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Archetypes: The Building Blocks of Stories

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  1. Archetypes:The Building Blocks of Stories

  2. Definition of Archetype • Archetype is a Greek word meaning “original pattern, or model.” • In literature and art an archetype is a character, an event, a story or an image that recurs in different works, in different cultures and in different periods of time. • Can you think of any stories or image patterns that have been repeated in movies, books, or even commercials?

  3. How many stories do you encounter daily? • Think about the number of stories you encounter daily either reading, viewing, or listening. This would include all of the following categories: • books, short stories, newspaper stories, movies, sitcoms, tv shows, video games, news reports, magazine stories, etc.

  4. What are archetypes? • They are the basic building blocks of stories that all writers use to create a world to which readers can escape. • Without communicating about archetypes, all cultures around the world use them to build their stories. This is called the Collective Unconscious (term coined by Carl Jung). • Examples of archetypes are: the hero, the damsel in distress, the battle between good and evil, etc.

  5. Why do we need stories? • To explain natural phenomenon such as great floods and the creation of the world • To answer such questions such as why we are born and why we die • To help us escape reality by entering a world where the good guy wins, the forces of evil are defeated, and love conquers all • To help define the roles of good and evil such as the hero and the villain so that we might recognize them in reality

  6. There are several different types of archetypes: • Situational • Symbolic • Setting • Character You’ll often find several of these archetypes within one work. Here are specific examples of each type of archetype.

  7. The movie opens…. the young, beautiful actress is on a tirade about how much she hates, and she means hates, detests, loathes and every other adjective in between, the new guy she works with (who happens to be drop dead good looking and single). He pokes fun at her and frequently stops by her desk. She fumes silently. She yells at him about how she can’t stand the sight of him. He laughs and says he can’t stand her either. What’s going to happen? How do you know this?

  8. Situational Archetypes These are common situations, or plots, seen in literature, movies, television, etc. over and over throughout history and cultures. Chances are, if you’re watching a movie that follows one of these situational archetypes, you know what’s going to happen in the end when the movie is in the opening five minutes. Examples include:

  9. THEJOURNEY— • The hero goes in search of some truth or information to restore life to the kingdom. The quest involves proving himself, defending or saving someone or something, or finding something. • There are several types of journeys the hero can take • Identity • Knowledge • Vengeance • to find the promised land • journey for the grail (human perfection) The type of journey determines the type of hero.

  10. The Fall • Describes a descent from a higher to a lower state of being. The experience involves a defilement and/or a loss of innocence and bliss. The fall is often accompanied by expulsion from a kind of paradise as a penalty for disobedience and moral transgression. Battle between Good and Evil — • Obviously the battle between two primal forces. Mankind shows eternal optimism in the continual portrayal of good triumphing over evil despite great odds. These manifest themselves in the classic conflicts of menacing enemies, natural dangers, moral dilemmas, problems with society, and difficulty with fate or decisions

  11. The movie opens on a dark, stormy night. There is no power in the house where the couple lives. What does this suggest? Why?

  12. Symbolic Archetypes: These are symbols (something which represents something else) that have occurred over and over again throughout time and in various different cultures. These symbols have always represented the same things; that is what makes them an archetype and what makes us recognize them as symbols when we see them. Examples Include:

  13. LIGHT VS. DARKNESS— light suggests hope, renewal, or intellectual illumination; darkness suggests the unknown, ignorance, or despair. HEAVEN VS. HELL— gods live in the skies or mountaintops; evil forces live in the bowels of the earth WATER FOR CLEANSING- a water source offers the character an opportunity to purify himself from a wrong NUMBERS- a particular number holds a sacred value for the culture (such as 3 for the Christian faith) ANIMALS- animals such as snakes or cows hold special value in the culture or religion

  14. Setting Archetypes • These are settings that are seen over and over throughout literature. Although the settings may vary a little over time or as cultures change, the basic premise of the setting is the same. • Examples Include:

  15. universe of opposites –this can be anything from light and dark or day and night to good and evil or man verse beast an underworld for the afterlife –any form of going “under” to achieve some kind of enlightenment or to be tested. a paradise setting or a lost paradise setting- this would resemble the garden of Eden where nature is untouched by man landscape that emerges from chaos - begins with some kind of void or confusion and something whole is brought forth such as the light and the darkness emerging from the watery chaos A river or water source - emphasis would be on it’s life giving or cleansing properties

  16. Character Archetypes These are the “stereotype” characters that you see over and over again. You’ve seen these characters throughout different cultures and over different eras in history. Examples of these popular archetypes are:

  17. THE HERO — mother is sometimes a virgin, circumstances of birth are unusual, some attempt is made at birth to kill him; raised by foster parents, returns to his kingdom to right wrongs, marries a princess, becomes king, meets a mysterious death, body is burned rather than buried • ANTI-HERO - A non-hero, given the job of failure, frequently humorous (think Homer Simpson) • THE SCAPEGOAT — animal or human who is unjustly held responsible for others’ sins; sacrificed but they often become more powerful force dead than alive

  18. DEVIL FIGURE—evil incarnate; offers worldly goods, fame, or knowledge to the hero in exchange for possession of the soul • THE MOTHER FIGURE-often a goddess who brings the life source to the story either by actually birthing things into being or nurturing them for survival • TEMPTRESS—sensuous beauty; brings about the hero’s downfall because he is physically attracted to her • DAMSEL IN DISTRESS- A vulnerable woman who needs to be rescued by the hero. She is often used as a trap to ensnare the unsuspecting hero

  19. Now, take what you know about archetypes and apply them to everyone’s favorite Ogre….

  20. HOMEWORK: Review your notes on archetypes. Use one text of your choice (movie, book, short story, children’s story, etc) and identify one archetype from each category (situational, symbolic, setting and character). For each archetype (4), write two sentences explaining why your choice demonstrates an example of each of these archetypes by using your definitions from your notes.