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Heroic Archetypes

Joseph Campbell, in The Hero with a Thousand Faces
identified both the archetype of the Hero and the quest that the 
hero follows, in many of the folk tales and myths of the world. 
Carol Pearson, in Awakening The Heroes Within expands the 
idea of the Hero into twelve distinct archetypes, each of which 
can follow the Hero Quest.

These heroic archetypes and the stages of each archetype’s 
journey correspond to the more traditional way we usually 
discuss literature.

Quest: This is the hero quest which the archetype has set out 
on. The hero may not realise she is on such a quest until it is 
too late to retreat.

Fear or motivation: This is the fear which is usually the 
motivating factor for undergoing the quest (why else would the 
hero need to put herself at risk?) It is also the principal danger 
that lurks in the shadow of the archetype.

Dragon or conflict or antagonist : In most quests the hero 
soon meets her dragon. This represents the major problem or 
obstacle of the quest — the opposition that must be overcome 
in order for the quest to be successful.

Task: This is the task that the hero must accomplish in order 
to succeed at the quest. Succeeding at the task is usually 
sufficient to overcome the dragon; however failure to do so can 
lead to becoming what the hero fears most — his dark self, or 

Virtue: Succeeding at the quest earns the hero these rewards 
of self. In addition to the hand of the princess, the castle, and 
the gold…


The Innocent, fearing abandonment, seeks safety. Their greatest strength is the trust and optimism that endears them to others and so gain help and support on their quest. Their main danger is that they may be blind to their obvious weaknesses or perhaps deny them. They can also become dependent on others to fulfil their heroic tasks.

Quest: To remain in safety.
Fear: Being abandoned.
Dragon: Will deny it or seek outside rescue from it.
Task: To gain fidelity and discernment.
Virtue: Trust and optimism.


The Orphan, fearing exploitation, seeks to regain the comfort of the womb and neonatal safety in the arms of loving parents. To fulfil their quest they must go through the agonies of the developmental stages they have missed. Their strength is the interdependence and pragmatic realism that they had to learn at an early age. A hazard is that they will fall into the victim mentality and so never achieve a heroic position.

Quest: To regain safety.
Fear: Being exploited.
Dragon: Will be victimized by it.
Task: To process and feel pain fully.
Virtue: Interdependence and realism.


The Warrior is relatively simple in their thought patterns, seeking simply to win whatever confronts them, including the dragons that live inside the mind and their underlying fear of weakness. Their challenge is to bring meaning to what they do, perhaps choosing their battles wisely, which they do using courage and the warrior’s discipline.

Quest: To win.
Fear: Weakness.
Dragon: Will slay or confront it.
Task: To fight only for what really matters.
Virtue: Courage and discipline.


Caregivers first seek to help others, which they do with compassion and generosity. A risk they take is that in their pursuit to help others they may end up being harmed themselves. They dislike selfishness, especially in themselves, and fear what it might make them.

Quest: To help others.
Fear: Selfishness.
Dragon: Will take care of it and those it harms.
Task: To give without maiming self or others.
Virtue: Compassion and generosity.


Seekers are looking for something that will improve their life in some way, but in doing so may not realize that they have much already inside themselves. They embrace learning and are ambitious in their quest and often avoid the encumbrance of support from others. Needing to ‘do it themselves’, they keep moving until they find their goal (and usually their true self too).

Quest: To search for a better life.
Fear: Conformity.
Dragon: Will flee from it.
Task: To be true to the deeper self.
Virtue: Autonomy and ambition.


The Lover seeks the bliss of true love and the syzygy of the divine couple. They often show the passion that they seek in a relationship in their energy and commitment to gaining the reciprocal love of another. They fear both being alone and losing the love that they have gained, driving them to constantly sustain their love relationships.

Quest: To gain bliss.
Fear: Loss of love.
Dragon: Will love it.
Task: To follow bliss.
Virtue: Passion and commitment.


The Destroyer is a paradoxical character whose destructiveness reflects the death drive and an inner fear of annihilation. As a fighter, they are thus careless of their own safety and may put others in danger too. Their quest is to change, to let go of their anger or whatever force drives them and return to balance, finding the life drive that will sustain them. Living on the cusp of life and death, they are often surprisingly humble.

Quest: To metamorphosis.
Fear: Annihilation.
Dragon: Will allow dragon to destroy oneself.
Task: To let go.
Virtue: Humility.


Creators, fearing that all is an illusion, seek to prove reality outside of their minds. A critical part of their quest is in finding and accepting themselves, discovering their true identity in relation to the external world.

Quest: To gain identity.
Fear: Of being illusionary.
Dragon: will claim it as part of oneself.
Task: To self-create and self-accept.
Virtue: Individuality and vocation.


The Ruler’s quest is to create order and structure and hence an effective society in which the subjects of the Ruler can live productive and relatively happy lives. This is not necessarily an easy task, as order and chaos are not far apart, and the Ruler has to commit themself fully to the task. The buck stops with them and they must thus be wholly responsible — for which they need ultimate authority.

Quest: To create order.
Fear: Of creating chaos.
Dragon: Will find constructive uses for it.
Task: To take full responsibility.
Virtue: Responsibility and control.


The Magician’s quest is not to ‘do magic’ but to transform or change something or someone in some way. The Magician has significant power and as such may be feared. They may also fear themselves and their potential to do harm. Perhaps their ultimate goal is to transform themselves, achieving a higher plane of existence.

Quest: To transform.
Fear: Of assuming evil sorcery.
Dragon: Will transform it.
Task: To align self with the cosmos.
Virtue: Personal power.


The Sage is a seeker after truth and enlightenment and journeys far in search of the next golden nugget of knowledge. The danger for the sage and their deep fear is that their hard-won wisdom is built on the sand of falsehood. Their best hope is that they play from a position of objective honesty and learn to see with a clarity that knows truth and untruth.

Quest: To find truth.
Fear: Deception.
Dragon: To transcend it.
Task: To attain enlightenment.
Virtue: Wisdom and non-attachment.


The goal of the Fool is perhaps the wisest goal of all, which is just to enjoy life as it is, with all its paradoxes and dilemmas. What causes most dread in the Fool is a lack of stimulation and being ‘not alive’. They must seek to ‘be’, perhaps as the Sage, but may not understand this.

Quest: To enjoy life for its own sake.
Fear: Of being not-alive.
Dragon: Will play tricks on it.
Task: To trust in the process of becoming.
Virtue: Joy and freedom

Who do you see in yourself?

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