The Sage Archetype: How to Write a Sage Before You are One

We're doing a series on Jungian archetypes, which are popular character development tools. Jung drew his inspiration from the same iconic social roles found throughout ancient traditions of tarot, alchemy, and mysticism.

The sage archetype embodies the essence of clarity and understanding while dispensing critical insights that pact the main character.

While commonly associated with mystical seers and wise elders, the sage's role transcends basic mysticism. They impart knowledge. Think of the old man on a mountain, waiting for someone to climb to the top of his inconveniently located abode. We are all willing to make the journey because the quintessential sage has the only answer that matters. He acts as a catalyst for intellectual and spiritual growth by sharing the wisdom wrought from years of experience.

The Sage's Role

In fiction, their role encompasses mentorship, teaching, and advising, as they counsel to those in need. They illuminate the path through the darkness of ignorance at the opportune moment, impacting a narrative in a memorable, though often brief manner.

So how to we write the sage before we have enough life experience to be one? 
Make a list of everyone who impacted your life with one conversation. Not everyone will be old.

Then, recount the people who have looked up to you. Nieces and nephews. Cousins. Classmates. Anyone who has paid unusual attention when you speak.

Most of the time, the sage knows they know something you need to know, but they don't know if you're ready to hear it.

That one conversation that changes your life isn't the man on the mountain. It could be one day with your best friend or someone you met at a bus stop.

Those people who impacted you, may have hoped to be of service, but just as you will be remembered by the people who have benefitted from your experience, the sage shares wisdom without controlling how it is received.

Sometimes wisdom is simple, but above all, it's timely.

The Sage Archetype

The sage shares common ground with the ruler and caregiver archetypes on the archetype wheel. Like rulers, sages provide direction and insight, guiding others toward enlightenment and understanding. Like caregivers, they nurture the minds and spirits of those under their tutelage, fostering growth and development.
However, the sage's journey is not without its own hills to climb. Skepticism, resistance to new ideas, and the pursuit of truth in a world clouded by misinformation are just some of the obstacles they can face. They can give the best information and be ignored.
From ancient philosophers to modern-day scientists, the sage archetype finds expression in a myriad of individuals and characters:
  • Mr. Miyagi - "The Karate Kid"
  • Gandalf - "The Lord of the Rings"
  • Dumbledore - "Harry Potter"
  • Yoda - "Star Wars" franchise
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi - "Star Wars" franchise
  • Morpheus - "The Matrix" trilogy
  • Rafiki - "The Lion King" 
  • Galadriel - "The Lord of the Rings"
  • Master Splinter - "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"
  • Professor Charles Xavier - "X-Men" comics and films
  • Granny Weatherwax - Discworld series
  • Uncle Iroh - "Avatar: The Last Airbender"
  • Aslan - "The Chronicles of Narnia" 
These characters may not have been protagonists of the stories, but they are among the most beloved in the stories that resonate.
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