The Hero’s Journey Archetype series continues with Part 6: the Ally.
For the previous parts, check out:
1. The Hero archetype
2. The Mentor archetype
3. The Threshold Guardian archetype
4. The Herald archetype
5. The Shapeshifter archetype
6. The Shadow archetype
This series focuses on the Hero’s Journey Archetypes as described in The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.
The Ally Archetype
Of all the archetypes, the ally archetype in the hero’s journey might just be the easiest to grasp. Every hero needs a friend to help them, after all. An ally is usually a friendly figure who fights by the hero’s side (Samwise Gamgee, anyone?).
It might go without saying, but a hero can, of course, have more than one ally.
The ally archetype can represent some unexpressed or unused parts of the hero’s character that is needed to do the job. They’re the under-utilized parts that are helpful to our journey in life.
So, unlike the shadow archetype, which exists more of the surpressed qualities of the hero’s personality, an ally’s characteristics are more or less forgotten by the hero. Allies can be powerful internal forces.
An ally can have several functions, like being a companion, sparring partner, conscience, or comic relief. They can carry messages, go on errands, or scout locations. They’re someone the hero can talk to, to make the hero more human and well-rounded as a character. The ally archetype can also challenge the hero, so they become more balanced.
Allies help when a problem needs to be solved and allow expression of fear, humor, or ignorance.
Another one of the functions of the ally archetype in the hero’s journey is to introduce the reader into an unfamiliar world. The allies can ask questions that the reader would want to know.
Even when the hero is not very talkative, or it would be awkward for them to explain something that’s logical to him, but unlogical to the reader, the ally can do the explaining. This is for instance the case when an ally is a character who’s, as the reader, new to the world of the story.
Types of Allies
Now, this is where things get good. There are a lot of possibilities when it comes to allies. Heck, they don’t even need to be human. So, buckle up!
These ally archetypes are especially popular in Westerns, but we also know them from superhero movies and comics, such as Batman and Robin. The sidekick is someone the hero keeps close, like Tonto in the Lone Ranger’s.
The relationship between the hero and the sidekick can be complex; sometimes it even becomes dramatic material on its own. This can happen, for instance, when the two characters do fight together but are on opposite spectrums on a cultural or societal issue, causing them to also fight amongst each other.
Supernatural and non-human allies
That’s right, allies don’t have to be exclusively human. Think about Disney’s Tangled: Rapunzel has her green chameleon as an ally and later on in the story the horse. Or, if we look at the Farseer trilogy by Robin Hobb, Fitz has multiple animal allies throughout the trilogy, most notably Nighteyes the wolf.
But this type of ally doesn’t even need to be an animal as well. It can be a guardian angel, some other sort of spirit protector, or a minor diety. Or a snowman brought to life with magic.
The ally doesn’t even need to be supernatural: it can even be an imaginary friend.
So, what about ghosts? Yes, they can also be allies. The dead can give aid to the hero from beyond the grave, either in spirit or in their signature ghostly form.
Last but not least: we live in an increasingly modern day world, and AI and robots can very well serve as allies. Lets also not forget about potential other races in space that can function as allies if you’re writing a science fiction story.
That’s a lot of choices, right?
This is an ally archetype that occurs especially in romantic tales. The ally helps the hero achieve their goal by carrying love letters or providing disguises and hideaways. Pretty much anything to help the hero along.
A great example of this ally archetype (even if it’s not a romantic story) is Planchet, from the Three Musketeers. Or Alfred, Batman’s butler (where the ally overlaps with the mentor archetype).
That’s it for the ally archetype of the hero’s journey. While it’s an archetype you will likely already instinctively have in your story, it can’t hurt to take a closer look at it and understand what the functions of the allies in your story are.
As usual, I like to stress that for all archetypes, it stands that they are fluid. They don’t need to be one character, and a character can be different archetypes at different points in the story. An ally can on occasion wear the mask of a mentor, a shapeshifter, or even the shadow.
I hope this series has been helpful to your writing so far.
If you’ve got any questions, I’m more than happy to answer them and help you along. What are your thoughts on the Hero’s journey archetypes? Do you recognize them in your writing?
Let me know in the comments!