Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mentors and Other Old People

Mentors are crucial to real life.  I hear a lot, "Find a mentor."

Old people (cut me some slack, I'm nineteen!) are full of wisdom and knowledge and experience that us young people (and what may be the age of the people we read) just have to wait to experience.

They are also important in fiction.  Especially in Speculative genres.

How far would Luke Skywalker have gotten without Obi-Wan?

How much more floundering would the Fellowship have done without Gandalf?

Would Arthur really have become king without the help of Merlin?

I'm trying to think of a mentor in the horror genre.

Well, that little kid and that adult writer teamed up in 'Salem's Lot.  Although, the kid knew more about monsters than the writer...

That's not important.

Mentors and Old People are important, though, especially for today.

From 6 cliches to avoid:

1. Receiving tutoring from the old wise man.  (It made #1 on the list!)

The 'Merlin' gambit, as used in Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Dragonslayer and innumerable King Arthur clones. A stable boy or other similar seemingly low-born type is taken under the wing of the local eccentric. There's usually a beard involved, and a pair of blue eyes piercing from beneath some spectacularly bushy eyebrows. He'll say things like: 'All of nature is one', 'Use the force' and 'You have a great destiny, my boy.' Try not to give him a grey cloak and an elven sword. Maybe you could try having the youth tutoring the old man for a change? Or, more radical, how about having the teacher as an old woman?

There is a wonderful example for a woman mentor in SRL's King Raven trilogy.  Angharad, in the tradition of Merlin, is the last True Bard of Britain.  She takes in Prince Bran after a deadly wound and nurses him back to health.

Had not for Angharad, Bran would've never 
1 - survived
2 - become rightful king of Elfael
3 - been a good king
4 - glimpsed what true wisdom really is

This is more historical fantasy/fiction than hardcore fantasy, but it's a great example.

Old People are awesome.  The world has changed since they were our hero's age, they're not the same person they were when they were the hero's age, but there are certain universal truths that never change, everybody, no matter how different the world is, has to grow up and there are a lot of things most people experience.  They know this and share it.

...speaking of which, why don't you ever hear (unless it's in a satire or parody) an old person in a fantasy novel say, "That wouldn't have happened in my day."

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