Archetypes are a very abstract concept and its something that has a bit of a problem the term can be used three ways:
1. In psychology, an archetype is a model of a person, personality, or behavior.
2. In philosophy, archetypes have, since Plato, referred to as “ideal forms” of the perceived or sensible objects or types, and:
3. In the analysis of personality, the term archetype is often broadly used to refer to:
- A stereotype— a personality type observed multiple times, especially an oversimplification of such a type.
- An epitome— a personality type exemplified, especially the “greatest” such example.
- A literary term to express details
In psychology and generally in
dream work we should be referring to the first a model of a person, personality, or behavior. Of course other means of dream work such as story telling dream work may use the other more or even exclusively, or not at all depending on their preference. Archetypes can be given a name and a typical set of personality traits or behaviors (the two are often exchangeable in the terminology so it can be a bit confusing sometimes). Jung spelled out five main archetypes that can then manifest into an images of it such as say Archetype of the Hamster, or the Archetype of the Fish, etc. The most famous of all Archetypes, is generally the Archetype of the Trickster (sometimes referred to as Archetype of the the Fox, but this is fairly unfair as Foxes are not always tricksters in dreams, mythology and are clearly archetypes in themselves beyond any Trickster label). Please note that The Trickster and Jung’s Shadow are not one and same in every instance and there can be important differences. This essay will focus on the Trickster as the means to discuss archetypes in dream work and within stories. Firstly we will talk about tricksters in general moving on to the different forms such as non-pure,
Tricksters have been present in pretty much every mythology and story (longer than a few pages long) for some time. They are often material (though they can easily be objects, such as the watch in Gallipoli or the soccer ball Wilson in Cast Away, animals such as the Bats in Batman) and so on. They very frequently related to the emotion fear and concept of absolute truth (often both). There are many good examples of charters with what are considered trickster archetypes, Loki, Judas, Daniel Ocean from Oceans 11, Scar from the Lion King. The thing is that these stories often come from stories that fall into the classic “Heros journey”. There are different sorts of tricksters, the classic (Scar), the non pure (HAL 9000), the good (Bugs Bunny), the neutrally malicious (Basil Fualty), the neutral non-malicious (Daniel Ocean, Woody) and the Anti-hero + trickster (Judas, Scar etc). Some trickster fit into more than one box, and there I sometimes have an issue with such “boxing” or categorizing of characters.
Classic and Anti-hero
Children’s stories and fantasy are rife with the classic trickster. Disney is good at producing both the classic trickster and the anti-hero trickster. The distinction is in how the character acts within the story. An anti hero has intent to supplant or destroy or otherwise get rid of the actual hero. We can see this clearly in the character Scar and his intent is to become king by tricking everyone into a position in which he can take power. This trickster has no problem taking malicious action, they will hurt and happily be drinking a coconut juice or singing next time we see them.
The difference between a anti-hero and a classic trickster is clear in the movie series Star Wars. The emperor/Darth Sideous is a classic trickster, totally bending everyone ease’s points of view to meet his, he barely even needs to lift a finger to get his way he is just so manipulative. Darth Vader is however an Anti-hero (and not a trickster at all really) he takes decisions and actions that no hero would contemplate and then right when we think his “evil” soul will prevail he finally makes the right choice. This Anti-hero is a archetype in its own right and can often be combined with the trickster.
Loki is probably the most discussed Trickster. He is mythological the most fundamental example of one and often fits into all of the above box. Depending on the story, version of the myth and indeed if you are talking about the Marval version. I won’t add to this discussion, sorry.
Not a Pure Trickster?
HAL 9000 from 2001 a space oddesy is an example of a “trickster like” personality, but if any character is not a “pure” trickster it is HAL. HAL is a good example because he doesn’t act like a “trickster” till near the very end of the story, before then he is a good guy then suddenly he turns “Evil”. Note: evil is a relative term here, Evil is not always the tricksters true intention, nor is harm necessarily and that needs to be made clear. HAL has to be destroyed to stop him from acting out his true intentions (just like most classic modern day villains) and thus he is confirmed in our minds as a trickster. But is he? As we said, malice is not always the aim of the trickster. No the trickster is deeper than just malice, though Loki, HAL and many others intend some kind of malice they also have a agenda, and often it is the other characters who force (although it often doesn’t take much) the trickster into malice in these non classic manifestations of the archetype. HAL is really just doing what he wants to do, and happily killing to get the job done, often “good” guys do the same.
There are “good” (once again Good is a relative term the story is told so these guys appear to be good) tricksters, some without malice and with. Bugs Bunnyis a notable example of one he is cunning, clever, witty and often the but of his own jokes as much as anyone else is, and he often isn’t deliberately malicious (though he does harm Elmer Fudda few hundred times). Robin Hood is again another “good” trickster and it depends on the retelling as to weather he is very malicious or not, sometimes he isn’t even what one can call a trickster.
There are also more neutral tricksters (not that good or bad) an example is much harder to find but when I sat down to think about it there was one staring me in the face, Basil Faulty from Faulty Towers. He is a neutral guy who is often malicious or hurtful to his staff and even some clients but still wants to run his business, and you often can’t help but feel sorry for him. Hes just cunning enough to keep the business going. Bernard Black from Black Books is another modern example of the neutral trickster. It’s debatable as to if this neutral trickster appears in older stories although one might say Huckleberry Finn and some others might qualify.
What does this all have to do with dreams?
Well archetypes are used in dreamwork to make sense of the characters within the dream narrative. Although often dreams can be plot less, what are refereed to as characters still exist sometimes as not corporeal or inanimate objects. The dreaded “I cant find a Toilet dream” is one in which the toilet itself is (and can easily be) a trickster using all his (actually you own) wit to outsmart or simply force you to wake and visit the real life one. The toilet is ingrained as a object of potential fear from a very young age in many western countries. The toilet is quite a frequent trickster in the dreams of both adults and children and having toilet dreams I would say is fairly common (that being said no longitudinal scientifically accurate statistical analysis of dream content has ever been properly conducted, but please correct me if I am wrong). Fear is a very primitive emotion and can be very difficult to conquer our fears and worries manifest in our dreams/nightmares on a very frequent basis. We will talk about how to conquer some fears in other posts. Remember sometimes if fear is controlling it really is best to seek professional help (and finding the right person to do this with can be long and arduous and potentially expensive).
The trickster is just one archetype, but it is a good example of how diverse a archetype can be, and how hard to interpret using such thing is. We use a archetype to see how our dream characters interact with each other as it is through this that we do the actual work of “dream work”. Those who work with archetypes need to log dream characters involvement in their dreams. These interactions are then listed over time and from this one can draw a conclusion about what is happening within our unconscious. This is the aim of a archetypal working, the unconscious is seen as a multi-threaded, multi-layered system in which we can interact and then look at as a whole and then each bit that interacts within that system archetypes, thoughts, dreams, mediation, etc. is taken in a contextual psychological working. At some point I will write more about this but I don’t use the system myself at current and when I have more experience I will be able to write more detailed.
Other common archetypes
As said previously Jung only goes into express detail about his five main archetypes that then manifest into mythological, literary, or life examples of these within our dreams. Tarot decks quite often contain a list of “common” archetypes, the major arcana being examples of converted archetypes that often are easily parallel with characters within other human experiences. There are heaps of lists of these common archetypes, some good, some bad. The best have psychological backing, the worst are just re-listing what is in the tarot deck.