Know Your Archetype: Maiden, Mother, Crone

Seems nice enough: she gave me her hat, after all.

(Really trying to get over whatever it is that makes me want to pinch Kristin Stewart. I adore Charlize Theron, so I think I’ll be able to stomach my way through this seemingly gorgeous film. It looks beautiful.)

But this is a tale as old as any–the passage of time personified by a wrinkle, or lack thereof. The Maiden, Mother, Crone archetype is the embodiment of promise, desire, fertility, and then wisdom. At every stage of life, our roles and responsibilities change. As I am sitting here, I find myself having a hard time writing about this archetype(s). The cliches are too thick to wade through, and–oh, must be honest. I am too in the middle zone of this phase of life to be a fair judge of either one to my left or right. No longer the young maiden, and not quite to crone phase, this middle zone is pulled.

But let me work in a fairy-tale framework:

The maiden, pure, and innocent, her only gifts or attributes of any value are her youth (beauty) and innocence.  I hope that when a younger audience reads anything from Game of Thrones they at least spend a few moments to look up ‘maidenhead,’ and hopefully will not find it in the Urban Dictionary. So much stock is placed on virginity, and from a biological imperative there is good reason.  (Seriously, forget Guild Wars or WoW – how about Biological Sperm Wars!) Sorry, my apologies. I realize some of you have not had your morning coffee yet. The power of the Maiden is in her power of promise, of potential. It’s either in her child-bearing hips or her rose-red lips. But it’s all about the visual; she doesn’t need a personality or wisdom at this stage of the game, she has her looks.

The Mother figure has her own archetype, but in this triptych, she is simply the nester. She watches over her little chicks as best she can, and in most fairy-tales is usually dead before the turn of the second page, because the real conflict is between the maiden and the crone. Those two are separated by years of hardship, wrinkle cream, and mirrors. The Mother is all about sacrifice: she is devoted to her child/ren, and her sexuality or personal desires are a far distant memory from what she may have hoped for in her maiden phase.

The Crone: of the three, she is perhaps the most interesitng and dynamic. She ranges from evil witch, surrounded by fear and superstition,  or a jealous woman past her prime (again with the wrinkle cream! Stop!) to the wise sage of the village, the Mother Goose, story teller, advisor, and nurturer. She doesn’t have to compete with the maidens any more, so she can relax and revel in her glorious moo-moo dispensing wisdom and cookies. But mostly she’ll cut out your heart or chase you with flying monkeys: don’t piss her off.

Now, looking forward to the next phase of my own life, I was telling cross-dressing rogue I wouldn’t mind going into it looking like Helen Mirren. But damn, not sure I looked that good when I was the maiden. Sure there’s a photo around here somewhere.

The problem with these archetypes is not that they exist, but that they are still so pervasive in our culture. Why can’t the Queen “win” because she’s smart, not because she’s evil? Why can’t Snow White get a pimple? But they are difficult to escape. As I have said before, I am not a 7’tall Draenei female in real life. “No?” you say. “No.” But for a few hours I get to look at a mirror-mirror computer screen and be forever young, and strong. And if I stack up my intelligence rating, smart, too.

Looks good on me…

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