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.
- 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. 😉 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. 😀
- 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. 😀 (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. 😉
- 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 (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!
- 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. 😉
- Jet Valinor (Sentinel Trilogy by Jamie Foley) — Oh, Jet. The best. 😀 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 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. 😉 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)
- 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. 😉 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. 😉
- 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. 🙂
- 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. 😉 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? 🙂 I’d love to hear what you think! Thanks for reading!
P.S. If you want to read my fantasy flash-fiction short story, Mentor Problems (which was a finalist in a flash-critique session at Realm Makers 2018 Writers Conference), you can pick it up here by subscribing to my newsletter! 🙂