Understanding Archetypes IV

In this concluding post on the subject, we examine Christian Vogler’s Ally and Trickster archetypes.

Ally
Ally

Ally

The chief dramatic function of the Ally, also known as the Sidekick in more colloquial language, is to support the Hero on his or her journey. The Ally serves as a companion, sparring partner, conscience, comic relief, and sounding board, allowing the exchange of ideas that might otherwise stay hidden. Even the strongest of Heroes have benefited from Allies. Hercules’ Ally, Iolatus, for example, was a skilled charioteer and Olympic champion who cauterised the necks of the Hydra to stop them from regrowing, after Hercules had cut off their heads.

An Ally may often appear as more than one person or animal in order to fulfill a different need in the Hero during the journey to the goal. The French Emperor, Charlemagne, assembles a whole band of Ally knights from his empire — his Paladins, to assist him, while Toto, Dorothy’s beloved dog, is perhaps her closest and earliest Ally. Some of the most memorable stories feature strong Hero-Ally relationships — Prince Hal and Falstaff, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza, James Bond and Miss Moneypenny, Batman and Robin, and a whole range of robots, animals, and humanoids serving the needs of Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars sagas.

The psychological function of the Ally is often expressed through dreams, which remind us, and the Hero, of the hidden or suppressed parts of one’s personality in need of remedying in order to achieve the story goal. Allies, therefore, also represent strong internal forces that emerge to aid the Hero in an emotional or spiritual crisis.

Trickster
Trickster

Trickster

This archetype represents the energy of mischief and the desire for change. Tricksters are typically clowns or comical sidekicks that toy with the Hero, often cutting him down to size and forcing him to confront his true nature.

Psychologically, Tricksters serve to cut down big egos by highlighting the foolish and hypocritical aspects of the Hero, forcing growth through self-examination, laughter, and humility. Often, the Trickster’s role is appropriated by the Hero as a mask, in order to overcome an obstacle that is not achievable through traditional means.

Dramatically, Tricksters provide comic relief, relieving tension, suspense, and conflict, which can often become monotonous and overbearing in a story. In this sense, Tricksters help to restore the internal and external balance — both within the Hero, and without — in his or her relationship with other characters and the environment.

Trickster Hero
Trickster Hero

Trickster Heroes

Tricksters also appear as a type of Hero, especially in folk and fairy tales such as the Hare of African tales, the Br’er Rabbit of the American South, and in the more modern era — Bugs Bunny, Duffy Duck, Speedy Gonzales, Tweety Bird, and Woody Woodpecker. Some of the earliest human Hero Tricksters in film comedy are Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, and Laurel and Hardy.

Summary

The Ally, or Sidekick, helps the Hero on his journey to achieve the goal. The Ally is often expressed in dreams as suppressed or hidden parts of the personality that need to be revealed in order to reach the goal. The Trickster represents the need for change in order to restore internal and external balance in the Hero and the world. The dramatic function is to allow for comic relief and insight into the true nature of the journey.

Series Conclusion

This concludes our four-part exploration of Christian Vogler’s eight archetypes. We remind ourselves that although each of these archetypes stands on its own, the real value lies in blending archetypes together to inflect a deeper rendition of character. Archetypes may appear as conflicting aspects of a single character, typically the Hero, reflecting the complex psychological landscape of the psyche.

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