Hero Analysis: Jorg Ancrath
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t yet read the Broken Empire Trilogy, please be aware that this analysis may contain spoilers.
The Broken Empire Trilogy probably has one of the most interesting character arcs for a protagonist. The setting of the books is a dystopian Europe that has been broken up after a large-scale war. This war threw European countries back to the medieval level of technology, but it is still surrounded by the marks of a highly technological world. The people who lived before the war are often referred to as The Makers by the people now living in the world and their tampering with science seem to have released magic into the world. In this world an unlikely hero steps into the political game of gathering the Empire back together.
The first time we run into Jorg is during a raid against a village. He is revealed to be a ruthless teenager hanging out with a bunch of mercenaries. They are not good people, in fact they often run extortion schemes on villages in a very mafioso way. If you do not pay them, they will make sure your village fall into some sort of accident. Not a very heroic way of life. Jorg Ancrath is the lost son of a minor king and at a very young age he witnessed the death of his mother and younger brother. This marred him severely, but not as much as the reaction of his father that decided to ensure peace with the baron behind the deaths than avenge his family.
Jorg Ancrath isn’t just a member of the gang of mercenaries, he is the leader. One can imagine how ruthless he has to be and Mark Lawrence, the author of Broken Empire, often shows how ruthless he is, especially in the introduction where, through first person narration, Jorg is shown making some really immoral decisions, like raping the daughters of the mayor of a village. Not directly described, but often referred to. He also kills one of his men because he grows tired of his incessance nagging and makes his brother decapitate his victim and keep his head in a wagon.
This may not seem like the background of a person one could call a hero, but allow me to argue some points. Carl Jung often talked about how every individual have a shadow self, a part of them that is almost animalistic and as ruthless as Jorg appears in the books. Jorg is the shadow incarnate and he is this for very good reasons, reasons that the reader can understand. It is understandable that Jorg would become as evil as he is at the age of thirteen after witnessing the death of his mother and brother, with a festering bitterness due to his father’s choice to not take action against the perpetrators.
Jung said that every human should face one’s shadow self before becoming truly good, but if you combine that principle with the the well-known Nietzschean proverb about fighting monsters, you get the Jorg that we get to know at the start of the books.
“He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.”
This is still not why I love the character. I was just as bitter and filled with dark thoughts at some point of my life, not that I had felt the same things that Jorg had, but I had felt betrayed and hurt by the adversity of life, and when I read Prince of Thorns, the first book of the series, I was in a dark place in my life. The fact that Jorg aims upward in life despite his anger, really grabbed me. Granted he doesn’t do it for the good of humanity, but he doesn’t fall into a pit of despair. He meets a woman that changes him and he is haunted by her for the rest of the books and she seems to be the catalyst for him to improve, even though he does not get her.
During the three books, Jorg is driven more and more to make better choices and he refuses to be part of the chess game that some background characters are playing to reunite the empire or fracture it even more. He steps out and becomes an individual doing what he sees as best for himself, maybe not always the results are good for the people around him, but everything builds up to the end of Emperor of Thorns. He finally makes it to what he wants, but he realizes that he will not unite the Empire in the way he wants and that his enemies make take it out on his young family and he sacrifices himself for his son.
This woke me up from how a human trapped by their bitterness might become what they seek, but if it is done through malice and based on revenge, you will make so many enemies that they will finally take you down or take it out on your family. And this is why Jorg Ancrath is a hero. He willingly sacrificed himself for his family, the empire and his own soul.
If you have any suggestions for heroes, please let me know in the comments down below or contact me on Twitter.