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 TWELVE ARCHETYPES
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 critical, impractical, 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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It takes a great deal of finagling to get Yoda to come out of retirement and train Luke Skywalker, but Yoda is perhaps the most incorruptible of the Sages listed here. His wisdom and carriage suggest constant thought and patience as facts are deliberated. He is a mentor to many, but the peerlessness he faces also gives him an aura of profound loneliness.
Uncle Iroh, while certainly jolly, is the level head within the Fire Nation, guiding his nephew, and even the other side towards a revolution of peace. His wisdom is so sought after, in fact, that even after his death, he is sought out by the avatars for advice.
Morpheus, perhaps a Sage-in-Training, wants to free the world from untruths. His desire to see Neo succeed are in part tainted by his knowledge that only Neo will be imparted with some of the information he wishes to know about the world, and his paranoia about what is “real” and what is “not,” as well as the reality that he was ultimately misled, make Morpheus a tragic case of the Sage in Shadow.
What to do when you are simply too intelligent for this world? Cannibalism aside, Hannibal is a fascinating look at what happens to a genius who needs mental help. Hannibal is in the unique and terrifying position of being smarter than everyone in the room, but also desperately desiring to find someone with which he can relate, on the most base levels of communication. Hannibal is definitely the Sage in Shadow, unsympathetic, and even desiring, the world to burn.
When you think of the Cheshire Cat, you don’t really think of a Sage. But, factor in the laws of reality in Wonderland, and the Cheshire Cat is in fact the benevolent mentor to Alice, offering advice and wisdom on how to progress through the world and eventually return home. Even further than that, take into account Lewis Carroll’s designs in the structure of the novel, and the Cheshire Cat is the only voice of reason.
Advisor to the line of kings, Rafiki is a bit eccentric and at the best of times, not all that influential. His wisdom is overshadowed by the day-to-day struggles of the Sahara, but it is his eventual confrontation with Simba that sends the young lion back to save his pride.
Haymitch, an alcoholic and survivor of the Hunger Games, is a reluctant Sage — he carries in him all of the knowledge and wisdom Katniss will need to survive her obstacles, but is hesitant to give them and act without being begged. He is a Sage purposefully being misled, because in this case, the truth is too hard to stomach.
Katniss is a good example of one archetype turning into another. While I mentioned her originally in my Outlaw post, by the end of her character arc, she is on track to become the Sage, a seeker of truth, and an almost violent exposer of hypocrisy and falsehood. Katniss’s arc is also interesting in that the Sage rarely makes an interesting main character, but the circumstances of her story propel the Sage’s motives into the realm of requirement for freedom.
Ask any long-time reader of the X-Men comic universe, and it makes sense why Professor X makes this list. While in general a humanitarian and benevolent figure, there are many cases of Professor X’s desire for knowledge and the to test the limits of his mind leading the world into chaos and destruction.
Wan Shi Tong, the great owl that keeps a library of all the world’s knowledge, is a simplistic character, following the archetype’s desires almost perfectly. In his simplicity he is also a powerful message, showing, like the Great Sphynx, that knowledge can also be a gilded cage to those who acquire it.
For Spock, logic and reason are the key to everything. His level-headedness keeps his fleet balanced with the heroic tendencies of Kirk, while his rational way of looking at the world is constantly challenged by the erratic and incomprehensible decisions made by the people he interacts with.
Athena, muse and benefactor to men, is the Sage in Action – defying her father, weedling the other gods to give the humans favor, and fighting herself when all else fails, Athena remains a strong example of this archetype in its perfect form: knowledge and wisdom, with the desire to actively do good with it.
Oracle, from the Matrix, like many other oracles and diviners across Earth’s cache of stories, is an example of the Sage Entrapped. Similar to Wan Shi Tong, oracles are nearly stereotyped by their forward-seeing knowledge; knowledge that they can not share with anyone even if they wanted to. To share would be to change, and to change would have far-reaching, unexpected effects. As a story device, oracles run the risk of being deus ex machina, providing only the information the author needs the character to know to progress the story further, without warning that same character of the consequences awaiting him or her.
Rufus is a Sage-as-Time-Traveler, a device that separates this Sage from Oracle–the time traveler’s knowledge is limited, and once the past begins to change, their future knowledge is no longer relevant. In general, whenever a person comes back from the future with the intent to educate key players in a way to change the future, they can be called a Sage.
While Gandalf later transforms himself into the Magician by becoming Gandalf the White, he very much starts as a Sage. Addicted to pipe weed and inconsequential knowledge, Gandalf languishes his talents in the Shire, and in general, putting others in danger before himself, and even doing so knowingly. Like many sages, he does not tell his younger cohorts the true motives behind his actions or theirs, to deadly consequence.
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This is the motto of the Creator, the Jungian archetype driven by the need to see dream become reality, while providing structure to the world. They are the great architects: the artists, the scientists, the gods and goddesses. Their mind is always questioning, tinkering, and entertaining new theorems. Ingenuity is their hallmark.
As I have mentioned in prior posts of 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 continues 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 Creator, driven by a need for progress, is today’s selection.
THE TWELVE ARCHETYPES
Also known as the artist, innovator, inventor, architect, musician, artist, and dreamer, the Creator is solely focused on examining the boundaries or our reality and perception. As a character, they often take the position of the well-meaning scientist, or savant artist.
The Creator carries an inexhaustible imagination, often excelling at their chosen vocation. When presenting as a mortal character in a reality-based world, he is often portrayed as a man ahead of his time. There are often better examples of this archetype in the real world (Galileo, Einstein, Mozart, Steve Jobs) than in fiction!
Mediocrity is the Creator’s worst fear. Whether this result comes from concept or execution doesn’t matter. The creator wishes to be an authentic voice in a world of white noise. They gain rivals easily, answering those challenges with innovation in their work, and their personal outlook.
The Creator, however, has no shortage of a Shadow. Often given to starting multiple projects but finishing none, or abandoning morality for the sake of their craft, they can be taxing on other people for their insensitivity. Because of their genius, the Creator often tends to play god, allowing the end to justify the means, and deciding what is best for the masses without consulting outside opinion. Many a tormented villain began life as the over-eager, excitable, and impulsive Creator.
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Frida Kahlo, as portrayed by Salma Hayek, was a woman beyond the literal scope of her reality. Confined in body but not in spirit or mind, she advances the ideas of feminism, marriage, sexuality, and art in ways few in her era could.
Tinker Bell, in her movie incarnations, has a much richer personality than in her Peter Pan days, as Hannah Givens (check the recommended readings) points out. In these movies she is a tinker, and inventor, and she must come to terms with the goodness of that designation before she can begin to grow as a person (or fairy!)
Mythology’s original creator. Not much needs to be said here; the stories of Zeus and his creations, and his anger when those creations fail to venerate him properly, are world famous, and with good reason.
Ratatouille is the creator chef, and with his rat’s palette, he is able to combine new ingredients for unexpected tastes.
Dr. Emmett Brown of Back to the Future fame, is your standard Creator archetype. Like most inventors, his inventions tend to backfire in unexpected ways, and he must both grapple with and correct those errors before they result in catastrophe.
Turning to Chinese mythology for a moment, we have Nüwa, the female equivalent of Zeus. She, too, made humans from clay, and set order to the world, at one point repairing the heavens when they tore away from the world.
Kevin McCallister, from Home Alone, is the common portrayal of the Child Creator. Like Dennis the Mennis, Harriet the Spy, and Matilda, Child Creators’s ingenuity is often used for the good of harmony and overpowering those who disrupt the proper order (happiness and peace) of the world.
An obvious inclusion, the figurines of the LEGO universe (and the company as well) are all about Creators as a brand. Build anything. Everyone is the Special.
Mozart, as portrayed in Amadeus, is so consumed by his brilliance that he can not notice the way his life is crumbling all around him, ultimately bringing him to his final destruction.
Forge is an interesting paradox for this list in that he is a Creator – able to create anything in all the world he wishes to create – but he lacks the imagination to do it by himself. The complex nature of his gift forces him to rely on the ingenuity and imagination of others, while his fingers make what would only be dreams, otherwise, reality.
Known as some of the most creative artisans of Middle Earth, the dwarves of Tolkein’s world are also greedy, erring on the side of arrogance and superiority.
Wednesday Addams is one of the more precocious children in TV and Film, taking her “arts” to new levels at every opportunity. She lives outside of her life as a little girl, often speaking and conducting herself in ways that are more mature than even the adults in her household.
Another example of the Creator falling victim to his own genius, Tony Stark is a master tinkerer, unable to keep himself from exploring, or asking questions that shouldn’t be answered. In the most recent film, this led to the creation of the diabolical Ultron and the neutral Vision.
Karen Eiffel, the effective “god” of Stranger than Fiction, is an author who does not realize the words of her imagination are reality for her protagonist Harold Crick, but in the end, she chooses compassion over genius, sparing his life.
Brilliant, confused, angry. The history of Dr. Wells is complex and fascinating, but his use of the particle excelerator for his own ends is a classic example of “playing god” and allowing the end to justify the means.
No list about the Creator could be complete without Dr. Frankenstein, the original pop-culture inventor. While Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde could also make the list, here we have a man playing god, with horrific consequence.
Bulma, inventor extraordinaire, is one of the few females to make this list. As a scientist in Capsule Corp, Bulma’s ingenuity nearly functions as a plot device to get the heroes out of tight situations, but his arrogance as the “brains” behind the operation often put her at odds with the rest of the group.
Wayne Szalinski, from Honey I Shrunk the Kids, rarely thinks about the consequences of his inventions. He sees them only for the good they can do. This of course led to a highly successful series of movies revolving around his irresponsibility with his genius, where he must often rely on his children to clean up his mistakes.
John Hammond wanted a simple thing: to create life. To bring what was extinct back from the dead. But his internal vision was not the outcome: chaos can not be controlled, and Hammond was no god.
Cisco, from the TV series The Flash, is a geeky Creator. If it sounds cool, he’ll build it, sometimes with disastrous outcomes. However, his pure heart is never tampered with, and since he never believes himself superior to others, he is able to maintain his relationships, redirecting his genius to solve the various problems the team faces.
All of the characters pictured here from Big Hero 6 (sans Baymax) could be included in the Creator Archetype, which may be the reason that some found the story a bit flat — there were no real foils or different personalities to round out the cast.
There is strength in intimacy; divinity in love, and no archetype wields this power more skillfully than the Lover: aptly named, often misunderstood.
This archetype brings to mind the great romances, playboys, and jilted lovers of the world’s story tapestry, but they are not limited to passionate affections. The Lover presides over all love: familial, religious, cultural, romantic, peaceful. The Lover desires their anima and animus to be united, in whatever form that might be.
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 are continuing 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 Lover, driven by a need for soul-rendering bliss, is this week’s archetype. In addition to being a Soul type, it is often grouped with three other archetypes (Magician, Ruler, Warrior) to constitute what has been termed the Mature Masculine types. See my post on the Anima & Animus to learn more about the gender-denomination of the archetypes.
THE TWELVE ARCHETYPES
Sometimes known as the friend, partner, intimate, enthusiast, sensualist, or team-builder, the Lover is all about creating lasting, meaningful relationships. They thrive in situations that bring them closer to the things they love.
The Lover performs best under mutually-beneficial arrangements. They are no stranger to dedication and commitment, will show appreciation and gratitude for others without being prompted, and are quickest to (excuse the cliches) wear their heart on their sleeve and view the world through rose-tinted glasses.
They are terrified of being alone. Getting excluded from the group, not having their passions reciprocated or even acknowledged are some of the greatest fears for the Lover, who usually has such a narrow, precise goal that anything less than bliss will leave them broken-hearted. The Lover rarely recovers from this sort of loss.
The Lover’s shadow can take many forms. As a chameleon, thy can risk losing their own self-identity in trying to remake themselves into the image their desired wishes, or can grow so bitter over their failure that they will obstruct the path of their scorning love, or naive people who remind them of their former, innocent passion. The shadow side of the Lover is also one of the most dangerous, as he can not be reasoned with. There is no life for the Lover after loss of love, and many times, they are willing to take many down with them in a final, fitting end. They can also have commitment problems, objectify their desire, and become addicts in the pursuit of recreating the instigating emotion.
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Again, another couple that needs no introduction. Beast and Belle occupy different sides of the Lover spectrum, Belle abandoning her need for perfection, and Beast learns to take into account the will of Belle, instead of objectifying her as his way out of the curse.
Charlotte, of Sex and the City, is the Lover of the group. She wants the perfect man, a white dress and diamond ring. A perfect, cosy house and children. Anything outside of that idea shatters her for many seasons, and because of that, she throws away several good relationships.
Old Yeller. The dog that loved, and loved until sickness forced his friend to betray (or honor, depending on how you look at it) that trust. Animals as characters tend to fall under this archetype, as they are bastions for ‘unconditional love’.
Jamal just wants the girl. How he gets there is his story, but his goal never changes. It would be hard to imagine an ending where he doesn’t get her.
Samwise is a wonderful example of the Lover. His goal throughout the entire LOTR story is to protect Frodo, not just from the evil of the world he is thrust into, but also from the evil threatening to poison his heart. When he seems to have lost Frodo’s friendship, Samwise rallies, overcoming his own hurt to fulfill his promise to his friend–continuing to love Frodo, even when there is no promise that he will return to Frodo’s good graces.
Rogue is a southern belle who wants nothing more than to find love and keep it–but her powers don’t allow skin-to-skin contact with anyone. Her struggles to find fulfillment are one of the tennents of her character.
The most famous romantic couple of literature needs no introduction, their tale having birthed about half a dozen tropes and cliches that were timeless when Shakespeare first penned them. Love or Death. Those are the only options.
Luna Lovegood has no romantic interest, but she is firmly in the realm of the Lover. She cares more about her friends (visible or not) than anything else, and it is the threat to their safety that spurs her into action to fight.
Well, what’s the Joker doing here? For this list, I am focusing on Ledger’s Joker, a villain that created an entire narrative around he and Batman being a divine couple (one can not exist without the other), and a sort of mad obsession with how he expects things will play out. Obviously Batman finds the third option in that dichotomy, but the Joker wins: He becomes a mark on Batman’s psyche.
Phil has a black heart at the beginning of Groundhog’s Day, and his manipulative attempts to get with his boss Rita end in slaps and slammed doors. However, as the movie progresses, Phil goes from self-centered to generous and passionate individual, taking a new appreciation for life and the people that populate his world.
M. Gustave is a bit of a rogue, but his passions are with the Budapest Hotel and her guests, sometimes forcing him to go into surprising lengths.
Anna falls in love with the first guy she meets, and doesn’t understand why everyone else says its a bad idea. Her growth through the story strips away the rose-tinted glasses and forces her to see the true meaning of love.
Agent K is a lover who has lost, or at least he thinks so. He pines after the woman in his former life who he now protects–his motive for fighting aliens for the MiB.
Felix ‘s main arc in Wreck-it-Ralph had more to do with the woman he was determined to impress than actually finding Ralph, though in the end, his friendship with his nemesis is also explored.
Baby falls head first and fast into her first romance. There is heartbreak, there are fights and misunderstandings, but the pain is as important to Baby as the intimacy.
Rules are made to be broken, and without those at the ready to test the status quo, they never would be.
The Outlaw, or Rebel, is a fiction favorite, striding through their worlds with a confidence bordering on arrogance and shaking the foundations their society has always known — often doing so with little to no help at all from those around them.
They speak to a base human desire to break free of the rules and constraints of regular life. Take ten minutes to listen to any radio station: the message is loud and clear. Pop, Rock n’ Roll, and Punk have all gotten their popularity by settling in the heart of the listener, and make them feel the blood of the Rebel pumping through their veins.
THE TWELVE ARCHETYPES
Also known as the rebel, revolutionary, iconoclast, and misfit, the Outlaw is the archetype that lives for revolution.
The Outlaw, though often motivated by a need to better the world through somewhat questionable means, can also have a desire for revenge against atrocities committed against her.
Independent and radical, the Outlaw employs outrageous or disruptive, shocking habits to shake those they interact with out of complacency.
Though the Outlaw can also be a strong advocate for change, the methods they often employ to get the attention of their oppressor can be outright dangerous or misguided. They can also be dogmatic about their own perspective, and outcast those who do not fit their definition of “good,” thus repeating the cycle of society they are trying to break out of. It is not uncommon for them to turn to crime that harms innocent people on the sidelines, and in the process, lose their way, as well as their sense of morality. They often alienate their friends or those who would otherwise support them.
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Pick your iteration of this classic character of fiction, perhaps one of the most recognizable and oldest of the Rebels, after Beowulf. Talk about a character that shakes up society. It’s quite rare that a character can be identified by a universal slogan: “He steals from the rich and gives to the poor.”
Flynn Ryder loves the Outlaw life. Honestly, he can’t wait until his name is in bard songs and his nose is drawn properly on his Wanted posters. Ultimately having a heart of gold, his insecurity led him to a fringe life of petty theft and duplicitous relationships with everyone around him.
The face behind the anti-Capital propaganda machine, Katniss Everdeen is driven by intense personal loss of self and culture. Her rage is what drives her, and at times shows in her darker moments, when even friends turn into enemies.
Wild Thing, of “Major League” is a drug-addled, punk of a pitcher for the Indians. Basically everything about this character is out on the fringe, but it ultimately works in his favor as the team adjusts to accommodate his wild behavior.
Rocket Raccoon, an abused science experiment, is out for revenge and personal gain, keeping an arm’s distance from everyone but Groot, his longterm sidekick.
The most lonely loner in the world, Wolverine is as bristly as his codename suggests. He doesn’t need your help, doesn’t need your sympathy, and if you dare try to confine or cage him with your rules, be prepared for a face full of adamantium.
Caeser, born from an ape treated with a special growth hormone, is capable of human speech. He leads a revolution to free apes from their poor treatment at the hands of humans, often having to make hard choices when alliances are drawn.
Perhaps one of my favorite Outlaw characters of all time, it’s hard to know whether Al Swearengen is ultimately a good or bad person with the decisions he makes, however, his ruthlessness in getting results cannot be questioned.
After his secret bride is executed for striking an English soldier who assaulted her, William Wallace leads an uprising to free his country from English rule. A classic Outlaw archetype driven by the need to avenge another.
So fringe she is often forgotten in the Disney Princess lineup, Merida doesn’t have the glittery dress, the manners, or the quest for love common with so many princesses.
“In the world I lived in, heroes only existed in comic books. And I guess that’d be okay, if bad guys were make-believe too, but they’re not.” Kick-ass fights to make his world better as the vigilante superhero of his neighborhood, but his questionable techniques inspire others to do the same, to sometimes deadly consequence.
Sirius Black and his friends were misfits even before they were criminals, but their tactics for dealing with people like the “slimy” Severus Snape caused more problems than they solved. This explicit darkside to his character always means Harry Potter can never, in full confidence, follow his uncle’s example, as Hermoine is quick to remind him when he tries.
While Wyldstyle’s Outlaw personality has more of a hipster feel to it at time (I’m an outlaw to simply reject what I perceive to be uncool and “normal” in the rest of you), she still works as a trope, or even stereotype, within this archetype. Her desire to be the “Special” lead her to be a bit callous and unhelpful to her teammates at times, but eventually, in order to save her world, she accepts that everyone is special. There is no “normal.”
Korra has the hardest time following instructions, especially when those instructions require her to work with others or sit still. She is headstrong, often uses force before peaceful negotiation, leading to escalations of conflict where her adversaries often question how she can really consider herself more “right” than them — leading Korra to an identity crisis as the Avatar, and whether she actually is the peace-keeper she claims she is.
Not quite the lawyer you’re looking for, Elle Woods rejects the status quo with her pink, bubbly personality, shaking up the often dower, serious world of trial attorneys.
No introduction necessary here, but pirates in general are a great example of the outlaw archetype. Freedom-loving to a fault, Sparrow cares for nothing except living the way he wishes to live. Put in a situation where he is relied on, he more than often lets his companions down, pulling through only when it ultimately benefits him to do so.
Humankind must be surpassed. Khan’s determination to undo what he feels is wrong with the world makes him one of the most compelling villains in the television and film.
I am vengeance. I am Batman. The knight in shadows, Batman no doubt uses barely-legal methods to bring down villains, often employing coercion and balancing the lives of innocents as more chess pieces than anything else. Unquestionably one of the more interesting heroes in the comicverse, the Dark Knight is a great foil to Superman’s gleaming spotlessness.
You would think with Hermoine’s strict sense of “following the rules” that she wouldn’t end up in this archetype, yet Hermoine embodies all of the greatest parts of the Rebel. She is the first and only witch to question the use of slave labor in the wizarding world; she fights against the mistreatment of “Mudbloods”; and in the end, throws away the cast of her life as a good student and role model to be one of the strongest contributors to the revolution, including instigating the creation of Dumbledore’s Army, a direct retaliation against the Ministry of Magic.
When a whole town loves to encourage your misbehavior, you know you’re breaking all of the right rules. Ferris Bueller’s one flaw is that he is terribly inconsiderate towards his friends, all in the name of “fun” and his personal pursuit of happiness.
We know them. They are in the eyes of the imaginative child, or in the heart of our favorite cartoon characters’ songs. We are exposed to this archetype first, most likely because of its significance to exploring our world and learning, each day, how much wider it is than we thought the day before. The explorer is a self-fulfiller. They are self-motivated, self-driven, and self-sufficent. Independence is their hallmark.
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 are beginning 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 Explorer, driven by a need for freedom, is up first.
THE TWELVE ARCHETYPES
Also known as the seeker, wanderer, pilgrim and iconoclast, the Explorer is a character that, familiarly, seeks to escape the confines of their average life by traveling the world or exploring its many mysteries.
The Explorer is moved by the possibility of a more fulfilling and authentic life by being more true to herself, and unlike the Hero, needs no inciting incident to try and find it on her own.
Conformity is what terrifies the Explorer the most. To while away, unfulfilled and bored, is death to her. I could cue the lyrics of many Disney princess songs at this point, but you get the idea. We have all seen this character many times. Especially as children, it is the archetype most easily identified with. The Explorer loves to learn about his world.
The Explorer has its Shadow side however, as with all the archetypes. They are self-sufficient, but sometimes so much so that they become misfits, or actively repel others because group mentalities seem to equal conformity. In her quest to be more fulfilled, the Explorer may become an aimless wanderer, or even a thrill-seeker. Their goals are often unachievable, and in trying to ever scale that expectation, often disappoint themselves and excuse their lack of decision by suggesting they haven’t learned enough to try.
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Though it is obvious that James of James and the Giant Peach is an Explorer, his tag of misfit friends also fit the bill. Worm, Spider, Centipede, Misses Ladybug, and Grasshopper all, in their own way, go off to find adventure, and their common goal of getting the peach to New York is what brings them together.
Penny Lane, from Almost Famous, is an excellent example of a contemporary, non-fantasy Explorer. She is so independent and about finding herself that she never gives her real name, and even after her arc in the story is over, it is suggested that she continues to be a wanderer, even if she isn’t quite as aimless as before. Penny straddles the line between the good and bad traits of this archetype.
If you are a 90s kid, then you know Tommy. Tommy, like many other characters designed after him (Bobby from Bobby’s World, Doug, etc.) couldn’t keep himself from getting into trouble. There was simply too much to know, and too many adventures to go on.
In this quite literal representation of the archetype, Eliza is part of a family whose very job is to explore the wilds and go on safari. Her inability (or her brother’s) to follow structure and rules was generally the premise of each episode, but she had to learn to work with others (even her sister) to get through each challenge.
Based on the real woman by the same name, movie-Brockovich is determined to break out of the mold her world has put her in by being successful at her new job. Against insurmountable odds (and mostly through her own determination not to fail herself), Erin is able to find evidence that is solid enough to slam the Big Bad in this environmental film.
“To boldly go where no man has gone before.” The very mission of the Star Trek franchise is to explore new worlds. While Picard will be making a different list due to motivations, Kirk’s sheer love of adventure and danger are hallmarks of his character, and make him a great example of the Explorer.
Speaking of thrill seekers, who better to illustrate the point than Indiana Jones, archeology professor by day, and action hero by night? Indiana’s cool and standoffish demeanor often leave him isolated and estranged from those who would help him, and Indiana often discovers far more than he bargained for.
Like many movies from the 90s for children, The Goonies featured a ragtag group of kids looking for adventure. This plot structure is a common staple for children’s movies (The Great Panda Adventure, Homeward Bound, Fly Away Home, etc.)
Given the popularity of this movie, I don’t think I need to go into detail about Star-Lord’s character, but he is a man who loves his adventure, even if he is over-confident at critical junctions.
Destined to take over the village after his father, and rule a country of dragon-hunting Vikings, Hiccup will do about anything to escape his mold… even going so far as to convert his country’s entire culture into a more diverse, open, and adventurous lifestyle.
“I wanna be where the people are.” Though it gets a bit redundant to repeat this one as many times as I’ll need to, the Disney princesses are quite famous for being in the Explorer archetype. Many of them want to break out of their pre-ordained life by exploring the wide world just beyond their borders, quoting freedom, independence, and a hope for real understanding as their key reasons for rebelling.
Jane, of Tarzan, is one of the few slight divergences of the Disney Explorer Archetype in that her father and everyone else in the film is fine with her curiosity and gumption. In fact, she may be one of the most balanced Explorer types on this list, though some might say she was too simple (and nearly a trope).
Ariel of Arabia. Jasmine has a bit more fire in her than Ariel, but their plots are basically mirrors of each other. The fathers want perfect princess daughters, the Big Bad wants to own/control them, and their love is unconventional. As well, they both are damsels, in that it is the man in their relationships that must solve their conflicts (Eric kills Ursula, Aladdin traps Jafar).
“I want so much more than this provincial life.” Belle’s need for her curiosity to be fed both leads her to the Beast, and gets her in trouble with him later. (Really, how hard is it to just not going poking about in rooms that are restricted? For an Explorer? REALLY hard.)
“Who is this girl I see, staring straight back at me?” I apologize for the earworm, but it shows Mulan’s internal, personal development and the core conflict of her story. Mulan’s epic adventure is, at heart, all about her finding herself and coming into her own.
Maria is trying to find herself, and becomes a nun out of desperation, until the nuns send her off to explore herself more truthfully. Her story, like Mulan, is about finding herself, and where she really is meant to be.
WAIT! Sherlock is a Wiseman, or Sage! Not an Explorer! …you say. But, I’ve placed Sherlock on this list instead of where he is usually put for one large distinction. The Sage typically has great wisdom and intelligence, but it is an insatiable need for knowledge. Sherlock does not crave knowledge. In the books, he is completely unaware that the Earth revolves around the sun, and gets angry at Watson for “filling his brain with useless junk”. For Sherlock, knowledge is a means to an end. What he cares about is the puzzle. Not helping people. Not getting accolades. The puzzle. In addition, his extremely eccentric demeanor makes him isolated, and a rather intense misfit.