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The Hero's Journey - Meeting with the Mentor

From Christopher Vogler's "The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure"


See also:
The Hero's Journey - Intro
The Archetypes of the Hero's Journey
The Ordinary World
The Call to Adventure and the Refusal of the Call

Meeting with the Mentor

When you see a wise old man or woman in a story, think mentor. The mentor represents the bond between parent and child, teacher and student, doctor and patient, god and man. The function of the mentor is to prepare the hero to face the unknown, to accept the adventure.

The mentor is one of the most recognizable symbols in all literature. Consider Merlin, Yoda, Q from the James Bond series.

The mentor gives the hero the supplies, knowledge, and confidence required to overcome his or her fear and face the adventure, according to Christopher Vogler, author of "The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure." Keep in mind that the mentor doesn't have to be a person. The job can be accomplished by a map or experience from a previous adventure.

Think about why this relationship is important to the story. One reason is usually that readers can relate to the experience. They enjoy being a part of an emotional relationship between hero and mentor.

Athena, the goddess of wisdom, is the full, undiluted energy of the mentor archetype, Vogler says.

Who are the mentors in your story. Are they obvious or subtle? Has the author done a good job of turning the archetype on its head in a surprising way? Or is the mentor a stereotypical fairy godmother and white-bearded wizard. Some authors will use the reader’s expectations of such a mentor to surprise them with a mentor completely different.

Watch for mentors when a story seems stuck. Mentors are the ones who provide aid, advice, or magical equipment when all appears doomed. They reflect the reality that we all have to learn life’s lessons from someone or something.

In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy meets a series of mentors: Professor Marvel, Glinda, Scarecrow, Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Wizard himself.

Next: Crossing the First Threshold and Tests, Allies and Enemies

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