Follow TV Tropes


Trickster Mentor

Go To
"...and she [Eris, Greek goddess of Strife] is far kinder to men. She stirs up even the shiftless to toil; for a man grows eager to work when he considers his neighbour, a rich man who hastens to plough and plant and put his house in good order; and neighbour vies with his neighbour as he hurries after wealth. This Strife is wholesome for men. And potter is angry with potter, and craftsman with craftsman and beggar is jealous of beggar, and minstrel of minstrel."
Works and Days, Hesiod (c. 700BC)

This is a Trickster whose actions, while seemingly pointless, selfish, antagonistic, or just plain random, contain a valuable lesson. If you're the hero in a series with a Trickster Mentor, life will probably be twice as hard — and twice as rewarding.

In more fantastic settings, this will often be a more benign Great Gazoo, who educates their proteges by subjecting them to various transformations, body-swaps, literal wishes, playful punishments, faked tests of character and insults meant to motivate them. Trickster Mentors love it when someone who first meets them doesn't realize who they are. They get to assess the "true character" of someone, then beat their sense of superiority out of them with it after the revelation. Or, rarely, give them a small break if they reveal honesty and good intentions.

Essentially, a blend of order and chaos in the finest Zen tradition. Some accompany their teachings with profound Koans, but they are just as likely to throw in a few Ice Cream Koans to keep their disciples on their toes.

Very often overlaps with Eccentric Mentor.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Bakuman。: Hattori, long after he's no longer actually Ashirogi Muto's editor.
  • Bleach: Urahara's training will kill if his students fail. If Ichigo doesn't dodge, he dies. If he doesn't look inside himself for his power, he dies. If he fails to knock off Urahara's hat, he dies. The point was to give Ichigo the power to invade Soul Society, but Urahara still began the training with the order to put on a silly bandana, shouting "TAKE THIS! THE POWER OF JUSTICE! JUSTICE ARMOR! JUSTICE HACHIMAKI! ATTACK!" Only when Ichigo complies does he realise Urahara was teasing. However, Urahara did this because he realised Ichigo's strength lies with his instincts, not thinking things through, so he needed to distract Ichigo's mind, allowing instinct to take over.
  • Blue Exorcist: Mephisto, who wants to make Rin strong enough to defeat Satan and (supposedly) bring peace to both humans and demons. He does this by repeatedly putting Rin in difficult, life-threatening situations—even sending the demon prince Amaimon to try and kill him.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura: Clow Reed mostly by way of Eriol Hiiragizawa. He has no issues leading Sakura and his own creations to believe that a danger is very real, only to reveal after they overcome it that there never was any risk. In particular, he would secretly construct problems for Sakura to force her to evolve her cards into Sakura Cards.
  • D.Gray-Man: Cross Marian really does love Allen. Hoshino even says Cross cares for him like his own child. But, Cross roughs him up alot, because he likes Allen's dark side, as Hoshino stated. And that's probably because that side is closer to real Allen, as opposed to the repressed boy he became after Mana's death. Allen has a few traumatic memories from his years with Cross. Mainly the debts. But it's played for laughs.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Master Karin. Those who climb his tower are told that the Sacred Water will grant super strength to anyone who drinks it. He steals the water and plays keep away until the person is able to grab it. They're then told that the water is just ordinary water and them getting the water was what made them stronger.
    • Dragon Ball Super: Vegeta plays this role towards Cabba during their fight in the inter-universe tournament. Cabba begs Vegeta to teach him how to go Super Saiyan. Vegeta puts on his old Jerkass self and says he'll kill Cabba and destroy his planet just for insulting the Saiyan race by begging. This pushes Cabba to his Rage Breaking Point and he goes Super Saiyan... just as Vegeta intended.
  • Durarara!!: A very, very generous interpretation of Izaya's character places him as one of these. His favorite hobby is messing with people's heads, manipulating them into going through emotionally devastating circumstances, seemingly For the Lulz. However, the ordeals Izaya puts people through often force them to confront some ugly truths about themselves, as Izaya is happy to point out. They may not be happier, but Izaya's victims are often wiser for having been used by him.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Izumi Curtis' idea of training is abandoning the Elrics on an island for a month and unleashing a monster (although it is later revealed that the "monster" was a shop assistant) on their tails. All for them to find the meaning of the philosophy behind alchemy.
    • Izumi is an odd case since she learned this method from her mentor, who was merely a survivalist who misunderstood what kind of training she wanted. She adapted it to be more suitable for alchemist training herself.
    • Oddly enough, the Truth is also this to the Elrics, especially Ed. It wanted Ed to realize that loving people and having friends are more important than alchemy and is genuinely pleased when Ed finally figures it out.
  • Great Teacher Onizuka often teaches his students or gets them to grow as people by putting them in dangerous or confusing situations.
    • He once made Murai bungee jump off the Tokyo Bay Bridge to prove his bravery.
    • He signed Tomoko up for a Beauty Contest without her knowledge and then brought the whole class to see her Hidden Depths, to help her make friends.
    • He "kidnapped" Urumi and drove off an unfinished overpass with her to get her to experience the fullness of life and stop being so jaded.
    • In Okinawa, he gets some of his students to pretend to be delinquents and harass Noboru and Anko to get her to admit her feelings for him.
  • Initial D: Bunta Fujiwara, who secretly trains his son Takumi's road racing skill through years of tofu delivery runs on Mount Akina. And these aren't just any tofu delivery runs; Takumi is also given a cup of water to put in his car's cup holder, and must complete his run without spilling a drop of water. And then in Initial D Second Stage, Bunta invests in a new engine for the Trueno, but deliberately waits for the Trueno's original engine to break down in the middle of a race so that Takumi would be more accepting of the swap.
  • InuYasha: Toutousai has played this role for both Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru, with much reluctance and by unpredictably combining this trope with Obfuscating Insanity, Let's Get Dangerous! and Older and Wiser. It's the only way he can get the two Hair-Trigger Temper sons of his late master to achieve the Character Development their father desperately wanted them to undergo without getting himself killed in the process. The anime once toyed with this in a filler episode that was Played for Laughs, by having Inuyasha think Toutousai was giving him Wax On, Wax Off style training when really Toutousai just wanted someone to do all the heavy lifting to make him a hot outdoor bath.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: The masters of Ryouzanpakou do this to Kenichi all the time. Their favorite technique is to focus training on one main task that is completely impossible, so that Kenichi will be so focused on that failure that he doesn't notice any of the progress he's made.
    • This is the preferred method of Hayato Furinji (a.k.a. The Elder). Akisame also often uses it. Other masters not so often, especially not Apachai who teaches very directly.
  • My Monster Secret: Most of Akane's shenanigans are for her own amusement, but there are a number of times her antics are intended to help the students work through their interpersonal issues. In particular, she's fond of using her shapeshifting powers to force them to actually acknowledge their feelings for each other rather than stay in denial about it.
  • Nagasarete Airantou: Main protagonist Ikuto has a Stealth Mentor (literally, even; Ikuto had no idea who he was, at first) in the West Leader, one of the Four Leaders that govern the island, and arguably the strongest of said four. When the West Leader finally reveals his identity to Ikuto, he quickly swerves into this type.
  • Naruto: Jiraiya adopts the "thrown in at the deep end" method of training. Literally. Unsatisfied with the hero's progress at accessing his power, he throws him into a chasm. The realization that he's about to die causes Naruto to meet with and consciously draw out the chakra of the Nine Tails, allowing him to summon Gamabunta in order to save himself.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: Jack Rakan is like this. His training techniques include things like "Make a really ugly face and do 100 punches!" and "Punch me as hard as you can!". Yet, Negi still manages to learn Black Magic under his guidance.
    • It should also be noted that Rakan trains himself like this, too. After demonstrating said Black Magic, he reveals he had never actually tried it before, instead just being sure it'd work, and that he wouldn't be killed as a result of using it.
  • Panzer World Galient: Hilmuka loves teasing, testing and tricking Jordy so he learns to fight and discovers their enemy's true nature and capabilities.
  • Ranma ˝: It has been argued that Genma Saotome and Happosai are this sort of mentor - putting Ranma through humiliation and hell for the express purpose of teaching him to be a superior martial artist. Genma steals Ranma's food? Defense training. Happosai tries to make Ranma wear lingerie? Teaching spiritual detachment. Or it could be that they're both dicks, which is the general view of the other characters.
    • Cologne has some of this as well, but her Training from Hell is always well-intentioned, and her students are very quick to catch on that both the training and the objective are equally useful. Then again, she sometimes pokes fun at the youngsters for the hell of it. Or because her cafe is overstocked with rancid noodles and can't think of any other way to get rid of them.
  • Sailor Moon has a few examples:
  • One very twisted example is the relationshp between Askeladd and Thorfinn in Vinland Saga. Askeladd sees himself is this towards Thorfinn, but Thorfinn hates Askeladd with a burning passion, and would sooner die then admit he had any such relationship with the man.
  • Yuri!!! on Ice: Viktor is this to both Yuri and Yurio in the first arc, assigning them skating themes that are totally opposed to their personalities and putting them through a bunch of Training from Hell.
  • Zoids: Wild: Master Bug, an Expy of Master Roshi with hints of Karin. He's so convincing at playing dumb that when he release the truth it genuinely surprises everyone. Particularly that he knows where Ancient Treasure Z is and has a good idea about what it really is.

    Comic Books 
  • American Born Chinese: The Monkey King disguises himself as the stereotypically obnoxious Chin-Kee to teach the protagonist a lesson about not abandoning his heritage.
  • The Red Dragon from Bone is a pretty low-key example; but it's especially noticable in the early parts of the comic, where he in between his lazing around and Big Damn Heroes moments will occasionally do some pretty weird things, either to teach the protagonists a lesson or just mess around with them.
    Fone Bone: The dragon's doing this! He wants you to think he doesn't exist!
    The Red Dragon: (Pokes his head out of a well) Actually, I just want her to think you're nuts.
  • John Constantine the Hellblazer is a mentor to Timothy Hunter in The Books of Magic. Because of John's profession as con man, he sometime pranks Tim, sometimes to the point of endangering the kid's life.
  • Superman:
    • In many ways, the Silver Age Superman was one of these, particularly to his pal Jimmy Olsen and his girlfriend, Lois Lane (as well as his various other girlfriends). There are countless stories where Superman puts his loved ones through various sorts of Hell in order to teach them lame moral lessons. For Jimmy, the lessons often boiled down to "don't drink things you're not supposed to;" for Lois, they usually were "stop trying to find out my secret identity/trick me into marrying you." For the readers, the lesson was "Superman is a dick."
    • The Super-Teacher From Krypton was a robot built by Jor-El to teach his son. Of course, then the planet blew up... but by a fluke, the robot survived (a lot of Kryptonian stuff survived in the Silver Age) and eventually found Kal-El as a teenager on Earth. The robot took it upon itself to guide him in the wise use of his powers. The robot appeared twice, once in the Silver Age and then once in the Bronze Age. In both cases, it acted like an incredibly high-handed and manipulative Jerkass, and while Clark had to admit he had learned valuable lessons from it, he was very glad when the wretched thing took off back into outer space. So maybe this is where Supes picked up these same qualities when "mentoring" people as an adult.

    Fan Works 
  • Corrin Reacts: Azama certainly thinks he's one. Unfortunately for Kaze, it manifests in him allowing Kaze's fangirls to chase him through the Hoshidan capital.
  • Deconstructed with Phoenix Wright in the Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney fanfic Dirty Sympathy. His teaching style and fast-and-loose antics not only costs him Apollo's respect, but also causes his own plans to fall apart when he finds out that Apollo framed Kristoph for a crime he didn't commit and wasn't working alone.
  • Erased Potential: Nedzu always has an angle, if not several, and once he learns of Izuku's existence as Aizawa's Quirkless protégé, he immediately sets several plans into motion. However, his willingness to treat Izuku as a pawn causes him to quickly lose his respect... and once he tricks Toshinori one too many times, several members of U.A.'s staff turn against him as well.
  • Deconstructed with the Headmaster in Rosario + Vampire fanfic He Who Fights Monsters. His "teaching style" created the monster known as Tsukune, much to his fear and horror.
  • Ino in The Last Prayer insists she's using her blackmail against Sakura to make the girl rethink her affection for Sasuke. Sakura spends the entire month think Ino is trying to "dilute her love for Sasuke". It's not until the end of the month that Ino reveals the whole thing was a Secret Test of Character. Had Sakura refused to go along with the blackmail and let Ino release the pictures of her (really Ino in Sakura's body) fellating Naruto, Ino would've handed them back. Instead, Sakura willingly degraded herself and did everything in her power to keep Sasuke from seeing those pictures because it might hurt her chances with him. Though Sakura doesn't truly get the lesson until Sasuke threatens to kill her parents if she really wants to understand him and Sakura's horrified to realize that she briefly considered it, making her realize just how unhealthy her feelings towards Sasuke is.
  • My Hero Playthrough: Shota Aizawa's penchant for putting his students through "logical ruses" to force them to develop backfires when, after he's forced to reveal his Secret Test during the Quirk Assessment Test, several students openly question Aizawa's fitness to be their teacher: it takes All Might's explanation for them to settle down, and even then Aizawa gets in trouble because he was explicitly warned against doing it.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, as noted elsewhere on this page, has two Trickster Mentors, and both are commonly used as such in fanfiction:
    • The Differentverse: Celestia still shows signs of this, but she's more honest about matters than in canon. It helps that Moondancer was straight to the point with her about what they'd figured out.
    • From the fic Going Native (otherwise not suitable for this site):
      Applejack: Consarnit. (face hooves) We really gotta sit the Princess down one day and have an intervention. This cockamamie 'cryptic mentor' nonsense is getting old.
    • Deconstructed in Parting Words, where Twilight is so sick and tired of being a pawn in Celestia's games that she renounces her place as Celestia's student. In spite of halting her 'cryptic mentor' tendencies with Twilight Sparkle, in the sequel, The Great Alicorn Hunt, Celestia still tends to be enigmatic and manipulative with a few things, not the least of which includes selecting a host of male guards for Twilight and Fluttershy in hopes that they find their 'super special somepony'. Kinda backfires with the Wonderbolts when she fails to fully debrief them on their 'true' mission with Rainbow Dash. This is also a major factor in why Sunset Shimmer fell, as she saw Celestia much like Twilight did in the beginning of Parting Words, and hated being manipulated.
    • Triptych from the Triptych Continuum has Discord as the trickster mentor.
  • Snap Before You Break centers around Izuku berating Aizawa for his tendency to rely upon "logical ruses" refusal to direct address any of his students' issues. Then he learns that Principal Nedzu was aware of Aizawa's issues as a teacher, but opted not to intervene in order to see whether Izuku would stand up for himself and his classmates, spurring him to call Nedzu out on this as well.
  • Sucker Bet deconstructs this with Jiraiya and Kakashi's teachings towards Naruto. This teaching style is only beneficial if the recipient has the base knowledge to figure things out, something that Naruto, (an orphaned, impulsive, emotionally neglected child with a lack of social skills), lacks. When Naruto is later trained by the toads, they achieve much better results because they're more patient, straightforward, and attentive to him.
  • Three's A Crowd (Naruto): Kakashi combines this with Sink or Swim Mentor, along with some shades of Apathetic Teacher: while he recognizes that Sasuke and Uo are Ineffectual Loners, he outright refuses to directly address the problem. Instead, he decides that Sakura, the only member of Team Seven willing to actually try working with her teammates, should lead by example — and if the boys don't respect her, it's her fault for not "showing off" her skills more and proving that she's more than their equal. Naturally, this only serves to make matters worse, especially when he responds to Sakura calling him out on his inaction by forcing her to reveal her tree-walking skills... which just makes the boys upset that she outperformed them.
  • Thousand Shinji: Khnemu taught Shinji the ways of scheming and manipulating. In order to train him properly, Khnemu betrayed and backstabbed Shinji constantly, and he expected that Shinji tried to outwit him and double-cross him in turn. Even so, he cared for his disciple, and Shinji was aware of it.
  • Unbreakable Red Silken Thread: Heather, through the use of Cody's perverted nature not only managed to get him to spend time outside and away from gaming, but to actually ENJOY exercising and WANT to get himself into better shape. This continues with her lessons for Jasmine, working her up and riling her temper to life so she wouldn't suppress it all the time while also getting her more comfortable with sexual contact. This in turn is exceeded by the way she has been working over Gwen to break her up with Duncan, which basically boiled down to doing absolutely nothing while Gwen tries to figure out what she is up to.
  • To Undo it All: Ossan (the embodiment of Ichigo's Quincy powers) acts as one to Toshiro, fighting the captain in bankai and forcing him to start over any time he does something wrong, without telling him what he did wrong. Ichigo comments that Ossan's vague hints are rather useful for making people figure out what they're doing wrong, though he does step in if said hints are just going to waste time, such as Ossan telling Toshiro to rethink how his bankai works. Ichigo gives much more pointed hints, stating that they don't have time for Toshiro to re-examine every facet of his bankai until he comes to the right answer.
  • Subverted in With This Ring when the protagonist chooses Eris as his patron deity, and she's all set to be his trickster mentor — except that he also gets himself a set of magical tattoos that make him completely invisible to magical detection. Even from gods. He causes all kinds of societal disruption and chaos for the greater good, but Eris can't see him and is thus mostly sidelined throughout the process.

    Film — Animation 
  • BIONICLE 2: Legends of Metru Nui: Turaga Lhikan hides his identity to his cellmates, Onewa, Nuju and Whenua and gets them to perform seemingly odd tasks while he spouts cryptic truth-nuggets that drive them crazy, forcing them into conflict to unlock their mask powers.
  • The Lion King (1994): Rafiki the baboon. While prodding Simba's revelation that he cannot keeping moping over his past and should return to his homeland to correct the Circle of Life, he whacks Simba over the head with his staff without warning.
    Simba: What was that for?
    Rafiki: It doesn't matter! It's in the past! ... The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it. (swings again, Simba ducks this time)

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Anger Management: Buddy. Unorthodox, grating, and seemingly deceptive - all of it on purpose.
  • Christopher Walken in Click plays Morty the Angel of Death who gives Michael a Universal Remote Control which he uses to get everything he wants. However, the remote quickly starts skipping events Michael already skipped, causing him to lose first months then eventually years at a time, missing not only his children growing up but his father's death. Once Michael realizes his mistake, Morty brings him back to just before got the remote for a second chance.
  • DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story: Played for Laughs; the team's mentor, Patches O'Houlihan, goes so far as to throw wrenches at the players, declaring that "if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball".
    "If you can dodge traffic, you can dodge a ball!"
  • The Golden Child: "The Old Man", played by none other than Victor Wong, who would later go on to play Egg Chen in Big Trouble in Little China. His first appearance to Eddie Murphy's Chandler Jarrell has him pretending to be a Tibetan street vendor selling junk jewelry, and scamming Jarrell out of money as a Secret Test of Character.
  • The Grifters: Roy Dillon (John Cusack) finds a Con Man and asks to be taught how to be a grifter. The man agrees and gives him some advice. At the end of their conversation the man asks Dillon for $10. After Dillon gives it to him, the man says "Come around tomorrow, I'll take you again."
  • The Karate Kid: Mr. Miyagi, as a particularly iconic example. He seems to only give Daniel-San random philosophy bites and menial housekeeping tasks... until he discovers the latter give him the muscle memory for actual karate moves.
    • Cobra Kai: Daniel is definitely showing signs of being one himself, toward Robby. When his wife sees Daniel's amusement at Robby getting frustrated with the Wax On, Wax Off training, she suggests Daniel is enjoying being on the other side of the dynamic a little too much.
  • Merlin from Kingsman: The Secret Service. Most of the tests he puts the candidates through are actually testing for something other than what it seems on the surface, or at least have some twist to them that he doesn’t bother to explain. Most notable is the skydiving incident in which he allows all of the candidates to jump from the plane, before suggesting that they need to know what to do when operating under unforeseen circumstances... like when one of them doesn’t have a parachute. They all have parachutes.
  • Lionel Logue in The King's Speech. He annoys Albert to no end, but all this helps the future king overcome his stutter.
  • The titular Nanny McPhee operates like this. On the surface she's nothing more than a nanny getting the children to behave. However, she does it in a way to serve her ulterior motive of not only teaching the children life lessons and to be better people, but also teaching their father to be a better parent and teaching all of them important life lessons in the process. Nearing the climax she even lets them do wrong, knowing it will blow up in their faces, because she also knows the kids in the end will accept the consequences and make things right in the end.
  • Star Wars: Yoda. Weird sayings in weird syntax he speaks, can be deemed as berating and condescending, and yet has trained Jedi for centuries. One episode of The Clone Wars shows it in full force, as he forces a Secret Test of Character onto Jedi younglings.
    • When he first appeared on film, he started out being as annoying as possible in order to test Luke Skywalker's patience. He was very good at it and Luke failed and almost didn't get trained.

  • Hasan ibn Sabbah in Vladimir Bartol's Alamut, with the twist that he usually has the followers who realize that he is a trickster covertly killed. When one of them survives and comes back for revenge, he declares him as his own son in every sense but biological, and blesses his search for enlightenment. And it works!
  • K. Pinkerton Silverfish, the author of the titular self-help book in Stephen Manes' children's novella Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days. The protagonist Milo does all sorts of ridiculous things at Dr. Silverfish's instruction, like wearing a stalk of broccoli around his neck, going without food for a whole day, and finally staying up all night doing nothing but lying in bed and drinking weak tea. When Milo screws up by nodding off during the last task, the book reassures him by explaining the moral of the story: nobody's perfect, and people who obsess over trying to be perfect just make themselves look silly.
  • BIONICLE Chronicles 4: Tales of the Masks: Turaga Nokama seemingly betrays Toa Gali and traps her in an underwater cave with a Giant Squid, since getting her to panic and attempt the unthinkable was the best way to master the Intangibility power of the Mask of Speed. As a bonus, Nokama shows Gali a secret carving about her own past stint as a Toa, lying about it to make Gali inquisitive and question the Turaga's authority. In doing so, Nokama not only tricked Gali into becoming more powerful but drove a wedge between the five other Turaga elders, nudging them to drop their secrecy and reveal what they've been hiding from their people for a thousand years.
  • Master Li from Bridge of Birds (the namesake of the one under "Video Games") is a classic example. Being the son of two infamous bandits, he's partial to lengthy, intricate plots and bluffs of which Number Ten Ox is a part, and isn't afraid to put one over on his student from time to time, but he does manage to teach him effectively.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales of the Slayer:
    • In And White Splits the Night: Laurent took Asha in at a young age but, unlike many Watchers, she never told Asha that she was being trained as a Potential Slayer and let her think she was only learning combat for defense against bullies. If Asha hadn't been chosen as a Slayer, Laurent would have probably never told her the truth about the Watchers Council and the Slayers.
    • In Ching Shih, Master Wang instructed the Potential Slayer Xiaoqin about the Slayer and vampires while pretending to just be a storyteller of fables. He never mentioned the Watchers' Council, presumably due to suspecting it would ruin the romantic image of a lone magical warrior that would make Xioaqin listen to his stories.
  • Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a variation: The whole purpose of the Golden Ticket contest and the tour of his fantastical factory for its winners is to find a child worthy of inheriting the place. Those who disregard his instructions and give in to their worst natures as they explore it are nastily altered — even, in the 2013 stage musical, killed! Those who reveal their best natures through the journey, even if at the time it seems counterproductive to do so, are rewarded. Gene Wilder, who played Wonka in the 1971 film adaptation, beautifully summarizes this trope with the story of agreeing to do the film on one condition: He wanted to make his entrance with a cane, limping, then suddenly somersaulting, "Because from that point on, no one will know if I'm lying or telling the truth." The director agreed to it, and the rest is history.
  • The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden has the misfortune to have several supernatural entities of great power and mysterious natures interested in teaching him something, but he's never entirely sure what he's meant to learn. Examples include Leanansidhe, Queen Mab and the Mothers, the Archangel Uriel, He Who Walks Behind, and Rashid the Gatekeeper, and since many of them appear to be on different sides and are quite willing for him to die if he's not strong enough to survive the lesson, he's often lost for reliable, non-lethal guidance. As of Cold Days, he's finally had it spelled out to him that he should just keep blundering through life, trying to sort out the problems he comes across / creates along the way, as it seems destiny has every intention of continuing to aim him in the general direction of whatever needs to get broken.
    • Harry himself is this to Molly. When teaching her about magic, he's mostly straightforward, but when teaching her about life, he prefers making her understand things rather than simply learn them. This is evidenced in the bead string subplot.
  • An Elegy for the Still-living: Robin Goodfellow, when he isn't just messing with Francis for the fun of it.
  • In Ender's Game, the Battle School instructors have set up a system where almost everything the instructors do is part of a trick.
  • Haymitch from The Hunger Games definitely qualifies; years of heavy drinking and being a Hunger Games survivor have probably contributed to the "trickster" part of his mentorship. He gets into intense arguments fairly often with Katniss and although Katniss usually doesn't like what she hears, Haymitch is normally right, if not in a brutally honest way.
  • In The Illuminatus! Trilogy, Hagbard Celine and the Dealy Lama (no misspelling) are both more or less good guys who make extreme effort to appear unreliable or even dangerous and evil to their wards. When you manage to connect the dots, you'll realize that the Dealy Lama was this trope: he inspired the myth that would become the Devil-character of every mythology in existence, including the Discordianism - about himself!
  • Journey to Chaos: Tasio's goal is to help Eric learn confidence and perseverance. His methods involve deception, cunning, and many dangerous situations.
  • In Lost Time/Deadlands and Resurrection Life, Nathaniel David Parker acts as this for Blake and Gideon, respectively. He is limited in what he can and can't say by God, so he pushes his charges in various ways in order to let them figure out what he wants from them without him outright saying it, unless the situation calls for it. He will pull every dirty trick in the book if it means his students learn how to think for themselves and be aware of how to love and lead the people around them, so that he can follow the rules he has to submit to and get some high-quality Trolling in as well, because It Amused Me.
  • In Murderess, ‘Hat Lad is this for Lu, giving her cryptic directions and pulling off Not Quite Dead on her twice.
  • Vergere from the New Jedi Order. Later works established her as being also an Evil Mentor.
  • In The Once and Future King the wizard Merlyn teaches Arthur/The Wart through a series of trials by transforming him into various animals to prepare him for life once he becomes the High King.
  • Thief of Time includes Lu-Tze, a deliberate pastiche of Mr. Miyagi style trickster mentors. In true Zen form the humble sweeper Lu-Tze never quite lets on whether he's a profoundly enlightened wiseman with reality-defying martial arts powers or just a wiseass who gets by on audacity and luck alone. Right up until the end, when it is revealed that he's the former.
  • In the Strugatsky Brothers' later Noonverse novels, Rudolf Sikorski, the Government Conspiracy Knight Templar, works somewhat like that with the protagonist Maxim Kammerer. He keeps shooting the dog and does a classic Breaking Speech when Maxim first meets him. It all seems to do Maxim some good service in the end, though.
  • Coriakin from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader seems to be this for the Duffers he looks after: for instance, he turned them into Monopods for disobedience. He also put a bearded mirror in his mansion, most likely to prank his guests.
  • The Witch of Knightcharm: Lauren, an elite student at an evil Wizarding School, serves as this to Emily, a new student (and the protagonist) whom Lauren personally recruits. Lauren acts as a sort of mentor but rarely tells Emily what she wants the other girl to learn, instead dropping hints and relying on Emily to figure things out. For instance, Lauren doesn't explicitly state that she wants Emily to help her destroy the psychopathic top-ranked student Morgan, but she does guide Emily into learning that the top students are judged by the performance of the students they hand-select, and Emily thus realizes she can undermine Morgan (who is too strong to fight directly) by defeating Morgan's handpicked student Alejandra.
  • The deity known as the Bastard from the World of the Five Gods books, Paladin of Souls in particular.
    Ista: What training? You never explained anything.
    Bastard: Instructing you, sweet Ista, would be like teaching a falcon to walk up to its prey. It might with great effort be done, but one would end with a very footsore and cranky bird, and a tedious wait for dinner. With a wingspan like yours, it's ever so much easier to shake you from my wrist and see you fly.
    Ista: Plummet.
    Bastard: No. Not you. Granted, you tumble and complain halfway to the abyss, but eventually you do spread your wings and soar.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This is George Bluth's parenting style on Arrested Development. Whenever his kids misbehaved when they were young, George would hire a man who had lost an arm working for the Bluth company to help stage an accident, making the kids think that a random stranger had lost an arm because they were ignoring their father's advice. Sometimes it made sense, such as "accidentally" running the employee over because the kids were yelling too much in the back, other times it was just plain bizarre-George once tried to convince his kids that leaving their doors open with the air conditioning running had led to the guy losing his arm.
  • Slightly unusual use in Chinese Paladin, as The Hero is this to his Lancer Jinyuan, setting him exercises such as standing on one leg and reciting nonsense. The twist comes when Jinyuan is perfectly aware that he's being set up, but goes along with it anyway—for the exact same reasons.
  • Mr. Roarke from Fantasy Island. He'll give you the means to fulfill your biggest dream, but it doesn't mean he'll grant said dream to you in exactly the way you want it to be. You'll have to learn your lesson through it, and sometimes your life and sanity will depend on it...
  • Sam Weiss from Fringe. His teachings involve having Olivia do seemingly inane things like tie shoes. They seem completely useless until Olivia reflexively stands up... without the aid of the crutches she thought she couldn't move without. He's also delightfully snarky and constantly cracks jokes while teaching Fringe team his odd lessons.
  • Game of Thrones: Bronn enjoys himself a lot while he teaches Jaime how to fight with his left hand. The unclean lessons involve kicking Jaime around thanks to Bronn's own set of pragmatic, dirty tricks.
  • Claude from Heroes, whose training methods include gleefully whacking his pupil over the head with a stick and throwing him off the roof of a skyscraper.
    Claude: Do! Something! Unexpected!
  • Methos from Highlander: The Series. Especially in the later seasons, he tends to teach Duncan lessons through manipulation, rather than giving him straightforward advice. His brand of wisdom is not always appreciated.
  • House:
    • In their essay "The Sound of One House Clapping" (appearing in the volume House and Philosophy), Jeffrey C. Russ and Jeremy Barris argue that House is a trickster mentor in the classic Zen tradition. The closing arc of Season 3 has Foreman wrestling with the prospect that he's an Evil Mentor. This comes back in Season 6 after Chase murders a patient (an African dictator) to prevent him from perpetrating genocide on part of his country's population.
    • There was also a story arc in Season 4 where Kutner uses House's name for an online-diagnosis site without House's knowledge or consent. When House finds out, he submits a fake medical problem to the site, pretending to be a woman with faulty breast implants. When Kutner continues to try to treat the "patient" on his own, House hires a prostitute to come in posing as the patient from the website. Hilarity Ensues, with the woman faking her death and "reviving" in the morgue, where House berates Kutner for being an idiot.
  • Power Rangers:
    • Dimitria from Power Rangers Turbo, who spends much of her time speaking in riddles for the team to solve.
    • Power Rangers Mystic Force: The Magic Tribunal refuses to help the Mystic Rangers and teleport them into danger, but continue observing them to see if they succumb to despair during their Darkest Hour. When The Rangers continue fighting and realize how they've been overconfident, the tribunal decide that Earth is worth saving.
      Black Tribunal: A valuable lesson merits a valuable reward.
    • R.J. in Power Rangers Jungle Fury fulfills this role. He often will have the Rangers do seemingly stupid things in the name of teaching them valuable lessons.
  • Sabrina's Quiz Master on Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
  • Star Trek:
  • Supergirl (2015): The Music Meister in this version, instead of being a slightly comical, musical-inducing villain, is instead a trickster and a match-maker who's trying to teach our heroes about love.
  • The Trickster from Supernatural. Half the time he's teaching a lesson, and the other half he's just killing for fun. Oh, and he's an archangel. Arguably, he is always teaching someone a lesson, these just usually go over the recipient's head. Often because said head is rolling away.
    • He tries to teach Sam that he can't save Dean from dying and going to hell because of his deal by sticking Sam in a "Groundhog Day" Loop where Dean ends up dying in increasingly ridiculous ways every repetition and Sam can't stop it from happening. Arguably, this just ends up making Sam more desperate.
    • In a later episode, he sticks the boys in TV Land and makes them play out the "roles" they are cast in in each show to try to get them to "play their roles" in the coming apocalypse. He ends up having a much more selfish motive in this one: because he's Gabriel, who ran away from heaven because his brothers were fighting each other, and he wants Michael and Lucifer to have their showdown because "I just want it to be over!".

  • Older Than Print: Some versions of Merlin and Morgan le Fay from the Arthurian mythos.
  • Trickster figures in myth and folklore tend to vary by region — particularly with the Native American tricksters. Raven was typically the more wise, trickster mentor. Crow tended to be more mercurial, even malicious. Coyote inhabited pretty much the entire spectrum between trickster creator, noble trickster, mean-spirited prankster, and avatar of chaos; depending on the particular region and people. African and European tricksters varied similarly by people and region. Anansi generally deviated between being brilliant but so lazy that he never got anything done and brilliant but so conceited that he stumbled over his own convoluted tricks.
  • Nasrudin (also called Nasruddin, Nasredin, and Nasreddin, or if you're an Arab, Juha, Jawha, Guha, and—deep breath—Goha) was the king of this. A famous Sufi Muslim form of this, he varies from eminently wise to incredibly stupid to a mixture of the two depending on the story. Besides being The Trickster, generally, he has a strong aspect of this. For example:
    • He was brought to hear the Emir (i.e. prince) recite a poem he had written. After all the other people in attendance had given their (very flattering) reviews, Goha (I'm an Arab) said: "With respect, my lord, your poem was terrible." The Emir immediately ordered him to be jailed for thirty days. Shortly after Goha was released, the Emir had another poem recital. When the Emir asked Goha his opinion, Goha immediately stood up and started for the door. "Where are you going?" asked the Emir. "To the jail, my lord," responded Goha.
    • Another example, this one taken from an affiliate of The Other Wiki:
      Once a renowned philosopher and moralist was traveling through the land and stopped in Nasrudin's village. He asked Nasrudin to recommend a place to eat, and, being hungry for intelligent company as well, invited Nasrudin to accompany him. At the restaurant, they asked the waiter what the special of the day was, and were told, "Fish — fresh fish!" They ordered two.

      When the waiter brought the fish on a great platter, however, one was noticeably larger than the other. Nasrudin, seeing this, immediately slid the larger fish onto his own plate. The philosopher, shocked, proceeded to berate Nasrudin at length for violating the precepts of every religion and moral system ever thought of.

      At the end of this, Nasrudin asked, "What would you have done?"

      The philosopher said, "I, as a conscientious human, would have taken the smaller fish."

      Nasrudin replied, "Here you go, then", and slid the smaller fish onto the philosopher's plate.
  • There are entire schools of Zen Buddhism and Sufi Islam dedicated to this.
  • Certain schools of Hinduism regard the Buddha as a Trickster Mentor of Hinduism: they believe that he was the ninth incarnation of Vishnu, sent to teach falsehood so that Hindus would know the danger of being sucked into reasonable-seeming but wrong religious arguments.
  • Herschel of Ostropol is Nasreddin's Yiddish-speaking cousin from Ukraine. In one of his more famous episodes, he stole one drumstick from a rich man's roast goose and ate it. When the owner of the goose confronted him, Herschel insisted the bird had only one leg to begin with. "There's no such thing as a bird with one leg," said the rich man. Herschel then took him to a local pond where waterbirds were standing on one leg, with the other leg drawn up into their feathers. The rich man made noise to scare the birds, and they all lowered their second leg and flew away. Herschel's comment: "See, if you'd shouted and waved at the roast goose, you'd have seen its other leg, too."
  • Neatly inverted by Rabbi Hillel, who was challenged to teach an impatient Roman "all of the Torah while standing on one foot!" Hillel's answer: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole of the Torah, the rest is commentary. Now, go study." The man was so impressed that he actually did.
  • The Amarok of Inuit Mythology is an interesting example, as it is actually considered a villain despite having obvious wisdom, and most of the morals from the stories are intended from the Amarok to the reader rather than another character, as the actual victim of the Amarok's attention is usually quite dead. When an Amarok does play a more traditional Trickster Mentor, it relies more on strange teaching methods than genuine deception, training a boy to be strong by wrestling with him and removing the small bones in his body that weakened him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Eberron: This is how the Traveler's faithful see them. In one story, the Traveler in the guise of a smith gives heroic god Dol Dorn a sword, which breaks when he fights some monsters, forcing him to use the hilt and his strength to persevere and win the fight. In the Sovereign Host version, the Traveler's role is entirely negative and the story is about how badass Dol Dorn is that he managed to triumph despite the Traveler screwing him. In the Traveler tradition, however, the Traveler had concluded that Dol Dorn relied too heavily on his sword, and giving him the flawed sword was their way of teaching him that he didn't need it.
  • Princess: The Hopeful: As befits her Court's values of surprise, laughter, and freedom, the Queen of Spades is usually this to her Princesses. In particular, when a Princess brings a problem before the Queen, she will often propose a completely absurd solution, knowing that in the process of explaining why the absurd solution won't work, the Princess will hopefully realize a solution that will work.
  • Shadowrun: Harlequin. However, it turns out that when you jerk people around, refuse to give them straight answers and do things that seem utterly vile on the surface in the name of a nebulous master plan you refuse to explain, you piss your acolytes off no matter how much they develop under your tutelage. At least two of Harlequin's former disciples are actively hunting him down, and very few people who work with him are keen on doing so a second time.
  • Subverted in Werewolf: The Apocalypse with the Nuwisha werecoyotes. The Nuwisha see themselves as trickster mentors to the Garou and other Fera, but judging from the other tribebooks, their "lessons" produce confusion, embarrassment, or anger more often than enlightenment. The Fantastic Racism does not help.

  • El Gallo in The Fantasticks is this, though the protagonists never quite recognize him as such.

    Video Games 
  • In Dragon Age II, Flemeth serves as one to Hawke. Despite the fact that everyone present is clearly aware that dealing with the "Witch of the Wilds" is a bad thing, she actually never does anything overtly malicious towards Hawke at all. Indeed, after Hawke honours their vow to bring her locket to the top of Sundermount, thus leading to her resurrection, she promptly thanks them for their help and even takes a moment to offer Hawke and their companions some cryptic advice before flying away.
    • Snarky!Hawke serves as one to Carver. Throughout the First Act, Hawke repeatedly tries to make their little brother get over himself and take himself a lot less seriously. Indeed, it seems that most of Hawke's jabs at Carver aren't those of mockery from an elder sibling, but more as means to try to push Carver to prove them wrong.
  • I Was a Teenage Exocolonist: When Nomi-Nomi installs KYUU-KYUU BISHOUNEN KYUUSTETSU in Congruence's system, her holoprojection simulates the whole game, but she gets corrupted into a manticore. When the protagonist repairs her, apologizes to her for their and Nomi's classroom antics, or asks Instance or Hal for help, Congruence gets restored, and she cheerfully tells them that she intentionally turned the game into a horrific "puzzle" to teach them not to install unauthorized software into her system.
  • Most of the effective coaches in Inazuma Eleven series are stoic, grim faces who always have hidden lessons and stretegies under their sleeves. Even Endou is significantly colder and trickier as a coach. Curse much?
  • Jade Empire furnishes a few examples. Master Li is characterized this way early on, with several characters remarking on his idiosyncratic behavior, before he is revealed as the true Big Bad. The Forest Shadow is a more complete example: she's a powerful fox spirit (see the citation on Coyote above), a class of beings assigned by the Celestial Bureaucracy to confront humans with Secret Tests of Character—even when she needs your help, this is how she approaches you.
  • Everything about the Old Man in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild points to this as he teaches you(both the player and character of Link, who is an Amnesiac Hero this time around) most of the basics of the world while appearing to do day to day things. Once you find out that you have to leave the area, which is on a high up plateau, the Old man then gives you a goal of beating seemingly random shrines promising reward of the item that will help you leave, but even that is a teaching you about the spirit orbs you get from that. Only after all that it's revealed that The Old Man is the spirit of the former King of Hyrule and testing you/Link to see if you re-adopt the mantle of hero. He then tells you the story of the fall of his Kingdom and appears to pass on after giving you the item to leave.

    Visual Novels 
  • Kokichi Oma in Danganronpa V3 occasionally acts as this towards Shuichi. During his Free Time Events, Kokichi threatens the detective to play with him, but intentionally loses every time. When he cuts himself playing the knife game, Kokichi deems Shuichi the winner by default, explaining it's possible to win by not playing. It turns out Kokichi knew the game was being broadcast and was trying to screw over the audience, and Shuichi realizes at the end that the only way to win Danganronpa is to refuse to play.
  • In Ikemen Sengoku, Mitsuhide Akechi acts as one to the female main character in his route. He takes on the role of her instructor, teaching her politics, horsemanship, weaponry, and self-defense skills, and even though he claims that he's doing all of this just to keep an eye on her to make sure that she doesn't defect from the Oda forces and teases her mercilessly about her initial ineptitude at these skills, he never once loses patience with her and his relentless training succeeds in making her much better equipped to survive in the Sengoku period.

  • In Ascension, Telious gives Aramis a sword and no training, and makes him face "zombie fight surprise" many times after it's very very clear Aramis has no sword talent or training. Then he sends Aramis (after having him fatally backstabbed by an assassin) against another zombie, but with no sword just a little golden whistle. Aramis technically fails the test by not even attempting to use magic for which he has no training, but passes it by attempting to kill Telious before he bleeds to death - and still keeping up the belief that despite Telious being a sick bastard he keeps hope because despair is a form of sloth his church warns against.
    • Not to mention Aramis is sent to scout ominous ancient evils that may or may not exist by himself, and not told the person he's supposed to meet is part demon yet a nice person! The total lack of instructions or even hints in dealing with evil makes this church's moral standards very peculiar indeed...
  • Netta from DDG veers between trickster or cynical mentor depending on her mood.
  • Dron the Dragon from A Magical Roommate, though not always in a good way- he tries to shake his students out of the 'learn what they tell you and don't think for yourself' mentality by forcing them to question everything and everyone, but fails to see that students need something reliable to trust, or they can't do anything.
  • In Thog Infinitron, Shaman Magog acts both as Thog's mentor and trickster, often leading Thog into situations that will allow Thog to grow as a human being, but sometimes seemingly just for his own entertainment.

    Web Original 
  • In Whateley Universe, Chou is 'blessed' with the Monkey King as a mentor. In "Summoning Sweeties", the Monkey King explains his/her actions all but quoting this trope.

    Western Animation 
  • Subverted with Magic Man in Adventure Time. In his debut episode, he pretends to be an old homeless man and begs Finn for food, and then does Finn "a favor" in return: transforming him into a giant foot. He claims that he did so to teach Finn a lesson; and only changes him back when Finn expresses regret of having given Magic Man the food. No one can figure out the lesson in the end beyond Magic Man just being a jerk.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: King Bumi for the duration of "The King of Omashu". Also to his whole city when he surrenders rather than subject them to a doomed siege, and then cackles about it a lot rather than explaining anything.
  • Centaurworld: In "The Key", it's revealed at the end that Waterbaby could have fixed her houseboat with her magic all along. She made the group do it by hand because she wanted them to learn a lesson from trying to fix it, and an excuse to get Wammawink to focus on her magic.
  • In The Charmkins, Poison Ivy poses as a dragon to scare the heroes and uses her shapeshifting magic to turn each of them into things they're not, which eventually clues them in that they need a disguise.
  • The Dungeon Master from the cartoon Dungeons & Dragons (1983) frequently gave the party just barely enough information for them to puzzle out what they need to deal with that episode's problem.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
    • To a good number of fans, Princess Celestia, due to being a Physical Goddess who could easily solve many of the larger crises that plague Equestria. She sometimes admits to Twilight that she would've solved the problem herself, but she decided to let her figure it out for herself as part of her friendship lessons.
    • Discord, from Season 4 onward. Granted, half the time his method of "teaching" is more so messing with Twilight and then crafting a lesson about friendship as a justification/excuse to continue doing so, with some of his lessons being purely accidental or rendered moot by episode's end. This is then deconstructed in the series finale when it is revealed he was pretending to be Grogar for the entire season and brought back several of the previous villains to form a Legion of Doom as a "final test" for Twilight before she succeeds Celestia and Luna as ruler of Equestria, and help boost her confidence in the process. It backfires, leaving him drained of his magic by his treacherous recruits, the villains bigger threats to Equestria than ever before, and Twilight believing that none of their previous successes were actually real and nothing they did actually mattered for a good chunk of the finale.
  • Mr. Jimmy from Pelswick gives confusing advice but the eponymous character is usually able to piece it together by the end of the episode.
  • Ready Jet Go!: In "Chore Day", Face 9000 keeps popping up whenever the kids are doing their chores to tell them that they are using force, and then keeps disappearing before he can explain what force is. At the end of the episode, the kids confront him about this, and he admits that he kept popping up because he was procrastinating on doing his own chore - cleaning out his memory chip.
  • Sabrina: The Animated Series: The Wise Warlock from "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?" episode, overlapping with Eccentric Mentor. At first he appears to be a phony and a grumpy old man, seemingly unwilling to help Sabrina and instead trying to sell her items from his shop; however, at the end he turns out to be really wise, and gives Sabrina an important piece of advice. It is likely, though not outright stated, that his "phony/grumpy old man" persona was deliberate pretense. Oh, and he's also perpetually barefoot.
  • Sofia the First: Aunt Tilly, herself a trickster mentor to Sofia in "Great Aunt-Venture", points out to James in "The Silent Knight" that Sir Finnegan's being tough on him in his squire training because he's secretly toughening him up to become a knight.
  • Sonic Underground: The Oracle of Delphius fills this trope. He comes complete with koan-slinging and a lampshade.
    Sonic: Don't you ever just give a straight answer?
    Oracle: What do you think?
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Glossaryck is a deconstruction, as his cryptic messages and metaphors don't work at all for the Literal-Minded Star, who either fails to figure his advice out or ends up misinterpreting it and stumbles into a solution he never intended. Previous wand users like Star's mother openly admit that the tiny, god-like being is incredibly unhelpful even if you are willing to parse his odd statements and behavior.