Episode 39: The Mentor & The Goddess

On April 20th, Kasie and Rex added to the discussion of the Hero’s Journey with this look into the mentor and the goddess, two more staples in hero tales. Here are the show notes:

Introductions

Dr. Kasie Whitener, Clemson Road Creative, fiction writer

Rex Hurst, English Instructor, fiction writer

Theme for the day

Use of the Wise Mentor Character and Meeting with the Goddess in fiction

Agenda

  • Who is the Wise Mentor?
  • Who is the Goddess? Why meet with her?
  • Modern Fantasy Fiction and these paradigms
  • Literature, history, and these paradigms
grayscale photo of man sitting
Photo by Niko Lienata on Pexels.com

Segment 1

Last week we had a healthy debate over the Meeting with the Goddess and whether that was the default setting for women in fantasy fiction before women became the protagonists in fantasy fiction. So today we’re revisiting both the Wise Mentor (aka old man) and the Goddess (aka default woman) in fantasy literature and whether these paradigms show up elsewhere (like Shakespeare!).

Let’s start with the Wise Mentor. Who is he/she? What does he/she look like? What are some classic examples? What is his/her role?

A mentor is a wise and trusted advisor. We usually think of them in terms of their ability to teach  the protagonist something valuable in his/her journey to the end goal.

Examples in fiction include Gandolf, Yoda, and the Fairy Godmother. This blog talks about rethinking the mentor’s role. Among the points the author makes: Don’t forget the mentor’s affect on the reader: he/she makes it okay for the protagonist to be stupid, naieve, selfish, or impulsive.

Mentors aren’t just there for the protagonist, they’re sometimes there to benefit themselves. Here’s a full list of examples including Arthur’s friend Merlin.

Wanna know what other character types are fantasy novel staples? Click here.

So how do you write a mentor character? Here are some key questions to get you started:

  • Does the mentor have any unusual abilities such as magical powers, or is their primary purpose to impart wisdom?
  • What is the relationship between the protagonist and the mentor? Is it positive from the beginning, or is it initially a rocky one?
  • How do the mentor and protagonist part? Is it sudden and tragic, or is it planned? How does the way the relationship ends affect the protagonist?

Remember that the mentor will be in service to the protagonist until a pivotal point in the story arc at which point the protagonist will lose the mentor. This blog reminds us of this loss’s inevitability and how it is required for the main character to grow.

Segment 2

Women have had it tough in fantasy novels. As this blog points out, women are rarely the Dumbledores and Merlins, they’re normally:

  • Seers
  • Evil Witches (“double double….”)
  • Teachers (think Professor McGonangall)
  • Mother Earth

Here’s a great list by Kate Elliot called “10 Fantasy Novels Whose Depiction of Women did not make me Smash Things” (she says all too often, women are depicted as sex workers, dead or nurturing mothers, and passive princesses). Not surprisingly, 9 of the 10 are written by women authors.

Here’s a video on the topic of Meeting with the Goddess as a necessary step in the Hero’s Journey.

This discussion suggests that the Goddess is the feminine side of the hero himself. There is a bonding or unity of some kind that results from this recognition of self. This blog argues that the Meeting with the Goddess is one in a series of “worthiness tests” for the hero:

  1. The road of trials
  2. The meeting with the goddess
  3. Woman as temptress
  4. Atonement with the father
  5. Apotheosis
  6. The ultimate boon

In Siddhartha, the Meeting with the Goddess is a chance for the protagonist to learn about love, passion, riches and luxury and proper etiquette. Where else have we seen a “Goddess” teach our hero proper etiquette? Attempt to civilize him?

Most sources (including this one) seem to identify the Goddess as the hero’s run in with love. Affection? Sensuality? Sexuality? But the result of it is inevitably the hero’s confirmation that his quest is both noble and destined for success.

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