Have you ever noticed that in the vast majority of good books you read that there always seems to be some character you get attached to just before they die in some way? Don’t you just love it when author’s rip out your heart when they kill off that character that you’ve come to love?
Well, there is actually a very good reason certain types of characters are killed off in stories, and its purpose isn’t just to make you feel emotional.
Every story has a few archetypes that are followed. One in particular is known as the Mentor. The mentor is exactly what it sounds like. It is the character who mentors the hero to see beyond themselves, and to strive to be better than the mediocrity that surrounds them. In many ways, they are essential to the story.
However, they can also inhibit the Hero from realizing her true potential. The Hero can never really come into his own while the Mentor is still around. That is why many times the story will kill off the Mentor in order to further the development of the Hero.
A prime example of this Mentor/Hero dynamic is found in the Inheritance Cyle. If you have not had the pleasure of reading this book series I highly recommend it. In this series there is a character known as Brom, he acts as the mentor for Eragon (the Hero of the story). Brom teaches Eragon a lot about swordplay, magic, and the ways of the lands he is traveling to; but Brom is also killed during a particular event. Without this event, Eragon would not develop the way he does throughout the remainder of the story, and would not be nearly as inspiring as he becomes without it.
In the same way, many of the Heroes we love have had some kind of Mentor die for their behalf in the story. Of course, not all Mentors die, some are simply removed from the story in some other way, but the effect is still the same. The Hero can no longer rely on the Mentor to help them through those tough situations.
Another iconic Mentor/Hero relationship would be that of Dumbledore and Harry Potter. Dumbledore’s death is one of the key motivators for all of Harry’s actions within the final book. A sort of focus that helps drive him through the moments when anyone else would have given up and gone home, and one that Harry would not have had if Dumbledore had survived through the end.
Of course, those Mentor’s death do doubly serve as an emotional event for the Hero and the reader as well, and that is always good when it comes to creating a dynamic story.
What about you? What was the most surprising or emotionally invoking moment in a story that involved a characters death for you?
Let me know!
Until next time, Grace and Peace