British Literature Archetypes

The Quest
this motif describes the search for someone or something, which, when found and brought back, will restore life and fertility to a wasted land
ex: the holy grail, the ring in the hobbit

The Task
this may be to save the kingdom, to free the princess, to rescue the child, etc.
ex: Arthur pulls the Excalibur from the stone, beowulf mortally wounds grendel

The Intiation
usually takes form of initiation into adult life; it is the point of the story where hero comes to awareness; often the climax (Pinocchio becomes an ass after it is too late to go back to being a boy)

The Journey
in this motif the hero goes in search of turth in order to restore goodness, or fertility to the land, or some other in need. Usually the hero is forced to go to some terrible place (forrest, under water, lion’s den, etc) and he must overcome obstacles in order to return to his homeland. sometimes in modern stories, the hero/heroine goes on a sea voyage, a bus ride, or some kind of trip where he/she is isolated in order to discover what it is each must conquer. sometime it is simple one’s self- that is, we must all overcome our own dark side. (ex: huck finn down the mississippi) the TASK is apart of the JOURNEY.

The Fall
this archetype describes a descent from a higher to a lower state of being. a loss of innocence is involved. sometimes expulsion results (adam and eve are expelled from the garden of eden)

Death and Rebirth
this is the most common situational archetype and parallels the cycle of nature. sometimes someone must die in order that someone else can live, just as the dying flower seeds the ground to make new life possible (Jesus died so we could live)

The Ritual
ceremonies that mark the rite of passage into another state of life.

Light vs. Darkness
light is usually good and suggests hope, renewal, or awareness; darkness implies the unknown, fear, danger

Water vs. Desert
water is necessary for life so rivers or rain are usually positive and associated with life or rebirth, while deserts imply decay and death

Heaven vs. Hell
the sky and mountain tops traditionally house the god while the bowels of the earth contain the diabolic forces

Innate Wisdom vs. Educated Stupidity
some characters exhibit wisdom and understanding that is instinctive as opposed to those supposedly in charge (the wise old man or woman, fairy godmother or jiminy cricket for example)

Haven vs. Wilderness
places of safety contrast with dangerous wilderness (batcave, camelot, gmas house in little red riding hood)

Supernatural Intervention
the god or God intervenes (in fairy tales there is a rescue by an animal, fairy godmother, etc. who sometimes gives the magic weapon to the hero)

Fire vs. Ice
fire is knowledge, power, life; ice is sterility, ignorance, death

The Magic Weapon
symbolizes the extraordinary quality of the hero because no one else can wield it as the hero/heroine does (Arthur & Excalibur , odysseus and his bow; mary poppins and umbrella)

The Unhealable Wound
that is either physical or psychological and will not heal fully; it indicates loss of innocence and often is a reminder of the hero’s humanity (Lancelots madness, luke’s hand)

Battle Between Good and Evil
this is the conflict between two primal forces

The Hero
often this archetype is born of a virgin or is an orphan. he grows up to become a king but often losses favor with the gods later. Sometimes he meets a mysterious death, often at the top of a hill

The Young Man from the Providences
this hero is spirited away as a young man and raised by strangers. later he returns home and heritage as one who can see what others can not (Tarzan)

The Initiates
young hero who prior to their quest must endure some training ceremony. they often wear white (daniel in the karate kid, anakin)

these individuals serve as teachers or counselors to the initiates often they are role models and function as mother/father figures.

Mentor-Pupil Relationship
the mentor teachers by example the skills necessary to survive the quest

Father-Son Conflict
tensions often results from seperation during childhood or from external sources when the father/son meet as men and where the mentor may have a higher place in the affections of the hero than the natural parent (arthur and uther)

Hunting Group of Loyal Companions
loyal companions willing to face any number of perils in order to be together (knights of the round table)

Loyal Retainers
somewhat like servants and heroic in themselves; they serve the hero and reflect his or her nobility (watson to sherlock holmes)

Friendly Beast
animal that shows that nature is on the side of the hero (toto, lassie, trigger)

Devil Figure
evil incarnate, offers goods, worldly pleasure, fame, etc. in exchange for possession of the protagonist’s soul

Evil Figure with Ultimately Good Heart
redeemable devil figure in nobility of love or by the hero (scrooge, heathcliff)

animal or human whose death in a public ceremony makes up for some sin in the community; their death often makes them more powerful force than they were in life (oedipus, jesus)

figure who is banished for some crime (real or imagined) against his fellow man and is destined to become a wanderer (cain; the ancient mariner)

symbolic of fertility; offers emotional nourishment to those with whom she comes in contact; often dressed in earth colors and has large breasts and hips; symbolic of childbearing capabilities (mother nature, ma joad, mammy in gone with the wind)

characterized by sensuous beauty and someone who tempts the hero but ultimately brings about his downfall (Delilah, Guinivere, Cleopatra)

Platonic Ideal
source of inspirational and a spiritual ideal for whom hero has an intellectual rather than a physical attraction (virgin mary)

Unfaithful Wife
woman married to a man she sees as dull or distant and is attracted to a more virile or interesting man (guinivere, anna karenia)

Damsel in Distress
vulnerable woman who must be rescued by hero; often used as a trap to ensnare unsuspected hero (snow white; sleeping beauty)

Star-Crossed Lovers
two characters engaged in a love affair that is fated to end tragically for one or both due to disapproval of society, friends, family or some tragic situation (romeo and Juliet, Lancelot and Guinevere)

Creature of Nightmare
monster summoned from the deepest, darkest parts of human psyche to threaten lives of hero/heroine (werewolves, vampires, huge snakes, creature in Frankenstein)