As with Cliché #1, The Farm Boy with a Secret, the reason this character is so common is because it represents another archetype in fiction. This archetype goes by a number of names, including the "Mage,” the "Mentor” and the "Guardian,” but the purpose of this character is always similar – he (or she) is the wise teacher who sets the protagonist on a path critical to the storyline. In this respect, the Wise Wizard may indeed be a necessary character in many novels. After all, lots of us have had a teacher or mentor, someone who for better or worse shaped our choices in life and made us, in part, the person we are. Since this is nearly universal to the human experience, it’s no surprise that it’s a familiar element in stories, at least those about people, whether it’s part of the protagonist’s backstory or the main plot line.
Sometimes this character can be a hard or even abusive teacher who proves to be more villain than hero, but he or she still profoundly impacts the main character and his or her direction in the story. Examples of this archetype in film and fiction abound – here are just a few in addition to the three bearded gentlemen mentioned above: Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda from Star Wars, Morpheus from The Matrix, Allanon from The Sword of Shannara, Polgara and Belgarath from The Belgariad, Ogion from The Wizard of Earthsea, and Cort from The Gunslinger.
In my view, the frequency of this Guardian or Mentor character is a testament to the universal appeal of this archetype. Maybe we’ll see less of them with long beards and pointed hats from now on as reaction to the cliché, but I believe the Wise Wizard, in one form or another, is here to stay.
|Name this Wise Wizard?|