Hello everyone and welcome to Tough Travelling!
Every month, we go on our travels through Fantasyland with Fantasy Faction, exploring a different fantasy trope as defined by Dianna Wynne Jones in her Tough Guide to Fantasyland.
Next month, our hosts will have an exciting new home at the Fantasy Hive! (Which means I have to update my graphic >.>) The theme will be elves, and I will be prepared this time!
If you were hoping for a Tough Travels without a mention of Lord of the Rings, then either you’re new here or you haven’t been paying attention. For those of you playing Beth Books Bingo, you’re welcome.
We cannot talk about mentors in fantasy without starting with The Mentor himself, Gandalf. He is everything you would expect from a mentor; older and wiser certainly, grumpy and sarcastic indeed, alludes to knowledge and events beyond your ken of course. Diana’s description of mentors reads like an intro piece specifically for him:
A Mentor will be at your service until around halfway through the tour of Fantasyland, when you will unaccountably lose him. Before that he will guide you, tell you what to do in the face of strange customs, and even sometimes instruct you in how to perform minor MAGICS. The Tough Guide suggests that the mentor will be several hundred years old, probably with a long white beard, which will give him the right to be bossy, smug, tiresomely philosophical and infuriatingly secretive about all-important facts.
But something I particularly love about Gandalf is his legacy. He has gone on to inspire many other mentors in the fantasy genre; J. K. Rowling’s Dumbledore is an obvious one of course but two of my favourites are:
Belgarath is grumpy, secretive, sarcastic and manipulative; but he’s ultimately the best kind of good guys and is playing the long game.
“My daughter accepted without comment the fact that she wasn’t going to age. The peculiar thing about the whole business in her case was the fact that she really didn’t. Beldin and the twins and I had all achieved the appearance of a certain maturity. We picked up wrinkles and grey hair and a distinguished look. Pol didn’t…I guess a sorcerer is supposed to look distinguished and wise, and that implies wrinkles and grey hair. A woman with grey hair and wrinkles is called a crone, and I don’t think Pol would have liked that very much. Maybe we all wound up looking the way we thought we ought to look. My brothers and I thought we should look wise and venerable. Pol didn’t mind the wise part, but “venerable” wasn’t in her vocabulary. I might want to investigate that someday. The notion that we somehow create ourselves in intriguing.”
and that other favourite of mine…
Bayaz (from Abercrombie’s First Law)
What really struck me about Abercrombie’s books, and which I now know he set out to do and is famous for, is the way in which he takes fantasy tropes and turns them on their head. And mentors did not escape his administrations.
Bayaz is all those things we just discussed with Gandalf and Belgarath. But so much more than that too. If you haven’t read these books yet, please do!
Moving away from the wise old wizard type of mentor…
Granny Weatherwax (from Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, first appearing in Equal Rites)
Granny is a mentor who would certainly by no means deem herself a mentor; but woe betide you ignore her mentoring.
“Witches are not by nature gregarious, at least with other witches, and they certainly don’t have leaders.
Granny Weatherwax was the most highly-regarded of the leaders they didn’t have.” – Wyrd Sisters
I think out of all the incredible things Pratchett was able to achieve in his writing, his characters are the most successful. I’ve yet to find anyone who writes characters like his, who are so undeniably human; he has created them with levels that you instantly recognise from people in your life. Granny Weatherwax shares stubborn characteristics with my own gran (for example, she never asks for help, she hints until you suggest you help), as does Nanny Ogg (my gran also has a repertoire of knob songs).
Chrestomanci (The Chrestomanci Series)
I feel a nod to Diana Wynne Jones’ own fantasy creations are often deserved on our Tough Travels, and Chrestomanci is a particularly fitting one.
Chrestomanci isn’t one figure or mentor, but is rather an office; a role that encompasses mentor, enchanter, problem-fixer. Throughout the series, there are four people who hold the role, each having different strengths and weaknesses.
Who is your favourite mentor? What recommendations do you have?
Now, I have quite a long list of these, as I love a good snarky sidekick 😉 To keep it short and interesting, I’ll keep the descriptions either brief or non-existent, and stick mostly to quotes.
Nanny Ogg (Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld)
‘By gor’, that’s a bloody enormous cat.’
‘It’s a lion,’ said Granny Weatherwax, looking at the stuffed head over the fireplace.
‘Must’ve hit the wall at a hell of a speed, whatever it was,’ said Nanny Ogg.
‘Someone killed it,’ said Granny Weatherwax, surveying the room.
‘Should think so,’ said Nanny. ‘If I’d seen something like that eatin’ its way through the wall I’d of hit it myself with a poker.’ – Witches Abroad
Albert (Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld)
Then Mort said, ‘What do all those symbols mean?’
‘Sodomy non sapiens,’ said Albert under his breath.
‘What does that mean?’
‘Means I’m buggered if I know.’ – Mort
Bast (Kingkiller Chronicles)
Bast ran a hand along the side of his face. “So you’re trying to avoid second-guessing yourself?”
Kote hesitated. “You could say that,” he admitted.
“I could say that, Reshi,” Bast said smugly. “You, on the other hand, would complicate things needlessly.”
The Dogman (Firstlaw)
One of my favourites on this list, and in the series. Abercrombie is great at writing characters, particularly creating individual voices. I loved The Dogman’s distinct vocal ticks.
‘So I heard. Mean bastard, that. Huge big lad. They call him Dogman ’cause he bit some woman’s teats off one time.’
Dogman blinked. ‘Do they now? Well, I never saw him.’ – Last Argument of Kings
Bronn (A Song of Fire and Ice)
I could watch the Tyrion & Bronn Show all. day. long.
Tyrion – “The Eyrie. They say it’s impregnable.” Bronn – “Give me ten good men and some climbing spikes, I’ll impregnate the bitch.”
Pippin and Merry (The Lord of the Rings)
“That’s what I meant,’ said Pippin. ‘We hobbits ought to stick together, and we will. I shall go, unless they chain me up. There must be someone with intelligence in the party.” – The Fellowship of the Ring
Silk (The Belgariad)
“Would you look at this?” Silk waved a piece of parchment at the old man.
“What’s the problem?” Belgarath took the parchment and read it.
“That whole business was settled years ago,” Silk declared in an irritated voice. “Why are these things still being circulated?”
“The description IS colorful,” Belgarath noted.
“Did you see that?” Silk sounded mortally offended. He turned to Garion. “Do I look like a weasel to you?”
“–an ill-favored, weasel-faced man,” Belgarath read, “shifty-eyed and with a long, pointed nose. A notorious cheat at dice.”
“Do you mind?” – Enchanter’s End Game
“‘Mine not to reason why, eh? Especially as reasoning has never been my strong suit. Never really understood what it even is, be honest with you.’
‘Do that, yes, Vaneclaw.’
‘What? Reason?’ The imp looked uncomfortable, as if being asked to do something well above his pay grade.”
Erasmus (The Summerlark Elf)
” ‘For one thing, Ulmo, blending.’ Erasmus said over his shoulder. ‘Yes sir, brand new, you might as well be wearing the sheep,’ the half-elf pocketed some coin. ‘We look like we ought to be here, keeps people’s guards down. Of course, milady, one size fits most!’ “
Do you have a favourite sidekick? What recommendations do you have?
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