Archetypes: The Herald

herald.jpgToday’s post will take a look at the herald as an archetype.  Most stories include a character, being, or mechanism that serves as an announcer of things to come.  In regards to the Hero’s Journey, the herald usually works as a “call to adventure” for the hero/heroine.

In non-fiction, heralds are an important part of history.  They transcribed, orated, and tracked the various families, coats of arms, battles, and wars.  When a war or conflict would break out, a herald would be called to court to give an oral dictation of the history of events and offer insights into current ones.  In essence, the herald would reveal to the court the chessboard and describe all the pieces on it.

While one function of the herald was simply to catalog and pass information, they also acted to inspire action.  Their accounts of current events were often laced with language designed to rouse fence-sitters from their perches and spur them to action.  In this way, the herald did more than simply show everyone all the pieces in play, they offered insights as to what might happen if action was met by inaction, or indecision.


We also see heralds in mythology.  Christopher Vogler, in his book, The Writer’s Journey, states, “Heralds are so necessary in mythology that the Greek god Hermes (Roman Mercury) is devoted to expressing this function.  Hermes appears everywhere as the messenger or Herald of the gods, performing some errand or bearing a message from Zeus” (p. 70).

In fiction, the psychological function of the herald is to introduce change.  We relate to this idea because heralds come to us in different forms and trigger thoughts of change.  To some extent, events, stories, and people trigger in us the need to change our current path.  This might be as simple as the doctor saying your blood pressure is high, and it might be as complex as someone very close to you passing away.  These events remind us of potential futures.

The heralds’ message, once delivered, typically triggers a conflict (physical, emotional, or spiritual) for the characters involved.  If you watch Game of Thrones (GoT), or read the books, the statement, “Winter is coming,” is a constant herald.  While it serves multiple functions in that story, it is a non-stop reminder to the reader that change is coming. logo_game_of_thrones
like the GoT example because it reveals the power of a herald to tie many individual stories together and highlight a greater conflict.  GoT is an extremely complex story with many sub-plots running all at once.  The idea that, “winter is coming,” works to tie all of these sub-plots together and unite them.

The website TV Tropes has a page devoted to heralds.  Don’t let the name of the website fool you though, the source I have linked here, breaks heralds down into categories and offers basic examples from the following categories: anime, manga, comicbooks, literature, religion, and many more.

question-markThat’s it for today.  I hope this brief introduction into heralds was useful to you.  If character archetypes interest you,  you can go to my archetypes category and see more examples.  As usual, I’m curious as to how you all use heralds in your own work.  I’m also curious about any examples of heralds you find interesting in stories.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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36 responses

    • I’m a TV Trope greenhorn. I only found the website a few weeks ago, and like you just said, I’ve spent more time there than I care to admit. It’s also as if the interwebs know I’ve found it once before too. Strange how search engines seem to consistently be pointing me toward that website.

      “I’ll just stop in for second,” Corey said. Two days later he emerged from his writing cave smelling of Hot Pockets and despair.

      Liked by 1 person

      • One (amongst many) hazard of TV Tropes is that, if the reader doesn’t know better, they could end up thinking that literally EVERY idea under the suns is a cliche. ‘Oh, no — sci-fi with aliens has already been done! It’s a cliche! How will I ever come up with something new and interesting?’ However, as I recall, TV Tropes does define the difference between cliche and trope, so anyone who’s paying attention will see that ‘recognizable story element’ doesn’t mean ‘idea so boring/overdone that no one wants to read about it anymore.’

        Hot Pockets are a valid meal choice; they even taste like food if you cook ’em in a toaster oven instead of a microwave.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Toaster oven? That’s a level of refinement I can’t fathom! 🙂

        I think I might toss together a post, one of these days, about the difference between a trope and a cliche. It seems these are pretty commonly mixed up and many people think they are the same exact thing.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. With my WiP, I have three heralds at least, for three separate characters, all for the same adventure. It’s going to be excellent fun. They are fairly standard at the moment, calling the main.characters to action, but the scalpel of revision is sharp and there may be some changes for them in the future.
    Another quality post. Keep them coming!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m excited to hear you talk about your WiP. Between your daily shorts, and everything else, I don’t know where you find the time.

      Do you find your WiP ever asserts it’s will on your shorts, or vice versa? I’m curious about whether you are able to compartmentalize your writing or if your various projects intrude on one another.

      As always, thanks for stopping in and leaving some thoughts today. I always appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, the newest WiP actually came from one of the shorts. After I’d written the piece from the Merriam Webster word of the day, the characters wanted more writing. So the WiP was born.
        I guess I’d describe it as some breakthrough, but for the most part they stay separate.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Very interesting. Thanks for sharing this insight into your mind and process. It’s always neat when a creative jaunt leads to something more 😀

        Liked by 1 person

    • I honestly hadn’t really considered it myself until I finished reading The Writer’s Journey, and the Hero with a Thousand Faces. Both of those books, in different ways, explain how heralds can exist outside of character.

      I think, The Writer’s Journey, uses Field of Dreams as one of the examples. The seemingly disembodied voice beckoning the hero to, “Build it and they will come.”

      Some stories also use newspapers, news clips, or radio broadcasts as heralds. Typically the hero is going about his/her day and a bit of seemingly unrelated information will be passed over the radio or television. While this could be considered foreshadowing, I think it’s safe to consider that a herald (or foretelling) of events to come.

      Thanks for swinging by today! I’m really glad the post got you thinking about the concept. Happy reading and writing!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Heralds are always interesting because as in fiction they are there in many forms in life too. As you’ve pointed out George R.R. Martin does this quite well with GOT.

    In regards to how I might use heralds in my own work, well usually it takes the form of omens, or signs and not usually an actual person. Though, I have used actual beings or people before, generally I infer things, rather than outright have someone there saying something.

    It isn’t to say I don’t ever do that. I’m sure somewhere in Black Winter there is something like that. I’m wired on Coffee and I’m having trouble thinking of clear examples but I do like the archetype of Heralds in fiction.

    Also I hope you continue the archetype series. It is fun and intriguing to view the different types and to see what your thoughts on them. I wish I had something more elaborate and deep to say, but alas, not today my friend.

    Also, you seem as though you have been quite busy. Just a sense I get from what I read. Also kudos, you are quite organized with your structuring of your site, at least again…from what I’ve read.

    Cheers! ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

    • I imagine a town crier, or some other heraldic being, wandering up and down the streets of Black Winter proclaiming doom and gloom.

      As for my seeming to be busy, I think you’re sensing the analytical half of my brain asserting its will on my writing. I’ve been working on my outline for the novella and away from Wastelander for a few weeks now (waiting a couple months before I go back and do rewrites). Also I’ve been doing a large amount of editing for work. When you pair up the lack of creative writing, with the imposing of rules on other peoples writing (and my own) you get a more straight-laced version of Corey reflected here.

      It’s really interesting for me to see how creative peaks and valleys are reflected here on the blog page. I can scroll through content and see times where I was brimming with creativity and other times where the analytic half has taken hold.

      It’s pretty perceptive of you to notice this, but what should I expect from someone who toys with emotion daily on his page. Hah! Thanks for swinging by today and leaving some thoughts. Your caffeine buzz has made me envious, so I’m going to go start a pot of liquid inspiration.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I pick up on things one might say. I suppose there are heralds in their own forms in Black Winter. I could easily imagine a literal one, but I don’t have said literal one screaming in my head today thankfully (or as of yet).

        Seriously, I write things sometimes that I don’t even like, simply because it won’t stop playing or a soul won’t stop screaming something over and over and over and over and over and over and…well you get the point.

        Just put up with that at work all day (especially on my long day like today) and you suddenly find yourself quickly motivated out of what little sleep you get, to write said something before you head to work that day. Like today, I wrote something I’m not exactly impressed with or excited about, but it was something I had to write.

        Thus is the way in which these things work (in my odd and twisted mind) and so I do as they say. The Clocktower was today’s piece, although I’m not exactly impressed, I’m sure someone will like it and maybe it was intended for them.

        I have rambled enough though my friend. I loved your explanation of Heralds and thank you for sharing it. I look forward to reading Wasteland Wednesday after I get back from work!

        Cheers! ^_^

        Liked by 1 person

      • For what it’s worth, I really enjoyed The Clocktower (as I stated over in your space).

        I do understand how you feel about inspiration, or lingering thoughts, intruding on normal life. For me, I only sleep about four to five hours a night. It’s always a pain when ideas or inspiration hit me in those precious moments. I keep a journal by the bed, but sometimes I’m just too exhausted to even bother. Sometimes charging the gray cells gets the highest priority.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, sleep (what is that again?) I suppose others actually get that. Xp I barely slept and should be sleeping now but I have to get up for work soon so there is not point.

        Thankfully it is officially the first day of Fall! It is my 2nd favorite season behind Winter. That and my amazing wife had cocoa coffee made, in the fridge, and cooling before I even got home from work yesterday (it was my long day yesterday).

        Truly awesome! ^_^

        Okay that was rambling, but thanks for reading and I appreciate that you and other souls enjoyed what I wrote yesterday. Xp

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s interesting that you refer to the phrase “Winter is coming” as the herald, instead of characters like Ned Stark who say it. Would you consider Ned Stark to be a herald?

    In my mind Little Finger and the Spider most aptly fit the role, as the two characters bringing news that often sets things in motion. It’s certainly interesting how powerful and untouchable the heralds of Ice & Fire are, considering the role is usually a means to support the protagonist(s), rather than characters with their own agendas and goals.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad you brought up the idea that Ned Stark is the herald. When I initially wrote the post I had considered this, but wanted to go back through and really examine the context a little more. Sometimes I don’t get as much research time as I would like for these posts. Without inadvertently lacing a spoiler into the content, I wanted to examine his actions and statements prior to the events he was involved in.

      I know the statement, “winter is coming,” is the motto of House Stark. In this way, the motto really isn’t Ned’s specifically, but the Stark’s in general. I like it as an example because it offers a non-character specific heraldic device that is used by characters who don’t carry the Stark name. Much like many movies and stories use a voice, news report, or some other non-human element to act as herald.

      I absolutely agree with your assessment of Little Finger and the Spider. One thing I really enjoy about studying archetypes (and you know this because you do a great job of talking about characters on your blog) is how a single character can blend so many different archetypes.

      Little Finger specifically can be seen as a Shapeshifter, Mentor, and Herald. There are other archetypes that blend into his character as well.

      Great points, Adam. As always, I appreciate your insights.


  4. “To some extent, events, stories, and people trigger in us the need to change our current path.”

    Well put! And you’ve given me a lot to think about here.

    So the herald issues the ‘call to adventure’–but might serve other functions as well. To use your examples, cataloging and passing on information, or explaining what’s happening on the chess board.

    Even before I followed your link to TV Tropes, I thought of that official herald character from Rome. He passed on information–okay, biased information–rather than calling anyone to an adventure, I think, but he was nonetheless effective. (Especially considering the complicated politics of the end of the Republic!)

    But the GoT example works too–in a completely different way. I like how a repeated warning, coming from different lips, can serve as a herald. And how that warning can unify a plot that otherwise might seem scattered.

    Now I need to figure out what to do with this archetype. Excuse me while I let these new ideas percolate in my brain for a while . . . .

    Liked by 3 people

    • Enjoy the percolation effect. It usually leaves me stunned, bewildered, and needing about 1.5 hours of Netflix and some junk food.

      I agree with you on Rome (which I loved). In retrospect, that would have been a perfect example to use for the blog post. I went with GoT because I assumed more people would have read/seen the story in one medium or the other.

      I’m glad you stopped in to read and even happier the post got you thinking about the archetype. Happy percolation!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Completely unintentionally I ended up with several dream sequences in my story which hint at running themes throughout the narrative. I quite like the idea that dreams communicate to us on a level beneath the conscious mind, so for my characters, their dreams may be warnings of things to come or representative of some emotional conflict they are wrestling with but have yet to truly face consciously. I guess in that way they serve as heralds of the various conflicts my characters are facing, whether internal or external.

    Great post! I hadn’t thought of dream sequences as a ‘herald’ archetype, but I think they really fit that mold for me. Thought-provoking.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I like the idea of dream sequences as a heraldic device. I think it’s a very relatable idea for so many people. We’ve all had those moments of déjà vu and often times I wonder if this isn’t the result of a dream I had that was preparing me for a future event. Not to sound like a crazy mystic, but I think dreams are a very amazing that have some hidden power. M.L.S. Weech (who comments on here often) does an amazing job of tackling some of these concepts in the book he is writing, Caught.

      I’m looking forward to reading your book one day. From what I’ve read on your blog page and some concepts you’ve related to it, I think it’s going to be an exceptional read.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Dreams can show the dreamer things they noticed while awake but didn’t realize they’d noticed. (A lot of intuition or whatever is just logic happening ‘behind the curtain’ where we don’t see it and observe the process, just the results of the logical thinking.)

        As for dreams revealing future events… To paraphrase (or at least warp-quote) someone I went to university with, “I wouldn’t know — I’m not a precog.”

        Liked by 2 people

    • Your Earplug Adventures make me smile. I wish I could find more time to linger around in your space and check them out! (I also enjoy your photography.) Thanks for stopping in today 😀 Best of luck with your many projects.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. well in my third novel in my series about my goddess (which is not close to even being published), there is herald that is represented by a tarot card ^_^ I found that linking important characters that have important message to provide like the herald is shown best through tarot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very cool! I’m slowly gaining an understanding of tarot cards thanks to Jenn Moss (I think I’ve pointed you her way before), who does a Tarot Tuesday posting. Which tarot card do you reference in your story?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yap and I have her posts popping up. Not telling. Book 3 is my baby and holds a lot of my talent (she thinks to herself) I’m not sharing which card. I started writing book 3 in high school though I didn’t know that it would be book 3 so it’s complex.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s okay! When it comes to cards, sometime it’s best to hold them and not show them. You aren’t the first writing friend of mine who has had their books grow and split into many. Good luck getting them all reigned in 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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