The Cloak is a type of apparel worn on the outside of a character. This is often seen in Myth and Pop Culture by a hide, a fur, or fabric worn on the outside of the hero’s clothing. It protects the hero from the weather, from attacks, and to protect his/her identity. The cloak can be a detail and unimportant, but when myth or pop culture decides to have a “magical cloak”, what does that mean? When the cloak takes center stage, how does that relate to the person wearing it? It makes better sense if you understand that a cloak isn’t just a cloak. In ancient myth, it is a skin.
The Old and the New
In ancient myth this skin transforms and disguises. It restores identity, value, esteem, and purpose of a character. In the case of Selkies, the skin is removed to reveal beautiful humans. The Swan Maidens of Norse myth turn into humans to bathe. In the case of Hans the Hedgehog, his skin is removed to reveal a beautiful man. The skin is a “magical hide” because it “hides” or disguises the true nature of a powerful character. The transformation is symbolic of removal of the Soulskin. This is skin can be removed, taken, stolen, hidden, or trapped. When this happens the person to whom it belongs is trapped as a human until the skin is given back or the person dies.
For modern Myth and Pop Culture, it no longer matters what material the cloak is made of. Only the abstract idea of what the cloak represents is important. A heroine can make herself a cloak or can gain one through her journey. This is a metaphor of gaining or creating a skin to “fit in” or for a disguise. Little Red Riding Hood was given one by her mother as a metaphor for belonging to womanhood. Harry Potter was given a cloak as a metaphor for his identity in the Wizard World. Sapsorrow made hers with bits of fur and feathers to hide from her father. When the cloak/soulskin is removed we see the heroine as she truly is: herself, individual, the reflection of her sense of inner self.
This cloak is represented as the outside mirror of being human. A disguise over that which we wish to hide our true identity. For humans the skin is what we see every day, our nature in this world. How we are seen by other humans. But that flesh is only a container for what is inside. Identity, value, esteem, and purpose are removed or stolen from that character. That is the person who just exists. They do things from day to day without mindfulness. It is a sterilized life. The loss of feeling joy or happiness as well as sadness or anger has been stripped from them. This person is in danger of de-evolving, becoming feral; relying only on instinct to get them through life.
Does spiritual skin just lay around waiting for the owner to come back and get it? Can a Necromancer retrieve it? Can that necromancer wear it, as if their own? Does it come to life? Can a person destroy it? What happens to the owner if the skin is destroyed? What happens if the skin is destroyed while the person is still alive?
Once the cloak is removed from the character, how does the character restore it? There are many stories, old and new, that answer this question.
Hans the Hedge was not saved from his curse when the princess burned his skin. The hedgehog hide only returned to its former owner and induced a serious amount of pain. That has to be a metaphor. The princess sought to “save” her husband. The advice she received was bad. She did not understand that consistent love and trust was needed for healing. She wanted a quick way out. The Princess paid the price. Only by wearing iron shoes and walking the world, was she able to find her husband and forgiveness.
The cloak was given to Harry in the first story shortly after arriving at Hogwarts is a metaphor that Harry belonged in the Wizard World. In The Deadly Hallows, the audience learns that the cloak means more than previously implied. The invisibility cloak restored Harry as the heir to his family’s legacy. The brothers who encountered Death at the river were his ancestors. It also indicated that it was one of Harry’s great-grandfathers, who is the only wizard in history to escape Death. Harry lost his identity and value because Voldemort took it from him. The restoration of the cloak was a metaphor of Harry’s return to his rightful place in the Wizard World as a major player. The fact that it was an invisibility cloak is a metaphor for Harry’s ignorance of his fate, destiny, lineage, and inheritance. By the end, Harry no longer needed the cloak. He had learned, through consistent shows of love and acceptance from himself and outside sources, his identity, value, esteem, and purpose which lifted his curse at the end.
When the Swan or Selkie women have their hides stolen, it’s by men. The men do not return it because the men fear their women will not return. Despite the fact that their wife has been with them for a long period of time, they do not appreciate that love and trust might return their wife to them. Their husbands did not accept them for who they were inside or the reason they were compelled to be wild. The moment the women had their skins returned, they escaped and never came back.
Sherlock Holmes wears a long coat. That coat is his cloak, his identity, value, esteem, and purpose. Sherlock had to “kill” these ideas to combat and defeat the large spy network of Moriarty. After the Reichenbach Fall, Mycroft restores Sherlock’s identity by giving it back. The moment Sherlock put on his coat he took back his rightful place as the world’s most famous detective. This is his purpose. The consistent shows of acceptance from his immediate group and his fans around the world allowed Sherlock to completely restore his value and esteem.
The correct way to restore a person is consistent love and trust built up over time. The Selkies, Beauty and the Beast, Hans the Hedgehog, the Swan Women, Harry Potter, and Game Of Thrones all say the same. Shows of consistent love and acceptance from yourself or an outside source can restore a person’s identity, value, esteem, and purpose. These actions restore the individual’s SoulSkin. The soulskin is the cloak. The cloak is a metaphor found in thousands of Myth and Pop Culture mediums.
When the cloak, or whatever alternate form a writer chooses, makes an appearance, it is a symbolic representation of the character’s identity, value, esteem, and purpose. Usually, pop culture mediums do not include narrated thoughts or feelings from inside the character’s head. The cloak is that reminder. Visually, it reminds the audience of the character’s inner self and her purpose. For the character, the more heroic the destiny or fate, the more “magical” the cloak becomes. The removal and the restoration of the cloak is essential to the character’s journey. It is vital to character development.
As we journey forward into more pop culture, and ultimately more myth, the audience can stop and appreciate the reoccurring symbols in our stories. By exploring the past, we create new ways to imbue our heroes with essential tools to assist them on their paths in the future. Whether we are discussing Pop Culture or Myth, these stories mirror what we, as humans, want to be. We want to be the hero of our own story. What hero doesn’t want a magic cloak filled with identity, value, esteem and purpose?