Whoosh! Issue 49 - October 2000


By Carolyn M. Wallace
Content copyright © 2000 held by author
Edition copyright © 2000 held by Whoosh!
9266 words

Author's Note: Special thanks to Crystal Blue, whose input vastly improved the content of this article.

Trinities (01-05)
Menage a Trois (06-07)
Mythique a Trois (08-13)
Interactions and Psychology (14-17)
The Future (18-19)

The Mythic Triad:
An Examination of the Xena/Gabrielle/Joxer Dynamic


Holy Cow, Gabrielle, are you eating *again*?

Joxer, Xena, and Gabrielle hang out around the campfire in GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN.

[1] The number three has a significance that permeates Western culture: "good (or bad) things come in threes", "I grant you three wishes", "three strikes, you're out", etc. Sometimes this significance is practical, as in "leaves of three, let it be". Sometimes it is spiritual, as in St. Patrick using the three leaves of the shamrock to explain the Trinity.

[2] The Christian Trinity is not the only divine triad of Western Culture, however. In Norse mythology there are the three Norns-Urd, Verdani, and Skuld-who are often equated with the Greek Fates. In Celtic mythology, the battle goddess Morrigan has a triple aspect, sometimes listed as Macha, Babd, and Nemain.

[3] Greek mythology abounds in triads: the three Graces, the three Furies, and the three Gorgon sisters [Note 01]. There are also three Greek moon goddesses, Artemis, Selene, and Hecate, who represented not only phases of the moon, but the phases of a woman's life: maiden, mother, and crone. (It is important to note, however, that while the term "crone" has taken on a derogatory aspect today, it was once a title of great respect, given only to women who had demonstrated superior wisdom, regardless of their age.) The concepts of Maiden, Mother, and Crone are repeated in the Greek Moirai, better known as the Fates: Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos.

[4] The male version of this symbology is often described as the young man or questor, the hero/king, and the wise man. It can be seen at work in the relationship between Galahad, King Arthur, and Merlin in the Arthurian mythos.

[5] There is also a mythic triad seen within each human being: that of the body, the spirit, and the mind. In Greco-Roman mythology, where the gods depicted facets of the human experience, one prominent example of this triad is seen in the myth of Cupid and Psyche. Cupid (the body) [Note 02] marries Psyche (the mind), and together they give birth to Bliss (spiritual wellbeing). This myth stresses the importance of a balance between the different forces of being in order to achieve a state of completeness and oneness within nature. This very same myth is re-told, in different form, in Xena: Warrior Princess through the characters of Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer.

Menage a Trois

[6] That the three characters are closely linked is indisputable. The women tell Joxer on several occasions that he is part of their family, and Joxer's feelings toward Gabrielle and Xena are mutual, to say the least. In CHAKRAM (92/502), Joxer confesses his romantic love for Gabrielle, while in ANIMAL ATTRACTION (94/504) he makes Xena his sister. When Xena announces her pregnancy, Joxer responds with, "I always wanted to be an uncle".

[7] The connection between the three is especially emphasized in DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN (90/422), when Xena, reincarnated as Harry, takes the reborn Joxer (Annie) as her/his lover. Annie/Joxer then acts as the mechanism to reunite Xena and Gabrielle in their latest incarnations. Without Annie/Joxer's actions, the reunion would not have taken place, or would have been, at the very least, delayed.

Mythique a Trois

[8] A relationship between three friends, however, even if it spans several lifetimes, does not become mythic unless there is an underlying symbology that speaks directly to the hearts and minds of others. If the Xena/Gabrielle/Joxer dynamic does form a mythic triad, what roles do the individual characters fulfill?

[9] When the character of Xena is first introduced on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, she is a heartless warmonger. She seems unable to empathize with the suffering she inflicts on others; she is only interested in the success of her plans. Xena's extraordinary skills are all subject to her indomitable will and the plots of her supremely strategic intellect. She is, in a symbolic sense, a great mind working without the grace of a human soul. Only the love of Hercules' noble spirit is able to claim Xena and "unchain her heart", foreshadowing the coming of the second part of the Xena mythic triad: Gabrielle.

[10] Is it mere coincidence that Gabrielle shares a name with an angel? Angels are the divine messengers. They bring enlightenment to the human mind, just as Gabrielle lights the path to Xena's redemption. As the bard's character evolves from childlike faith to informed belief, her ongoing spiritual quest guides Xena continuously. Gabrielle is Xena's conscience, the still, small voice that leads the mind's thoughts from concerns of the self to those of the numinous world beyond. Gabrielle is literally Xena's "soul mate".

[11] Still, the triad is unfinished. Unfettered, too much spirituality is as bad as too much thought, as Gabrielle discovered in the episode PARADISE FOUND (81/413). There must be something to strike the balance between the mind and the soul, and that balance is the body, with its human needs and its human heart. Xena herself names Joxer the person with "the heart of a lion".

[12] Joxer is the very essence of carnality. He is easily swayed by his lusts, by "wine, women and song". Yet, the capacity in his heart for love is unbounded. When his friend Meg steals the baby she has always longed for in KEY TO THE KINGDOM (78/410), he aids her without question. Xena would have doubted the strategic feasibility of kidnapping a child, while Gabrielle would have pondered the morality of the action. Joxer sees only a friend in pain, someone who needs his help.

[13] Joxer becomes the physical balance between Xena's mind and Gabrielle's spirit, tying them both to the earthly plane where they can do the most good. This symbolism is depicted literally in the episode FALLEN ANGEL (91/501). The link between Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer is so strong that when the women die, Joxer learns of it from his dreams. It is he who takes their bodies from the crosses and brings them to Eli, setting in motion the events that will pull the women from the celestial to the earthly plane. It is an enactment of a near-death experience, with the mind and the soul returning to the body that they had sought to abandon. Without this reunion of the mythic triad, the plans of the Light would have failed, for the actions of the Light cannot take place in the heavenly realm. Only on Earth can Eve, the champion of the Light, be born.

Interactions and Psychology

[14] In light of this mind-body-spirit analogy, the reasoning behind many of the characters' interactions suddenly becomes clearer. Joxer's love for Gabrielle becomes the natural inclination of the body, with its inherent mortality, toward a higher spiritual existence. Gabrielle's irritation toward Joxer is that of the spirit trapped in a mortal shell, longing to dwell in ethereal realms, yet brought crashing back to earth by the needs of the body.

Not wanting to take any chances, Studios USA has their logo tattooed on Renee's stomach.

The trio work for a common goal in SACRIFICE 2.

[15] Xena's relationship with Joxer is naturally somewhat smoother, as the mind and body work more closely together. She trusts him to follow her orders, as when he retrieves the hind's blood dagger for her in SACRIFICE II (68/322). It is the trust of the brain telling the hand to grasp and bring back. Xena knows, however, that sometimes "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak". In the episode KINDRED SPIRITS (107/517) we see a perfect example of the mind and spirit joining to discipline the wayward flesh as Xena and Gabrielle punish Joxer for spying on the naked Amazons.

[16] Finally, in the episode EVE (111/521), we see the ultimate sacrifice of the body to the needs of the mind and the spirit. Livia is in the same soulless state in which Xena existed before meeting Hercules. When Livia tries to destroy Xena by killing Gabrielle, Joxer juxtaposes himself between Xena, Gabrielle, and the threat that would annihilate them. Taking the danger onto himself, his death wins him a life in the spirit, as symbolized in Gabrielle's final approval of him: "You could never disappoint me".

[17] It is important to note that, just as with the ancient myths, the triad of Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer also works on a psychological level. In Freudian terms, Xena represents the ego ("I am"), Gabrielle symbolizes the superego ("I should"), and Joxer acts as the id, ("I want/I need"). Even the fact that Joxer is male, while Xena and Gabrielle are female is significant. In Jungian psychology there is the "anima" or "animus", the concept that within each being is a representation of his or her opposite. Joxer thus acts as animus for the mythic human being comprised by the Xena triad.

The Future

Joxer comes back as Jacob Marley for the Solstice play

Joxer appears as a furies-induced apparition in MOTHERHOOD.

[18] It will be interesting to see how the writers of the upcoming sixth season deal with the loss of Joxer as a symbolic element. Rumors hint at Joxer's reappearance as a ghost, perhaps signaling a change in his role from that of the body to that of the spirit. This would mirror Gabrielle's character, which has become earthier and less spiritual, as shown in her transformation from the virginal, blood-innocent bard to a warrior equal to Xena herself. Or perhaps a new character will be introduced who will fulfill the same role, acting as the balance on which the mind and spirit rest. The mythic cycle may even be on the verge of renewing itself, with Virgil and Eve taking on the roles of spirit and mind, respectively, for the next generation.

[19] It has been said that with the "death of God", humanity must now create its own myths, rather than rely on "divine inspiration". The underlying myth behind Xena: Warrior Princess is one that speaks to a broad range of people, and quite rightly. Whether one is aware of the symbology or not, the trio of Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer compose a mythic triad that represents a single human being trying to achieve oneness with nature and eternity. Through the guise of storytelling, its lessons speak directly to the heart...as all great myths do.


Note 01:
While Medusa was a mortal, her two sisters were immortal.
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Note 02:
Cupid's true Greek name, Eros, is synonymous with carnal love, and so symbolizes the body.
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Carolyn M. Wallace Carolyn M. Wallace
Carolyn M. Wallace is an Associate Webmaster for a consulting firm in North Carolina's Research Triangle Park. For more information on Carolyn and her husband, artist Loston Wallace, visit her Web site at http://www.geocities.com/~cmwallace.
Favorite episode: It's a tie between A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215) and FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216).
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "I'll rise, but I refuse to shine." BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302)
First episode seen: IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? (24/124)
Least favorite episode: MOTHERHOOD (112/522)

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