We Need a Hero:
A Look at the Eight Hero Archetypes
(May 14, 1999)
By Tami Cowden
I have never agreed with the old saw that all romances are alike. However, I do agree there are certain similarities. Besides the happy ending, you can count on a romance having a terrific hero – the kind of guy everyone loves to love.
Or can you? The truth is, just as in real life every woman has her own taste in men, every romance reader has her own taste in heroes. One woman’s dream date is another’s nightmarish evening. The hero I sigh for may make your eyes roll.
There was a time when the so-called “Alpha” hero reigned supreme among romances, but even if we could all agrees on what an “alpha” male is, we wouldn’t all like the fellow. Adding beta, gamma and delta to the list gave us a little more insight, but it still seemed a bit limited to my critique group, composed of Caro LaFever, Sue Viders, and little ole me.
It was, in fact, in an attempt to determine just which heroes of literature were the fabled “alpha” males that my two partners and I came across an interesting discovery. There are eight heroic archetypes.
Yep. That’s right, count ‘em. Eight And, somewhat to our surprise, these archetypes are not reserved for romance, but found in all genres, and in all media – stage, film, and literature. And, we also discovered there are eight heroine archetypes – something you don’t hear about too frequently.
We came to this conclusion after a great deal of research, during which, in addition to our usual fiction reading, we reviewed the characters found in movies and plays. In all, we considered about 500 productions, and in the process, wrote a book: Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes. Sue, Caro and I presented two two programs at the RWA Conference in Chicago on Friday evening – Beyond Alpha and Beyond Cinderella, in which we presented the archetypes we have discovered.
Meanwhile, here is a peek at the heroes and how each reacts in a similar...