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The Hero Archetype. What is an archetype ?. Webster’s says, “an original pattern or model” Type is a synonym for symbol Arche- means principal So, an archetype is a symbolic pattern repeated Archetypes are found throughout life, history, art, literature, and modern media.

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What is an archetype l.jpg
What is an archetype?

  • Webster’s says, “an original pattern or model”

  • Type is a synonym for symbol

  • Arche- means principal

  • So, an archetype is a symbolic pattern repeated

  • Archetypes are found throughout life, history, art, literature, and modern media




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A hero's birth will always have an unusual aspect to it. Many heroes are born to royalty or are in danger at birth. Either way, they are marked by these circumstances as different and destined for greatness.


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Remember the beginning of Many heroes are born to royalty or are in danger at birth. Either way, they are marked by these circumstances as different and destined for greatness.Lion King? Simba's birth is being celebrated. The unusual aspect of his birth is his royal status. His father, Mufasa, is the King of the Jungle.Moses wasn't born into royalty like Simba, but he grew up in the Pharaoh's household. Ramses II had decreed that all Hebrew male babies under age two be killed, so Moses' mother placed him in a raft on the Nile, where he was found by one of the Pharaoh's daughters.


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Although viewers of Many heroes are born to royalty or are in danger at birth. Either way, they are marked by these circumstances as different and destined for greatness.Star Wars must wait until the second movie to find out the truth about Luke's birth, hints about the unusual circumstances are given, such as the fact he lives with his aunt and uncle and didn't know his parents.King Arthur was not only born a prince, his father Uther Pendragon used Merlin's wizardry to seduce Arthur's mother, the wife of another man.


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Hero Leaves His Land and Family and Lives With Others Many heroes are born to royalty or are in danger at birth. Either way, they are marked by these circumstances as different and destined for greatness.


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Sometimes the circumstances are traumatic that force the hero to leave, as with Simba in The Lion King or Wallace in Braveheart, both of whom lose their fathers violently. With Luke in Star Wars and Arthur in the legends of King Arthur, the circumstances are more for protection than anything else. Either way, the hero must leave his home temporarily.


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Simba's father is murdered by Scar... hero to leave, as with Simba in

...which leaves our little hero helpless and forces him to leave his kingdom. Have no fear, however, heroes always return to their land.


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Moses also had to leave because he slew an Egyptian slavemaster in anger. That's Moses with the sword at the bottom of the painting. He is also shown at the top of the painting, fleeing Egypt. Moses appears many times in the same painting because Michelangelo tells Moses' entire life story in one picture. He did this because at the time most people couldn't read and depended on images to understand their religion. Now, granted, he was a man when this happened, but he still was forced out of his "land". Michelangelo showed the story of a hero visually, just like modern-day movies show the hero in action. The hero has remained the same through time, even until today.


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The Adventure Begins slavemaster in anger. That's Moses with the sword at the bottom of the painting. He is also shown at the top of the painting, fleeing Egypt. Moses appears many times in the same painting because Michelangelo tells Moses' entire life story in one picture. He did this because at the time most people couldn't read and depended on images to understand their religion. Now, granted, he was a man when this happened, but he still was forced out of his "land". Michelangelo showed the story of a hero visually, just like modern-day movies show the hero in action. The hero has remained the same through time, even until today.


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An event takes place that begins an adventure for the hero. Sometimes it is traumatic, like Wallace losing his wife in Braveheart, or it is coincidental, like Simba meeting Nala. Either way, the hero begins his adventure.

Simba initially fights with Nala, but they soon realize they are friends. She tells him of Scar's reign, which begins Simba's quest to gain his father's kingdom back from Scar.


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King Arthur began his quest by drawing the sword from the stone. Not traumatic of course, but surprising because Arthur was a lowly squire at the time.Luke abruptly began his quest to fight the Empire when Stormtroopers murder his aunt and uncle. Luke left the farm and never returned, going on to become a Jedi master.


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Special Weapon of the Hero stone. Not traumatic of course, but surprising because Arthur was a lowly squire at the time.


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You can't be a hero without a cool weapon, right? It's true. In most hero stories, the hero has a special weapon, often one that only he can use. Luke uses a light saber, an outdated weapon of the Jedi Knights, in Star Wars. Only a Jedi can master this weapon.


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This is an illustration of the Lady of the Lake, from whom Arthur received Excalibur. When Arthur died, Excalibur was thrown back into the lake because only Arthur could wield this weapon.


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Here's Wallace’s sword. While it doesn't appear to be anything special, only he was allowed to carry it because it represented his power and prowess as a warrior.


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Here's another painting by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel depicting Moses at the Red Sea. Notice his staff (He's on the left, in yellow and green, with the staff over his right shoulder). That's the same one he

used to perform miracles for Pharaoh, and also what Yahweh told him to raise to part and close the Red Sea.


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Supernatural Help—Mentor Chapel depicting Moses at the Red Sea. Notice his staff (He's on the left, in yellow and green, with the staff over his right shoulder). That's the same one he


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Heroes always seem to receive some sort of supernatural help, whether it be from a god, a wizard, or a spirit. Luke in Star Wars gets help from Ben even after Ben is slain by Darth Vader. Ben has many powers that make him a wizard-like character, similar to Merlin. Ben teaches Luke about the Force and later guides him from the spirit world.


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Perhaps the most famous supernatural hero helper is Merlin, a wizard and counselor for King Arthur. Merlin is very powerful in sorcery and can even change shapes. His command of the supernatural world benefits Arthur both as a boy learning from Merlin and later as King.


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Simba sees his father's spirit and also gets helps from Rafiki, a medicine man-type character. Rafiki is the supernatural force in The Lion King. He doesn't play as large a part as Merlin or Ben, but he does influence Simba and provide him with guidance.


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A Hero Must Prove Himself Rafiki, a medicine man-type character. Rafiki is the supernatural force in The Lion King. He doesn't play as large a part as Merlin or Ben, but he does influence Simba and provide him with guidance.


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A hero just can't claim he's a hero and assume his position, now can he? The hero must prove to himself and others that he is the true hero. For instance, Moses performs many miracles to free his people from Egypt as well as help them survive the desert and reach Canaan.


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Luke faces Darth in battle several times during the Star Wars trilogy. These battles, along with other services Luke provides for the Rebellion, his training with Yoda, and his personal maturing are part of the trials he must successfully pass through to become the hero.


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Here's Wallace at the front of his men, readying himself against an enemy charge. Wallace's success in battle against overwhelming odds, along with his political ability, help him to overcome the obstacles to freedom, which was his ultimate quest.


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Here's Arthur leading a charge in one of the many battles into which he led his men. Arthur's success in battle, just like Wallace's, is part of the proof of his heroic status. Leadership and courage allow the hero to overcome obstacles that lesser men could not. That's the hero for ya'!


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Simba, like Luke, is immature at first and unable to be the hero he will eventually become. However, once Simba realizes Scar must be removed and Simba is the only one who can do it, Simba assumes his proper role as the hero and saves the land from the evil Scar. Hmmmmm, that -does- sound just like Luke, doesn't it?


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At some point, the hero must lose his mentor hero he will eventually become. However, once Simba realizes Scar must be removed and Simba is the only one who can do it, Simba assumes his proper role as the hero and saves the land from the evil Scar. Hmmmmm, that -does- sound just like Luke, doesn't it?



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Simba’s first mentor is his father. Darth Vader and is slainHe is lost in the stampede.


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Even Moses, though not deserted, must wander with his people for forty years. In a sense, there is a distinct separation between his people and the “Mentor.”


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The Journey and Unhealable Wound for forty years. In a sense, there is a distinct separation between his people and the “Mentor.”


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The hero is always on some type of adventure with a purpose--a quest if you will. He experiences many things on this quest, among which is a descent into a kind of "hell." In this hell he experiences a low point in his life that leaves him scarred forever with a real or psychological wound that will not heal. The hero learns from this descent into "hell" much about himself and usually matures greatly from the experience.


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Luke purpose--a quest if you will. He experiences many things on this quest, among which is a descent into a kind of "hell." In this hell he experiences a low point in his life that leaves him scarred forever with a real or psychological wound that will not heal. The hero learns from this descent into "hell" much about himself and usually matures greatly from the experience.

  • Luke loses his hand, and his friends during the quest to rescue the Earth (and his father) from the dark side.


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Other heroes purpose--a quest if you will. He experiences many things on this quest, among which is a descent into a kind of "hell." In this hell he experiences a low point in his life that leaves him scarred forever with a real or psychological wound that will not heal. The hero learns from this descent into "hell" much about himself and usually matures greatly from the experience.suffer low points in their journeys. Arthur never recovers from the affair Guinevere has with Lancelot.


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William Wallace knew his execution would make him a martyr, so he was courageous as he was in his "hell"--the dungeon. Moses doubts himself and Yahweh causes him to suffer his Unhealable Wound: denial of entry to the Promised Land.


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Simba's descent into "hell" is combined with his defeat of Scar and the hyenas. Remember all the flames in the background as he fights Scar? He symbolically goes where none of the other lions could go in order to help his tribe and prove himself. Simba's Unhealable Wound? His past, where his courage failed him and his tribe, will always haunt him.


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Atonement With Father Scar and the hyenas. Remember all the flames in the background as he fights Scar? He symbolically goes where none of the other lions could go in order to help his tribe and prove himself. Simba's Unhealable Wound? His past, where his courage failed him and his tribe, will always haunt him.


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Atonement means to offer payment for a wrongdoing. Very often, heroes must avenge a father or make up for the father's evil.


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The spirit of Mumfasa, Simba's father, tells Simba to be strong and assume his place on the throne. Simba, who has been reluctant up to this point to return to his kingdom, realizes he has little choice but to avenge his father's murder.


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Arthur's father, Uther Pendragon, is unscrupulous and lustful. He uses his power to satisfy his personal urges, fathering Arthur deceitfully with a woman under a spell of Merlin that makes her think Uther is her husband. He looks a bit on the evil side, doesn't he? His father's evil legacy puts Arthur in a position to atone for his father's sins and be a good king, helping his people with selfless service.


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Luke's ultimate quest is rescuing his father from the evil of the Dark Side. Here, Luke consoles his dying father after his father saves Luke and atones for his own past by killing the Emperor, the leader of the Empire. Much like Arthur, Luke chooses to be good, the opposite of what the father chose, and therefore atones for the father's sins.


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Apotheosis of the Hero of the Dark Side. Here, Luke consoles his dying father after his father saves Luke and atones for his own past by killing the Emperor, the leader of the Empire. Much like Arthur, Luke chooses to be good, the opposite of what the father chose, and therefore atones for the father's sins.


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After the hero's journeys are over, the hero is rewarded spiritually in some way. Normally, the hero achieves a life in bliss, often in a place with other heroes, like Valhalla or the Isle of the Blessed from mythology.


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Examples differ widely at this point. Although the movie version of his life takes many liberties, the real William Wallace lives on in the spirit of his country, as shown by his statue in Dryburgh, Scotland (right). There is no indication of what happens to Simba but we can infer from the appearance of his father's spirit that immortality awaits him.


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Arthur is called the "Once and Future King" for good reason. Here's Arthur being placed on his funeral ship. His body is set adrift to let the sea carry him off, but he is promised to return one day to reclaim his throne of England. This promise implies his spirit is waiting somewhere and is not really dead, his reward for his sacrifice as king.


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Conclusion Here's Arthur being placed on his funeral ship. His body is set adrift to let the sea carry him off, but he is promised to return one day to reclaim his throne of England. This promise implies his spirit is waiting somewhere and is not really dead, his reward for his sacrifice as king.


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Elements of the Hero Archetype Here's Arthur being placed on his funeral ship. His body is set adrift to let the sea carry him off, but he is promised to return one day to reclaim his throne of England. This promise implies his spirit is waiting somewhere and is not really dead, his reward for his sacrifice as king.

  • Unique birth

  • Hero leaves his land and family

  • An adventure begins

  • Hero receives a weapon

  • Supernatural help

  • Hero must prove himself (loss of mentor)

  • A journey and unhealable wound

  • Atonement with father

  • Apotheosis


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Understandably, each story will have variations and creative elements that make it slightly different, but they still follow the standard archetype.


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Hero vs. Epic Hero elements that make it slightly different, but they still follow the standard archetype.


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Epic Heroes: elements that make it slightly different, but they still follow the standard archetype.

  • Often has already done great things when the story begins

  • Often possesses human weakness

  • Can be “Tragic Hero” if the hero lets the weakness lead to a downfall

  • Never normal, even before being a hero, but always endowed with superior strength, knowledge, and courage


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One of the main goals of this course is to see how alike humans are across time, places, and cultures.