A list of Fictional Mentors

Just for fun.



Chade Fallstar

Thufir Hawat

Abbe Busoni

Obi Wan Kenobi

Van Helsing

Egg Shen

Professor Kirke

Dr Who

Shepherd Book

Rupert Giles



Charles Xavier



Feel free to add your own.

95 thoughts on “A list of Fictional Mentors

  1. Mr. Miyagi: First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule, Daniel-san, not mine.

    Yoda: Do, or do not. There is no try.

    Master Kan: When you can take the pebble from my hand, little grasshopper, then you may leave

    Hattori Hanzo: For those regarded as warriors, when engaged in combat the vanquishing of thine enemy can be the warrior’s only concern. Suppress all human emotion and compassion. Kill whoever stands in thy way, even if that be Lord God, or Buddha himself. This truth lies at the heart of the art of combat.

    Uncle Iroh: Prince Zuko, pride is not the opposite of shame, but it’s source. True humility is the only antidote to shame.

    Master Splinter: I am proud of you, my sons. Tonight you have learned the final and greatest truth of the Ninja: that ultimate mastering comes not from the body, but from the mind.

  2. Great list! You’ve definitely chosen some great ones.

    I’d add a couple more of my favorites:

    * Professor Bernardo de la Paz (often called just Prof) from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

    * Qui-Gon Jinn from Star Wars

  3. Thanks for the illustrations of fictional mentors, korg. That picture of Gandalf by John Howe is one of my all-time favorites. BTW, he got inspiration for that, as I recall, from some old, old German postcards that had an old wise man on them that looked very much like a Gandalf character. I also like that still photo of Richard Harris as Dumbledore. Well, the list of mentors is much too long to go through each one and comment, so I’ll just say that the pastel of Merlin also looks great to me! Wonder if Dumbledore is a descendant of his????

  4. How about Jor-El?

    All that I have, all that I’ve learned, everything I feel… all this, and more, I bequeath you, my son. You will carry me inside you, all the days of your life. You will make my strength your own, and see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father, and the father the son.

  5. Franz Josef Haydn – mentor to both Mozart and Beethoven.

    Mozart loved his “Papa” Haydn who mentored Wolfgang in his string quartets (though Mozart barely needed a mentor). Their parting for the last time between these two – always makes me sad.

    Haydn’s patron – Prince Anton Esterházy granted permission for the journey at once, but it was not right as far as Haydn’s friends were concerned … they reminded him of his age (sixty years), of the discomforts of a long journey, and of many other things to shake his resolve. But in vain! Mozart especially took pains to say, “Papa!” as he usually called him, “you have had no training for the great world, and you speak too few languages.”

    “Oh,” replied Haydn, “my language is understood all over the world!”…

    When Haydn had settled, he fixed his departure and left on December 15, 1790 in company with Salomon. Mozart on this day never left his friend Haydn. He dined with him, and said at the moment of parting, “We are probably saying our last farewell in this life.” Tears welled from the eyes of both. Haydn was deeply moved, for he applied Mozart’s words to himself, and the possibility never occurred to him that the thread of Mozart’s life could be cut off by the inexorable Parcae within the following year.

    Haydn was also the teacher to Beethoven. Though Ludwig usually ditched his lessons to go to coffee houses with his friends.

  6. A great list.

    Loved seeing Professor Xavier there (always my choice when people ask what comic character I’d be — They always assume it would be Batman, so often my answer just gets blank stares)… And thank you for using a Richard Harris picture for Dumbledore!

    And Amy — Awesome choice of Professor Bernardo de la Paz. *Love* that book!

    All my somewhat slow brain can come up with at the moment is Spock (in the new ST movie)….

    It’s interesting, btw, how bereft of mentors TV seems to be…. Currently all I can think of is Will Schuester on “Glee”… and he may not really qualify. (Or maybe Simon Cowell…)

  7. Funny how a lot of the people on this list are old men with white beards. Where are the female mentors? I’m having a hard time coming up with some myself…

    1. Yes Flowers. Classical literature, which is the basis of all modern stories, is very sexist when it comes to the embodiment of mentors and other leader roles. Wonder Woman was always seen as a loner; more enemies than friends. Even her one time mentor Ares became one of her nemeses. I could mention Xena and Gabrielle but… why go there.

  8. I’m having a hard time coming up with some myself…

    Good point Aerisflowers! There aren’t any. That’s because women were so oppressed over time – and still are to a great extent. Let’s not fool ourselves here. There are still a lot of glass ceilings. And women have to work twice as hard to break through them. Just look at what happened to Hilliary Clinton during her campaign – politics aside. When the most powerful women in the world are fighting for their lives – who has time to mentor?

  9. Great list. I think some other notable mentors in fiction include Jean-Luc Picard, the Graverobber from Repo! The Genetic Opera and Dallben from The Chronicles of Prydain. Also Doctor Cox from Scrubs, and Waldo Lydecker from Laura and Skulduggery Pleasant from the book series of the same name.

  10. I thought of another one: Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez from The Highlander.

    And as for female mentors, I’d vote for Captain Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan from Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series. She’s fantastic.

  11. Joivre: do you suppose there really are fewer female “mentors,” as in just fewer females in that role in fiction overall, or could it be that we tend to put different names to that role when a woman is in it (or to focus on her other aspects first, where with the male character we might focus on the mentor role before discussing how the character is also a shadow figure or a healer/pathfinder/kingmaker/what have you)?

    1. I was wondering that too. It just seems like so many females are the evil ones – but I do remember a good elf in Lord of the Rings, who was female, and of course a few good fairies but mostly we have witches in fairy tales. But mentors? Hmm

  12. David Eddings has two characters who might qualify as female mentors: Polgara in The Belgariad & Sephrenia in The Elenium.

  13. Also a good point Izhilzha! I tend to think of mentors as being someone who guides a young hero in their quests. So – if you know of a healer – or pathfinder or kingmaker that has a mentee let me know. For instance – I like Captain Janeway on Star Trek – but I don’t see her mentee. I suppose Glenda the Good Witch is a mentor to Dorothy (but with a mentor like that, I’d rather go without). I have never heard of Captain Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan that Professor Sturgis cites above. It looks interesting. And yes – maybe there are female mentors lurking around in undiscovered literature. But then why are they so hidden? Did you have some healer/pathfinder/kingmakers in mind?

  14. George MacDonald gave us several splendid female mentors, now that I think about it:

    – Great-Great-Grandmother Irene in the Curdie books
    – The Wise Woman in her eponymous tale
    – Grandmother in “The Golden Key”
    – The Timeless Woman in Phantastes….

    It’s hardly a MacDonald fairytale without the characters going to seek the counsel of the wise-and-magical-old-woman-who-lives-in-a-cottage-deep-within-the-forest.

  15. How about mentor noir? Ra’s al-Ghoul.

    Female mentors — well, can’t think of that many in contemporary genre fiction. Hmm. There’s certainly something wrong with that–probably the bearded old Obi-Wan/Gandalf archetype was too hard to shake. But they abound in the writings of George MacDonald–one of his more powerful motifs, throughout his writings. So you have North Wind, the Wise Woman, Princess Irene, Mara. Etc.

    Does Aragorn count as a mentor? Because he’s really one of Gandalf’s proteges. If you include Aragorn, I think you need to include Elrond, for form’s sake.

  16. Joivre,
    Haydn’s hardly a fictional mentor. I thought about Star Trek captains and I couldn’t fit them into a mentor role. Leader, yes.

    Red Rocker,
    How could I forget Mr Miyagi and Master Splinter!?

    Qui-Gon Jinn and Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez are two important ones I didn’t get to.

    I had Polgara on my list but couldn’t find appropriate artwork… You know what I mean.

    Mr Pond,
    I think Aragorn is definitely a mentor even as he’s a mentee to Gandalf and Elrond. So you’re right- shove Elrond in there.

    I think it interesting that long, flowing beards seem to be an indicator of wisdom and yet in our culture we shun beards and men generally feel obliged to shave what their natural bodies are equipped with.

  17. But who, exactly, does Aragorn mentor? I see him as playing more of a Greatheart role in the Fellowship. Especially considering his own character arc of growing into his kingship? Just wanting to quibble…

    Female mentors: Mrs. Whatsit and Co. in The Time Quartet.

  18. Mr Pond,
    I see what you’re saying but I took Aragorn to be a kind of “mentor in courage and right choices”.
    I think he has a mentor role with Eomer and Faramir. I don’t see Aragorn’s arc as growing into his kingship. I see it as him deeming the time is right to take up his kingship and bring the fight to Sauron.

    What a great character Tolkien wrote and Jackson bebased.

  19. I echo Janet‘s gratitude. It was the first thought that came to mind when I beheld the pictures.

    Speaking of the pictures, Korg, I know Van Helsing, and Peter Cushing is not Van Helsing. Anthony Hopkins is more Van Helsing. And if you’re into that sort of thing, Hugh Jackman.

    Female mentors, eh? How about Judi Dench as M or as Elizabeth I? Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown? (not quite sure whom she mentored on the tv series but she surely was a great role model to the females in the audience). Sigourney Weaver as Ripley? (again, she didn’t mentor anyone specifically, but womanhood generally). Sarah Connor (especially in T2? Emma Thompson aka Nanny McPhee as mentor to the Brown children, especially Simon, and also Evangeline. Jade Fox and Yu Shu-lien in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as evil and good mentors to the warrior Jen.

  20. In the blooming discussion of and search for female mentors, I think we need to distinguish between characters who have mentor characteristics (e.g., Mary Poppins, Sarah Connor, etc.) and those who actually mentor a *hero*.

    Role models are nice, and maybe part of their job is to reach from the fictional world to the “real” world and serve as mentors to *us*…. but a role model is not (necessarily) a mentor. I think “Mentor” as originally delineated by Korg when he started off his list really is a *role* more than a set of character traits, a role defined by the relationship of the person in that role to a budding *hero*.

  21. Yay, Amy! You like Bujold’s Vorkosigan books, too. Miles is one of the best characters ever.

    I got to this late and others have already deplored the lack of female mentors. Can you find them in books by female authors such as Anne McCaffrey (I don’t read her).

    One I can think of is fairy godmother Felicity Fortune in The Godmother, and The Godmother’s Apprentice, by Elizabeth Scarborough.

  22. As a mixed mentor (by “mixed”, mean a mixture of evil and leadership qualities), Don Vito Corleone is a good example. I feel really out of my depth here. I have never heard of more than half of the characters mentioned in the comments and the original post!

  23. Yes, thanks Janet, that’s exactly what I meant when I said I was having a hard time thinking of true female mentors. There are definately plenty of fictional female role models, but not as many who actually serve the role of teaching/nurturing a hero.

    One that just occured to me is Miss Honey in Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

  24. I think Lupin is a great mentor for Harry.

    Monique, the French exchange student, mentors Lane Meyer to believe in himself and beat Roy Stalin in the downhill challenge in Better off Dead.

  25. I love that Gandalf is listed first. 🙂

    How about Aslan?

    And in the spirit of looking for more female mentors:
    Ma in the Little House books (a real person, but technically fiction)
    Claire Fraser in the Outlander series (her main role is not to mentor a hero, but she does a lot of teaching explicitly and by example)
    Glinda (more in the movie than in the book as far as I recall)

  26. Interesting thought Korg about male facial hair.
    Long flowing beards in literature = wisdom.
    Long flowing beard in real life = hobo.

    I share your pain about the demasculinising fashion of getting rid of male body hair.

  27. Charlie – wow yes! Vito Corleone is one of the greatest evil mentors ever! But when you see him as a young man in Godfather II – you see why he turned out the way he did. You gain sympathy for this boy who was brought into a world filled with murder, revenge, hatred and brutality. Yet – somehow climbs to the top of this monsterous heap and still retains an honor-code and a decorousness that is somewhat chilling. I love the first time we see Don Corleone in the film – slowy, gently, affectionate petting his kitty. Gives me shivers.

    And yes – I don’t know half of these people either. 😉 I love when people recommend good stuff here though. It gets me excited.

    Red – Kill Bill is stuffed to the gill with mentors and mentees – but I don’t see Hattori Hanzo so much as a mentor to the Bride. Ah – but it was Master Pai Mei who not only taught her the five-point-exploding-heart technique, but also turned her into one of the most lethal and efficient assassins in the world.

    Pai Mei to Bill “Snake Charmer”
    Pai Mei to Beatrix Kiddo
    Pai Mei to Elle Driver (whom she kills)
    O-Ren Ishii to Gogo Yubari

    Pai Mei: [punches through a block of wood from three inches away] Since your arm now belongs to me, I want it strong. Can you do that?
    The Bride: I can, but not that close.
    Pai Mei: Then you can’t do it. What if your enemy is three inches in front of you, what do you do then? Curl into a ball? Or do you put your fist through him? It’s the wood that should fear your hand, not the other way around. No wonder you can’t do it, you acquiesce to defeat before you even begin.

    PS – Korg and Black Angus, I have never understood the attraction men have to beards. Have you ever seen a man with old soup stains in his beard? It’s disgusting and wrong, wrong, wrong on so many different levels. That’s a little too natural to me. 😉

  28. Great discussion, and great finds for female mentors. Eric and Mr. Pond are right on with their mention of MacDonald. Great-Great Grandmother is one of my favorite mentors in literature.

  29. There’s Ogion the Silent who is mentor to Ged in A Wizard of Earthsea.

    Pai Mei is a great mentor! And can we talk about someone with prejudices? He hates the Japanese, he hates Americans, he hates women. But yet he comes to grudgingly respect and perhaps even love Beatrix because of her determination.

    Black Angus, Monique from Better Off Dead is another great example. Hilarious movie!

    Regarding McCaffery & the Dragonriders, I can’t think of any one woman I’d call a mentor in the way we seem to be speaking of it. But there are certainly a lot of great female characters that McCaffery comes up with.

  30. Going rather far afield for female mentors, in Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd & Gray Mouser books, Vlana is a sort of mentor or tutor to Fafhrd in the ways of civilization…among other things. 😉

    Btw, have we sorted out what we mean by mentor? What’s the difference between a mentor or teacher or master or father or mother? Seems like each one of those vocations embodies much of what we would call mentoring. Just curious.

  31. I had thought of Ra’s al Ghul but with uncharacteristic lack of imagination I assumed we were only covering good mentors. That said, I did think of a very interesting “evil” mentor figure: namely Waldo Lydecker from 1944s Laura, directed by Otto Preminger and based on the novel by Vera Caspery. Waldo is a lot like Voldemort. Both men are powerful, feared and respected, highly manipulative, extremely egotistical and very much in love with power.

    I’ve thought of some other fictional mentors actually:

    Aslan – The Chronicles of Narnia
    Lord Henry Wotton – The Picture of Dorian Gray
    Magnus Bane – The Mortal Instruments

  32. Revgeorge – I was looking up mentor in wikipedia and was stunned to see in ancient Greece that it was related to traditional Greek pederasty. In fact, older aristocrats were expected to “mentor” younger men and boys to educate them in politics, warfare, societal placement and religion through sexual and chaste relationships. This practice of mentoring existed for over a thousand years in regional areas of Greece.

    Sorry – I don’t mean to gross anyone out with this – but I was totally surprised about the ancient history of the term and it’s previous implications.

    Doesn’t Rita Skeeter call the relationship between Harry and Albus “unnatural” at one point? I remembered reading that and being disgusted. Yikes.

  33. If we’re counting evil mentors, how about Emperor Palpatine? He mentors Darth Maul & Darth Vader & wants to be the mentor of Luke Skywalker. 🙂

    Like the photos of Gandalf, Dumbledore, Doctor Who, and Aragorn in particular.

    Not to drag Twilight into this, but would Carlisle Cullen be counted as a mentor?

  34. Revgeorge, I think both Carlisle and Alice would be the mentor figures in the Twilight Saga. I hesitated to bring that up.

    Tom mentioned Dallben in the Prydain books; I would also suggest Adaon in The Black Cauldron, who deeply impacted Taran. And whatsisface in The Book of Three who continues to be a mentor throughout. Sorry about “whatsisname,” but I’m on an iPod with a sleeping cat on my lap (see avatar photo).

  35. That would be Gwydion. I think Coll would also be a mentor to Taran, perhaps even more influential than Dallben. Coll gave Taran the title Assistant Pig Keeper, & it was his love of farming & of the land that helped Taran to decide his course of action at the end of the books.

  36. revgeorge, I adore your avatar. I feel so sorry for him everytime he hears that awful punchline.

    Joivre, you can not deplore men’s beards and wax rhapsodic about Pai Mei in the one and the same comment. That was one of the reasons I picked Hattori Hanzo over him: the disgusting things he does with his wispy white beard.

    I guess Bill would be a mentor too, to his all-girl posse of assassins.


  37. They’ve usually got some great music in those Caveman commercials too!

    Btw, Bill’s group isn’t totally all-girl, since Bill’s brother Bud is an erstwhile member. But the point is well taken. Anyway, Bill is also another of those merged roles in that he’s master, mentor, and in two cases, lover (Beatrix & Elle). He’s also a father.

  38. Thanks, revgeorge, for Gwydion’s name. And how could I forget Coll! I agree that Dallben was more of a beneficent background figure.

  39. Don’t forget the original mentor, Mentor, son of Alcumus, friend of Odysseus, advisor to Telemachus.

    As he thus prayed, Minerva came close up to him in the likeness
    and with the voice of Mentor. “Telemachus,” said she, “if you
    are made of the same stuff as your father you will be neither
    fool nor coward henceforward, for Ulysses never broke his word
    nor left his work half done. If, then, you take after him, your
    voyage will not be fruitless, but unless you have the blood of
    Ulysses and of Penelope in your veins I see no likelihood of
    your succeeding. Sons are seldom as good men as their fathers;
    they are generally worse, not better; still, as you are not
    going to be either fool or coward henceforward, and are not
    entirely without some share of your father’s wise discernment, I
    look with hope upon your undertaking.”

    Homer, The Odyssey

  40. Others I have thought of:
    Dr Cornelius- The Narnian half-dwarf.
    Col. Potter

    Mule fritters!

    Kreia from Knights of the Old Republic

    Kambei Shimada

    Dr. Daniel P. Schreber

  41. Star Wars is stuffed with mentor figures but I think one of the more notable ones is Qui-Gon Jinn. Count Dooku could be considered a sort of malevolent mentor figure I suppose as could Addison DeWitt from All About Eve (“You were a wonderful Peter Pan, Margot, you must play it again some time soon”).

    And let us not forget Zordon from Power Rangers (shameless of me, I know) and of course, Gene Hunt.

    Sam Tyler: I think this might have been a hate crime.
    Gene Hunt: What, as opposed to one of those “I really, really like you” sort of murders?

  42. Just thought of a few more: Hohenheim of Light from Fullmetal Alchemist, also Dante since she was a mentor figure to the Homunculii, Valentine Morgenstern from The Mortal Instruments and the Phantom of the Opera. He’s a sort of Pygmalion figure to Christine. Another interesting evil mentor is Rotti Largo from Repo! The Genetic Opera. Blind Mag from the same film also plays a mentor role to the main character, Shilo Wallace.

  43. Since we’re doing movies –

    Ricky Goldmill from Rocky
    Leon from Leon
    Morpheus from The Matrix
    Chubbs Petersen from Hapyy Gilmore
    David, Cal and Jay from The 40-year old Virgin
    Sam Maguire from Good Will Hunting
    Tyler Durden from The Fight Club
    Rufus from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
    V from V for Vendetta

    The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous.

  44. Joivre, darn it! You got me started thinking about literary female mentors and I can’t stop thinking… anyway, I thought of a couple of temporary authors who have female mentors in their books. In Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey, she has her heroine rescued by , yes, you guessed it, her fairy godmother, only in this case, Ella is being mentored, or prepped, to take over the position of Fairy Godmother herself. It’s a pretty humorous take on the original fairy tale, but there’s mentoring going on, all right. Tamora Pierce, in her The Circle Opens quartet, has young magicians being sought out and mentored by female adepts. Personally, I think the reason that there’s not more female mentoring in literature is that most of the authors are male. There’s always been female mentoring going on, but most of it is real life rather than fictional.

  45. Wow, that’s a lot of mentors! Fricka–yeah, what you just said. Spot on.

    Hm. I do feel like we’ve wandered a bit from Korg’s original concept. Yes, of course, there’s a lot of mentoring that goes on in lots of series and lots of genres, and even more basic role-modeling. But, let me repeat what’s been said:

    The role of mentor is a specific archetype with in fantasy and SF literature. An older generational figure trains up a young successor to his (or her) task. Thus, Gandalf, Obi-Wan are the prototypical mentors. Dumbledore fills the same ‘niche’.

    So, it’s actual a technical specification, or stereotype. That’s another reason so many of them are reclusive old curmudgeons with beards…

  46. Let’s not forget Douglas Adams’ hilarious send-up of the stereotype in Mostly Harmless:

    “This is, er, this your advice then, is it?” said Arthur, leafing through them uncertainly.

    “No,” said the old lady. “It’s the story of my life. You see, the quality of any advice anybody has to offer has to be judged against the quality of life they actually lead. Now, as you look through this document you’ll see that I’ve underlined all the major decisions I ever made to make them stand out. They’re all indexed and cross-referenced. See? All I can suggest is that if you take decisions that are exactly opposite to the sort of decisions that I’ve taken, then maybe you won’t finish up at the end of your life…’ she paused, and filled her lungs for a good shout, “… in a smelly old cave like this!”

  47. Jumping in a little late, but thought I would throw a name out there.
    Starets Zossima, from The Brothers Karamazov. I would argue that he is one of the most influential mentors in literature (certainly in my life, he is only surpassed by Gandalf). I would share my favorite quote of his but I am stuck on a bus to rochester for another 3 hours and only have my phone >.<

  48. Frika wrote-
    “Personally, I think the reason that there’s not more female mentoring in literature is that most of the authors are male. There’s always been female mentoring going on, but most of it is real life rather than fictional.”

    Do you really think that’s it? I mean, the female fiction writers don’t represent female mentors in their stories either. Of course that’s a generalisation but so is the assertion that male writers don’t include female mentors.
    I can certainly identify many real life female mentors, though.

  49. Thank you revgeorge for mentioning Polgara and Ogion!!! Before I even read the whole article I thought of Pol and Belgarath(re-reading the Mallorean right now). I think that Polgara is arguably a bigger mentor than Belgarath. She raises Garion from a child, spending way more time teaching him not just about sorcery, but other very important life lessons, and, she mentors Ce’Nedra as well, who was very much in need of some mothering and mentoring.
    And Ogion, well, Ogion is just awesome. I love LeGuin!

  50. I’m going to throw in a slightly incendiary thought here:

    The prototypical mentor is an older male (often with beard, to show his advancing years) with wisdom and experience and a relationship with the hero which may be warm and loving, but is also challenging. When I think of Gandalf, Dumbledore, Merlin (the T.H. White incarnation) and Mr. Miyagi, I don’t see a lot of fuzzy warms. I see sternness, discipline, and very strong and clear expectations that the hero must learn, must grow, and must prove his worth. The mentor does not accept the hero as he (and sometimes she) is, and does not give approval easily. The hero must earn the mentor’s respect on his way to his quest.

    I think this kind of relationship – of earned respect – is very much a male bonding kind of relationship (although not limited to males) and different in type than the kind of relationship we expect with an older female, which is usually based on warmth, support and above all unconditional love.

    It doesn’t mean that the mentor and/or the hero could not be female. The relationship between Beatrice Kiddo and the aforementioned Pai Mei comes to mind. As does the wizard Od of Patricia McKillip’s Od Magic or the witch Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Both these women are female mentors who are tough, demanding, and except for the fact that they are biologically female, fairly lacking in stereotypically feminine qualities.

  51. Graham, but at least you have the phone! I shouldn’t be much later than 7. Might have a stop or two to make in that mall myself before we go. If you’re not too exhausted from travel, I’ll take you to the British pub here in Rochester. Dinner and real cask ale on me. See ya soon.

  52. Red Rocker That’s an interesting thought, and I think there’s truth to it, but I also think that Polgara, for example, fits into the mentor category. She has a softer side and maternal love for people, but in her behavior to the people in her charge, she is extremely stern. She doesn’t indulge Ce’Nedra’s spoiled behavior, and spends much of the Belgariad telling Garion to “man-up”, accept his fate, and do his job. She waited a long time for him, raised him to be a certain thing, and expects him to live up to expectations. Falling short is not an option for her.
    I would also argue that while Dumbledore and Gandalf are very powerful, intimidating mentors, they do have their lighter, warmer side as well (particularly Dumbledore), which I think is a large part of what makes them so popular.

  53. Red, I’m glad you said that first, ’cause now I can piggyback on your thoughts. The role of mentor does seem to be one that is stereotypically portrayed as being a male role. While female roles are more pictured as motherly or companionly or nurturing. At least, that’s what it seems like.

    Mr. Pond said, “The role of mentor is a specific archetype with in fantasy and SF literature…it’s actual a technical specification, or stereotype.”

    I think that’s part of the problem we’re dealing with, in that stereotypes are almost always considered nowadays to be a bad, negative thing, and yet, we do so much stereotyping in the sense of having certain archetypes or categories in which we place things in order to process them or understand them. Which helps us process through things as we read, to some extent. So, we read Harry Potter for instance, and go Harry=Hero, Dumbledore=Mentor, Ron=Sidekick & Best Friend, Hermione=Opposite Sex Best Friend, Malfoy=Bully, Ginny=Love Interest, Snape=Mean Teacher, & Voldemort=Villain.

    While all those are true & can be helpful to us, they can, like all stereotypes, hinder us in coming to a fuller understanding of a character. We need categories and archetypes but also can’t get too bogged down in them. I don’t know if that has anything to do with this list per se, but just some thoughts I had as we’re exploring this idea of mentors and who may or mayn’t be one.

  54. I never saw Rocky but I know that the trainer was played by Burgess Meredith whose claim to fame was playing the Penguin in the Adam West tv seris Batman.

    But along the same vein, didn’t Clint Eastwood play the role of mentor a few times? In Million Dollar Baby with Hilary Swank, and also in Gran Torino where he mentored the young boy, Thao? I loved that movie; it was the completion of the full character arc of a man living a life of violence, from Dirty Harry and The Stranger, through Preacher and Bill Munny, to Walt Kowaski who finally finds victory by laying down his gun – and his life.


  55. Well, Bellatrix does offer to mentor Harry, teach him how to cast the Cruciatis Curse . . .

    In Tom Clancy’s NetForce series there’s a grandmother who mentors several characters in martial arts (and kicks (posterior) when some punks try to mug her).

    Doc Brown mentors Marty in the Back to the Future series.

    In Clan of the Cave Bear, there is a female healer who is a mentor to young Ayala.

    Thank you, Red Rocker, for mentioning Uncle Iroh. I love him!
    Prince Zuko: Tea is just tea leaves and water.*
    Uncle Iroh: How can my own nephew say something so horrible!
    * (Or something to that effect)

  56. Lily Luna I too love Uncle Iroh, aka Dragon of the West, aka Grand Lotus. I love his sense of humour, his gentleness, his complete lack of flappability, his humbleness, his self-deprecation, his love of tea, and his total mastery of the principles of martial arts – Northern Shaolin Kung Fu in his case – which he displays in everyday life as well as the very odd occasion that he needs to fight.

    In fact, he is an exception to the idea I floated earlier, that the role of mentor is associated with a challenging and critical attitude where respect has to be earned through achievement – which we in turn associate with men more so than women. Iroh is totally accepting of Zuko as he is. He never criticizes him, or tells him that he expects more from him. His concern is for Zuko to heal emotionally and find peace. He mentors by example, by showing him how to be. That’s why the one time he turns away from Zuko – when Zuko returns to Ozai – it is so devastating.

    I have to confess that I cried when I saw The Tale of Iroh in Tales of Ba Singh, both because of the story, and because it was in memory of Mako, who had done his voice in the first two seasons. Greg Baldwin didn’t do a bad job in season three either, but it was Mako I fell in love with.

  57. Well, I will try to bring this back around by looking at what I think are a couple of examples of female mentoring in the Harry Potter books. JKR doesn’t give a lot of detail to them, but it seems that there’s more to these relationships than the mere snippet we get. The first example, I think, is between Professor McGonagall and Hermione, in POA. We learn later that Hermione had gone through McGonagall to get permission for the time-turner. Obviously, Minerva wouldn’t have gone through Dumbledore and the Ministry to get permission for the time-turner if she didn’t think that Hermione was trustworthy. More than that, though, there had to be trust on Hermione’s part that she could go to McGonagall and not be pooh-poohed. It might even be that it was MG who thought of the time turner, as Hermione, being a muggle-born, probably had no idea such things existed(unless of course, she happened to read about one in a book, lol.) I picture it more as an ongoing relationship between professor and bright student, and Hermione might have happened to mention that she wished she could take more classes, but that some of them were held at the same time. Minerva could have mentioned the time-turner, but for her to do that and then go through all the hoops she had to in order to get the time-turner for Hermione shows that she wants to encourage Hermione’s academic pursuits. That seems pretty much like a mentor to me.
    Hermione, in turn, I think acts as a mentor to Ginny, when she gives her advice on how to handle her crush on Harry. Now, Hermione did not have to do this. She could have just sat back and watched Harry make a hash of his romantic life and Ginny suffer through each new girlfriend. It’s even more striking that she’s able to give Ginny this advice, when it’s at a time when her own relationship with Ron is not going so well. But, then, maybe she’s following her own advice, by going out with McLaggen(and even, to Harry’s astonishment, considering Zacharias Smith).

  58. revgeorge–what you said, twice. For my money, you’ve ‘nailed’ many of the sf archetypes JKR is using. The main one I would add, following Dickerson and O’Hara, is Neville=Simpleton (who begins awkward, backward, but emerges a canny, sharp-witted hero–aka, Jack the Giant Killer, etc).

    Fricka, while yes of course I agree, there’s a lot of good mentoring going on here, the specific role of ‘Mentor’ in the series does fall primarily to Dumbledore. That’s not to say other characters can’t mentor. They obviously do. But if we’re sticking to Korg initial conception, then there’s really only going to be one or two ‘Mentors’ per se in the story. The other characters fill other archetypes within the narrative, however much mentoring they actually do.

    I’d humble suggest that Dumbledore is the primary mentor, Lupin the secondary.

  59. I pretty much agree that Dumbledore is the major mentor in the HP books, and of course, Lupin is one, too. I’d add Hagrid in there too, as he is the one who first brings Harry into the world of magic and explains a lot of things to him. I didn’t mean to convey that I thought MM was a more important mentor than Dumbledore–just my thoughts in regards to the side issue of female mentors. I wonder now if we can also consider Minerva as another mentor to Harry. I think she certainly seems to be filling that role, at least to a certain extent, in OOTP as she tries to help him avoid getting into trouble with the toad.

  60. Fricka – though I see where you’re going with McGonagle – and I do see her potential as a mentor to Hermione – I think unfortunately she is regulated to regulations, so to speak. Lupin is a mentor of sorts, but far away from the central Mentor of Albus. He does teach Harry about how to defend himself and also about his mother, so that is very Mentorly. I think of him as more of the feminine Mentor Red Rocker was talking about. More nurturing and compassionate. Whereas Dumbledore is more of the difficult Mentor who not only sends Harry on his quests – but doesn’t explain why – so Harry can discover it for himself (whether or not I like that kind of Mentor).

    Minerva – just is not developed enough not only as a mentor – but as a person to me. I don’t know her passions. She is formidable with regards to talent – but then she’s put in the hospital for defending Hagrid. She chases after Snape – but never catches him. She’s not included in the loop by Dumbledore. And that kind of bugged me. She’s second in command – but not trusted with any useful information from Albus. I see Minerva as purposefully put in a position of impotence. Just my two cents.

  61. Well said, Joivre. JKR well understands the complications of human interactions, ‘the fundamental interconnectedness of all things.’ I’m particularly intrigued by viewing Lupin as a ‘feminine’ mentor. I’ll have to mull on that, but I like it.

    [Btw: in re an earlier conversation, I found myself so intrigued by the ‘Fruit of Hi Lips’ post, I wrote up some thoughts on it today. Figured you’d be intrigued. Let me know what you think. (Sorry for the rabbit trail, Korg!)]

  62. Mr. Pond, yes, I had forgotten about Neville, but that’s in character with his character. 🙂 Luna’s also another archetype, the weird loner who’s really a good friend and sees some things much more clearly than anyone else. McGonagall is also another, the stern disciplinarian teacher whom everyone respects but who isn’t very approachable.

    I’ve also got the Dickerson & O’Hara book sitting around on my ebook reader but haven’t started it yet. Have you read it, & if so, how’d you like it?

  63. I have to agree with Frika about McGonagall as a female mentor figure. Although within the context of the story that we read she is not being cast as a mentor, I think it likely that outside of Harry’s story she probably was a mentor to Hermione.

  64. Joivre, I like the idea of Lupin as a “feminine” mentor: he teaches through gentle encouragement and gradually increasing trials rather than challenging or throwing the hero into the water to sink or swim.

    I don’t think McGonagall quite fits the role of mentor: although she does teach Hermione, the challenge she helps her to overcome is not quite as earth shattering or important as the challenges that Dumbledore or even Lupin steer Harry through. Unless of course we’re talking about the challenge of bursting through the glass ceiling and being considerd a top-3 hero.

    I too feel some disappointment that McGonagall never makes it into the inner circle. But Dumbledore being what he is – secretive and male-centric – she doesn’t really stand a chance.

  65. Does Wonder Woman count as a mentor of her younger sister, Wonder Girl, when she is back with her family of Amazons? Or at least perhaps their mother, Queen Hippolyta, counts as a more classic female mentor to Wonder Woman, since the latter is a heroine who is trained and faced trials?

  66. And how about Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which mentoring Meg Murry in A Wrinkle in Time? It was a brief time span within the story line, but it was an entire book for the reader where Meg is mentored to face her trials to help save her father from IT.

  67. Good thread. I just read it through again and really enjoyed it.

    Have found a new mentor and remembered an old one.

    The old one is Miss Maud Silver, the governess turned private detective from Patricia Wentworth’s mystery stories. The person she mentors is Frank Abbott, who works for Scotland Yard but comes to imbibe wisdom at Miss Silver’s feet while she feeds him tea and crumpets. She seems to fulfill both the mascualine and feminine mentoring functions for him: while she’s always feeding him, she also challenges him intellectually and he refers to her as “Beloved Perceptress”.

    The new one is Haymitch Abernathy, acerbic, critical, addicted mentor to Katniss Everdeen. I found a site devoted to possible actors who could depict him on screen. Nick Nolte and Robert Downey Jr. are certainly good candidates, but I felt that the role was tailor made for one particular actor:


  68. Hugh Laurie…wow, he’d make a perfect Haymitch. Although he’s too old, and Nolte is way too old; the oldest Haymitch could be is 42 in THG.

  69. Howdy all who read this.
    I was thinking of some of the conversations that I have enjoyed here on thehogshead.org and this came to mind.

    So while the nargles are doing their thing if you’d like to read this post again (Some of the photo links are broken and irreparable at the moment) and add any new thoughts or mentors you’ve identified.


  70. Lots of them in Heinlein: Jubal Harshaw, Deacon Matson, Sgt. Zim, etc. Also Sam Vimes mentors his younger self in Pratchett’s Night Watch!

  71. Yay, a thread revived and some real conversation.

    Here’s a good female mentor: the Bird Woman in Girl of the Limberlost.

    What about Doc in the first Back to the Future film?

    Aunt Eller in Oklahoma!? Although she’s probably more the Wise Woman.

    Annie Sullivan to Helen Keller in real life and in The Miracle Worker.

    Agent K in Men In Black.

    1. Great options, Arabella.
      Thanks for contributing.
      Do you ever search for artists’ impressions of your selections? It can be interesting to see if they are close to the mental image you have built up

  72. Just read this and decided to bump it for a series I haven’t seen referenced here: The Dresden Files. My favorites are definitely Dresden, McCoy, and Lea. (SPOILER WARNING)

    The story is rife with excellent mentor characters, both male and female, and at varying points on the moral spectrum.

    Harry Dresden himself: Both mentee and mentor to various characters. Most notably a mentor to his apprentice Molly Carpenter.

    Justin DuMorne: The quintessential symbol of an abused mentorship role

    Ebenezar McCoy: Dresden’s mentor that gives space and shelter to Dresden when he is left abused by DuMorne and hunted by the Council.

    The Leanansidhe: Dresden’s literal fairy godmother, but not necessarily in a good way. While she has protected and guided him at various times, she has also been very very willing to shove her mentees into harm’s way to force them to either grow or die.

    Queen Mab: When Dresden goes to work with her, she “mentors” him to grow stronger by literally attacking him in ever increasingly deadly ways.

    Shiro: A clear positive mentor, though primarily to the other Knights of the Cross.

    Bob(?): Questionable. He’s a mentor in the sense that he teaches Dresden things about magic, but is completely impartial about it and is not truly guiding him in any way. For example, he has no interest in giving Dresden information he hasn’t asked for.

    Anastasia Luccio: Captain of the Wardens, so clearly a mentor/leader to many, but especially to her apprentice, Warden Donald Morgan.

    Nick Christian: Minor references, but clearly Dresden’s mentor in his role as a private investigator.

    Uriel: Though not extremely directly influencing the story, he has many mentorship characteristics in his interaction with Dresden.

  73. I believe you incorrectly chose Abbe Busoni, when in fact you should have selected Abbe Faria. Abbe Busoni is not a mentor at all, but rather an alter-ego whereas Abbe Faria is clearly a mentor and father figure to Edmond Dantes.

  74. I was reflecting the other day on the 1987 movie The Untouchables and it occurred to me that Jim Malone is another instance of the classic mentor.

    In fact, the whole story is the classic Hero’s Journey. The protagonist is set up against a powerful villian, gathers a group of helper and gains a mentor. His helpers are stripped away from him, the mentor is killed by the villian’s henchmen. The hero begins to fight the villian and gains the knowledge to defest the villian while in the underworld (subway).

    If you haven’t seen it please take the time to. If you have seen it, have another gander with the Hero’s Journey in mind.

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