Kevin & King Arthur
Kevin Matchstick is presented as a person with fairly low self esteem at the beginning of Mage, but bares his hope on his chest by wearing a tee-shirt with the emblem of Captain Marvel, a comic book character. The young Arthur is similarly described: "He was a hero-worshiper" (White,14
). Arthur is affectionately called 'Wart" by his adoptive brother Kay and Arthur knows his place is "below" Kay's. Arthur is even careful not to touch Kay's property.
Arthur's understanding and acceptance of his comparitive lowliness is illustrated by T. H. White:
Kay insisted on carrying the goshawk and flying her, when they went hawking together. This he had a right to do, not only because he was older than the Wart, but also because he was Sir Ector's proper son. The Wart was not a proper son. He did not understand this, but it made him feel unhappy, because Kay seemed to regard it as making him inferior in some way.
Kevin also seems to think he has a lowly status in life. He feels "completely ineffectual"
(Wagner, 1:13). Even when he is shown that he isn't, he still denies his special abilities and purpose: he describes himself as an "active spectator"
Kevin's first meeting with Mirth is while walking down the street, and it seems accidental. Similarly, Arthur finds Merlin's house while lost in the forest. From that point on, in both stories, wizard and mage become tutor and teacher.
In one version of the legend of King Arthur, Arthur fights Lancelot upon a bridge. Arthur fights to show his power and to gain respect from his comrades. While fighting, Arthur's sword breaks upon Lancelot's armor, and falls into the lake. He learned a valuable lesson: that to use one's strength for an unworthy cause, and for one's own gain is not right.
Kevin learns a similar lesson while in jail (Chapter 5). He is trying to explain to his cell mates that he is a super-hero, and so allows one of the cell mates to strike him in the stomach. The blow hurts him as it would any normal man: he double over with the breath knocked out of him.
MIRTH: (to Kevin) I may have been the catalyst that initially triggered you powers, but I am not the active ingredient. Rather it is the struggle itself that fires your power. Remaining free to continue your quest would've served the struggle. Proving yourself to your cell-mates did not.