Mothers and the Female Heroic Archetype
Jordan Peterson – May 08 2020 at 12:56 PM
Q&A from August 2018
What is the female equivalent of the hero archetype?
The figure of Mary is actually a heroic figure in and of itself. You can really understand this if you look at Michelangelo’s pietà. In that great sculpture you see Mary, who is holding the crucified Christ, and that’s her basically her Son, right—her son who’s just been offered up to the world and betrayed by his friends and broken on the cross. In other words, he’s been subjected to the worst that life can throw at him.
The thing about Mary is that she knew initially, when she agreed to give birth to the savior of mankind, that he would be broken. And that’s an archetypal story, because women know in their heart of hearts that their children are going to be broken and killed by the world. That’s the human condition. And of course, a woman who’s well developed loves her child more than herself, loves her child more than anyone else—which is something you can’t really understand till you’ve had a child—but is still willing to bring that child into the world, knowing full well what his or her fate will be. And so there’s real heroism in that.
And then there’s the standard heroism that a woman can undertake where she develops her masculine side, which is basically what happens for example in Sleeping Beauty. When Sleeping Beauty is awakened by the prince’s kiss, you can think of her being rescued by an actual man, but you can also think of that as the masculine part of her psyche waking up her unconscious femininity so the two of them can unite and rule the kingdom. It’s a perfectly reasonable interpretation of that story. And so that would be the development of the masculine side in a female—the side that’s stalwart and forthright and willing to go forth into the world and conquer uncertainty.
And then there’s the Beauty and the Beast archetype, which I think is in some sense the primary female sexual archetype. Beauty and the Beast is another kind of dragon-slaying story. It’s more like a “dragon-taming” story, I suppose, where the woman—the virginal woman who’s out for an adventure—finds a beastly male. And that’s the dangerous man that I was talking about earlier, the man who has the capacity, say, to kill; the capacity to harm; the capacity for violence at hand. Right? At hand. And [she] then proceeds to tame him, which is a real adventure.
We know that this is the case, because again we can refer to those rom coms that are so popular now, with the failed beta males always trying to make friends with the girl and failing. The girls are interested in rough guys, who have the capacity to also be sophisticated and to be—let’s not say tamed, but civilized into channeling their harsh roughness, their capacity for evil, even, into productive competition—because competition can be very productive—and then the sharing forth of the fruits of that competition with family.
Those are all heroic aspects in feminine being, and they’re not to be taken lightly.
La Pieta by Michelangelo