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Archetype of the Month: The King


I like to begin teaching archetypes with the fairy tale. One of my favorite fairy tales is "Sleeping Beauty." At the beginning of this popular fairy tale, the reader is introduced to the King and the Queen.

To begin, a teacher might ask his/her students the following question: what comes to mind when I say the word “King?” Teachers will hear responses such as ruler, power, control, wise, lawmaker. Because the King is the dominating, ruling principle, the image represents the Self, that part of us that rules our thoughts and actions. Then, teachers may extend that thought process by explaining that within each of us resides the King archetype.

Here is some dialogue with your students to consider: "When we rule over our thought processes, when we take control over our lives, when we make wise decisions, when our rational side controls our thoughts and action, we are tapping into our King archetype."

"When you are making an important decision in your life, the King archetype is triggered. You are ruling your own kingdom! So, when you are posed with a decision to make, you subconsciously engage the King archetype and ask, 'Is my decision based on what is good for others including myself?'"

"The King sets the standards for his Kingdom. So might the individual. In an individual’s case, the Kingdom represents the mind and its progressive movement forward."A discussion of consequences may ensue. You might say, "Decisions we make have consequences, not just for ourselves but for those around us."

"What kind of ruler are you? Are you a tyrant toward yourself and others? Or are you a benevolent ruler toward yourself and others?"

The King and the Queen represent archetypal images found in the collective unconscious of an individual’s psyche. They are important decision-makers, and students who are on the path of developing into an individual might think of the King as one path toward removing themselves from the chains of peer pressure. This type of discussion provides students with an understanding of how the archetypes mingle in our daily lives.(The Queen plays a different role from the King, and her influence in our conscious and unconscious is fodder for an upcoming blog.) To introduce depth psychology to the young in a way that produces thought-provoking results is to consider the images. The King is one of those images.

Some texts that might interest you, the teacher: Edinger, Edward F. Ego and Archetype:  Individuation and the Religious Function of the Psyche. Boston: Shambhala, 1992.Jung, C.G. The Collected Works of C. G.  Jung. Trans. R. F. C. Hull. Vol. 9, Part I. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1969.Louis, Deborah E. Aproaches to Teaching Archetypal and Mythocultural Literature in a Technological World. Dissertation. April 2013.Von Franz, Marie-Louise. The Feminine in Fairy Tales. Rev. ed. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1993.

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