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In Greek mythology, Mentor was the son of Alcumus and, in his old age, a friend of Odysseus. When Odysseus left for the Trojan War he placed Mentor in charge of his son, Telemachus, and of his palace. When Athena visited Telemachus she took the disguise of Mentor to hide herself from the suitors of Telemachus' mother Penelope. (See Odyssey Book II, lines 255 and 268.) When Odysseus returns to Ithaca, Athena (in the form of Mentor) takes the form of a swallow and the suitors' arrows have no effect on him.

File:Telemachus and Mentor.JPG

"Telemachus and Mentor" Illustration for "Les Aventures de Télémaque"

The first recorded modern usage of the term can be traced to a book entitled "Les Aventures de Telemaque", by the French writer François Fénelon] [1]. In the book the lead character is that of Mentor. This book was published in 1699 and was very popular during the 18th century and the modern application of the term can be traced to this publication [1].

This is the source of the modern use of the word mentor: a trusted friend, counselor or teacher, usually a more experienced person. Some professions have "mentoring programs" in which newcomers are paired with more experienced people in order to obtain good examples and advice as they advance, and schools sometimes have mentoring programs for new students or students who are having difficulties.

Today mentors provide their expertise to less experienced individuals in order to help them advance their careers, enhance their education, and build their networks. Many of the world's most successful people have benefited from having a mentor including:

  • business people - Freddie Laker mentored Richard Branson
  • politicians - Aristotle mentored Alexander the Great
  • actors - Mel Gibson mentored Heath Ledger
  • athletes - Eddy Merckx (five-time Tour de France winner) mentored Lance Armstrong (seven-time Tour de France winner).

Mentoree (or mentee)[edit | edit source]

The student of a mentor is called a protégé or mentoree. More accurately, for the recondite, the protégé would be called the telemachus (pl. telemachuses or telemaches). Sometimes, the protégé is also called a mentee.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Roberts, Andy. (1999) "The origins of the term mentor.", History of Education Society Bulletin, no 64, Nov 1999, p313-329.

External links[edit | edit source]

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