MBTI Type: ISFP
Tristan is the embodiment of ‘still waters run deep’—a man of deep moral principles and emotions, who expresses nothing going on inside him, but who watches, broods, and internalizes everything from a distance. Though highly emotional, Tristan attempts to fight his desire for Isolde, because it goes against his own principles; and yet, he confesses toward the end of the story, that ‘love was more fulfilling than life.’ It is Tristan’s own refusal to express his feelings that prolongs his torment, since he refuses to share it with Lord Marke, and thus, Marke does not know of his inner struggle, his affection for Isolde, that they fell in love months earlier in Ireland, or that Tristan is attempting to sacrifice his love for the greater kingdom. Given the chance to leave with Isolde, Tristan stays and fights to the death, so that no one will remember ‘our love as having brought down a kingdom.’ His inferior Te is poor at self-expression, at considering the larger consequences of his actions, and in being wholly rational—it eats him up inside to sacrifice his heart for his principles. When another child provokes him by calling him a coward, young Tristan attacks him, then punches him, then fights his way through all his friends to express his anger. As an adult, he is impulsive—wanting to rush in and attack the Irish who have strung up a local villager for protecting a woman (his friends hold Tristan back). He tells Marke they must attack the Irish at once, and comes up with a plan to do so, on their route back to the coast, that involves the local terrain. Tristan is excellent in fights at seeing what is happening around him and in responding quickly to it. This enables him to win the competitive tournament that allows him to bring Isolde back home to Marke. Though initially resistant to the affair, Tristan gives into it—and engages in more and more reckless displays of public affection; he and Isolde sneak out right in front of people to make love in side rooms. When Tristan falls in battle, he still gets to his feet, cuts the head off an enemy, and ‘fakes’ being all right to stand down an army at their gates. His Ni foresees that he must sacrifice Isolde for the good of his country, lest they bring down the entire kingdom.
Enneagram: 1w9 sp/sx
Tristan as a boy burns with anger and resentment, which he transforms into a strict adherence to duty and principle. When Isolde asks him, if a place existed where he might ‘be with me’ without duty interfering, he says ‘no such place exists.’ Though he desperately wants to be with her, he denies himself their love for months, in absolute agony and misery. He cuts short their affair when Marke asks him if Isolde is being unfaithful to him, because he can see how much pain it would cause the man he loves as his father. He refuses to make excuses for his actions. All of this is reaction formation, the response of the 1, to force oneself to go against what one wants most, because they consider it bad or impure. In disintegration, Tristan moves to 4—he becomes solitary, moody, and full of hatred, resentment, and bitterness toward Isolde and Marke, blaming them for his own choices. His 9 wing further numbs him to things, makes him deeply internal, and unwilling to compromise easily.