Tough Travels on Fantasy-Faction

At the start of every month, Fantasy-Faction will lead you (yes, YOU!) on a tour of the fantasy genre. From high to low, from classics to new releases, from epic to urban; each month, we will guide you in search of a different trope, theme or cliché. Lest we become lost, we’ll be referring to The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones.

However, since these tropes can appear in many guises (they are sneaky, precious, yes indeed) we’ve enlisted the help of our friends and travelling companions across the blogosphere (including Nathan Barnhart, who started it all) to help us on our way. You’ll find links to their own lists at the bottom of this post – along with the chance to submit your own!

With no more ado, this week’s topic is MENTORS.

A Mentor will be at your service until around halfway through the tour of Fantasyland, when you will unaccountably lose him. Before that he will guide you, tell you what to do in the face of strange customs, and even sometimes instruct you in how to perform minor MAGICS. The Tough Guide suggests that the mentor will be several hundred years old, probably with a long white beard, which will give him the right to be bossy, smug, tiresomely philosophical and infuriatingly secretive about all-important facts.

Eragon (cover 2)BROM
(Eragon by Christopher Paolini)

Minor magic? Check. Infuriatingly secretive? Check. Older bloke? Check!

Brom is THE archetypal mentor (and he’s played by Jeremy Irons in the (otherwise terrible) movie adaptation, so he gets bonus points!).


The Fellowship of the Ring (cover original)

(The Lord of the Rings  by J.R.R. Tolkien)

After inheriting the One Ring from his uncle Bilbo, Frodo demonstrates an astonishing resistance to its corrupting influence. Gandalf therefore determines that Frodo is qualified to carry the deadliest weapon ever created across thousands of miles of hostile territory right into the heart of the enemy – despite his small stature, insular world experience and complete absence of weapons training.

But he used to go on long walks with Bilbo when he was a kid, so hey, I guess that makes Gandalf wise for finding him perfect for the job. Right? Right?

(Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling)

The Harry Potter series (book two in particular) documents Dumbledore’s astounding epic fails in the area of Child Protection. Something is loose in the halls of Hogwarts, and rumours of the Chamber of Secrets abound. But it’s business as usual at Hogwarts: both lessons and Quidditch continue as normal, and the faculty appear to make no attempt whatsoever to actually investigate the attacks. The one time that Harry – who has twice been found at the scene of an attack in its immediate aftermath – is hauled to the Headmaster’s office, he is subjected to Dumbledore’s version of a rigorous interrogation: “is there anything you wish to tell me?” Seriously – come on, Dumbledore!

Sorry for such a short list this month, folks. Let us know which magnificent mentors we’ve forgotten about! Which ones would you least like to bump into in a dark alley? Are there any that – shock, horror! – ignore the Guide completely? Let us know in the comments!

Next month’s topic will be SNARKY SIDEKICKS.

Why is everyone so serious all the time?  Perhaps they need a friend that is there with a quick bit of wit to liven up the day… even if the day is looking to quickly turn to blood.

All that’s left to do now is to write your own list and then add the link below. Today, tomorrow, next month – there’s always room in the adventuring party for one more!

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By Laura M. Hughes

Laura lives under the grey, pigeon-filled skies of northern England, where she also writes for When she isn’t absorbed in Dragon Age, raving about the #SPFBO or working on her first novel, you’re most likely to find her trying to convince unsuspecting bystanders to read The Malazan Book of the Fallen. If you’ve any queries, or just want to talk fantasy, Laura always encourages like-minded folk to seek her out on Twitter @halfstrungharp. Anyone interested in hiring her to edit or proofread a manuscript can check out her rates, services and testimonials at

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