Seven (or Eight) Archetypal Stories

It might be a bad sign of film school, or my participation in film school, or something, that I’ve heard that there are really only seven or so stories, but I never heard what those are.

Thanks to this thing called GOOGLE, I am more accountable than ever for my ignorance.

The Eight Archetypal Stories

  • Cinderella

    “Unrecognised virtue at last recognised. It’s the same story as the Tortoise and the Hare. Cinderella doesn’t have to be a girl, nor does it even have to be a love story. What is essential is that the good is despised, but is recognised in the end, something that we all want to believe.”

    Too many examples to list here. Every teen comedy, almost every sports movie, and at least part of every children’s film.

  • Achilles

    “The Fatal Flaw, that is the groundwork for practically all classical tragedy, although it can be made comedy too, as in the old standard Aldwych farce. Lennox Robinson’s The Whiteheaded Boy is the Fatal Flaw in reverse.”

    Okay, I hella don’t understand any of this. Somewhere my English lit professor is sad and doesn’t know why. Mostly this is the hero that doesn’t resolve his fatal flaw, and it should eventually kill him or destroy everything he cherishes. Tragic! If anyone can tell me what “The Whiteheaded Boy” is about, I would love to hear it.

  • Faust

    “The Debt that Must be Paid, the fate that catches up with all of us sooner or later. This is found in all its purity as the chase in O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones. And in a completely different mood, what else is the Cherry Orchard?”

    It is interesting that Faust is an archetypal story, ‘cos I had a hella hard time figuring out what it was about at all. But it gave us Robert Johnson and Tenacious D, so okay.

  • Tristan

    “That standard triangular plot of two women and one man, or two men and one woman. The Constant Nymph, or almost any French farce.”

    This can make for a horrifically misguided comedy that only got greenlit because someone gorgeous said yes (Selma Blair and Eva Longoria I’M TALKING TO YOU). OR a really good episode of Frazier. Who can say?

  • Circe

    “The Spider and the Fly. Othello. The Barretts of Wimpole Street, if you want to change the sex. And if you don’t believe me about Othello (the real plot of which is not the triangle and only incidentally jealousy) try casting it with a good Desdemona but a poor Iago.”

    I think this is the staple structure of all those movies where the hero is tormented by a mysterious antagonist who turns out to be… HIMSELF! MY BAD! SPOILER ALERT FOR LIKE FORTY MOVIES! Better to give it a jigger of “Achilles” and have the Spider play on the Fly’s fatal flaw, so Fly eventually self-destructs. Trag-tastic!

  • Romeo and Juliet

    “Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy either finds or does not find Girl: it doesn’t matter which.”

    I take so much umbrage that there’s only one accepted romantic plot. Which doesn’t prevent it from being true.

  • Orpheus

    “The Gift taken Away. This may take two forms: either the tragedy of the loss itself, as in Juno and the Paycock, or it may be about the search that follows the loss, as in Jason and the Golden Fleece.”

    Lord of the Rings, y’all!

  • The Hero Who Cannot Be Kept Down

    “The best example of this is that splendid play Harvey, made into a film with James Stewart.”

    Also see Forrest Gump, or Sam’s arc from Lord of the Rings. Sean Astin was robbed! ROBBED.

  • There is more to say, but I’ll say it later.


Draws. Sweats. Eats too much sugar-free candy.

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