Top 6 Types of Epic Mentors in Fantasy

Ah, mentors.

One of the staples of the Fantasy genre, mentors are often underappreciated (and often quickly dead, at that, but we won’t go into this right now…) but so important — and can have their own very striking personalities as well.

Where would all of our heroes be without mentors?

Well, certainly not saving the world, for one thing; probably not very knowledgeable, for another; and most likely dead, for a third.

In short, they’d be sunk.

So it’s high time we paid homage to some amazing mentors!

Today’s February #FantasyMonth (hosted by Jenelle Schmidt) prompt is “Best mentors in fantasy” and that had me stopping and thinking: “Wait. I have so many favorites!”

Rather than make a little tweet about it and not do these fabulous gentlemen (and ladies!) justice, I decided I’d do a whole post about it instead.

A strong mentor is one you remember vividly and who is knowledgeable about something necessary to the quest or story you find yourself in, and one you’d love to have at your side in a pinch, to help you out of this mess — or at least teach you how to do so yourself.

(I was afraid, when making my list, that I’d have to leave some out for not being from fantasy. But it turns out all the great mentors I can think of ARE from fantasy, so… there you are! This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s most everyone I could think of at the moment.)

So I’d like to share with you twenty of my favorite mentors from page and screen, and I’d divided them into six types of epic mentors. Enjoy!

1. Classic Mentors

You know what I’m talking about. Grey or white hair, often a long beard, sometimes grouchy, or alternately quite merry with twinkling eyes and a sense of humor (sometimes at your own expense…), but very wise and prone to getting you swept away on an adventure you weren’t expecting — and likely didn’t want — but there it is! These elderly gentlemen are wise beyond their already extensive years, and you definitely want them at your side as you step into your adventure.

Examples:

  • Gandalf the Grey/White (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien) — Do I really need to say anything here? Honestly? Gandalf is the epitome of Fantasy Mentor; though he’s not ACTUALLY as grouchy and extreme as people act like he is, and he’s definitely more to be reckoned with than the weak film versions of him. I do like him in the movies, but right now I’m talking about the real, BOOK version of Gandalf. πŸ˜‰ Wise, dependable, and lit with an inner fire of goodness, whether as the Grey Wanderer or the White Rider, Gandalf is one of the great protectors of Middle-earth, and wherever there’s an effort of Good fighting against Evil, you’ll usually find him at the center of the adventure, guiding the heroes!
  • Great Uncle Merry (Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper) — Oh, Great Uncle Merry! He’s one of my favorites. Later revealed in the rest of the Dark is Rising Sequence in a more classic mentor role as Merriman Lyon, I still love him most in the first book, when he’s just the Drew children’s “great uncle” (Gummery, as young Barney calls him), and he makes you feel SAFE, you know? He’s also very wise, and fun, and just the absolute best.
  • Thomas Warvold (The Land of Elyon series by Patrick Carman) — I’m going to have to start talking less or we’ll be here all day, so I’ll simply say that Warvold is another classic example of one of the great wise old men — and he rather shapes young Alexa’s adventures, even if he’s not as much a part of them as one would like… He’s great, and I’d love to go to the library in Bridewell and eat strawberry jam on buscuits with him!
  • Cosimo Livingstone (The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead) — The great-grandfather of our hero Kit, old Cosimo was my favorite character in this book! The one who starts it all and gets Kit off on his adventure (what did I tell you about these older fellows sweeping heroes off!), Cosimo knows so much and is just fabulous. (I may be stretching the “fantasy” genre a tiny bit on this one, but it’s a rather unpidgeonholeable series, so we’ll just go with that… And of course I needed to include him in this list!)

2. Grizzled Mentors

These are the ones that aren’t quite as old as the Classic Mentors. These are maybe in their fifties or sixties — still seasoned veterans of life, but have a bit of fire. They often have a grizzled appearance: might have a short grey beard or salt-and-pepper stubble, or just hair flecked with grey, and they’re often weatherbeaten and not who you expect them to be. They can be sarcastic or warmhearted (or both) but they’re to be reckoned (but not trifled) with! These are one of my favorite kinds. πŸ˜€

Examples:

  • Halt (Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan) — I read the first Ranger’s Apprentice book this month specifically so I could include Halt in this post. XD I’d heard so much about him and I was pretty sure he belonged in my list, so I up and read it. And I was right — he so belongs here! Definitely one of my favorite mentors EVER. ❀ He’s such a great mentor and he’s indescribable, honestly. I just really like him. πŸ˜€ (You can read my thoughts on the first Ranger’s Apprentice book in my post from yesterday!)
  • Rayad (Ilyon Chronicles by Jaye L. Knight) — I mean. Anyone who’s read this series should know he belongs here. πŸ˜‰

(Brom)

  • Brom (Eragon movie) — I confess, I haven’t read the book. *cough* But I’m aware that the book-Brom is more of the Classic Mentor type. Anyway, I’m here to talk about movie-Brom, who is great! He’s definitely the grizzled, grouchy, sarcastic mentor type.

(Karn)

  • Karn (Ren: The Girl with the Mark – online TV series) — I love Karn! We didn’t get to see a lot of him due to the series only being about 50 minutes, but what we did see was great and he seems like he has huge potential as a mentor, the kind in this category, but a bit more friendly perhaps. XD
  • Prince Gwydion (Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander) — I don’t always think of Gwydion as a mentor character, but it fits for this post, and Taran definitely looks up to him. He’s wise and epic and just generally amazing in most ways. Can you imagine having Gwydion as a mentor? That would be awesome.
  • Romanov (The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones) — I’ll be honest and say I don’t remember him very well; I read this book from the library while I had the flu, and some of it’s a little vague in my head to say the least… But I do remember that Romanov was absolutely awesome and I think he was this grizzled type and I really liked him.

3. Handsome-Young-Magician Mentors

(Yes, this is a thing; sorry.) These are the charming, somewhat debonaire magicians, who are young, handsome, and completely unexpected in the mentor category, but here they are all the same. I was surprised by how many I found in this category!

Examples:

  • Chrestomanci a.k.a. Christopher Chant (Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones) — Oh, Chrestomanci! How awesome would it be to have him as a mentor? I mean, he’d likely be slightly terrifying, really, with his hard stare and biting sarcasm if he was annoyed with you. But he’s so calm and powerful in a quiet, elegant way, and you’ll often find him in one of his many extravagant dressing-gowns or in a beautifully tailored suit. When you have a magical mishap (er… world-shattering disaster?) and you call Chrestomanci, you know the moment he arrives that everything’s going to be all right.
  • Howl (Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones) — What is this? Howl? A mentor? He may be a great many things, but is a mentor really one of them? Well yes, it is — let’s not forget his apprentice, Michael! Howl sometimes may seem irresponsible or dramatic, or dreamily absent, but he actually is a pretty good mentor to Michael and seems to teach him well enough — and he took orphaned Michael in off the streets, so that’s another good quality in a mentor. And Howl being one of the most magical people in Ingary, of course he’s an ideal teacher to have, despite his seeming flaws of character… *cough*
  • Mairelon the Magician a.k.a. Richard Merrill (Magician’s Ward by Patricia C. Wrede) — I need to read the first book in this duology, but in the one I read, Mairelon is a great teacher for the heroine — and has some sort of quality rather like Chrestomanci or Howl, which is part of why he fits in here. He doesn’t care about what high society thinks of him, but he’s all gentleman at that, and if anyone can get a street-thief girl turned into a magical lady, it’s him.
  • Mr. Wicker (Mr. Wicker’s Window / The Sign of the Seven Seas by Carley Dawson) — A bit different than the three above, he still fit into this category better than any of the other categories. He’s from the 1700s (it’s a time-travel fantasy series), and he and the young hero, Chris, end up on adventures on the high seas or in Asia or Mexico, and he’s very patient and capable and usually has a few tricks up his sleeve — just the one you want to help you out.

4. Young Headstrong Mentors

These are the ones who are epic heroes in their own right, but somehow (against their own wishes, in fact) they find themselves saddled with another, younger hero. They may not have completed their own training, but they’re definitely more qualified than THESE kids, and, well, somebody has to take them in hand… They might be a bit gruff or not get along, but deep down they really care about their pupils… at least eventually. πŸ˜‰

Examples:

  • Jet Valinor (Sentinel Trilogy by Jamie Foley) — Oh, Jet. The best. πŸ˜€ He’s got to rank as “youngest, most awesome hero-in-his-own-right mentor EVER.” XD He has quite the attitude himself, and obviously didn’t want to end up with annoying puppy-dog-like Darien as his apprentice, but he’s pretty good at mentoring… kinda… even if Darien finds HIM annoying. XD It’s like a buddy-story turned mentor-apprentice relationship and I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Jet’s awesome in aaaall the ways.

(Kanan)

  • Kanan Jarrus (Star Wars: Rebels TV show) — I’m sliiightly stretching the “fantasy” genre here, but we’ll call Star Wars science fantasy and go with that. Just because I really, really wanted to list him. XD I know people usually think Obi-Wan or Yoda or maybe Qui-Gon when they think Star Wars mentor, but Kanan is my favorite. (Note: I’m talking about the first season of Star Wars: Rebels here.) He has to put up with Ezra (who I also love) and even though he never completed his Jedi training, he does pretty well with teaching his young Padawan. And he’s just awesome, so.

5. Dragon Mentors

Okay, so I don’t know if there are a lot of these or not. But I realized when I was making a list of my top 20 favorite mentors that two of them were dragons. So this category clearly had to be made. πŸ˜‰ Grouchy, dangerous, and always with the possibility they could lose their temper and roast or eat you, dragon mentors are actually one of the best kinds of mentors otherwise, because they are often extremely wise, and… well… dragons. That’s a plus right there. (Even if you’re not always sure whose side they’re on. :P)

Examples:

  • Scales (Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones) — Oh my. It’s very hard to talk about this dragon without spoilers, but let’s just say he has a VERY forceful personality, and he’s an excellent (if unexpected) mentor and I love him! (When he puts Kit in his place, it’s great. XD)
  • Malcolm Blackfire (Afterlands books by Kyle Robert Shultz) — Still waiting for some more screen (I mean… page) time for Malcolm in other books (*cough*waitiiiing*cough*), but he was apparently Lady Cordelia’s mentor, and he seems like he’d be a great one — plus, he does kind of look after the Mythfits and his school. Malcolm is one of the coolest dragon characters (he can also shapeshift between his dragon/human forms), and while he’s rather gruff and sometimes it seems uncertain whether he’s actually on “our” side, you can tell deep down he’s actually heroic. πŸ˜‰ MALCOLM’S AWESOME.

6. Lady Mentors

These do exist! As much as we often imagine old bearded men as mentors, there are some amazing ladies who have been incredible mentors in their time. The two I’ve picked are actually extremely different than each other, so I’m not going to generalize their “type” since they don’t really have one, so I’ll discuss them each individually. πŸ˜‰

Examples:

  • Princess Irene the older (The Princess and the Goblin & The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald) — The “grandmother” of little Princess Irene, and her namesake, this fascinating lady sometimes seems old and other times young and beautiful, but she’s the one to go to for counsel — as young Irene or Curdie often end up doing. Sometimes you won’t want to do what she says needs to be done, but you’ll end up doing it all the same, because it’s right, and she’ll show you why. She’s a classic mentor lady, and so ageless. I’ve always loved this character. πŸ™‚
  • Beana (Veiled Rose, Moonblood, and Fallen Star by Anne Elisabeth Stengl) — Well, well. Who would think to find a nanny-goat in this category? Ahem. πŸ˜‰ Those who’ve read these books will know that Beana is not what she seems! I absolutely LOVE her, and her relationship with Rosie. Beana is just so SOLID, and always knows the right thing to say — even if sometimes it seems a little blunt. XD Where would Rosie be without her Beana to tell her things?

So there you are!

Have you read (or watched) any of these? What do you think of my categories, and do you have any to add? And who are some of YOUR favorite mentors, fantasy or otherwise? πŸ™‚ I’d love to hear what you think! Thanks for reading!

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30 thoughts on “Top 6 Types of Epic Mentors in Fantasy

  1. This is a great list! I’m so happy to see you’ve put Beana and Prince Gwydion in there, too!
    As for me, some of my favourite mentors include Puddleglum the Marshwiggle (Narnia), Oskar N. Reteep (Wingfeather Saga), and Praiseworthy (By the Great Horn Spoon).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. OH MY GOODNESS. I loved this post, so, so, sooo much!!! Mentors are my faaaave! Cliche ones, unorthodox ones, ANY ONES. Mentors can MAKE a story! It’s so fun how you put them in types. While I was reading I kept going, “THIS is my favorite type!” then I’d move on to the next one and go, “Oh no wait, THIS ONE!” I literally did that with every. single. one. XDDD Like I said, I JUST LOVE MENTORS!!!

    I’m realizing how many books I need to read. So many of these I haven’t met yet because I haven’t gotten to their books. SHAME. But you did name some of my faaaves.

    Gandalf is obviously a classic. You can NEVER go wrong with Gandalf. And I agree they kinda downplayed his power in the movies. HE’S JUST SO EPIC. I remember thinking Halt was great too and RAYAD. YES. I do believe I liked Brom too, though it’s been SO long since I read the book and watched the movie, I don’t remember much. I also didn’t really like either, so. xD

    The Girl with the Mark. O__O Oh my goodness, I FORGOT I NEVER WATCHED THAT. I forgot about it COMPLETELY. ACK. I gotta make time for that! This is just getting ridiculous!

    Handsome Young Magician Mentors. YES. THAT IS TOTALLY A THING. AND IT’S ONE OF MY FAAAAVES. I always kinda saw Howl as that way, too, because of Michael and all. And I’ve GOT to read the Chrestomanci books, as well as Magician’s Ward!

    JET!!!!!!!!!! I don’t think anything else needs saying. (Except this type is also one of my top, TOP faves. ….Okay, they’re all my favorites! xD)

    DRAGONS DRAGONS DRAGONS. YESSS! I actually think I could name a lot of dragons who are mentor-like. After all, they’re powerful and often wise and have lived for thousands of years usually–the perfect blend for a great mentor! (BUT ALSO MALCOLM. <3)

    Oh man, I nearly forgot about the grandmother from The Princess and the Goblin (it's been over a decade since I read that book o.o)! But it's all coming back as you mention it and YES. SHE WAS EPIC. And you can neverrr go wrong with Beana. I love her so much!

    …Wow. This comment is nearly the size of your post. XDDD SOWWY. I just…really, really loved this post! HUZZAH FOR MENTORS!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re making me so happy! I’m SO glad you enjoyed it! Thank you! πŸ™‚ Haha, yes, I love all the different mentor types as well! XD

      Eh, I read a lot of more obscure things, so it’s okay. πŸ˜› They’re really great books though! ^_^

      YES TO GANDALF. I’m so glad you agree; he’s much cooler in the books. πŸ˜‰ HALT! I shamefully STILL haven’t finished Resistance but I started it and read the mini prequels… *cough* Need to see more of Rayad and finish. πŸ˜› Heheh, yeah, makes sense. XD I enjoyed the Eragon movie okay but it is kinda cheesy… XD I mostly like Brom in it; still haven’t read the book!

      The Girl with the Mark is so funnn! And it’s like 50 minutes, so. πŸ˜› But I know how that is — it’s hard to get around to things sometimes!

      YES YES YOU MUST READ CHRESTOMANCI AND MAGICIAN’S WARD. Handsome Young Magician mentors is toootally a thing. *nods* Howl is so awesome with Michael! πŸ™‚

      JET JET JET JET! (I agree! XD)

      I feel like there are probably more dragon mentors, yes… but can’t think of any at the moment. BUT THEY’RE GREAT!

      I haven’t read The Princess and the Goblin in AGES either! But that and Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain books are some of my earliest fantasy memories, so it’s pretty special to me. ^_^ Need to read it again, and I love the grandmother. YES BEANA. XD

      I love your comment and it makes me happy! ALL THE MENTORS YAAAS! I love that you know and love so many of these! ❀

      Like

  3. You haven’t read the ‘Inheritance Cycle’ by Christopher Paolini?! You poor, deprived soul, you don’t know what you’re missing…
    I just stopped in the middle of this post to add ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ to the book list on my phone. I’ve seen the movie, and want to know what the book is like.
    And I haven’t read ‘The Chronicles of Prydain’, but I’m planning to. I’ve been waiting impatiently for the first book to return to the library.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah… I know a lot of people like those books. XD They’re so long that I’ve always been daunted at the thought of starting them! But I’ll probably at least read Eragon at some point…

      Howl’s Moving Castle is one of my FAVORITE books! It’s so good and I love it! πŸ˜€ The movie is totally different, but it’s great too!

      Prydain is amazing — I hope the first one gets to your library soon! πŸ™‚

      Thanks for dropping in! ^_^

      Like

  4. There seriously needs to be more handsome young magician mentors…Like…please? XD

    I love all of these types so much!! Dragon mentors are awesome! The dragon in Merlin comes to mind…although, he’s not really a very HELPFUL mentor per se… πŸ˜€

    And lady mentors are the best too!! Beana is epic. ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. The kind of mentor with whom you can go to the library and eat biscuits with strawberry jam (though for the sake of the books, not both at the same time) sounds awesome. It sounds like the perfect cosy oasis in the middle of the world needing saving again.

    Also, mentioning Gwydion reminded me how long it’s been since I read the Prydain Chronicles. If I get snowed in this weekend maybe I’ll re-read some of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes indeed! (Love your thought about not at the same time; yes. XD) I love the library in that book! πŸ™‚

      GWYDION! Yes, it’s been an absolute AGE since I read them, myself! I have no chance of getting snowed in, but I should definitely re-read them too. XD Always happy to see a fellow Prydain fan! *high-fives*

      Like

  7. *Hugs all the mentors* (particularly the grumpy ones who pretend they don’t want hugs)

    This was such a great post! I love all these types of mentors, as well!

    I want Chrestomanci as a mentor. And a dragon… because DRAGON.

    Augh, I want them to make another season of REN so badly!!! It left off in such a “WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!?!?!?” sort of way. sigh.

    Oh, Halt! Halt is my favorite.

    Gwydion is a great mentor… even though he’s not there much of the time, he is sort of an “absent” mentor, in that his very existence often inspires Taran, and whenever he does show up, he is everything he’s supposed to be. I love that about him.

    Beana is so fun. I really need to read Fallen Star… haven’t gotten around to it yet since it’s ebook only, but someday…

    And Princess Irene! Yes! I love her. She’s another one who is always exactly what she should be as a mentor.

    Kanan!!!! I love him, too.

    Hoping to read Dark Lord of Derkholm and a few other DWJ books I haven’t read yet this March for March Magics… that would be fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • (Those are the characters who NEED hugs! ;))

      Aaahh, thank you! I’m so glad you liked it!

      Chrestomanci would be the most amazing mentor. And dragons are always a win. XD

      I knowwww! I need more of Ren SO BADLY! *flails*

      HAAAALT! I’m so glad I finally got to meet him. πŸ˜€

      I love your thoughts on Gwydion — so true!!

      Fallen Star is fun! It’s one of the few I HAVE read. XD Still need to get to Starflower…

      I love how many people love Irene’s grandmother — so great! πŸ™‚

      *high five because Kanan*

      OOH! Yay! I hope you enjoy Derkholm etc. this March! I would love to hear what you think of them when you read them! ^_^

      Thanks for your great comment and for creating the awesome prompt that lead to this post! I had such fun! πŸ˜€

      Like

    • Hurray for Gandalf and Halt! πŸ˜€ They’re awesome! ^_^

      Erm… no, I don’t think Smaug would count. XD But those dragon mentors are definitely fun! I totally recommend Diana Wynne Jones and Kyle Robert Shultz as fantastic authors! πŸ˜€

      Like

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