The mentor is the one who aids or trains the hero. They teach the hero, protect him and give him useful (often essential) gifts. The word comes from The Odyssey, in which a character named Mentor guides the hero. The mentor relationship often resembles that of a parent-child relationship. They are what the hero might become (and transcend) if he continued on the road of trails. They are the higher self, the wiser and nobler part of us.
Functions of the mentor
Teaching and/ or training is the key function of the mentor. Of course learning can go both ways, the teacher can still learn from his students.
This may be supernatural aid (see Hero’s Journey), an important clue or straight information. It may be food or a weapon of some sort. Anything that ends up important to the protagonist. Gifts are earned however, the protagonist must first show he is committed or learn an important lesson before receiving it. Gifts are not given lightly.
They remind the protagonist of important moral code. 0
The mentor motivates the protagonist and helps him conquer his fears. If need be, the mentor will give the protagonist a kick in the behind to get him going.
Plant seeds of information
The mentor also plants information and/or props that will later prove to be important. When done well, the information is noted by the reader and then forgotten about until its importance comes up. These help tie the story together from start to finish.
Types of mentors
This mentor misleads the audience. The mentor can be a decoy, luring the protagonist into danger.
These have a journey of their own. They experience a crisis of faith of some sort. They are dealing with problems of their own. They must pull themselves together for the protagonist one last time.
These are often found in romantic comedies. He is a friend of coworker of the hero (usually of the same gender). He gives advice that usually leads to worse situations than the hero started off in but eventually sets everything right.
This is the healing mentor, with a flavor of tribal nature. They travel through worlds in dreams and visions and help give the hero a guiding vision for a quest.
Source: Vogler, C. (2007) The Writer’s Journey (3rd edition)