On Archetypes…

‘An archetype is a universally understood symbol, term, statement, or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated.’ – Wikipedia. Or, in layman’s terms, an archetype is the identifiable form of a character that can be recognized any story. Some archetypes are the willing hero (think Hercules), the unwilling hero (that’s Bilbo Baggins), and the loner hero (Indiana Jones). Granted, those are just different archetypes of heroes. I love watching a movie or reading a book and trying to place archetypes. One of my favorite archetypes, that I have seen in a movie recently, is the threshold guardian archetype. The threshold guardian is ‘a character who poses an obstacle to the hero at a transitional point in the story (such as a gatekeeper). In classic myths, the guardian often required the Hero to answer a riddle, or even to fight the guardian before proceeding on his journey. When the Hero passes the Guardian and crosses the threshold, he’s achieved a significant point of growth.’ In the movie Star Dust, there is a wall separating two lands (magic and non-magic), and there is a break in that wall, which is guarded by an old man to make sure no one crosses. Of course, the protagonist crosses the wall, but only after encountering the guard, and at one point even having to fight him. A classic archetype! I love it! Many authors will try to stay away from archetypes, not wanting to have die-cut characters. Archetypes go beyond just that, and if you look, you will find archetypes everywhere.


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