Archetype (Greek archē, "first," and typos, "imprint")

Submitted by MARYROSS on Fri, 04/24/2020 - 16:32

> archetype (Greek archē, "first," and typos, "imprint")


> arch = foot


> footprint = imprint of foot


> imprint = impress = emlem = stamp


> sole = soul homophone


> soul = divine spark (alchemy, Gnosticism) = “star in man” = Jungian “self”


I have been posting about the hidden presence of Jung’s archetypes and alchemy in Pale Fire, and also lately about PF’s possible parody of Archetypal Literary Criticism by Jungian adherents, Maud Bodkin, Joseph Campbell, and Northrop Frye. Here is something that I believe supports my position that Nabokov consciously and intentionally employed Jungian archetypes in Pale Fire:


Nabokov employed the trope of a footprint throughout Bend Sinister, apparently as an emblem of Krug’s soul – his connection to his “creator.” The same imagery occurs in Pale Fire:


“[…] for in his draft as many as thirteen verses, superb singing verses (given by me in note to lines 70, 79, and 130, all in Canto One, which he obviously worked at with a greater degree of creative freedom than he enjoyed afterwards) bear the specific imprint of my theme, a minute but genuine star ghost of my discourse on Zembla and her unfortunate king.” (C63)


“A remembered spread of colored sand bore the thirty-year-old patterned imprint of Oleg's shoe, as immortal as the tracks of an Egyptian child's tame gazelle made thirty centuries ago on blue Nilotic bricks drying in the sun.” (C103)



“[…] on the damp

 Gemmed turf a brown shoe lay! My secret stamp,

 The Shade impress, the mystery inborn.” (P. 883-5)


Kinbote’s “minute star ghost” is his divine spark imprint. Oleg’s imprint, like the divine spark, is ‘immortal.’  Shade’s ‘secret stamp’ is his unique soul/sole, his archetypal ‘first imprint,’ his innermost self.

The archetype of the inborn mystery Jung termed the self. The alchemists Jung studied referred to this inner light as the scintilla, star or divine spark:


“The transforming substance is an analogy of the revolving universe, of the macrocosm, or a reflection of it imprinted in the heart of matter. Psychologically, it is a question of the revolving heavens being reflected in the unconscious, an imago mundi that was projected by the alchemist into his own prima materia. But such an interpretation is somewhat one-sided, since the idea of the arcane substance is itself an archetype, expressed most simply in the idea of the soul-spark (scintilla, Spinther) and the Monad.” (Jung. Psych. & Alchemy, CW 12, par. 472)


‘There can hardly be any doubt that not a few of those seekers had the dawning knowledge that the secret nature of the stone was man’s own self. This ‘self’ was evidently never thought of as an entity identical with the ego, and for this reason it was described as a ‘hidden nature’ dwelling in inanimate matter, as a spirit, daemon, or fiery spark.’ (Jung. Psychology and Religion, CW, par.154).


The trope of footprints occurs early in Shade’s poem:


Reading from left to right in winter's code:

 A dot, an arrow pointing back; repeat:

 Dot, arrow pointing back... A pheasant's feet

 Torquated beauty, sublimated grouse,

 Finding your China right behind my house.

 Was he in Sherlock Holmes, the fellow whose

 Tracks pointed back when he reversed his shoes?



This likely refers to Nabokov’s erstwhile nom de plume “Sirin.”  The Sirin was a fabulous bird, one of the three birds of paradise in Russian folklore.  The bird of Paradise was an alchemy symbol and was sometimes represented as a pheasant. 

Kinbote describes his family crest as having a bird called the “sampel” (“silktail,”) which resembles a waxwing. The silktail actually resembles a small bird of paradise and is of the order “Paradisaeidae.” The “sampel” on Kinbote’s crest would be a heraldic “emblem.” Alchemists used “emblemata,” symbolic engraved images, to illustrate their craft. An “emblem” is also called an “imprint.”








It seems I made a typo in my above post, accidentally dropping the 'b' from "emblem."  I find the unconscious synchronicity amusing that "typos" means "emblem."