I can’t, off the top of my head, think of any mentor characters who go from place to place looking for a pupil. Most mentors seem to lurk in the background, aware of the epic hero, watching his progress up until the point that he’s ready for instruction…
And it’s not at all creepy. I mean, random old men are keeping tabs on you, right?
Okay, so in some respects, a wandering mentor would be better than the window-stalking variety. And there are certainly the reluctant mentors, those hermits living out in the middle of nowhere who don’t want to pass on their skills to anyone, let alone an upstart brat that appears on their doorstep to demand training.
Mentors, then, can come in several varieties. They have one commonality, though: they need a pupil before they can fulfill their role.
And different character archetypes qualify for that position in different ways. In accordance with today’s strip, let’s have a brief look at three such archetypes.
The Dashing Rogue
The Dashing Rogue excels at flouting authority, not obeying it. If he becomes the pupil in a mentor/pupil relationship, it’s probably after some severely humbling event that forces him to see how inept he really is against the enemies he faces.
The mentor/pupil relationship that involves a Dashing Rogue on the pupil side makes for some wonderful comedy fodder, though. Come to think of it, a Dashing Rogue on the mentor side of the relationship would probably do the same thing. Hmm.
*wanders off to plot characters*
Let’s be honest here. The Sidekick has dismal chance for a straight-up mentor/pupil relationship. Sure, maybe they’ll get a secondary mentor, but the really cool mentor is always reserved for the hero. Or the hero is the sidekick’s mentor, in a Batman-and-Robin sort of scenario, and whatever moments the sidekick has to shine are quickly overshadowed by the hero’s derring-do.
A mentor/pupil relationship that involves a sidekick, then, tends to be underwhelming and serves to highlight the hero more than to enrich the sidekick. Which is kind of depressing to think about. But that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
When the hero is a MarySue, the mentor-pupil relationship runs into a few snags. MarySue, being perfect, doesn’t have horrendous learning curves to conquer when acquiring a new skill. There might be a token stumble in the process, but chances are she’s a Secret Genius at whatever she’s trying to learn.
(I’m sure we can all think of characters who have that special Knack for the one skill that’s going to save their bacon at the end of the story.)
Thus, mentoring MarySue often tips over into a going-through-the-motions exercise. The mentor, usually an irritable grouch who would trounce any other cocksure know-it-all, probably exhibits a soft spot for MarySue, indulges her whims, and ultimately defers to her exceptional prowess.
This mentor/pupil relationship leads to cheesy lines like “The pupil has surpassed the master.” While matching or surpassing really is the true goal of any mentor/pupil relationship, MarySue practically floats to it. Because she’s special like that.
And her mentor is always awesomesauce-on-a-stick, which just proves how much more awesomesauce-on-a-stick she is to have surpassed him.
The Search Continues
If none of these archetypes fits your mentor/pupil relationship needs, fear not! There are plenty of other archetypes to explore!
Oh, who am I kidding? This trope drifts towards the same outcome 90% of the time.
But that is a post for another day.