Jordan Sommerfeld

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a Wuxia film that centers on the main character of Jen, who lives the life of of the daughter of an aristocratic governor who is visiting Beijing, during the 43rd year of the Qing Dynasty (1779). Jen is unhappy with this wealthy, restricted, and boring life that she seems forever doomed to and she wishes to live a life of adventure, like the heroes in the stories she has read. Jen is not an ordinary aristocratic girl due to the secret Wudang training she has done with her master, The Jade Fox. Jade Fox is a woman who was denied the right to train with the Wudang masters due to her gender and has become bitter towards them, to the point of seeking their deaths. Jen is also going to be forced into an arranged marriage that she does not desire to have and will only lead her life into further perpetual boredom and inactivity. Earilier in her journeys through a dessert, Jen had an heirloom comb stolen from her by a bandit, named Lo and called "Dark Cloud". Jen had followed this bandit through the dessert and ended up spending the night with him and through this stay, Jen fell in love. Before Jen had to return to her family after this romance, Lo tells Jen the story of a man who jumped off a cliff to make his wishes come true. Due to the man being pure of heart, he did not die from jumping off of a cliff.

The Hero's Journey

The Call

At the point when the hero, Jen is scaling the roofs and decides to change her life, by taking the legendary weapon, the green destiny sword, a new change in thought is created, because she is now pilfering the sword for the sole reason of simply wanting to do so. Taking this weapon causes her to meet and fight Yu Shu Lien, a female fighter, who becomes a conflict for obtaining the sword. After a fierce fight and outmaneuvering, Jen is able to finally run off with the sword. This theft of the green destiny represents Jen's call for personal freedom in a society that offers very little. Jen is in a state of mind of personal freedom, which is most likely what would be considered a strong movement of rebellion lashing out from her society. In a fit of rebellious theft, Jen awakens a journey of obtaining freedom.

The Threshold

When Jen hears that Tsai,the man killed by Jade Fox in the confrontation with Li Mu Bai and Master Bo, was a police officer she feels suddenly very guilty and worried for her family name. This guilt and fear causes her to feel the duty to return the Green Destiny to its owner, Sir Te. Li Mu Bai had decided to stay awake the entire night that Jen decided to return the sword, due to him already suspecting her to do so. Jen, trying to be as stealthy and unseen as possible, is of course immediately spotted by Li Mu Bai. They start with a short fit of combat, however, Li Mu Bai makes quick work of her and poses the proposition for her to become his pupil and tells her that she is still not lost by Jade Fox's poisoning and that she may be able to train Wudang as a female, due to exceptional skill and talent. Jen angrily turns him down and returns the sword, before fleeing away. This confrontation was the first time anyone had stated Jen's potential to fight at this level, as well as the first time she ever had a superior in combat. Meeting Mu Bai at that point opened up a new wave of thought for Jen; thought that questioned all Jade Fox has taught her and questioned how she has always viewed herself and others.


There are numerous tasks, both mental and physical, that Jen faces throughout this film. Many of the challenges manifest themselves in battles, unsurprisingly, given the nature of this movie. One of the largest recurring tasks is Jen having to conceal herself as a Wudang fighter from anyone other than Jade Fox, which she of course fails at, by revealing herself to Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien. Another struggle is Jen having to hide the extent of her knowledge of Wudang and her literacy from her master, Jade Fox, which she of course fails at as well. When Jen stays with Lo, she has to fight herself to leave him and return to her family. The initial tasks of trying to obtain the comb from Lo and the struggle of chasing through the Gobi desert and learning to trust, then love Lo were great challenges as well.One combat related challenge Jen faced was her fight with Li Mu Bai, on the side of Jade Fox, where Jen had to also rescue her master and secure her escape. Another combat challenge Jen had was when she decided to start a bar brawl with a group of inferior warriors, while she was posed as a man and even pretended that Li Mu Bai was her defeated enemy. This was not actually difficult for her, but it was still a combat situation. One very large challenge was Jen's fight and the cutting of "sisterhood" with Yu Shu Lien. Of course with the green destiny, Jen was able to best all of the weapons Shu Lien could use against her; however this was also a conflict of severing ties that were once closeness and admiration, in a very sudden lashing.

Jen and Li Mu Bai clashing swords in the famous bamboo fight

The Abyss

At the ending of Jen and Shu Lien's fight, Shu Lien is stabbed in the arm by the green destiny and Li Mu Bai enters the building, interrupting the fight. He tells Jen of her lacking of honor, making her unworthy to wield the green destiny. Li Mu Bai chases Jen out into a bamboo forest for the sword and to reach Jen's heart. In the bamboo forest, they can finally sense each other's hearts and feelings through the clash of their swords in the air as they jump from the bamboo. They then arrive at a lake and Mu Bai mentions once more that he wishes to be her teacher and to guide her to a greater future. Jen tells Mu Bai that if he is able to take the green destiny back from her in three moves, she will go to him as his pupil. Mu Bai easily takes the sword back in three moves. When Jen still refuses to accept Mu Bai as her master, going back on the promise she just made, Mu Bai claims the sword as useless, thrusting it into the waterfall. Jen hastily risks her life for the sword, diving into the waterfall to gain a material object. This challenge forces Jen to back down to someone and acknowledge them as superior to her. Before this, Jen was entirely arrogant and constantly brought trouble to her, as well as participating in illegal activities. When she was forced to back down and put aside her
arrogance, a small glimmer of change began to shine within Jen.

The Revelation

After diving in for the sword, Jen was saved by Jade Fox. Jade Fox had also decided to drug Jen, so she could easily finish her off later. Mu Bai happened to find Jen drugged and went to aid her out of this state. Shortly after, Jade Fox rushes in with a barrage of poisoned needles being fired at Mu Bai. He appears to deflect all of the needles and vitally wound Jade Fox, however, it is pointed out by Jade Fox before her death that one of the poisoned needles pierced Mu Bai. During this Jen sees Jade Fox die, which was the embodiment of all of her negative activity and arrogance. She also saw Li Mu Bai risk his life to save Jen from death. This humbled Jen for the first time and she began to actually gain a sense of honor.

The Atonement

Seeing Mu Bai poisoned, Jen tries to do anything she can to aid him and save his life. She is the only person that knows of the cure of the particular poison used by Jade Fox, and instead of keeping it to herself she quickly tells Yu Shu Lien and Li Mu Bai the the ingredients to the antidote. She states them as being not very uncommon ingredients, but hard to obtain on short notice. Jen braves running back to her home, in which she was afraid to return to, in order to attempt to get the ingredients for the antidote. Doing this, Jen puts aside any fears and personal struggles to help another. Jen is unable to save Mu Bai, but is no longer the immature, arrogant girl she once was.

The Return

After the death of Li Mu Bai, Jen heads off to Wudang Mountain to see her love Lo once more. They spend one last night together, before Jen decides to jump off of the cliff that was stated by Lo to grant one's wishes, if they were truly pure of heart.While jumping off of the cliff at the ending, Jen appears to almost float, just like was stated that the man in the myth had done. This seems to show Jen has finally become pure of heart and only wishes to become free. She brought the story of a girl who appears to have floated away, finally obtaining freedom from the society that trapped her, through her pureness of heart.


Jen Yu
Jen in the process of thieving the green destiny

The most obvious of Jen's archetype would be seeing her as an anti-hero, due to her always seeming to do illegal acts and aiding/being mentored by a criminal, but still not being portrayed as the protagonist and seems to be idealized through her exceptional skill and talent at fighting. Jen is however not just an anti-hero, she is also a rebel, by doing what she believes is right to do, acting against society to run away from her arranged marriage. She fights whoever she feels like fighting, steals what she wants, and essentially does whatever she feels like, backing down to no one. Jen, through her transformation is able to overcome her flawed character traits.

Li Mu Bai

Li Mu Bai would probably considere the mentor archetype, due to his role in this movie as a guide for Jen's actions and his large amount of wisdom and old age. He possesses being empathetic, always trying to relate to Jen and understand what she is going through. Like a mentor, Mu Bai only depends on himself to solve his problems, which includes his guidance to other characters. Mentors seem to also act as a fathering figure towards their students, much like Li Mu Bai behaved. Alternatively, Mu Bai could be seen as the wise old man, contemplative, thoughtful, and in the end helpful for the hero's progression.

Yu Shu Lien

She is perhaps a fallen mentor, aiding the hero, when she herself has not completed her hero's journey. She tries to offer Jen advice and aid Jen away from Jade Fox into a life of peace, and also tries to push Jen to live by society and marry through the arranged marriage, looking back on how troublesome her own life has become through never marrying. She only wanted to help Jen, even though she herself was still on her own hero's journey.

Jade Fox

Jade Fox appears to be Jen's guide and teacher, but she is actually corrupting Jen into becoming a criminal like herself. Jade Fox is misleading the hero to try to push her onto a dark path, much like her own. A dark mentor is a hero that has fallen far from the path of grace and has lost most hope in accomplishing their hero's journey. A dark hero will serve as warning for what the hero should strive not to become; Jade Fox clearly demonstrates this warning.

Lo "Dark Cloud"

Lo is certainly a vigilante archetype, robbing from people as his way to survive and sticking in groups of bandits to do so. He goes by his own laws, doing what he sees as right, even though it contrasts with the laws of society. Lo is also seen as a type of wandering lover archetype; never being able to actually obtain his love, he wanders far and wide awaiting for the point at which he and Jen can finally be together once more. As the lover aspect, he seeks to be with no one other than Jen and will stick by her in any circumstance, which leads to his wandering aspect, trying to have Jen with him again through search and never fully being able to settle his love.

Li Mu Bai's death scene, with Yu Shu Lien

Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien

The relationship of these two is that of the star-crossed lovers archetype. Yu Shu Lien was to be married to a man long ago, but he died as her fiance and she could not marry again until another man actually broached the question, to not disrespect her dead fiance. Over time Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien began to develop feelings for each other, but Li Mu Bai did not want to say anything, due to being a Wudang master and the duty brought with his position may not make those things appropriate. With neither Mu Bai nor Shi Lien speaking out about their feelings nothing is ever said for years and their relationship never happens. During the movie, they try express these feelings finally, but are never able to find a good moment to truly do so. When Li Mu Bai finally dies, he is able to express his love for Yu Shu Lien, but due to him being dead the relationship can still not happen, thus represeting the archetype of star-crossed lovers.

Martial Arts Movies as an Archetype

In martial arts movies, there are many accepted features that make these kinds of movies almost an archetype on their own. In a martial arts movie it's just common belief that all people can leap amazing distances/do amazing acrobatic feats. It is seen there is always some kind of master shown in a martial arts movie and some form of student. All martial arts movies seem to have an antagonist that seeks to cause chaos and disrupt the lives of the people around them. Most main characters are assumed to be skilled fighters and there is usually some aspect of love and honor.

The Green Destiny Sword

This sword as it travels throughout the movie is seen as the magic sword archetype, having mystical attributes of being able to cut through most metals and not breaking, as well as being the superior to all other swords; It shown to be able to even cut through a large metal club. Heroes seem to think they require the magic sword to accomplish their journey, but it turns out to not be the actual thing needed for such an accomplishment and becomes useless. This is similar to how both Jen and Li Mu Bai thought they needed the sword to accomplish their goals, but were only held back by it in the end of things.

The Impact and Importance of Archetypes and the Hero's Journey

The core reason that archetypes and the hero's journey exist is so we have something to easily have order and organization and something that we can always relate to. All heroes' journeys have the same basic outline, partially tailored to fit into any story. This all creates something we can hold true, a natural human wanting for substance and order, which we strive to create through the hero's journey. As humans wanting order, we also have created archetypes to follow as guidelines and basic rules for characters. The not all that large list of these ends up covering a very large amount of characters, due to how every character always holding strong to fitting into one of these common archetypes we have created for better order and relation to stories and their characters.

Archetypes like that of anti-heroes and rebels show up so often, because there is always a side of people that find the traditional hero boring and unrealistic. People seem to seek a hero heavily flawed that overcomes their flaws and corrupt ways for a life of good, or just simply someone that doesn't go by the norms and goes by their own ideals, disrupting society. We always know the disruptor exists and take large interest in such a questioning character. All types of mentors are very common in stories, because as people we know that things are often difficult to achieve, or at least realize on our own. We can relate to the mentor, by thinking of a sort of mentor or guide that has shown us the way at some point through our lives. It is always an accepted fact that when there is a mentor, there is always a student or youth in need of guidance. Star-crossed lovers is done throughout countless stories and recurs in the same or similar format every time, but is still something that achieves a high level of order and represents the constant struggle people in everyday life relate to of being with their true love. This is of course much more over played and dramatic than anything that would be in our society, but nonetheless a love that cannot be obtained is something people today can still relate to.

Having all of these archetypes indicates that our society strives for something that recurs and creates order. As a society, people have always striven to create things to which they can relate to, and thus that is why these archetypes exist and have continued to exist throughout the ages. Having archetypes like rebels and anti-heroes appearing commonly shows that as a society we find some kind of hasty, arrogant, flawed protagonist more interesting than a protagonist that has no or very few flaws. This again has to do with being able to relate. People seeing a thief or criminal as the protagonist makes them very interested in how such a person can be seen in a better light than other villains. Having a mentor archetype says as a society we depend on guides to get us from one stage in development to another. People like to be able to relate this with a guide they have had in their own lives to get from one point to another.