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Archetypes of the Hero’s Journey

archetypes of the hero's journey

Patterns of personality. That’s basically what archetypes are. Character frames. If you look through history of different heritages and countries, archetypes are amazingly consistent. There are eight main types that we’ll talk about here. The Hero, who was born to save and is very much connected with self-sacrifice. The Mentor, who teaches the Hero and is wise in many wise of the world. The Threshold Guardian(s), who are often some of the first to test the Hero. The Herald, a bringer of change. The Shapeshifter, someone who you never really know is on your side or not. The Shadow, your biggest enemy. The Trickster(s), who often are like sidekicks and provide comic relief. The Allies, you help the Hero throughout their quest. Sometimes the archetypes overlap. The Shapeshifter is often the biggest overlapper.

1) The Hero. Think Harry Potter. Luke Skywalker. Katniss Everdeen. Percy Jackson. The Hero is often first shown in poverty or in a bad situation. Harry Potter lived in a room under the stairs in a house full of people who didn’t like him all that much. The Hero is often built to connect with the reader. To be able to relate. You admire the hero’s qualities and want to be like him/her, but the hero also has flaws and makes mistakes. Weaknesses, quirks, insecurities, confusion and vices make a hero more appealing. Then there’s a huge element of fighting yourself. Inner conflict. Truth and lies. Love and duty. Trust and suspicion. The Hero is often of noble birth, but does not realize it.

2) The Mentor. There’s a lot of people who help the Heroes out on their quests, but eventually the Hero will have to face the enemy by themselves. To resolve the situation the way they were created to. It’s the Mentor’s job to prepare them and their Allies for that moment. Think famous mentors. Dumbledore, Yoda, Haymitch and Chiron. The Mentor provides motivation, inspiration, training and/or gives them advice, weapons or tools that will help the Hero out later. Chiron gave Percy the pen from his father and lots of advice in the Lightning Thief. In the Hero’s Journey, a little ‘help’ from the Mentor is often what drives the Hero in the first stages.

3) Threshold Guardians. Throughout the adventure, the Hero has to be tested in order to become stronger. To know the special world better. In the Heroes of Olympus series, Percy has to work around Hercules. Then there’s the dorks and bullies at Hogwarts, the training from Haymitch in the Hunger Games. At the entrance or gateway to every journey, these guardians await to weed out those who are unworthy. On a deeper psychological level, Threshold Guardians represent our internal demons. Their function is not necessarily to stop the hero but to test if he or she is really determined to accept the challenge of change.

4) The Herald. Let me get this straight; the Herald doesn’t have to be a living being. It’s job is just to bring change. Nothing else. It could be a rock, for all that it matters. It just has to bring change to the Hero’s life. The Herald is often the person who brings on the step of the Hero’s Journey, the Call to Adventure. The letters from Hogwarts and the appearance of Hagrid are often seen as the Heralds in Harry Potter. The oh-so-famous line, “You’re a wizard, Harry.” The appearance of Ms. Dodds in Percy Jackson, the death of his aunt and uncle in Star Wars and the reaping of Prim all brings on change.

5) The Shapeshifter. The Shapeshifters are the people you just can’t seem to figure out. They can appear to be evil and then suddenly be good, or be good and then stab the Hero in the back. You’re never really sure about them. Han Solo and Darth Vader can be seen as Shapeshifters. Severus Snape was the ultimate Shapeshifter. Luke, son of Hermes, and Peeta were also Shapeshifters for periods of time. The Shapeshifters can be your biggest allies or your biggest enemies. They embody the will of transformation. They bring suspense, thrills, doubt and sometimes even the most heart-wrenching sighs of relief.

6) The Shadow.  The shadow represents the energy of the dark side, the unexpressed, unrealized, or rejected aspects of something. The negative face of the shadow is the villain, antagonist, or enemy. It may also be an ally who is after the same goal but who disagrees with the hero’s tactics.  Most shadows do not see themselves as villains, but merely the hero of their own myths. There’s Kronos, Darth Vader, Voldemort and President Snow.

7) The Tricksters. The trickster embodies the energies of mischief and the desire for change. He cuts big egos down to size and brings heroes and readers down to earth, Vogler says. He brings change by drawing attention to the imbalance or absurdity of a stagnant situation and often provokes laughter. Tricksters are catalyst characters who affect the lives of others but are unchanged themselves. Tyson can be seen in Percy Jackson as a possible Trickster, maybe even Grover, though he would more of an Ally. R2D2 and C3PO can be seen as Tricksters in Star Wars. Then there’s Ron Weasley and Rue, though Rue’s more gentle, less funny and more heartwarming.

8) The Allies. Again, these people greatly help the Hero, but in the end the Hero will have to face the enemy himself/herself. Ron Weasely and Hermoine. Han Solo and Chewbacca. Annabeth and Grover. Peeta and Rue. The Allies’s main jobs are to have the jobs of close friends. Friends that recognize the Hero’s weaknesses and cover for them while helping the Hero to overcome those weaknesses.

For more examples of the Hero’s Journey and archetypes of it, follow my reviews! I talk about growth, character and plot development and good pacing a lot. Some posts where I talk about archetypes are listed below.

Here’s a link to my Hero’s Journey page.

Here’s a great visual follow-up to this page.

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Archetypes of the Hero’s Journey | Michelle Kelly March 27, 2014 at 3:23 AM

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