Hero: Lord Raglan in The Hero: A Study in Tradition, Myth and Drama, contends that this archetype is so well defined that the life of the protagonist can be clearly divided into a series of well-marked adventures which strongly suggest a ritualistic pattern. Raglan finds that traditionally the hero’s mother is a virgin, the circumstances of this conception are unusual, and at birth some attempt is made to kill him. He is, however, spirited away and reared by foster parents. We know almost nothing of his childhood, but upon reaching manhood, he returns to his future kingdom. After a victory over the king or a wild beast, he marries a princess, becomes king, reigns uneventful, but later loses favor with the gods. He is then driven from the city after which he meets a mysterious death, often at the top of a hill. His body is not buried, but nevertheless, he has one or more holy sepulchers. Characters who exemplify this archetype to a greater or lesser extent are Oedipus, Theseus Romulus, Perseus, Jason, Dionysus, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, Jesus Christ, Siegfried, Arthur, Robin Hood, and Beowulf.
2. The Young Man from the Provinces: This hero is spirited away as a young man and raised by strangers. He later returns to his home and heritage where he is a stranger who can see new problems and new solutions. (e.g. Tarzan, Arthur, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Spock)
3. The Initiates: These are young heroes or heroines who, prior to their quest, must endure some training and ceremony. They are usually innocent and often wear white. (e.g. Arthur, Daniel in The Karate Kid)
4. Mentors: These individuals serve as teachers or counselors to the initiates. Sometimes they work as role models and often serve as a father/mother figure. (e.g. Merlin)
5. Mentor-Pupil Relationship: The mentor teaches by example the skills necessary to survive the quest.
6. Father-Son Conflict: Tension often results from separation during childhood or from an external source when the individuals meet as men and where the mentor often has a higher place in the affections of the hero than the natural parent. (e.g. Arthur and Uther, Romeo and Lord Montague)
7. Hunting Group of Companions: Loyal companions willing to face any number of perils in order to be together. (e.g. Robin Hood and his Merry Men, The Knights of the Round Table)
8. Loyal Retainers: These individuals are somewhat like servants who are heroic themselves. Their duty is to protect the hero and reflect the nobility of the hero. (e.g. Sam in The Lord of the Rings, Watson of Sherlock Holmes)
9. Friendly Beast: This shows that nature is on the side of the hero. (e.g. Toto, Lassie, Trigger)
10. The Devil Figure: Evil incarnate, this character offers worldly goods, fame, or knowledge to the protagonist in exchange for possession of the soul. (e.g. Sata, Lucifer, Hitler)
11. The Evil Figure with the Ultimately Good Heart: A redeemable devil figure saved by the nobility or love of the hero. (e.g. Green Knight, Scrooge, any romance novel hero)
12. The Scapegoat: An animal or more usually a human whose death in a public ceremony expiates some taint or sin that has been visited upon a community. Their death often makes them a more powerful force in that society than when they lived. (e.g. Oedipus, the Jews)
13. The Outcast: A figure who is banished from a social group for some crime (real or imagined) against his fellow man. The outcast is usually destined to become a wanderer from place to place. (e.g. some cowboys, The Ancient Mariner)
14. The Woman Figure:
a. The Earthmother: Symbolic of fruition, abundance, and fertility, this character traditionally offers spiritual and emotional nourishment to those with whom she comes in contact. Often depicted in earth colors and has large breasts and hips symbolic of her childbearing capabilities. (e.g. Mother Nature, Mammy in Gone with the Wind)
b. The Temptress: Characterized by sensuous beauty, this woman is one to whom the protagonist is physically attracted and who ultimately brings about his downfall. (e.g. Delilah, Guinevere, Cleopatra, the Sirens)
c. The Platonic Ideal: This woman is a source of inspiration and a spiritual ideal, for whom the protagonist or author has an intellectual rather than a physical attraction. (e.g. the Virgin Mary)
d. The Unfaithful Wife: A woman married to a man she sees as dull or distant and is attracted to more virile or interesting men. (e.g. Guinevere, Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina)
e. The Damsel in Distress: The vulnerable woman who must be rescued by the hero. She is often used as a trap to ensnare the unsuspecting hero. (e.g. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty)
f. The Star-Crossed Lovers: These two characters are engaged in a love affair that is fated to end tragically for one or both due to the disapproval of the society, friends, or family or some tragic situation. (e.g. Romeo and Juliet, Lancelot and Guinevere)
15. The Creature of Nightmare: A monster usually summoned from the deepest, darkest part of the human psyched to threaten the lives of the hero/heroine. Often it is a perversion or desecration of the human body. (e.g. werewolves, vampires, huge snakes, Frankenstein)