Basic Archetypes; Good vs. Evil


Think about the many stories we hear or see everyday. Everyone of those stories has something fundamental in common be it a motif, a theme, a character type, or a paradigm. These recurring elements are what are called archetypes and are the fundamental building blocks for all stories in one way or another. According to Joseph Campbell(Hero with a Thousand Faces) and noted psychologist Carl Jung, these archetypes are present in every culture and in every story. This phenomenon is called the collective unconscious. Without communicating about archetypes, all cultures around the world use them to build their stories and to create narratives.

Why do we tell stories? Consider the following:

•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

All of these are true in one sense or another. Literature and the concept of the story are inherently didactic and, beyond entertaining us(yeah, kids are entertained by reading stories) us, they are also responsible for informing us of morals, perspectives, and insights along with a myriad of other things. Literature, especially the mediums available today, can also be used as propaganda to control and influence us. Don’t agree? Look at commercials. Commercials provide us with a small story that is meant to relate to us and make us invest emotionally in the ad and cause us to buy whatever product they are hawking.It’s nothing new though. This has been going on for forever. Look at the Ancient Greeks. They invented tales of Gods and Goddesses to control and influence their people. The original purpose of their religion was to provide explanations for natural phenomen and instill a moral code within the people. In early European theater, plays were used to instill morality and core values in plays such as Everyman.

Archetypes are in every story in one way or another whether it be a quest or journey in the situational archetype set or a hero, villain, or mentor in the character archetypes column. Please don’t think that these are the only archetypes there are. There are literally over a thousand different ones. There are even distinctions and sublevels to many of the archetypes that further define characters and their roles not just in individual examples but also in literature and new media as a canon.

This was a very round about way to not feel bad about posting some real kick ass pictures that define these sublevels and distinctions. Below are some cool charts I found that put into perspective not just good and evil but the archetypal grey area that exists with these roles.

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