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Archetypes within The Princess Bride

William Goldman effectively incorporates numerous archetypes within his novel to further entice the reader into the plot. Goldman practices three archetypes in particular: numbers, colors, and the wise older man. The numbers three and six are used as symbols of power and evil, respectively. Moreover, the color black is used to show mystery, and the wise older man is sought after when the protagonist is disheartened and lost his way. The few, most important characters within the novel possess these strong archetypes. By incorporating these archetypes, Goldman creates more complex characters that compliment a familiar yet ever-twisting plot.

The number three is a symbol of power that has a resounding influence on the novel. Together, the three characters, Fezzik, Inigo, and Vizzini, are unstoppable forces. Each character possesses a unique skill that compliments the other. Without one of these integral elements, power is lost. Upon Vezzini’s death, this triumphant loses all its influence and power. It is not until a new third member, Westly joins that the trio regains their respect and power. The duo of Fezzik and Inigo is lacklustre and insufficient without a third member. However, with the aid of a third person, the group can defeat Count Rugen, Yellin, and Prince Humperdink. This evil trio is yet another exemplary example of power within the number three. This archetype symbolizes power, and such power is evident when three skilled fighters join forces.

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Yet another number that plays a significant role in Goldman’s novel is the number six. Six is the archetypal symbol of evil. This evil is very apparent in the six-fingered man, Count Rugen. His six fingers are a physical representation of the pure evil that lives in his body. The evil number six has left a physical mark on the Count, but more importantly, dictates his actions. Count Ruben is such a malevolent man that he even takes personal pleasure in torturing others. The man studies and practices torture like an art form. Rugen’s evil is further exemplified when he killed Domingo Montoya merely to attain a sword he desired. Count Rugen’s six fingers define him physically, and his evil actions define him as a person. Thus, the number six represents evil and seems to swim in the blood of the Count.

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Black is the archetypal symbol of mystery, and this is evident throughout The Princess Bride. For a large part of the novel, the protagonist is a mysterious masked man in black robes. Although, however, the identity of the Man in Black is later revealed in the novel as Westley; for a large part of the book, he can only be recognized by the black robes he wears. Buttercup later comes to realize that her masked hero is, in fact, her long-lost love; however, his identity had once been hidden through his black attire. Black is the color of mystery, the Man in Black is the man of mystery. Westley’s black robes are the physical representation of his mysterious nature. Black within Goldman’s writing, therefore, is an archetype symbolizing mystery.

The wise older man is a recurring archetype incorporated in many great novels; The Princess Bride is no different. Magical Max is the wise old man figure within Goldman’s book. Although not your usual peaceful, wise old man, Magical Max still exercises the characteristics typical of the position. Max has the initiative to realize Westley is not completely dead but only partially. Using his profound wisdom, Magical Max finds the cure to bring the protagonist back to life. After his rebirth, Westley is even more driven and manages to succeed in rescuing Buttercup. Thanks to the wise older man’s aid, our hero can continue his journey and save the day. Like otherwise older men, Magical Max is seen as a great mentor and lives to help others pursue their goals. Without his limitless knowledge, the plot could not continue.

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This archetype is a very familiar sight within fiction and plays an immense role within the novel’s storyline. Although archetypes are simple, they offer an extra depth to the characters and the plot. They give simple details such as two numbers and a color more meaning. Through the effective use of archetypes, the reader can delve into exciting and new fiction yet reminiscently familiar. In addition, recognizable characters such as the wise older man give structure and consistency to new entertaining plot twists. Altogether, Goldman effectively uses archetypes to stimulate the readers’ interests and keep them turning pages.

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Archetypes within The Princess Bride. (2021, Aug 29). Retrieved December 1, 2022, from