Life is full of peril. Danger and darkness lurk the corners, and in our blackest moments, most of those journeys would fail if not for the Hero rising up to save the day. He–or she–is the final trump against evil: resilient, strong, and death-defying.
We experience most stories from the eyes of the Hero, and many follow the archetypical journey named after him. The Hero’s Journey, often used to describe works of fairy tale and fantasy (in particular), would not exist without this archetype, the most familiar of all of the Egos.
As I 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 is the third of the Ego types: the Hero.
THE TWELVE ARCHETYPES
Also known as the Warrior or Crusader, the Hero can manifest as many superheroes, sports players, and soldiers. His narrative is well-known.
The Hero only wants to prove her worth, and return hometo her ordinary world. However, she is often forced into action by external forces, good or bad.
Once the Hero has taken on his task, he is focused, and will fight for only what really matters. Losing is not an option. The Hero will continue trying to succeed, or die trying. He is addicted to success, and once one goal is complete, he will not be satisfied until the cycle has started again (this is why so many Hero stories can easily span years, in sequel after sequel). The Hero restores peace for everyone but himself. Often, he leaves the fight with both an unhealable wound and a weapon or tool that gives him an advantage over his foes.
Though the Hero is courageous, determined, and disciplined, he is quite susceptible to his Shadow. Apathy, stoicism, rejecting help, and especially arrogance are all vices he has a hard time avoiding. On the extreme side of things, the Hero can become the ruthless villain, ignoring all good and sense for the attainment of his goals.
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Atreyu, of the Neverending Story, is the Hero to Sebastian’s cowardice. He resists the evils of his world, and even though he loses his friend Artax to the Swamp of Sorrows, he still overcomes his challenges, retaining his pure heart. (BTW, Atreyu is supposed to be a green-skinned native. Go figure.)
The Hero Archetype isn’t just limited to Western stories. Son Goku, of Dragon Ball (based off of Journey to the West) can’t seem to go on enough adventures, and is always training himself up for the next conflict. It isn’t enough to have beat his foe – he needs to be #1.
The boxer who just didn’t know when to quit (or retire). A masterpiece of sports fiction, the Rocky series shows the pitfalls of a Hero after his initial challenge, and the decay of character a long period of inactivity can inflict.
Was there ever a point Frodo wanted to be on his Journey? Probably not. Journeying to destroy the One Ring was Frodo’s courageous act to save the world he loves, only to save it for everyone but himself. He is never able to love the Shire like he used to after the fact, with the wound he got from a Morgul knife paining him for the rest of his days.
If you are a child of the 90s, you already know the story of Simba, and like many of these examples before him, arrogance and impatience leads to the greatest tragedy of his life: the death of his father.
After a Black Monster destroys his hometown of Neet and kills his parents, Dart (from the game Legend of Dragoon) begins a quest to find the monster and avenge his family. Along the way, he meets mentors, helpers, healers, and the like, in a classic Hero’s Journey.
Though Batman is pictured, he is an Outlaw. Here we look at Superman and Wonderwoman, both having received “The Call” to fight, and as we can tell by recent movies, haven’t left the action yet.
Though this character doesn’t need much explaining to make his inclusion here obvious, Harry Potter (while an Orphan) is also a Hero, going so far as to sacrifice himself to restore balance to a world that needs to escape his nemesis. This act requires more courage than skill, magic, or intelligence, and Harry is nothing short of brave (even though he fears failure every step of the way).
Neo, while technically embodying the trope of ‘Chosen One’ is also the Hero of his tale, unable to live in his status quo for very long without the next ‘level’ of danger presenting itself.
Hercules is the bravest of the brave, but he is also not allowed the life of a god, or the life of a mortal, putting him in constant turmoil with the characters around him. Arrogance, as with the rest, is often what leads him to trouble… and his downfall.
Miranda, from The Devil Wears Prada, is the Shadow Hero at her finest. Ruthless and success-oriented, she doesn’t give a lick for morality or justice if they get in her way.
Poor Oddyseus, picked on by the gods for immortal amusement. But he rises up, to each and every task, until at last he can return to his ordinary world (his wife)… where he discovers things aren’t exactly how he left them.
Most people know the early days of King Arthur – the boy who pulled the sword from the stone to become king. But what I wish to highlight here is the King Arthur of the later years. Arrogant, ruthless, and cruel. Having succeeded in being king is not enough for him, and he destroys much in trying to achieve more “than his paygrade”.
Thorin is a Hero among dwarves. He is strong, diligent, and virtuous. However, arrogance gets the better of this dwarf when he quests to restore the throne of his father in “The Hobbit”, nearly to the destruction of all he holds dear. In the end, he must give up it all to restore his honor, and the balance between the factions at war.
Again, not much needs to be said here. The Hero archetype tends to repeat itself with little variation, which is why it is also known as the monomyth (Joseph Campbell). Aragorn must rises to action to defeat the evil threatening his world, but in doing so, he must also accept the crown he has always run from.
It is the Everyman. It is the Everywoman. The Everyperson.
Morality, virtue, and equality are important–and when you are an Everyperson, perhaps they are appreciated more than anything else. Among the twelve archetypes, there are none more “centered” than he. The Everyperson is not just centered in heart and spirituality and education, but also in the “wheel” of archetypes. The Everyperson can easily turn into any of the other Soul or Self types.
As I mentioned in my first and second post 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 is the second of the Ego types: the Everyperson.
THE TWELVE ARCHETYPES
Sometimes referred to as the Orphan, the good neighbor, silent majority, good old boy, common man, or person next door, the Everyperson is a little bit of you, a little bit of me, and a little bit of everyone else, too. The Everyperson stands on equal footing with all of her peers, and is eager to build new and lasting relationships with all of the personalities that populate her world.
The Everyperson wants, more than anything, is security. Her life has been hard: trauma and ordeals have forced her to accept a realistic outlook, and at worst, a terrible cynicism. It takes a while to became a true friend of the Everyperson.
To be accepted by her chosen peers is part of the Everyperson’s wishes. And while belonging to a family, a group, a country, or adventure is what motivates her to succeed, the unending desire for acceptance can also lead to loss of self in the effort to please so many others.
The Everyperson is virtuous, down-to-earth, and carries indelible empathy for the pain of others. If the Everyperson were an astrological sign, she’d be the Virgo. She is resilient, hardworking, and is most in touch with the consequences of “the quest”, particularly death, as she has had contact with it before. She sometimes has a pessimistic or deadpan sense of humor, which can help her bond with others in tougher situations.
On the flip side, the Everyperson is disdainful of elitism, classism, and any other “-isms”–and may even, in her Shadow, turn to the mercenary (or Outlaw archetype) as a way to combat the systems that have caused her suffering earlier in life. The orphan is prone to self-pity, and is often mistrustful of others when forced into a leadership role. Unlike the Innocent, the Orphan tends to demotivate her team members with her constant negativity. She is also willing to be abused if the only other option is to be alone.
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Anastasia, from the movie of same name, wants nothing more than to find her family, and the place where she really belongs. In a classic Oliver Twist narrative, she sets out with this dream in mind, only to be conned by two men wishing to make a nice mint off of her uncannily similar appearance to a certain Russian princess. (But they couldn’t possibly be the same person!) While Anastasia exhibits many of the Orphan’s good qualities, she also has some of its less favorable traits, including a cynicism that drives others away from her when they start to get too close for comfort.
Batman 2.0, or the Batman from Batman Beyond is much like his predecessor. Terry is suddenly and tragically left orphaned when Bruce Wayne comes across him, and pulls him under his wing to groom him into a true hero. The journey isn’t without its bumps. Terry often shows that his anger outweighs his common sense, adding considerable emphasis to the “dark” in dark knight. In the end though, all Terry wants is acceptance, and he gets this from Bruce, which keeps him on the good guys’ side.
Jakkin, of Jane Yolen’s Heart’s Blood series, is not only an orphan but a slave. However, these early traumas give him a strikingly realistic view of the world–so much so that he can raise himself up from his status and to freedom. Nowhere is this more apparent than the moment that starts his journey: given the choice between two hatchlings (one sick and one healthy, and one definitely doomed to the slaughterhouse if left behind), Jakkin chooses the healthy ‘chick’. There is no room for the Innocent’s forgiveness in this narrative.
Though little explanation is needed for Annie, this feel-good about you, your neighbor, and the world orphan is one of the more positive incarnations of this archetype. Though the Everyperson need not be an orphan in the literal sense, that feeling of overcoming loss is one of the strongest tenants of the Everyperson.
Setsuko, of Grave of the Fireflies, is a child doomed to die. While she is an Innocent in the strictest terms, it is her brother, Seita, who is plagued with justifiable pessimism, eventually leading to both of their deaths. This movie pulls no punches on the reality of the war orphan’s plight. Seita is the result of the Everyperson’s abandonment by those he relies on.
Bilbo Baggins is a fantasy world’s Everyperson. He is not an orphan, starting his story with a secure home and community, but is the “ordinary” on his journey with the dwarves. This makes him somewhat of an outsider, and soon, his motivation is to gain acceptance from his travel fellows. He gains the trust of the others slowly but surely, even though he often has his doubts about the journey altogether.
Ron is the best friend of the hero, and practically invisible to everyone else in the world of Harry Potter. However, it is also his unassuming nature, and his (and his family’s) belief in equality that keep Harry grounded (by treating him normally) and Hermoine accepted (despite her blood roots).
“With great power comes great responsibility.” It is with these words that the self-pitying Peter Parker is transformed into a hero of justice, but even so, his Shadow tendencies often resurrect, vying for dominance.
Rogue, of the X-Men, is a classic Shadow-driven Orphan. With a power that insures she will never be able to have a physical relationship with any person ever, Rogue is often destructive–not just to herself but those around her. She even (in the comics) puts her loved ones in peril to satisfy her own needs in the attempt to escape loneliness. She is mistrustful, and often blames the faults of her personality on her situation, rather than owning up to any real responsibility. Still, her ability to rally at the end makes her a useful (if at times exasperating) ally to have.
The most famous of the Everyperson, Homer Simpson is the guy next door, the good old guy, the common, white-collar man. All are equal in his mind (except maybe Flanders). Self-pity plagues him in his weaker moments, but in general, Homer’s humor and unassuming nature ensure he will always have a friend to lean on.
Seth Bullock, of Deadwood, just wants to do right by the world and his fellow man. He marries his dead brother’s wife out of tradition, becomes sheriff of Deadwood, and tries to keep the peace, even if that means making friends with the more unsavory business owners in town. Bullock is able to make allies out of enemies because he judges a man based on their actions, and not their role in society or the rumors that follow them. He is the moral Everyperson, and will not be swayed.
Centuries of literature from all across the globe have shown us kings, highwaymen, samurai, wisemen, star-crossed lovers, and wizards––many so common that they have become archetypes in our consciousness. According to Carl Jung, there are twelve in all, set into three different categories of Ego, Soul, and Self.
Archetypes work as an appealing framework for the characters that fill our myths, legends, fairytales, and literature. They exist in all sorts of cultures (sometimes under different names, such as the Sage being also the Wiseman, Shaman, or Taoist Monk).
What follows is a mini-series devoted to the explanation of Jung’s twelve archetypes, through examples in film*, literature, and video games, and close looks at the elements that separate them from the rest.
The series will have thirteen posts in all, including this one, and the previously published The Anima and Animus in Fantasy. It will start with the archetypes in the Ego category (Innocent, Everyperson, Hero, Caregiver), then move on to the Soul (Explorer, Outlaw, Lover, Creator), and finish with the Self (Jester, Sage, Magician, Ruler).
*examples gleaned from film and television are more accessible than those through literature, as the likelihood that a movie has been watched is higher than a book having been read.
THE TWELVE ARCHETYPES
Known by many other names, including the Child, the Youth, Utopian, naive, and mystic, the Innocent embodies all that we wish to return to in old age, and a soul untarnished by the harshness of the world.
The Innocent craves happiness above all else. It need not be just his own; the Innocent desires paradise for all, even his enemy. The motivations for the Innocent are sincere. Truth is all he knows.
This unadulterated innocence is what makes this archetype one of the most sympathetic characters, and in group settings, it is the Innocent who often rallies those sooner down-trodden. They inspire people to default to the good, especially those that are apathetic. At his height, the Innocent can convince a neutral party to fight for the Hero, even if there is no reward to be had and the chance of success is slim. His optimism is unrivaled.
However, the Innocent is not impervious to the Shadow, or those elements of an archetype that the Self rejects from its day-to-day Persona. In fact, the Innocent can be terribly naive, to the point of endangering those around him. The Innocent can also be precocious, and difficult to reason with. They are dependent on the skill of others to survive, but may not be aware of it, often living sheltered lives or having a disposition that ignores reality in order to retain a fantasy ideal.
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Buddy the Elf is as innocent as they come. Sincere, optimistic, and completely avoidant of any hint that he might not be one of Santa’s “Little Helpers”, Buddy goes through life cheerfully changing people’s lives for the better, without ever really losing the charm of his innocence through the trials.
While it could be argued that the Tree from “The Giving Tree” is more a Caregiver than an Innocent, I think the tree’s endless sacrifices for the boy’s happiness (and her own eventual happiness) prove her naivety, and her ideal that one day, she and the boy will be together. (Whereas the rest of us might wish to teach her to understand how big of a mooch the Boy is being.)
The Unicorn in “The Last Unicorn” is the epitome of the Innocent Animal. Hunted and alone, she struggles with a reality she can no longer escape, in the end, even tarnished to the point that she can never recover her pureness (and return with the other unicorns). She is precocious, and unable to understand the pain of her comrades. Being turned into a woman is soul-destroying for her, on many levels, but most notably, the sudden romantic emotions hoisted on her from within and without.
Kaylee (or Kaywinnet Lee Frye) is known as the “heart” of the ship Serenity on the series Firefly. She is optimistic, cheerful to the point of irritating to some of her other crew members, and is generally unaffected by the peril she and her friends face during the run of the show. She is the light and encouragement to the rest of the ship.
While the later incarnations of Gabrielle (Xena: Warrior Princess) might not fit the mold of The Innocent to a “T”, the one pictured here was the perfect “contrast” to the dark and dangerous Xena. Her death (and subsequent revival) could show what happens to the Innocent once that most powerful element of their Persona is removed.
Pippin Took, one of the infamous duo of hobbits in the Shire, is portrayed in both the books and films as an innocent, free-loving, and slightly devious Naive completely unequipped to deal with the dangers he is thrust to in the effort to help his friend. However, it is Pippin’s innocence that allows him to befriend the Ents, the King of Gondor, and reveal the true intentions of Sauromon, even if through blunder.
Though I’ve never watched a Shirley Temple film, her character is so synonymous with the Innocent that it is hard not to include her here. Shirley Temple was also typecast almost exclusively as the Ingenue, or a woman or girl stock character that is genuinely wholesome and sweet.
While many Disney princesses would fit this mold, Snow White is the best example for the Innocent gone wrong. she is so oblivious in her ideals that she is never wary of strangers, or the queen that is out to destroy her (twice!) While her affinity with animals and kindness to the dwarves earns her happiness, she is ultimately a victim of her own Persona, refusing to even *see* any bad in the world.
Dory, best known for her battles with short-term memory, was the foil to Marlin’s impenetrable depression. It is Dory’s happy-go-lucky nature (sometimes portrayed as being a defense mechanism in and of itself) that bolsters Marlin enough to complete his journey, even at his blackest moment.
While some may feel Luke Skywalker belongs in the Hero category, he is often cast as a prime example for the Innocent: unswayed by power, and wishing only to do what is right, Luke is even able to get the unscrupulous Han Solo to aide him in his quest.
Tropes. Clichés. Archetypes. From the Hero’s Journey to magic swords, these devices abound in works of fantasy, from the most ancient of mythologies, to more contemporary works of fiction.
While tropes and archetypes should not be confused with the more negatively-defined cliché, all work together to build a story that is not only accessible to readers, but also bigger than the page they appear on. The use of archetypes and tropes in one’s writing can make for characters and stories that are complex and familiar, which urges greater investment from the audience that interacts with the story.
Tropes, clichés and archetypes have all been researched, compiled, espoused and, at times, discouraged, in a variety of sources, both in print and online. Archetypes, originally coined by Carl Jung for use in his analytic psychology theory, refer twelve main, primal personalities that appear frequently in mythology and fairytales across the world. They differ from stereotypes in that they are used as the framework of a character, rather than a means to an end. A good example of this difference would be The Chosen One vs. The Hero.
The Chosen One is considered an overdone cliché in that, as A.F.E. Smith writes: [The Chosen One] tends to go hand in hand with a simplistic good-versus-evil morality structure. You can’t have someone destined to save the world without also having someone or something it needs to be saved from.
The Hero, on the other hand, has a set of motivations, mottos, and a darker, shadow side that help build the complexity of character that their Persona is then laid on top of. As an archetype, The Hero has many similar traits with The Chosen One, but rather than being a passive suggestion of who or what a character is, it is active in developing a multi-layered framework for further character development.
Simply, the archetype portion of The Hero is the bones of the character, while the story portrayed builds the muscle and organs, and finally, The Persona is the skin that they use to interact with other characters on the page.
Of course, clichés can be used effectively, and archetypes, tropes, and clichés are not mutually exclusive. Examples can be gleaned easily from pop culture.
In all, Jung suggested that there are twelve archetypes, each with unique motivations, mottos and shadows (darker sides of the generally positive image we assign to each role, for example, the nurturingMother vs. the overbearingMother). While this post won’t go into each archetype (next time!), they are all listed here:
Instead, I’d like to take a look at the Anima and the Animus, and how they relate to fiction-writing, and in particular, fantasy.
The Anima & The Animus
Traditionally speaking, Jung correlated the anima and the animus with polarized, binary genders, and their relationship to one another. This is, in itself, another archetype, coming from the desire for dichotomies, either in the form of positive vs. negative, winter vs. summer, man vs. woman, white vs. black. In other words, the yin-yang.
However, today’s thinking excludes genderfying traits of personality, especially since binary gender is now widely accepted as a social construct (over sixty have been suggested to exist). So while the simplistic definition of anima has always been “the feminine principle, as present in men”, now we might redefine it to be the state of accepting emotionality, including the creative forces, intuition, and imagination.
Jung originally believed that men had one central anima to the psyche, while women were often host to several animus (the male counterpart). The anima also had four different states (of eroticism), which Jung titled Eve, Helen, Mary, and Sophia.
Eve –– the emergence of an object of desire. For Jung, this was when men saw women merely as “The Mother”, or the object to be fertilized.
Helen –– A woman as a placeholder for virtue. In this state, the woman has already achieved some success on her own.
Mary –– The spiritual mother; a holy version of Eve, and often the last state accepted by the man.
Sophia –– Wisdom with virtue. Highest level of mediation between the conscious and unconscious mind.
The point of the anima was to show how, first, a man might get in touch with his unconscious and grow as an individual, but also how he would interact to women in his life, based on the current state he is in. The animus has four similar levels, but rather than being tiered, can be occupied by several men at a time in a woman’s unconscious or daily life. For the animus, the states are as follows:
Man of mere physical power –– The champion, the physical hero. “Tarzan”.
Man of action or romance –– Possessing of initiative and a capacity for planned action. A war hero, hunter, poet.
Man as a professor, clergyman, orator –– The bearer of the Word.
Man as a helpful guide to understanding himself –– an incarnation of “meaning”. A mediator, spiritual leader, messenger of the gods (Hermes). Highest level of mediation between the conscious and unconscious mind.
However, for person to get “in touch” with an animus does not mean their central Self, or Persona is altered. From Wiki:
The process of animus development deals with cultivating an independent and non-socially subjugated idea of self by embodying a deeper word (as per a specific existential outlook) and manifesting this word. To clarify, this does not mean that a female subject becomes more set in her ways (as this word is steeped in emotionality, subjectivity, and a dynamism just as a well-developed anima is) but that she is more internally aware of what she believes and feels, and is more capable of expressing these beliefs and feelings. Thus the “animus in his most developed form sometimes…make[s] her even more receptive than a man to new creative ideas”.
While fiction-writing, perhaps, does not make use of all the levels of anima and animus, especially in the inner conflicts of the main characters, tropes have emerged that follow these sentiments. In fantasy in particular, one of the most classical versions of narrative, when the main character is a male, is that any central female in the text often becomes (or is) romantically inclined towards him. Look no further than The Odyssey, The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, or Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth.
Conversely, when the main character is female, at least in Western fiction, there tends to be a harem effect, with the woman surrounded by men either competing for her, or guiding her forward (Twilight, Hunger Games, Little Women). These archetypes (on both ends) have obviously led to a great deal of tropes and clichés over time, many of which Anita Sarkeesian deals with in her ongoing Feminist Frequency series. (Oddly, this is reversed in many classical Eastern fantasies.)
However, should we strip the genders from these roles, their usefulness to fiction is still apparent. In dealing with a character whose subconscious is the anima, you have a character that is more proactive and willing to execute the tasks put to her, while a character with a suppressed animus would be more reactive, unwilling to leave their comforts to perform.
In other words, what we might refer to today as an extravert or introvert.
It is no wonder, then, that Jung’s archetypal categories became the basis for the Myers-Briggs Personality Test. It is my belief that inner conflicts, like those portrayed by Jung in the four steps of both the anima and animus, can occur regardless of the gender. Further, these bases for inner conflict can help shape characters in profound ways.
Frodo Baggins –– a passive character forced into an active role, he must ultimately get in touch with, and use, his inner strengths to overcome the conflict of the Ring and the disbanding of the Fellowship. However, his initial passivity remains the central pillar of his character when it comes to the climax with Gollum, who was spared an earlier death. His more passive, emotional nature also slowed the corruption of the Ring, whereas the other, active guardians surrounding him (animus) are corrupted quickly.
Harry Potter –– Harry is an active, curious character who is eager to go on adventures and expand his world. Yet a central figure always looms in his mind: the Dark Lord (the Chosen One‘s nemesis). His anima could also be the spirit of his mother, whom he never really knew yet has clear perceptions of. It is this perception that guides him through his trials (Harry must LOVE, rather than HATE, for example, to conquer).
Both of these examples have little to do with gender, but fall within the confines of Jung’s overreaching definition.
What other books can you think of that help illustrate (or refute!) this idea? If one does not have a dichotomy of personality at work, can they still come across as more than a cliché, or cardboard cut-out character?