Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Mentor

I've been away for the long weekend. It was a good weekend with a writing friend. But I'm home now, so, let's continue talking about The Hero's Journey.

By the time the hero is at the refusal point in the story, along comes a Merlin-like character who is the hero's MENTOR. The relationship between hero and Mentor is one of the most common themes in mythology and one of the richest in symbolic value, especially for Christian writers.

The Mentor may appear in many forms; an old man or woman, a parent, a pastor, a boss, a friend. The purpose of the Mentor is to prepare the hero for the unknown or quest. They may give advice or some kind of talisman or weapon before setting the hero free.

Sometimes, the Mentor comes back into the hero's life if the hero needs a push.

So, what do you think? Does every hero need a Mentor? If a hero doesn't have a Mentor, where do they get their knowledge, advice or encouragement? In my WIP, my heroine, Akeela, has a couple of mentors. One dies, one can't be with her once she starts her quest. I want Akeela to be able to figure out some things on her own. It gives me a chance to write in her mistakes and show her weakness. It also enables me to allow her to overcome.

If we are using a Mentor, we don't want that person to do everything for the hero. It would make the story boring and predictable. How are you using a Mentor?


  1. Danielle

    In one of my ideas, the mentor has just as many problems as the hero . . . well, almost as many. Anyways, she hates humans, and is stuck mentoring one Eventually a friendship forms, and the heros learns her most important skills from the prejudiced unicorn.

    I like to see mentors that have problems; it makes them a lot more understandable and less of an angel-sent-from-heaven-to-get-the-hero-on-track stereo type.

    There are so many different ways to make a mentor -- young or old, smart or challenged. The key point is for them to teach the hero what he/she needs to know. There can also be more than one mentor.

  2. In my WIP, Annay defiantly has a mentor. Master Samuel Gees has been her teacher for eleven years. A year ago she left him to live life on her own.

    He is wise and powerful, but old and becoming feeble.

    When the call comes, he is the one who want's to answer it. He laments to Annay that he cam not save the town. In some ways Annay becomes the heroin because she see how important the mission is to him.

    By making him old an feeble, he becomes the mentor because he can't be the hero himself.

    That was one of the problems I always had with the Lord of the Rings. Gandalf was so powerful it seemed that he should have just taken care of the ring. Instead he gives it to a hobbit.

    I've read that in order for the hero to succeed the mentor has to do his job and then get out of the way. In Star Wars Obi-wan lets himself be killed. I guess that's one way to get out of the picture.

  3. Gwaeron has Theloq. Theloq teaches her, protects her, but does not allow her to do what she wishes. He is like a harsh teacher who knows that if he fails in teacher her how to do battle, it will be the end of her. In once scene, he leaves her completely alone in the forest and then "attacks" her. Allow your mentor to help your hero, but allow them to help themselves.
    Eventually, your character will no longer need this mentor too much. Like others said, you can kill your mentor-- or you can join forces with him in your battle against evil.
    Or . . . he could always fail you and go evil himself . . .

  4. Danielle, I like that your mentor is not perfect. It would make things too easy.

    My heroine, Akeela, has the old hag, Krezma, who raised her when her mother died in childbirth. Krezma is crotchety and short-tempered, but she has affection for Akeela.

    When Akeela is presented with her quest, Krezma wants to help her, but is needed somewhere else. She gives Akeela advice, finds her a companion and has to let her go.

    This affords Akeela to make some mistakes and learn how strong she really is.

    Doug, I wanted to make a comment about your mentor, Master Samuel Gees. I immediately thought of The Lord of the Rings. That's pretty close to Master Samwise Gamgee. I'd think about changing it.

    About Gandalf; Frodo wants him to take it, but Gandalf knows the ring will ensnare him because of his own magic. That's why he gives it to a hobbit. Hobbits are simple, strong and don't desire much beyond their holes and good food. That proved to be a good choice, although Frodo weakens at the end. But another being would have given in right after taking it.

    Amanda: a mentor who goes to the dark side? That's interesting. Talk about stacking the odds!

  5. I don't think you need to change your mentor's name, Doug. I agonized over all my character's names in the beginning, even Googling them. I finally figured out that no matter WHAT you pick, someone will find some association with something else.

    And Samuel is a fairly common name anyway.

    I wouldn't change it.

  6. Danielle

    I forgot to mention: The villain could also probably be the mentor in THIS way . . .

    Our hero (H) walks in the general direction of the evil villain's (EV)'s lair. H thinks all is going jolly well until he gets spotted by EV's secret dragon monsters and is sent running.
    H miraculously escapes with everything but his hair, mourns his loss, then starts out again with a fireproof hat and a sword. H gets past dragons, climbs up the mountain leading to the evil villain's lair and enters the palace with the magic words: "Abra cadabra".

    Unfortunately for poor H, EV is much more experienced and enjoys blasting H out of the palace, down the mountain, and right past the wounded dragons.

    At this point H is encouraged by his Faithful Friend then goes back to face the villain with a fireproof hat, climbing gear AND a staff that he had to wheedle from a grumpy wizard.

    Ta da! The villain and his tricks pretty much taught H all he needed to know! I know my explanation was very far from perfect, but I think it got the point across. Anyway, it was fun writing it!!