Archetypes: Sage

All the books in all the world could not contain all there is to know.

Benevolent mentors and custodians of wisdom are some of the hallmark characters of fantasy. Part mystic, part genius, the Sage is an essential driver of the Hero’s Journey, delegating the task of changing the world to their often younger, more naive and eager fellows. The Sage differs from the Creator in that they do not always use their knowledge to change the world, and very rarely do they desire to create something new––in this, the Sage might be closer to the Explorer. While the Explorer’s goals are outward, the Sage’s are inward.

As I have mentioned in prior posts in this series, this collection of posts deals with the archetypes first put forth by psychiatrist Carl Jung, and the use of these archetypes in fiction. Every post deals with the motivations, character profiles, and Shadows (or negatives) of each archetype. This week we continue looking at the group known as the Soul types, which are defined by goals related to personal development, or agendas that serve to improve their spiritual, mental, or physical standing with the world. The Sage, driven by a need for knowledge, is next.



 The Sage

The Sage is an archetype that is most commonly used in fantasy.

Also known as the scholar, expert, detective, thinker, teacher, mentor, savant, and philosopher, the Sage seeks to understand the world in analytical ways, processing reality with logic and the wisdom of their often long life.

The Sage seeks nothing but the truth. Whether that truth is uncomfortable or heart-rendering, it will be accepted, as the only meaningful path in life is one that pursues truth.

Personal truth based on falsehood is one of the great fears of the Sage, and so they are always questioning what they know to be true. This eagerness to find contradiction sometimes leads the Sage to be misled, or even manipulated by others who are aware of their weakness. In addition, the Sage can be addicted to learning, spending so much time pouring over books and information that they never actively engage in the threat facing their world. One of the most easily recognized representations of this fault is Morla, the giant turtle from the Neverending Story, who is so trapped by her knowledge that she will not even pull herself out of the mud she is in, even to help save her world.


The Sage, being one of the pillars the Hero can depend on, is not easily corruptible. Though the Sage can function in ignorance, when the wool is removed, they often more easily accept that change than the other archetypes. But a shadow Sage is not impossible. A Sage surrounded by profound ignorance may become fed up with such an unenlightened world, and would be happily engage in its political, religious, moral, and spiritual sabotage. A Sage can also become overly criticalimpractical, or even unsympathetic to those not on their intellectual plane. Due to the nature of genius, a Sage may also become addicted to mind-numbing substances.


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Recommended Reading:

Other Posts in this Series:

Archetypes-InnocentArchetypes-everypersonArchetypes-HeroArchetypes-CaregiverArchetypes-ExplorerJester Archetypes Jungian archetypes in fictionArchetypes-OutlawArchetypes-THELOVERCreator Archetype Inventor Jung

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26 thoughts on “Archetypes: Sage

  1. Sages are awesome. I love characters like Gandalf, Dumbledore, Rafiki, Yoda, and Haymitch. 😀 And as I was reading the description, I was able to identify a possible Sage in my own WIP. A very young one (he’s 15 years old), but this archetype is definitely the one that fits him best. Great job once again, Alex!

    Btw, thanks for linking to my Character Arcs post. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hahaha, I actually had Dumbledore on this list for about 5 seconds, then I realized he’s actually a Magician more than a Sage. Gandalf gets to be on two lists because he actually goes through a transformation. I’ll have to really consider the differences between Sages and Magicians for the expanded version I’ll eventually publish for this series. They’re quite similar, in the way Innocents and Lovers are.

      And you’re quite welcome, though to be honest, I remembered the article so well that I already knew it was going to link there! 😉

      BTW, I think really young characters can definitely be Sages (savants). It occurred to me as I was writing that Katniss is very much how I would imagine a young Athena, slowly blossoming into wisdom (that rejects untruths even from those she cares about and allies herself with.)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’ll definitely have to read the Magician article when it’s up then. It’s possible that I confused the two when thinking about Dumbledore.

        Do you think there are other archetypes that are very similar to each other, like Sages / Magicians and Innocents / Lovers?


  2. I’ve been loving this series. What a great resource for writers! The Sage has always been one of my favorite characters, wherever I find them, and one I identify with, if even in the teeniest way. I love what you say about the sage being an explorer who goes inward, seeking personal development and essential truths about reality. I also recognize some of the shadow aspects, the tendency to become a hermit, to hide away from the world, to become addicted to mind-numbing, or even mind-expanding, substances and experiences–that navel-gazing tendency. Mentoring becomes a way to pull out of oneself and make a difference in the world. Writing can be a way out too. So much good stuff here to ponder. Thank you again for creating this series!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Deborah! I can definitely see you identifying best with this archetype. You are very introspective and contemplative. 🙂 That’s also a great point made about mentoring! Thanks for deepening the connection for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! You’ve put a great deal of time and thought into these posts.

    Of the characters that you’ve posted above, Yoda stands out as the prime example, but I am extremely fond of the Cheshire Cat (Wan Shi Tong is great too).

    Considering your love for comic books and the like, I have a question? Which archetypes would you apply for the characters in the TV show “Heroes” (or “Heroes Reborn” for that matter)? Ha! You could always turn that into a quiz question I suppose to see if your readers have been paying attention 😉

    Anyway, I’m curious…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Agree, great post for sure!! I think applying the archetypes to the Heroes and/or Heroes Reborn series/characters is an interesting and awesome idea Crispian!! I would love to try and take that quiz! How fun!

      What do you think Alex??

      Now I am curious too =)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It sounds super fun! I’d love to make a quiz…. but I’d have to watch Reborn first! Perusing the Wiki, I could only remember the first five characters, haha. Time to rewatch it, I suppose. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh man, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve watched Heroes, and haven’t had access to the reboot. I wouldn’t know how to answer that one! I can only remember a couple of the characters (an effect of binge watching, I guess) and known that I do recall fit this… I think the idea for a quiz would be really fun, but I wouldn’t be able to make this one!


  4. And Hello Alex! First time here and so glad I followed Crispian here for this posting!! So interesting and very thorough in your detailing and examples. I am excited to read further about the other archetypes you have done and explore more from you.

    Thanks for this fantastic post and bringing these Archetypes to Light =)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello R.H.! I’m so glad you enjoyed this post! 😀 It’s always wonderful when a new person shows up. Who was your favorite character from this list? I have two more archetypes to go, and then I’ll be doing a follow-up series on how to use them in fiction writing. My favorite post so far is the Explorer, if you’re looking for a recommendation! 😉


    1. Me too! Most of the women I could think of off the top of my head were either goddesses (like Athena or Gaia) or witches, though. If you can think of any more, I’d love to hear them! I’m sure it’s just a limitation of my own mind. 🙂


  5. Once again, great article. And that’s a remarkable gallery of sages 🙂
    I like that you tried to include both positive (seems easy) and negative (not so easy) and even mixed (definitely not easy) examples.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sarah! Actually, I had a lot of fun with the mixed examples because it’s going to tie into my “how to use these archetypes” post-series. But finding corrupted Sages was definitely hard, since they are almost always portrayed as the unchanging element within the Hero’s world.


    1. I think Spok is mine. 🙂 I just love his overall personality and how he deals with problems. Children can definitely be sages, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you did have one!

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