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Tuesday: June 7, 2011





Following last week's Blog - a discussion on Morality through Narrative - what can be said about the Spirit of the Age for the time that such

tales were contemporary? 


With such strong themes of the feminine belonging to the indoor realms pertaining to domestic servitude

and nurturance of others, and the masculine domain of outdoor adventure and the heroic protection of females,

it will be of little surprise that those were mirrors of the then-prevailing reality.


Those themes were not just a guide for moral behaviour but were also meant to be a source of comfort.










On the right, we show a depiction of the heroic exploits of the legendary

Russian bogatyr, Dobrynia Nikitich - reputed to be a Dragonslayer - in

"Dobrynia Nikitich frees Zabava Putiatichna from Gorynych the Dragon"

by Ivan Bilibin.


Ivan Bilibin - ''Dobrynia Nikitich frees Zabava Putiatichna from Gorynych the Dragon


Belonging is one of the basic human needs - coming just after physiological and safety needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs - without which

there is no foundation on which to build those higher order needs of self-esteem and self-actualisation. The best way to belong to a group is

to act like the group and as such, those stories formed a collective understanding of what is required of good boys and girls, thereby taking

out the guesswork of what constitutes success for each.


What a relief! (Except, that is, for those poor individuals who did not resonate with these themes. Such 'misfits' became outcasts or

masqueraders in a society with gender roles so clearly defined. As such, self-esteem and self-actualisation was not an easily achieved need,

but that’s another story…) 


The value of shared understandings of group norms continues to be relevant to social functioning in modern times - one such example is

marital satisfaction, which is found to be significantly higher in traditional marriages, structured around clearly defined gender roles as

outlined above, than in modern, non-traditional marriages due in part to the ill-defined role expectations for husbands and wives. Such

findings are consistent with a range of relevant Social Psychology theories - after all how does one belong to the group (in the example just

mentioned, the married couple) when one does not know what is expected of the group members (as may be the case in non-traditional



For the most part, our grandparents and great-grandparents were borne out of morally directive tales where girls and boys, and women

and men knew their place. Those constructs of mind, however, are somewhat malleable. Through a multitude of forces our morality and

sensibilities have progressively evolved through the demands of changing times - which may include war, natural disaster and economic

depression - and through the active influence of those previously mentioned outcasts - which may be consolidated within social movements,

such as the Suffragettes or Emancipationists.


It is clear then that the stories upon which we are nurtured both reflect and direct our social identity, forging a shared morality and defining

normative behaviours.  As such, clear cultural demarcations can be drawn based upon these differing emergent identities both within and

between social groups such as the upper-class -v- the working-class or Russians -v- Venezuelans, respectively.  However, there is a dynamic

which underpins this process and transcends borders of time and space: archetypes.


Carl Gustav Jung, the founder of Analytical Psychology states, "The archetype is a tendency to form such representations of a motif -

representations that can vary a great deal in detail without losing their basic pattern ... They are indeed an instinctive 'trend'". 


Kay Nielsen - ''Shadows of the Night''


Archetypes are then believed to be an innate aspect of our collective unconscious whereby we are all born,

not as blank slates to be filled up by our environment, but as being already imprinted upon with a template of

basic concepts.  While the number of archetypes is innumerable, Jung outlined five main archetypes:



the Self - the regulating centre of the psyche and facilitator of individuation;


the Shadow - the opposite of the Ego image, often containing qualities with which the

Ego does not identify, but which it possesses nonetheless;


the Anima - the feminine image of a man's psyche; or;


the Animus - the masculine image in a woman's psyche; and


the Persona - how we present to the world, which - acting like a mask - usually protects

the Ego from negative images.






To the left, we show "Shadows of the Night"

by Kay Nielsen.

It is through this framework that our stories are told and our shared understanding of being is shaped - and it is for this reason that our stories

follow a regular rhythm and form irrespective of when and how the story is told.  Indeed, 'story' is itself an archetype which evokes a shared

expectation of what is to follow including a distinct beginning, middle and end, a protagonist and an antagonist. If a story violates this pattern

it is at risk of being rejected and thereby will not propagate itself in the hearts and minds of the people, consequently fading into non-existence.


In our next Blog, we will explore the manner by which archetypes are applied in the popular stories within the Spirit of the Ages Collection and

draw upon their modern day corollaries to demonstrate the stable and changeable elements of the archetypal themes.



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Blog Archive


• Saturday, 30 July, 2011

• A Brief History of the Illustrated Book


• Friday, 22 July, 2011

• Masculinity and Femininity (Part 2)


• Saturday, 16 July, 2011

• Masculinity and Femininity (Part 1)


• Monday, 27 June, 2011

• Heroes (Part 3)


• Friday, 20 June, 2011

• Heroes (Part 2)


• Tuesday, 14 June, 2011

• Heroes (Part I)


• Friday, 27 May, 2011

• Morality through Narrative


• Monday, 16 May, 2011

• "The Sea Battle" by Arthur Rackham

• and comparisons between Buccheim's

• variant and the description of Thor's

• battle with the Midgard Serpent in

• the original from the "Norse Edda of

• Snorri Sturluson"


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Last modified: 11/22/11