Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Wise Old Man/Sage

As you've probably noticed I've been going over some of the most common archetypal characters in literature and film this week. Not all are Jungian archetypes, but this one certainly is. Today I would like hear who your favorite Wise Old Man/Sage is. This archetype is slightly different from the Mentor, though of course in certain tales one character can fit both roles (think Dumbledore from Harry Potter).

I'm betting by now you can guess who may favorite is. I do love TLOTR and OMG (Olorin/Mithrandir/Gandalf) is certainly an awesome Wise Old Man but I'm getting a little tired of picking characters from Middle Earth every day, plus it feels a little lazy. I could go with one of two great examples from Star Wars, but instead I'm going to go with something a little more obscure today.

One of my favorite Wise Old Men is Dallben from the Chronicles of Prydain. I haven't actually even read all five volumes but I did read the Book of Three and the Black Cauldron when I was young. These books are not that famous but some of you may remember a rather well done animated Disney adaptation of the stories from the 80s. I can still remember exactly how Gurgi sounds when he talks about crunchings and munchings.

Anyway Dallben is a sort of sorcerer who acts as both the guardian of and mentor for the protagonist Taran. Dallben is 379 years old at the beginning of the Book of Three, and has one of the most interesting back stories I can remember (paraphrased from Wikipedia):

In a manner similar to the Welsh legend or Gwion Bach, one day as a boy he was helping three enchantresses by stirring a potion they were making when it boiled over and scalded his fingers. When Dallben put his burned fingers into his mouth, he accidentally ingested some of the liquid. It was a potion of wisdom, and immediately Dallben was able to see the enchantresses for what they really were, and to understand everything around him. Deciding they couldn't have so much wisdom living under one roof, the enchantresses sent him out into the world, with three gifts to choose from before leaving.

The first gift was a sword, which would have made Dallben the most powerful warrior who had ever lived. The second gift was a harp, which would have made him the world's most famous bard, had he chosen it. Instead he chose the third gift, a book called the Book of Three. Orddu told him it contained everything that was ever known or would ever be known, and knowledge was something Dallben valued more than power or fame.


So who is your favorite Wise Old Man/Sage? Don't be afraid to pick OMG just because I've already mentioned him, and don't be afraid to pick Y or OWK just because I've already alluded to them. Choose whoever you like!

33 comments:

Jeffrey Beesler said...

I think I'll stick with Dumbledore because I'm drawing a blank with anyone else.

Candyland said...

I don't know what's happening. Maybe I should re-read the post. I'm tired, Timmy. I'll just say what Jeff B said before me (I'll cheat).

I think I'll stick with Dumbledore because I'm drawing a blank with anyone else.

Mesmerix said...

Zed from the Sword of Truth series.

"True as toasted toads!" ~ A Zed-ism

Christina Lee said...

Gandalf all the way-oh and I'll say (blanking on name) from The X-Men!

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

One of my fave archetypes! Hard not to go with Gandalf or Dumbledore but they are done SO well!

thetitanproject said...

My favorite Old Man sage would have to be Magneto! It maybe a little off center, but he's definitely the coolest and one of the most wisest people.

I think Yoda was built around Confuscious, and I'm not big on Asian culture, but old sensei's who talk in proverbs are pretty cool. Then again, the old guy from Everybody loves Raymond, is pretty wise. I'd like to be him when I'm old.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

There aren't really any in the YA contemporary or paranormal novels I've been reading lately.

I guess I'll have to go with Dumbledore because he and Gandalf are the only ones I know.

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Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I'm sticking with Dumbledore. Ooh, or Gandalf.

This is so hard to choose!

Gandalf.

Bish Denham said...

I'm going to go with Merlin, who is rather like Gandalf, only older and been around longer.

Ariel Swan said...

I can't think of a new wise old sage that hasn't yet been mentioned - but have you seen the History Channel special on Star Wars and Archetypes? I am an English teacher and I show it every year because it covers a lot of the classical mythology, biblical literature, and fantasy literature covered in English classes. Archetypes are everywhere! Right now I am reading the last of the Hunger Games series and it is full of them.

DEZMOND said...

for me it would be a wise ethereal old woman - Judi Dench as Aeron in THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK :)

Creepy Query Girl said...

Does it have to be a man??? Cause I can only thing of 'The Aunts' from Practical Magic. They were awesome.

Melissa Gill said...

For some reason I can never come up with anything on the fly. But even if I hadn't read the others I think my favorites would be Dumbledore, Gandalf, and Obiwan Kenobe (notice how I can't spell any of their names.) Oh well.

Jemi Fraser said...

Love Gandalf & Dumbledore of course. Obi-Wan & Yoda. Matthew from Anne of Green Gables.

LTM said...

aw, hell. Can I get the order for the week? If you would, pls change yesterday's answer to Sokka and make TODAY's Uncle Iroh... ;p

mshatch said...

Oh, I loved Dallben, too, as well as the entire Prydain Chronicles. As for a wise old man, how about some wise old women: those sisters in A Wrinkle in Time who help Meg and her genius brother Charles Wallace find their father. I always loved Mrs. Whatsit. Or Merlin in Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave et al.

Lenny Lee! said...

hi mr matthew! when i was little mom told us a story about a king that had a baby. there was a wise old man and his name was asita and the king asked him about the babys future. he said the the prince was gonna be a teacher of man and a wise man and it ended up that prince was buddha. for me i always loved that story and i love asita and buddha for being the best old wise guys.
...hugs from lenny

Nate Wilson said...

Many of my favorites have already been mentioned, but Red from (Rita Hayworth and) The Shawshank Redemption also comes to mind.

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, man. You want me to think? I guess I would go with Dumbledore, only because I'm lazy and I adore HP.

Old Kitty said...

Merlin!

Nelson Mandela as played by Morgan Freeman in Invictus!
:-)

Take care
x

Shannon said...

Obi-Wan Kanobi is at the top of my list. Others from my favorite movies:

Dumbledore from Harry Potter
Rafiki from The Lion King
Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid
Morpheus from the Matrix

I always draw a blank when it comes to books. /sigh

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'll select Allanon from Sword of Shannara.
Oh, and the wise old tortoise from Kung Fu Panda.

Holly Ruggiero said...

Me. Oh, wait you meant in books.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

I'm actually reading the Chronicles of Prydain to my 5-year-old daughter right now. And still love the writing, too. Concise, and yet elegant and beautiful at times. Wonderfully written. And tons of fun characters. I even do a Dallben voice. And a Gurgi voice, of course. Yes, I rock. And possibly appear ridiculous.

As for me, Dallben is great, as is Gandalf. I always kind of got a hoot out of Fizban the Fabulous, if we can tage wise old sage into the zany realm.

Hannah Kincade said...

I pretty much love everyone Jemi listed. She snuck into my brain and stole my thoughts...again.

Kelly Dexter said...

It's toss-up between Gandalf, Dumbledore, and Zedd from Terry Goodkind's Seeker universe.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Not sure who I'd pick. I love Dumbledore and Gandalf but it'd be nice to have a different Sage character.

I read Lloyd Alexander's series in the last couple of years. I really liked it. You should check the rest out. I read them on tape while I walked.

maine character said...

I'll go with Master Po from "Kung-Fu."

And I totally agree with the above mentions of Matthew in "Anne of Green Gables" (especially as played by Richard Farnsworth), and Mr. Miyagi.

Slamdunk said...

Knowing that you are a fan of the Star Wars saga, I was not going to go with Yoda, but since you gave me permission: Three cheers for the elderly green guy spitting wisdom.

JKB said...

I like the Grandpa in Where the Red Fern Grows, and the Grandpa in Summer of the Monkeys. I think Wilson Rawls hit the nail on the head with this type.

Excellent post, Matt!

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Edidiong Ebong said...

Uncle Iroh from Avatar the Last Airbender series