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The Hero Archetype


The Hero Archetype The Journey and Unhealable Wound The hero is always on some type of adventure with a purpose--a quest if you will. He experiences many things on ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Hero Archetype

The Hero Archetype
What is an archetype?
  • Websters 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

Elements of the Hero Archetype
Unique Birth
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
Remember the beginning of 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.
Although viewers of 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.
Hero Leaves His Land and Family and Lives With
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.
Simba's father is murdered by Scar...
...which leaves our little hero helpless and
forces him to leave his kingdom. Have no fear,
however, heroes always return to their land.
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.
The Adventure Begins
  • 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.
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.
Special Weapon of the Hero
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.
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.
Here's Wallaces 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.
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.
Supernatural HelpMentor
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.
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.
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.
A Hero Must Prove Himself
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.
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.
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.
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'!
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?
At some point, the hero must lose his mentor
Before his training is even close to complete,
Obi-wan faces Darth Vader and is slain
Simbas first mentor is his father. He is
lost in the stampede.
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
The Journey and Unhealable Wound
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.
  • Luke loses his hand, and his friends during the
    quest to rescue the Earth (and his father) from
    the dark side.

Other heroes suffer low points in their
journeys. Arthur never recovers from the affair
Guinevere has with Lancelot.
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.
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.
Atonement With Father
Atonement means to offer payment for a
wrongdoing. Very often, heroes must avenge a
father or make up for the father's evil.
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.
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.
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.
Apotheosis of the Hero
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.
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.
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.
Elements of the Hero Archetype
  • 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

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

Hero vs. Epic Hero
Epic Heroes
  • 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

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