“Dear Knight, is your armour tested or just shining?”
There is a lot of wisdom in fairytales – for those of us who have the eyes to see. While stories do start with the traditional knight in shining armour saving his damsel in distress – there is something else actually developing. Evetually the damsel becomes the queen and the knight becomes the king. This is archetypal – and character – development which speaks about the transformation toward emotional maturity.
In our modern world though, this is a common dynamic that is played out by adults – where adults keep on saving and distressing – and unfortunately we have never been taught how to develop into the next phase. While both of the damsel and shining knight phases are needed and purposeful – and we have all been either saving or distressing at one point in time – such a dynamic is not long-lasting and will eventually fall apart or become toxic. We need to move forward into a next phase – and for the knight that means having his armour tested to become a warrior, to become a king. (While I will be discussing the knight – this archetype can embody all of us at different times in our lives.)
What is an armour?
The armour symbolizes shielding vulnerability, emotional expression and intimacy.
The armour is the imprisoned heart.
Why is it shining?
Because the knight hasn’t gone through the transformation of emotional vulnerability and the hidden realms of his inner psyche through the lessons of desire, pain, intensity, surrender, acceptance, forgiveness and devotion. He is afraid or incapable of true intimacy because he hasn’t yet accepted (and integrated) his shadow side – and is not yet emotionally mature to sustain a long-term relationship and build a future kingdom. He is comfortable saving damsels – but is incapable of nurturing a real love and supporting a woman. In a deeply subconscious way – he’d rather have his damsel continue to be distressed so that he feels better about himself.
The knight in shining armour loves damsels in distress. Because by saving them, he feels needed. It gives him validation of his “perfect” existence. When a damsel is distressed, the only thing he has to do is just “save” her. He does not need to open up at all emotionally or be anything more than just be there because she is broken and she would suffice for anything. So, he feels strong and invincible. He hides behind this image. And when the damsel stops distressing, his deeply rooted insecurities start boiling to the surface. When things are going fine and our focus is no longer running on some crisis is when we can finally focus on our emotional needs. And this is where he comes short, so he starts to feel insecure.
At this point of the relationship dynamic there are two choices: either the damsel needs to start distressing again creating new problems and drama so that he feels needed to save her again, thereby refocusing to distract, or he will eventually be tempted to save another damsel to validate his fake knight-ship status. He will call it love but it’s not.
The knight and damsel relationship dynamic is never long term. Eventually it falls apart or becomes codependent and toxic. Unless both of them develop to the next phase as selves.
In traditional tales, the knight undergoes transition. Sure, he wears a fancy armour but then goes off to fight dragons for a chance on real love — the dragon symbolizing the fight with his inner fears and the perseverance and courage needed to mature by facing and accepting it. The knight undergoes an intense transformation of self-development. He is stripped bare of his armour completely humiliated. He is forced to be completely vulnerable and face the dark night of his soul. He needs to fight his own dragon. And only after that he can reach the real princess, kneeling before her, symbolizing his surrender in love and devotion and maturity of feelings. He will say “I love you” not because he expects her to feel the same – but because this is how he feels truly. It’s his integrity to stay true to his heart – his true self does not need someone’s validation (or social media likes); his love does need to be requited – he loves without expectations. He will care for her unconditionally and provide her with the support, stability and trust required to build their kingdom. At this point he becomes a king.
A queen doesn’t need saving – but she needs to feel safe with her chosen one. A queen wants a warrior who will become her king — the one who will stand by her and protect their home. The one who will defend her name and honour even when she cannot hear him. The one who is loyal and ready to build a kingdom instead of running around masking his insecurities. The one who expresses his love and emotions. The one who has proven worthy of her, opening the gates – with his bravery, strength, stability, security, integrity, encouragement and caregiving.
A king is emotionally mature. He doesn’t play games and he knows that sometimes he’ll feel weak, he’ll feel afraid, he’ll feel worried. But that’s okay – because that’s just life and he’ll deal with it maturely – not deny it, not avoid it, not suppress it, not say “all is good” but deal with it in a healthy manner and resolve it. A king has conquered his dragon and integrated him into his Self.
The knight phase is a needed phase, just as the damsel phase is a needed phase. Both of them are building their strength in their own way. But after that, it needs to develop and they need to transition into the next phase — we can’t keep on saving or distressing. We are rarely taught how to do that but we must do it. The princess has to become a queen and the knight has to become a king.
With the king by her side, he will become the protector and the roof of the kingdom that they build together — and the queen by his side will become the walls holding and nourishing the space in which a family of love will be born — one built on intimacy and deep stable long-lasting connection.
Much love & peace
Image Public Domain: Artist John Dickson Batten from the book “English Folk and Fairy Tales”