Our hero has received a call to action. In his human frailty and inexperience, he has refused the call. Our hero needs the tools for success. While these could be literal tools or skills, perhaps what our hero needs most is someone to give them confidence. The archetype of the mentor fills this need.
At its essence, the mentor is often wrapped in the guise of the wise man or woman. Their classic function is to provide the hero with vital tools or clues that will aid him on his quest. Through their intervention, the hero builds the needed confidence to continue on.
The mentor’s role is temporary. At some point in the tale, mentor and hero will part ways, allowing the hero to face his destiny alone.
Varied Uses for the Mentor
Sources of Wisdom
The mentor provides the character with knowledge. This can also occur without a physical mentor, such as the hero finding a book, or a website.
Sources of Conflict
People rarely want to be told what to do. The dynamic between the mentor and a reluctant hero can add to the conflict, and therefor, character development of your story.
The mentor may eventually become a villain. This form of misdirection is used often in cautionary fairy tales where a mentor appears to save the day, only to exact an evil price for his services. This is also a way of avoiding the mentor as too much of a cliche.
Sources of Tragedy
Hero’s suffer. As a writer, what better way to make your hero suffer than to deprive him of his beloved mentor? I did say earlier that the mentor and the hero would part ways. You can use this to add more dimension to your hero and story.
In the end, the mentor can be a very rich and vivid character, or can take the stage for the briefest of moments. The mentor doesn’t even have to be a person. In the end, the mentor role is to aid the hero in conquering his fear and moving forward with the quest. The next challenge for our hero will be to cross the first threshold.