Of the twelve most common Jungian archetypes, the last three include The Ruler, The Sage, and The Magician. Keep in mind, there are there are hundreds of others found throughout myth and the early history of storytelling.
Alone, or in combination, these archetypes offer a powerful resource for screenwriters looking to find strength and nuance in their characters.
The Ruler archetype (often a King or Queen), strives to be in control, assumes responsibilities and shows leadership. His or her objective is to insure that order, harmony and control are imposed on the world of his or her subjects.
This archetype displays strong personal values, and like any benevolent King or Queen, they use their considerable influence to benefit their subjects. The Ruler is systematic, organized, fair, yet powerful.
The good King leads his country to battle to protect his subjects. He risks the dangers of battle himself, and does not randomly send subjects to their deaths. The best of Kings is a peacemaker.
The Ruler consults with diplomatist and generals, with leaders from foreign lands, and settles disputes between his own subjects.
He is charged with the responsibility of making important decisions about how the kingdom will be run, and how the laws will be governed.
Shortcomings of The Ruler include being overly controlling, adopting an air of entitlement, elitism, and abandoning his subjects best interests in place of his own.
The shadow side of The Ruler is the tyrant, who will use his power to steal treasure, art, land and women from his countrymen for his own pleasure.
Modern films about The Ruler deal with politicians, religious and business leaders. For example, The Social Network explores how Mark Zuckerberg became one of the most powerful business leaders of the day by founding Facebook.
The Godfather is an example of a film about the shadow side of The Ruler. Although the head of a crime family, The Godfather was characterized as a devoutly religious “family man” who wanted peace “among the five families,” his world was violent and corrupt.
Oliver Stone has made a career of filming epics about politicians, (modern-day “Rulers.”) He’s made insightful, and controversial films about Richard Nixon and George W. Bush.
In JFK, Stone examines how various factions in our own democracy (including possibly, the FBI and the Mafia) may have conspired to assassinate the leader of the free world.
Other examples of The Ruler;
Leonardo de Caprio as Howard Hughes in The Aviator.
Viggo Mortenson as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings.
Elizabeth Taylor as Katherine in The Taming of The Shrew.
11. The Sage, otherwise called, the expert, the scholar, the detective, the mentor, the teacher or the philosopher.
The Sage archetype can be seen in films as the oracle, the teacher, mentor, Zen master, or any other kind of expert.
This character generally appears to be knowledgeable and understanding, the source of wisdom or the guardian of truth.
Often this mentor can appear as an old man or old woman, who guides the hero toward the right path by imparting great wisdom.
The Sage is considered a seeker of truth and is often described as a world-traveler who gathers wisdom from far away sources. He or she wants to be sure their knowledge is based in clarity and truth.
The Sage often attains a form of enlightenment and teaches others to follow the true path. This character is not interested in material wealth, but in discovering and spreading the truth.
However, this character can also become detached and lack empathy. He can also get lost in his expanse of knowledge and forget the importance of applying his wisdom in the real word.
The shadow side of The Sage can be seen in mentor characters that have become unfeeling, dogmatic, hypercritical of their devotees, and appear pompous and self-important.
Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock from Star Trek was an extreme example, in the sense that while a brilliant source of encyclopedic galactic knowledge, he almost completely lacked empathy, or social graces.
Another example of The Sage who might not be the most empathic mentor is Professor Henry Higgins from Pygmalion, and the movie My Fair Lady. He clearly looked down on his student, the poor Eliza Doolittle
Higgins only interest in teaching her to become a refined, well-spoken Englishwoman was to win a bet.
Some of the most famous Sage archetypes in recent years, Yoda, and Obi-Wan Kenobi are from the Star Wars films. They possess knowledge and skills critical to aiding the Jedi Knights defeat the dark forces of the universe.
Obi-Wan, unlike some of The Ruler archetypes, demonstated a sense of humor in Star Wars.
When Obi-Wan is approached by a creature in a bar selling “death sticks,” he tells him, “You don’t want to sell me death sticks. You want to go home and rethink your life,” which he does.
Other examples of The Sage;
Professor Dumbledore as played by Richard Harris in Harry Potter.
The Oracle played by Gloria Foster in The Matrix.
Woody Allen as Alvy Singer in Annie Hall.
12. The Magician, also known as the visionary, the catalyst, the charismatic character, the shaman, the healer, or the medicine man.
The Magician archetype is similar to the Sage. However, he is supremely skilled at manipulating objects, and forces of nature to create supernatural transformation.
He is often, but not always, seen in narrative as as elderly, charismatic, visionary, who is well-educated and inspires others. Magicians study, experiment and attempt to master secret powers, hidden for centuries.
They appear in medieval storytelling as Masters of Science, or Alchemists. They are adept at manipulating ancient formulas, secret spells, and other tools to control and change circumstances for their own or someone else’s benefit.
The shadow side of The Magician aligns himself with forces of evil, and to work with the “dark arts.” This character is capable of dangerous manipulations, of spells that can be used to destroy or to spread illness.
Darth Vader, from Star Wars, is an example of a Magician who is capable of destroying galaxies to satisfy his need for power and revenge.
Doc Brown, played by Christopher Lloyd, in Back to the Future, exemplifies the more benevolent Magician. A more humorous version of the character, he has careless grooming habits, an absent-mindedness, and yet, the ability to change aspects of time and space.
Doc Brown was always there for the young Marty McFly, played by Michael J Fox, when he needed technological magic to finish his journey through time and complete his destiny.
Other examples of The Magician;
Laurence Naismith as Merlyn in Camelot.
Ian McKellen as Gandolf in The Lord of the Rings.
Kat Graham as Bonnie Bennet in The Vampire Chronicles.
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Image credit: Creative Commons The cat held by Marlon Brando in the opening scene of The Godfather, 2012 by TRF_Mr_Hyde is licensed under CC By 2.0