The hero’s journey – Death of the mentor

Death of the mentor

Joseph Campbell never listed this as one of his seventeen stages, however it is an extremely common step which usually occurs around the end of Act II. It’s significant because it marks the separation from the shelter of the mentor and that the hero must face the rest of the quest alone.

Star Wars – Darth Vader strikes down Obi Wan in front of Luke as they and now he must finish the journey without him.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie – Merrick is Buffy’s watcher, he’s killed by the vampire Lothos, at the end of the film Buffy had to face her mentor’s killer.

It doesn’t have to be a literal death either, it can mean that mentor has revealed his true self and is not someone the hero should follow.

Batman Begins – Henri Ducard was Bruce’s mentor and trained him to be the Batman. However when he revealed himself to be the true Ra’ Al Ghul at the end of the second act Bruce had to fight him and the League of Shadows.

Silence of the Lambs – When Hannibal escapes from his cell, Clarice is no longer able to call on him for the final act and must complete the search for Buffalo Bill without any more help.


Death – the act of dying or being killed

end, termination, cease, demise, release


Mentor – an advisor who trains

teacher, coach, authority, tutor, trainer


How to use it in your writing

If you want to make things really bad for your hero, kill off his teacher and then make him face that killer.

Flip the mentor so that the hero has learned the mentor was not just and righteous and make the hero go head to head with his former teacher who knows his weaknesses and his strength.

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Hero’s journey – Supernatural aid

Supernatural aid

Help is given to the hero from someone who is endowed with abilities beyond the normal. They may or may not give the hero some talisman to help him on the journey.

For some reason, e.g. too old, this guide is unable to complete the job ahead, the journey must be completed by the hero.

Can be used to highlight how hopelessly unprepared and outclassed the hero is for the journey.

Experienced heroes

Experienced heroes often have no physical Mentor instead their mentor takes the form of their conscience and the code of honor they live by.


Definition – Mysterious, not of this world, something beyond our current understanding

Synonyms – unearthly, weird, miraculous, rare, secret, transcendental, divine, omnipotent, religious


Definition – Help, support,

Synonyms – Advancement, alleviation, encouragement, guidance, promotion


Definition – A charm believed to have supernatural powers and bring good luck

Synonyms – Amulet, mascot, idol, image, symbol


Definition – A wise and trusted councilor or teacher

Synonyms – Advisor, master, guide


This stage represents assistance and push. It is a stage which conflicts with the Rejection of the call stage.

In Silence of the Lambs, Clarice Starling is an FBI trainee and Jack Crawford is the head of the Bureau’s Behavioural Science unit. In a classic story he would serve as the mentor for Clarice, he does serve this function to a degree, however, in a masterful stroke of story telling, Hannibal Lector- the serial killer is her mentor. He’s the one who gives her advice and assistance to help track down the killer and at the same time, overcome her own flaws.