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Archetypes of The Princess Bride

An analysis of situational, character, and symbolic archetypes present in the movie The Princess Bride.

Ciara Kirk

on 30 June 2015

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Transcript of Archetypes of The Princess Bride

Archetypes of
Ciara Zogheib
Situational Archetype: The Task
To complete his quest for true love, Wesley has to perform many nearly superhuman feats, including sword fighting a master, surviving a deadly poison, and withstanding cruel torture. These tasks establish Wesley's journey as that of the archetypal hero.
Situational Archetype: The Fall

At the beginning of the movie, Wesley is naive, innocent, and in love. He leaves to seek his fortune, however, and is captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Though Wesley survives the ordeal, his descent to a lower state (pirate) represents a loss of innocence and a definite change in his character.
Situational Archetype:
Battle Between Good and Evil
Like most fairy tales,
The Princess Bride
draws clear lines between good and evil. Heroic, pure characters such as Wesley and Inigo battle evil villains like Prince Humperdinck and the murderous six-fingered man. As follows the archetype, by the end of the movie, good defies the odds and defeats the forces of evil.
Archetype: The Unhealable Wound
An iconic character, Inigo Montoya emobides this archetype in the literal and metaphorical sense. Both his physical and psychological scars from the man who murdered his father are a constant reminder of his quest for vengeance, as well as symbolizing the innocence that he lost at a young age.
Character Archetype:
Young Man from the Provinces
This archetype is based on a hero returning home with new knowledge and solutions to problems, which is exactly what happens to Wesley - far more knowledgeable than the farm boy he once was, Wesley not only solves his financial problems but shows the ability to find solutions to any other task he encounters.
Though it occurs off screen, the Dread Pirate Roberts' capture of Wesley is hugely significant to the remainder of the story. The pirate is prepared to kill Wesley, but the latter's courage in the face of death makes Roberts deem him worthy to live. In doing so, Robert acts as the threshold guardian, testing Wesley and enabling him to begin his journey.
Archetype: The Threshold Guardian
Archetype: The
Fezzik, the lovable mercenary played by Andre the Giant, suffers a fate all too common to those with a visible disability: He is an outcast, identified as such when his employer says that he is "friendless, brainless, helpless, and hopeless". As defined by his archetype, Fezzik wanders from place to place, rejected for no good reason.
Archetype: Damsel
In Distress
Despite its somewhat problematic nature, the damsel in distress archetype plays an important role in
The Princess Bride
. The vulnerable Buttercup is kidnapped by mercenaries, then by a prince - in both cases, Wesley has to come to her rescue, putting himself in danger in the process.
Archetype: White Goddess
The white goddess archetype is defined as a good and beautiful maiden that would make an ideal marriage partner. Buttercup embodies all of these qualities, and perhaps because of that, marriage plays a large role in her story. If more proof is needed to classify Buttercup as a 'white goddess', it is in the costume design: she's blonde, and often dressed in white.
Archetype: The Underworld
The Underworld is, above all, a place of darkness and death. Such symbolism is never more evident than in the torture chamber scenes of
The Princess Bride
. By literally descending deep into the earth (a highly symbolic act), Wesley confronts pain, fear of death, and even the dark sides of his own mind.
Archetype: Haven
vs. Wilderness
After his experience in the torture chamber, Wesley and his companions need a place to take shelter. This function is served by the home of 'Miracle Max' and his wife, who offer them refuge from their dangerous enemies. In Max's house, the heroes are safe, able to regain their heath, and given the opportunity to make a plan.
Archetype: Numbers
The Princess Bride
, things come in threes:
Wesley must defeat three kidnappers in three tests of skill, strength, and wit in order to save Buttercup
In the Fire Swamp, Wesley and Buttercup must survive three dangers (quicksand, fire pits, and Rodents of Unusual Size)
Inigo Montoya confronts his father's murderer on three separate occasions before getting his revenge
The prevalence of the number three could symbolize narrative unity, based on the association of the archetype with the holy trinity.
Situational Archetypes
Symbolic Archetypes
"Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, True Love, miracles...."
"That day she was amazed to discover that when he was saying 'As you wish', what he meant was, 'I love you.'"
"It just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead."
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