Character Archetypes: The Hero

Perhaps the best known of all character archetypes is the hero. Most stories have a hero, after all, and even non-standard protagonists tend to be labeled by their relationship to the hero archetype: a tragic hero, for example, or an anti-hero. And one of the most common, most universal (at least according to Joseph Campbell) types of plot is the Hero’s Journey.

Common Aspects of the Hero Archetype:

  • Forced to leave home
  • Often an orphan, or discovers his/her family is not really his/her family
  • Tend to be uniformly “good”
  • Tend to see world as a division of good vs. evil
  • Often “chosen” in some way to defeat some great evil (prophecy, royalty, etc.)
  • Often has special powers in some form
  • Usually driven out into the world by some traumatic event

Luke Skywalker is often considered a perfect example of the Hero Archetype. Orphan, raised by remote relatives, has special powers, has clear “evil” to fight, forced to leave home by traumatic events.

Other Hero Archetype characters include Superman, Simba, King Arthur, Harry Potter–the list goes on and on. This is one of the most universal of all the archetypes. I’m sure you can think of a few–or a dozen–more without too much work.

Hero Archetypes are often encountered with Mentor Archetypes (which will will discuss next week), and may also, at some point, suffer from an incurable wound or a moment when it seems like everything’s lost. To continue using Luke as an example, we have his Obi-Wan (and also Yoda, once he loses Obi-Wan), and the end of Empire Strikes Back, when Luke loses his hand and learns that Darth Vader is his father.

Hero Archetypes are common across several genres, including, but not limited to, adventure, fantasy, thriller, and science fiction. They’re easy for most people to relate to and come with built-in characteristics that make for an interesting narrative.

Who’s your favorite Hero Archetype, Squiders? Have you seen this archetype used well or subverted any place that’s really stuck with you?

Next: The Villain Archetype


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by SleepyDragon1320 on 2015/05/23 at 8:18 AM

    Reblogged this on Sleepy Book Dragon and commented:
    Now to see if it’s possible to subvert this archetype.


  2. […] Hero archetype is perhaps the most well known. After all, most stories have heroes of some form or another. […]


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