Creator and Destroyer Archetypes, Creation and Destruction Myths

This is going to sound like I'm trying to sort these ideas out for myself. That's because I am.

Which story isn't about the creation or destruction of something? Not many.

Books like 'Harry Potter' and 'The Lord of the Rings' are obviously about destroying things. Horcruxes and rings mostly. But it's more than that. The whole point of Harry destroying the Horcruxes is that it will destroy Voldemort. The whole point of Frodo destroying the One Ring is that it will destroy Sauron. But it's more than that too. By destroying Voldemort Harry destroys the thing that threatens to destroy (or remake) the world. By destroying Sauron Frodo destroys the thing that threatens to destroy (or remake) the world. Most people view it as Harry and Frodo destroying evil itself. That can only be so if Voldemort and Sauron represent the ideal forms of evil, the archetypes of evil.

Now, these are the two most loved epic stories in all of history, but they do have a ton of similarities, and I do mean a ton. So I want to look at other stories and compare how the archetypes are used similarly and differently, but let's point out a few more things here.

The pyramid of abstraction is clearly at work here. In an abstract way there is evil, in a concrete way that is represented by Voldemort and Sauron. Humans need concrete representations of abstract ideas, especially in the moral realm. Yes, 'Harry Potter' and 'The Lord of the Rings' are about morality. They're about behavioral patterns, conduct, ethics. Those are all the same thing. What should I do? What shouldn't I do?

I came at the subject of conduct originally through philosophy. I don't suggest that. Stories are much better. They are the original, and still best, philosophy. And fantasy is the original, and still best, type of story. 'The Meaning of It All' by Richard Feynman is pretty good though, if you're interested in the perspective of one of the greatest physicists of all time. 'Maps of Meaning' is a deep dive. Jordan Peterson has worked on this issue for most of his life. His lectures are better.

Anyway, there are some other interesting observations here. Harry Potter and Frodo are not creators, they are destroyers. It seems a bit odd to me on the abstract level that the greatest heroes are destroyers, it seems like the greatest heroes should be creators. But for the most part that isn't so. The greatest heroes are destroyers of destroyers, destroyers of evil. On a concrete level I respond to that, just like almost 100 percent of all other people. Our greatest good is the destruction of evil.

Ayn Rand has probably tried the hardest to make great stories about creators creating, but the focus remained on destroyers and destruction. 'The Fountainhead' centers around Howard Roark blowing up a building. 'Atlas Shrugged' centers around the destruction of all of the society. Technically there is a little part about building an unrealistic utopia, but it's rather insignificant. Even Rand focused on the destruction of evil as the greatest good. Do any stories focus on creating?

Well, biographies and autobiographies about inventors, artists, and entrepreneurs is the most you can get involved with creators creating. And there are some great ones. Many of these people end up representing archetypes, especially as history becomes more and more distorted and the reality turns in legend and then myth. But I'm really looking for the fictional archetypes and myths themselves. I asked an active book group on Facebook about stories that focus on creation. I didn't get any comments. I can think of a few things though.

The entire romance genre is slightly tilted towards creation. The creation of relationships, homes, and families. Even that genre does a lot with destruction and destroyers though. With someone like Alexander the Great you can focus on him creating an empire, but he did that through destruction and can be seen as a great destroyer, I would say easier than as a great creator. Business fiction is usually about the destructive aspects of humanity. The show 'Silicon Valley' is about the creation of technology and a business. Wow, I thought I would be able to come up with more that focused on creation. That's interesting, very interesting. There are creation myths, but those are usually tiny little stories followed by great, big, epic sagas chronicling destruction far and wide (and repetitive) until the ultimate destruction of the world.

Apocalypse myths are usually much more detailed than creation myths. And, go look for apocalypse books and shows. The stories abound. 'Hunger Games' is a great recent example, although it's just one of many, many such series. To find a story about anything being created is rare, unless it's about creating something like an empire through the destruction of a bunch of other stuff that's in the way. Let's look at the different options that there are.

You can have the destroyer of creation. You can have the destroyer of destruction. You can have the creator of creation. You can have the creator of destruction. Destroyer of creation and creator of destruction are synonyms, as far as I can tell. It seems to just be a different point of view. Destroyer of destruction and creator of creation are not synonyms, however. Our great heroes, like Harry and Frodo, are not required to create anything. They do, of course, but it's just a minor aside. Harry has a kid and goes on to live a mundane and maybe not that fulfilling of a life, great, no one cares. Give us a tale about him fighting evil. There is something even more odd about these archetypes.

The creators of creation are often demonized, especially in real life. Look at Rockefeller. People have a strong tendency to hate rich people simply because they're rich. Resentment is obviously part of that, and maybe that's why we don't like stories about creators. Maybe those stories make us feel inadequate in some way. 'The Fox and the Grapes' by Aesop explains this sentiment quite well in only a few paragraphs. Actually, I think that's important enough to include the whole story here. (The modern history of rich people attempting to not be hated is interesting. Carnegie did alright, Rockefeller did poorly, even though he could easily be considered more ethical than Carnegie. Ray Dalio is aware of the problem. Some seem like fairly normal people, like Mark Cuban. And others seem respectable, like Ross Perot. But a lot of billionaires have figured out a great strategy that works better than anything else I've ever heard of. Say you're going to donate almost all of your money after you're dead. That means you don't have to give any away now, and people still like you. Donation during the lifetime also works fairly well. Being in support of higher taxes seems to help some of them. Definitely an interesting and significant problem.)

Here is the long version.


A Fox one day spied a beautiful bunch of ripe grapes hanging from a vine trained along the branches of a tree. The grapes seemed ready to burst with juice, and the Fox's mouth watered as he gazed longingly at them.

The bunch hung from a high branch, and the Fox had to jump for it. The first time he jumped he missed it by a long way. So he walked off a short distance and took a running leap at it, only to fall short once more. Again and again he tried, but in vain.

Now he sat down and looked at the grapes in disgust.

"What a fool I am," he said. "Here I am wearing myself out to get a bunch of sour grapes that are not worth gaping for."

And off he walked very, very scornfully.

There are many who pretend to despise and belittle that which is beyond their reach.


And here is the short version from Phaedrus.


Driven by hunger, a fox tried to reach some grapes hanging high on the vine but was unable to, although he leaped with all his strength. As he went away, the fox remarked 'Oh, you aren't even ripe yet! I don't need any sour grapes.' People who speak disparagingly of things that they cannot attain would do well to apply this story to themselves.


Maybe that's the sentiment. I'm not sure. Even when the focus is on creating something it seems to be mostly about the corruption and other destructive aspects like 'There Will Be Blood,' which is a great movie. But the story ends up being about the destruction of people and relationships rather than the creation of an oil company.

Okay, so let's think about this. We have the destroyer of destruction like Harry Potter and Frodo. We have the creator of destruction, which is the just the story told from the perspective of the bad guy. We have the destroyer of creation, which is also just the bad guy, although this can be mixed. Like in 'There Will Be Blood' the main character creates an oil company but destroys people and relationships. It's kind of like a tragic flaw. And you have the creator of creation.

Let's through some stuff at this framework and see what happens. The way I've set it up we're focusing on character more than plot and setting is added context, but I think that's all appropriate. Let's throw some stories from the book of Genesis into this thing and see what comes out.
  1. God created the world in seven days. That's the rare creator of creation archetype. We could also call it the creator of good, or the creation of good story. All of the phrasings that I've been using could be adjusted like that.
  2. Adam and Eve. That's the destroyer of creation story. The destruction of good.
  3. Cain and Able. The destroyer of creation. The destruction of good.
  4. Noah's flood. The destroyer of destruction. The destruction of bad.
  5. The Tower of Babel. The creators of destruction. The creation and destruction of bad.
  6. Sodom and Gomorrah. The destroyers of destruction. The destruction of bad.
  7. Abraham and Isaac. I'm not sure about this one. A story where there's almost a destroyer of creation, but then a reversal.
Let's look at that pattern.
  1. Creation of good.
  2. Destruction of good.
  3. Destruction of good.
  4. Destruction of bad.
  5. Destruction of bad.
  6. Destruction of bad.
  7. Destruction of good (almost).
Well, that's extremely interesting. There might be something to this.

There is so much more to think about here. Dystopia stories abound, utopia stories are almost non-existent. Is this because we see the world as inherently resistant to us like Steven Pressfield says in 'The War of Art?' Or is it because that's just what we need to focus on to survive? Why do we like the reluctant hero but don't like, and even hate, the ambitious creator?

Maybe it's because the story is only part of the story. Maybe 'Harry Potter' would be about the creation of good but before that can happen he has to destroy the bad. The issue is that I'm reaching. I'm trying to pull creation into stories rather than look at what's actually there. Even romances are usually about the destruction of the attractive man, which is ironic. Wild man tamed by innocent woman until what she was attracted to in the first place she destroys. Men don't like seeing the man part of men destroyed, that's why they don't read romance novels. Women like seeing it but then they have to find a new man at the end. It works in a book, it's horrible in real life. Stories strongly focus on destruction. Try to find a creation story in all of the Greek gods and heroes. When you do, look again and you will find destruction as the emphasis.

Viktor Frankl holds creation as the highest value though. You could even interpret all of his values as creation. The creation of things, the creation of experiences, and the creation of our own attitudes. That seems appropriate to life to me. Two of my favorite movies seem to focus a bit on creation, 'Begin Again' and 'About Time.' 'Replay' by Ken Grimwood is also quite focused on creation. It's really just an entire exploration of existence.


Let's do this. What are the greatest types of heroes? The destroyers of destruction, the destroyers of evil. What's the next best hero? It has to be the creators of creation, it would seem. Then the last two would be the creators of destruction and the destroyers of creation. But people often love the bad guy, they're fascinated by him. People like Darth Vader. I find Anakin Skywalker to be the most interesting character in the whole 'Star Wars' series. People like westerns and that's not always because there is a good guy necessarily, although often there is, one that was formerly bad and is thus better at fighting and destroying evil now.

There are some interesting things here that I'm going to have to think about more. I think they're important.


I've written two fictional pieces that I like so far.

"The City of Peace" - A future history science fiction utopia/dystopia action adventure in a framed story of a father telling his son a story about the child's grandfather.

"The Birth of Hanniba'al" - A dark, somewhat alternative, historical origin story for the Carthage General Hannibal.

Here are three of my most popular posts.

"The Making of a Great First Line in Fiction"

"A Letter to My Niece in 2034"

"The Most Important Question in Philosophy - Part 4 of 4"

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