Ninja Turtles, Hogwarts and Archetypes

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in Hogwarts Colors

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles clad in the colors of their respective Hogwarts Houses: Michelangelo in Hufflepuff Yellow, Raphael in Slytherin Green, Donatello in Ravenclaw Blue and Leonardo in Gryffindor Scarlet.

I recently got into a very nerdy discussion with my friends, asking what Houses of Hogwarts the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would be sorted into. I was amazed at how well the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fit into the Houses of Hogwarts. Why is this the case? Certainly J.K. Rowling didn’t rip off the Ninja Turtles when she wrote Harry Potter. No, the similarities exist on a much deeper level, the level of archetypes.

Sorting the Ninja Turtles

Before we go into archetypes, let’s look at the Ninja Turtle sorting we came up with. As the leader of the four, Leonardo would be in Gryffindor, since Gryffindor values bravery and leadership. Donatello, the nerdiest Ninja Turtle, would be sorted into Ravenclaw, the Hogwarts House for smart witches and wizards. Michelangelo, the “dumb” party-dude turtle, would be in Hufflepuff, which is the “remedial” House of Hogwarts. Raphael would be in Slytherin. Now this House has a reputation for being evil, but not all Slytherins are evil. Some are just ambitious and aggressive. Raphael is the “cool but rude” one. Hence, Slytherin.

Archetypes are the stock characters in our collective unconscious. Our brains are hardwired to categorize people into broad personality types. This helps us deal with people that we don’t know very well, but it’s also a boon to storytelling, as writers can manipulate these archetypes to create characters that we instantly bond with.

Foursomes in Other Franchises

There’s no definitive list of archetypes, but there are patterns. One of the most common patterns used in story telling is that of the foursome. With four core characters, you can have endless dynamics and stories. Most archetypal foursomes follow this patter: the Leader, the Genius, the Schemer, and the Fool. We can see these stock characters in both Harry Potter and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but they occur over and over throughout fiction.

Take Seinfeld, for example. Jerry’s the Leader, George is the Schemer, Kramer’s the Fool and Elaine is the smart one. You can see in on The A-Team as well, with Hannibal as the leader, Face as the Genius, Murdoch as the Fool and Baracas as the Schemer (or in this case, the Fighter.) You’ll find the same archetypes in South Park, The Wizard of Oz, Sex and the City, The Hangover, and countless others. You can even see this same foursome in shows with ensemble casts. For example, within Harry Potter, the characters are classified into the four archetypal Houses of Hogwarts. But even within Gryffindor, we can see the same roles pop up amongst Harry and his friends. Harry is the Leader, Hermione is the Genius, Ron is the Schemer and Neville is the Fool (at least in the earlier books).

The Mysticism of Four

These same four archetypes pop up over and over throughout literature and history. Besides the characters of the stories we love, you can find them in such categorizations as the Four Elements, the Four Humors, the Four Seasons and the Four Cardinal Directions. The Native Americans view four as a sacred number, and I think there’s something to that. As I said before, these basic groups of four are hardwired in our brains, and they can be a great way to create characters with whom we can instantly relate.

Can you think of any other major works of fiction that use these four archetypes? How about ones that break the mold? Let me know in the comment section.

Steve Lovelace

Steve Lovelace is a writer, photographer and graphic artist. After graduating Michigan State University in 2004, he taught Spanish in Samoa before moving to Dallas, Texas. He blogs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at http://steve-lovelace.com.

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6 Responses

  1. Salazar Tel'Vanni says:

    Leonardo is Slytherin as it is Slytherin that values ambition and leadership “Slytherins tend to be ambitious, shrewd, cunning, strong leaders, and achievement-oriented. They also have highly developed senses of self-preservation.[9] This means that Slytherins tend to hesitate before acting, so as to weigh all possible outcomes before deciding exactly what should be done.”-Pottermore
    Raphael is Gryffindor E.G. “The Gryffindor house emphasises the traits of courage as well as “daring, nerve, and chivalry,” and thus its members are generally regarded as brave, though sometimes to the point of recklessness. They can also be short-tempered. Notably, Gryffindor house contributed many members to Dumbledore’s Army and the Order of the Phoenix. According to Phinaes Nigellus Black, members of other houses, particularly Slytherin, sometimes feel that Gryffindors engage in “pointless heroics.” Another Slytherin, Severus Snape, considered many Gryffindors to be self-righteous and arrogant, with no regard for rules.”-Pottermore
    Pottermore is made and written by J.K. Rowling.

    • Interesting take on the matter, Salazar. I’ll admit I’ve never taken a look at Pottermore. It makes me wonder if the Harry Potter books, as written, are Gryffindor propaganda.

  2. SFG says:

    It may be cultural–four’s a big number in Western culture, but five is more important in China, for example.

    There was a book: King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, which says many of the same things, so I think at least in the West there is something to it. Maybe it goes back to the four Gospels?

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