Archetypes in Fiction

archetypesThe same archetypes that show up in peoples relationship styles, which I call the Hermit, The Queen of Cups, The Knave of Swords, The Judge, The Knight of Swords, The Emperor, and The Magician, show up again and again in fiction. The greatest heroes have more than one characteristic, making them multifaceted.


Having written a book in which he is the main character, I guess I’m biased in favor of Odysseus. He has aspects of the Emporer, as he is a king, and often appeals to men’s better nature before he openly opposes them. He is also a Knight of Swords, as he is very much a doer and an achiever as an individual. Finally, he is a bit of a trickster, a Knave of Swords. Not only does he come up with the famous Trojan Horse, he tricks his wife’s suitors into thinking he is an old beggar until he can gain the advantage.


Aragorn, son of Arathorn, is very much an Emporer. When he first meets the hobbits, he scares them, then offers himself as their leader and savior. His ability to lead by example fits the archetype. He is never an individual achiever; he always surrounds himself with a team. Yet Aragorn has self doubts, and comes perilously close to withdrawing and becoming a Hermit.


kwisatz-haderachPaul Atreides, who is transformed into the Kwisatz Haderach, the divine man, is at first a Knight of Swords, driven to succeed, to impress his father. Later, he transforms into an Emperor as he leads the Fremen to triumph over the actual emperor. Finally, in the later books, he becomes The Prophet, a mystical figure like the Magician, who sees reality clearly and knows how difficult it can be to navigate it.


Merlin is of course a Magician, always giving Arthur sage advice, and understanding the mysteries of life. And yet he has a strong streak of Trickster in him, including a proclivity for transforming himself into a hideous giant. In the end, at least as Mallory tells it, he is fooled by his own lust, meaning he has a bit of the Knave in him too.

Where are all the Heroines?

Though there are many female characters, and more than a few female protagonists, how few great heroines come to mind: Isis from Egyptian mythology; Arha from “The Tombs of Atuan”; Susanna in “The Dark Tower”. I think I will leave these to another post.

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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