Posts Tagged ‘archetypes’

Warrior (2011 film)

Have you found yourself seeing archetypes everywhere, now that you know what they are?  Hollywood is an abundant source of them, si? Some archetypes, like Hero and Villain, we see often in film; some, like the Shadow/Hero, are less common. Finally, some Shadow/Hero roles are played by dudes with amazing abs.

I recently watched Warrior (Lionsgate, 2011).  It is about two brothers who were estranged, yet come back together through a mixed martial arts (MMA) prize fight called -Greek alert- Sparta; the “Rocky”-esque movie is allegedly based on a true story.   The hero is Brendan Conlon/Joel Edgerton, but my archetype-alert system went off  for the anti-hero,  Brendan’s  brother Tommy Conlon … and no, not because he has the better abs.  Here is why renegade Marine Tommy Conlon /Tom Hardy  is a textbook Shadow character, with definitions by John Dowell:

  • Tommy arrives back in the States after a grueling tour in Iraq (his loss of innocence and fall). His experiences there have made him an antisocial, brutal machine (Shadow: the darkest fears, rejected qualities) who dispatches his MMA opponents with serial-killer efficiency (Shadow: intent for physical destruction of hero).
  • The audience learns that Tommy, while deserting his unit in Iraq, happened upon a group of Marines under fire and saved them by literally ripping the door off of a tank (Shadow: may reveal admirable traits, even has redeeming qualities).
  • Tommy is unlikable, brusque, savage, compassionate, loving… he is a true Shadow.

Additionally, the key points of the Hero’s Journey are all in the film, as are the character archetypes of Mentor, Hero, and Fatal Woman.  Warrior‘s situational archetypes include the Fall (mentioned above), the Unhealable Wound,  Father-Son Conflict, and Death/Rebirth (Lawrence).  There are symbolic archetypes, too: water as metaphoric baptism, along with water versus desert as death versus rebirth (Lawrence).   This movie is so full of archetypes, symbols, and Heroic Journey benchmarks that I lack space to list them all here.  (Yo, students and/or educators: analysis of  Warrior would make a rockin’ paper.)

In retrospect, Tommy’s ethos surprised me.   To protect the plot for readers wanting to see the film, I will only say that one’s heart goes out to Tommy in spite of his disturbing brutality.  Tommy Conlon is a complex character, a Shadow/Hero, and therefore is more interesting  than his cookie-cutter-hero brother. Furthermore, I now wonder if the screenwriters have any idea how loaded with archetypes their flick actually is!   If you choose to watch Warrior, tell me whether you agree.

You might also enjoy Archetypes: The Rebel in Multicultural Literature, The “What-If” Archetype: 2 True Post-Apocalyptic Heroes


Dowell, John. “Interpretations of Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey.” Michigan State University. Michigan State University, n.d.. Web. 2 Jan 2012.

Lawrence, Lisa. “Archetypes and Symbols” . West Morris Regional High School District, n.d.. Web. 2 Jan 2012.


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This blog is a tribute to the lasting allure of ancient heroic tales.  Although such epics as “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” first appeared more than two thousand years ago, these stories are so captivating that they remain well-known today.  For me, the lifelong literary romance began when my mother purchased a copy of “D’Aulaires Greek Myths” for me when I was about ten years old; the Greek gods and their adventures held me spellbound.  I have been a fan of  mythology ever since (and I still have that book).

Why, one might wonder, are these tales and others like them so durable?  I believe that several things are true:  these are great, ripping yarns, they deal with issues of human nature that are still present, and the Heroic Journey is a realistic metaphor for life.  Epic stories of the ancient world capture the imagination, and I offer that these tales speak to people because of the simple truths within them: greed versus generosity, loyalty versus betrayal, life versus death.

Now, as in the ancient world, myths and epics are superb teaching tools  cleverly stashed in  an often-swashbuckling  package.  Perhaps this is the literary equivalent of  hiding one’s spinach in puff pastry: it’s mighty tasty, and you still get your dark leafy greens.

My work here will be to focus on the ways that ancient tales still benefit modern society.  I am a devotee of the work of Joseph Campbell (“The Hero with a Thousand Faces”), Caroline Myss, Jean Houston (“The Hero and the Goddess”), and Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes (“Women Who Run with the Wolves”).  Each of these authors has illustrated in his or her particular way how useful the archetypes of  mythology, folk stories, and epic poems are.   Their work and the heroic legends have entranced me for years.  As homage to all of them, and to the ancient tale-tellers who began the saga, I bring you this blog; I hope that you find the ideas here useful, thought-provoking, and fun.   Whether you are a student, an educator, an observer of human nature, or a literature buff, my goal is to inform and entertain you. If I am successful, you will savor these leafy greens for the brain!

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