Wisdom, Mystery, and Dangerous Knowledge: Exploring Depictions of the Archetypal Sage in Young Adult Literature

  • Ian Parker Renga Jeanine Rainbolt College of Education The University of Oklahoma
  • Mark A. Lewis


The archetypal sage character is a common, though relatively unexplored character, in young adult literature (YAL). Employing a sociocultural, constructivist understanding of archetypes, we unpack features of the sage through an examination of three sagacious characters: the Receiver of Memory in The Giver, Haymitch Abernathy in The Hunger Games, and Anatov in Akata Witch. Our analysis reveals how these characters are each marked with physical or behavioral abnormalities, are isolated from society and its institutions, and possess dangerous knowledge of eros (The Giver), power (The Hunger Games), and identity (Akata Witch). They are also depicted as standing in sharp contrast to other, more typical teachers in the intimate relationships they form with students and degree of vulnerability they display. All of these characteristics, we argue, might explain the appeal of the sagecharacter in YAL, as well as its curious absence from our common understanding of K-12 teachers and curriculum. Indeed, we see these characterizations of fictional teachers as raising interesting questions about sagacious mentorship and wisdom in schools.


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