Archetypes and Hero Summary notes

Below I have summarised the notes on Archetypes for my own understanding and the notes on the hero which I will reduce further for the presentation.

The Archetypes

Employed by psychologist Carl G. Jung the term archetypes means ancient patterns of personality.

Jung was a Swiss psychologist

Argument:  Jung believed you were born with a set of archetypes rather than a blank state or influenced by environment or experiences. Necessarily true?

 Collective conscious – fundamental sociological concept referring to set of shared beliefs, ideas, attitudes, and knowledge that are common to a social group or society

Fairy tale’s and myths are like the dreams of an entire culture.

The concept of archetypes is an indispensable tool for understanding the purpose or function of characters in a story.

Joseph Campbell believed the archetypes to be biological, built into the wiring of every human being.

Archetypes fuctions

In reference to story, Vogler first believed an archetype was a fixed role a character would play exclusively throughout a story, once a mentor, always a mentor. Working as a films consultant for Disney, his views changed to view the archetypes as temporary functions. This observation coming from Vladamir Propp, who’s book, Morphology of the Folktale, analyses Motifs and recurrent patterns in hundreds of Russian tales.

This view can ‘liberate storytelling,’ ‘the archetypes can be thought of as masks worn by characters temporarily to advance the story’


Facets of the Hero’s personality

Alternative view of Archetypes are facets of the hero’s personality. Possibilities for the hero for good or bad. The hero will learn from other characters and may adapt their traits.

They can also possibly be viewed as personified symbols of various human qualities e.g arcana cards of the tarot which stand for aspects of the complete human personality.

Most Common and useful Archetypes

Some of the most useful archetypes, ones you can’t tell stories without are


Hero, Mentor, Threshold Guardian, Herald, Shapeshifter, Shadow, Ally and the Trickster

There are of course many more archetypes; as many as human qualities to dramatise in stories e.g the fairy godmother or the greedy innkeeper, these characters perform specialised functions. These specialised character types differentiate based on genre such as having a ‘whore with a heart of Gold.’ These are only variants and refinements of archetypes. Two questions helpful for a writer trying to identify the nature of an archetype

  • What psychological function or part of the personality does it represent?
  • What is its dramatic function in a story?


In Greek Hero means ‘to protect and serve’

A Hero sacrifices their own needs on behalf of others, at the root the idea of Hero is connected with self sacrifice.

Psychological function

The Hero represents what Freud called the hero, the part that considers itself distinct from the rest of the human race. A here will be able to transcend the bounds and illusions of the ego but at first heroes are entirely ego.

The Hero archetype represents the ego’s search for identity and wholeness. In the quest to explore our own minds we meet many different archetypes through others. The psychological task we all face is to integrate these separate parts into one complete, balanced entity.

Dramatic Functions

Audience Identification

The hero is the views window into the story, they are invited in the early stages to identify with the hero, this is done by giving the hero universal and unique characteristics.

Desire to be loved, to succeed, be free etc.

We want to be the hero; we project ourselves into their psyche.

Heroes should have universal qualities that we as people have experienced.

They must also be unique often achieved through with flaws or unpredictability.

Self-conflict interests an audience such as a character torn by love and duty. The combination of positive attributes and flaws make a hero one of a kind and relatable.


The main character of as story is usually the one who grows the most during the story. Heroes overcome obstacles and achieve goals, they also gain new knowledge and wisdom.


Heroes are usually the most active person in the script, their desires drive most stories forward. A common flaw in screenplays is when the hero becomes passive and is saved by an outside force, the should be in control of his own fate, they should make perform the decisive action of the story, one that requires taking the most risk or responsibility.


Heroes need not be strong or brave, the true mark of a hero is their willingness to give up something of value, perhaps even their own life, on behalf of an ideal or group.

Dealing with death

At the heart of stories with confrontation there is death, if not death the hero will face high stake in which they succeed or fail. Heroes show us how to deal with deal, if they survive they show it isn’t so tough, they may die symbolically showing that death can be transcended. A hero’s death is when they offer their own lives for a cause, ideal or group. Heroism is show when heroes accept the possibility of sacrifice, those who does this are the most effective heroes.

Heroism in other archetypes

Heroism can come from any character not just the protagonist.  (examples)

Character flaws

Flaws allow us to recognize ourselves in the hero, the more weakness’, imperfections or quirks a hero has the more we can.

Flaws can give a character somewhere to go, the ‘character arc’ in which a character develops from condition A to Z allows a character to grow past their flaws. A hero is often be placed with having a deficiency, having a missing piece from their life, this is often represented through the death of a parent which sets a nervous energy of the story in motion not to be stopped until balanced is restored by the creation of a new family.

In Most modern stories have the it is the hero’s personality that needs to be retried after loss, the missing piece in their life could be critical to their personality.  Audiences love watching heroes grapple then overcome personality problems.


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