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An extensive overview of archetype characters in fiction

Julie Worster

on 24 October 2017

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Transcript of Archetypes

Archetypes in Fiction
Male Archetype
*Archetypes can be considered a framework,
or even better, a lump of clay of a particular
color and consistency.
* Use the archetype as raw material to create a full bodied character.
* Archetypes are not stereotypes; they are not cookie cutters.
Classic Hero
Self sacrifice
Endures separation and hardship for the sake of his family or clan
He must learn usually from a mentor
Heroes can be willing, adventurous or reluctant
Circumstances of his conception are unusual (god for a father)
At birth, some attempt is made to kill him
We know almost nothing of his childhood
Upon reaching manhood, he returns to his future kingdom.
He may be driven from his city after which he meets a mysterious death, often at the top of a hill
Think: King Arthur, Hercules, or Odysseus
Hero - Archetypes
A dynamic leader, he has time for nothing but work. He might have been born to lead, or perhaps he conquered his way to the top, but either way, he’s tough, decisive, goal-oriented. That means he is also a bit overbearing and inflexible.
For example, Captain Kirk of Star Trek is a CHIEF. He gives his orders, never doubting his loyal crew will jump to follow him. His work -- his ship -- is his mistress, his one and only true love. He does, indeed, boldly go forth into the universe, and presents the very picture of a leader.
Think William Shatner in Star Trek;
Donald Trump in The Apprentice, or
Marlon Brando in The Godfather.
The Chief:
Dangerous to know, he walks on the wild side
This is the rebel or the boy from the wrong side of the tracks.
He’s bitter and volatile, a crushed idealist, but he's also charismatic and street smart.
Think James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting,
Capt. Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
Sawyer on Lost
Sweet and safe, he never lets anyone down.
He's kind,
responsible, decent, a regular Mr. Nice Guy.
This man doesn't enjoy confrontation and can
sometimes be unassertive because
he doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings.
But he'll always be there.
Think Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life,
Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer, Mr. Deeds
Hugh Grant in "Four Weddings & a Funeral" "Notting Hill"
Paul Rudd in "I Love You, Man"
Steve Carell in "40 Year Old Virgin"
He’s fun, irresistible, a smooth operator, yet not too responsible or dependable.
He might be a playboy or a rogue, but he's doesn’t commit to a woman easily.
Think Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic,
Tom Cruise in Jerry McGwire,
Ryan Reynolds in The Green Lantern
Seth Rogan in ….Anything!
A sensitive being, he understands.
Tortured, secretive, brooding, and unforgiving.
That’s this man.
But he's also vulnerable.
He might be a wanderer or an outcast.
In work he's creative, but probably also a loner.
Think Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon,
David Duchovny (Mulder) in The X-Files,
Beast in Beauty and the Beast,
Dr. Jack Shephard from Lost
Edward from Twilight
Coolly analytical, he knows every answer.
He’s logical, introverted, and inflexible, but genuine about his feelings.
At work, he likes cold, hard facts, thank you very much, but he's also honest and faithful, and won’t let you down.
Think Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock) in Star Trek,
Kelsey Gramnar in Frasier,
Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind
Professor X from the X Men.
Mr. Excitement, he’s an adventure.
This guy is action, action, and more action.
He's physical and daring.
Fearless, he’s a daredevil, or an explorer.
He needs thrills and chills to keep him happy.
Think Antonio Banderas in The Mask of Zorro,
Characters from Oceans 11 & 12 & 13
Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
James Bond
A noble champion, he acts with honor.
This man is the reluctant rescuer or the knight in shining armor.
He's noble, tenacious, relentless, and he always sticks up for the underdog.
If you need a protector, he’s your guy.
He doesn’t buckle under to rules, or and he doesn’t go along just to get along.
Think Aragon in Lord of the Rings,
Russell Crowe in Gladiator,
Mel Gibson in Braveheart
In literature and film, an anti-hero is a central or supporting character that has some of the personality flaws traditionally assigned to villains or un-heroic people, but nonetheless also has enough heroic qualities, intentions, or type of strength to gain the sympathy of readers or viewers. Anti-heroes can be awkward, obnoxious, passive, pitiful, obtuse, or even normal; but they are always, in some fundamental way, flawed, unqualified, or failed heroes.
The concept of the anti-hero is as old as literature itself with the main character of the Iliad, Achilles being a strong anti-hero. The presence of anti-heroes has blossomed recently, as there is a tendency of modern authors to present villains as complex, even sympathetic, characters whose motivations are not inherently evil and sometimes even good. The line, therefore, between an anti-hero and a villain is sometimes not clear.
For example: John Locke from Lost
Dexter Morgan from Dexter
Comic books feature anti-heroes (also known as "dark heroes") who are characters fighting for the side of good, but either with some tragic flaw (such as a tormented past), fighting for reasons that are not entirely altruistic (they may fight a villain due to a grudge or some other selfish motivation, with little or no regard for typical "heroic" motives).
Female Archetypes
Women archetypes come in as many types as men.
She attacks or destroys protagonist by her overwhelming power
—traps, imprisons, devours, dismembers
She tends to be associated with black & red colors
blood & death imagery
She is ugly and/or has monstrous qualities
Think Queen Mab from Merlin
Wicked Witch of the West
Cruella DeVille
figures are younger
figures are peers, co-equal with protagonist
figures are dynamic, instigators of positive change
figures tend to act indirectly, influencing and using the power of other people or things
aids protagonist by attracting and inspiring him
tends to be associated with pale or pastel colors
(especially sky colors—blue & white)
has a natural, innocent, ethereal beauty
figures are older
figures are powerful, superior to (protagonist)
figures are maternal (positive or negative), static, cyclical
figures tend to act directly, out of their own power
aids protagonist by her overwhelming power—protects, shelters, nourishes
tends to be associated with earth colors and vegetation imagery
has a matronly beauty
Think Grandmother willow in Pocahontas or Galadriel in LOTR.
The Seductress:
An enchantress, she gets her way.
This is a lady who is long accustomed to sizing up everyone in a room the minute she enters.
Mysterious and manipulative, she hides a streak of distrust a mile wide and ten miles deep.
Cynicism guides her every action, and her tough sense of survival gives her the means to do whatever is necessary to come out ahead.
Think Liz Taylor in Cleopatra, Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, Vivian Leigh in Gone With the Wind.
Liz Sherman in Hellboy
Marylin Monroe
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
A real go-getter, she climbs the ladder of success.
This is a “take charge” female, who accepts nothing but respect.
Reaching her goal post the most important thing in life to her, and she isn’t bothered by a few ruffled feathers along the way.
Think Kate Mulgrew as Capt. Janeway in Star Trek Voyager,
Queen Padmé Amidala from Star Wars
Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth.
Laura Roslin BattleStar Galactica
Leela from Futurama
Gutsy and true, she is loyal to the end.
She is a favorite of many writers, and
for good reason.
You can’t help but root for her.
She’s the girl with moxie.
She’s not looking to be at the top of the heap; she just wants to be in her own little niche.
She’s the team player, the one who is always ready to lend a hand.
Think Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle, Fiona in Shrek.
Anne of Green Gables
Kate Austin in Lost
Eternal optimist, she dances to unheard tunes.
Playful and fun-loving, she travels through life with a hop, skip and a jump, always stopping to smell the flowers
and admire the pretty colors.
She acts on a whim and follows her heart, not her head.
Think Jenna Elfman in Dharma & Greg,
Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy,
Alicia Silverstone in Clueless.
Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde
A distressed damsel, she bends with the wind.
She’s the original damsel in distress.
Her child-like innocence evokes a protective urge in the beastliest of heroes.
But don’t be fooled, because the WAIF has tremendous strength of will.
She won’t fight back; she’ll endure.
Think Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz,
Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits,
Peta Wilson in La Femme Nikita,
Demi Moore in Ghost,
Selma Blair as Liz Sherman in Hellboy
Bella in the Twilight Stories
Opposite of the Free Spirit
Controlled and clever, she holds back.
She’s prim and proper, but underneath lurks a passionate woman.
Dressed to repress, she might be the know-it-all whose hand is always up in class, or maybe she is the shy mouse hiding in the library.
Think Hermonie Granger in Harry Potter,
Gillian Anderson in The X-Files.
Velma from Scooby Do
King Arthur
Hugh Grant in
Four Weddings and
a Funeral
Notting Hill
Adam Sandler in
The Wedding Singer
50 First Dates
Ryan Renolds in
The Green Lantern
Van Wilder
The Change Up
Seth Rogan
Knocked Up
Pineapple Express
Lenardo DeCaprio
Romeo and Juliet
Tom Cruise
Jerry McGwire
Captian Jack Sparrow
Captian Kirk ~ Star Trek
Donald Trump ~ The Apprentice
Beast from
Beauty and the Beast
Mulder from
Professor X from
Spock ~ Star Trek
James Bond
Hector vs Achilles
John Locke
from Lost
from Sampson and Delilah
Evil Queen
from Snow White
Queen Mab
from Merlin
Galadriel from
The Lord of the Rings
The Oracle
from The Matrix
Ambrosia from
Grandmother Willow
From Pocahontas
Glinda the Good
The Wizard of Oz
Queen Amidala
from Star Wars
Padme Amidala
Star Wars
Captian Janeway
from Star Trek Voyager
Fiona from
Mey Ryan
Sleepless in Seattle
You've Got Mail
When Harry Met Sally
Anne Sirley from
Anne of Green Gables
Cher from
Lucy Ball from
I Love Lucy
Dorothy from
The Wizard of Oz
Demi Moore
from Ghost
Liz Sherman
Marylin Monroe
The Misfits
Scully from
Velma from
Scooby Doo
Hermonie from
Harry Potter
Cruella De Vill
Princess Leia
Star Wars
A dedicated fighter, she meets her commitments.
No shrinking violet, no distressed damsel, here.
This lady is on a mission, and she marches right over anyone in her way.
Tenacious and headstrong, she brushes off any opposition to her goal.
Think Diana Rigg in The Avengers,
Sigourney Weaver in Alien,
Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy,
the Vampire Slayer,
Lady Eowyn in LOTR.
Diana Rigg from
The Avengers
Lady Ewoyn from
The Lord of the Rings
Serene and capable, she nourishes the spirit. Not always Suzy Homemaker, this lady
takes care of everyone. She is a wonderful listener, and a joy to have around, this heroine takes care of everyone. She’s serene, capable and optimistic.
Think Michelle Pfeiffer in Ladyhawke,
Marge Simpson in Simpsons,
Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins
Even though he's not female, Hurley from Lost is a Nurturer Character!
Unfaithful Wife
She is a woman, married to a man she sees as sullen and unimaginative
She is physically attracted to a more virile and desirable man.
May be unsatisfied in general with life
Often times, when she gets the hunky man she desires, she usually finds something wrong with him as well.
Characters on Desperate Housewives
The Tyrant:
The bullying despot, he wants power at any price.
He ruthlessly conquers all he surveys, crushing his enemies beneath his feet.
People are but pawns to him, and he holds all the power pieces.
Hesitate before getting in this man’s way – he’ll think nothing of destroying you.
The Dispossessed Son
He burns with resentment.
He can’t have what he wants, so he lashes out to hurt those around him.
His deeds are often for effect – he wants to provoke action in others.
He proudly announces his rebellious dealings.
Don’t be fooled by his boyish demeanor – he’s a bundle of hate.
Prince John, Much Ado about Nothing and
Scar, Lion King.
The charming fiend, he or she gives people what he thinks they deserve.
Charisma allows him to lure his victims to their own destruction.
His ability to discover the moral weaknesses in others serves him well.
Close your ears to his cajolery – he’ll tempt you to disaster.
Think Al Pachino in The Devil’s Advocate.
Liz Hurley in Bedazzled.
Ursla in The Little Mermaid
The double agent, he betrays those who trust him most.
No one suspects the evil that lurks in his heart.
Despite supportive smiles and sympathetic ears, he plots the destruction of his friends.
Never turn your back on him -- he means you harm.
Think Cypher in the Matrix, Max von Sydow in Minority Report.
Iago in Othello
Director Lamar Burgess
from Minority Report
The lonely outsider, he wants desperately to belong.
Tortured and unforgiving, he has been set off from others, and usually for good cause.
He craves redemption, but is willing to gain it by sacrificing others.
Waste no sympathy on him - he’ll have none for you.
Think: Constantine,
Mad Max
Outlaw Jose Wales
The Gunslinger by Stephen King
The malevolent mastermind, he loves to show off his superior intelligence.
Intellectual inferiors are contemptible to him and that includes just about everyone.
Elaborate puzzles and experiments are his trademark.
Don’t let him pull your strings – the game is always rigged in his favor.
Think Hades in Hercules
Syndrome in The Incredibles.
The Brain, Pinky and the Brain.
Wiplash from Iron Man 2
Syndrome from
The Incredibles
Whiplash from
Ironman 2
Lord Voldomort from Harry Potter
Prince John from
Much Ado About Nothing
Other Archetypes
Aids or trains the hero
Wise old man or woman
Represents the wiser and godlike qualities within us
Drill instructor, squad leader, sergeant, aged warrior trail boss, parent or grandparent
May possess just the skill or training the hero needs for his quest.
Equips the hero with gifts or weapons, magic or food.
Think Obi wan Kenobi
Yoda from Star Wars,
Gandalf from LOTR
Oracle from Matrix
Jacob from Lost
Alfred from Batman
Sawyer from Lost
John Cusack
in Say Anything
Kate Austin from Lost
Ben Linus from Lost
Alfred from The Dark Knight
Yoda from Star Wars
Threshold Guardian
Usually not the story’s antagonist.
Only after this first test will the hero be allowed to contest the antagonist.
Usually a henchman or employee of the antagonist.
The role of the threshold guardian is to test the hero’s mettle and worthiness to begin the story’s journey.
Usually the first obstacle the hero has to get through on his journey.
The hero will usually encounter this character early in the story.
Think Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi.
Ringwraiths in Lord of the Rings.
The Baby Eater from Pan's Laybrinth
To announce the challenge which begins the hero on his story or journey.
The herald is the person or piece of information which upsets the sleepy equilibrium in which the hero has lived and starts the adventure.
The herald need not be a person. It can be an event or force. The start of a war, a drought or famine or even an ad in the newspaper.
Think the arrival of the “Droids in Star Wars. They set off Luke’s involvement in the war.
Changes roles or personality
The shapeshifter’s alliances and loyalty are uncertain and the sincerity of his claims is often questionable.
The shapeshifter is often a catalyst whose changing nature forces changes in the hero.
Mentors often appear as shapeshifters
May switch sides
Think Frick in Merlin,
Gollum in Lord of the Rings,
Mystique in X-Men
The trickster is a clown and mischief maker.
He provides the comedy relief that a story often needs to offset heavy dramatic tension.
Represents the force of cunning and is pitted against opponents who are stronger or more powerful.
Think Pippin in LOTR.
Pain and Panic in Hercules
Mouse in Ladyhawke
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Star-Crossed Lovers
Young man and woman enter an ill-fated love affair which ends tragically in the death of either or both of the lovers.
Think Romeo and Juliet,
Jack and Rose (Titanic) or
Desdemona and Othello.
The Babyeater from Pan's Laybrinth
Archetype Situations
There are really only a limited number of Plot Types in fiction.
Virtually every mythology is built on some account of how the cosmos, nature and man were brought into existence by some supernatural being or beings.
Native American Creation Myth
Death and Rebirth
Most common of all situational archetypes
Grows out of the parallel between the cycle of nature and cycle of life.
Morning and springtime represent birth, youth or rebirth
Evening and winter suggest old age or death
Think Simba and Mufasa in Lion King.
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
Can also be a journey to do or get rid of something in order to fix a community or prevent a war.
Think: Frodo’s quest to destroy the ring (and ultimately the Dark Lord) in LOTR
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.
May be performed in the same town (area) the hero lives. He doesn’t have to go anywhere to perform the task.
Think: Jack and the Beanstalk. Adam Sandler in 50 First Dates.
The Initiation
Usually takes the form of an initiation into life
An adolescent coming into maturity and adulthood with all the problems and responsibilities that this process involves.
Three phases: separation,
and return.
Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit
The Journey
Usually combined with any or all of the other archetype situations
The journey is used to send the Hero in search of information or some intellectual truth.
A common employment of the journey archetype is the descent into hell.
Ex: Travelers on an airplane, sea voyage etc.
The Fall
Describes a descent from a higher to a lower state of being.
Involves spiritual defilement and or loss of innocence and bliss.
The Fall is also usually accompanied by the hero getting kicked out of paradise as a penalty for disobedience
Ex: Popular football player gets caught using steroids and looses his position on the team, his girlfriend and his friends. He must re-evaluate his life and decide what’s really important to him.
Or, when Jack Shephard from Lost goes from being the hero to the JERK in season 4.
Escape from Time
Return to Paradise
The state of perfect timeless bliss enjoyed by man before his tragic fall into corruption and mortality.
Ex: Garden of Eden,
Disney’s Atlantis
Shangri La
Shangri La
Nature vs. the Mechanistic World
Nature is good
Technology and society are often considered evil.
Man gives up his soul when he allows robots to “take control” of basic human functions.
Machines are “soulless”
EX: Matrix
I Robot
Minority Report
Princess Mononoke
Battle between good and Evil
Battle between two primal forces
Mankind shows eternal optimism in the continual portrayal of good triumphing over evil despite great odds.
Symbolism: Good is associated with white, light colors and heaven.
Evil is associated with dark colors, red, blood and below the ground.
Symbols and Associations
Light suggests hope, renewal, or intellectual illumination
Darkness implies the unknown, ignorance or despair.
Water is necessary to life and growth, it commonly appears as a birth or rebirth symbol.
Desert is associated with spiritual sterility and lifelessness
The sea is the mother of all life, spiritual mystery and infinity. Death and rebirth, timelessness and eternity and unconscious.
Rivers suggest the flowing of time into eternity transitional phrases of the life cycle
Sun is associated with creative energy, law in nature and consciousness. Rising sun: birth, creation, enlightenment. Setting sun: Death
Colors: Red -Blood, sacrifice; violent passion, disorder.
Green – Growth, sensation, hope. Black – Darkness chaos, mystery, death, the unconscious, evil. White – knowledge, purtiy
Circle: wholeness, unity, life, light, yin-yang
Wind (and breath): inspiration conception, soul or spirit
Ship: Microcosm, mankind’s voyage through space and time
Garden: paradise, innocence, unspoiled beauty fertility.
from Charmed
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