Intellectual Credit Joseph Campbell
Last time in our discussion of the Hero’s Journey we looked at The Refusal of The Call.
Today, we will unravel the necessity or or lack thereof of The Helper.
In this deadly and unknown world of adventure fraught with hazards at every turn, the hero will unwittingly need assistance to finish the task. His life hanging in the balance, this help will come in 4 different archetypes some of which can be played by the same character.
The Ally comes along the journey with the hero in one of two ways.
First, you have:
The “Already a Hero” Ally
This is the character with the expertise, experience, and exponential reserve to see the hero to the end. He has walked in the hero’s shoes therefore giving him/her the best perspective on what the hero is dealing with. An example of this archetype might be Strider from Lord of the Rings. (I know you might argue that since he is really Aragorn he fits in the lower category, but just remember that these are fluid archetypes. Characters can slip in and out depending on the story. But just for the sake of argument, this is the Aragorn from Fellowship whom we called Strider when we first met him.)
Or you might have:
The “Becoming a Hero” Ally
Here, the ally is on the journey for the same reasons as the hero. Both are searching for their confirmation in the hero realm. This ally might have special abilities that separate him/her from the hero, and he/she might be on his/her own hero’s journey. But it is the lack of experience that defines this archetype. There are a million to choose from, but keeping with the Lord of the Rings theme, any one of the three hobbits accompanying Frodo would fit this description.
Moving on to the second archetype.
In this case, the helper is either one of two extremes. He/she is either essential or just filler.
Case in point, take Robin.
At times Robin is the most ridiculous, annoying, in-the-way-hero helper… ever! I look at him and want to slap the lame out of him. It’s as if DC Comics thought Batman needed someone to stand next to to make him look cooler.
(As if that were possible.)
But then came George Clooney’s nipple suit, and suddenly the boy wonder was not only much tougher, he seemed necessary. (He still looked stupid, but at least he saved Batman’s life on occasion.)
(What were they thinking?)
Archetype number 3.
This archetype is similar to the “Already a Hero” Ally except for one small difference. The Mentor will be an experienced member of the journey who has “been there before” much like the similar Ally. This archetype might even pass on knowledge like the Ally. But the distinction between Ally and Mentor occurs when the Mentor steps out of the way to allow the hero the grow up and become the hero. Without this subtle action, the hero would never rise to the occasion. He/she would rely on the Mentor instead of solving his/her own problems.
A great example of this is Qui-Gon Ginn.
(Yoda doesn’t go on the journey with Luke.)
(The caption is for those purists out there. I know what you are thinking.)
Just think about the end of A Phantom Menace.
The Supernatural Aid
This is the helper who uses, you guessed it, supernatural forces i.e. magic to accomplish the end goal. It’s really just as simple as that. The Supernatural Aid uses magic. A good example would be Merlin. (Gandalf is just too easy.)
(No, that’s not Agent Smith. Yes, it is the dude from Jurassic Park.)
And there you have it. Remember, some characters may play one or more archetypal roles. For instance, Gandalf would be considered, a Mentor, and a Supernatural Aid. Aragorn could, at times, be considered an Ally, a Mentor, and a Supernatural Aid. (If you count him being the only person able to get the army of the dead to fight in the war.)
Next time, we will discuss The Threshold of Adventure and what happens when it is crossed.
Peace and Long Reads