So I was sitting in class the other day and had a thought. Teachers and mentors are among the most important figures in our life. Cue the war cries! Let’s kill the author!! * ducks and runs away screaming from the angry mob of students chasing that extra half a mark for a change of grade which they were wrongfully denied :p *
No, seriously, hear me out. Mentors are crucial in helping individuals connect the dots between their abilities and their potential, their goals and their successes. They provide the advice, confidence, and the network that allows individuals find their avenue of success. Now this may or may not be an instructor exactly but it often tends to be, as along with the subject matter itself, there are hidden pearls of wisdom. Hacks and cheatcodes that give you a leg up in this messed up game we call life.
Every good story has that one character who has suffered through the hardships of life and come out the other end looking to impart wisdom to the next generation. They draw out lessons learned from their own experiences and apply them in situations that aren’t specifically tied to the case at hand, often surprising and/or confusing to their protégés until that moment of truth where the sheer brilliance of the idea comes out. We’ve all seen/read/heard such stories. Be in from the Power Rangers or Goku and King Kai/Master Roshi or even Mick and Rocky.
I thought I’d take a look at some such (fictional) characters who really helped mould their charges into the heroes they were destined to become.
1) Albus Dumbledore:
I think Harry himself explains why Dumbledore is the greatest teacher at the end of Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone:
“No, it isn’t,” said Harry thoughtfully. “He’s a funny man, Dumbledore. I think he knows more or less everything that goes on here, you know. I reckon he had a pretty good idea we were going to try, and instead of stopping us, he just taught us enough to help. I don’t think it was an accident he let me find out how the mirror worked. It’s almost like he thought I had the right to face Voldemort if I could….”
- Harry potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – US Paperback Edition – Page 302
This is the most perfect description we see (in the books) of Dumbledore as a teacher, and it holds true for all great teachers: They teach you what you need to know, let you try your strengths, and let you learn from your mistakes, without holding said mistakes against you. For instance, in The Half-Blood Prince, Harry (unknowingly) uses dark magic, in the form of the Sectumsempra curse, against Malfoy. He and Dumbledore briefly discuss the incident, but Dumbledore never scolds or lectures Harry on the subject, because he knows that Harry realizes that he made a huge mistake, has learned from it, and will never make that same mistake again.
Everyone knows that Dumbledore helped shape the course of magical history, with his numerous achievements and later with the way he mentored Harry who ended up an even bigger hero and a better man (His words not mine 😀 )
Let’s set aside all his stoyline involvement for a moment. Ever the philosopher on matters of the heart, life and death, good and evil, our favourite headmaster didn’t only dish out wisdom exclusively relevant to magical folk; we could all learn a thing or two from Dumbledore’s wisest words.
Here are three of his best sherbet-lemon sized nuggets :
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.”
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
“It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”
Old but spry, Rafiki is a royal adviser who uses his shaman skills and wisdom to assist the Kings of the Pridelands in their duties. From the regal, wise Mufasa to the still learning Simba, Rafiki took it upon himself to be as annoying and energetic as possible so as to bring peace and order to the Pridelands. His teaching methods were unorthodox and he often doesn’t mind crossing social barriers to nudge others in the right direction. Take this exchange for example:
Adult Simba: I know what I have to do. But going back means I’ll have to face my past. I’ve been running from it for so long.
[Rafiki hits Simba on the head with his stick]
Adult Simba: Ow! Jeez, what was that for?
Rafiki: It doesn’t matter. It’s in the past.
Adult Simba: Yeah, but it still hurts.
Rafiki: Oh yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or… learn from it.
Despite odd bursts of vivacity (like taking on a large group of hyenas single-handedly) , Rafiki is a gentle caretaker and a loyal friend. He has been watching over the Pride Lands, devoting himself to keeping his promise to Mufasa’s father, Ahadi. In keeping this promise, which spans the course of many years, Rafiki establishes a covenant with the royal family, devoting himself entirely to their kingdom and their betterment.
One of the most powerful jedis in the universe, Yoda had more than his fair share of losses. After failing to discover that Chancellor Palpatine was a Sith, failing to prevent the massacre of the jedis at the hands of the Empire’s Clone troops, and to cap it off getting his arse handed to him by Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith, Yoda runs for his life and ends up on Dagobah, the most garbage swamp planet in the entire galaxy. That’s where fledgling Jedi Luke Skywalker finds him, living in a hollowed-out tree stump.
Up to that point, things had been pretty easy for Luke. He blew up the Death Star basically by feel, becoming the hero of the rebellion overnight. Still, he was incautious with his use of the Force and impatient about his training, especially after the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Despite the deaths of his uncle and aunt, Luke didn’t really understand the stakes involved in learning the Force. It’s a game to him. And that’s where Yoda comes in. He’s been to the edge of the abyss and gone toe to toe with Darth Sidious. He’s scampered through a sewer pipe in disgrace to Bail Organa’s levitating whip. Who better to show Luke the dangers of straying from the side of the light?
Armed with an arsenal of quotes that emanate power and wisdom, coupled his eccentric personality and iconic backwards speak, Yoda has become the centre of everything from Internet memes to T-Shirts and Wallpapers.
Let’s not forget that the content matter itself. Some of it is absolutely golden an applicable even in our daily (albeit boring Force deprived :p) lives.
“Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.” – Phantom Menace
“Wars not make one great.” – The Empire Strikes Back
Ultimately, it’s a basic truth that Yoda conveys in a captivating way.
And the who can forget the iconic:
This is another line from the sequence on Dagobah. Within the scene, it was a lightning bolt of dialogue, another great nugget of undeniable wisdom that teaches Luke to have a more serious mind. Yoda had consistently tried to teach Luke to focus on the present, and essentially, to grow up. In this moment, with these words, he makes it clear. Outside of the film, the line has become a modern slogan — a reminder to commit oneself to something completely, win or lose.
(Well it would be stupid of me to end the article with anything other than THAT dialogue right? So until next time then :p)