Jan 6, 2014

Archetypal Awareness - Rivers

This was one of my favorite features of this blog and it got lost in the year of chaos, but thanks to some time well spent organizing my blog posts, this is back and will continue every Monday until at least November. You have no idea how giddy this makes me (knowing this, can you believe I tried to be a pantser?!?). If you missed the previous installments, they can be found under the page at the top called Archetypal Awareness.

Today's archetype is the river. I touched on this a little under the all inclusive water archetype, but it is too significant to leave it just at that mention.


When there is a river in a piece of literature, it is often a metaphor for a character's or a life's journey. It is a version of a road, leading to or away from a place, and this isn't something a person always does willingly. If you think about the force of water, it makes sense how the river can represent a pushing or pulling on a character. This is seen drastically in Huck Finn, in how Huck is trying to get away from something, but the further he goes, the more he is pulled in a different direction. And yes, that movement can happen simultaneously even if the character doesn't recognize it at the moment.

The river is also a passage of time, sometimes growing from stream to creek to river  to sea faster than anticipated.  The passage of time, or progression into life, can also been seen in a character who has to cross a river, such as the Greeks crossing the river Styx or in the movie What Dreams May Come, when the main character crosses in the afterlife. Also, since rivers tend to offer natural boundaries, crossing one generally will have the same implications as going into a forest - once a character has, he/she will learn something, become something that will prevent them from ever going back to the person they were previous to crossing.

If this archetype shows up in earlier or less developed settings, it often also represents livelihood for that society. It is generally the greatest source of income, or at least the means through which an income can be made, which adds to the river representing life, but this time the means for a life. This added implication can heighten the tension surrounding claim on its resources, which lends itself as a location where the fight for good and evil often occur. 




5 comments :

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

All good to know! I always think of it as the passing of time, endless and relenting.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I have missed your archetype blogs. I think I started following you when I came upon one of them.
I definitely used a river in one of my books to force characters to move forward.

Emily R. King said...

Always insightful, Tasha!

Nicole said...

Love the Huck Finn reference! Rivers are a big part of many books.

JeffO said...

Very interesting, Tasha--thanks for sharing!