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In the movie Doctor Strange, Strange wanted to get accepted in the "dojo" of the Ancient One (not sure if it's really a dojo), but she refused, so it seemed like she didn't want to teach him because she didn't trust Strange, and Dr. Strange got kicked out. After he begged for hours in front of the closed door, he got accepted.

But in Endgame we learned that:

the Ancient One could see into the future and saw all the great possibilities with Strange. If I remember correctly, she even said that Dr. Strange will become one of the greatest sorcerers they ever had.

So why was the Ancient One hesitant to accept him in Doctor Strange?

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So why was the Ancient One hesitant to accept him in Dr. Strange?

She explains her reasoning immediately after Strange is thrown out, when speaking with Mordo.

AO: You think I was wrong to cast him out.
BM: Five hours later he's still on your doorstep. There's a strength to him.
AO: Stubbornness, arrogance, ambition. I've seen it all before.
BM: He reminds you of Kaecilius.
AO: I cannot lead another gifted student only to lead him to darkness.

So, she threw him out and presented hesitance to teaching him because he has a gigantic ego and thinks he knows it all, and because just recently she had lost another pupil to Dormammu (not to mention that he insulted her and was quite aggressive when they first met).

Lastly, even if the Ancient One was able to see some moments of the future that are certain to happen (i.e., Strange becoming the best Master of the Mystic Arts), it's still important/necessary to play out the events that lead up to it.

  • Great answer, thank you very much, have a nice day. – Pascal Goldbach May 9 at 14:37
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    The last sentence makes the most sense to me. +1 – Phil May 9 at 16:45
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    @Phil which is also a nice cop-out for the writers ;) – Frank Hopkins May 9 at 22:15
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    Indeed, even if the Ancient One was able to see large swathes of the future, it would simply make her "play out a script" - and you get into the "Strange had to hear that, be rejected, almost use up all his patience etc." territory. – Luaan May 10 at 6:33
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    Note that she couldn't see past her own death and only knew Strange 1. would be master 2. would do the thing with the thing. There could still be doubt about wherether he would be a "good guy" even if he became master. – Borgh May 10 at 9:57
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Her initial refusal to train Dr. Strange is entirely due to his attitude.

When he first meets the Ancient One, Strange sees the idea that magic might actually exist as laughable, and basically accuses her of being a woo-peddling con artist. He's not convinced magic is real until she pushes his astral form from his physical form and sends him on an acid trip through the multiverse, and by that point he's pissed her off so thoroughly that she then throws him out.

Strange may have had potential as a sorcerer, but when he first arrived at Kamar-Taj he simply didn't have the right attitude. As @Charles noted in his answer, the Ancient One was scared he might turn out like Kaecilius (i.e. evil). Only when he demonstrated humility and persistence by continuing to plead for a second chance for hours, instead of just giving up and going home, did she reconsider and accept him as a student.

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"Reluctant teacher / persistent student" is a standard trope where Asian martial arts are concerned, and this follows the flavor of that. Another example is The Ronin by William Dale Jennings, or more apocryphally The Karate Kid.

This is an integral part of the "hero's journey". This is where the hero overcomes enough arrogance to shift into a state of surrender, quiescence and inquiry -- to a state where learning becomes possible. This is vital, especially when the art is very difficult and takes a total life-energy commitment to master.

This also cements into the student (and the audience) the extraordinary worth of the training he/she is about to receive.

It also shatters expectations of the Western student-teacher dynamic, i.e. Good Will Hunting / Dead Poet's Society / Welcome Back, Kotter etc. where the brilliant teacher does most of the "heavy lifting" to inspire and draw out the potential in a reluctant student, pulling a Pygmalian,* salvaging an otherwise lost student. Here, the teacher couldn't care less about the student, and it's all on the student to show his worth and inspire and draw out the potential of the teacher.

So this would be nothing new to the Ancient One, even without the Time Stone to foresee it. But with the Time Stone; this was a no-risk method, since she foresaw that he would spend days on that doorway if he had to. So she used the "refuse, then accept" method to shift his attitude into a state fit for learning.


And by the way, Strange got off easy. Hours? Usually it's days or weeks.


* Pygmalian is a myth/trope where literally the Creator/Mentor molds an object (ivory statue? Scissors?) into a fully realized person, but figuratively molds a person (see the Pygmalion play, La Femme Nikita, etc.) -- driven by the mentor's force of will. This post is about the opposite, the student/protege's force of will.

  • One thing that really stresses me out when reading stuff is apostrophes that aren't followed up on :( – VLAZ May 12 at 11:45
  • @VLAZ sorry, that wasn't a footnote, that was a failed italic,since it's the name of a book... – Harper - Reinstate Monica May 12 at 12:38
  • @PeterTaylor It was an italics failure, but now that you mention it, a footnote could be useful here. – Harper - Reinstate Monica May 12 at 14:55
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Isn't it because she can see into the future that she knew she had to treat him like that for him to become a worthy student?

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