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Archetypal images in Halo books and games
Posted By: BeastIce <>Date: 3/7/06 9:56 p.m.

I know that the archetypal imagery and symbolism in the Halo games has been brought up before; the seven Halos, the ring structure, the very fact
that the rings are called Halos gives them an supernatural aura. I am going to talk about some symbols that appear that give the story a deeper meaning.
The idea behind the archetypal image was first brought forth by Carl Jung (pronounced "yung"). Jung said that an archetypal image is an unconscious psychological construct that presents itself across race, religion, time, civilizations, literature, film, and now video games. In other words any creative aspect of human nature, whether its art, architecture, or literature, has common psychological symbols or archetypes. This is known as the collective unconscious and was not directly known and is a product of the shared experiences of our ancestors. Im sure some of these images have been presented to many of you Halo fans in high school but I have found some more images and symbols in the Halo universe that you might not have heard before. Hopefully this thread will help you guys appreciate the depth of story that Bungie has created.

Archetypes fall into two major categories character and symbols/situations. It is easiest to understand them with the help of examples. Listed below are some of the most common archetypes in each category. Here is a quick list of archetypal images that I have found in Halo with a quick explanation following.

The Hero - Obviously this is Spartan 117. He represents all the aspects of the Hero, he rises to every challenge, he overcomes seemingly impossible odds, and triumphs over evil at all costs. Traditionally the circumstances of The Hero's conception are unusual, and at birth some attempt is made to kill him and carry him away to be raised by foster parents. In this case his foster mother is Dr Halsey and his father is the UNSC. Archetypally we know little or nothing of The Hero's childhood, but when he reaches manhood he returns to accomplish is quest. This of course refers to what has not yet happened in the Halo universe because Spartan 117 has not yet defeated the Flood and saved his race from the fanatical Covenant. But everyone knows that he will overcome. John is archetypal hero.

The Quest - The hero is searching for something, either consciously or unconscioulsy. Consciously, John thinks he is supposed to win the war, but unconscioulsy he must save the universe from certain death. The archetypal quest is very vague in the Halo games and has not really been stated besides to win the war with the Covenant. It is difficult to associate Spartan 117's ultimate purpose and goal with "just" win the war. He must have a greater purpose, such as bringing harmony to the universe. Any soldier can win a war but only a hero can win the war and change the universe in which we live for the better. John's ultimate quest has not been revealed but it soon will be, in either the upcoming Halo novel or in the enevitable Halo 3.

The Outcast - The Arbiter. His name literally means judge; a person with power to decide a dispute. But his identity is a heretic. He allowed one of his cultures greatest and most respected artifacts to be destroyed. He is then outcast by Covenant society, tortured and stripped of his honor. He then becomes more what he ever was before, he becomes the Arbiter. After this metamorphosis, another archetypal image, the Arbiter will return triumphantly to receive greater honor than he ever had before. The Redeaming of the Outcast. Another point I would like to make is that if the definition of an arbiter is one who decides a dispute, then I am looking forward to the decision he is going to have to make. He might have to choose between his life-long belief in The Great Journey and his internal desire to seek and believe the truth.

The Redeemer - This image can be argued to be either John or The Arbiter. John, because he will save the human race and, ultimately, all life forms in the radii of the Halos and redeem the injustices cast on the human race. And The Arbiter, because he will return triumphantly to lead the Covenant to the truth and redeem his name. One of the characteristics of The Redeemer is that he must die, he must offer his blood as an atonement for the sins of his brothers. This characteristic points directly to the Arbiter, who is told that his task is "perilous" and that he will die upon its completion. I doubt that John will die upon the completion of his quest, whatever that quest is.

The Ring - The Ring is the most common and universal sign, found in all cultures. It is the symbol of the sun in its limitless or boundless aspect. It has no beginning or end, and no divisions, making it the perfect symbol of completeness and eternity. It can also represent a boundary at which confines us, we must advance and step through that limiting circle to a new reality. To do that, we must advance to the edge of the boudary and break through it, the hero must meet the boundary and transform it. John met the boundary of the first Halo, transformed it by blowing up the reactor core of the Pillar of Autumn and past beyond it. The ring also stands for a bond or in Halo's case 7 bonds with which the Forerunner made with the universe to keep the flood contained.

The Opposites - There are many opposites in the Halo universe but one opposite people might not notice is the opposite nature of Cortana and John. They share one body yet have two completely different personalities. Like Mars and Venus, the gods not the planets, John and Cortana represent different aspects. Like Mars, the god of war, John is brash while Cortana (Venus) is eloquent and tactful. Mars is radiatory(affects outwardly) while Venus is magnetic(affects inwardly), Mars is catabolic (utilizing) while Venus is anabolic (building or constructing), Mars takes initiative while Venus is receptive. Its easy to see the parallels between Mars and Venus and John and Cortana, im sure I could go on and on, but I wont.

Star-Crossed Lovers - John and Cortana. I dont mean to imply that I think John and Cortana are romantically involved. I mean they are like Scully and Mulder from the X-Files. Their love is a deep understanding and affection that transcends normal relationships. To be star-crossed they must be unable to be together and eventually seperated by circumstance beyond their control. Cortana and John are now seperated across space and time at the end of Halo 2 and they must be brought together again by accomplishing a great task. Cortana must understand Gravemind's intentions and John must save the human race from a seemingly invincible Covenant fleet hell-bent on destroying all living things in the radii of the Halos. I know this is a big stretch but I am going with it anyway.

Loss of Innocence - This is mostly the invasion of Earth, but more so because Earth was considered virgin and untouched by the Covenant's reach. To invade the streets of an Earth city is comparable to defilement. Earth has now lossed its innnocence and it must change to adapt to its new identity.

Fall From Grace - Like Adam and Eve after taking a bite from the Apple that fell from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Forerunner activated either one ring or all the rings, Im not sure if the books or the games say so, and so caused their own deaths. They destroyed all life forms in the radii and so caused the Forerunner, as a race, to "fall" from their former height.

The Dweller on the Threshold - Threshold is name of the gas giant at which Halo orbits. Its name bears significance in that the dweller on the threshold is an archetypal image of the teacher who dwells at a border or boundary of the normal. Think about it, many heros in many different books and movies speak or interact with a teacher before embarking on their "quest". This teach usually dwells at a threshold of a great journey(not the Covenant's idea of The Great Journey). Halo installation 04(the ring from Halo:CE) borders Threshold and so literally dwells at the border of the normal for John and the humans. They have never seen or heard of anything like this and so are pushed towards the threshold of their own understanding. Halo installation 04 teaches the humans not only about the Forerunner, but also of the Covenant's intent. Halo 04 introduces John to his new world, the world where he and Cortana begin to understand the Covenant's intent to activate the rings and embark on The Great Journey. John is beginning to understand his "quest" yet he is still in the dark. The dweller on the threshold does not reveal the quest for the hero, it only shows the first step of the path.

I guess I could go on and on for a while but I think I have given everybody a good idea about archetypal images and how they effect our creative minds. Bungie is not immune to the power of these symbols and whether many of these symbols were intentionally or unintentionally placed in the Halo universe by Jason Jones or the other writers is not necessarily relevant. These symbols add depth and power to the story and even a way for everyone to relate to the story being told. I am really excited about continuing the adventure with John, Cortana, and Arbiter and learning John's quest and Arbiter's choice.
I hope this was informative and I want to preemptively respond to an almost inevitable reply. Yes, I took a lot of time to post this. Yes, I am interested in the Halo story. And yes, I did put a lot of thought into this post. Thanks for the time to read this.

Message Index


Archetypal images in Halo books and gamesBeastIce 3/7/06 9:56 p.m.
     Re: Archetypal images in Halo books and gamesIceWeasel 3/7/06 10:02 p.m.
           Re: Archetypal images in Halo books and gamesBeastIce 3/7/06 10:11 p.m.
                 Kickass analysis, sir. *NM*mr_mcmurder 3/7/06 10:56 p.m.
                 Re: Archetypal images in Halo books and games'Nosolee 3/7/06 11:12 p.m.
                       Re: Archetypal images in Halo books and gamesscarab 3/8/06 12:57 a.m.
     That, my friend, was enlightening.Funkmon 3/7/06 10:12 p.m.
     Re: Archetypal images in Halo books and gamesscarab 3/8/06 12:55 a.m.
     Re: Archetypal images in Halo books and gamesAldiron 3/10/06 5:44 p.m.

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