Archetypes of the Hero’s Journey #7: The Ally
By Leigh Holland.
As the hero sallies forth on his quest, he (or she) needs a traveling companion. Sure, the hero has a mentor to give wise advice and nifty trinkets. But the hero needs someone who can help him understand himself, maintain perspective, move forward with hope in his heart, and keep him on the straight and narrow. Every human being needs a friend. Sometimes the hero may need to do certain things on her own. But the ally does something consistently for the hero no other role does. The ally gives loyalty and admiration to the hero. The ally is entirely dependable.
That doesn’t mean the ally never challenges the hero. It’s hard to maintain perspective as the hero, especially when fame and fandom starts rolling in. As the hero’s best friend, the ally will knock him down a peg or two if he needs it. The ally also serves as the hero’s conscience when the hero strays from the righteous path. The ally can always be counted on to act in what he thinks is the hero’s best interests, the hero’s desires be damned.
This is a wonderful and ancient example of the ally who challenges the hero, being what he needs instead of what he wants. This animated version of the story includes threshold guardians, a mentor, a shapeshifter and a trickster.
The ally represents the unexamined pieces of the hero. The ally converses with, questions, and challenges the hero as the need arises, drawing forth the noblest qualities within him or her; and the worst-saving him from being consumed by his own darkness. Often, the ally asks the very questions the reader (or viewer) has about the hero. Often, the ally (or “sidekick”) rounds out the hero’s persona.
Here’s a fun fight scene showing the ally as work partner and brother-in-arms, with a nice cameo at the end by the Shapeshifter archetype of the series.
And the ally also provides amusement and comic relief for the reader in serious and tense situations.
Most importantly, the hero trusts the ally. The ally has earned it. We can always identify with the ally, even if our relationship with the hero is on thin ice at certain points of the story. We can’t always be the hero. But we can always strive to be a good friend and neighbor, a good ally.
And often, the best heroes to inspire a writer… are real.