The Christmas holiday season presents an opportunity to engage students in a discussion about character types and the roles they play in fictional stories. The classic and longest running Christmas holiday special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, can serve as an introduction to the types of characters that are important in fictional stories. Challenge the students to identify the seven types of characters and the roles they play. If done as part of an end of the semester party, consider rewarding the students with a candy sleigh.
The main types of characters include the confidante, dynamic characters, flat characters, foil characters, round, static and stock characters. The main character confides or shares a problem with the confidante. Dynamic characters develop or change over the course of the story while static characters don’t change or remain basically the same. Foil characters are the characters that have personalities or traits that are opposite of the main character or characters. Round characters are well-developed characters while flat characters are defined by only a few characteristic traits. Stock characters are a type of flat character that are instantly recognizable. It is important to note that characters may fall into different categories and may be more than one type of character. The characters however, cannot be two opposing character types such as both the antagonist and the protagonist.
There are many roles and characters may play more than one role in a story. The primary character roles include the protagonist, the antagonist, the main character, the hero, the obstacle, the romantic interest, logic, emotion, and the sidekick.
The bad guy, the antagonist, and the character the audience is pulling for, the protagonist, are essential elements of fictional stories and provide the goal or theme of the story. The main character is the character that tells the story or the character that presents the main perspective and view of the story. The hero character is the hero of the story. An obstacle character is a character or characters that are not the antagonist but block the protagonist or make him face his problems. The logic, romantic interest and the emotion characters provide added interest, create tension, and intensify the conflict. The sidekick is the faithful friend. In journey stories, another prominent character role is the mentor. The mentor guides or helps the protagonist.
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer Characters
In Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the roles and types change thus providing a chance to discuss and evaluate the different roles and types of characters using a well-known story.
However, the main character, the antagonist and the protagonist characters are easily identifiable. The main character is Sam the Snowman; he tells the story. The protagonist is Rudolph and the antagonist is the Abominable Snowman.
Likewise, Clarice is the obvious romantic interest. Hermey and Clarice both fit the description of sidekick in their loyalty to Rudolph. Hermey and the misfit toys help Rudolph to overcome and face his main problem or obstacle of being a misfit and therefore both fit the “obstacle” characterization.
Who is the “hero” character? Rudolph saves Christmas but Hermey and Yukon Jack save Rudolph and the others from the Abominable Snowman. Foreman Elf acts as the “logic” character who has a very one-sided view while Yukon Jack acts as the “emotion” character who is excitable and energetic and quick to take action. Both add tension and interesting side elements to the story.
Santa, the elves and Mrs. Claus are instantly recognizable characters that do not change in the story. They are flat stock characters. Hermey and Rudolph play significant roles and change throughout the story; they are dynamic, round characters.
Questions to Explore
What role does Donner play?
Who are the static, stock and flat characters?
Is there a mentor in Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer?
What types of characters or roles do the misfit toys represent?
Is Foreman Elf a dynamic character?
What are King Moonraiser and Coach Comet’s roles?
Lee Masterson, Casting Your Characters, Fiction Factor
Terry W. Ervin II, Seven Common Character Types, Fiction Factor
Short Story Elements, EdNet Miss Engram’s English Classroom
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Internet Movie Database
Characters,Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer, CBS
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Wikipedia
Gayle Crabtree, How to Make a Candy Cane Santa Sleigh, Associated Content