Learn all about the mentor archetype, including definition, characteristics, examples and how it relates to the Sage archetype.
What is the Mentor Archetype?
The mentor archetype is a common character archetype found in literature.
An experienced advisor or confidante of a younger hero-type character, the mentor has often been in the position of the hero in the past and therefore is in a position to guide them.
The mentor is possessed of greater skill, knowledge and experience than their student but has now grown too old or is otherwise occupied with new responsibilities such as family or their job to allow them to undertake the tasks which the hero now does.
As a result they intend to pass on their knowledge and skills to their younger student.
Mentor Archetype Characteristics & Traits
- The mentor is a positive example on those around them, leading by example.
- As well as being a teacher of skills and knowledge they often act as a protector of others, keeping them safe from danger until they are suitably well equipped to take on the full responsibilities associated with their newfound skills.
- The mentor leads the protagonist towards the good and light path, away from the darkness, and often serves the function of filling in the protagonist (and therefore the viewer or reader) on the past history of the character or situation which has already taken place before the story began.
- The mentor is able to remain cool, calm and collected even in times of the greatest peril, ensuring that the protagonist is able to remain focused on the job at hand and to complete the ‘journey’ they are destined to make.
- They provide both motivation and inspiration whilst retaining their humility.
Mentor Archetype Examples
The mentor archetype has its roots in mythology. In Greek myth, for example, the centaur Chiron acted as a mentor with knowledge of the healing arts and tutored Asclepius, Theseus, and Achilles.
In Indian scripture Krishna is the spiritual mentor of Arjuna and numerous other mentor archetypes can be found in scripture from throughout world religions.
Mentor Archetype in Film
In film Colin Firth’s character of Harry Hart in the recent Kingsman films acts in the mentor archetype as a mentor to the character of Eggsy, played by Taron Egerton.
In the In Kung Fu Panda films Master Oogway acts as the mentor archetype in his role of the Old Master to Shifu. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer Antony Head’s character of Rupert Giles acts as the archetypal mentor to Buffy.
Further reading on the mentor archetype includes:
- Characters: Creating Heroes, Villains, Mentors, Sidekicks, and Other Characters for Your Story (The Writing Code Series Book 3) – by Charles Euchner
- The Complete Life of Krishna: Based on the Earliest Oral Traditions and the Sacred Scriptures – by Vanamali
- Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World – by Timothy Ferriss