Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Mythology of Supernatural, Update #5: Bobby Singer as a Modern-Day Merlin

This week the Mythology of Supernatural update is in honor of the great-but-hopefully-not-late Bobby Singer.

I hesitate to say that I have a “favorite character” on Supernatural. However, if I had to choose, Bobby Singer would definitely be at the top of the list. What can I say? I’m a sucker for warrior scholars…and Bobby definitely qualifies. So, if it turns out that this truly is the end for our beloved hero, I will be very sad to see him go. And, if it is, I do hope that Bobby is allowed a “good death,” a warrior’s death, by the writers … that he will go down swinging, in a manner befitting such an awesome character.

Like many of you, I was a bit of an emotional wreck by the end of the last Supernatural episode, “Death’s Door.” And it would appear that we will all be left hanging as to Bobby’s true fate until the blissful end of hellatus. I fear that this time, hellatus is going to feel even longer than usual.

Today's update is actually a brief excerpt from my book, The Mythology of Supernatural, from a section in which I discuss Bobby Singer as a modern-day Merlin and as an archetype of the mentor/teacher in mythology:

In mythology, nearly every hero with an absentee father is blessed with a mentor who acts in his stead. King Arthur had the counsel and tutelage of the wise sage Merlin. The Greek hero Jason in taught by Chiron. In the myths of the Celts, the hero Cormac is taught by Lugna, a friend of his late father, while in Vedic/Hindu myths, the hero prince Arjuna (from the Mahabharata epic) is taught by the god Indra. These figures are referred to in mythology as the “special teacher/mentor” archetype.

The archetype of “special teacher/mentor” has a number of common traits. The special teacher/mentor:

• Has some relationship or kinship with the hero’s late or absent father. Merlin, for example, counseled Arthur’s biological father, Uther Pendragon.
• Is of senior age, often portrayed as at least middle-aged for the time period in which the story was set (life expectancy differs from one age to the next).
• Possesses special knowledge, skills, equipment, and wisdom that the hero needs in order to succeed. Merlin educated Arthur in ethics, strategy, and politics; Indra gave magical weapons and combat training to Arjuna.
• Protects the hero from harm when he is defenseless, especially during infancy, and at times harshly scolds the hero for foolish or irresponsible behavior. Lugna hid and protected the child Cormac; Merlin often scolded Arthur for his poor judgment)

The archetype of the “special teacher/mentor” is most commonly seen in myths that deal with the “return of the lost heir/king” theme, in which the child of a murdered or usurped ruler returns to claim his birthright. Due to the fact that the fathers of these exiled heroes and kings-to-be are usually absent, the presence of special teachers/mentors is necessary in order to validate their returns. After all, they would not be qualified to rule had they not received the proper training and education befitting a ruler/king. Basically, such “special teacher/mentor” figures allow the heir to return by schooling them in practices that are normally the responsibility of a father. For Sam and Dean Winchester, this figure is undoubtedly Bobby Singer.

Bobby Singer exhibits nearly all of the common traits of this archetypal figure:
• Despite pulling a shotgun on the man once, Bobby was a friend of John Winchester.
• Bobby Singer is middle-aged, and is in fact much older than the hunters that are usually portrayed on the show.
• Bobby is a walking encyclopedia on all things supernatural, has an extensive library of rare texts, and is fluent in a number of languages (English, Latin, and Japanese, to name just a few.)
• When their father is missing and they need help, the Winchester brothers go to Bobby Singer. Bobby’s home also serves as a common sanctuary for the boys, such as when Sam had to dry out from his addiction to demon blood and Bobby & Dean had to lock him in Bobby's uber-awesome “demon panic room.”

The Winchesters need a mentor like Bobby, a man willing to stand beside them in the face of oblivion.

And Bobby has certainly proven his willingness to do just that ... time and time again. And hopefully he will continue to do so in the future.

God speed, Bobby Singer. I know that over the next few weeks, many Supernatural fans will be praying that you find your way back from the spirit realm.

Well folks...that's the update for this week. I will try to post a few reader question responses during hellatus. So...if you have a question about the book, mythology, etc. ... this is the time to ask. Questions may be posted in the blog comments, sent to me via twitter (NatRBrown), or posted in the "Discussions" section of my Amazon page (

Hope everyone has a great holiday!

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