Introduction: What is an Archetypal Character? Why Do We Like Them?
An archetype is a model or pattern of behavior, personality, or even appearance that has existed in various cultures around the world for thousands of years. They represent that which we all have in common and that which we can relate to on an unconscious level. An archetype personifies the sum total of our collective consciousness and Jungian psychology argues that these archetypes pervade every aspect of human thought and action. He believed that these patterns of thinking were so intuitive and fundamental to all humans, that people could easily recognize examples of them in their daily lives.
Although the common man is often unaware of his own archetypes, they are completely recognizable to readers familiar with Jung’s work. The archetypal person is, by definition, an archetype person. He or she is a character with an iconic status who has become a standard for which we measure all other characters, regardless of how unfamiliar their circumstances may be. It’s like looking at one object and recognizing it as being basically the same as any other object of its kind.
An archetype is respected, not just by readers and viewers, but also by real-life people. fictional characters are usually based on familiar people who have been given another name, or at least one that sounds more appealing. The story of Cinderella’s riches is based on the history of many women from all over Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries who actually did possess fabulous wealth. Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is based on the writer herself who, like her character, fell in love with her employer. The flighty, outspoken Ginger of Gilligan’s Island is based on a girl Tina Fey knew in high school who was nicknamed “The Ginger One.”
Which Archetypal Character are You?
ACTIVITY: Each archetype is associated with a number of other characters. Look at this chart and write down your top five favourite characters. Find out which archetype they represent and whether or not they have any other characters who can be considered their opposite. For example, Peter Rabbit is an archetype of the healthy child and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is an archetype of the Scrooge-like character in The Christmas Carol.
EXAMPLE: Which archetypal character is the enchantress in the story ‘Rapunzel’?
ANSWER: The character who appears as the ‘Enchantress’ in the story of Rapunzel is Eudoxia. This female archetype can also be seen in characters like Mary Poppins, The Dragon Lady and the Stepmother. She is associated with both romance and magic and with these characteristics, she brings to life many stories that include an element of enchantment. She appears in stories like ‘The Snow Queen’ and ‘Snow-White and Rose-red’. This archetype also brings to life some of the stories we wish were true such as ‘Cinderella’.
Rapunzel & Rapaciousness
The enchantress in Rapunzel is a character that represents the old hag archetype. This is a malevolent archetype that appears in many different guises and scenarios, but always illustrates the dangers of being enchanted by a wicked character. This character is an old hag archetype who takes Rapunzel’s beauty and traps her away in a tower. In the story, she tries to use the girl’s great power to further her own wicked intentions. This story is a warning of the risks that come from giving your heart and soul over to corruptive influences; the enchantress uses Rapunzel’s beauty to gain access to her power. Rapunzel’s beauty is equivalent to her “soul”, and without it, she loses all sense of identity.
This archetype has many different faces, but the one that we are most interested in is the witch figure. The witch can take many forms and uses many disguises in order to ensnare unsuspecting victims. She is represented by a witch figure who deceptively looks like an old woman, but is in fact a malevolent character. In this story, we see the enchantress as a female witch figure who tries to lure Rapunzel into her web of witchcraft; she tries to use Rapunzel’s beauty and charm to take away her power and control her mind.
Conclusion on Rapunzel’s Childhood Roots
Rapunzel’s story has its origins in an ancient tale that deals with a number of archetypes. The main character is the infant archetype, an innocent child who represents purity and kindness. In this case, Rapunzel is magnificently endowed with a long golden tress. The old woman who takes her away is the wicked witch archetype – this type of character is always portrayed as a dark and evil being, who can often be described as the devil himself. Rapunzel’s mother is the nurturing mother archetype who protects and nourishes her child. The old tower with its multiple locks is a metaphor for the womb or the place of safety from which we are born – here the witch takes Rapunzel away from her mommy, leaving her vulnerable and helpless in a strange land far away from home. Ultimately the old witch is killed and Rapunzel returns to her mother’s womb. But there is still more to the story.
We learn that the witch hides Rapunzel in an isolated tower, but once a year she lets her out “to see the flowers bloom.” More precisely, every time she lets her out, it is on May first. This is the time of the year when our ancient ancestors celebrated spring and rebirth. The womb-like tower represents a place where Rapunzel’s mother can keep an eye on her baby girl. The old witch has carefully guarded it, so that no one can betray her secret – that Rapunzel is born once a year.