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Opposed Mentors

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"Two tigers can't rule the same mountain."

Mentors are always helpful to any self respecting hero. Not only can they pass on knowledge or training, but also points of view, philosophies and even allies (or possibly enemies...). Unfortunately, sometimes The Hero is particularly talented (or maybe in the right place at the right time) and has more than one mentor trying to recruit them as a student...and they have opposing philosophies.

Opposed Mentors are an excellent opportunity for character development; the hero is given a choice between them, and the one he chooses (and whether he comes to regret it eventually) can represent what the hero is on the path to becoming (or risks becoming). Expect the mentors to alternately argue with each other by proxy as they give the hero advice (The hero may be "trapped" between them as they shout back and forth, eventually ignoring the hero all together in favour of their opinion). If one of the mentors is evil you can almost guarantee that they were once a student of the other mentor and if not, that both mentors were students of the same master (who the evil mentor no doubt betrayed, although a good mentor being a Defector from Decadence isn't unheard of).

It's also just as likely that both mentors are good but disagree on some key point. In this case it's far more likely that the hero will either remain neutral and learn from both of them or that one of them will die or turn evil. Sometimes one of the mentors is proved to be right (in which case the other mentor is likely to accept that and mend their ways or, as you might guess, turn evil). Other times the hero will, through accepting both their philosophies, surpass them both (generally by becoming a Jack of All Stats).

If the hero rejects a mentor then the spurned mentor will almost certainly take on The Rival as a student (possibly tempting them towards evil) or stick around until the hero discovers that their chosen mentor wasn't all they appeared to be.

Gentle Touch vs. Firm Hand is a Sub-Trope. Other ways mentors can be opposed include, but are by no means limited to: training regimes (Wax On, Wax Off versus Training from Hell), ethics (With Great Power verses Might Makes Right), choice of techniques (Magic Versus Science or Fighter, Mage, Thief can both be a source of duality), whether talent matters (Hard Work Hardly Works and The Gift versus Taught by Experience and Training from Hell) and progress (the new ways versus the Good Old Ways). See also Dueling Messiahs, who are more concerned with doing right by the world than just one person.


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     Anime and Manga 
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple:
    • Kenichi once finds himself in a situation where he can choose between Hayato's and Evil Mentor Ogata's mentorship. It's very tempting for Kenichi because previously Hayato seemingly abandoned him and Ogata seems like a very friendly person. The catch is that the Trickster Mentor Hayato himself put Kenichi in this situation to test his moral priorities.
    • Within Ryuzanpaku itself, this is an averted trope. Despite one student having as many as seven mentors, each with their own style, there is no conflict between them. They take turns using rock/paper/scissors. Perhaps this is because they all believe in Training from Hell?
  • A number of characters have these in Vagabond.
    • For example, the way Miyamoto Musashi approaches being a swordsman is influenced both by his father (who coveted his title of "Invincible Martial Artist" but was driven into a a paranoid, Trigger-Happy state because of it, convinced that everyone would try to kill him to claim that title for themselves... including his 12 year old son) and by mentor figures he encounters along his journey, like the practical Retired Badass monk In'ei, and philosophical Old Master Yagyu Muneyoshi, who has renounced violence in his old age.
    • Musashi's great rival Sasaki Kojiro also has opposed mentors. First is his adopted father Jisai, who frantically tries to keep Kojiro away from the dangerous life of a swordsman, (despite being a skilled Old Master himself) and then there's the half crazy Blood Knight Ito Ittosai, who knows only too well how to bring out Kojiro's inner Blood Knight.

    Fan Works 
  • Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger: For the first half of the fic, Jaune is caught between two mentors with clashing ideologies: Glynda Goodwitch (Jaune's teacher at Beacon) and Darth Nihilus (the Enigmatic Empowering Entity who gifted him with his powers). Glynda is of the belief that With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility and teaches Jaune to use his telekinesis without being fueled by his emotions. Nihilus influences Jaune to embrace all his worst impulses and to let his emotions flow through him while using the Force. At first, Jaune doesn't want to become like Nihilus and tries to follow Glynda's advice. After falling to the Dark Side, he chooses Nihilus and rejects everything Glynda ever taught him.

  • A Bronx Tale is a Subversion. The movie is about a kid called Calogero growing up under the conflicting influences of his hard-working, honest, but poor father, and the charismatic, rich and powerful, Affably Evil local mafia don Sonny. Despite their different social standings and lifestyles, both of them want the same future for him: doing well in school so he can go to college and stay out of trouble. The real difference is that Lorenzo just wants him to keep his head down and off the streets while Sonny wants to teach him street smarts so he knows how to navigate trouble and avoid it.
  • The Forbidden Kingdom had Jackie Chan and Jet Li as the two mentors. It even provides the quote at the top of this page, "Two tigers can't rule the same mountain."
  • Good Will Hunting: Will has Sean Maguire and Gerald Lambeau arguing about what direction he should take his life in. Lambeau is convinced that Will has a duty to use his genius-level abilities and become an academic like him, while Sean believes that he first needs to find himself and deal with his demons before he can go forward in life.
  • I ♥ Huckabees featured philosophically opposed existential detectives (who both served as Trickster Mentors for their clients) who may or may not have actually been working together, but would never admit it.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: In the Extended Edition, Faramir is emotionally torn because he wants to be a dutiful son to his father Denethor, but Gandalf (whom Denethor loathes) has a strong influence on his mindset because the wizard is his former tutor. Gandalf approves of Faramir's decision to release Frodo and Sam from his custody, whereas Denethor is furious that he let them go, and angrily accuses Faramir of being a "wizard's pupil." When Denethor orders him to go on a suicide mission, Faramir chooses to obey his father in a desperate attempt to win the latter's respect despite Gandalf's plea that he shouldn't throw his life away needlessly.
  • Platoon: Wide-Eyed Idealist Chris is torn between two Sergeants about how he should conduct himself in Vietnam. As his closing monologue goes" The war is over for me now, but it will always be there, the rest of my days. As I'm sure Elias will be, fighting with Barnes for what Rhah called "possession of my soul".
  • Ride the High Country: Steve Judd and Gil Westrum spend much of the movie contesting with each other for the loyalty of their mutual protege, Heck Longtree; Judd wants him to stay honest and reliable, while Westrum hopes to enlist him in his plot to steal the gold.
  • Star Wars: Anakin Skywalker has to choose between following: Obi-Wan Kenobi — representing both Jedi tradition and authority, and general goodness — and Palpatine — representing an apparent sensible opposition to Jedi strictness really hiding lust for power and temptation to evil. For a long time, as Palpatine hides his evil and lets Anakin stew in his own dissatisfaction rather than openly encouraging rebellion against Obi-Wan, he doesn't even realize there's a clear opposition. Eventually, he chooses Palpatine and turns to the Dark Side.
  • The Karate Kid Part III: Terry Silver plays his way into Daniel LaRusso's life with the intention of manipulating him into leaving Mr. Miyagi, then setting him up for a humiliating loss to Mike Barnes in the All-Valley Tournament to reassert Cobra Kai's superiority and humiliate Daniel and Mr. Miyagi as payback for costing John Kreese his reputation.
  • X2: X-Men United: Pyro has the choice between Xavier or Magneto, and he eventually sides with the latter, which leads to his Face–Heel Turn.

  • An evil example is in the C. S. Lewis novel That Hideous Strength, where the two chief villains disagree on the best way to dehumanize their initiate/captive.
  • A classic example is Candide, in which the title character falls under the influence of Pangloss and Martin, who are at opposite ends of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism.
  • In the Warrior Cats novel Crookedstar's Promise, the titular character is taught by his real mentor, Cedarpelt, but, unknown to other cats, he also is trained in his dreams by the deceased warrior Mapleshade. Mapleshade focuses more on combat skills, while Cedarpelt tries to explain that being a warrior is about more than just being a good fighter. Even their advice on battle moves differs, though that can be explained by the fact that Mapleshade came from another Clan.
  • In Life of Pi the title character has two mentors, both named Mr. Kumar: the first is an uneducated but devout Muslim shopkeeper while the other is Pi's intelligent, atheistic science teacher. Despite their antithetical worldviews they actually get along well the one time they happen to meet each other, and Pi, whose two main interests are religion and animals, doesn't seem to feel conflicted between them.
  • In Atlas Shrugged, science professor Robert Stadler and philosophy professor Hugh Akston competed for college students John Galt, Ragnar Danneskjold, and Francisco d'Anconia. The latter won and later joined their movement, while the former went on to become a government sell-out.
  • In Good Omens, Heaven and Hell both send hand-picked childhood influences (a nanny, a gardener, two teachers) to the home of the boy they think is The Antichrist. It's the wrong boy. It's also intentional; Crowley and Aziraphale are secretly in cahoots to make sure the final "score" is a tie.
  • In The Dresden Files, after Harry temporarily dies, Lea takes over his responsibility as Molly's mentor. Her more violent training clashes strongly with Harry's methods, and is much more painful for the student...but it's more effective at teaching her how to fight, as Harry concedes.
  • In The Witchlands, Aeduen is pulled from both sides by Ragnor's and Evraine's teachings. The former argues that Aeduen should concede to being a demon and embrace his nature, whereas Evraine believes that he's more human that he wants to admit and should help the newly-manifested Cahr Awen.

     Live Action Television 
  • In Scrubs Dr. Kelso and Dr. Cox have this dynamic for the first few episodes, with both being presented as possible mentors to JD. With Dr. Kelso being concerned with money (arguing that if the hospital doesn't make a profit, it'll close) and Dr. Cox arguing that the patient should come first. JD chooses Cox, earning him Kelso's contempt (although later episodes show Kelso in a better light). They recycled this plot a few times;
    • One episode had JD think that Cox and a Private Practice Doctor were warring mentors to him, but really it was about the PPD having slept with Jordan back when he was Cox's protege.
    • When JD moved up to attending in the middle of the series they replayed the Cox vs Kelso only this time with Cox taking Kelso's part and JD taking Cox's part with some of the new interns being the ones caught in the middle.
    • In the last season, after the Retool, Drew was subject to the warring between Denise and Cox (although given he was in a relationship with Denise it was as much about the sexual relationship as much as the mentorship).
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: In Xena's backstory, the evil shamaness Alti is pitted against Cyane, the noble Queen of the Amazons. They even have a mental struggle with Xena literally between them. Cyane wins, but Xena chooses Alti, and kills Cyane and the other leaders of the northern Amazons, helping Alti to trap their souls and prevent them from crossing over. Xena eventually sets things right. Alti is also pitted against Lao Ma, though they never directly argue over Xena.
    Alti: "Your friend you told me about, Lao Ma, her powers come from denial, from self-sacrifice, from the light. That’s not for people like you and me. I wanna tap into the heart of darkness - the sheer, naked will behind all craving, hatred, and violence. I’ll become the face of death itself - capable of destroying not only a person’s body, but their soul. Help me, and I’ll make you ‘Destroyer of Nations’.”
  • An episode of Parks and Recreation sees Ron and Chris clash over the best way to train April to be a manager. They get competitive, and have a wager over whose method can get the most productivity out of Jerry in the course of a workday. In the end, they discover that April set the two of them against each other so she could blow off the management training, and see this as a sign that she's going to be fine on her own.
  • Justified: After her father's "disappearance" in Season 2, Raylan Givens and Mags Bennett both take an interest in Loretta's future, with Raylan attempting to extract her from the criminal underworld, while Mags leads her further into it. Loretta eventually sides with Raylan once his cold war with the Bennetts turns hot, but as future seasons show, Mags is the one whose influence has ultimately lasted, even if she ultimately still has a soft spot for Raylan.
  • Cobra Kai:
    • Johnny Lawrence reopens Cobra Kai with the intention of teaching bullied nerds how to stand up for themselves. His success at turning the dojo around draws the attention of his old sensei John Kreese. It's clear that Kreese and Johnny have different ideas of what's best for their students, with Kreese wanting to teach the old ways of Cobra Kai that Johnny now realizes as wrong. Eventually, this conflict ends in Kreese taking over Cobra Kai completely and turning it into the Thug Dojo it was in the 1980s, and Johnny starting his own dojo, Eagle Fang, to teach his version of karate. Their conflict trickles down to their students, as Miguel stays loyal to Johnny the whole time in season 2 while Hawk and Tory are loyal to Kreese.
    • Kreese is also one when it comes to Johnny's son Robby Keene. He doesn't like that Robby is being trained by Daniel LaRusso, and in season 3, manages to manipulate Robby into pushing away his dad and Daniel and coming to train at Cobra Kai.
    • A lot of the conflict between Johnny and Daniel can be described as this, given that there are areas where they both have the same idea in mind, but different ways of going about it, with Robby being one of these subjects.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Chris Hero and Dave Prazak, two of the trainers of Nadia Nyce, got into a feud with her in the middle during their shared time in IWA Mid-South. Nyce ended up siding with Hero, who (at the time) had her best interests in mind.
  • Triple H and William Regal regarding Eugene Dinsmore on Monday Night Raw. This is a case of two evil mentors, as Regal is a self described "Dirty Rotten Scoundrel, With Hate In His Heart!" but Eugene is Regal's Morality Pet, Triple H saw Eugene as a tool to win him the World Heavyweight Championship.
  • In SHINE, one of the primary reasons behind the formation of Daffney's All Star Squad was Valkyrie, and one of Daffney's first recruits was Solo Darling, who was trained by Valkyrie's odd member out, Ivelisse Vélez.

     Video Games 
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim you have the choice of being backed by the Greybeards (who are Actual Pacifists) and the Blades (who want to slay every single dragon in existence). In the end The Blades ask you to kill the dragon who served as the mentor to the Greybeards, forcing you to choose one side or the other. Neither side is shown as better or worse than the other.
  • In Grand Theft Auto V: Michael and Trevor to Franklin. One is corrupt but level-headed, the other is honourable but excessively violent. Both of them butt heads trying to teach Franklin the ropes of high-class heists and their rivalry obstructs them to the point that Franklin has to choose which one to kill, or if he's willing to risk his life and millions of dollars to save them both.
  • In Jade Empire, the player encounters two kung fu masters playing Yi. They complement each other in every way- one is a Closed Fist practitioner who's disdainful of the player, the other is a polite Open Palm. (They used to be teacher and student, but split over ideological differences.) The player can learn from one- and only one- of these masters.
    Mistress Vo: You taught me much, Jian- but the most valuable lessons were in learning where you were wrong.

     Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • Katara and Toph have very different opinions on how Aang should be trained. Katara, his waterbending teacher goes for the soft, encouraging, positive attitude, while Toph, his earthbending teacher, prefers the rougher, blunter, drill sergeant style. Both are completely correct in their different approaches (because bending different elements requires different mindsets), but this personality clash culminates in a joint training lesson turning into an interesting Mud Wrestling scene between the two.
    • Zuko had the dueling influences of his father, a power-mad warlord attempting to raise his son to follow in his footsteps (or get him killed so his sister could do so, whatever) and his uncle, a wise Atoner/Defector from Decadence who wanted his nephew to pursue peace on taking the throne.
  • American Dad! played with this. Stan and Francine wanted to raise Steve different ways. But when they settle the disagreement with a bet (which Francine wins), Stan clones their son to prove his parenting method is better by raising Steve-O his way. It turned out neither one alone worked, both versions of Steve quickly turn out terrible (the original is disgustingly lazy and entitled and the clone turns into a total psycho who tortures animals and tries to Kill and Replace the original to claim the easy life for himself)
  • In a gag on The Simpsons Lisa makes a square on a family heirloom patchwork quilt honoring her two musical mentors:
    Look Mom, I've finished my patch. It depicts the two greatest musical influences in my life. On the left is Mr. Largo, my music teacher at school? He taught me that even the noblest concerto can be drained of its beauty and soul. And on the right is Bleeding Gums Murphy. He taught me that music is a fire in your belly that comes out of your mouth, so you better stick an instrument in front of it.
  • In El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera Manny had his dad, the hero White Pandera, and his grandfather, the villain Puma Loco.
  • The Legend of Korra: In season two Korra ends up with two mentors. The Chief of the Northern Water Tribe who is also her uncle, Unalaq. And the Airbending master Tenzin, the son of her previous incarnation. Unalaq wants to teach her how to understand and heal the new corrupted spirits which he is responsible for twisting. While Tenzin has his doubts about Unalaq's intentions and wants her to work with himself. In the end Korra rejects Unalaq but goes along with part of his goal.
  • In Star Wars Rebels, Ezra Bridger has been Kanan's Padawan for about a year when Clone Captain Rex joins the squad. Rex starts giving Ezra advice that, while valid and useful, doesn't always gel with Kanan's teachings re Jedi philosophy. (It doesn't help that Rex is a clone, meaning that Kanan distrusts him on principle because of Order 66.) At one point, Ezra gets tired of their arguments and tells them both off; shortly thereafter, both mentors learn how to actually work together and become Fire-Forged Friends.
  • Steven Universe: This often comes up when Pearl and Amethyst are trying to tutor Steven. Pearl seems to be more of a rigid motherly-figure to Steven while Amethyst is a more irresponsible but more fun Cool Big Sis. Ultimately Downplayed as the two will always defer to Garnet's judgement anytime she intervenes.