We deal with mentors a lot in fantasy. Thanks to the mythic cycle, we also deal a lot with their passing. Many a good story gets a solid kick when the mentor dies and the student must avenge his master. Moving past the mentor is an important rite of passage for a hero, but in real life, our mentors are people who teach us and believe in us. Then they are gone, and we’re often left a bit more alone and thrust into the unknown without their experience to guide us.
One of my own mentors died recently. Though I only just found out, I have to admit that it’s affecting me more than I thought it would.
Dr. Paul Farkas of Metropolitan State College was my advisor in my English Literature degree. As I stretched my two degrees out over many years, he was also someone I had a lot of contact with. In my first semester as Metro in 2000, I took his course on James Joyce. In my last semester of 2007, I took his Literary Criticism course. His course on Myth, Symbol, and Allusion helped shape my thoughts on the myths and archetypes I wanted to work with in my writing. Further, he did a lot of work with me on myth and popular culture. We analyzed modern myths like Buffy or Xena, often finding humor in how mythic archetypes get replayed in . We shared a love of Margaret Atwood, and I never visited his office without remarking how we owned many of the same books and same editions. One of the things I’ll always remember about Dr. Farkas was his support of me in my writing and aspirations for graduate school. He wore these rather outdated sweater vests and khakis that marked him in my mind as the consummate English professor. He loved Joyce and Auden. Finally, he introduced me to Rilke, a gift for which I will always be grateful. I don’t know where his spirit has gone, but I wish him good journeys. I don’t know where he will be, but I hope he is surrounded by books he loves. Literature was his life, he said once. Analyzing it was a constant process and work of love for him. It was a gift he helped nurture in me.