Archetypal Character Arcs, Pt. 11: The Queen’s Shadow Archetypes

A character who makes it through the Hero Arc is a character who has graduated into a brave new world—the Second Act of the life cycle of archetypal character arcs. This section of life, which deals with questions of relationship and power, begins with the first of the “mature” arcs—that of the Queen. But like all positive archetypes, the Queen’s potential for further transformation is “shadowed” by the possibility of her slipping instead into either of two counter-archetypes—the Snow Queen and the Sorceress. The Snow Queen represents the passive polarity within the Queen’s shadow; the Sorceress represents the aggressive polarity.

As with all of the positive archetypes, the Queen’s journey is characterized not just by the external antagonists she faces in bringing order to her Kingdom, but just as much by her personal inner struggle against the lure of her own shadow archetypes.

Instead of rising up to protect her family (whether literal or symbolic), she may “freeze” into the selfish and numb passivity of the Snow Queen—someone who cannot muster the courage and strength to protect those she loves, largely because she has not properly learned the lessons of the First Act in gaining the ability to protect and care for herself.

It is also possible the Queen may instead succumb to the alluring but false power of her aggressive form—the Sorceress. In so doing, she forfeits her true responsibility to become a selfless leader of those she loves, instead even vampirically manipulating those in her charge in order to meet her own needs.

By the time we reach the archetypal character arcs of the Second Act, we often start seeing some familiar faces from the previous arcs showing up in supporting roles. Here, it’s the Maiden and the Hero. And not surprisingly, the negative forms of the Queen (and all later archetypes) are almost inevitably the villains in the younger arcs. The Snow Queen and (particularly) the Sorceress most frequently turn up in the Maiden Arc—symbolically representing the Too-Good Mother or Devouring Mother or Evil Step-Mother from which the young person must individuate. In delineating “villainous” Queens, Gail Carringer makes special note, in her book The Heroine’s Journey, about the Queen archetype’s inherent relationship to “network-building”:

If she builds networks, only to sever them at the tiniest hint of betrayal, she’s a great villain. If she sees her power in ruling over others and telling them what to do, or manipulating them into it, rather than asking them because she understands their strengths and delegates accordingly—she’s a villain.

These negative counter-archetypes stand in stark contrast to the nurturing and growth-encouraging potential of a true Queen—who overcomes her own insecurities in order to foster the growth arcs of her young wards. Part of the Queen’s struggle is simply to understand the negative potential within her own arc, by recognizing the signs of the Snow Queen and Sorceress. In The Hero Within, Carol S. Pearson notes:

Understanding archetypes and their positive manifestations operates as a kind of psychological inoculation against their sides (which are often called shadow sides); by being exposed to archetypes and becoming aware of how they operate in us, we can learn to balance, and sometimes even supplant, their more negative aspects. Anything we repress, including archetypes, forms a shadow that can possess us in its negative or even demonic form. Freedom comes with consciousness.

Once again with our series-wide reminder: The arcs and their related archetypes are alternately characterized as feminine and masculine. This is primarily indicating the ebb and flow between integration and individuation, among other qualities. Together all six primary life arcs create a progression that can be found in any human life (provided we complete our early arcs in order to reach the later arcs with a proper foundation). In short, although I will use feminine pronouns in relation to the feminine arcs and masculine pronouns in relation to the masculine arcs, archetypal representations within these journeys can be of any gender.

The Snow Queen: A Passive Refusal to Fight for What She Loves

The Snow Queen is one of the saddest archetypes. She is still relatively young, still in the first half of her life. But life itself seems to already have left her. She moves through life as if through a fog. Caroline Myss, in Sacred Contracts, notes that the Snow Queen is not the only one who suffers as a result:

The Ice Queen rules with a cold indifference to the genuine needs of others—whether material or emotional.

The chronology of her life has inevitably pushed her along life’s path to some practical degree. She’s not a Damsel any longer, living with her parents. She has perhaps even sketched what looks, on the outside, to be a Hero Arc. The difference here between someone who has truly completed the Hero Arc by individuating into a mature adult versus someone who is “only acting the part” may be largely internal. Usually, it has to do almost entirely with whether or not the character took the true Quest her heart called her to take—or whether she simply took the passive road—the Coward‘s road—by sleepwalking down the path laid out before her by others. Or as Clarissa Pinkola Estés says in Women Who Run With the Wolves:

Some women … give up their life’s dream [and] surrender their true calling in order to lead what they hope will be a more acceptable, fulfilling, and more sanitary life.

She is now at the stage of her life when she expected to be “grown up.” As an adult, she is responsible to other people and specifically to the younger people who are rising up behind her. But she not only has little to give, since she has not properly completed her own initiations, but in her heart of hearts she is still that fair Damsel desiring to be taken care of.

As with all the passive polarities, she is governed by Fear. What she is most afraid of is Love. However much she may crave it, she can never let it fully in because it demands too much—too much maturity, too much responsibility, too much reality.

And so when the threat comes to her Kingdom and her family, she is unequipped to rise to its challenges. At best, she categorizes herself with her children, begging that she too should be saved and taken care of by someone else. At worst, she simply lets the Invaders steal away her children in the hope that at least she might be left in peace.

The Snow Queen’s Potential Arcs: Positive and Negative

The Snow (or Ice) Queen of fairy and folk tale is often portrayed as a beautiful woman living alone in a palace of ice—who must be rescued (often by children or a young Hero) who warm her frozen heart with the revelation of Love. Estés speaks of forgiveness:

Forgiveness…. does not mean giving up one’s protection, but one’s coldness. One deep form of forgiveness is to cease excluding the other, which includes ceasing to stiff-arm, ignore, act coldly toward, patronizing and phony. It is better for the soul-psyche to closely limit time with people who are difficult for you than to act like an unfeeling manikin.

Creating Character Arcs (Amazon affiliate link)

Right there, we can see the deep and beautiful potential within the Snow Queen for a positive arc into a true Queen. The lesson she missed in failing to complete the previous Hero Arc was, in a word, Love. Before she can go on to claim the ruling principle of the true Queen—i.e., Order—she must first be thawed by that Love.

As indicated in the old tales, she may be saved from herself by her own children, who she then will save from the larger threats against the Kingdom. Or she may be saved by the Love of a questing Hero who, within his own arc, submits his power to her as the thing in his life he is finally willing to fight and die for.

But, of course, the Snow Queen may also remain inured within her passivity, and her story may spiral into deep tragedy as her children, or whoever she is responsible for, are plunged into their own tragedies (or at least difficulties) through her lack of responsibility. Whether through the depredations of Invaders or because her family grows up enough to “move on,” the end of her story will find her all alone.

Worse still, she may summon the energy to rise out of her passivity only to hurtle into the full-on destructive manipulation of her aggressive polarity—the Sorceress.

The Sorceress: An Aggressive Refusal to Do What Is Best for What She Loves

In the Snow Queen, we find the shadow archetype of someone who, even in mid-life, has not yet found a true and nourishing flow of Love. We see this same core problem in the Sorceress, but unlike her passive partner, the Sorceress is at least trying to take control of her situation and get her needs met—however misguidedly.

In the article “How Not to Fall in Love with the Anima/Animus,” Sinéad Donohoe makes an interesting note that can be seen to apply to this particular shadow archetype:

As she appears in myth, the temptress is the damsel whose cries for rescue went unheeded, and who has been allowed to perish.

The Sorceress is the Vixen who wasn’t given the support and resources she needed to healthily individuate from her birth family, just as she is also the Bully who used whatever power was available to meet personal needs. Now, in the Second Act of her life cycle, she finally has some freedom from and power over others. But because of her fundamental feeling of lack and her distrust of true Love, she uses any and all means at her disposal to meet her needs by securing resources from others. By this point, many of the people she manipulates are those who are more vulnerable than she is and for whom she herself is now responsible in some way.

In reference to the shadow form of what she calls “the Altruist,” Pearson offers some examples of how this Sorceress energy can manifest in recognizable modern situations:

[People in the shadow form of] the Altruist … will be unable—no matter how hard they work at it—to sacrifice truly out of love and care for others, and their sacrifice will not be transformative. If they sacrifice for their children, the children must then pay and pay and pay—by being appropriately grateful, by living the life the parents wish they had lived, in short, by sacrificing their own lives in return. It is this pseudo-sacrifice, which really is a form of manipulation, that has given sacrifice a bad name.

Virtually everyone these days seems to understand how manipulative the sacrificing mother can be, but another, equally pernicious version is the man who works at a job he hates, says he does it for his wife and children, and then makes them pay by deferring to him, protecting him from criticism or anger, and making him feel safe and secure in his castle. Such a man nearly always requires his wife to sacrifice her own journey in his drama of martyrdom. In these two cases and in others, the underlying message is: “I’ve sacrificed for you, so don’t leave me; stay with me, feed my illusions, help me feel safe and secure.

However unconsciously, the Sorceress preys upon her dependents while they are young and then tries to trap them in a perpetual dependence on her by preventing them from taking their own individuating arcs of Maiden and Hero.

The Sorceress’s Potential Arcs: Positive and Negative

The deeper a character gets into the life arcs’ shadow archetypes, the harder it can be to pull free. But redemption is always possible (although it can mean reverting to previous positive arcs that were never properly completed).

Like all the aggressive polarities, the Sorceress’s deep pit of problems offers the opportunity for huge positive arcs. If she can somehow find the courage to recognize, acknowledge, and address her own deeply entrenched negative patterns, she may yet find the strength to rise into the true Queen Arc of responsible leadership. This can be the powerful midlife story of someone who has followed the company line all her life, to her own detriment, only to realize she’s living someone else’s life. She chucks it all out the window and finally takes off on the Hero’s Quest she should have taken many years ago.

But she may also fail to break her own destructive patterns. She may remain a Sorceress—an antagonist to other people’s own growth arcs—or she may devolve further into a full-blown despot. By “upping” her power from mere manipulation to full-on oppression, she can take a shadow version of the Queen Arc and end up, not a responsible and loving King, but a hideous and death-dealing Tyrant.

Key Points of the Queen’s Shadow Archetypes

For easy reference and comparison, I will be sharing some scannable summations of each arc’s key points:

Passive Shadow Archetype: Snow Queen is Defensive (to protect from consequences of Love)

Aggressive Shadow Archetype: Sorceress is Manipulative/Vampiric (aggressive use of Love)

Positive Queen Arc: Protector to Leader (moves from Domestic World to Monarchic World)

Queen’s Story: A Battle.

Queen’s Symbolic Setting: Kingdom

Queens Lie vs. Truth: Control vs. Leadership

“Only my loving control can protect those I love.” versus “Only wise leadership and trust in those I love can protect them and allow us all to grow.”

Queens Initial Motto: “We, the True Believers.”

Queen’s Archetypal Antagonist: Invader

Queens Relationship to Own Negative Shadow Archetypes:

Either Snow Queen finally acts in Love for her children by accepting Responsibility.

Or Sorceress learns to submit her selfish Love to the greater love of Responsibility.

Examples of Snow Queen and Sorceress Archetypes

Examples of the Snow Queen and Sorceress archetypes include the following. Click on the links for structural analyses.

Snow Queen

  • Lady Dedlock in Bleak House
  • Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey (she also displays Bully qualities, as noted last week, but she exhibits more of the Snow Queen as she gets older)
  • Jon Snow in Game of Thrones (he eventually overcomes his Snow Queen tendencies to become a true leader)
  • Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice
  • Claire Richards in White Oleander
  • Queen Anne in The Favourite
  • Elsa in Frozen

Frozen (2013), Walt Disney Pictures; Bleak House (2005), BBC Television; A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Warner Bros; Downton Abbey (2010-15), ITV; White Oleander (2002), Warner Bros; The Favourite (2018), Fox Searchlight Pictures.


Pride & Prejudice (2005), Focus Features; Game of Thrones (2011-19), HBO; Gone With the Wind (1939), produced by MGM; Emma (2009), BBC One; Mommie Dearest (1981), Paramount Pictures; Ever After (1998), 20th Century Fox.

Stay Tuned: Next week, we will study the shadow archetypes of the King: the Puppet and the Tyrant.

Related Posts:

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Can you think of any further examples of stories that feature either the Snow Queen or the Sorceress? Tell me in the comments!

Go on the journey with your characters! Check out the Archetypal Character Guided Meditations.

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Mmmmm… great stuff. Is Lady Catherine de Bourg (Pride and Prejudice) a Sorceress?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I see her more as a Tyrant (the aggressive polarity of the subsequent King Arc). She may have been a Sorceress earlier in her life, before her husband died (or not), but now that she holds the literal power in the family, she is essentially a shadow version of the Ruler.

  2. I think an MC’s mother in my latest series might be a Snow Queen. She’s a literal queen trapped in a loveless marriage who allows her children to be browbeaten—and in the case of the MC—physically abused by their father. I’ve actually described her as “cold” and “remote.” In the last book, she evolves, but I’m not sure it’s to a Queen archetype, but more of a Healer. Does this sound right?

  3. M.R. Spann says

    I think you’re spot-on about Lady Dedlock. I was envisioning her while I read this article, and then she was the first Snow Queen you mentioned.

    What do you think Tulkinghorn is?

    Also, I have a male character that I believe is a Sorcer[er], but I’m unsure. He is very manipulative, but also has a towering temper. So he flip-flops between cunning and uncontrolled rage. He has certainly the false sacrifice mentality, except toward God, thinking he deserves to prosper. But he doesn’t feel “blessed,” so he manipulates others and/or is controlled by fury. Soon enough, it culminates in a dramatic hired murder to frame the man he’s jealous of. Afterward, he slowly descends into madness. What do you think he is?

    Thanks! Great article btw.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I used Tulkinghorn as an example of the Sorcerer in a future post. That may be stretching it a bit, but I wanted an example of a more “realistic” Sorcerer as he might show up in real life, versus in an apocalyptic fantasy story. I think it works, although arguments could be made that he represents “younger” shadow archetypes. However within his sphere of power, he is clearly on top.

      Your character could also be a Sorcerer. He could also be a Witch—the aggressive polarity of the Crone. If he feels out of control and resentful about it, he’s probably a Witch. If he feels like he *is* in control and can do whatever he wants, he’s probably a Sorcerer.

  4. Something I noticed about the list of Snow Queens you gave: they tend to have have names that *sound* like a Snow Queen.

    Lady Dedlock — passive characters are often “locked in” by their passivity.
    Jon Snow — Snow the Snow Queen
    Blanche DuBois — Blanche = white = snow

  5. Love this line: “the Sorceress preys upon her dependents while they are young and then tries to trap them in a perpetual dependence…”
    I quite agree with one of the above comments that Lady Catherine de Bourgh is a Sorceress, and her poor daughter has been trapped in her Damsel role.

    I find it interesting that the Guilting Mother is such a prevalent manifestation of the Sorceress.
    Mrs. Bennet (P&P) and her nerves is a great example of this. And I wonder if Mr. Bennet would be an example of a Snow Queen who gave up long ago and retreated to his study. Poor Jane and Elizabeth. They have no example of how to successfully navigate the Queen stage of life, except perhaps the Gardiners in Cheapside.
    I think another example of the Guilting Mother is Mrs. Gibson (novel)/Mrs. Margaret Harris (mini-series) of the Anne of Green Gables stories with the guilting of her daughter Pauline. She begins to thaw with Anne’s intrusions into her life, but I don’t think she ever quite triumphs over that selfish grasping for power; as you point out, the longer one has been in a shadow, the more difficult it is to leave it behind.

    As in a great painting, shadows help bring the subject into greater focus. Looking forward to seeing next week’s look at the shadow kings.

    • “…shadows help bring the subject into greater focus.”

      I love that!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I think you’re right that Mr. Bennet is properly a Snow Queen on a personal level. However, within the context of the story, I’d have to label him a Puppet–since he’s supposed to be in charge but is clearly vacating responsibility. Actually, the dynamic between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet is an interesting glimpse at the spiraling problems of *two* negative archetypes in a power struggle.

      • Interesting to see Tyrant is more likely the role of Lady Catherine because she holds actual power. And Mr. Bennet the Puppet for the same reason. So because they hold power, that moves them up into the realm of King? So if a Bully become responsible for others, does that move him up into the realm of Queen (Sorceress)?
        If so, what about this? In the comment about Dr. Manette below, you mentioned the idea of simply growing older moving someone up the line (passive shadows generally staying passive, aggressive shadows staying aggressive). That makes me wonder: do you think it is possible for an older person to be stuck in a younger shadow role? Or must they by virtue of age move into the next role? I’ve been thinking of one of my characters being a 60-year-old Bully ruled by his Sorceress sister. What do you think?

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          To my mind, it depends not just on the character’s age but more specifically on their life circumstances. At some point, a middle-aged character will be forced into some sort of personal responsibility (moving out, getting a job, etc.), which would effectively move them into Second-Act challenges even if they haven’t properly completed their First-Act arcs.

          So someone who hasn’t actually gone on the Quest and finished the Hero Arc will still eventually find themselves in a position of some responsibility or even authority–e.g., they become a parent. But if the lessons of earlier arcs aren’t completed, this person won’t have “the legs” they need to stand on in order to fulfill these more advanced life challenges. Of course, many people are able to do the necessary catch-up in a comparatively short amount of time. But others struggle for the rest of their lives because they’re missing important foundational experiences and growth.

          • Thank you for your responses! Your series, along with your comments to readers, is giving me such interesting aspects to think on as I explore the history and choices of my characters. I am so glad you were inspired to study and research all this, then share it with us!

          • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

            My pleasure. This series has truly been a joy to put together!

    • Lila Diller says

      I was wondering about Mrs. Bennett being a Sorceress, as well.

  6. Grace Dvorachek says

    Thanks so much, K. M! I discovered this site a year and a half ago, and have since then gone back and read pretty much all of your previous posts. This site has taught almost all I know about writing, and I’m especially enjoying this series.
    As I was reading this post, I started thinking about Dr. Manette from Tale of Two Cities… would he be a Snow Queen or a Damsel?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Dr. Manette… it’s been such a long time since I’ve read that novel. But based mostly on his age and parental responsibilities, I’d say he’s a Snow Queen. As I say in the post, a Snow Queen is really just a Damsel who got shoved down the line of life’s chronology instead of advancing with autonomy.

      • Grace Dvorachek says

        Okay, thank you! Tale of Two Cities is my favorite Dickens novel, so it’s interesting to see its characters—and characters from other books and movies—as these different archetypes.

  7. Your brilliant amalgam of Estes, Myss, & many others is invaluable. Thanks beyond measure for your sharing your creative, analytical mind.

    p.s.Loved the Huston & Williams quotes in the maiden arc.

  8. Joan Kessler says

    This part of the cycle seems especially critical and dangerous because the Queen’s choices shape not only her fate, but the fate of her children, or whomever she is responsible for. I’m unclear on that point, though. Would the characters who take on the role of children (actual or metaphorical) in the story always be younger than the Queen character, or would they fall more into the category of responsibility, for instance, a work team?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Just as the concept of Queen is in itself symbolic, so are the ideas that her “dependents” or her Children. Really, what is being pointed to is a relationship between someone who is being called into leadership and those whom she would lead—in any context. So, yes, the “Children” can absolutely be chronological peers. For instance, someone newly promoted in in the military could be on a Queen Arc even though the “Children” are fellow soldiers.

  9. Peter Moore says

    I think the Queen characters and their arcs are some of the most interesting in literature and media. Female Queens often cannot work through brute force, so (as you state) network with others to accomplish their goals. Watching them develop these complex abilities in their transition from Hero to more mature levels is fascinating.

    The shadow archetypes of the Queen also work in this way. In particular, I’m curious about your views of how the the Hero becomes the Snow Queen. You said that the fear of love or the choice to take a passive road usually leads to becoming a Snow Queen. There is a third possibility that might be more likely for a character on a Hero’s Journey. Given this type of personality, some sort of action can precipitate this particular transition. Perhaps the loss of someone close at a key vulnerable point, combined with the inability to move through the grief cycle, builds a cocoon around the character that she becomes trapped in. She still has the opportunity to break out of that state through a mirror action and resume her positive arc.

    What do you think?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It’s not always clear from the language, but it’s important to note that it’s really a “failed” Hero who becomes Snow Queen, not the realized Hero who has successfully competed the arc. So instead of moving from Hero to Snow Queen, we would actually see the character moving (probably) from Coward to Snow Queen. Unless there is a great trauma (such as what you mention), an aggressive archetype is likely to stay on an aggressive track rather than falling into passivity, and a passive archetype is likely to stay in the passive track rather than rising into aggression. Or, of course, either could pull it together and arc positively.

      • This was one of the scenarios I was wondering about as well. That of a trauma pausing/pushing a Queen into a shadow of herself. Or any of the positive arc types facing a trial so great, they falter for a time.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          In fact, it can be very realistic to think about using shadow archetypes in those moments in a Positive-Change story when the character is particularly struggling. For instance, in the Low Moment after the Third Plot Point, a character might flirt briefly with one of the shadow polarities before choosing to rise again.

          • Heather Terry says

            Would you show hints of her Sorceress tendencies throughout the plot up until that point and then she acts out on it at the Low Moment and then ‘recovers’?

            I’m trying to decide if I start my character out as a Sorceress who transforms into a healthy Queen or as a Queen who has a low Sorceress moment and then continues as a Queen.

            Is one more powerful than the other?

            I’m also trying to find a way to interweave the Queen and Hero characters arcs in the story.. Like, the Hero (potential Bully) releases the Sorceress with Love by submitting his Strength to the service of Love while the (potential Sorceress) Queen submits her selfish love to responsibility.

            Is it possible to have 2 potential love interest characters on different journeys archetypally?

            That was a lot..whew.. but all that to say, you’ve blown my mind with the sheer depth to which you’ve gone into each archetype and I’m swimming up to my eyeballs trying to keep up!


          • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

            I would look to the ending of your story. If the character is triumphantly redeemed (i.e., completes her Queen Arc in a way that allows her to move on to live her life using those lessons), then I would emphasize her Queen aspect over her Sorceress aspect throughout. If, however, she is redeemed only with great sacrifice to herself (i.e., nominally completes her Queen Arc in the plot but is unable to realistically go on to live its lessons, perhaps because she has to die to redeem her previous mistakes), then I’d emphasize more of the Sorceress.

  10. Good stuff. I know you tend to focus on the these growing out of the failed hero arc, but by the same token, I think there is great potential for this building off a successful hero arc when the hero does everything you expect of a hero, but the victory breaks him in some way, and I feel like this is something you see in Greek plays, but I’m not an authority on Greek tragedies. I do wonder if Penelope in Ulysses would classify as a Snow Queen as she takes a fairly passive approach to her situation. Ulysses himself I think becomes the dark side of the King as at the end he commits mass murder, involving his son in the crime. I’m not sure Homer saw it that way, but that’s how it looks threw the modern lens. I also find myself wandering what Oedipus was? Throughout the play he acted heroically based on what he knew, but at the end it all turned out to be lies not of his own creation.

    Either way, I think of these adult negative roles as terrific for tragedies as well as for contrasting against their positive counterparts.

    • Ok. I’ve got my weird example. in the Replacements, the Martel character, the quarterback Shane Falco replaced was a Sorceress, working to disrupt Falco and the team every step of the way. I’m going to argue that in Football movies, the Quarterback is more of a queen figure because of how much relationship work and nurturing the character typically needs to do. I’m also thinking the owner may have been a Snow Queen because he was pretty passive throughout, only intervening to duck controversy.

      • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

        I haven’t seen the movie. But it’s an interesting point about quarterbacks as Queens.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Oedipus… I’d argue Oedipus is a positive King archetype—who willingly sacrifices himself for the Kingdom in the end when realizes he’s cursed.

  11. Do you think Elsa from Frozen counts as a Snow Queen (no pun intended) or is she more a Coward archetype?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      By the time the main action of the story takes off, I’d say she’s probably a Snow Queen, since she’s officially been put in a position of power. Because she never really had the opportunity to complete her early arcs, her fleeing into the wilderness takes on something of a Hero’s Quest—which bears out by the end of the movie when she finds the strength to govern her Power via her Love for her sister.

      • I thought of Elsa when I was writing my other comment. She runs off and abdicates her responsibilities, causing her realm to fall into disrepair.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          She could be seen to represent the “Sick King” archetype as well, with Anna acting as the Hero who heals the monarch and saves the Kingdom.

  12. I got excited to tell you all about an unusual and thrilling example from the world of anime, in which the Queen tragically descends into the Sorceress: the movie “Madoka Magica Rebellion”

    But as I was typing, it got bigger than I thought I should post in the WordPress comment boxes here (620 words), and I didn’t feel good about potentially putting a wall of text on KMW’s blog. So, instead, I’ve posted it to pastebin, and anyone interested can check it out here:

  13. In my story, this has me thinking about Hannah’s mother. (This is pretty much a tale of two families, where the mothers are sisters)

    In what I’ve written so far, Janet was definitely a Vixen in her youth. Sleeping around, teen mom, broken relationships, three kids to three men and now recently married to the fourth (her sister says out loud “I wonder how many *** it took to get that ring?”

    Now I see her as a Snow Queen. 35 years old, three teen kids, never found love, still looking for someone to take care of her. Burnt out, feeling sorry for herself. By the end she crashes after her husband betrayed her and all her children faced catastrophes. She was self-centered and inattentive, leaving the kids without guidance.

    I can go back to touch up scenes. Now, I love to drop bread crumbs that are not pointed out by the characters but come back later. Let her be short tempered and snap at the kids. I’ve already written the kids sneaking into the liquor cabinet, but have her always with a drink in her hand.

    Also, Hannah doesn’t want to be like her mother. She wants that one guy who she can hang on to forever – but to snag and keep him, she may end up turning into the Vixen that her mother was.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Generational archetypes are always interesting–although they can be heartbreaking too.

  14. So what arc would a character trying to overcome past mistakes have?
    He’s in his thirties and used to definitely be a Queen, but then a Sorceress decided he would be very helpful in her plans and secretly addicted him to a magical drug and used him to try to murder the King (his brother). (Would that mean that he falls into being a Snow Queen??)
    The story will start after he has mostly freed himself from her (completed a Maiden arc?? Or not, since he had some level of leadership and power because she needed him to??), so would he be entering a Hero arc since he has lost all his power/followers in his bid to free himself, or, since he is now determined to try to earn his family’s trust again so that he can protect them from her future plans, is he back in a Queen arc??
    OR, is he actually in a Crone arc, since he has lost everything and was a depressed hermit for a while before hearing of her plans?????
    And would THAT mean he actually was in a King arc, maybe as a Puppet, while under her control, his sacrificing of his power leading him to a Crone arc????
    My head is spinning, haha. Any help you can offer would be much appreciated.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I would consider which arcs he has already completed. For example, he’s not likely to be on a Crone Arc unless that is age-appropriate *or* he has completed all previous arcs. If he’s stuck in shadow archetypes, then he’s probably in whichever is age-appropriate or the one behind his own chronological age.

      • Thank you, that helped a lot! I’ve been thinking it over, and I think he was in a Queen arc just before the story starts, positive change arcing from a Snow Queen to a true Queen who takes action to protect those he loves (and learns his Truth, you must face your pain to overcome it).

        Now I’m a bit unsure what arc he’s in for the story propper. He isn’t in a King arc, because he has no power at all, plus he’s a Flat arc character who already knows the Truth (I’ve realized the Lie is present in every other character, which is great to know!). I read another comment where you listed the flat arcs; do you think it’s possible that he reverted to Parent?

    • Oh, Hannah . . .
      You are all of us . . .

  15. I appreciate your work Ms Weiland. Keep on.

  16. “As with all the passive polarities, she is governed by Fear. What she is most afraid of is Love. However much she may crave it, she can never let it fully in because it demands too much—too much maturity, too much responsibility, too much reality.

    And so when the threat comes to her Kingdom and her family, she is unequipped to rise to its challenges. At best, she categorizes herself with her children, begging that she too should be saved and taken care of by someone else. At worst, she simply lets the Invaders steal away her children in the hope that at least she might be left in peace.”

    Welp that basically sums me up. Go figure a bunch of my characters stumble down this path, and then I stop developing them. Miss Wieland, dishing out the cold hard truths of reality while talking about writing, once again.

    I learned something today. Thanks 🙂

  17. Denzel Washington plays the sorcerer in August wilson FENCES trapping viola davis in sad marriage and only seeinf himself as the trapped victim and it finally makes viola davis explode into that ”what about me” monolouge.

  18. Sheeleya says

    Jessica Atreides from the Dune novels strikes me as a sorceress (in the first book). Lady Jessica form the movies has a different arc.

  19. I really wonder, as I read about the shadow archetypes–if they have a positive arc, what stage are they arcing into? For example, a sorceress–she still needs to have a maiden-hero arc and a hero-queen arc before she can really become a queen–she still needs that challenge of individuating and integrating before being a queen–can all that happen in one arc, or as a sorceress can she have a positive arc into a Maiden and she starts from scratch? Intuitively, I feel like there almost needs to be another name for what she is arcing into–a shadow character that has a positive arc has stood up to demons much bigger than a ‘regular’ character who is arcing at the appropriate time for their age. The shame that has to be overcome, the admission that your whole life you were wrong etc–what are they arcing into?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’m planning to release a course about the shadow archetypes next month (March 2024), which specifically talks about how the shadows function *within* their corresponding positive arcs. However, in stories in which the character is possessed by the shadow, rather than just tempted by them, you’re right that the arcs look different from the Hero Arc, Queen Arc, etc. How the arc looks will largely depend on what shadow the character is stuck in and how many archetypes they need to level up through. I may write more about this in the future.

      • Thank you! I actually had an idea—a sorceress can arc into being a Healer–she still will have become a Queen, due to her stage in life, but the power she rose into and the gift she gained through her arc was an ability to heal and understand people on a level deeper than most people.
        Wow–archetypical characters are fascinating and endless. I would love posts on how to work with shadow characters.
        Another thing that is confusing me, the Maiden arcs into a Hero through the Maiden arc, and a Hero into a Queen through the Hero arc, then how does the flat arc come in? Wouldn’t a Maiden essentially be arcing into being a lover, and a Hero into a parent? I think this is important in terms of knowing what the character has gained and looks like at the end. For example, a character who has gone through a Maiden arc and turns into a Lover is different than one who emerges a Hero. How does that work?
        This is all so fascinating. Thank you!

        • BTW–because I have a fascination of the Enneagram and have also read your other posts about Shadows (not specifically related to archetypical shadow character!) such as this one I started think about the connection between everything–for example, if you look at the Enneagram, the wings and points of integration and disintegration can easily be shadows, which can come out negatively when a character/person does not own them. Looking at the wings, one of them is more inner oriented and one is more outer. It reminds me of archetypical shadow characters–for example, a 4 with a 5 wing leans towards damsel/coward/snow queen, while a 4 with a 3 wing will struggle more with the shadows of vixen/bully/sorceress. You can do this with any type– a 3 with a 4 wing will lean towards damsel, while with a 2 wing towards vixen etc.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Yes, technically each character arcs into the subsequent Flat archetype, which carries the flavor of where the subsequent Change archetype will be in the First Act.

  20. Simon Petrikov says

    How would you (happily) resolve an Ice Queen’s arc without love?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Love doesn’t have to be for another person. It could be love for a place or a job as well. Ultimately, the Queen arc is about taking responsibility.


  1. […] Engaging characters also keep readers reading. Anne R. Allen lists 10 pitfalls to avoid when naming fictional characters, Kathleen McCleary shows how regrets reveal and forge character, and K.M. Weiland continues her series by examining the Queen’s shadow archetypes. […]

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