I've been thinking about archetypes, particularly the Wise Old Mentor, and I got to wondering -why wise old mentors? If you're following the Hero's Journey archetype you need a mentor figure, sure, but if you've read many fairy tales you'll notice a lot of the mentors are wily animal companions. The one that comes first to mind is the cat in Perrault's `Puss in Boots'. The cat goes a fair way toward upstaging our protagonist (who doesn't even get a name, poor guy. He just goes through life as `miller's son'). Puss not only teaches Millerson to get along in court, but also plays matchmaker for him and uses his wiles to get Millerson a comfortable estate.
That's great for Millerson and co. but if wily animal companions are an achetype... where are they in print? So after a bit of pondering, I came up with a title that follows the `Puss in Boots' archetype: Robert Louis Stevenson's `Kidnapped.' If you take out the idea that a wily animal mentor has to be an actual physical animal, doesn't Alan Breck fit into the role? He's definitely a mentor figure. In chapter nine he's teaching our protagonist, David Balfour to mount a defense:
"-that door, being open, is the best part of my defense."
"It would be yet better shut," says I.
"Not so, David," says he. "Ye see, I have but one face, but so long as that door is open and my face to it, the best part of my enemies will be in front of me, where I would aye wish to find them."
Robert Louis Stevenson
Later Alan teaches David such important lessons as how to survive while fleeing through the Highlands from King George's army. In the end Alan plays a crucial role in a trick meant to get David's rightful property away from his ogreish uncle. (Well, his uncle is actually more goblin-like, but for the sake of the parallel we'll say ogreish.)
So what do you guys think? Do you know of any wily mentors, animal or human? Or have they been kicked out of modern fiction for stealing the protagonist's thunder -and if they have, how do we get them back?