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The Importance of Mentors by Flamecloud

Flamecloud talks about the mentor system in Warriors.

Art by Vialir

The relationship between a mentor and their apprentice is a key part of warrior life that I think often gets overlooked. While it is not always as interesting as who is in love with who and whose parents tragically died, it plays a huge role in determining who a cat is.

The Significance:

The primary job of a mentor is to prepare an apprentice for life as an adult. For those on track to become a warrior, they impart knowledge on hunting skills and how to fight, while medicine cats master healing and herbs.

However, mentoring is about much more than just sharing information. While the kit’s parents get the young cat started out in life and set up a foundation for their future, the next six months are arguably even more important than the first six. Adolescents are highly influenceable, especially once their ambitions and dreams start falling into place as they embark on their journey to being warriors. Mentors are in charge of guiding them through tough times, sharpening their strengths while showing them their weaknesses, and shaping them into who they are as an adult. Arguably, who a cat’s mentor is can determine who they become as a warrior.

The impact works both ways, although adults are far less influenceable and generally already have fairly set views and ambitions. Taking an apprentice shortly after becoming a warrior can help the mentor become more mature and set in adulthood, and maybe even prepare them for parenting if they choose to have kits. Teaching battle and hunting skills can also cement them in the teacher themself, and of course, being a mentor is the first step to becoming a leader. It’s not only a necessary requirement for becoming deputy, but a rule that’s there for a reason. Instructing and caring for one cat prepares the cat to be in charge of the entire clan some day. Successfully mentoring more than one apprentice could also be a way to draw the leader’s attention when the time comes to select a new deputy.

The Mechanics Behind it:

While we don’t often get to see the thought that comes into play with the matching of mentor and apprentice, the decision is not made randomly (or at least it shouldn’t be). There are several things that factor into selecting the proper mentor for an apprentice.

Experience is one of them. A cat that has already proven themself to be a good mentor, such as many senior warriors, would be a wise choice in many situations. They already know how to teach, and have lots of knowledge gained by experience. As a more mature cat, they’ll have more patience for a young cat, but also know when to be strict. Likewise, a lack of experience could also be a reason. As stated earlier, training an apprentice can help a warrior mature, and giving someone their first apprentice makes them eligible to be deputy. A younger warrior might also be easier for an apprentice to relate to.

Personality is also a major part. Since the mentor plays such a big role in sculpting the ‘paw into a warrior, this part must be done carefully. The goal would be ideally to have a mentor that heightens an apprentice’s strengths while countering their weaknesses. For instance, a timid apprentice needs a mentor who can boost their confidence, and an arrogant apprentice needs a mentor who can teach them respect.

This is a delicate process, because warriors and apprentices who are too similar aren’t always a good match. An arrogant apprentice and an ambitious warrior could result in a young warrior who doesn’t care for their clanmates and is only interested in their own future. For instance, Thistleclaw and Tigerpaw(star) were not a good match.

Likewise, opposites aren’t always good either. Tigerclaw(star) was chosen as Ravenpaw’s mentor because Bluestar hoped his ambition and ruthlessness could make the nervous apprentice more confident, however what resulted was a mentor who thought his apprentice was a disgrace and a ‘paw who was terrified of his mentor. On the flip side, a kind, pacifistic mentor might fail to earn the respect of a more arrogant apprentice. In any case, opposing personalities could result in a pairing that can’t get along and have nothing in common.

Some cats might have personal conflicts, which is not a good thing to mix into a relationship, let alone one with more vulnerable, younger cats. For instance, pairing Ashfur with Lionpaw was an absolutely terrible idea on Firestar’s part. Ashfur had a complicated, bitter history with Squirrelflight, and mentoring Lionpaw was like having salt rubbed in that wound.

Ideally, we need a pair that compliment each other well. They can find common ground and respect each other, but are different enough that the mentor can help the apprentice identify their faults and learn from them.

The Chain Affect:

Now, everything I’ve said above sounds lovely, but I haven’t yet provided much evidence to back up the significance behind it. Many mentor-apprentice relationships are not explored much, and most matches don’t have any obvious effects. That’s because, in general, most mentors don’t mess up too badly even if it’s not the greatest pairing.

However, here we’re going to look at a long chain of poorly matched mentors and apprentices. (Shame on you, Pinestar/Sunstar/Bluestar, you obviously did not stalk the kits closely enough.)

Adderfang —> Thistleclaw—>Tigerstar—>Darkstripe—>Longtail

Already, I’m sure you can see where this is going to go.

Although this chain starts with Adderfang, Adderfang himself is not an issue. Throughout Bluestar’s prophecy he proves himself to be a bit ruthless and ambitious, but in the paws of an experienced, loyal warrior these traits are not inherently negative. Yes, he’s more prone to rally for battle, but he is not a bad cat. The problem comes with his matching with Thistleclaw.

Even from an early age, Thistleclaw is an arrogant and ambitious cat. As a kit, he thinks he’s going to be the best warrior, and often doesn’t respect his clanmates. Now, ambition is not a bad thing, but when paired with arrogance and ruthlessness it can make for a very dangerous cat. I think that perhaps Thistleclaw had the potential to turn out like Adderfang, if he had been paired with a better mentor. Ideally, Thistleclaw would have needed a cat strong enough to earn his respect, but with a more peaceful manner. Someone who could have held him accountable for his actions and tempered his arrogance. While Adderfang was an experienced warrior who would have been respected by his ‘paw, he was too similar to Thistleclaw to correct his ambition and arrogance. As a result, we have the ruthless cat who Bluestar just barely prevented from leading Thunderclan to disaster.

Pairing Thistleclaw and Tigerpaw(star) was an even worse decision than the one above. Tigerkit was originally the weakest of his litter, but ended up being the only one who survived. His father, Pinestar, was distant due to the fact that Starclan informed him of his kit’s destiny and was pressuring him to kill him as a kit. Goosefeather also insists that the kit is evil, although the clan does not take him seriously. Eventually, his father leaves to become a kittypet, leaving Tigerkit with a grudge. To make matters worse, in addition to a rough start to life, he is pampered as an only kit. He grows up both in the shadow of his father’s actions and Goosefeather’s suspicion, but also with showering praise from his mother. As a result, even before becoming an apprentice, we have a very volatile mix. Anger, arrogance, and ambition. Definitely not a cat we want learning lessons from Thistleclaw, but that’s who Sunstar picked to be his mentor. Perhaps he thought that after his father left, the kit needed a confidence boost. Regardless, we all know what kind of disaster resulted. Thistleclaw was far from ideal, but Tigerstar was a monster. However, not all cats with ambition and anger have to turn out evil. Bramblestar, for example, still turned out to be a good warrior. As with Thistleclaw, Tigerstar would have benefitted from a different mentor. Thistleclaw took the kit’s anger and allowed it fuel violence and hatred, but maybe someone else could have done something different.

Next we have Darkstripe. We don’t see anything of his childhood, so I can’t tell you what warning signs there might have been, but Tigerstar mentoring anyone is a bad idea. Perhaps Bluestar thought that giving him an apprentice could help him learn to be kinder, but instead all we got was a minnie Tigerstar. Darkstripe followed his former mentor loyally, spreading his lies and supporting his violence. He also tried to kill his half-sister, Sorrelkit. My guess would be that regardless of who Darkstripe was as a kit, Tigerstar pressured him into being just like him. As a mentor, he would have had the ideal opportunity to spread his hatred and scorn, and could have used the power imbalance to manipulate an innocent ‘paw into another monster.

Lastly, Longtail. Here, the cycle breaks a bit. Longtail is mentioned to be a young warrior during into the wild, meaning he would have just finished his training with Darkstripe. Originally, Longtail is another Tigerstar lackey, scorning Firestar alongside his pals and frightening Ravenpaw. However, unlike the other two, he was not a bad cat on his own. In Code of The Clans, one of the short stories illustrates just how much power Darkstripe wielded over Longtail. In a time of hunger, Darkstripe convinces Longtail to steal prey from the elders, and the two eat prey before the others have been fed. As a result, Poppydawn dies. Longtail feels guilty about it, but Darkstripe makes him keep the secret. And although he initially supports Tigerstar, he does not join him in his exile, nor in any of his further destruction. He proves himself to be a loyal Thunderclan warrior, and is a good mentor to Swiftpaw, Ferncloud, and Sootfur. He is a clear example of how much power a mentor can have over their apprentice, and how that power can be abused.

This entire chain illustrates the significance of a mentor in a ‘paw’s life. Quite often, an apprentice can end up being a similar warrior to their mentor, for better or worse. Would Thistleclaw, Tigerstar, and Darkstripe have turned out the way they did if they had been given a better mentor? We’ll never know, but I’d say that there’s a pretty good chance that they would have. The mentor-apprentice relationship is more complex and far more important than it appears at first.

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  • I remember reading the part when they first decided to train everyone seperately. It was weird.

  • Fun extension of the chain that I hadn’t noticed at first:

    Darktail also mentors Dustpelt after Redtail’s death. For a bit, Dustpelt is somewhat part of Tigerclaw’s little group, and isn’t always the kindest cat. This doesn’t make him a bad cat, kind of like Longtail, but it also alows the chain to continue, because Dustpelt mentors Ashfur and we all know how he turned out. Ashfur needed someone to teach him kindness, and Dustpelt was not that cat. Ashfur later mentors Lionblaze, who also shows tendencies towards anger and violence.

      • Yeah, I know, I’m not trying to say that Dustpelt made him evil or anything. I just meant he didn’t set up a super strong foundation of anti-evilness if that makes sense 😛 Dustpelt wasn’t always the kindest, most peaceful cat, especially in his younger days, and Ashfur lost both parents at a young age and then also helped avenge their deaths. (I think this set him up for his later possessiveness and flawed sense of retribution.) At that point, a gentler influence maybe might have helped, and Dustpelt wasn’t that.

        (although looking at how bad Ashfur got, it was probably just a drop in the bucket at most 😛 )

  • This is a really cool article!
    I think the effect may have been carried on into Swiftpaw, as Longtail was often very frustrated with Fireheart and generally didn’t like kittypets. Longtail turned out to accept both Cloudtail and Firestar later, but Swiftpaw received his hatred of kittypets, being always very angry at Cloudtail and Fireheart, which ultimately led to his death. I’ve always thought that if Swiftpaw grew up, he’d be Dustpelt but worse 🙂

  • Amazing article! 😀

    (Now I’m even more grateful I got a great mentor! <3 I know, it's not the same as in the books, but it's the thought that counts! 😛 )

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