Romantic Chemistry: The Knight and the Damsel
The next in the series about Archetypal Attraction and Romantic Chemistry
The Knight and the Damsel are a matched set of patterns with naturally occurring complimentary attributes and dysfunctions. This can be true of any couple with these archetypes no matter their gender, same, different or otherwise. While we think of the Knight as a man and the Damsel a woman, that’s not always the case. I’m going to go the traditional route here but keep an open mind that the archetypes are not necessarily gender specific.
The painting to the right is an eloquent image of the romantic chemistry of the Knight and the Damsel.
Notice the Damsel, who I’m going to call Miriam, stands above George (her Knight) which is symbolic of the pedestal of her more delicate nature, in other words, that which needs or wants protection. Miriam is dressed beautifully, her hair perfectly combed as she leans gracefully to tie her scarf (a token of her love and support) onto his armor before he goes off to battle the nasty icky dragon.
Miriam has a civilizing effect on George, whom she believes would probably be just another brute in jangling armor were it not for her inspiring beauty and attention. For George, Miriam is the reflection of his inner feminine nature, emotional, delicate and not something he generally sees in himself. For George, going off to slay the dragon is natural, Miriam’s support makes it all the more noble and important because he can do the manly things he needs to do knowing that she will be safe and there when he returns. Symbolically he can leave his own feminine nature safely at home while Miriam can see a reflection of her masculine side go off to do the tough and dangerous work.
The romantic chemistry for the Knight and the Damsel is so complimentary that it goes a long way by creating deep bonds and mutual admiration. It often imbues that sense of puzzle pieces fitting together that I mentioned in a previous article. But then there are the dragons, which in this image are both looming in the distance and perched at home on the balustrade.
The dragons rear up when one or the other get tired of all this projecting of what they want to see in themselves in the other person. George doesn’t want to deal with his emotions – especially when Miriam practically demands that he take off all his armor and do just that. Or when Miriam feels stifled up on that pedestal, maintaining her beauty for him and generally waiting for George to stop being so bloody insensitive. What attracts these two archetypes can be exactly what drives them nuts. The path back to being complimentary patterns who support each other (from co-dependent to interdependent) is often a truce of sorts that allows each to see the others nature as a reflection rather than a projection. George is able to see his own feminine nature and Miriam her ability to protect herself as they work to integrate the full breadth of these archetypes. When these two archetypes get together in a healthy way and honor each other for who they are – it’s a power team to be sure.
There are several sets of fictional characters that I can think of that model the empowered Knight and Damsel coupling. Interesting to note that several of them come from the mystery genre of fiction – both authored by men. Nick and Nora Charles are fictional characters created by Dashiell Hammett in his novel The Thin Man. While also boozily humorous, these two play off each other well in the generally empowered Knight and Damsel roles. Susan Silverman and Spenser in the long running series of Spenser mysteries by Robert B. Parker excel at being a Knight/Damsel power couple. Throughout the series of nearly 40 novels the two go through pretty much every archetypal peril and triumph with both heart and wisdom.
More recently, the BBC/PBS series Downton Abbey features an excellent example of an empowered Knight and Damsel in the characters of John Bates and Anna Smith. They remain steadfast and trusting of each other but not demanding. Bates does not treat Anna as if she is weak but he is protective. They both honor the masculine and feminine in each other.
Volumes have been written about Venus and Mars and their challenges which the Knight and the Damsel are rooted in. For a deeper , non-fiction insight into these archetypal relationships and the Western concept of Romance, I highly recommend Jungian psychologist Robert A. Johnson’s “We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love“.