The Hero Archetype [In-Depth Guide For Storytellers!]

hero archetype

Key Takeaways:

  • The Hero Archetype: The Hero archetype describes characters who are brave, show strong leadership skills, and are willing to face challenges.

  • Character Traits: Heroes are marked by their courage, decisiveness, and ability to stay calm under pressure. However, their strong sense of self and overconfidence can sometimes lead to their downfall.

  • Emotional Bond & Growth: Heroes develop deep emotional bonds with others. They should learn something from their trials and evolve into stronger characters through their story arc.

Are you ready to create a hero that audiences or readers will never forget?

In this article, I’ll break down the Hero archetype, analyzing everything from their ironclad courage to the flaws that make them human (please, please, make sure that your hero has at least one flaw – no one should be ‘perfect’, even a story hero!).

Join me as we start with the basics of what makes a Hero tick and move on to examine iconic examples from popular stories and films. Let’s start by defining a Hero Archetype character.

The Hero Archetype

a classical hero

The Hero, also called the Warrior, is quite likely the most commonly used archetype in any story.

This character is known for being brave and always ready for action, whether that means charging into battle, diving into a burning building, or leading a daring escape. However, heroes are just as likely to deliver a powerful speech as they are to wield a sword.

Heroes stand out due to their physical strength or sharp minds, their confidence, and their courage. They are always prepared for any challenge. But, their confidence can sometimes turn into arrogance, which may lead them to underestimate their enemies.

Heroes are motivated by a desire to lead and help others. They are often willing to make personal sacrifices to protect or save others. Their motto is:

Love learning about character archetypes for your stories?

Learn more about the classic Jungian archetypes, including tons of great examples from movies and books: the sage, the hero, the caregiver, the magician, the lover, the jester, the explorer, the ruler, the creator, the innocent, the outlaw and the everyman (everyperson).

There are also tons of more niche archetypes for your story characters, such as these: the monster archetype, the villain archetype and the friendly beast archetype.

Strengths of the Hero Archetype

Physical & Mental Strength

Sherlock Holmes

Classical heroes are often celebrated for their exceptional strength or intelligence. They can outfight or outthink their opponents, and this makes them formidable in any challenge. This physical or mental edge helps them in their many adventures and conflicts in the story.

Example: Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes uses his brilliant detective skills and keen intellect to solve complex mysteries that baffle even the police.

Confident

A hero’s confidence is key to their success. They believe in their abilities and aren’t afraid to make hard decisions. This self-assurance helps them face challenges head-on and also inspires other people to follow them.

Example: Captain America in Captain America displays unwavering confidence in his abilities and judgments through a strong moral compass.

Collected

James Bond

Heroes maintain their composure under pressure. Even in chaotic situations, they stay calm and focused, which allows them to think clearly and strategize effectively. This cool-headedness helps them to make critical decisions in the heat of the moment.

Example: James Bond in James Bond consistently demonstrates his ability to stay collected and composed, even when faced with life-threatening situations. This allows him to outsmart his enemies and escape from death-defying situations.

Weaknesses of the Hero Archetype

First, I just want to mention that this section is super important when you are writing a hero. Yes, the character you create should be strong and confident… but they also need to have a fatal flaw or two.

There are too many movies these days that have ‘perfect’ heroes, where their only flaw is that the people around them don’t yet recognize how amazing they really are (think of Captain Marvel or Mulan – the movie version, not the cartoon version who was flawed and very much human).

Whether you’re creating an epic hero or a tragic hero or something in between, please, make sure that your hero archetype has some kind of weakness – or else you run the risk of writing a character that your readers will not be able to relate to (or care about).

Ego

Tony Stark

Heroes often have a strong sense of self… which can slip into egoism and excessive pride. This ego often makes them crave admiration and attention from others. This can sometimes lead to the hero making decisions that prioritize their image over what’s best for the situation or others.

Example: Tony Stark (Iron Man) in Iron Man often flaunts his wealth and intelligence. He sometimes makes decisions that help to boost his own image, even if they’re not the best for those around him.

Overconfident

Being confident helps heroes, but being overconfident can be a problem. When heroes think too highly of their extraordinary abilities, they might take unnecessary risks or tackle challenges without proper preparation.

Example: Thor in Thor is overly confident in his strength and status as a god, leading him to start a needless war. This mistake gets him banished to Earth to learn humility.

Underestimates Opponents

A common flaw for heroes is underestimating their adversaries. This can happen because they’re used to winning or they don’t fully consider what their opponent is capable of.

Example: Simba in The Lion King initially underestimates his uncle Scar’s cunning and malice, which leads to his father’s death and his own exile from the kingdom.

Motivation of the Hero Archetype

Leadership

Aragorn in LOTR

Heroes are often motivated by a strong desire to lead. They step up to guide others through difficult times and take charge when situations seem dire. Their leadership is driven by a sense of responsibility to the group or community they are protecting.

Example: Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy steps up as a leader to guide the Fellowship and later the armies of the West against Sauron. He is driven by his deep sense of duty and commitment to the people of Middle-Earth.

Help Others

Helping others is at the heart of what drives many heroes. One of their most admirable qualities is that they are compelled to act when they see someone in need. A hero always strives to make a positive difference through their actions.

Example: Harry Potter in the Harry Potter series consistently goes out of his way to help others, whether it’s saving his friends from danger or fighting against dark forces to protect the wizarding world.

Self Sacrifice

Heroes are characterized by their willingness to sacrifice their own comfort, safety, or even their own lives for the greater good. This selflessness allows them to perform acts of bravery and overcome obstacles that others might hesitate to undertake – often at great personal cost.

Example: Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games series volunteers to take her sister’s place in the Hunger Games. She risks her own life to protect her sister and eventually fights to save her district and challenge the oppressive government.

Examples of the Hero Archetype

Now, let’s take a look at some famous hero archetype examples.

wonder woman
  1. Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman, or Diana Prince, is a warrior princess of the Amazons, known for her compassion, fighting skills, and commitment to justice.

  2. Captain America in Captain America: Steve Rogers, also known as Captain America, embodies bravery and a strict moral code, always fighting for freedom and justice.

  3. Danny Ocean in Ocean’s Eleven: Danny Ocean is a charismatic leader who plans and executes clever heists with his team, often outsmarting his opponents with wit and strategy.

  4. Shaft in Shaft: John Shaft is a tough, no-nonsense detective who fights crime in New York City, always standing up against injustice with cool confidence.

  5. Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: Luke Skywalker is a brave Jedi Knight who fights against Darth Vader and the oppressive Galactic Empire, striving to bring peace to the galaxy.

  6. Harry Potter in Harry Potter: Harry Potter is a young wizard who faces various challenges and battles evil to protect his friends and the wizarding world.

  7. Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Katniss volunteers to save her sister and becomes a symbol of resistance and change, fighting against a cruel totalitarian government.

  8. Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Peter Parker, as Spider-Man, uses his superpowers to fight crime in New York City, always following his principle that “with great power comes great responsibility.”

  9. Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings: Frodo takes on the perilous mission to destroy a powerful ring that could enslave his world, showing courage and endurance despite great personal risk.

  10. Simba in The Lion King: Simba grows from a young cub into a wise king, overcoming personal doubts and adversaries to lead his kingdom.

  11. James Bond in James Bond: James Bond, the British secret agent, is known for his intelligence, skill, and composure under pressure, always ready to save the day.

  12. Hermione Granger in Harry Potter: Hermione uses her intelligence and quick thinking to solve problems and fight for justice.

Neo
  1. Neo in The Matrix: Neo discovers he is part of a bigger reality and fights against the machines to free humanity from their control.

  2. Ripley in Alien: Ellen Ripley faces off against a terrifying alien with resilience and bravery in order to save herself and her crewmates.

  3. Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones: Indiana Jones is an adventurous archaeologist who braves many dangers to retrieve historic artifacts and protect them from the wrong hands.

  4. Buffy Summers in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy battles against vampires, demons, and other supernatural foes, always standing as the protector of her town and the world.

  5. T’Challa in Black Panther: T’Challa, as Black Panther, defends his nation of Wakanda with strength and wisdom, balancing his duties as king and his role as a hero.

  6. Mulder and Scully in The X-Files: Mulder and Scully work together to uncover the truth about paranormal phenomena, facing numerous risks in their quest for the truth.

  7. Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn shows his leadership and bravery as he helps to defeat Sauron’s forces and claims his rightful place as king.

  8. Mulan in Mulan: Mulan disguises herself as a man to take her father’s place in the army, demonstrating great courage and tactical skill in battle.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Writing a Hero

a hero
  1. What is the hero’s primary goal or mission?

    • What drives them to take on their heroic role?

    • Is their mission personal, or does it serve a larger purpose?

  2. What are the hero’s strengths, and how do they use them?

    • How do these strengths help them in their journey?

    • Are their abilities more physical, intellectual, or a combination of both?

    • Do they have any magical powers?
  3. What weaknesses or flaws does the hero have?

    • How do these weaknesses impact their ability to achieve their goals?

    • Could their flaws potentially lead to their downfall?

  4. What is the hero’s background or origin story?

    • How does their background shape their motivations and actions?

    • Are there past traumas, pivotal events, or influences that drive them?

  5. Who or what opposes the hero?

    • Is their antagonist a person, a system, or an internal struggle?

    • How does this opposition challenge the hero and stimulate growth?

  6. What personal sacrifices is the hero willing to make?

    • Are they prepared to give up personal happiness, relationships, or their life?

    • What are the stakes of their journey?

  7. How does the hero evolve throughout the story?

    • What lessons do they learn?

    • How do they change from the beginning to the end of the story?

  8. What relationships are central to the hero’s life?

    • How do these relationships support or challenge the hero?

    • Are there mentors, friends, or family members who play a crucial role in their journey?

  9. How does the hero handle failure or setback?

    • What coping mechanisms do they have?

    • How do they regain their confidence and continue their mission?

  10. What is the hero’s moral compass?

    • What lines will they not cross?

    • How do they handle moral dilemmas?

Hero Archetype Pin

When you create a hero in your story, you’re shaping a symbol of courage and hope.

A good hero can make your readers feel strong and inspired. But writing such a hero takes careful thought—what challenges they face, how they overcome them, and how they grow.

Need a little help bringing your hero to life? Check out my story development consulting services. I can help you create a believable hero that truly connects with your audience. Get in touch with me, and let’s make your hero unforgettable!

If you’re looking for more tips and tricks for writing different kinds of character archetypes in your story, check out my articles on the villain archetype, the explorer archetype, and the caregiver archetype!

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