Sunday, August 05, 2007

Unstructured Archetypes: The Special Boy

He is Arthur. He is Luke Skywalker. He is Harry Potter.

The Special Boy is always a boy. There are no Special Girls. The nearest female Archetype is the Secret Princess.

The Special Boy does not know he is a Special Boy.

The Special Boy is probably an orphan. It’s a safe bet that his parents were killed, perhaps right in front of him.

The Special Boy has a birthright. He is Special from the moment he is conceived. He is better than everyone around him.

The Special Boy is raised in Lowly Circumstances. He is usually at the bottom of the social order and is even looked down upon by those who share his social status.

No one who doesn’t know he is Special thinks that there’s anything special about him. Most people think that he’s stupid and weak.

More often than not, he’s picked on and bullied.

The Special Boy only learns that he is Special when he has an Encounter with Destiny.

The Special Boy does not try to find his Destiny. His Destiny finds him.

He is virtuous. He exhibits his virtues even before his Destiny is revealed.

Before the story is over, the Special Boy will be acknowledged and acclaimed. Those who mistreated him will feel bad about it. If they apologize, he will forgive them.

The Special Boy is defined by his Destiny. Often his Destiny will take the form of a Cryptic Prophecy.

Once he has had his Encounter with Destiny, the Special Boy will find a Mentor. His Mentor will serve as his surrogate Father. Unlike the real Father, the Mentor will never be distant or overly stern.

The Special Boy will grow up to be a Hero. Most of the heroic archetypes are open to him. The Special Boy will never grow up to be a Villain or an Everyman, although he may have Lapses.

Sooner or later, the Special Boy will experience a Rite of Passage. The Encounter with Destiny may be the Rite, or the Rite might be delayed (possibly taking the form of Defeating the Villain).

Until the Special Boy has had his Rite of Passage, he will be subject to doubts and may even Question his Faith. Once the Rite has happened, this is no longer a risk.

If the Villain killed the Special Boy’s parents, he will need to avenge their deaths, even if he never knew them.

The Special Boy can have a One True Love but he may not consummate that love until he Becomes a Man. Any displays of affection must be basically chaste.

The Special Boy believes in God.


magidin said...

I would say that Wart was a Special Boy, but Arthur never was... Is Arthur's childhood/very early adolesence covered anywhere before T.H. White's "The Sword in the Stone" (apropos of the picture)? Mallory jumps straight from Uther's death to Arthur being a squire, as I recall. And White always refers to the boy as Wart, and does not call him Arthur until after he has pulled the sword from the stone, at which point he is no longer the Special Boy and has become something else, I think...

Andrew Lias said...

It is true that Mallory doesn't spend much time on Arthur's youth. The Suite du Merlin which is he is borrowing the story from (which, in turn, borrows from Robert de Boron's poem Merlin) spends a bit more time on Arthur's youth, but not much. This isn't important though because the squire who pulls the Sword is, in fact, a Special Boy.

Arthur the squire is apparently no one special -- that honor is reserved for Kay -- until he innocently pulls the sword from the stone in order to replace Kay's lost sword.

Most stories that deal with a Special Boy start with the story of the Encounter with Destiny (see Harry Potter). White is unusual in that he elaborates on the period of time before that encounter (although Wart's interactions with Merlin as a big clue-by-four that he is, in fact, Special).

magidin said...

I guess my point is that once the Special Boy has found his destiny, he stops being the Special Boy. Luke Skywalker is the Special Boy in Episode IV and to some degree in Episode V; but by the time we get to "Jedi" he has ceased to be the Special Boy and has become The Hero. Likewise, Young Wart is a Special Boy, but once he finds Excalibur and is acknowledged, he ceases to be the Special Boy and becomes The Hero. T.H. White emphasizes this transition by having him be "Wart" before, "Arthur" after; Wart is the Special Boy and not The Hero, while Arthur is the Hero and not the Special Boy.

Andrew Lias said...

That is true and White does, indeed, make a point of emphasizing the transition. Of course, there is the question of when that transition takes place in the traditional story.

The pulling of the sword is certainly a candidate although I think that I, personally, would put the point at the consolidation of his kingship with the victory against the rebel princes who refuse to acknowledge him.

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