Bruno: The Magician Archetype (Encanto Film Analysis)
Bruno is a perfect representation of a common archetype within fiction and culture: the Magician.
In the 2021 Disney movie “Encanto”, we see several characters that fit well into various archetypes that have been expressed at various times within fiction. One can argue that all of the archetypes expressed in any fictional media, or even in culture and history, originated from the depths of our own psyche, meaning such archetypes and manner of being are innate within us.
One example of a character that fits almost perfectly in a certain archetype is the character Bruno Madrigal, who fits well within what is know as the magician archetype. Bruno’s role in the movie Encanto is very strange and complex, and he is arguably the most interesting character in the film. However, his character and actions demonstrate the magician archetype in all its fullness.
Let us first understand that the film “Encanto” is based on the Madrigal family, a familial clan where the members are gifted with magical powers. The family all live in their magical and inanimate house known as “Las Casita”, which resides in the magical but secluded land known as “Encanto”, hence the title of the film.
Bruno is the black sheep of the Madrigal family, He has inherited the ability of precognition, or the ability to perceive or see the events of the future. He has an extensive history of foretelling the future of all the inhabitants of the Encanto, and as a result, Bruno has predicted many negative events in the inhabitant’s life. This has led to the inhabitants to fear Bruno and his powers, forcing Bruno to become an outcast among the people, even among his own family and clan.
Due to Bruno being feared, excluded and misunderstood by even his own family, Bruno distanced himself from everyone, until one day, he disappeared from the Encanto. During his disappearance, Bruno continued to be a negative and taboo topic of conversation. Because of this, many if not all members of the Madrigal clan refuse to speak of Bruno and consider Bruno as a dark, mysterious figure of time past. We can see this attitude towards their kin in the song “We don’t talk about Bruno”:
We don’t talk about Bruno, no, no, no
We don’t talk about Bruno
-Encanto Soundtrack (“We Don’t Talk About Bruno”)
Unbeknownst to the Madrigals, Bruno has maintained a hidden existence for years within the walls of La Casita. This solitary existence made Bruno extremely eccentric, superstitious, cynical, and out of touch. He is strange, compelling, mysterious, misunderstood, unique, and world-weary. At the same time, he is extremely powerful through his visions, and his gifts have made him almost a mythical figure. He is knowledgeable, perceptive, and has a deep insight on the mystical and even the outer-worldly. He fits the Magician Archetype extremely well.
The Magician Archetype
What is The Magician Archetype?
Bruno is a textbook example of the magician archetype. The magician archetype has been expressed in fictional culture, and even in history, at various times. The magician is known for their extensive knowledge, reasoning powers, insight into the secrets of the universe, their ability to transmute reality, their magic, and their wisdom. Magicians are the beacons of knowledge for a kingdom or tribe, or they are secluded from civilization in order to continue expanding their secret knowledge or delve further into sorcery or the mystical arts.
And their is the magician — the holy man, the witch doctor, the shaman. Whatever his title, his specialty is knowing something that others don’t know. He knows, for instance, the secrets of the movement of the stars, the phases of the moon, the north-south swings of the sun. He knows when to plant and when to harvest, or when the herds will arrive next spring. He can predict the weather. He has knowledge of medicinal herbs and poisons. He understands the hidden dynamics of the human psyche and so can manipulate other human beings, for good or ill. He is the one who can effectively bless and curse. He understands the links between the unseen world of the spirits — the Divine World — and the world of human beings and nature.
-Robert Moore (King, Warrior, Magician, Lover)
Shamans, sorcerers, alchemists, wizards, prophets, fortune-tellers, oracles, masters and sages are examples in fiction of the magician archetype. Today in modern culture, they would come in the form of scientists, inventors, monks, priests, and palm-readers. Bruno is the prophet, the sorceror of the Encanto. He demonstrates what is sometimes known as “the magician energy”, in that he expresses the Magician energy through his predictions.
‘Brujo’ is the Spanish term for ‘sorcerer’. Brujo. Bruno. The similarity is uncanny that it can’t be a coincidence on the part of the filmmakers.
The magician energy is demonstrated through intense studying, mastery over one’s craft, transmutation of matter, interaction with the gods or outer-worldly powers, or in Bruno’s case as well in other cases, visions of the future.
Bruno the Magician
In fiction, magicians are very much misunderstood, even villainized, much like how Bruno was villainized. Many fictional characters who demonstrate the magician archetype live in solitude or exist outside civilization. In the book “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, the titular alchemist is a wanderer, who lives a solitary life within the African desert. Alchemists being historically associated with the ability to transform base metals into gold, but despite this, many alchemists in history or in fiction are excluded by those that do not have access to such abilities, or the alchemists exclude themselves.
We have many examples of magicians, or even supposedly magicians being villainized throughout history, like the Inquisitions or history’s many witch hunts. The Bible is even replete of example of God’s chosen prophets being rejected, despite expressing the magician energy through their prophecies, guidance in the ways of the Lord, and their prophetic warnings of God’s judgement.
Thus says the LORD: “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
Such an exclusion of those with the magician energy, those with divinely gifted powers or those with mystical abilities from the occult or the supernatural, have led magicians to seek isolation, where they can fully express their abilities and acquire further knowledge and foresight in peace. Bruno, in his seclusion, is free to practice his precognitive abilities to its fullest potential, however he seems to forego this opportunity to fully express his magician energy without judgement and rejection.
Other examples of those seeking seclusion to express the magician energy include Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda from the film series “Star Wars”, Merlin from the Arthurian legends, Rafiki from the movie “The Lion King”, and Ursula from the movie “The Little Mermaid”. Such examples are inspired by real life examples of monks atop mountains, priests within the secret sanctuary of the cathedral, or even inventors and scientists such as Isaac Newton and Nikola Tesla. The Fates from ancient Greek Mythology, who people consult for knowledge of their future, are secluded from the common realm. Even in the Bible, Apostle John wrote the prophetic Book of Revelation in seclusion on the island of Patmos:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants — things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.
If you notice carefully in culture, the hideout or secret domain of a magician is either at a high place, like a tower or a mountain, or a low place, like an underground basement. This is a further metaphor on the nature of the magician’s work and powers. They are either high or above, meaning that they can see all things and have a far-sighted view of reality. Or they are below and deep, meaning they can perceive reality on a deeper level and can fully understand the mystery of things, seeing beyond the surface.
Bruno’s room has a high cavern overlooking the sandy depths of his dark room. This is symbolic of his powers of foresight and seeing the future. He almost stands above and outside the flow of time in order to not only recall the past, but to also predict the future. Bruno’s powers put him so above the community and the rest of the Madrigals that his own room reflected the disparity. Seclusion almost seemed like the only option to Bruno.
However, not all magicians are isolated from civilization in order to express the archetype. In history, many magicians are found within the court of the king as advisors and counsellors. Some magicians, such as nomadic shamans and witch doctors, are the tribe healers for all those stricken with illness. These magicians use their vast knowledge and mystical powers for the service of mankind.
Examples of this in fiction include Jafar in the movie “Aladdin” and Gandalf in the series “The Lord of the Rings”. They use their powers and knowledge within their respective worlds among the people. Knowledge is one of the most valuable commodities in the world of the integrated magician. In the Bible, God sends prophets to guide and counsel the Kings of Israel and Judah on God’s will and how to lead the kingdom in line with God’s commandments. Another example from the Bible is when Joseph, who was given by God the gift to interpret dreams, advises the Pharaoh of Egypt of the meaning of his dreams:
Then it came to pass, at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh had a dream; and behold, he stood by the river. Suddenly there came up out of the river seven cows, fine looking and fat; and they fed in the meadow. Then behold, seven other cows came up after them out of the river, ugly and gaunt, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the river. And the ugly and gaunt cows ate up the seven fine looking and fat cows. So Pharaoh awoke. He slept and dreamed a second time; and suddenly seven heads of grain came up on one stalk, plump and good. Then behold, seven thin heads, blighted by the beast wind, sprang up after them. And the seven thin heads devoured the seven plump and full heads. So Pharaoh awoke, and indeed, it was a dream.
Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do: The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads are seven years; the dreams are one. And the seven thin and ugly cows which came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty heads blighted by the east wind are seven years of famine. This is the thing which I have spoken to Pharaoh. God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do. Indeed seven years of great plenty will come throughout all the land of Egypt; but after them seven years of famine will arise, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine will deplete the land. So the plenty will not be known in the land because of the famine following, for it will be very severe. And the dream was repeated to Pharaoh twice because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.
Genesis 41: 1–7, 25–32
Before his isolation, Bruno was the Encanto’s seer, the Encanto’s prophet, a role given to him by his Madrigal family. With his powers, he would foretell the future fortune of all those brave enough to consult him about it. In this instance, he was the magician for the people within his realm of existence. At the end of the movie, the Madrigal accepted and embraced him back into the community upon his return. This is symbolic of how important the ability of foresight and seeing or at least having an idea of future events is to civilization, as the family realized how important and valuable Bruno and his powers are. The realm of Encanto cannot thrive, or even survive, if the future cannot be navigated. This is why in today’s world, organizations without a view of the future usually die. Despite him vanishing for years on end, Bruno is an incredibly important member of the Madrigal clan.
The magician archetype, with all his powers, abilities, knowledge, and characteristics, are fully exhibited and expressed through the character of Bruno. He is one of the most important characters of the movie, and one can make the case that he is an unsung hero of the family and in maintaining the harmony of the Encanto. He is a sorcerer, a sage, a teller of truths, a mystic, a practitioner of magic. He is Bruno, a perfect example of the magician archetype.