Every good adventure story needs a mentor figure. A wise old bird. A teacher. A guide. Without a mentor, young heroes can go wrong as they quest for whatever they need — salvation, victory, riches, love, survival, you name it. The mentor figure is a classical archetype found in all manner of stories from ancient Greek myths to modern theater box office hits. For instance, Luke Skywalker needed tons of help from his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, or he’d never have made it through the rigors of Star Wars. Indiana Jones never could have found the Holy Grail without help from a classic mentor figure, his father. Dorothy sought the help of a fearsome mentor for virtually the entire time in The Wizard of Oz, only to be helped to get home easily by her real mentor, Glenda, the Good Witch of the North.
In Dinosaur Wars, the mentor figure is Dr. David Ogilvey, an old, owlish curmudgeon of a paleontologist who is studying dinosaurs on Kit Daniels’ ranch when the invasion begins. Like other mentors before him, Dr. O is possessed of certain sterling qualities that make him the go-to guy for both Kit and Chase Armstrong as they strive to survive and prevail against dinosaurian threats on all sides.
Like good mentors everywhere, Dr. O is possessed of hidden knowledge that he must impart to the heroes. For instance, it is he who has already discovered the lost 65 million year old civilization of the Kra. He’s been ostracized as a crackpot by mainstream scientists, and that exile to the wilderness is part of the makeup of good mentors. He’s actually ahead of everybody else and they just don’t know it. So he becomes the only person able to accept that intelligent dinosaurs do indeed exist, and begin to deal with them.
He learns their language. That’s another hallmark of good mentors. He can communicate with un-human creatures and wild things, to learn more special knowledge that leads the heroes forward in their quest.
So, who is this character, anyway? I’ve written about him quite a bit in Dinosaur Wars: Earthfall and the upcoming Dinosaur Wars: Counterattack, as well as in the short story, Something in the Jungle. As I’ve said, he strikes one at first glance as rather owlish (same disguise Merlin used to tutor Arthur, remember?). He’s rather rounded in form, with boney knees beneath his khaki shorts and oversized feet in clunky hiking boots. His gray-bearded cheeks and thick eyeglasses add to his large-eyed, owlish appearance. Place a dusty canvas field hat on his head for frumpiness, and you’ve got the makings of a gritty, hard-bitten, sun-scorched old bird who’s just the right person to offer advice on dinosaurs and how to deal with ’em.
The picture above looks a bit like Dr. O, but of course it’s really the famous paleontologist, John R. (Jack) Horner, a man whom I’ve worked for in his dinosaur digs in Montana. He’s a good role model, but not quite right. He’s really just a bit too good-looking to make a perfect Dr. David Ogilvey. Maybe someone like Teddy Roosevelt might have the looks dialed in just a bit more. I can imagine him voicing Dr. O’s characteristic high-pitched “Heeh!” when he laughs. But even Teddy doesn’t quite evoke the real Dr. O.
I suppose I’ll just have to wait for Hollywood to make a movie or three out of my stories for a real good look at Dr. O. Maybe they could cast a great actor like Val Kilmer with some padding around his mid-section, a beard and coke-bottle glasses? That might get it about right. Remember Val, “Heeh!”