Sunday, 16 February 2014
The Sage and the Young Knight.
Every sword and sorcery epic you have ever read has basically the same plot. A young knight is cast adrift by life. He has no direction apart from a sense of his own destiny. These hero/knights are always fatherless and are filled with a dread and a fascination about his possible identity.
The knight must leave his mother to discover who he truly is. His mother loves him but also holds him back from embracing his power. She warns him that power may be abused but her only solution is not to become powerful.
The young knight rejects this advice and heads out into the world alone to find himself. In order to do so he must undergo many trials. This may involve killing dragons, destroying death stars, finding the holy grail, fighting Voldomort or any number of other exciting things. The details of the quest vary but the real point of the story is the heroes struggle to embrace his own masculine power. This involves physical struggle but at some point he must also confront his own demons. He will be tempted to use his power for evil.
So what is this great power that the hero must tame? It varies according to the tale. For Harry Potter it is an aspect of his own nature. He is offered a place within the house of Slitherin but declines. Jesus was tempted with earthly power as was Darth Vader (who got the answer wrong). Frodo Baggins faced this test too. He must destroy the ring and not use it for his own advancement. Every comic book superhero faces this same test. The moral remains the same. Spidermans own sage said it best- 'with great power comes great responsibility'.
Various sages appear in the life of the hero. (Gandalf, Merlin, Dumbledore and so on). They make wise comments but leave the hero to complete the quest alone. They are father figures and not mothers.
This story is so universal and powerful that savvy political operators such as President Obama cast themselves in the role of the hero. He is fatherless (like Luke Skywalker and every comic superhero) and set out on his own quest. He claims to have been influenced by a variety of male sages and to have found himself before triumphing in the election.
Why does this story grip us so? It is the story of every man. We are all on this same quest- to discover ourselves and heal the world.
This story has never been more needed. We are all knights and sages. We are all on this road.