Wise Characters in Literature
March is National Reading Month, and there’s no better time to find a cozy spot, check out a great book, and spend a few hours with some of literature’s favorite characters. And if you’re thinking that all the glory goes to the young stars in the center of the plotline, you’re forgetting about the collection of wisened advisors that help guide and teach the protagonist some of life’s best lessons. In honor of these, we’ve gathered five of our favorite “wise old advisors,” and encourage you to visit your local library or bookstore to spend some time with them this month.
1. Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings
If you’re ready to immerse yourself in the fully developed world of J. R. R. Tolkien’s novels, you won’t be able to ignore the presence and influence of the wizard Gandalf, leader of the Fellowship of the Ring and the army of the West. As a central advisor to Bilbo in The Hobbit, it is his encouragement (and slight manipulation) that begins the entire adventure. A wonderful example of the wise character who sometimes intervenes, and sometimes sits back to let a character develop, Gandalf is a key figure in this excellent adventure series.
2. Charlotte, Charlotte’s Web
Written by E. B. White and first published in 1952, Charlotte’s Web is considered a classic of children’s literature that is still enjoyed by both adults and children. The illustrated novel tells the story of a pig named Wilbur and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte, who uses her webs to write messages praising Wilbur (such as “Terrific”) in order to persuade the farmer to let him live. Her character is loyal and wise, helping Wilbur learn his way around the barnyard, and their nontraditional dynamic teaches a lesson about love and commitment. A great read to revisit!
3. The Giver, The Giver
This young adult novel won a Newbery Medal in 1994, and remains a thought-provoking read for people of all ages. Considered “social science fiction,” the story takes place in a seemingly perfect Utopian society where all pain and strife has been eliminated by implementing a “sameness.” The Elders remove memories, ambiguity, and basically all emotional depth from all aspects of life. However, questions of morality begin to arise for the main character, Jonas, who begins a journey of self-awareness, guided by the wise “Giver” who helps him understand dangers of the seemingly perfect society and, eventually, devise a plan for escape that will forever impact his life and the innocent life of a young child.
4. Augustus McCrae, Lonesome Dove
You’re probably familiar with the 1980’s television miniseries starring Robert Duval and Tommy Lee Jones, but if you’ve never read the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Larry McMurtry, you’re missing out on a great read with wonderfully developed characters, including the worldly but wise Augustus McCrae. As a former captain of the Texas Rangers and co-owner of the Hat Creek Cattle Company, “Gus” joins his best friend and partner Woodrow Call on a cattle drive from Texas to Montana. Far from perfect, but admirable, lovable, and brave, Gud impacts countless characters throughout the book. You’ll enjoy the dynamics between the two best friends, and the drama of riding the range in 1876.
5. Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter
It seems that wise wizards make the best advisors! As the mentor to the main character in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Dumbledore is the headmaster of the wizarding school Hogwarts and is later revealed to be the founder of an organization dedicated to fight the books’ evil antagonist, Lord Voldemort. Considered the most powerful wizard in the world, Dumbledore is benevolent and wise, but also knows that Harry must face many of the challenges to come as learning lessons. A great story with easy reading that will keep you entertained for all six books in the series.