List of character archetypes, example of each, and their purpose (psychologically/dramatically) in story
- Hero/heroine – Alonso Quijano (aka Don Quixote), Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: Though Don Quixote’s adventures as a knight are little more than a product of his imagination, he is truly a hero for wanting to make the world a better place and for staying true to his beliefs.
- Villain – Count Dracula, Dracula by Bram Stoker: Like most villains, Dracula is extremely rich, powerful, mysterious, evil and, though seemingly indestructible, has certain weaknesses. He terrorises people, drinks their blood, and represents a moral threat to them.
- Mentor – Gandalf, The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien: Gandalf is a combination of the wise old man, the wizard, and the mentor. He represents wisdom, power, and good magic and is the reason for Bilbo’s adventures.
- Coward – Cowardly Lion, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum: The Cowardly Lion, being a lion, is supposed to be the “king of the jungle” and feared by all animals. However, this particular lion is full of fear and desperate to be courageous. Despite this, he accomplishes many things, thus teaching us that being afraid is not the same as being a coward.
- Damsel in distress – Sita, Ramayana: She is the utmost symbol of a perfect, loyal wife. While accompanying her husband Rama, she is abducted by the evil Ravana; this serves as motivation for Rama to seek and destroy the demon king and thus obtain his role as a hero.
- Wizard – Ged, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin: Because of his great innate power, Ged learns to use magic as a very young boy. He completes his journey in becoming a wizard when he succeeds in fighting the ultimate evil, which is his own shadow self.
- Witch – White Witch, The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis: Witches are commonly women with evil magic powers and a nasty personality. The White Witch is cruel and selfish and will do anything to get her own way; she freezes Narnia for one hundred years and turns anyone that displeases her into stone.
- Mad scientist – Dr. Henry Jekyll, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson: Jekyll uses science, in this case a potion, to try and repress his darker side. His plan backfires, however, as he transforms into Hyde, the evil and violent version of himself. By trying to control his human nature, he creates destruction.
- Rebel – Robin Hood: Rebels fight authority and have different ideals and morals than those in power. Robin Hood is a perfect example of this; he is a heroic outlaw that steals from the rich in order to give to the poor.
- Traitor – Judas Iscariot, New Testament: Judas is one of the strongest symbols of a traitor. He was one of the twelve apostles, and the one to betray Jesus. The traitor ultimately represents an obstacle in the path of the hero.
- Orphan – Mowgli, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling: Orphans are incredibly common in stories, as they give children a liberty to act alone and defeat challenges by their own. Mowgli, having lost his parents to a tiger, is raised by wolves, a panther, and a bear. This gives way to an exciting story of his adventures in the jungle and of learning who he is.
- Caregiver – Charlotte, Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White: Charlotte is a spider that befriends Wilbur, a pig that is about to be taken to the slaughterhouse. Following the role of a caregiver, she acts like a mother to Wilbur and does everything in her power to save his life. Her last act before dying is making sure that her offspring will survive.
- Ruler – Big Brother, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell: Rulers represent authority and leadership; they are at the top of the power ladder. Big Brother is the leader of a tyranny whose only goal is having total power. He is probably not a real person but a symbol of an all-seeing and all-knowing government.
- Trickster – Cheshire Cat, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll: Tricksters don’t like to follow rules and enjoy tricking others into getting what they want. They aren’t necessarily good or bad and can either stand in the way or be of surprising help to a hero. The Cheshire Cat is an extremely playful character that offers equally confusing and clever advice to Alice. He can disappear and reappear when convenient, and always carries a knowing grin.
- Nerd – Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Nerds are defined as being intelligent people that lack social skills. Sherlock is an extremely intelligent detective that uses his powers of deduction and logic to solve near-impossible cases. In turn, he is not good with relationships and emotions and prefers his own company.
- Victim – Sibyl Vane, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde: The victim is usually very naïve and both physically and psychologically weak. Sibyl is a beautiful actress and singer. Dorian falls in love with her, but returning his love ends up ruining her talents. This makes Dorian fall out of love of her, which in turn makes her kill herself.
- Crazy cat lady – Eleanor Abernathy, The Simpsons by Matt Groening: Crazy cat ladies are synonymous for lonely women that surround themselves with too many cats and outcast themselves from society. Eleanor used to be an extremely intelligent and independent lawyer and doctor, before burning out and becoming ‘crazy’.
- Grumpy old man – Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: Like all grumpy old men, Scrooge is bitter, nostalgic about how things used to be, and anti-social. He is particularly bitter towards Christmas, the time for kindness and happiness, but eventually his heart is warmed and he repents.