Hero’s Journey, Part 4: The Herald Archetype

The Hero’s Archetype series continues with Part 4: the Herald. For the previous parts, check out:

This series focuses on the Hero’s Journey Archetypes as described in The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.

hero's journey archetypes the herald
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The Herald Archetype

The herald archetype is the force in the story, usually in the first act, that presents a challenge to the hero. Just like in the old days, a herald issues a challenge and announces the coming of a significant change.

In medieval times, heralds were kind of the protocol officers, keeping track of lineages, coats of arms, identifying people and relationships in battle, and more. For instance, when war commenced, a herald might be called upon to recite the causes of conflict, to provide the motivation.

At the beginning of the story, the hero has gotten by using some defenses or coping mechanisms. But then an obstacle enters, which makes it impossible for the hero to simply get by. A call to adventure has been delivered, which often happens by a character who then functions as the herald.

Psychology

The psychological function of the herald archetype in the hero’s journey is to announce the need for change. We know deep down when we’re ready for change, and our intuition sends us a message. This may come for instance in a dream, a real person, or an idea.

Story Function

As said, heralds offer a challenge, so they get the story rolling. They motivate the hero by alerting them (and the reader) that change and adventure are coming. The herald can be both a person or a force, such as the coming of a storm or the tremors of the earth. Even the crash of the stock market or declaration of war; as long as they set the story in motion. However, the herald often simply brings news to the hero, which provides new energy that will change the balance.

While the herald archetype can occur at any point in the story (and more than once, in different types), they often occur in the first act to help propel the hero into their adventure.

Types of Herald

The herald can be a great many things: a villain or his emissary, but also a force of good. The villain may try to dupe the hero into getting involved in something. For instance, a messenger of the villain may lure the hero into danger with a tempting offer. Sometimes, the ‘evil’ herald might issue the challenge to the reader instead of the hero, for instance, in a chapter from the villain’s point of view.

An archetype that often acts as a herald as well is the mentor. They often issue new challenges to the hero. But also, the hero’s loved one or ally can act as a herald, but even some of the other archetypes that are more neutral, such as the threshold guardian.

Wrapping Up

That’s it for the Herald archetype of the hero’s journey. It’s a short one, as it’s a smaller role. Again, 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. In the herald and threshold guardian’s case, they don’t even necessarily have to be a character.

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!

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