safety; knowledge; orderExample: Shiki (In the day, the Kirishiki family cannot leave their house to attack the villagers because the sun burns their skin.)

danger; lack of knowledge; disorderExample: Ali Baba and the the Forty Thieves (The thieves attempt to find Ali Baba’s house and kill him in the night when they wont be easily noticed.)

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ordered and controlled environment that is usually safe, happy, and nurturingExample: The Secret Garden (Collin, originally thought to be a cripple, slowly learns to walk in the garden. Eventually, he gains the ability to walk and can even run.)

dangerous garden; a place of trials; the unconscious; “lost in the forest”Example: Little Red Riding Hood is attacked in the forest by the Big Bad Wolf

death; spiritual loss; hopelessness; isolation; wastelandExample: In one episode of CSI, Sarah is trapped under a car in a desert near Las Vegas.

There’s nobody else around her and she had a very low chance of survival.

personal achievement; meeting place of heaven and earth; insight and enlightenmentExample: In Holes, Stanley and Zero arrive at God’s Thumb and discover the water and nourishment that allows them to live. Stanley also recalls the story of his ancestor, Stanley Yelnats I, finding refuge on the same mountain.

descent into the unconscious or the inner self; a place to face innermost fearsExample: The Ugly Ducking (The ugly duckling hides in a cave to spend a winter.

Unknowingly, he becomes a beautiful swan while in the cave, which is revealed when spring arrives.)

ever-flowing time and eternal change; also boundaries and borders; general water imagery can represent purification or new lifeExample: Pied Piper of Hamelin (The piper clears out the rat infestation in Hamelin by having all the rats follow his tune into the river. This “purifies” the town of their rat problems.


The Sea
vast, alien, and dangerous; waves can represent infinityExample: The Fisherman and His Wife (As the fisherman’s wife keeps forcing the fisherman to request things from the magical fish, the sea that the fish resides in becomes increasingly stormy and dangerous)

Islands and Ships-at-Sea
a microcosm of society; spiritual as well as physical isolation or exileExample: Gulliver’s Travels (On the island of Lilliput, Gulliver encounters a race of tiny people who are less than 6 inches tall. They bind him down because they have never encountered a “giant” before.)

difficult, confusing, challenging task; in order to escape from maze, the hero must discover the essential reality of his natureExample: In a Greek Myth, Theseus was about to use a ball of string to help him overcome the confusion in the Labyrinth and defeat the Minotaur.

exhibits outstanding qualities and abilities; embodies the ideals of his society; embarks on a quest, confronts his adversary has an epiphany, and returnsExample: The Lion King (Simba represents the bravery and courage of his pack of lions when he returns to the Pride Lands and defeats Scar.)

a child or naive young man who has been sheltered from evil; often wears white; this character moves from innocence to experience through a trial and initiation processExample: Oliver Twist (Oliver is brought up as a poor orphan, but eventually comes in contact with a group of pickpockets that lead him down the wrong path. However, Oliver’s journey finally leads him to a loving and caring family.)

a figure who is banished from society for some crime (real or imagined) against his fellow man; destined to wander from place to placeExample: The Lord of the Flies (Piggy is instantly recognized as an outcast by his fellow boys because of his physical weakness and intellect.


an alter-ego or double; represents the hidden or repressed parts of a characterExample: Dexter (Dexter is a forensics expert for the Miami police; however, he also lives a double life as a serial killer.)

an evil character who attempts to destroy the heroExample: The Lion King (Scar attempts to kill both Simba and his father with the Wildebeest stampede.)

Earth Mother
a wise feminine provider, nourisher, and nurturerExample: Avatar (The race of humanoids, the Na’vi, worship a mother goddess called Eywa.)

Wise Old Man
a masculine counterpart of the Earth Mother; he cares for, instructs, and councils the heroExample: Star Wars (Obi-Wan Kenobi teaches Luke Skywalker how to use the force and provides him with a lightsaber.)

Fatal Woman
a temptress; a witch; a woman who through her power can render a strong man weak and a wise man foolishExample: Batman (Poison Ivy uses her obsession with plants to produce toxins and mind-controlling pheromones to force people into committing crimes.


a vulnerable woman who must be rescued by the hero; often used to trap or ensnare the unsuspecting heroExample: Superman (Lois Lane is often kidnapped by many of Superman’s enemies in order to get him to submit and allow them to wreak havoc.)

Faithful Companions
loyal retainers who are heroic themselves; their duty is to assist and protect the hero ALSO helpful animals–less heroic than the Faithful Companions, but no less helpful to the heroExample: Pokemon (Pikachu is Ash’s main companion throughout the whole series and he protects and assists Ash in his adventures.)

a sacrificial victim; a character who suffers or is blamed unjustly in order that others may escape; his death often makes him a more powerful forceExample: Animal Farm (When Napoleon takes over Animal Farm, he blames all of the troubles that happen on Snowball, such as the destruction of the windmill.)

a character, who, through superior wit or cunning, can deceive and manipulate those who seemingly have greater strength and authority; they also enjoy playing tricks on the stupid, pompous, or greedyExample: The Boy Who Cried Wolf (The shepherd boy fools the villagers into thinking that his flock of sheep were under attack by wolves repeatedly.


The Battle between Good and Evil
also seen as light versus dark; mankind shows eternal optimism in the continual portrayal of good triumphing over evil despite great oddsExample: Home Alone (Kevin clearly had the odds against him, he was against two fully grown adults while he was only a child. However, he is able to use his quick thinking and hold off the robbers until the police arrive.)

Natural World versus Mechanical World
usually nature is benevolent and technology/machines are malevolentExample: Avatar (The humans use their machines to invade the land of the Na’vi and use it for their own gain, while the Na’vi represents “nature” and use everything in their power to stop the invasion.)

The Fall
the hero experiences a downfall; the downfall often involves an expulsion from a paradise; in continuing the cycle of life, this spiritual death maybe followed with a redemption or rebirthExample: The Lion King (After his father’s death, Simba blames himself for the incident and leaves the Pride Lands as a portrayal of his shame.)

the (usually young) character moves from innocence into experience; from childhood into adulthoodExample: Petey (The entire story is about the life of Petey, a child who’s born with cerebral palsy and the people that he befriends over the course of his life. The story is in two parts, one part is Petey in his early years and teens, while the other part is Petey at age 70.


a journey or search for origins (roots), identity, perfection (nirvana), fulfillment, love, the true father or mother, treasure, fame, wisdom, or salvation; describes the search for someone or some talisman which, when brought back/destroyed, will restore fertility to a wasted land–the desolation of which is mirrored by a leader’s illness and disabilityExample: Fairy Tail (Natsu searches all over the continent for the only father figure in his life, a dragon called Igneel.)

The Task
a piece of the Quest; the hero must save the kingdom, win the fair lady, or identify himself so he may reassume his rightful position; the hero must perform superhuman deedExample: Fairy Tail (Natsu defeats a dark guild that tried to assassinate all of the current guild leaders with a cursed flute.)

a character literally changes from one form to another formExample: Beauty and the Beast (After Belle professes her love for the Beast, he magically turns into a prince.)

The Father-Son Conflict
tensions often result from separation during childhood or from an external source when the individuals meet as grown men; a mentor often has a higher place in the affections of the hero than the natural parentsExample: Star Wars (Anakin and Luke Skywalker are father and son, but they are on opposite sides of their battle.

Anakin represents the dark side and also seeks to convert Luke.)

a warrior’s honor, dignity, and name are tied to his sword; also represents a legacy or destiny passed from father to sonExample: Rurouni Kenshin (His katana has the blade on the opposite side, which supports of reputation of never killing anyone again.)

the center or beginning of sacred power; the navel of the world; the cosmic axis that unites the underworld, the earth, and the heaves, essential symbol of connectionsExample: Avatar (The Na’vi worship and mostly live in a huge tree called the Hometree.)

completion, especially of a cycle; eternity (as circles have no beginning or ending); inside a circle can offer protection or be a conduit of powerExample: Broken Blade (The city of Krishna has two circular walls, one that protects the entire town and one that protects the king’s castle.)

a complex symbol that on one hand represents evil, cunning and manipulation, while on the other hand represents eternal life and wisdom; the snake is kin to the dragon or monster which Western culture depicts as needing to be slainExample: The Reptile Room (The Incredible Deadly Viper was originally thought to be extremely dangerous, but the Baudelaires soon realize from Monty that it is harmless. This viper befriends Sunny and even helps her stage a diversion so Klaus and Violet can reveal Count Olaf.)

Unhealable Wound
this wound is either physical or psychological and cannot healed fully; indicates a loss of innocence and always achesExample: Arago (Arago’s right arm is actually his brother’s right arm; this was done by a demented serial killer. Arago is granted special powers of exorcism, but using this power hurts his arm.


associated with the triangle and divinity; symbolizes spiritual awareness, light, and unity: “past, present, future” and “mind, body, soul”Example: Three Billy Goats Gruff (The three goats represent past, present, and future. Past – Grandfather Goat, Present – Father Goat, Future – Youngster Goat.)

associated with the circle and the earth; symbolizes the cycle of earthly life and orderly arrangement: four seasons (spring, summer, fall, winter), four elements (water, earth, air, fire), four compass points/corners of the earth (north, south, east, west)Example: Star Driver (The four maidens of the island: north, south, east, and west, prevent the giant robots on the island from being used by humans.)

associated with the pentagon and man; symbolizes divine love and justice: man has five senses, four limbs & head, four fingers & thumb.Example: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (The pentangle on Sir Gawain’s shield represents his five-fives, including his 5 knight virtues)

most potent of all symbolic numbers; signifies union of three and four: perfect order, harmony, completion of cycle (seven days on a week)Example: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (The seven dwarfs mostly represent feelings that we have all felt during our entire lives: Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, Dopey, with the exception of Doc.)

cosmic order and salvation; also signifies the union of three and four: 12 apostles, 12 tribes of David, 12 signs of the zodiac, measure of time (months, hours)Example: Cinderella (Cinderella’s fairy godmother comes to her to save her from not being able to attend the ball; however, Cinderella must return before midnight, 12am.


the color of blood and fire; symbolizes life, energy , passion, sacrifice, strength, and leadership, but also war, anger, too much ambition, danger, and disorderExample: The Flash (His outfit is red with a lightning bolt; he has the strength and energy to move at super fast speeds. Ultimately, he sacrifices himself to save the universe.)

the color of nature and the land; symbolizes renewal, hope, fertility, youth, and growth, but also the wild uncontrolled forces of nature and man found in envy, jealousy, inexperience, and decayExample: Sesame Street (Oscar the Grouch is green and he lives in a trash can. He’s rude and collects useless things.)

the color of the sky and the sea; symbolizes nobility, steadfastness, security, truth, calmness, and spiritual purity, but also discouragement and doubtExample: Winnie the Pooh (Eeyore is a blue donkey that has a gloomy and depressed attitude. He has a very poor opinion of the other animals’ intellect.


the color of the sun; symbolizes illumination, perfection, intuition, but also money and greed, cowardice, treachery, and adulteryExample: The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs (The owner of the goose assumed that his goose must contain a great quantity of gold inside, and he kills his goose due to his foolish greed.)

the color of royalty; symbolizes wisdom, temperance, clarify of mind, but also power and its many abusesExample: Batman (The Joker has high intelligence, but a warped sense of humor. He often uses his subordinates and his dangerous gadgets to commit crimes. Also wears a purple suit.)

the totality of (or absorbs all) color; symbolizes maturity, wisdom, and mystery, but also death, chaos, and evilExample: Batman (Batman wears a completely black outfit and he’s very mysterious, for he’s fighting crime on his own time with a hidden identity.)

the absence of (or reflects all) color; symbolizes purity, innocence, timelessness, and the supernatural, but also mourning, hypocrisy, and terror, particularly in supernatural formExample: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Snow White is innocent enough to be tricked by the Evil Queen in all 3 attempts; she is tied up by laces, has a poisoned comb brush her hair, and eats a poisoned apple.)