What is an archetypal character in literature


© Bettina and Thomas Pyczak

Archetypes make it easy to tell stories successfully. They represent images of heroes in which the audience immediately recognizes themselves - the wise, the fool, the lover, the rebel. Archetypes can be transferred to people, to companies, to brands.

Anyone who has ever developed stories with archetypes knows how pleasant it is to work with them, even if the assignment is not always easy and unambiguous. Try to discover yourself or your favorite brands in the circle of the 12 archetypes!

In my opinion, working with archetypes is all about establishing a basic direction. How do we want to position our company? Do we prefer to be creators or discoverers? A combination of both?

Stories of control, freedom, change and order

Then a reality check, after all, the entire company story depends on this decision. Does that suit us? Does it correspond to our possibilities and abilities? Are we really like that? Another look at the dark side of our possibilities: What does our shadow look like or our weakness?

The twelve faces of the hero. Download a free PDF of the graphic here.

How do we tell our own biography? Anyone who is well received by everyone or a rebel who offends many but leaves his mark on the world? Ruler who controls everything, or magician who gains power through amazement or manipulation? Every personality shimmers - but which archetype corresponds best to us? Others often see this much more clearly than we do. They are our mirrors.

The archetypes have been described in detail by the psychologist C.G. Young. He showed how each of them tells a story - of control or freedom, of change or order.

Almost three years after its publication in October 2017, I took the liberty of expanding this typology to include one essential point: the weakness inherent in every archetype. A point that is often swept under the table, but which gives a better feeling for the archetype, especially in the context of storytelling.

The 12 archetypes with examples:

  1. The innocent

    The innocent is curious, spontaneous and optimistic. Its most important values ​​are happiness and trust. A typical innocent man is the Dalai Lama. Brands belonging to this archetype are McDonalds and Evian. The weakness: the innocent could lose sight of the facts.

  2. The wise

    The wise one is concerned above all with the truth. He wants to know the world through intelligence and analytical skills. A typical sage is Albert Einstein. Brands belonging to this archetype are TED and the London School of Economics and Political Science. The weakness: The wise man could judge emotionality too weakly.

  3. The discoverer

    The explorer has to go out into the world. He goes on a journey, tries new things and attaches great importance to independence. Reinhold Messner is a typical explorer. Brands belonging to this archetype are Virgin and The North Face. The weakness: the discoverer could disregard the value of home, the basis for all his discoveries.

  4. The rebel

    His motto is: rules are there to be broken. His approach is radical - disruption, revolution or shock. In contrast to the hero, he shies away from everything mainstream. Typical rebels are Elon Musk or the young Steve Jobs. Brands belonging to this archetype are Harley Davidson and Tesla. The weakness: For lack of a better alternative, the rebel could only destroy.

  5. The Wizard

    The magician makes things possible that others would not have thought possible. He wants to understand the rules of the universe in order to change the world for the better. A typical magician is the mature Steve Jobs. Brands belonging to this archetype are Apple and Google. The weakness: the magician could become a manipulator.

  6. The hero

    His motto is: Where there's a will, there's a way. The hero develops a mastery in learning something that changes the world, and he is not afraid of difficult situations. A typical hero is basketball player Dirk Nowitzki. Brands belonging to this archetype are Porsche and Nike. The weakness: the hero could put himself above those who are not (yet) heroes.

  7. The lover

    The lover is passionate and seductive. It makes others feel unique. A typical lover is Marilyn Monroe. Brands belonging to this archetype are Agent Provocateur and Chanel. The weakness: the lover could put those he loves in his shadow.

  8. The fool

    The fool seeks pleasure, joy. The sympathy of other people is important to him, so he entertains them. And he's enjoying the moment. A typical fool is Stefan Raab. Brands belonging to this archetype are Media Markt and Ax. The weakness: the fool might believe that lower values ​​are irrelevant.

  9. The Jedermann

    He is the inconspicuous fellow citizen, a democrat who negates privileges and privileges, down-to-earth. A loyal companion. Typical every man are the Albrecht brothers who founded Aldi. Brands belonging to this archetype are VW and IKEA. The weakness: Jedermann could lose touch with increasing success.

  10. The supervisor

    He cares for others with care and empathy, wants to help, support, and give others protection. Lady Di was a typical caregiver. Brands belonging to this archetype are ADAC and Dove. The weakness: the supervisor could exercise control over the carer.

  11. The ruler

    The ruler strives for control and power, but at the same time for a harmonious environment. He tries to use his power for good. For a flourishing community, for example. A typical ruler is Angela Merkel. Brands belonging to this archetype are Mercedes Benz and Rolex. The weakness: the ruler could use his power to oppress others.

  12. The creator

    Experimentation and creativity are the hallmarks of this archetype. Creators are inventors, farmers and artists, they want to turn a vision into reality. A typical creator is Leonardo Da Vinci. Brands belonging to this archetype are Andy Warhol and Faber Castell. The weakness: the creator could lose the sense of the negative potential of his innovations.

Conclusion: Archetypes allow a playful and structured approach to stories at the same time. They are intuitive, universal and automatically draw attention to the story. In conjunction with the 7 Master Plots and the Golden Circle, they are the perfect basic tools for storytellers.