I Need a Hero

Kings, queens, circles, quaternities, nuts, spheres, eggs; symbols of wholeness. Here, I think and write regularly about female archetypes, but without a king and a queen (the Divine Couple), we don’t have an archetype of wholeness when we’re discussing archetypal figures. Even Aragorn needed his Arwyn.

In depth psychology, we talk often and at length about the hero’s quest, also known as the vision quest, the monomyth, or simply the Quest, which leads to wholeness. The Quest is universal and you can find it, or parts of it, in any great story. Joseph Campbell, the eminent mythologist, explained that, “In these stories, the adventure that the hero is ready for is the one he gets. The adventure is symbolically a manifestation of his character” (Campbell 158). Different quests for different heroes, in other words: but everyone is a hero in his or her own tale.

The pattern of the monomyth or quest is that the hero:

  1. leaves the world he’s in.
  2. goes into a depth, a distance, or into a height, where —
  3. he comes to what was missing in his consciousness and in the world he left behind
  4. he either stays with what was missing, or he returns with it to the world he left behind.

The Quest Myth has four distinguishable aspects in literature, according to literary theorist and critic Northrop Frye: (1) the agent or conflict itself, (2) the pathos, or death; (3) the sparagmos, disappearance of the hero, and tearing to pieces of the hero (eucharist); and (4) the anagnoisis, the reappearance and recognition of the hero. Along the way, characters appear who either help or thwart the hero in his quest. Patterns occur in which there is

  1. The initiation of a trial or conflict; an older or royal woman; a departure and entry: a meeting with the Shadow archetype.
  2. The Advent of the Hero: revelation of the anima and animus; appearance of the Mother archetype
  3. Next, some preliminary adventures occur, which include older men using magic: the wise old man archetype, the Father archetype
  4. The outcome of the quest or journey peaks in a conflict between Hero and Foe, leading to death (abandonment of Child), a descent into the underworld, and then
  5. The resurrection or exaltation of the hero, and his return: archetypes of the Self, the Divine Couple

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