Archetypes of the Hero’s Journey Series #5: The Herald
By Leigh Holland.
A Herald, or herald of arms, was a medieval messenger and diplomat sent between noblemen and kings. They also were responsible for recording the arms for each nobleman and monarch and managing tournaments in which only those of noble blood could participate. Heralds wore a tabard decorated with the coat of arms of the nobleman they served. Photo by Nicholas Jackson.
An example of a herald giving an introduction at a medieval tournament can be found, albeit modernized, in the excellent film “A Knight’s Tale”.
In Greek myth, messengers were so important that a deity, Hermes, was assigned to fulfill this function among the gods. In The Odyssey, Zeus sends Hermes to deliver the proclamation to Calypso that Odysseus must be released so he may head home.
In Disney’s Mulan, the Herald is the message that the Fa family must provide one male to fight in the war for China.
Far from merely issuing orders, messages, and reciting introductory lineages, the Herald can serve a myriad of functions in a tale. The Herald can serve as a call to action and motivate the hero onward to the next leg of his journey. While the Herald can overlap with other roles in the story, such as ally or love interest, he can also be a servant or messenger of the story’s villain. The Herald is not always a positive role. An example of a Herald who works for the villain can be found in Shakespeare’s Henry V.
Furthermore, the Herald doesn’t even have to be a person. It can be an object, such as a found treasure map, or an event, such as a phone call or telegram. The Herald functions in the story to bring about a transition. Once the Herald appears on the scene, the hero must make a choice and take action, spurring on the adventure.
Based on information found in The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition by Christopher Vogler, which can be purchased at The Writer’s Journey 3rd Edition.
Check out the other articles in this series: