- THRESHOLD GUARDIAN
- The word hero is Greek, from a root that means "to
protect and to serve".
- A Hero is someone who is willing to sacrifice his own needs on
behalf of others, like a shepherd who will sacrifice to protect
and serve his flock. At the root of the idea of Hero is
connected with self-sacrifice.
- MENTOR: WISE OLD MAN OR WOMAN
- An archetype found frequently in dreams, myths, and stories is
the Mentor, usually a positive figure who aids or trains
the hero. Campbell's name for this force is the Wise Old Man
or Wise Old Woman. This archetype is expressed in all those
characters who teach and protect heroes and give them gifts.
Whether it's God walking with Adam in the Garden of Eden, Merlin
guiding King Arthur, the Fairy Godmother helping Cinderella, or a
veteran sergeant giving advice to rookie cop, the relationship
between hero and Mentor is one of the richest sources of
entertainment in literature and film.
- The word "Mentor" comes to us from The Odyssey. A
character named Mentor guides the young hero, Telemachus, on his
Hero's journey. In fact it's the goddess Athena who helps
Telemachus, by assuming the form of Mentor. Mentor's often speak
in the voice of a god, or are inspired by divine wisdom. Good
teachers and Mentors are enthused, in the original sense of
the word. "Enthusiasm" is from the Greek en theos, meaning
god-inspired, having a god in you, or being in the presence of a
- All heroes encounter obstacles on the road to adventure. At
each gateway to a new world there are powerful guardians at the
threshold, placed to keep the unworthy from entering. They
present a menacing face to the hero, but if properly understood,
they can be overcome, bypassed, or even turned into allies. Many
heroes (and many writers) encounter Threshold Guardians,
and understanding their nature can help determine how to handle
- Threshold Guardians are usually not the main villains or
antagonists in stories. Often they will be lieutenants of the
villain, lesser thugs or mercenaries hired to guard access to the
chief's headquarters. They may also be neutral figures who are
simply part of the landscape of the special world. In rare cases
they may be secret helpers placed in the hero's path to test her
willingness and skill.
- Often a new force will appear in Act One to bring a challenge
to the hero. This is the energy of the Herald archetype.
Like the heralds of medieval chivalry, Herald characters issue
challenges and announce the coming of significant change.
- Typically, in the opening phase of a story, heroes have
"gotten by" somehow. They have handled an imbalanced life through
a series of defenses or coping mechanisms. Then all at once some
new energy enters the story that makes it impossible for the hero
to simply get by any longer. A new person, condition, or
information shifts the hero's balance, and nothing will ever be
the same. A decision must be made, action taken, the conflict
faced. A Call to Adventure has been delivered, often by a
character who manifests the archetype of the Herald.
- People often have trouble grasping the elusive archetype of
the Shapeshifter, perhaps because its very nature is to be
shifting and unstable. Its appearance and characteristics change
as soon as you examine it closely. Nonetheless, the Shapeshifter
is a powerful archetype and understanding its way can be helpful
in storytelling and life.
- Heroes frequently encounter figures, often of the opposite
sex, whose primary characteristic is that they appear to change
constantly from the hero's point of view. Often the hero's love
interest or romantic partner will manifest the qualities of a
Shapeshifter. We have all experienced relationships in which our
partner is fickle, two-faced or bewilderingly changeable.
- Shapeshifters change appearance or mood, and are difficult for
the hero and the audience to pin down. They may mislead the hero
or keep her guessing, and their loyalty or sincerity is often in
question. An Ally or friend of the same sex as the hero may also
act as a Shapeshifter in a buddy comedy or adventure. Wizards,
witches, and ogres are traditional Shapeshifters in the world of
- The archetype known as the Shadow represents the energy
of the dark side, the unexpressed, unrealized, or rejected aspects
of something. Often it's the home of the suppressed monsters of
our inner world. Shadows can be all the things we don't like
about ourselves, all the dark secrets we can't admit, even to
ourselves. The qualities we have renounced and tried to root out
still lurk within, operating in the Shadow world of the
unconscious. The Shadow can also shelter positive qualities that
are in hiding or that we have rejected for some reason.
- The negative face of the Shadow in stories is projected onto
characters called villains, antagonists, or enemies. Villains and
enemies are usually dedicated to the death, destruction or defeat
of the hero. Antagonists may not be quite so hostile---they may
be Allies who are after the same goal but who disagree with hero's
tactics. Antagonists and heroes in conflict are like horses in a
team pulling in different directions, while villains and heroes in
conflict are like trains on a head-on collision course.
- The Trickster archetype embodies the energies of mischief and
desire for change. All the characters in stories who are
primarily clowns or comical sidekicks express this archetype. The
specialized form called the Trickster Hero is the leading figure
in many myths and is very popular in folklore and fairy tales.
Note: In the book, Vogler
also defines the psychological and dramatic function as well as
the different kinds of each archetype.
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