November 19, 2010

archetypes - herald

Again, here’s a short post, because I’m ungodly tired after watching Deathly Hallows last night… which was awesome by the way. 

Today’s post is about the Herald. 

You can also read my earlier posts about the Hero, Mentor, and Threshold Guardian.

The Herald is the character that usually shows up near the beginning of the story, and they either issue a challenge to the hero or announce the coming of significant change. Oftentimes, the hero of a story has gotten by without much difficulty, but no one wants to read about a character that doesn’t do anything, doesn’t change, and doesn’t struggle. The Herald gets the hero out of this mediocre lifestyle. Something happens that makes it impossible for the hero to simply get by any longer; he must act.

The Herald can be a person, object, event, or piece of information. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the Herald is Harry’s letter of acceptance into Hogwarts. The arrival of the letter causes change in Harry’s life, and even more so with the arrival of Hagrid, who embodies the Herald as a character. In Lemony Snicket’s The Bad Beginning, the Baudelaire children must change when their parents die tragically in a fire, but the bringer of this bad news is Mr. Poe, who also embodies the archetype. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the war acts as the Herald, forcing the Pevensies to leave their home and travel to the British countryside, where their adventure begins.

Heralds provide motivation, offer the hero a challenge, and get the story rolling. The Herald may be a positive, negative, or neutral figure. Sometimes the Herald is the villain or one of his cronies. In Disney’s Aladdin, Jafar forces Aladdin to get involved, acting as a sort of Herald when he arrests Aladdin and then makes him get the magic lamp, where he meets Genie and Carpet. Otherwise, he would have remained a street-rat. Sometimes the Herald is the hero’s mentor, as in The Hobbit. Gandalf shows up with a dozen dwarves, using Bilbo’s own hospitality against him and compelling him into adventure, but he also sticks with Bilbo, helping him along the way.

The Herald can show up at any time but is usually employed in the beginning. The Herald can be an inner call, a challenge, or a declaration, but the archetype’s function is the same: deliver the call to adventure.

Read the next post about the Shapeshifter.

[This interpretation of the archetypes comes from the Hero’s Journey, a universal structure found in mythology and organized by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with A Thousand Faces and Christopher Vogler in The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.]


  1. The herald is one of my favorite archetypes. Whether it is Bingley calling Darcy's attention to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice or Trinity telling Neo to follow the White Rabbit in The Matrix, the herald never ceases to excite me.

    The call to adventure must be made in order for the hero to dare to cross the threshold into another world; after all, do we not find ourselves more motivated to do something when someone challenges us?

    Ms. Johnson accepted the call recently herself. Her herald was the NaNoWriMo contest, and I wait in excitement to see how her newest tale unfolds. As writers, we have to be as willing to take such journeys as our heroes, and that means that we cannot ignore our heralds.

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  3. Thanks a lot for sharing. It was very interesting. It was a topic of my paper last year. Follow the link to read