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A Roadmap for the Hero, Part 4: Meeting The Mentor

4. The Mentor As Guide

There is a crucial turning point in every story where the hero needs guidance, or a mentor. Joseph Campbell talked about how the hero frequently meets a trusted guide, or mentor, to help them on their journey by giving the hero whatever she needs. Bilbo gives Frodo a powerful ring, Bob’s psychiatrist tells him how to break free of his fears, Jodie Foster’s character in the movie Contact meets a wealthy man who has built a machine that will launch her into space, and as you will see, Doris ends up consulting a canary outside of her window: 

“In the middle of the night, while the fairies were sound asleep wrapped in their cozy little beds made of silky handkerchiefs decorated with all the colors of the rainbow––all except for Doris because she needed a proper bed, especially installed for her on the wall of her lair by a wonderful gnome skilled in woodcraft, and slept under super-soft cotton sheets painted with all the colors of the rainbow––a thunderstorm boomed throughout the woodland and the fairies woke up. 

After the heavy rain and the thunder subsided, the fairies, who were used to occasional summer heavy rains, went back to a sound sleep. But then there was an even louder, more terrifying noise. They heard the flapping of wings! Many of the fairies flew onto the windowsill of Doris’s lair to get a better look at the beasts. Because they had flown under cover of night, the fairies couldn’t spot them. Not even with their binoculars. 

“No worries, ladies, it’s probably just a bunch of bats trying to get free rent!” Doris said.

In the morning, it turned out that the lair’s ceiling was chock-full of Doris-sized bats roosting on the ceiling! You see, the fairies weren’t the only creatures in the wood looking for a safe place to sleep that night. Scared of the thunderstorm, they saw Doris’s home and thought it a wonderful place where they could have a sleepover too. 

The fairies, who were used to playing jokes on the animals and then flying away, had seen nothing that weird! They became frightened and hid under their rainbow-print handkerchiefs, trembling. They couldn’t play jokes and then fly away, because the bats were in THEIR lair! They didn’t think any of this was funny at all! Since Doris was the funniest fairy and since it was her home, the bats didn’t scare her like they did the other fairies. She sensed that something must have scared the bats and knew that laughter is the best medicine for fear. 

The bats’ loud snores surprised Doris and made the fairies tremble even more. But Doris didn’t care. It was her joy to provide a safe place for the bats, and since she wasn’t much of a housekeeper, she didn’t mind the mess they made. 

When morning came, she began her day as she always had, baking her first honey cake of the day as the bats snored away. While she happily baked her 21 cakes each day––16 for family and friends, and five for herself––she sang her happy, silly songs and looked up toward the ceiling. She noticed that the bats were still shaking from fear. So were the fairies. 

As she stirred her batter, Doris conjured up a brilliant idea which she confided to the little canary that visited her outside her window every day she baked her cakes. 

“How about I set up a honey cake and sweet butter party for everyone? I’m sure that will be the cure-all. I have enough honey and butter to make as many sweet cakes for everyone, including the bats. The bats will know that they are safe here, and my fairy family will know that there is no reason to fly away from them. We will all enjoy our cakes together and become friends.”

The canary sang sweetly and Doris went to work.”

The needs of the hero when she meets her guide or mentor can be small or large. The guide can give an object, like a ring, or just simple insight, like the way the canary’s presence gives Doris an idea and the courage to see it through. This help can also come in the form of wise advice, practical training, or even just a kind word that can give the character some self-confidence. The guide’s advice always takes away the hero’s fears and doubts and brings her strength and courage to begin her quest. 

Do you recall meeting a mentor who acted as a guide? Who was it? Was it an experience like Doris, where you met someone who gave you an idea? Did someone help you find your courage? Did you meet someone who gave you just what you needed to calm your fears and doubts? If so, write about that person and what your guide gave you. 

This is Part 4 of a 12 part series.

Be sure to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 if you missed it!

Hero’s Journey

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