Let’s look at 10 roles the mentor character archetype plays in scenes along the hero’s journey, as shown by Hagrid from Harry Potter and Haymitch from The Hunger Games. This is a follow-up post to the 10 traits of the mentor character archetype. As we’ll see, the mentor aids the hero while not interfering with her independence.
1. The mentor ushers the hero from his homeland to the awful-awesome world.
The mentor is one of the first characters from the “awful-awesome land” that the hero meets. Hagrid doubles as the herald (bringing the invitation to adventure), while Haymitch appears simultaneously with the herald (Effie). The mentor travels to the hero’s homeland to fetch the hero, and then helps her start the journey.
- Hagrid first brings Harry to the wizarding world via Diagon Alley. “‘Welcome,’ said Hagrid, ‘to Diagon Alley.’ He grinned at Harry’s amazement. They stepped through the archway.” (HP Ch. 5).
- Haymitch (and Effie) travel with Katniss from the Reaping Ceremony to the train station, and then to the training center. “She and Haymitch will be overseeing us right into the arena.” (HG Ch. 6).
2. The mentor takes the hero to get supplies from “the armory.”
Before the hero gets too deep in his adventures, the mentor first takes him to pick up some supplies. This is a classic scene in the monomythical hero’s journey.
- Hagrid gives Harry advice about his school supplies when they are at Diagon Alley. “Hagrid wouldn’t let Harry buy a solid gold cauldron, either (‘It says pewter on yer list’), but they got a nice set of scales for weighing potion ingredients and a collapsible brass telescope.” (HP Ch. 5).
- Haymitch gives Katniss advice about the stations when they are at the training center. “In the Training Center, they will have weights, but don’t reveal how much you can lift in front of the other tributes. The plan’s the same for both of you. You go to group training. Spend the time trying to learn something you don’t know. Throw a spear. Swing a mace. Learn to tie a decent knot. Save showing what you’re best at until your private sessions.” (HG Ch. 7).
3. The mentor gives the hero useful gifts.
In addition to his helpful advice about supplies, the mentor also presents the hero with a gift she can use along her journey.
- Hagrid gives Harry several gifts– an owl, a flute, and a photo album. The flute comes in handy when Harry is trying to get past the Gatekeeper. “Harry picked up the top parcel. It was wrapped in thick brown paper and scrawled across it was To Harry, from Hagrid. Inside was a roughly cut wooden flute.” (HP Ch. 12).
- Haymitch gives Katniss several gifts– burn cream, sleeping syrup, and lamb stew. The sleeping syrup is useful in Katniss’s plan to get Peeta’s medicine. The burn medicine helps her heal her wounds and bond with Rue. “’Why, did you get something?’ ‘Burn medicine,’ I say almost sheepishly.” (HG Ch. 19).
4. The mentor sends the hero messages.
The mentor communicates with the hero even when he is not physically in the same place. However, this communication may be vague or cryptic.
- Hagrid sends notes to Harry via owl messenger. The following note does not provide instructions but the reader infers that Harry should go down to Hagrid’s hut: “Then, one breakfast time, Hedwig brought Harry another note from Hagrid. He had written only two words: It’s hatching.” (HP Ch. 14).
- Haymitch sends messages to Katniss by the timing or the withholding of his silver-parachuted gifts. “Maybe he’s sending you a message. . . . Saying what? Then I know. There’s only one good reason Haymitch could be withholding water from me. Because he knows I’ve almost found it.” (HG Ch. 12).
5. The mentor takes care of the hero’s friends, too.
The mentor isn’t exclusively the hero’s guide– he also shows some love to the hero’s friends.
- Hagrid stands up for Ron after a fight between Ron and Malfoy. “’He was provoked, Professor Snape,’ said Hagrid, sticking his huge hairy face out from behind the tree.” (HP Ch. 12).
- Haymitch sends Peeta some broth when he is sick. “I hold up the pot. ‘Peeta, look what Haymitch has sent you.'” (HG Ch. 19).
6. The mentor withholds some information from the hero.
The mentor is on the hero’s side, but he’s not always entirely forthcoming. This provides tension and helps blur the lines between good guys and bad guys.
- Hagrid hides the fact that he has an illegal dragon egg. “Hagrid shuffled into view, hiding something behind his back. . . . ‘Jus’ lookin’,’ he said, in a shifty voice that got their interest at once.” (HP Ch. 14).
- Haymitch kept the details of Peeta’s interview plan hidden from Katniss. “’Haymitch just helped me with it.’ ‘Yes, Haymitch is very helpful. To you!’ I say.” (HG Ch. 10).
7. The mentor challenges authority.
We already know that the mentor is a bit of a misfit. We see this trait in action when he speaks poorly about authority figures in front of the hero.
- Hagrid openly dislikes Filch, the Caretaker of Hogwarts. “Harry and Ron were delighted to hear Hagrid call Filch ‘that old git.’ ‘An’ as fer that cat, Mrs. Norris, I’d like ter introduce her to Fang sometime.'” (HP Ch. 8).
- Haymitch mocks the Capitol at the Reaping Ceremony. “Is he addressing the audience or is he so drunk he might actually be taunting the Capitol?” (HG Ch. 2).
8. The mentor accepts help from the hero.
Even though the mentor is supposed to help the hero, we know that the mentor is not all that reliable. Sometimes, when the mentor indulges in his weakness, he needs help from the hero (and the hero’s friends).
- Harry and his friends attempts to help Hagrid get rid of his dragon egg and later, his baby dragon. Caring for animals is a weakness of Hagrid’s. “They spent most of their free time in Hagrid’s darkened hut, trying to reason with him.” (HP Ch. 14).
- Katniss and Peeta attempt to help Haymitch when he drank too much. Drinking alcohol is a weakness of Haymitch’s. “As if by some unspoken agreement, Peeta and I each take one of Haymitch’s arms and help him to his feet.” (HG Ch. 4).
9. The mentor has an emotional reunion with the hero after the climax.
After the hero’s dramatic stand off with the villain, she wakes up in the hospital. Soon after, she is greeted by the relieved mentor.
- Hagrid visits Harry while he is in the hospital wing. “He sat down next to Harry, took one look at him, and burst into tears.” (HP Ch. 14).
- Haymitch hugs Katniss when she gets out of the hospital. “I run for them and surprise even myself when I launch into Haymitch’s arms first. When he whispers in my ear, ‘Nice job, sweetheart,’ it doesn’t sound sarcastic.” (HG Ch. 26).
10. The mentor ushers the hero to the resolution.
Coming full circle, the mentor helps transition the hero from the awful-awesome land and back to her homeland.
- Hagrid helps Harry and the other students leave Hogwarts and head back home. “Hagrid was there to take them down to the fleet of boats that sailed across the lake; they were boarding the Hogwarts Express . . . .” (HP Ch. 17).
- Haymitch rides the train with Katniss and Peeta back to District 12. “Haymitch startles me when he lays a hand on my back. . . . ‘Great job, you two. Just keep it up in the district until the cameras are gone.'” (HG Ch. 27).
Bonus Backstory: In later books, we learn that the mentor was punished by the villain.
The mentor has been personally harmed by the very villain that the hero is now up against.
- In Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets, we learn that Hagrid was punished after Tom Riddle framed him for using his pet spider to hurt students. Hagrid was expelled from school.
- In Mockingjay, we learn that Haymitch was punished by President Snow after Haymitch embarrassed the Capitol by using the arena’s force field to kill a tribute. Haymitch’s family and girlfriend were killed as a result.
Why it works:
The mentor gives the hero much needed advice and supplies as the hero embarks on her journey. However, the mentor needs to be a little distant so as not to steal the spotlight. The use of messages instead of the mentor’s actual presence helps build tension because we don’t know if the hero will follow the instructions. Finally, by having the mentor appear in the very beginning of the story and the very end helps bring some continuity and closure.
Let’s place 10 index cards for the mentor in the master outline: Chapter 2 (introduce mentor), Chapter 3 (visit armory), Chapter 4 (challenges authority), Chapter 9 (receives help from hero), Chapter 11 (withholds information), Chapter 13 (sends message), Chapter 14 (gives gift), Chapter 15 (helps friend), Chapter 19 (emotional reunion), and Chapter 21 (return home).
Don’t forget to look at the traits of the mentor to help set the tone for these scenes.
Question: why do you think we don’t learn the “bonus backstory” about the mentor until the sequel?