What is a Maiden Archetype?
Although a maiden is also considered a damsel in distress type of archetype, sometimes the situation could be different. A maiden archetype could be a simple and innocent female character, but situations in which she finds herself could be highly different from that of a damsel in distress. It is, however, interesting to note that such archetypes have deep affiliations with the hero, storyline, and conflict.
Types of Maiden Archetype Characters
A maiden archetype has several types. She could be a submissive character or a passive character, or even a shadow maiden archetype. She could become aggressive when she passes her maiden age and turns into a vixen archetype, but that turns out to be a different character. Therefore, she has mostly three major types of archetype characters which are the maiden archetype, submissive or passive maiden archetype, and shadow maiden archetype.
Characteristics of Maiden Archetype Characters
As the maiden archetype is significant with reference to conflict creation in the storyline, she is usually a round character with desires and motivations. However, these character traits vary from one person to another person. Some of the common attributes of maiden archetype characters are as follows.
- She is a youthful person.
- She is usually innocent, helpless, and powerless.
- She is usually in the captivity of some evil force (demon, wizard, witch).
- She has highly feminine features.
- She represents inherent goodness in her characters.
Weaknesses of Maiden Archetype Characters
Although a maiden archetype stays innocent, sleepy, helpless, and powerless until she is in captivity, she turns into a different character when she is freed. In some cases, her inner fears become too powerful for her to control, and she becomes rather cruel and in some cases turns into a vixen. This sudden surge of power turns her into a cruel character and a different archetype having most of the negative traits such as oppressive, cruel, teasing, torturing, and even quite contradictory to all this. In that case, she develops more positive qualities but, in most cases, she turns into a vixen type of archetype.
Maiden Archetype Character Examples from Literature
Ophelia in Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Ophelia is the beloved of Prince Hamlet, written by William Shakespeare, and is a good example of a maiden archetype character. She appears not only innocent but also pure to the core of her heart. Her love for Hamlet also seems selfless and pure, but when it dawns upon Hamlet that she might be a pawn in the big game, he teases and hurts her deeply, causing her to commit suicide in desperation. Although she is not in captivity, she is still a good maiden archetype example.
Snow White from Grimms’ Fairy Tales by The Brothers Grimm
Snow White is a maiden appearing in the tale of the same title in the book Grimms Fairy Tales. Although she suffers at the hands of the second queen who tortures her, she ultimately wins her freedom in the forest when the huntsmen hired by the queen fail to kill her. She goes through several twists and turns during her ordeal in the forest, including meeting the group of dwarfs, but ultimately comes out victorious. Although she does not go through captivity, her horrendous tale is a good example of a damsel in distress and a good maiden archetype character example.
Tess in Tess of d’Urberville by Thomas Hardy
Although Tess seems a modern heroine of a novel in the Victorian period, she is a good example of a maiden archetype on account of her purity of body and thoughts. She is hellbent on saving her family from poverty looming large on their door but is not only raped by her own supposed relatives but also abandoned by her passionate lover, Angel Clare. Her suffering, her whole life as a good girl, and her hard work on different farms show that she has her family of little brothers and sisters in mind. This modern financial captivity puts her in the category of maiden archetype characters.
Zellandine in Perceforest by Anonymous
Published in 1340 in French, Perceforest, a tale written by an anonymous writer, presents Zellandine, a princess, who goes into an enchanted sleep after she falls in love with Troylus. Her cruel father assigns different tasks to Troylus to win Zellandine, but he rapes her and later returns to marry her after having a child from her. Although she is not in captivity and the tale ends on a happy note, she is still a good example of a maiden archetype character as she proves her innocence through her true love and the ordeal of enchanted sleep.