Archetypes are a pattern of human experience that happens throughout all human cultures. Archetypes are happening everywhere, such as in movies, in novels, and in our lives, but we are not aware of their existence. Archetypes exist in literature to make stories more compelling to readers. Learning archetypes helps us respond better to the archetypal patterns in our lives. By understanding archetypes, we will have a better understanding of the flow of our lives and be able to make wiser decisions. Also, an understanding of archetypes gives us an insight into the key challenges and opportunities that each archetypal pattern brings into our lives. More importantly, we will know what and where to find the true internal sources of power and how to maximize the power. Both Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake and the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling have friendly beast, the mentor and the pupil, and the threshold as common literary archetypes.
The mentor and the pupil is an archetypes that Dances With Wolves and Harry Potter have in common. The mentorship happens when a young hero is instructed by an older and wiser mentor in his development to become a mature hero. The mentor acts as a role model and the mentorship strongly influence the young hero’s development. Additionally, the hero needs a mentor to pass on skills and knowledge and protect him from danger. Thus, the growing and maturing process will be much more difficult and challenging if we go alone without a mentor. In Dances with Wolves, Kicking Bird serves as a mentor of Dunbar. Kicking Bird teaches Dunbar things he needs to know in order to be like a Comanche. Kicking Bird passes his knowledge about “everything from tribal history to herbal healing” (Blake 256) on Dunbar. Thanks to the knowledge from Kicking Bird, Dunbar builds up his understanding about know the Comanche society operates. Finally, Dunbar is able integrate into the Comanche tribe. Professor Lupin is one of Harry’s great mentors. In the Prisoner of Azkaban, Lupin is the first proper Defense against Dark Art teacher who also recognizes Harry’s exceptional Defense Against Dark Art skill. Lupin is very patience in teaching and pushing Harry to successfully perform advanced magic spells. In addition, Lupin is able to provide some insight about Harry’s parents, giving Harry a sense of comfort. In the future books, Lupin always comes to aid Harry at the right time when Harry is in danger. In both novels, the mentorship serves an important role in the maturing process of the hero.
Both Harry Potter and Dances with Wolves share friendly beast in common. Friendly beast is a character that looks or seems frightening at first but is helpful to hero through his adventures. Friendly beast teaches us why we should not judge “the book by its cover”. The first encounter does not tell much about a person because we know nothing about their backgrounds. People’s appearance and behavior at first do not truly show their real personalities because they are not always what they seem at first. In Dances With Wolves, when Wind In His Hair first encounters Dunbar, Wind In His Hair “raised his rifle over his head and roared out three emphatic sentences” (Blake 69). Wind In His Hair, in the eyes of Dunbar, seems to be an impulsive man who is aggressive, ferocious, and savage. As Dunbar and Wind In His Hair get to know each other better, Wind In His Hair treats Dunbar like one of his own people. At the end of the book, Wind In His Hair rescues Dunbar when Dunbar is captured by the white soldiers. This shows that Wind In His Hair is kind and brave enough to be willing to risk his life for his friend. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Buckbeak, the hippogriff, was described as “the most bizarre creatures…with cruel, steel-colored beaks and large, brilliantly oranges eyes” (Rowling 114). Buckbeak looks very frighten to Harry and his friend at first, especially after he attacks Draco Malfoy. However, Buckbeak turns out to be a kind and gentle creature when Buckbeak and Harry become closer. Buckbeak even saves Harry and Hermione from being killed by Lupin in the form of a werewolf. Friendly beast represents the theme: not everyone who seems dangerous is dangerous.
The threshold appears both in Dances with Wolves and in Harry Potter. The threshold serves as start of adventures in both novels. Once passing the threshold, the hero leaves the known world and enters into an unknown world full of challenges and dangers waiting for him. The threshold is there to teach us that every new journey begins with leaving our comfort zones and penetrate into a different world. At first, we may feel unsecured and bored and want to go back to our normal world. Then, we try to learn to adapt and survive in the new world. Without taking new challenges in the new world, we will never grow. In Dances with Wolves, the threshold happens when the main character, Lieutenant John Dunbar, leaves the army and travels to Fort Sedgwick on the frontier. In the army society, Dunbar feels secure and comfortable because he lived there so long that he knows how that society works. However, once he travels to Fort Sedgwick, he leaves behind his comfort zone and approaches a world filled with challenges and dangers that he does not expect. One of the challenges he has to overcome in the new world is the feeling of “miss[ing] the company of people” (Blake 41). In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter crosses the threshold when he “stepped through the archway” (Rowling 71) of Diagon Alley, where Harry shops for his school supplies. When Harry takes a step into “archway”, he leaves behind the ordinary world and fully submerges into a wizarding world where his life would take a major turn. In the wizarding world, as he is famous, he is expected to do great things, such as defeating the darkest wizard. In both novels, the threshold represents places where adventures of growth and transformation start.
The friendly beast, the mentorship, and the threshold are used in both Dances with Wolves and Harry Potter. By using these archetypes, Michael Blake and J. K. Rowling are trying to convey a theme that archetypes in the story symbolize patterns of human experience that everyone goes through in his life. By knowing archetypes, people will learn how to take advantage of the experience that strongly influences their personal development.
Blake, Michael. Dances with Wolves. Tucson: 205 West Cushing Street, 2002. Print.
Rowling, J.K.. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic, 1997. Print.
Rowling, J.K.. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic, 1998. Print.