Goldmund, an extroverted and worldly individual whose name means “Golden Mouth.” He is a highly sensual, handsome man who is very attractive to women. An intuitive and artistic person, Goldmund devotes himself to a life in pursuit of the senses and to a quest to find the archetypal figure of the nurturing mother. At the beginning of the novel, he is sent by his father, at the age of eighteen, to the medieval monastery of Mariabronn, where he plans to study and become a monk. His teacher, Narcissus, helps him to realize that his inner nature is not suited to the vita contemplativa of the monk and scholar but rather to the vita activa. Goldmund embarks on a series of adventures involving numerous seductions of women, war and violence, and the threat of death from the plague. Later, he studies with a famous artist and himself becomes an excellent woodcarver. He ends up in prison, to be executed, but is saved at the last minute by his friend. He returns, sickly and aged by life, to the monastery. He dies before he is able to finish his final masterpiece, a carving of the eternal “Eve-Mother” figure.
Narcissus, a monk and scholar in the monastery of Mariabronn. He is a highly intellectual and analytical individual who is devoted to the reclusive life of the scholar. He serves, in the allegorical mode of the novel, as the opposing pole to the artistic Goldmund. As the latter’s teacher, he realizes that the young boy is temperamentally unsuited to the monastic life and that Goldmund seeks to recapture the lost union with his mother. Narcissus gives him the courage to leave. When Goldmund returns after roughly ten years, his former teacher cares for him until his death.