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SHREK Archetypes

Hero Shrek -- Literally doing “Superman” deeds (ex.

Fighting a fire-breathing dragon)
Quest Find and Rescue Princess Fiona (Damsel in
Task Get his swamp back from the fairy creatures
Light vs. Dark The castle is dark to represent evil; Fiona is
first seen in a ray of light; as soon as they
escape, they emerge into daytime since they
have escaped evil
Death and Rebirth When they escaped the dragon, morning is
dawning suggesting hope and rebirth
Star-crossed Lovers Dragons and Donkeys aren’t supposed to be
together, neither are ogres and princesses
Evil figure with a good heart Dragon appears at first as an evil figure,
especially with the remains of the knights, but
Donkey (friendly beast) saves her and converts
her to good
The Journey Shrek and Donkey face their fears and conquer
the dragon, finding Fiona to accomplish their

Archetypal Settings

Universe of opposites – This can be anything from light and dark or day and night to good and
evil or man versus beast

Landscape that emerges from chaos – Begins with some kind of void or confusion and
something whole is brought forth such as the light and the darkness emerging from the watery

Place Description
 A Castle The strong place of safety; holds the treasure
 A Gothic Mansion of the princess; may be bewitched or
 A River Life giving or cleansing properties; without
 A Water Source water, there is no life. Borders and
 The Seas boundaries, too.

Journey down river = Journey to life (Twain’s

Huff Finn)
Stages of life = River Styx in Greek Mythology
Source of life = good and dangerous, turbulent
= evil (Poseidon, Greek Mythology)
 An Island Isolation

Robinson Crusoe, Lord of the Flies

 A Garden Early on = Earthly delights, love and fertility;
Christianity = Eternal, forbidden paradise

Garden of Eden
Romeo and Juliet (Balcony scene)
 The Crossroads The place of suffering and decision; Journey of
 A Road or Path life
 The Underworld The place where the hero encounters fear or
death; descent into hell
 The Maze or Labyrinth Represents a puzzling dilemma or great
uncertainty – complex journey of the human

Archetypal Characters

Character Description Examples

The Temptress A woman who uses her power The White Witch (The Lion,
(intellect, magic & beauty) to the Witch, and the Wardrobe)
make men weak; sensuous The Sirens
beauty; brings about hero’s
downfall because he is
physically attracted to her
The Devil Figure Evil incarnate; offers worldly
goods, fame or knowledge to
the hero in exchange for
possession of the soul
Helpers Wise old woman, man or Merlin (King Arthur)
animal; Teacher or Mentor; Yoda (Star Wars)
Characters that assist or guide
the protagonist
The Father Figure (Father-Son The protector and leader – Mufasa (The Lion King)
Conflict) father and son are separated
and do not meet until the son
is an adult; often the mentor
is loved and respected more
(think of Obi Wan Kenobi)
The Mother Figure The protective nurturer and Mrs. Weasley (Harry Potter)
(Earth/Mother) gentle provider Fairy Godmother (Cinderella)
-- often a goddess who brings
the life source to the story
either actually birthing things
into being or nurturing them
for survival
-- offers spiritual and
emotional nourishment to
those she meets; shown in
earth colors and has large
breasts and hips symbolic of
her childbearing capabilities
The Underdog Characters who are always at The ugly duckling
the wrong place at the wrong Neville Longbottom (Harry
time, but who usually win Patter)
something of value in the end
The Scapegoat Anima or human who is
unjustly held responsible for
others’ sins; sacrificed but
they often become a more
powerful force dead than
Star-crossed lovers Two lovers forbidden to be Romeo and Juliet
together because of the rules
of society or family; often
ends tragically
Anti-hero A non-hero, given the job of Homer Simpson
failure, frequently humorous. Holden Caulfield
He is not the typical hero
because he does not always
possess purely good qualities
or personality traits.

For example, while the hero is

courageous, the anti-hero
might be scared. While the
hero is handsome, the anti-
hero might be too short, too
hairy or too fat. While the
hero is self-assured, the anti-
hero might be plagued with
insecurities. While the hero is
out for justice and serving the
common good, the anti-hero
might be selfish and rebellious
against this same common
good. That’s what makes him
or her more relatable and
The Initiate An innocent young pre-hero Luke Skywalker
who must go on a quest or
special training before earning
the right to be a hero.
The Innocent An inexperienced character Dorothy (The Wizard of Oz)
that is exposed to the evils to
the world
The Damsel in distress A woman who needs to be Rapunzel
rescued. A female figure, Sleeping Beauty
usually young and beautiful,
who is placed in a dire
predicament by a villain or
monsters and needs a hero to
rescue her.
Monster/Villain The antagonist (opposes the The Giant (Jack and the
protagonist) Beanstalk)

May be an evil genius, sadist,

creature or predator
The Trickster/The Fool Characters who tricks others Fred and George Weasely
to get them to do what (Harry Potter)
he/she wants – they can do Road Runner
both virtuous and evil
The Evil Figure with a Good Redeemable evil figure saved Gru (Despicable Me)
Heart by the nobility or love of the
The Hero Larger-than-life character Odysseus
often goes on some kind of King Arthur
journey or quest. The hero Prince Charming
must demonstrate the
qualities and abilities valued Luke Skywalker (Star Wars)
by his culture. Frodo (The Lord of the Rings)

Mother is sometimes a virgin, Harry Potter

circumstances of birth are
unusual, some attempt is
made at birth to kill him;
raised by foster parents,
returns to his kingdom to
right the wrongs, marries a
princess, becomes king, meets
a mysterious death, body is
burned rather than buried

Archetypal Situation (PLOT)

The movie opens… the young, beautiful actress is on a tirade about how much she hates, and
she means hates, detests, loathes, and every other adjective in between, the new guy she
works with (who happens to be drop dead good looking and single). He pokes fun at her and
frequently stops by her desk. She fumes silently. She yells at him about how she can’t stand the
sight of him. He laughs and says he can’t stand her either.

What’s going to happen? How do you know this?

THE INITIATION – This usually takes the form of an initiation into the adult life. The adolescent
comes into his/her maturity with new awareness and problems along with a new hope for the
community. The awakening is often the climax of the story.

DEATH AND REBIRTH – Grows out of a parallel between the cycle of nature and the cycle of life.
Thus, morning and springtime represents birth, youth and rebirth; evening and winter suggests
old age or death.

THE FALL – Describes a descent from a higher to a lower state of being. The experience involves
a defilement or loss or innocence and bliss. The fall is often accompanied by expulsion from a
kind of paradise as a penalty for disobedience and moral transgression.

BATTLE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL – Obviously the battle between two primal forces. Mankind
shows eternal optimism in the continuous portrayal of good triumphing over evil despite great
odds. These manifest themselves in the classic conflicts of menacing enemies, natural dangers,
moral dilemmas, problems with society and difficulty with fate or decisions.

THE QUEST – Search for someone or some object, which when found and brought back will
restore life to a wasted land, the desolation of which is shown by a leader’s illness and disability

The Quest to:

 Know who you are (Identity)
 Find knowledge
 Find the “promised land” or to build a beautiful city
 Save the people and rid the land of danger by a warrior
 Get revenge (Vengeance)
 Fame and fortune
 The fool’s quest (a silly person saves the land because of his innocence or foolishness)
 Search for love (to rescue the princess)
 The quest for the “grail” (Human perfection)

Archetypal Colors

Color = maybe be positive or negative

Color Positive Negative

Black Power Death, Mourning
Blue Nobility, Tranquility Depression
Brown Earth, Nature Confusion
Gray Neutral Passionless
Green Fertility, Renewal, Wealth Greed, Envy
Orange Adventure, Change Forced change, Disruptiveness
Purple Royalty, Positive personal Injury
Red Sex, Love Sacrifice, Taboo, Humiliation,
White Purity, Wholesomeness, Emptiness
Yellow Enlightenment Cowardice, Illness

Archetypical Images/Symbols

Seasons = spring is birth, winter is death

Heavenly bodies = moon is change, cycles; sun is power, inspiration, goodness
Circles = completeness, wholeness, unity
Plants = Oak is strength, Rose is beauty
Animals = Serpent is evil, Lamb is innocence, Lion is strength,
 Snakes or Cows hold special value in culture or religion
 The Snake in the Garden of Eden = Temptation, but a snake can also symbolize
rebirth (shedding of skin)

Numbers = A particular number holds a sacred value for the culture (such as “3” for the
Christian faith = The divine trinity, 7 is perfect or luck)
Symbolic Archetypes

These are symbols (something which represents something else) that have occurred over and
over again throughout time and in various different cultures. These symbols have always
represented the same things, which is what makes them an archetype and what makes us
recognize them as symbols when we see them.


LIGHT VS. DARKNESS – Light suggests hope, renewal or intellectual illumination; darkness
suggest the unknown, ignorance or despair

WATER VS. DESERT – Water is necessary to life and growth, and so, it appears as a birth or
rebirth symbol; the appearance of rain in a work can suggest spiritual birth or rebirth;
characters who live in the desert are often “dead” to morals or the “good side”

 Water = purity, cleansing, baptism

 Fire = purging, tribulation

HEAVEN VS. HELL – God lives in the skies or mountains; evil forces live in the bowels of the

Division of Archetypes

1. Situations (Plot formulas, patterns of action)

2. Character Types
3. Setting (Time and Place)
1. Symbols (Images and Colors)

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