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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

CCC Part Two - Spiritual Guide

[This is the second post of a series. See introductory post and previous one]

So what do we have so far? We have our hero, our villain, and our hero's best bud. Who comes next? Our hero is setting out to quite the impossible task. He doesn't quite know where he's going, and all he has is a fat gardener to aide him. Who is going to save him from the Black Riders? From the White Witch? From Dragon Slayers and bullies and all forms of evil?

In times of dire need, often early on in the story, our heroes are rescued by spiritual-guides/mentors. They can't defend themselves on their own; they need someone to save them.

And thus our Guides, Mentors, and/or Wizards are introduced.

First we need to establish the basic qualities of these characters. Almost all stories have them, especially fantasy questing tales.
  • Previously known to the hero
  • Older
  • Mysterious
  • Wise
  • Powerful
  • Honorable
So these are the common traits. I'm going to dissect a few different characters in this post. Mainly Gandalf (Lord of the Rings), Aslan (Chronicles of Narnia), and Mr. Miyagi (Karate Kid). I think these three combined hit the nail on the head here.

Picture each of the heroes in these stories. Frodo and Sam, Peter and his family, and Daniel.

In The Lord of the Rings Frodo grows up thinking of Gandalf as the neighborhood fireworks master. He is filled with joy at the site of his cart full of bombs rolling along Hobbiton. Gandalf is here! He's going to blow some things up!

But that is the only reason he knows and likes Gandalf.

Early on it is made clear that Gandalf will be a central leader in the story. But to Frodo Baggins, he is just a common traveler. He trusts Gandalf on account of his uncle's stories and his own experiences with the wizard. It is very important that these Guides are known to the hero.

Generally these guides are portrayed as storytellers or the like. Examples are Brom from the Inheritance Cycle, Rafiki from Lion King, etc. I think the storyteller thing works simply because storytellers can be easily written deep and mysterious, and make it believable.

To guide someone you need to be trusted by that person. And generally you cannot be trusted if you are a stranger. It seems common, and logical, that a hero's spiritual guide is already a friend of the hero before the adventure begins.

In this way the two can strengthen each other, as friends and as mentor and student.

Now let's look at Mr. Miyagi. For those of you who do not know, Mr. Miyagi is an older Asian man that knows karate. Daniel LaRouso is being beat, nearly to death, by some martial-artist bullies. And just as he passes out Mr. Miyagi leaps over a fence and kicks the bullies' tails.

This man definitely is not in his twenties, but he sure has the power to shut anybody up. He demonstrates this time and time again throughout the course of the movie--ultimately training Daniel and then saving his chance at winning the Karate Tournament.

Daniel looks to him as a father, because he does not have one. And from Mr. Miyagi he learns quite a bit, not only about Karate.

This happens to a lot of characters. They are given a guide by the story and the guide's purpose is to help them on their quest. But in the end the guides have done much more; often times they have strengthened the hero's character and perspective on life.

So not only must the Guides help the hero through his quest, they must help him in his life.

As Mr. Miyagi said:

Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home. Understand?

And then later:
Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better. Understand?
Miyagi uses his role as quest-guide to teach Daniel important things about life. Thus we have called them Spiritual Guides, or mentors.

This is probably the most important trait about them. If your guides don't have this, toss them. The Hero must learn throughout the quest, not only skills with a blade, but how to live life. And it's these mysterious wizards that teach them.

Mystery is the next important part to these Spiritual Leaders.

Every good story does this it seems.

Think of Aslan. Peter and company have just entered Narnia. And all of a sudden their brother runs off. He could freeze to death or worse.

And the beavers tell them what about their brother? He's a goner and:
Only Aslan can save your brother now.
This stirs up great mystery. And though the children don't know the lion as a lion, the fact that he will be able to save their brother gives them reason to trust him. As Peter follows:
Then take us to him.
And so every meeting with Aslan stirs mystery. Especially when they finally meet him, only to find that he is not a knight in shining armor, rather, he is a lion.

The thing I like about Aslan and Gandalf, is that they remain a mystery throughout the entire story. Never are their origins made clear. Gandalf's story can only be found in the preludes and Aslan's can be guessed.

That's the mystery I want to write.

Well this post is running long so I'll make it quick.

The guides need the power to protect the hero. For example, Miyagi's karate skills, Gandalf and his staff and ring, Aslan and his...well godliness.

If your guide is weak, your hero will be weak.

And in order to teach your hero they must be wise. Let's end on a great line of wisdom from Gandalf. Makes me jump out of my seat every time:
End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path... One that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass... And then you see it. ... White shores... and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
That's what a guide needs to be. Ferocious as a lion, gentle as a kitten, and wiser than the darkness.


Barie-ah Hue-en-la said...

Great post! I'll certainly keep that in mind next time I write :)

JT Norlander said...

very good post. :)

Seth said...

Wow, awesomeness. (Also, the verification word just gave me a possible name in my book lol, vultutf is the verification word)

Galadriel said...

When will you quote the books instead of the movies? JK! I love the wise, helpful individual. Gandalf is so much more interesting for those who understand his true nature (see "Valaquenta" in The Silmarillion) and understand what power is hidden under the cloak

Nathan R. Petrie said...

Thanks JT and Barie!

Seth, that's just awesome :)

Galadriel, it's harder to find quotes from the books ;) And yes, after I read many things fell into place. The Balrog encounter was definitely more interesting than ever before LOL

Madeline said...

Ah yes...::coff:: those verification things are good for something anyway. Mine is "hicrooke"...

But anyway, very good post. I am especially liking these posts about chars. The "mentor" in my nanowrimo novel happened to be named Arioc lol. The MC hadn't known him before - but I think it worked because the MC's mother went way back with the mentor dude, so the MC trusted him. Sounds VERY cheesy, I know, but trust me, it isn't that bad lol.

Nathan R. Petrie said...

That actually works Madeline. Because the mentor is still connected to the hero in some way. :) I don't think is sounds cheesey :P

Jessica said...

Wow thanks for this post! How come you have a really good talent in pointing out the flaws or deficiencies in my stories, and you don't even have to read them...:)
This came at a perfect time I have a character whose roll I was struggling with they seemed active yet distant involved yet (it was frustrating) but now I know who they were trying to be and we can work on it from there. Thanks for the inspiration!

Anonymous said...

All the quotes for LOTR and LWW are from the movies- interesting. . . read the books, dude!! lol

Thanks so much. Every once in a while on somebody's blog- like WTB's- there's a post that I just HAVE to copy. Your character posts defidently made it into my folder!


PS: My word is Seuncea- a new character as of two seconds ago!!

Pyrosian Heir said...

the qoutes kept giving me the almost chill that i enjoy when its a good one... how did you do that?

but in all seriousness excellent post man. ive kinda hit a wall at the moment (meaning that i've lost track of what my characters are doing and i'm having issues finding them) and i'm thinking this may get my bum back in gear.

bee-tee-dubs, my word was sotec. works more for the prequel and sequels than the first one.

Nathan R. Petrie said...

Jessica, I'm a writing ninja. :) That's how.
In all seriousness, I am so very glad these posts are of assistance to you :) They're fun to write, glad to know it's all worth while ;)

DOL, I've read the books :P :P More than I've seen the movie haha
Well this is a first...someone is copying my work :) LOL
BTW, are you still up for Tribe Building? this is the last week ;)

Ben, they give me the chills too. ::shivers:: Give the writers credit man ;)
Glad to hear I'm uh...kicking your butt into gear :P haha

Goodness...all of these people getting ideas from confirmation codes o.O

Celebrilomiel said...

Great post, Nathan! I especially like your ending sentence: "...Wiser than the darkness." Awesome.

Confirmation codes are cool. ^.^ Sometimes they're just gibberish, but when they make a word, fantasy or otherwise, it's exciting. xP Mine, by the way, is ferat.

Nathan R. Petrie said...

Thanks Celeb!

Christian Miles said...

"Gentle as a kitten," was that a crack at Aslan? haha
Great post. One other aspect of the mentor, though, is that he has to let the protagonist fix the problem.
Authors normally do this by killing off the mentor. Think Brom. Basically, they can't fix everything because that's the protag's job.

Nathan R. Petrie said...

::facepalm:: I knew I was missing one. That's a HUGE one. The hero needs to be be a hero. The mentor leaves so the hero can prove if he's learned what the mentor taught.

Gandalf leaving Bilbo at the forest is another good one.

Anonymous said...

I'm still sort of 'in' the tribe. But I haven't done anything in a while- oops. : D

I'll see if I can pull something off before the 1st.


"Stand tall now and proclaim what you have seen, speak in whispered roars..."