By Jeff Nieves
Behind every epic hero is a mentor who helps forge their destiny. It’s their sacred duty to spot the spark of brilliance within their young disciples, and to support them in their quest to save the galaxy/Universe/World/Whatever.
Being an epic mentor isn’t always the sexiest job. They often deal with bratty ungrateful students, are often extremely old, and many times, die due to the dramatic needs of the hero’s journey.
Today, we salute their contributions to Sci-Fi/Fantasy by counting down the top ten Epic Mentors of all time.
1. Obi Wan Kenobi: Yup, I can hear the groans already. Yes Obi Wan Kenobi is the obvious choice, but he’s also the best choice. Ol’ Obi is the original gangster. Not only did he train two of the most powerful Jedi of all time, but he’s also saved the galaxy a few times himself. Sure, one of his pupils turned out to be a mass murderer who destroyed to the Republic, but what can you do? What really separates Obi from the pack is that his pupils get light-sabers. Really, what’s cooler than a light saber? The answer is nothing is cooler than a light saber: not a magical ring, not super-strength, not even downloading Kung-Fu to your brain. Plus, Ben Kenobi has uttered some of the most classic lines of the series.
Classic Nugget of Wisdom: “Remember, the Force will be with you always.“
2. Rupert “Ripper” Giles: Giles deserves to be near the top of this list because of sheer reliability. For seven seasons, he put up with the hormonal antics of not only Buffy, but her entire Scooby-Gang. Plus, Giles has books, lots of old dusty books, all of which seem to foretell the apocalypse, which is a good thing if you’re in the vampire slaying business. Above all, the most important thing Giles brings to the Epic Hero game is flexibility. Giles understands that every chosen one is different, and understands how to bend the rules for his slayer to get the best out of her.
Classic Nugget of Wisdom: “Buffy, when I said you could slay vampires and have a social life, I didn’t mean at the same time!”
3. Morpheus: A mysterious rebel fighting to find mankind’s savior, all the while wearing a sweet leather trench coat. Morpheus is the classic mentor figure, pulling his “chosen one” out of a mundane existence and guiding them to their epic destiny. If Morpheus was your epic mentor, you’d learn kung-fu, leap buildings in a single bound, and wear a super cool trench-coat. On the down-side, you’d also be in some pretty disappointing sequels. Oh, well. You can’t win ‘em all.
Classic Nugget of Wisdom: “You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?”
4. Yoda: When comes down to wisdom, all of these Mentors are formable. That being said, no one does wisdom quite like Yoda. He’s got that time tested knowledge that comes from having been around the block a couple hundred times. Heck, if anyone on this list comes close to possibly knowing the meaning of life, it’s him. On the negative side, he can sometimes be on the overly cryptic side. Everything’s a riddle or a game with him. Dude sounds like a living fortune cookie. So, in the clarity department, this he seriously lacks. Of course, if you’re willing to stick with him and trust that he knows what he’s doing, chances are he’ll do right by you.
Classic Nugget of Wisdom: “For my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us… and binds us.”
5. Gandalf: Old, wise, and with a pointy hat, Gandalf will solve your mentor-ship needs with a wave his hand. He does it all. He fights dragons, hangs out with giant monster trees, and is a reliable pipe-weed connection. Where Galndalf falls short is in training. The above mentors all helped sharpen their student’s skills with light-sabers, downloaded Kung-Fu, or old fashioned punching bags, but Gandalf’s style is pretty hands off. In fact, his entire reason for choosing Frodo is that Frodo is so weak and hapless that he couldn’t cause all that much damage, if he were to be corrupted by the ring. In fact, all you get from helping Gandalf out is a ring that, may or may not, turn you into a slimey weirdo thingy.
Classic Nugget of Wisdom: “The Ring yearns to go home, to return to the hand of its Master. They are one, the Ring and the Dark Lord. Frodo, he must never find it.”
6. Charles Xavier: Charles is the true professional of the bunch. He has literally turned out dozens of primed, ready to go, super-heroes. The man has mentorship down to a science, and his school for the gifted is a well-oiled machine. But is Charles Xavier’s assembly-line mentality his fatal flaw? Are his pupils really getting the face time they need, or is Charles merely the face of a massive bureaucracy? How many buns can you have in the oven before you start to sacrifice quality, Charles?
Classic Nugget of Wisdom: “Mutation: it is the key to our evolution. It has enabled us to evolve from a single-celled organism into the dominant species on the planet. This process is slow, and normally taking thousands and thousands of years. But every few hundred millennia, evolution leaps forward.”
7. Lady Jessica of the Atreides: The only gal on the list, thus far, Lady Jessica easily holds her own in the big leagues. As a Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother, Jessica is a member of one of the coolest mystical pseudo-religious orders this side of the Jedi. In fact, the Bene Gesserit may be cooler than the Jedi(just sayin). As a Teacher, Jessica is dedicated to her pupils reaching their full potential. Study with Jessica and you’ll learn the weirding ways of the Bene Gesserit: like a mind-control voice, access to past lives, truth saying, and many other tasty tricks. If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, you need to run out and get a copy of Dune asap.
Classic Nugget of Wisdom: “When strangers meet, great allowance should be made for differences of custom and training.”
8. Master Splinter: Ah, the venerable Master Splinter. Aside from his mentoring prowess, Master Splinter holds the distinction of being one of the only lovable rats in pop culture. So let’s get down to business. Master Splinter has the patience, wisdom, and style of a true master. He’s also a true renaissance man. Having named each of his disciples after a classical artist, he is obviously connoisseur, not only the martial arts, but of art and music. Train with this rodent and become a master ninja. The only down side is that you might have to live in a sewer, which anyway you slice it, is kinda gross.
Classic Nugget of Wisdom: “Death comes for us all, Oroku Saki, but something much worse comes for you. For when you die, it will be without honor.”
9. Dumbledore: Headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Dumbledore is certainly has the academic clout. In terms of mentoring style, Dumbledore is mostly hands off. He’s content to make most of his moves in the shadows while Harry makes his own mistakes and learns his own lessons. While I respect that philosophy, Dumbledore always came off a bit on the lazy side for me. Like Charles Xavier, the man’s got a lot of responsibilities taking up his time, and I start to wonder if it’s bringing down the quality of his mentoring.
Classic Nugget of Wisdom: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.”
10. Master Roshi: Ahhh… Master Roshi, the man who brought us the immortal “Kamehameha!” Let’s face it. He’s kinda a dirty old man. But while that may be true, you have to respect this guy. His star pupil surpassed him a million fold, and he never let it get to him. Nope, in his trademarked Hawaiin shirt, Master Roshi is content to enjoy his life in his cozy island cottage. Master Roshi is a man whose greatest lesson is perhaps just that, to not sweat the little things and savor the simple things in life.
Classic Nugget Wisdom: “I’m sorry, my hand must’ve slipped.”
Jeff is an assistant to an indie film producer in NYC and aspires to…err…um…something hopefully. Oh, and he likes TV.
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