All About Archetypes: The Hero + Strength

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In this blog series, I’m exploring the link between Jungian archetypes and the major arcana of the tarot deck. To read more about it, check out my introduction article, which provides context for my thoughts, a tiny bit of background on Jungian archetypes and tarot, and information about the first archetype pairing, The Innocent (Jung) and The Fool (tarot.) I have also written about several other archetype pairings: The Sage, The Lovers, and The Ruler. Today, I’ll be examining The Hero archetype and the tarot card Strength.

The Hero and Strength

Of all the Jungian character archetypes, The Hero is perhaps the first one that comes to mind when you’re thinking about a protagonist. The hero is brave, the hero is strong, the hero is resilient. The hero sets out on an impossible, life changing journey and comes back transformed. The hero makes sacrifices and hard choices. The hero is a great choice for a protagonist.

Mirroring the archetype of the hero, the Strength tarot card represents strength (of course), courage, and influence. But the Strength card might look different from what you were expecting. In the classic Rider-Waite deck, Strength is portrayed as an angelic looking individual, flowers in her hair and clad in a white gown, also adorned with flowers. Over her head, an infinity sign hovers like a halo. A lion is at her feet, but she has nothing to fear; she is stroking its head and jaw, and it appears docile and calm.

When Strength appears in a reading, it may indicate that you are (or need to be) leaning on inner resources. Your personal power, determination, and commitment are key in the present situation. You can control the situation without excessive outward force, because you have all the resources you already need inside of you.

If you practice tarot, you may be wondering why I chose to pair the hero with Strength, rather than the Chariot. The Chariot represents outer strength and will, while Strength represents inner strength. This is an important distinction because it serves to humanize our hero archetype. They may be strong physically or magically, but that isn’t what makes them an interesting character. What makes the hero–and all characters–compelling is the contradictions inherent in them. Mastery over themselves and their inner life has to come before they save the world. Just because they are a hero doesn’t mean they aren’t wise, or compassionate, or patient, or calm; in fact, it’s these inner traits that make them a hero, capable of overcoming obstacles and making a difference.

How do I use The Hero archetype and Strength in my writing?

Spend some time with the Strength card. You can pull it out of your own deck or look up a picture of it. Do this even if you’re not a tarot enthusiast; it serves to provide context and depth to the familiar archetype of The Hero. Observe the image and see what thoughts and feelings it brings up in you. Think about how it relates to your hero. Look at Strength’s grace, her beauty, her unwavering calm. There are mountains and rivers in the back; she’s overcome a lot on a long, perilous journey. And she didn’t tame the lion through brute strength; she used compassion and calm to soothe him.

In what way is your main character like the Strength card? In what ways are they different? Who are they when the story begins, and what will they learn that will help them utilize their inner resources to become stronger as the story progresses? Maybe your character is physically strong, or wields powerful magic; in what ways are they soft? Who and what do they care about? What values are they committed to? When it comes time to tame the lion, how do they do it and why?

Molly Stein-Seroussi

Molly Stein-Seroussi


Molly is an author, screenwriter, blogger, and brand manager for New 32 Productions. They are passionate about sharing content that helps filmmakers live a more productive, informed, and well-balanced life. They live in North Carolina with their spouse and way too many dogs.

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