Hero Archetype

Learn all about the Hero archetype, including definition, characteristics, examples and more.

The hero archetype represents the process of overcoming obstacles to achieve specific goals, like finding treasure or saving a princess. Let’s take a closer look at this archetype.

Archetypes are literary tools that depict common aspects of human nature or life. Several cultures have used this literary device. It can refer to a character, an action, a theme, or even a symbol. Archetypes make readers feel more connected to the stories or works. The concepts used have a common motif of the human condition.

What is a Hero Archetype? (Archetype Hero Definition)

If you are looking for the hero archetype definition or what is the hero archetype:

The hero is the oldest and most popular archetype used in our society. The hero is usually an expression of our collective unconscious. Heroes strive to maintain justice and fight against evil. The ability of the hero to stay true to themselves is ultimately what makes them heroic.

One definition of an archetypical hero is “someone who overcomes great odds in order to achieve his or her objectives.” The hero’s main undertaking is to defeat the monster of darkness – a long-awaited and hoped-for triumph of consciousness over the unconscious.

Here is a standard heroic archetypes list for you to consider when thinking about this archetype:

  • The Perfect Hero – As a shining example of human morality, this hero is a role model for all of us.
  • The Misfit – This unexpected hero isn’t like everyone else, for whatever reason. He may be a social outcast because of his ethnicity or religion, or because he has a handicap that makes him an outsider in his community. In most cases, this is accompanied by some degree of emotional trauma that has to be dealt with.
  • The Grizzled Old-Timer The seasoned veteran doesn’t need to be taught the intricacies of heroism; in fact, it’s more probable that he will be the one passing down his knowledge. His time may have passed, but he still has enough of fight left in him, even if he is beyond his prime.
  • The Everyman – It’s not usually those who are the most intelligent or physically powerful that become heroes. This kind of hero is one that we can identify with. He shares our concerns and our anxieties. We could easily imagine ourselves in his shoes.
  • The Anti-Hero – It’s not always possible to find a hero to take on a task that has to be done. Rarely, the position of hero must be assumed by someone who is completely unsuited for it.
  • The Prodigy – Some people are born a hero, while others have to work hard to become one. The genius may begin as an unpromising lump of clay, but there is unquestionable potential there, and it is just a matter of time until it may be unlocked by the appropriate circumstances. 
  • The Un-Hero – Most of the time, the un-hero is a misfit who appears just at the wrong moment and causes more harm than good, but somehow things in the end things resolve themselves and he gets the credit. 

Hero Archetype Characteristics & Heroic Traits

There are some hero characteristics which are common to all hero archetypes:

  • The events leading up to, or of their births are unusual. Their parentage is sometimes a mystery. They could also be born as royalty or in danger.
  • There is a departure from their family or country, which causes them to stay with others and gain new experiences.
  • A turning point occurs, which is usually a traumatic event. This event forces the hero on a quest or adventure. The quest can be the search for an identity, vengeance, or to rid the land of danger.
  • The hero is introduced to a more dangerous world. This world exposes them to monsters or monstrous men. The hero gains a new and mature perspective.
  • Depending on the story, the hero is given supernatural help or gets access to a special weapon only they can wield.
  • The hero goes through ‘the great trial’ which sometimes isn’t physical. The hero ends up getting reborn in a way that changes the character, theme, or symbol.
  • The hero then completes his/her journey by returning to restore order or peace. This can sometimes lead to the hero’s death and the subsequent form of spiritual reward.

Types of Heroes

Characteristics of a hero are similar no matter where you are in the world.

A hero is someone who is admired for their courage, achievements, or noble qualities.

There are many different types of heroes, from the selfless firefighter who runs into a burning building to save lives, to the everyday person who helps a neighbor in need.

Some heroes are celebrated for their acts of bravery, while others are respected for their integrity and compassion.

Regardless of their particular circumstance, all heroes share one common goal: to make the world a better place.

While their methods may differ, their intent is always the same.

By lending a helping hand, they inspire us to be better people and remind us that every act of kindness makes a difference.

Hero archetype examples

The examples of Hero Archetypes probably won’t be a surprise:

Jon Snow from the Game of Thrones TV Series/Books

This story has elements with the hero as a warrior or a reluctant savior. This character checks all the boxes for the characteristics of the hero archetype listed above. The identity of his parents is a secret. His quest for identity led him to join the Night’s Watch since he is a bastard son with no title or claim. Throughout the course of his adventures, the audience sees him mature to become the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.

Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games series

This story has elements of the modern proto-feminist hero. It embraces qualities that are often seen as a weakness. Those qualities include beauty, vulnerability, and kindness. Stories like these prove those qualities can be the greatest strength of characters. The female heroes in the past have sometimes been mere copies of the male versions. Katniss is a character that trained and developed her skills out of necessity in order to feed her family. These heroes show they have the skills and abilities to survive without being made into a sexual object with skimpy clothes.

Other examples of the hero archetypes are:

  • The superhero archetype such as Superman and Wonder Woman.
  • The Harry Potter character from the Harry Potter book series.
  • Sir Gawain from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

The hero archetype is a fascinating topic and the twists each writer adds to their work makes it seem fresh and new. Hero archetypes need not be predictable and these changes can be observed the next time you watch a movie or read a novel.

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