Hey everyone, it’s time for another installment of my archetypal hero series. For this post I’ve chosen one of my two personal favorite hero archetypes, the Mentor, to write about. We all know this character; he’s the wise sage who gives advice and/or trains the protagonist; often sacrificing himself on the quest so that the protagonist can live. He is Gandalf, and he is Morpheus; Grandmother Willow and Uncle Iroh, Yoda and Rafiki. These characters are the embodiment of wisdom and they exist for one main reason and only one: to be a guiding pillar for the protagonist. It is the mentor’s job to make the sure the hero has the right morals and the right path to take. We love these characters because they make the story simpler in a charming, lovable way. They give advice and provide most of the practical life application for the audience to receive the moral lesson. I think ultimately, though, we love the mentors because we wish we had them in our own life. That’s not to say that we don’t have our own mentors throughout life, but that life would be simpler and more enjoyable if I could sit down to tea with Uncle Iroh and have him talk me through what moral lesson I ought to be gleaning from the day’s experiences. I’m sorry but nothing beats that for me. Nothing.
Not only do these characters provide important moral guidance to the protagonist, they also help keep the audience interested in the story. They provide unusual, often unpredictable encounters which should make the readers more attached to both the main character and the mentor. Ideally, the reader should share a similar level of emotional attachment to the mentor that the protagonist does. Authors want their readers emotionally invested in a story, and what better way to create emotional investment than to kill of a character that the isn’t necessary to the end of the story but that the audience shares a deep emotional connection with?
Simply put, we like these characters because they simplify the story and create emotional attachment. Authors like these characters because they can be simple to write and we get invested in the story because of them.