Yao (Ancient One)

ancientonefilmThe first trailer for the upcoming Doctor Strange has been released, and it’s not looking bad at all, quite the opposite. The first character we spot, aside from the protagonist, is his mentor, the Ancient One, portrayed by a bald Tilda Swinton. The Ancient One will be the powerful sorceress who takes Stephen Strange in as her student, and transforms him into her successor. Well, the character comes from the comics, but she receives a gender-swap from the original one, as the Ancient One is in fact a man. The male version sort of appeared in Dr. Strange, albeit only as a disembodied voice, provided by Michael Ansara. In the 1978 movie he was summoned by Thomas Lindmer, Strange’s mentor, when he deemed his student worthy of succeeding him in protecting Earth: the Ancient One casted a powerful spell to transfer Lindmer’s power to Strange, then disappeared. Well, as usual it’s now time to see who the original Ancient One is.

The story of the Ancient One goes back to the beginning of the XV Century, and even his name is not certain anymore, reported as both Yao or Yan. He was born in Tibet, in the hidden village of Kamar-Taj, where he lived peacefully as a simple farmer, as all his family had done for generations, oblivious to what happened in the world outside the village. Yao’s tranquil life changed completely when he and his friend Kaluu discovered the village’s greatest secret: magic. Kaluu, in fact, had found out that Kamar-Taj held the secrets of mystic arts, and had started studying and practicing them, and then shared his knowledge with his friend. Together, Yao and Kaluu became accomplished sorcerers, and explored the vastity of this new world together: Yao used his newfound powers to transform his village into a utopia, and erased any kind of disease from Kamar-Taj…including aging, having discovered the secret of immortality. Kaluu, however, had other projects, and his newfound power tempted him: while he was helping Yao, he also casted a spell on his fellow villagers, so that along with immortality they also received an unexpected gift, mind control. Soon, the entire village was at Kaluu’s orders, and Yao watched horrified ancientonecomics1as his friend organised Kamar-Taj into a single army, which he wanted to use to build an empire with himself at its lead. Afraid of what Kaluu could have done with such power, Yao attempted to stop him, but he failed, and the more powerful magician used a spell to incapacitate and paralyze him. Yao was exposed publicly, an ironic “seat of honor” to watch as the army marched to conquer a nearby village, which was burnt to the ground, its people enslaved. Yao witnessed his former friends fall prey to Kaluu’s greed, and albeit paralyzed he managed to cast a spell to undo his former ones: to restore balance, disease, famine and death hit as they never did before, and most of the village’s population died as a result. Kaluu, understanding that Yao was behind it, tried to kill him, but the young man opened a breach on another reality, the dimension of Cyttorak, and exiled his former friend there: Kaluu swore vengeance, as he was sucked away from our reality, and Yao was freed from his spell.

Finally able to move again, Yao found out that he had lost his own immortality as well, but since he had channelled the mystic arts for so long, he nevertheless aged at an extremely slow rate. Fearing that somebody else might become evil as Kaluu, Yao swore that he would have protected the world from evil sorcerers, and started traveling the world, looking for somebody able to teach him more of magic. He found a group of magicians, who taught him everything they knew, until he surpassed them all in power, wisdom and knowledge; he then travelled the world, battling demons and evil sorcerers, repelling mystical creatures back where they belonged. Among the many formidable foes Yao had to face there was the powerful Dormammu, ruler of a far dimension, bent on conquering our own: he battled Yao in London, during the Great Fire, and the sorcerer was able to defeat him, but only temporarily, as he sent him back to his dimension without annihilating him. Yao, who after centuries became known simply as the Ancient One, had become so powerful that during one of his meditations he contacted Eternity, the living embodiment of the universe, who acknowledged him as the first mortal ever to appear at his presence; impressed, Eternity rewarded him with the the Amulet of Agamotto, and entrusted him with the title of Sorcerer Supreme, with the responsibility of protecting our dimension from the many others who ancientonecomics2meant it arm. The Ancient One kept repelling menace after menace, also collecting many mystical artifacts to help him in the task; eventually, he settled on the Himalaya Mountains, where he built a palace to live in. He also started accepting students, but he was forced to banish the first one, Jip, to another dimension, after he had tried to acquire forbidden knowledge of dark magic to increase his power. The following one, luckily enough, was a success, and Anthony Druid was allowed to perform the mystical arts. After five centuries, however, the Ancient One needed a replacement as the Sorcerer Supreme, so he accepted two students: Karl Mordo, an ambitious Transylvanian nobleman, and Stephen Strange, a wounded surgeon who wanted his hands back. Redemption was possible for them both, and they both had potential: maybe, Yao was ready to give the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme to one of them.

Yao is a wise and selfless man, who has lived more than he himself would have wanted. Brave and generous, he feels a deep empathy with mankind’s pain and suffering, and dedicated his long life to protecting our world from interdimensional threats. As the Ancient One, he is the greatest magician of his age, able to perform a nearly unlimited variety of spells: he can levitate, open portals to other locations or even dimensions, manipulate the elements, become intangible and invisible in his astral form, heal himself and others, summon creatures from other worlds, cast bolts of energy, and many other things; he ages at an incredibly slow rate, and many mystical artifacts increase his already remarkable magic powers. After abandoning his physical body, the Ancient One exists now as an incorporeal being, powerful enough to be considered a minor cosmic entity: he can now watch over reality from a privileged perspective.



  1. […] Yao (Ancient One) […]

  2. […] Yao (Ancient One) […]

  3. […] claim the realm as part of his domain he was challenged by Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme, the Ancient One, and he suffered his first defeat. Furthermore, the Ancient One spread his influence throughout […]

  4. […] by talented Mads Mikkelsen: he’ll be Kaecilius, an evil sorcerer planning to destroy the Ancient One to allow his mysterious masters from other dimensions to invade Earth. This is quite a major […]

  5. […] monk with knowledge of the occult), the firstborn males of the family were sent to serve the Ancient One in his palace in Kamar-Taj, Tibet. When he was only four years old, Wong was called to Kamar-Taj […]

  6. […] on the mountains. West arrived little after Strange had completed his training and left, but the Ancient One, who had taught the ex-surgeon the ways of the mystic arts, sensed Nicodemus’ good heart and […]

  7. […] Wresniwiro. Hamir first appears when Stephen Strange is introduced to Kamar-Taj to meet the Ancient One: seeing an old man with a white beard reading some book, Strange immediately mistakes Hamir for his […]

  8. […] kidnapped Clea to lure Strange in a trap. With such a powerful sorceress as Umar unleashed, the Ancient One suggested to his disciple to send his beloved to a pocket dimension to protect her, and both Strange […]

  9. […] of Sorcerer Supreme, while he assumed for himself the one of Ancient One, just like his master Yao had previously done. Krugarr stepped in to protect reality as his master had done for centuries, […]

  10. […] prayers to: Mister Jip, a supernatural and malevolent being who had been the first disciple of the Ancient One. Jip tricked the unbalanced priest, and presented himself as God, praising him for his work and […]

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