Golden Age Archetype

First, let's refresh our minds on the concept of ARCHETYPE.


Archetypes are recurring images, character types, symbols, and narrative patterns. These archetypes are the structural principles that give literature its unity.

Archetypes recur often enough in all literature to be recognizable as elements of our total imaginative experience. They may be characters (the scapegoat, the saviour victim), events (sacrifices, rites of initiation), images (wastelands, gardens), stories (the monster slaying story, the Cinderella story) or themes (love is more powerful than evil).

Archetypes are commonly manifested in myths, in the Bible, in the classics, in contemporary literature, comics, films, children’s writing, songs, etc. They are units that organize our imaginative experience. Their presence in literature permits us to make connections between literary works and literature as a whole. Literature is an expression of our imaginative attempt to bring shape, order, structure to our human experience.


People are storytellers, fight to survive in a threatening world—must use imagination to try to make sense out of life on the sometimes cruel, sometimes generous earth

Told themselves stories that give human meaning to the changes and cycles that they are subject to--- myths

In myths, people often imagined that they originated in a time of peace, when seasons didn’t change and threaten them with cold and hunger, when they weren’t lonely, when they were loved by the gods

As people have advanced, they’ve continued to use their imagination to try to recover that sense of belonging to the earth that they had once possessed

Though gods eventually disappeared from our stories, our literature continues to be a search for our lost human identity, a quest to rebuild or rediscover our lost perfect world

Literature is a continuous journal of the imagination—expresses our desire to know, to piece the mysteries the old myths tried to piece to see the universe as a human home (we still tell myths, only we call them by a different name)

Golden Age—term originated with the Greeks—image of an original perfect world

Archetypal Pattern: the gods created the world as a Golden Age—people lose the Golden Age—people continually try to regain the Golden Age

Pattern can be seen at the core of all literature

Creation: filling of the void and telling creation stories also fills a void. By seeing gods as human, people gave a human shape or human order to the world allowing them to understand and communicate with its forces.

We reject chaos; we desire order - generally speaking - in an archetypal way. Some of us actually enjoy chaos.

  • The Golden Age: Image of the perfect world (utopia). Early myths reflect/create a world which once was, a world of peace in which people lived in harmony and there was harmony and peace with both nature and the gods. A separation from the gods occurs—people lose Garden of Eden/Paradise/Perfection/Utopia. Through their imagination, people have tried to recover that state of belonging to the earth; thus they created original golden age. People try to get back/recreate/regain the golden age. It’s a cyclical pattern. This archetype is the basis for most literature (core of most mythology and stories in literature). The quest story (to regain a perfect world); to find/create what is missing or that they don’t have in order to fill a void. It is people’s attempt to come to terms with order and chaos.

The Four Seasons of Golden Age Archetype

Giuseppe Arcimboldo FOUR SEASONS

Understanding the four ages of the archetype as seasons

The Golden Age - SPRING / rebirth

1) The Golden Age (SPRING/birth)

A world without war or division—all people are happy

No need to work—the earth was abundant and provided all that people needed to survive

“rivers of Milk and honey”

people felt in harmony with gods and nature—similar to paradise,


Based on our study of archetypes and human nature, it is important to understand that humans have a fundamental desire to return to this "Eden" or Golden Age. At our core and most basic level, we resist that which is uncomfortable. We prefer the pleasures of a comfortable, happy life. The Golden Age typically appears in literature as a time gone by. The characters want to return, but cannot. When we read stories that take place in a Golden Age, the turning point of the story usually involves the characters learning or doing something that propels them out of the Golden Age or Eden FOREVER.

"The perfect that once was, but no longer will be."
- Reign C

Homework: R&A "Nothing Gold Can Stay" - Annotation challenge - FILL THE WHITE SPACE, with MEANINGFUL annotations.