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An Overview of the Mentor Archetype in Films and Literature

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Throughout time, stories and plotlines using universal themes and archetypes have been created in literature and media. Archetypes are constantly played out in films, novels, theatre productions, songs, and many more. The Mentor Archetype is analyzed in terms of how a specific character portrays that role. The various characters found in different sources of media and literature works attribute similar characteristics to fully present the archetypal character of mentorship. This archetypal figure is evident in the contemporary novel: The Giver; and in the film productions, Sword in the Stone. Pinocchio, and Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Just like how a mother or father cares about their children, always providing them with the necessary tools and elements needed for survival, giving them a good upbringing by teaching them manners and values/beliefs, an older, wise mentor’s role to its initiate plays a similar role of providing guidance, good teachings and the daily elements of survival. A mentor not only seems to meet these requirements, he/she plays a much bigger role in the development of the character. The mentor influences the initiate in many aspects of their life, giving them good direction and guidance.

The mentor is a character in an initiate’s’ life who serves as an older, wise, counselor, or teacher. It is very important for a Mentor to provide their initiate, a student or companion, with the knowledge, good teachings and wisdom needed for their development and improvement. A mentor is willing to give all their knowledge of expertise in their designated training field in order to help a mentee understand themselves and how they can fully acknowledge their skills and abilities. Considering a Mentor’s intellectuality and intensive wisdom and knowledge, they are recognized for their position through their works, achievements, and status in society. What they do in society, their social standard, status in the community, and work ethics, are all associated with how they may act in a certain way. This further gives depth to their career goals, motives and position of authority.

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This is evident in the novel because the character the Giver has full authority and holds high position amongst others. He is the sole individual assigned as a Giver and his job gives him enormous honor. Being “The Old” and one of the elders of the community, he is given the highest respect. He is wrinkled, has pale tired eyes, and dressed in the same special clothing that only elders wear” (Lowry 75). He is very intellectual, wise, and serves as a teacher to Jonas. He is very attentive to Jonas’s uncertainties and this is evident when he carefully listens to Jonas as he asks multiple questions. “He encourages all of his questions, not seeming to be embarrassed or offended by even the most personal” (Lowry 102), proving a requirement of how a student-teacher relationship should be.

Similarly, Jiminy the Cricket in Pinocchio is declared as “Lord, high keeper of the knowledge of right and wrong, counselor in moments of temptation, and guide along the straight and narrow path”. His position as a conscious serves him to be Pinocchio’s guardian. He teaches Pinocchio about how the world works and how to survive. He is very wise and intellectual because of his understanding and knowledge. He knows the ways of teaching Pinocchio new wisdom and this is done through a song, where he encourages him and says “When you meet temptation and the urge is very strong, give a little whistle. Take the straight and narrow path and always let your conscience be your guide” (Pinocchio, 25:48). Jiminy tells Pinocchio to fully accept him as his moral conscience because his duty is to correct him on bad behaviours, and guide him to the right path.

Two characters who also serve as older wise mentors have very similar characteristics and role because they are both wizards. Merlin the Wizard, from the Sword in the Stone is very unique in terms of his abilities. He declares himself as “a soothsayer, prognosticator, and someone who has the power to see into the future” (Sword, 10:01). Despite living in the wilderness on his own, he has the required intellect necessary to pass onto his mentee, Wart, by being his tutor. He informs Wart by saying “The world is full of problems. Now, develop your brain. Knowledge and Wisdom, there’s the real power, of Higher learning”. He is taking the initiative to provide an education for Wart and warning him about the troubles of the world.

On the other hand, Gandalf, from the film Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, is one of the most legendary Istari (middle earth) wizards of all times. He is a leader and mentor to Frodo and many of the other hobbits. He uses his magical powers, wisdom and past experiences to give guidance. He teaches Frodo a lot of teachings including his encouragement quote to Frodo when he says “You must trust to yourself. Trust your own strength” (Lord of the Rings).

Gandalf gives warnings to Frodo about the realities of how one should act in certain situations. He says “There are many powers in this world for good or for evil” (Lord of the Rings). As a wise mentor, it is his job to tell Frodo about the things that are out there. He has a lot more experience about what is good and what is bad, and this signifies his role as a wise councilor giving good guidance. Not only does Gandalf fulfill his role as a teacher effectively, he also shows another characteristic that others characters similarly share, and that is of having a good companionship with their respective mentee.

The mentor formulates a close relationship with the initiate, where they both build themselves upon the values of trust, support and good guidance. A trusting, friendly and close relationship must be build between the Mentor and mentee in order to fully understand each other. One must be compassionate towards another so that they may learn and help develop what it that the initiate requires or lack. Depending on their necessity and needs, the mentor is fully present and ready to assist the hero in his journey of learning and experiencing things.

The Giver is a paternal figure and teacher who tries to understand Jonas as the kind of person he is. He is always very patient whenever Jonas has something to say. Moreover, the bond that they created is very intimate due to the physical contact but mostly emotional attachment. Furthermore, trust is build between each other. Since both Jonas and the Giver spend long periods of time together, they have nurtured a bond between each other consequently resulting in the Giver to say “I love you” while hugging him.

Jiminy the Cricket is very friendly and nice towards Pinocchio by treating him with respect. He cares for him and uses terms as “son and boy” to address him showing signs of love and affection. He is well aware of the techniques used to explain and give instructions to the young puppet. He invites him to have a “better, little heart-to-heart conversation”

In the same manner, Merlin forms a friendly student-teacher relationship with Wart. As Merlin gives extensive opportunities for Wart to learn, he maintains his boundaries and limitations of how he should approach Wart. Merlin is aware of when to correct the king, when to encourage him to do better, and when to give new knowledge. In addition, he also addresses Wart, the King, as “boy” while Wart calls him “sir Merlin”, maintaining a respectable and student-teacher relationship.

Gandalf maintains his wizardly relationship with everyone, however more specifically; his relationship with Frodo Baggins is closer than all the others. Frodo believes in Gandalf, and he believes that he will be with him in times of need. This is evident when Frodo wants knowledge from Gandalf. He is very curious about the world and asks Gandalf, as his wise councilor to tell him everything. Gandalf is satisfied to hear of the many questions and enthusiasm Frodo has because he wants to learn. Gandalf is encouraging and watchful of his hobbit and knows when to expose him of the information that is out there. He is very protective over his two hobbits, Sam and Frodo, and this is evident in the film when Gandalf tells them “Be careful, both of you. The enemy has many spies in his service” (Lord of the Rings, 43:00). Furthermore, Gandalf addresses Frodo as “My dear Frodo.” He is very happy about the great companionship and support of a Hobbit and this is evident when he acknowledges him and praises him by saying “Hobbits really are amazing creatures” (Lord of the Rings, 42:09). This further builds a stronger relationship of trust, love, care, faith, and compassion. Besides, without these factors in a relationship, the mentor cannot further provide teachings to the mentee in

The mentor teaches and provides the necessary elements needed for the initiate or hero’s survival. These include weapons, magic, food, information, or any other form of elements that the hero requires or can use in order to improve himself, and continue to build upon the skills that he or she has learned. Working with the different types of media, three out of four of the contemporary works prove to show significant examples of providing elements to the hero or mentee. Other than information and wisdom, Jiminy does not physically provide things that Pinocchio can use for his development in achieving his dream to become a boy.

In contrary, the Giver’s job is to physically and mentally transmit his memories of all the universal theories, truths, human experiences and universal information of the past to his initiate, the Receiver of Memory. Through his knowledge and understanding of the world, he passes down many types of specific memories that help Jonas, the Receiver of Memory, to successfully do what is required of his job. Examples include memories of strength, courage, war, snow, hill, sled, colors, Lake, rainbow, and much more. From this information, Jonas comprehends his understanding of the world and of the people in his community.

Merlin knows the ways on how to provide a presentation or apply his knowledge of education in the real world. He does this by physically teaching Wart about the philosophy and psychology of the world. Fist he provides the books as a form of tool for wart to educate himself. Secondly Merlin, using his magical powers, transforms him into different people or animals in order to physically explain and show how knowledge can be applied to real world situations. He turns him into a fish to explain the laws of physics, and the nature of human behavior in the world. From here, he gives him wise warnings that “its nature’s way upon the weak, the strong ones prey in human life. The strong will try to conquer you” (Sword, 33:25). Then, Wart becomes a squirrel in order to learn about the laws of gravity (Sword, 41:00). In addition, he turns wart into a bird, fulfilling his desire. Moreover, Merlin uses magic as a tool to help Wart complete his chores, such as cleaning the dishes.

Gandalf provides information, guidance, great wisdom and knowledge. He leads the hobbits and all the others to the weapons that later on serve the hobbits. An example of an item that he physically gives Frodo is the ring. He tells him to keep it very safe, and says “This is the one ring. Forged by the Dark Lord Sauron in the fires of the mount Doom. Taken by Isildur from the hand of Sauron himself” (Lord of the Rings, 38: 05). Gandalf educates and tells Frodo about the powers and dangers of the ring.

In addition, all mentors have a distinct sense of style and fashion. Mentors have their own personality from which their physical look is seen very distinctively for them to be recognized as an old, elderly, smart mentor or teacher. The standard qualities that mentors should acquire or have already acquired are dominantly based on their environments, time period, and own personality interests. The standard way in which a Mentor should dress is commonly described as having a big beard and wearing a long robe. Their sense of fashion is very different from others distinguishing them from the rest of the citizens.

One character does not meet this requirement of having the standard style; however he gives his own sense of fashion as an elderly, wise man; distinct from the other three mentors present in the works. Jiminy the Cricket gives readers a modern style of clothing line and perspective. This is because apart from other mentors, Jiminy does not have a standard, long, white beard nor wears a long robe. Also, He is relatively small in size compared to how a relationship and size difference between a mentor and mentee should be. The mentors in the studied works are taller in height than their mentees, but Jiminy is a fictionist character who is very small compared to Pinocchio. He wears formal clothing, has a hat, and is usually seen with an umbrella in his hand. In contrast, the three other characters have much the same qualities and standard dressing style. The Giver is described as wearing a long robe “special clothing that only elders wear” Lowry 75), and has a large white beard, with long white Hair. In like manner, Both Merlin and Gandalf have gigantic, white beards, long white, and wear long thick robes. Both wear hats and hold either a wooden wand or staff. With these specific appearances that the characters portray, the archetype Mentor is shown and distinctly concentrated in depth of its characteristics.

Carl Jung’s theory of Archetype is studied to understand how various archetypes are seen and active in daily common forms of media. The specific characters, The Giver, Gandalf, Jiminy the Cricket, and Merlin, portray as mentors in the different works above, connecting with archetypal characteristics in order to present, understand and conclude how Carl Jung’s concept of archetypes, specifically the Mentor, exists. This recurring Archetype acts as a reflection on the four works. provides a good sense of familiar storyline and character type. When people read books or watch films, they are familiar with the mentor character type (archetype) because they have been exposed and introduced to numerous ones already. From the earliest example of archetype found in the mid-18th ancient Greek poem, Odyssey with characters as “Mentor” and Athena, to the modern works, the Mentor archetype has been in the mainstream for a very long time, and it will continue to provide similar or even more characteristic traits to see whether the archetype can continue to exist and impact literature studies and media. Additionally, elders are very important in peoples’ daily lives either they be grandparents, professors, religious leaders such as priests or strangers. They all have some similar qualities of a mentor seen in films, books, and videos. In relation to how people encounter them in reality, they tend to see the similarities in fictionist stories, and compare that to their day to day life. Through media and literature, people open up learning opportunities for knowledge and understanding of how a mentor in the contemporary works, is seen in one’s own daily life, through relationships probably. This gives readers a chance to understand themselves, and how they can relate to their lives. What can they learn and find out from mentors in fictional literature and media, to know how mentors in reality are no less different.

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