When I sit down to craft characters, I always turn back to our character archetypes article in order to build a base of an idea. Then I twist and turn that idea until it feels personal to me.
It's a pillar of bravery, strength, and the unyielding pursuit of justice. This character transcends physical warfare and encapsulates a profound aspect of the human spirit.
Today, we're going to go over the warrior archetype and see what goes into it and how you can adjust it to your advantage while writing.
Let's attack it.
The Warrior Archetype Definition
TroyCredit: Warner Bros.
In the framework of Carl Jung's archetypal theory, the warrior archetype is considered a universal symbol in the human psyche, representing the fight against darkness and the struggle to overcome internal and external challenges.
It's a symbol of the inner strength and determination present in every individual to confront and overcome obstacles in life.
In literature and film, the warrior archetype refers to a set of characteristics and ideals embodied by figures known for their bravery, strength, and prowess in combat or conflict.
Characteristics of the Warrior Archetype
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
This archetype extends beyond the literal battlefield and into the realms of personal, psychological, and societal struggles. When you're writing someone like this, they're headstrong and determined. And a leader above all else.
Let's look at some other things you can pull into this character.
- Courage and Bravery: The warrior is primarily defined by courage in the face of danger, adversity, or uncertainty. This bravery is not just physical, but also moral and psychological.
- Discipline and Skill: Warriors are often characterized by a high degree of discipline and skill in their respective fields, whether it be traditional combat, strategy, or other forms of conflict.
- Honor and Integrity: A strong sense of honor and a commitment to uphold certain ethical standards and principles are central to the warrior archetype. This involves a commitment to truth, fairness, and respect for others.
- Strength and Resilience: Physical, mental, and emotional strength are key attributes of the warrior. This also includes resilience—the ability to recover from setbacks and continue fighting for one's beliefs or goals.
- Protective Nature: Warriors often take on the role of protectors, whether of their family, community, country, or a set of ideals. This protective instinct is a defining feature of the archetype.
- Confrontation of Challenges: The archetype involves facing and overcoming challenges, which can be external adversaries or internal conflicts, symbolizing personal growth and overcoming of one’s own limitations or fears.
- Sacrifice and Selflessness: Warriors are often depicted as being willing to make sacrifices for the greater good or for the sake of others, sometimes even at great personal cost.
- Leadership and Responsibility: Many warrior figures are also leaders, taking responsibility not just for their own actions, but also for those under their command or influence.
History of the Warrior Archetype
The Dirty DozenCredit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
So, where does this all come from?
It feels like this is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, archetype. And it goes across cultures. From the chivalrous knights of medieval Europe to the Samurai of feudal Japan, each iteration of the warrior archetype reflects the values and beliefs of its time and culture.
These warriors were not just soldiers; they were custodians of societal values, embodiments of honor, discipline, and moral conduct.
Examples of The Warrior Archetype in Film and TV
Kill Bill: Vol 2Miramax
The Warrior archetype in film and TV is a popular character type, often central to the narrative.
- Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy: As a ranger destined to be king, Aragorn exhibits classic warrior traits like bravery, skill in battle, and leadership. His journey from a reluctant hero to a noble king is a quintessential portrayal of the warrior archetype.
- Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) in Wonder Woman: Diana Prince, or Wonder Woman, exemplifies the warrior archetype through her incredible fighting skills, sense of justice, and her battle against evil forces. Her character is a powerful representation of a female warrior.
- Jon Snow (Kit Harington) in Game of Thrones: As a member of the Night's Watch and later a key figure in the fight against the White Walkers, Jon Snow embodies the warrior spirit through his combat skills, leadership, and sense of duty.
- Maximus (Russell Crowe) in Gladiator: Maximus is a Roman general who becomes a gladiator to avenge the murder of his family and the betrayal by the emperor. His journey is a classic example of the warrior fighting against corruption and injustice.
- King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) in 300: Leonidas, the Spartan king, leads his small army against the massive Persian forces in the Battle of Thermopylae. His bravery, strategic mind, and warrior ethos are central to his character.
- Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy, as the chosen Slayer, fights against vampires, demons, and other supernatural forces. She embodies the warrior archetype with her fighting skills, resilience, and protective nature.
- Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) in Black Panther: T'Challa, or Black Panther, is a superhero and king of Wakanda who uses his abilities to protect his nation and the world. His character combines the roles of a warrior and a leader.
- Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in the Alien franchise: Ripley is not a traditional warrior but becomes one out of necessity, fighting against the alien creatures. Her toughness, resourcefulness, and determination make her a standout example of a warrior in a science fiction setting.
- The Bride (Uma Thurman) in Kill Bill: Known as "The Bride," her quest for vengeance against the assassination squad that betrayed her is driven by her formidable skills as a martial artist and her relentless determination.
- Achilles (Brad Pitt) in Troy: Achilles is a legendary warrior of Greek mythology, known for his almost invincible prowess in battle. His character in Troy is a dramatic representation of this mythological warrior.
Deconstructing the Warrior Archetype
As important as it is to learn what goes into the classic warrior, you also want to be able to put your own personal spin on the character.
You can pick and choose some of these, and we've discussed and then switch them up to make them unique to what you want to talk about.
Putting a personal spin on the warrior archetype in storytelling involves blending traditional characteristics of the archetype with unique and innovative elements.
So how do you do it?
Well, make some decisions about the following elements:
- Background and Origin Story: Develop a unique background or origin story for your warrior. This can include unexpected elements, such as a non-traditional upbringing, an unusual setting, or a significant event that shapes their character. For example, a warrior raised in a peaceful community who learns to fight due to unforeseen circumstances.
- Flaws and Vulnerabilities: Incorporate flaws or vulnerabilities into your warrior character. Perfect characters can be unrelatable, so giving your warrior personal challenges or internal conflicts can add depth. This could be a physical limitation, a moral dilemma, or emotional struggles.
- Unconventional Skills or Abilities: Give your warrior unique skills or abilities that set them apart from typical warriors. This could be an unusual fighting style, a rare talent, or a unique weapon. These elements can make your character stand out and be more memorable.
- Complex Motivations and Goals: Instead of the typical motivations like revenge or honor, give your warrior more complex or unconventional goals. This could be a desire to change societal norms, a quest for self-discovery, or a mission that goes against their warrior nature.
- Relationship Dynamics: Explore interesting relationship dynamics. How does your warrior interact with allies, enemies, or neutral parties? Relationships can be a source of growth and conflict, offering opportunities to showcase different aspects of your warrior's personality.
- Cultural and Social Context: Embed your warrior in a unique cultural or social context. This can influence their values, fighting style, and the challenges they face. Creating a rich cultural backdrop can add depth to your character and their story.
- Moral and Ethical Complexity: Introduce moral or ethical dilemmas. A warrior who grapples with the morality of their actions or faces complex decisions can offer a more nuanced portrayal of the archetype.
- Unique Narrative Voice: Use a distinctive narrative voice or perspective. This could be first-person introspection, unreliable narration, or a non-linear storytelling style that offers fresh insights into the warrior archetype.
- Subversion of Expectations: Subvert traditional expectations of the warrior archetype. This could involve playing with gender roles, challenging stereotypes, or putting your warrior in unexpected scenarios.
- Personal or Symbolic Themes: Incorporate themes that are personally significant to you or carry deeper symbolic meaning. This can add layers of interpretation to your warrior's journey and actions.
This is one of those archetypes that's really easy to adapt and make your own. As you develop your characters, starting with an archetypal base can make it easier for you to find your unique voice in writing.
Let me know what you think in the comments.
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