Archetypal paths of four major characters: Bran, Jon, Sansa, and Daenerys
The last episode of the last season of Game of Thrones was released on May 19, but many fans still feel the pain. No matter how many Emmys the season is about to get, most of us can’t forgive the writers for the way it ended. Bran the Sage rules Westeros, Sansa the Fool gets her North crown, Jon the Warrior is disposed behind the Wall, and Daenerys the Mother is dead.
This is also the most logical ending “The Game of Thrones” could get.
Let me explain why.
Armed with the Jungian theory of Archetypes, I’ll analyze the four characters’ arcs, remind you of how they changed throughout the series, and, hopefully, ease the pain you might still suffer from.
What is an archetype, and how can it help?
An Archetype is a universal pattern, or image, a structure in the Collective Subconsciousness. Jung suspected it could be a part of the human genome.
This is an image everyone can understand.
Jung mentioned 12 major archetypes. Each of them represents a set of qualities and have particular functions. The main trait which helps tell one archetype from another is their motivation.
Archetypes signify particular stages in the development of the personality, be it a real human or a fictional character. Well-developed characters go through on archetype to another throughout the story. The more the character changes, the more archetypes it masters.
Characters are bound to change. If they don’t change, there’s no story. When there’re a lot of characters in a book, still, there has to be the main one. The hero. Jessica Brody in “Save the Cat! Writes a Novel” says the hero is the one who changes most. Christopher Vogler in “The Writer’s Journey” agrees with this point.
I agree, too.
Let’s see how many archetypes our four main characters include. The one who beats others will be the main hero. And how does it contribute to the topic — why “GoT” was bound to end the way it did? You’ll soon understand.
Bran the Sage
When Bran first appears in the series, he’s a wide-eyed ten-year-old boy. He sucks in archery but masters climbing. Everyone in his big family loves him. He’s full of life and vigor. He lives in a cruel world, but his father has protected him from it so far. We see Bran as he witnesses violence for the first time. He’s to become a Warrior — but now, he’s just an innocent child.
The Innocent, or the Child, is one of 12 Jungian archetypes which represents a pure, naive, kind soul whose main strength is — yes, their innocence. Cinderella, Dorothy, and Peregrin Took keep the company with Bran in the Innocent League. This is a normal state for a kid or a young person who was raised in a loving family. They’re protected and, overall, happy; therefore, idealistic and naive.
The Innocent or the Child is one of 12 Jungian archetypes which represents a pure, naive, kind soul whose main strength is — yes, their innocence.
Thanks to Jaime Lannister, Bran transfers to his next state pretty fast.
He survived a coma; his father is dead, his family is in danger. He’s not an Innocent anymore, but he’s not an Orphan either. The three-eyed raven in his dreams, his Mentor, makes him start his spiritual journey, which eventually will turn him into a Sage. Bran doesn’t have much time to linger in this border state. His elder brother leaves Winterfell to fight, and he becomes an acting Ruler — a remarkably fast career growth.
Bran did nothing to transfer to this next archetypical state. It just happened to him because of his birthright. No one has considered him as Ned Stark’s heir, so no one taught him to rule. But rule he does.
The main task of the Ruler is to keep the order within his kingdom and bring fertility.
The Ruler is also responsible for prosperity and fertility in the kingdom. If a king is disabled, what kind of fertility can he bring? No wonder Winterfell is soon conquered by loathsome Ramsey Bolton, and Bran and his Innocent brother Rickon have to go on the run.
From a Ruler, Bran becomes a Warrior. The Warrior, or the Hero, has a Goal, a Quest, and a Mentor. Bran’s goal is the tree he sees in his dreams. His Quest is to find the tree in the frozen hell, and his Mentor (and his Goal in a sense) is the Three-Eyed Raven.
The Warrior overcomes obstacles, finds friends (hi, Meera, hi, Jojen) and enemies (Night’s Watch mutineers), and survives the final trial which is usually accompanied by death (bye, Jojen). The fulfilling of his Quest transfers the Warrior in the new state. Bran becomes a Sage — the archetype which he won’t ever leave. Dumbledore is a Sage. The Sage’s goal is to get wisdom and to share it with others. The burden of wisdom is so heavy that Sages usually don’t raise to action. They give advice, speak clever words, interfere when no one else would, but in the physical world, they do nothing.
That’s why Bran’s lack of action in Season 8 is justified. Sages don’t act. Saving the world is a task for the Warrior (hi Jon!). Sages watch and learn.
Bran’s lack of action in Season 8 is justified. He’s a Sage, and Sages don’t act. Saving the world is a task for the Warrior (hi Jon!). Sages watch and learn.
Bran becomes a new king of Westeros, but it doesn’t make him the Ruler. He doesn’t rule. He doesn’t order or bring fertility. The Small Council plays the role of the Ruler. Bran watches. He’s still a Sage, he will stay like this forever.
Innocent -> Ruler -> Warrior -> Sage
4 archetypes are better than one (hi Cinderella) but, sincerely, don’t impress me much. Let’s have a look at other characters. Maybe they can boast of more?
Sansa the Fool
Like Bran and other Stark kids, at the beginning of the show, Sansa is an Innocent. And, unfortunately, she remains the Innocent for long. Longer than one might suppose.
In the first season, Sansa changes her archetype only once, and this one is for the Lover.
Lovers are motivated by love. When Sansa chooses Joffrey over Arya (the conflict which leads to the death of her beloved Lady direwolf), she acts as a Lover (like Romeo and Juliette, Luna Lovegood, Marianne Dashwood, and many others). When Sansa sees the true face of her love interest, she returns to her Innocent state. She believes people; her heart is open to lies of anyone who seems good to her. Her affairs with Cercei, Tyrrells, Dontos Hollard, and later Petyr Baelish prove the point.
Sansa exits the Innocent archetype after she marries Ramsay Bolton. The showrunners needed as powerful a tool to break her faith. Sansa becomes an Orphan.
The Orphan represents someone who had lost the naive beliefs of sweet childhood. They’re very pragmatic, cynical, hard-heartened. No one can protect them. They have to rely on themselves. Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker had been Orphans before they become Warriors, but Sansa is never a Warrior. That’s not a path for a lady. After all, her Mentor is Littlefinger.
Sansa never becomes a Hero. That’s not a path for a lady. After all, her Mentor is Littlefinger.
When the stakes are raised, Sansa becomes not a Warrior but a Fool.
The Fool, or the Jester, is one of my favorite archetypes. Loki, Odyssey, Joker, and, obviously, Petyr himself are Jesters. Unscrupulous and witty, they use any measures to achieve their goals. Sansa’s Goal was always a crown.
As a Jester, Sansa defeats the last obstacle in her way — Daenerys Targaryen — and becomes a Ruler.
Hail to the Queen of the North!
Innocent -> Lover -> Innocent -> Orphan -> Jester -> Queen
That counts five. Great job, Sansa!
Jon the Warrior
All Stark kids start as Innocents, but Jon is not a Stark. He’s Snow; he’s a bastard, an outcast. An Orphan.
Jon is the story’s underdog, underappreciated, lonely, full of passion. He leaves Winterfell to join the Night Watch because this is his only way to prove his worth. And he does want to prove his worth. That’s what all Orphans wish to do — to prove they deserve love, to prove they’re fantastic, to find the place where they belong.
Jon takes the Night Watch oath and is soon transformed into a Warrior. The Lord Commander Jeor Mormont and the ranger Qhorin Halfhand teach him on his way, and his Quest is defeating Mance Rayder, the wildlings’ King-Beyond-the-Wall.
As a Warrior, Jon overcomes obstacles, meet friends and enemies, and finds his first love. His affair with Ygritte doesn’t make him a Lover, though. Jon Snow is never motivated by love. If he were, the series ending would be different.
Jon Snow is never motivated by love. If he were, the series ending would be different.
As Jon returns to the Night Watch with the wildling horde, he becomes a Lord Commander of the Night Watch, but not a successful one. His own comrades kill him, proving that he’s no Ruler. Jon Snow is Warrior, a traditional, old-school, St. George-ish Warrior. He only can slay dragons.
Raised from the dead, Jon returns to his Warrior archetype. He defeats Ramsay Bolton. Do you remember this moment when he, a sword in his hand, faces all Bolton’s army all alone? This is what true Warriors do. And this is how they usually die if they don’t have a Jester as an ally.
Jon Snow is Warrior, a traditional, old-school, St. George-ish Warrior. He only can slay dragons.
After that, Jon plays the role of the King of the North, but it doesn’t make him a Ruler. Sansa rules Winterfell while Jon saves the world. His Quest now is defeating the Night Walkers, and he uses all he can to achieve the Goal. History repeats itself. Jon overcomes obstacles, meets friends and enemies, and finds his second love. He stays in the Warrior archetype, never turning into a Lover.
If he were a Lover, Jon would choose Daenerys over everything else, and all these people in King’s Landing wouldn’t die.
Jon is stuck in his Warrior archetype, so he chooses duty and does what the Warrior is supposed to do: slays the dragon.
His mission accomplished, there’s nothing to do in life, no more worlds to save or enemies to defeat. Jon is disposed behind the Wall like trash we throw into space. His Warrior path is complete, and Jon becomes an Explorer.
Orphan -> Warrior -> Ruler -> Warrior -> Explorer
That’s why Jon is not the main character of “The Game of Thrones.” When there’re multiple major characters, the true hero is the one who changes most. Sansa beats Jon. Everyone beats Jon but Bran.
Daenerys the Mother
Daenerys’s childhood was not as sweet and peaceful as that of Stark kids, but, like them, she managed to remain pure and naive. She starts her way as an Innocent, suppressed entirely by her eccentric brother Viserys (a Shadow King).
Daenerys becomes a Khaleesi, Khal Drogo’s spouse. At first, her marriage is a mess, but when love becomes Dany’s primary motivation, it improves significantly, and Daenerys becomes a Lover. Love for her spouse, her tribe, and her yet-to-be-born son guides her on her way to that funeral pyre which turns her into a Magician.
Now, the Magician is something I haven’t mentioned before. This is a person with knowledge or power superior to all the others. They’re charismatic leaders, visionaries, catalysts. They harness the magic to reach their goals and often use supernatural knowledge or resources (hi dragons!) Gandalf, Tony Stark, Nikola Tesla, and Yoda are Magicians.
Dany is 100% Magician, but Drogo’s death turns her into an Orphan as well. She wants to find her place in the world and to prove her worth. On her way from one slavery city to another, she also becomes a Caregiver — a person who’s moved by compassion. The Caregiver is moved by a genuine desire to help others through generosity or dedicated assistance. Lily Potter, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Martin (“Finding Nemo”) are three great examples of this archetype. Its other title is the Mother.
The Caregiver, or the Mother, is moved by a genuine desire to help others through generosity or dedicated assistance.
Dany stays in this archetype for long. Even in Mereen, when she becomes the Queen which creates a new order by giving orders, we see this is not her right path. Dany is as successful a Ruler as Jon. After ruling for a few months, Daenerys leaves the Essos for Westeros. She’s now a Warrior on her Quest on fulfilling her destiny, with Tyrion Lannister, Missandei, and other Mentors.
She overcomes obstacles, meets friends (Olenna Tyrell and Ellaria Sand) and enemies (Lannisters) and even finds her love.
That’s her turning point.
For Dany transfers from a Warrior to a Lover again. Love becomes her driving force when she decides to go to the North and to help Jon’s people out.
Love becomes Dany’s driving force when she decides to go to the North and to help Jon’s people out.
She’s doing it not as a Warrior to fulfill her destiny, not as a Caregiver to protect innocents, not as a Queen to gain more power, but as a Lover.
And this marks her decline.
If she did that from her other archetypes, she might have succeeded, but Jon becomes emotionally distant when he discovers his true parentship. Daenerys heart is broken. As a Lover, she’s crushed.
The Northern people don’t want to accept her help, they don’t want and need her anymore; her Caregiver/Mother path ends as well.
Two out of three dragons are dead. That’s a heavy blow on Daenerys’ Magician part.
She’s deprived of her mentors; her goal seems farther than ever. Her Warrior side is in danger.
Her inner Orphan hoped she’d find her home, her place of belonging, in Westeros, but it happened neither in DragonStone, not in Winterfell. The Orphan has a hard time too.
Dany doesn’t have a kingdom to rule and to bring order to, so she’s not a Queen.
That wakes up her Shadow.
In Jungian psychology, the Shadow is not an Archetype, but a subtype of each archetype. A dark part; the other side of the coin.
By the end of the series, Daenerys united five archetypes: Lover, Caregiver, Warrior, Magician, Orphan.
The Shadow Caregiver is a tyrannical, over-protective, bossy mother who thinks everyone is inferior to her and doesn’t think about her children’s feelings (consider evil stepmothers in Disney fairy tales, Gothel in Rapunzel). She knows better.
When Dany burns King’s Landing, she acts as a Shadow Mother, a Shadow Caregiver.
When Dany burns King’s Landing, she acts as a Shadow Mother, a Shadow Caregiver. She wants to bring people a new world, a better future, no matter what they think about it. “I’ll care for you no matter what. I know what’s better for you.” — That’s a common thinking process for an abusive mother. Add a dragon, and you get what you get.
By the end of the series, Daenerys united six archetypes: Lover, Caregiver, Warrior, Magician, Queen, Orphan. Four of them became Shadows.
The Shadow Warrior is someone who will put everything on stake. They don’t consider the consequences. They are selfish, consider themselves superior to everyone, and follow no one’s advice.
The Shadow Orphan is demanding and narcissistic and is stuck in victimization.
The Lover in Daenerys didn’t turn into the Shadow as we witnessed right before her death.
Innocent -> Lover -> Magician -> Orphan -> Caregiver -> Queen -> Warrior -> Lover
This counts seven. Beats Jon. Beats Bran. Beats Sansa.
With so many changes in her personality and such a long way, there can be no doubt that Daenerys Targaryen is the true heroine of Game of Thrones. And this is the answer to why she had to die.
Because this is Game of Thrones.
Daenerys’ downfall is the third unexpected, weird, specific plot turns which we the fans had to survive.
Daenerys’ downfall is the third unexpected, weird, specific plot turns which we the fans had to survive.
Ned Stark’s death was the first one. Who could expect that Joffrey would kill him? No one! Who stopped watching series after Ned died? Many!
Others exhaled and said, “Okay, let’s see how it goes now.” Our sympathies were drawn to another noble, smart, charismatic leader — Robb Stark.
Guess what happened.
The Red Wedding became a new shock who those who survived Ned’s death. Many people couldn’t watch the series after it happened.
Other said: “Okay, it can’t be worse now. I know the main characters die like flies. You can’t shock me now.”
Simply killing Daenerys wasn’t enough. It couldn’t surprise fans. The writers needed something stronger.
Simply killing the main character wasn’t enough.
Not only they killed Daenerys, but they corrupted, turned into a villain, and then assassinated the most motivational, favorite, strong character of the series.
That was their only possible way to shock fans.
I survived Ned’s death and the Red Wedding, but if I could stop watching after Dany’s fall, I would.
I couldn’t. There’s nothing left to watch.
If these series were destined to have a happy ending, Jon would choose Love over Duty and his Targaryen side over his Stark side and they would rule together.
“Game of Thrones” had to end with an epic shock for all fans to beat the effect of Ned’s death and the Red Wedding. That was a challenge, after everything we got through. But the writers found the solution.
To achieve it, they corrupted and killed the show’s true heroine. And this is an epic shock. This is precisely why it still hurts. This is also why it’s logical.
They corrupted and killed the show’s true heroine.
Now you understand.