The Major Archetypes of Carl Jung in Merlin and The Duality of Male and Female
To understand the characters in Merlin, we need to understand the characteristic Archetypes in the stories/episodes that form the basis for the actions and motivations of the characters.
Carl Jung believed that there were primordial concepts inherent across all societies and all cultures. While there can be many variations, there was a single predominant image which defined the individual and by extension, society. Jung noted parallels of rituals and customs that seemingly arose independently in cultures such as Christian rituals of communion and its counterpart in pre-Columbian Aztec ceremonies. These prototypical images and ideas were developed when mankind was one society and later subsumed into the unconscious after years of migration and settlement during the evolution civilization. Though there were multiple changes, these prototypical images remained a key component in forming the universal truths of every civilization beginning with childhood . Jung called these: Archetypes.
Archetypes were patterns of behavior transcending geography, ethnicity, or era that were universally understood and accepted. For instance, everyone had a concept of a “Father” and a “Mother.” Further, these Archetypes had a duality: positive aspects and negative ones; male and female; destruction and creation. For instance, the Father image found in childhood and immortalized in myth, legend, and fairy tale was the Wise Old Man, an authority figure with knowledge and insight, and strength and who could appear as either a Heroic Champion (Superman) or Villanous Ogre (Dreadnought ) and sometimes both (Shrek).
Carl Jung, who founded the idea of archetypes, claimed that for every positive archetype there was a negative. This represented the duality of the individual who through circumstances based upon experience and behavior synthesizes these competing characteristics and projects either a positive or negative aspect of his self depending on the circumstances.
The Wise Old Man Archetypes: This figure represented wisdom and sound judgment. Often, in literature, he was a mentor/guide for the Hero providing advice until the Hero gained enough knowledge and wisdom at which point, the Wise Old Man is killed (like Uther in S04E03), banished (but restored in times of need like Balinor in S02E13), or otherwise becomes unnecessary and retires (sounds like what will happen to Gaius after Season 4).
There were 4 main masculine archetypal figures that fall under the Wise Old Man category. For each positive aspect there was a corresponding negative. They were as follows:
The Father : The Ogre
The Prince : The Wanderer
The Warrior : The Dictator
The Priest : The Black Magician
1) The Father was a wise old man who sought to protect and preserve his family. In his guise as King, he sought to protect his people and his kingdom by ensuring peace and prosperity above all else.
The Good Father or Good King was the authority figure representing law and order. He was very masculine, a provider and a protector, who meted justice as fairness seen through the prism of social norms.
The Ogre was the counterpart. He was the oppressive and cruel father who threatened his children with rigid discipline and severe, often fatal punishment, who meted justice through his own values.
2) The Prince
The Prince was the youthful seeker. He was usually the hero often paired with his counterpart the Wanderer in literature. It was the Prince who undertook the archetypical Hero’s journey.
The Wanderer was only slightly different from the Prince. He shunned the Call to Duty declining the commitment and responsibility of the Hero’s journey. Thus, he failed to fully understand his full potential and cannot become a “prince” until he did so. He was the evil but often gorgeous or charming villain in literature.
3) The Warrior and leader
The Warrior/Leader was bold and daring. He was successful, ambitious, strong, brave, and relentless. Often the prince and the warrior were one in the same.
The Dictator was the counterpart. He was aggressive and blinded by his own ambition and ego. His emotions are severely repressed and neglected.
4) The Priest
The Priest was wise and knowledgeable and able to commune with the gods and spirits.
The Black Magician was the counterpart. He at first appeared to use his power for good, but is revealed to be a trickster and duplicitous.
As there was a Wise Old Man there was the Wise Old Woman or Crone Archetype. This figure represented compassion, healing, and adaptability that is, the wisdom of experience through the transformation of birth to life to death. Usually, she was depicted as an aspect of the Great Mother Archetype.
The Great Mother Archetypes
There were 4 main Female Archetypes that fall under the category of The Great Mother Archetype. As with the masculine figures, each female figure had a corresponding negative side. They were:
The Great Mother : The Terrible Mother
The Princess : The Fatal Siren
The Amazon : The Huntress
The Priestess : The Witch
1) The Great Mother
The Great Mother represents unconditional love as in the love her family and children as part of her duty to protect and nurture them. She provides devotion, comfort and stability to those around her and in exchange offers fierce loyalty to her family. She represented the power of life and death, creation and destruction, in the eternal cycle of rebirth and resurrection either spiritually, emotionally, or physically. In her roles as Queen, she is the glue that holds her kingdom together.
The Terrible Mother was the counterpart wanting to possess and smother, devour and destroy. She was angry and jealous, enslaving her husband, lovers, and children.
2) The Princess
The Princess or Damsel was a beautiful, young, but vulnerable, innocent seducer. Though appearing to be in need, she gained empowerment by covertly manipulating men to do her bidding in the least obvious manner either intentionally or not. She had the power to attract men through her innocent flirtation without intentionally meaning to do so. Often, if she wasn’t the boon of the Quest, she was an integral part of the Quest.
The Fatal Siren was a temptress, a seducer with ill intent. She had no interest in traditional feminine traits like loyalty, security, home, or family but exploited such ideas to further her own agenda. Paradoxically, this often involved sending the message that women were weak, teaching them to be helpless, and in need of protection because her agenda would prevent the Hero or Heroine from obtaining the true boon of the Quest.
3) The Amazon
The Amazon was the woman who was perfectly able to compete with men on an equal footing. She was fiercely independent and driven, stopping at nothing to achieve her goal. Her two exploitable fears were her loss of independence and becoming weak or vulnerable. These traits repel her and she sees those who champion such things as being unfit to make difficult choices. Though she would be willing to die before surrendering her independence, she would seldom risk everything to save others.
The Huntress was very much like the Amazon but she often preferred solitude, the out-doors, and the wild--- protecting and healing the young and helpless but with the power to inflict death and plague upon those she nurtured to adulthood. She often despised and hounded men.
4) The High Priestess
The High Priestess was the Healer both spiritually, physically and emotionally. She represented the intuitive and instinctual aspects of humanity. He ability to speak to and interpret the will of the gods and spirits allowed her to foretell the future and provide comfort to those in need of it and to herself. And, by doing so, she becomes a Teacher to spread the words of experience, knowledge and wisdom enlightening those she ministers.
The Witch (or Sorceress) was also in touch with the gods or spirits but she was trapped in a world of her own making. Using her gifts to increase her own power to further her own agenda adopting the negative aspects of feminine power (see the Terrible Mother) to transform situations so her dreams and desires become reality.
Interestingly enough, the four main characters fit these various aspects of the Archetype in one form or another. And, with this basic knowledge we can better understand the main characters in Merlin: Morgana, Guinevere, Arthur and Merlin. By matching them to their main Archetype, we get a better understanding of the characters and where they should go to succeed or fail in their respective Journey as a Hero(ine).