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Home » 11 Common Hero Archetypes with Examples

11 Common Hero Archetypes with Examples

The path of the hero begins in the everyday world.

In reality, he isn’t a hero yet. First, he must join a unique realm filled with trials, hardships, and initiations that will test all he is and thinks himself to be.

The hero frequently ignores his call to adventure, and he fails several times along the road. Further on, the hero can then return home with something of tremendous worth, not only monetarily but spiritually as well.

What is this archetype of the hero? Why is it so well-liked? What is the point of it? Is it precious to us?

Let’s dig deep!

What is the Hero Archetype & How Does it Operate?

What is the Hero Archetype & How Does it Operate

The Hero archetype is without a doubt the most ubiquitous and well-known of the approximately 325 archetypes.

Joseph Campbell popularised the Hero archetype through his work. Campbell takes the reader on an incredible adventure in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, illustrating the phases of psychological growth via myths and tales from throughout the world.

The Hero archetype represents the process of overcoming difficulties to accomplish certain goals. The hero’s goal in myths is usually to discover a treasure, such as a golden egg, save a princess, and return with the fountain of youth.

Bonus Read: Been wanting to create your own mythological stories? This guide will give you epic guidance!

These are all metaphors for a psychological journey to rediscover one’s real sentiments and capabilities.

The hero archetype is celebrated in our media. However, is the hero archetype really what we think it is?

No! It’s not what we Think it is.

Surprisingly, the Hero archetype is both popular and misunderstood in modern culture.

Being a hero is regarded as a respectable achievement and a symbol of manhood (a “genuine guy”). Moreover, a heroic life is considered to have been lived to the fullest.

On the other hand, the Hero archetype is a more sophisticated version of child (boy) psychology. That is, while the Hero archetype represents the teenage period of growth, it is still juvenile.

So, what transpires when a culture celebrates the hero archetype? It prevents men from reaching full maturation!

Here are 11 hero archetypes commonly used in literature and works of fiction:

  1. Classical Hero: A classical hero is a character who stands out from the rest of his or her peers because of a unique talent or ability. This could be a skill, such as fighting ability, or an internal trait, such as bravery or intelligence.

    Such hero types usually appear normal on the surface until their powers are revealed, such as when Harry Potter discovers he is a wizard with magical abilities. In Star Wars, this hero archetype is present when Luke Skywalker, who appears to be ordinary, begins to wield the tremendous power of the Force.
  2. Epic Hero: Epic heroes, who are well-known in Greek mythology, have otherworldly heroic traits. Due to their almost superhuman talents and heroic exploits, these primary characters are usually of noble birth and are regarded as legendary.

    The Epic of Gilgamesh, written in 1800 BC, contains examples of heroes in this tradition. Above this, Achilles (from Homer’s Iliad), Odysseus, Beowulf, King Arthur, and superheroes like Superman are all examples of epic heroes.
  3. Tragic Hero: A tragic hero is a character that has a fatal fault or makes a blunder that ultimately leads to their demise. As they witness their protagonist’s end, tragic heroes elicit a sense of terror or pity in the audience.

    Bonus Read: Here’s a big list of modern mythology and mythopoeic sagas to engulf you.

    Oedipus, whose tragic defect is inordinate pride, causes him to kill his father and marry his mother accidentally. This is perhaps the most well-known tragic hero. Romeo’s fatal defect in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is his unfettered passion and emotional impulsiveness, which leads to his and Juliet’s death. Because of his tremendous loyalty to his nation, Brutus, from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, can be led into executing Caesar.
  4. Anti-Hero: Anti-heroes don’t have the same heroic attributes as heroes. In actuality, they possess characteristics more like those of a villain, such as dishonesty, greed, or general immorality. The struggle of the anti-hero to overcome or reconcile these ethically problematic attributes makes them accessible to the viewer, stressing the very human fight between right and wrong that we all face.

    Jay Gatsby, the legendary anti-hero of The Great Gatsby, rose from poverty through his involvement in organized crime and larceny. Another example is Han Solo, an arrogant, roguish smuggler in Star Wars who eventually put his self-interest aside to serve the Rebel Alliance.
  5. Byronic Hero: On the appearance, the Byronic hero—an archetype described by English romantic poet Lord Byron—is prickly, moody, and opaque, but on the inside, he has a deep inner life. These heroes are frequently imperfect and wounded, yet they have strong principles and convictions. They frequently question conventional society’s views and traditions, resulting in their social isolation.

    Mr. Darcy is a Byronic hero and an outcast in Pride and Prejudice, driven by his love for Elizabeth.
  6. The Orphan: While this archetypal character does not have to be an orphan, they frequently search for a new family. Orphans make excellent protagonists because they stand to gain a lot if the story goes their way. Usually, they’re a regular individual who is plucked from obscurity and thrust into the spotlight, becoming the story’s central character.
  7. The Rebel: A rebel character is someone who refuses to accept the existing quo. They have a strong sense of justice and will go to any length to make things right. They aren’t necessarily natural leaders – some appear as a sort of anti-hero for the common man – but they certainly know how to stir things up.
  8. The Lover: For love, this character archetype will go to any length. They wear their hearts on their sleeves and are utterly loyal to the object of their devotion – sometimes at the risk of their safety.

    In a story, the lover makes a terrific protagonist, despite their journey frequently ending in tragedy.
  9. The Joker: Predictably, the joker is out for a laugh and a good time. They play the fool and don’t take life too seriously. In times gone by, the joker (then called the jester) might serve as a sage in disguise – offering wise words, masked by humor. Nowadays, the joker character in a film is likely to be there simply as light relief.
  10. The Child: This archetype usually follows a young or innocent character who sees the world through rose-colored glasses until reality hits them in the face. That isn’t to say they won’t wind up as jaded shells of their former selves by the end of the novel, but they will learn a thing or two about the world around them.
  11. The Mentor/Sage: Our protagonist may meet a mentor figure who will help them prepare for the challenges ahead. This mentor is sometimes a parent. It may be a magician or a suburban Karate instructor at other times.

    They are there to help our hero through the unknown, no matter what form they take. This archetype’s original goal was most likely to persuade younger generations to listen to their older, frailer tribe-mates.

Bonus Read: All you Game Of Thrones geeks, did you know the real mythology behind the Game Of Thrones?

The Hero Archetype’s Role

There’s a reason why the Hero archetype exists in our minds. It has a significant role to play in mobilizing the boy’s energy, determination, and strength to break away from the mother at the end of boyhood so that he may confront the challenges of life.

The knight enters a cave to confront a dragon in numerous hero stories. The hero must defeat this dragon, which represents the mother archetype, to return to his town as a man.

The Hero archetype’s mission is to push the kid to his boundaries, to inspire him to dream, and to summon the fortitude to conquer insurmountable challenges. The child (or man) may battle and possibly defeat enormous adversaries with the hero.

Suppose you truly want to accomplish anything but are hesitant to do it because of the risk. In that case, the Hero archetype’s fearlessness can help.

What Role Do Archetypes Have In Literature?

The reader or audience can relate certain aspects of themselves to the characters through archetypes, which can assist them in becoming more engaged in the tale. This encounter can assist readers in seeing parts of themselves that they may not have previously explored. The entire society may be able to recognize elements of its rules or structure that aren’t so excellent.

Society may become more conscious of its positive and negative elements through literary techniques such as archetypes, comparable to how a court jester could reveal the truth about a royal leader when no one else could. Common archetypes lend reality to literature and other forms of media, allowing the tale to leap off the page and into the hearts of readers.

Circumstantial Archetypes

Here are some circumstantial archetypes that will interest you:

The Excursion

A story’s whole narrative centers around a trip that the main character or characters must take. This trip might be emotional, mental, or physical, or a combination of the three.

The hero is driven to uncover their actual character, or the nature of their life, as a result of this process. Additionally, the hero and villain are likely to meet or engage numerous times along the trip, fueling their desire to conquer each other.

Frodo’s quest to destroy the one ring of power is an excellent illustration of this trip. He is joined by his sidekicks, is guided and assisted by his master, and has encounters with a variety of enemies. Even more brilliant, there are numerous adversaries throughout his journey. These include the ring, Sauron, Gollum, and even Boromir at one time. Not to forget, in the elf queen Galadriel, he meets a mother figure.

The Beginning

As the main character progresses through their adventure, they encounter events that allow them to evolve and grow. This maturity can come as a result of both positive and negative events.

Following in the footsteps of Frodo, he begins as a simple Hobbit who has never left the Shire despite having read Bilbo’s exploits. Frodo has matured emotionally and spiritually as a result of all the trials he has faced by the end of Lord of the Rings. Each of those difficulties is an archetype of an initiation circumstance.

The Battle Of Good Vs. Evil

As previously said, most hero and villain stories revolve around a good vs. evil journey.

Common examples include Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in which Snow White is challenged by the wicked queen. Even Lord of the Rings, as mentioned above, and Shakespeare’s King Lear are all wonderful examples of good vs. evil.

The Descent

In many but not all stories, the protagonist suffers a setback because of a poor decision or action. This might lead to a chance for atonement later in the tale, or it could be the story’s conclusion. Following such falls, some heroes are unable to recover. Take Oedipus from Oedipus Rex, for example.

How Can You Inculcate The Hero Archetype In Your Writing?

There’s no getting around incorporating catchy characters! If you want to write a tale that engages readers, you need to include engaging characters.

They must experience:

  • Relatability
  • Peculiarness
  • True to life

Perhaps you’ve developed a character with a fascinating background, including everything from his birthplace to his hair and eye color, as well as where he lives, who his closest pals are, and what activities he prefers. However, something is still lacking. And you’re at a loss for words as to what it is.
That’s why we created this character archetype guide. To make it easier for you to offer your characters a set of wants, anxieties, and problems that are both recognizable and convincing.

He must meet a specific psychological profile to be authentic. There’s a lot of wiggle space in that profile—motivation, reaction to the multitude of situations you’ll throw him into, and background are all essential, but who is he truly?

While studying character archetypes can be beneficial for character development, it’s important not to let them overpower you.

Educate yourself, read stories with characters similar to the ones you want to create, then put everything aside and allow your imagination to run wild.

All in all, make distinctive characters that communicate your narrative and make sense.

Bonus Read: Here’s a complete guide on remembering dreams you’ve forgotten!

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