- "We never lose our demons, Mordo. We only learn to live above them."
- ―Ancient One to Karl Mordo
The Ancient One was the Sorcerer Supreme as well as the leader of the Masters of the Mystic Arts. For centuries, the Ancient One protected Earth from mystical threats, and dedicated herself to helping others in need by educating them in the magical arts to give them new hope. However, later on, she was challenged by a former student, Kaecilius, who had become corrupted by the Dark Dimension and sought to bring Dormammu to Earth. In the midst of her war against Kaecilius and his Zealots, the Ancient One encountered Doctor Strange and, despite her initial reluctance, was persuaded to accept him as her student by Karl Mordo. During one final battle, the Ancient One was fatally wounded and despite the best efforts of Doctor Strange and Christine Palmer, she accepted her fate and died, but not before giving Doctor Strange the advice he needed to defeat Dormammu as well as to find his new purpose in life as a master.
- "No one knows the age of the Sorcerer Supreme. Only that she is Celtic and never talks about her past."
- ―Karl Mordo
The Ancient One was the latest in a long line of Sorcerers Supreme who had defended Earth from mystical threats for millenniums. According to Karl Mordo, no one knew her exact age, and she never spoke of her own past, though it was still revealed that she was of Celtic descent. Apart from her responsibilities as the mystical defender of Earth, the Ancient One was also dedicated to helping others in need, especially those who were paralyzed, heartbroken from loss of loved ones, or suffering from ailments believed to be incurable.
Whether by coincidence, by luck, or by their own intentions, if they managed to reach Kamar-Taj, she would tutor them in the arts of sorcery, which in turn could either cure them of their supposedly incurable ailments, or enable them to find inner peace as well as to develop a better understanding of the natural laws. Examples of such individuals would be Jonathan Pangborn, who was cured of his paralysis through magic, and Karl Mordo, who claimed that the Ancient One gave him the power to defeat his demons and to live within the natural law.
Fighting Dragon Raiders
The Ancient One was walking at the training ground of Kamar-Taj. Observing the novices who came to this place to seek enlightening. The Sorcerer Supreme helps them understand and guides them to protect something greater while keeping them at the side of the light. A group of Chinese bandits are facing a Master of the Mystic Arts Karl Mordo and the Ancient One then fires a dangerously looking Arrow at the Ancient one.
Meanwhile, with the inhabitants killed, a old man's house is searched by the Dragon Raiders bandits. They find the Arrow they were looking for and put it to the test at a Chinese village in Guizhou. They approach a group of villagers and just by holding the Arrow, the leader of the bandits is able to blow up a few houses of the villagers. With this demonstration, the bandits demand payments and the allegiances of the villagers.
To maintain her own balance, the Ancient One performs ceremonial steps to achieve harmony. By doing so, she is able to get some peace until she is disturbed by Mordo who has discovered that the Bow and Arrow of Apollon has fallen in the hands of the Dragon Raiders. These relics could be devastating in the hands of someone who doesn't know how to wield it. Mordo and the Ancient One approach Jiãó ào Zhànshì, the leader of the Dragon Raiders, and try to make him understand his limitation in its practice of the Bow. However, Jiãó shoots the Arrow of Apollon directly at the Sorcerer Supreme. But with her knowledge in the Arts of the Mystic she is able to block and divert the arrow upwards. Although taken aback that the Arrow was blocked, the bandits start to attack. Only to find out that they are no match against a Master and Sorcerer Supreme of the Mystic Arts.
Back at Kamar-Taj, the Bow and Arrow of Apollon are both safely stored away and guarded under the protection by the Ancient One.
- "Master Kaecilius, that ritual will bring you only sorrow."
- ―Ancient One to Kaecilius
However, the Ancient One's healing methods were not always effective: Kaecilius, one of her most gifted students in the mystic arts, did not manage to recover from his emotional wounds, and later on he discovered the secret of her drawing power from the Dark Dimension to preserve her immortality.
Given how the Ancient One had forbidden others from doing the exact same thing, Kaecilius viewed this hypocrisy as an act of ultimate betrayal and, besides losing all faith in her, decided to gather his own group of followers to carry out his own nefarious plans for the entire world. Stealing a forbidden spell from the Book of Cagliostro, he fled with his Zealots to London, where they ran down the streets hoping to get away from the Sorcerer Supreme. However, the Ancient One managed to drag Kaecilius and his Zealots into the Mirror Dimension, and expertly fought them by channeling magic through her Tao Mandalas. Through her Tao Mandalas and her ability to manipulate reality, she successfully killed many of the Zealots, but Kaecilius and a few others managed to escape.
Meeting The Skeptic
Introducing the Mystic Arts
- "You're a man looking at the world through a keyhole. You spent your whole life trying to widen that keyhole. To see more, to know more; and now, on hearing that it can be widened in ways you can't imagine... you reject the possibility."
- ―Ancient One to Doctor Strange
One day Karl Mordo brought Doctor Stephen Strange to the Ancient One at Kamar-Taj as the latter hoped she could mend his damaged hands, with Strange at first mistaking Hamir for the Ancient One due to his preconceived ideas. As she poured him a cup of tea, the Ancient One told Strange to expand his mind but Strange remained stubbornly skeptical.
When Strange accused the Ancient One of being a liar, she pushed his Astral Form out of his body and then returned it. While Strange was dazed and confused from the brief but startling experience, the Ancient then sent his consciousness through several dimensions and realities, showing him terrifying images including sights of the Dark Dimension. She then sarcastically asked if he could find that in a gift shop. Strange begged her to teach him but she refused as his arrogance and headstrong attitude reminded her of Kaecilius. Mordo convinced her that Strange could be of use to them in fighting Kaecilius and she eventually let him study magic.
Training Doctor Strange
- "The language of the mystic arts is as old as civilization. The sorcerers of antiquity called the use of this language spells. But if that word offends your modern sensibilities you can call it a program, the source code that shapes reality. We harness energy drawn from other dimensions of the Multiverse to cast spells to conjure shields and weapons to make magic!"
- ―Ancient One to Doctor Strange
The Ancient One showed Doctor Strange how spells work, using her Sling Ring to create images and shields from thin air made of pure energy. When Strange questioned how he could possibly do the things she could do, she responded by questioning how he had become a successful doctor, when Strange explained it had taken years of practice to reach an advanced level the Ancient One told him it was the exact same concept.
Having witnessed his difficulty in using magic, she promptly abandoned him on the top Mount Everest as an encouragement for him to finally work out how to wield his Sling Ring. Seeing this test, Karl Mordo declared "not again" suggesting that she had used this method of 'encouragement' before to varying success. Strange succeeded in returning Kamar-Taj again only to rapidly progress in magic so much that he found it difficult to work in the conditions offered. To help, the Ancient One offered him the Mirror Dimension where he could train without affecting the Physical World.
- "Measure your next words very carefully, Doctor."
"Because you might not like them?"
"Because you may not know of what you speak."
- ―Ancient One and Doctor Strange
Once Doctor Strange managed to stop the Zealots from destroying the New York Sanctum, the Ancient One offered him the title of 'Master' and a position as Protector of the New York Sanctum, as Daniel Drumm had been killed by Kaecilius. Strange refused and alluded to her drawing power from the Dark Dimension, which she did not deny, in order to fuel her immortality. She warned him to choose his next words carefully before leaving.
During the second attack on the Sanctum, the Ancient One saved Strange and Karl Mordo from the Zealots and fought them herself. She also confirmed that she did draw her power from the Dark Dimension when the symbol appeared on her forehead. During the fight she used her Tao Mandalas to duel and managed to briefly dominate the Zealots, easily dodging an attack from one of the Zealots and knocking him down swiftly and quickly engaging another Zealot and Kaecillus simultaneously before separating them by knocking down the Zealot and then dueled with and blasted Kaecillus away by countering his attempts to warp space using her own powers. However, as she was winning against the two Zealots, Kaecillus caught her off guard and fatally stabbed both her and the Zealot she was fighting against with his Space Shard and Kaecillus then threw her hundreds of stories back to the Physical World ground below.
- "We don't get to choose our time. Death is what gives life meaning. To know your days are numbered and your time is short. You'd think after all this time I'd be ready. But look at me. Stretching one moment out into a thousand... just so that I can watch the snow."
- ―Ancient One to Doctor Strange
As Doctor Strange rushed her to Metro-General Hospital, where he and Christine Palmer operated on her, the Ancient One left her physical form and went out onto a balcony, prompting Doctor Strange's astral form to follow. Once outside, she confessed to Strange that she had always known the exact moment of her death, and though she had only been able to foresee the possibilities of his future, she did know what kept him from true greatness: his inability to learn that the world did not revolve solely around him.
The Ancient One went on to explain that Strange, like Jonathan Pangborn, also had a choice through his newly-acquired magical powers - he could have his hands restored to their former healthy state and regain his old life, or he could serve something greater than himself. She also confessed that she had always hated drawing power from the Dark Dimension, but she still did so to ensure that she was able to protect the world, and that he too would have to bend the rules for the greater good.
Despite agreeing with Strange's assessment that Karl Mordo would fail to understand her perspective, the Ancient One still told him that he needed Mordo's rule-abiding nature, just as Mordo needed his flexibility, for it was only through their cooperation could Dormammu be stopped. When Strange argued that he was not ready, she told him that no one was ever ready, and took his hand in hers.
With a final piece of advice to him regarding treasuring his time, as well as acknowledging her own fallibility, despite the centuries she had lived, she was also not ready for death, and was actually using magic through her astral form to manipulate time so she could watch the snowfall one last time. The Ancient One released Strange's hand and then vanished from the Astral Plane, signifying her death despite Christine Palmer and Nicodemus West's best efforts to save her.
- "I know that she is steadfast, but unpredictable; merciless, yet kind."
- ―Karl Mordo
According to Karl Mordo, the Ancient One is "steadfast, but unpredictable; merciless, yet kind." This is shown when she was willing to kill multiple Zealots in combat and initially refuse to help Stephen Strange when he first came to Kamar-Taj due to his arrogance, though she did so for the sake of protecting the world from the rogue sorcerers and to ensure that other sorcerers did not become like Kaecilius and his followers.
While she enforced rules on the Masters of the Mystic Arts against breaking the laws of nature or using their power for god-like feats, such as manipulating time or becoming immune to death, she was willing to break her own rules to continue to personally ensure that they were followed and that the world was safe, though she never wanted to do so. This led her to draw power from the Dark Dimension to become immortal, an act which she herself forbade. Since Doctor Strange was similar to her in her breaking the laws of nature to save the world, she believed that he and Mordo, the latter of which was completely devoted to following her rules, would need to balance each other out in order for them to protect the world when she died. Stemming from her flexible moral principles, she allowed Doctor Strange to break several rules when they inhibited his ability to learn such as allowing him to create gateways to borrow books Wong denied him Doctor Strange access to and even showed him the Mirror Dimension to even further hasten his learning and allow him to practice dangerous spells without fear of harming anyone.
Whenever she drew power from the Dark Dimension, especially to increase her powers in the Mirror Dimension, she wore a hood over her head to conceal the mark on her forehead that signifies her connection to the Dark Dimension, showing that she was still ashamed of her actions. In her shame, however, she would maintain a proud stance, such as calmly threatening Strange when he revealed that she drew power from the Dark Dimension in front of Mordo. Despite this pride, she was willing to rise above it to save Mordo and Strange from the Zealots in the Mirror Dimension, revealing her connection to the Dark Dimension in the process. Even when doing so cost the Ancient One her life, she humbly accepted her death, though she briefly astral projected to watch the snow with Strange to gain more time before her passing.
Powers and Abilities
- "We harness energy and shape reality."
- ―Ancient One to Doctor Strange
Master Sorceress: As the Sorcerer Supreme, and the leader and the most powerful member of the Masters of the Mystic Arts, the Ancient One was a tremendously powerful and skilled master sorceress, possessing immense magical power and absolute mastery and knowledge of the mystic arts, which she used to defend her native reality from threats from other dimensions of the Multiverse, having successfully prevented countless threats during her long life. The Ancient One's immense power and mastery of the Mystic Arts was shown to be very well known throughout the Multiverse, such that her presence on Earth was sufficient to keep many threats from the other dimensions from invading until she died and Earth was left vulnerable and even Kaecillus, along with the other Zealots, did not dare fight the Ancient One head on and fled from her when she discovered their theft of the Book of Cagliostro until he had gained the powers of the Dark Dimension. Her unrivalled skills and understanding on magic allowed her to single-handedly perform highly complex rituals and spells that no mere Masters of the Mystic Arts could do alone that were written on her personal collection of grimoires and she displayed the knowledge and ability to perform unique but powerful magical feats that few sorcerers could do. With the help of numerous mystical artifacts and relics, in addition to her astral powers, the Ancient One is able to gain access to a multitude of mystical powers.
- Eldritch Magic Manipulation: The Ancient One is able to create, shape and manipulate Eldritch Magic. She displays the ability to conjure war fans made out of fiery energy and was also able to create a shield made of Eldritch Magic powerful enough to block an arrow from the Bow of Apollon.
- Time Manipulation: As all Sorcerer Supreme are the only ones among the Masters of the Mystic Arts who have free access to the Eye of Agamotto and Book of Cagliostro, the Ancient One presumably has the knowledge and ability needed to use the artifact's powers over time, although she has never been seen or known to use them. She was known to be able to use the Eye to gain a limited power to peer through time, which granted her a degree of awareness of possible futures. She had foreseen that she would one day die despite being immortal, but could not see the circumstances of her death until it actually occurred. While she was unable to see the exact future of Doctor Strange due to his vastly flexible personality, imagination and intellect, she could still predict possible paths he would take. She also displayed the power to manipulate time to an extent even without using the Eye of Agamotto, as she was able to manipulate time to cause snow to fall around the hospital via her astral form while dying so she can watch snowfall for one last time.
- Teleportation: Using a Sling Ring, the Ancient One is able to open a fiery portal to another location, gaining the ability to move tremendous distances instantaneously.
- Inter-Dimensional Travel: Using the same Sling Ring, the Ancient One can travel between different dimensions and universes, crossing over different planes of existence or traveling across various forms of reality. She is also capable of using herself as a spiritual anchor to safely send others to other dimensions and then return them to the physical world, as she was able to forcibly send Strange's consciousness flying across multiple dimensions by touching his head and then return him back to Earth. She could access the Mirror Dimension even without a Sling Ring, as she brought Strange to the Mirror Dimension and send both herself and the Zealots to the Mirror Dimension to begin their first fight all without using a Sling Ring.
- Astral Projection: The Ancient One is capable of separating her astral form from her body, gaining access to the Astral Dimension. She used her astral form to speak to Doctor Strange's own astral form before her clinical death. In addition to simply astral projecting herself, the Ancient One can also project and return the astral form of others to their bodies, as she was able to forcibly push Strange's soul into the Astral Dimension and return him back to prove a point by palming his body.
- Dark Dimension Magic Manipulation: Having drawn power from the Dark Dimension, the Ancient One gains considerably greater power while in the Mirror Dimension, enabling her to take down several Kaecilius's zealots single-handedly and even dominate the enhanced Zealots, which included Kaecillus, only being prevented from triumphing due to Kaecillus catching her off guard to kill her. Unlike the Zealots, however, she had far greater experience and understanding over this forbidden magic as well as considerably greater mastery as not only was she able to perform the ritual needed to establish her connection alone, whereas even the brilliant Kaecillus was unable to do so without aid from 3 other Zealots, but, through unknown means, she was even able to successfully siphon power from the Dark Dimension for centuries without being influenced by Dormammu, thus ensuring that Dormammu could not turn her into a Mindless One or corrupt her. Evidence of her superior knowledge and mastery over the magical power she gained from being connected to the Dark Dimension was that the Ancient One could apparently activate and deactivate the magic at whim, as she was able to erase the Dark Dimension mark on her forehead when interacting with others and only ever showed the signs of being connected to the Dark Dimension when she tapped into the magic to enhance her powers to fight the Zealots.
- Immortality: By drawing power from the Dark Dimension, the Ancient One was able to prolong her lifespan beyond regular humans, although she needs to constantly tap into the power of the Dark Dimension to keep fueling her long life and as this form of immortality only suppresses the aging process, she can still be harmed and even killed if fatally wounded. Her immortality also appeared to superhumanly augmented her physical vitality and resilience, enough that she was not killed instantly by falling from a tremendous height after being stabbed through the torso by Kaecilius and she lasted several minutes afterward to be brought into an operating table and she even could still astral project and use magic to manipulate time to watch the snow fall outside before her clinical death. She also was unfazed by the freezing temperatures of Mount Everest. The Ancient One is strong enough to resist the strength of Eldritch Whips and even turn the whip's great force back on the user to effortlessly by the Zealots that entangled her ankles with the whip, while she then proceeded to effortlessly pull those who were holding the other end of it to the ground with a tug of her leg.
- Reality Warping: The Ancient One's connection to the Dark Dimension allowed her to warp space in the Mirror Dimension. It is unknown if she could achieve this feat on Earth like Kaecillus could but it is likely that she can due to her being still more powerful than him, although she never did it as it could harm the physical reality. Her momentum was also enhanced to the point that she can easily send someone flying with her strikes. The Ancient One also displayed being able to counter a shockwave from Kaecillus's warping of reality and even repel Kaecillus also by slamming her hand to the ground and summoning a shockwave of her own.
- Genius-Level Intellect: Befitting a 700 years old Sorcerer Supreme, the Ancient One was exceptionally wise and intelligent, having obtained the wisdom of the ages during her long life. She is shown to hold an incredible level of emotional intelligence and wisdom, able to easily correctly predict any emotional trait that held a student of hers from mastering the Mystic Arts and differentiate them from physical problems as well as quickly see the true emotion behind a person's words, as she quickly saw and pointed out that it was not Strange's hands that kept him from doing any magic but rather it was because he lacked the confidence needed and when Strange said that he did not want to kill because he had swore not to harm people, the Ancient One easily saw through the fact that Strange said that it is because he still retains his ego to the point that he believed he can actually control death itself. Before her death, her wisdom allowed her to impart the knowledge that Strange's fear is exactly what kept him from greatness, as well as learning the simplest and most important lesson of all; it's not about him. She could also be highly deceptive, effectively fooling all the other Masters of the Mystic Arts on the source of her Immortality, with Kaecillus only seeing through the deception upon learning of the ritual that allowed to tap into the power of the Dark Dimension.
- Master Martial Artist: As the Sorcerer Supreme and thus the most skilled fighter among the Masters of the Mystic Arts of her time, the Ancient One was an exceptional martial artist, in both armed and hand-to hand combat, having had centuries worth of intensive combat training and fighting experience and knowledge. Her skills allowed her to easily defeat many Dragon Raiders as well as fight and overpower and kill many Zealot sorcerers without much effort in her first fight with them. She also proved capable of dominating the enhanced Zealots in her final fight with them, easily beating them one on one and her notably being able to easily dodge a charge from Tall Zealot and swiftly knock him down and then battle against both the Brunette Zealot and Kaecilius and separate them as well as pressure Kaecillus in their brief duel. She was only defeated because Kaecillus surprised her by stabbing both her and Tall Zealot. She is particularly proficient in Tessenjutsu, with her fighting style being mostly based by her creating folding fans out of magic and displaying the ability to use them masterfully as effective melee weapons, using them to first easily block attacks before quickly countering and unleashing her own barrage of well-coordinated and rapid offensive moves and even accurately throw them around as improvised boomerangs, as well as sometimes seamlessly combining hand-to-hand strikes with her fan-fighting skills with great efficiency.
- Expert Leader: The Ancient One was also a highly experienced and capable leader, having had centuries worth of experience in leadership. She led the Masters of the Mystic Arts effectively ever since she became the Sorcerer Supreme and was able to hide it's existence from the world and inspire great loyalty from her subjects, having rarely having to deal with rebels from her organization, although she was not flawless as Kaecillus eventually lost faith after years of trusting the Ancient One and some other sorcerers would also be convinced by Kaecillus to fight against the Ancient One.
- Multilingualism: The Ancient One could fluently speak English and Chinese, in addition to having enough proficiency in Sanskrit that she is known to be able to understand all of the advanced books on the Kamar-Taj's library such as the Book of Cagliostro.
- Sling Ring: A mystical object which enables the wearer to open a fiery portal to another location.
- Kamar-Taj: To be added
- New York Sanctum: To be added
- London Sanctum: To be added
- Hong Kong Sanctum: To be added
- In the comics, the Ancient One was an ancient Tibetan magician named Yao, and the previous holder of the title of Sorcerer Supreme. He transcended into the spiritual plane after his death, becoming a minor cosmic entity.
- The mark that forms on the Ancient One's forehead and her ageless life are both references to the comics, as both the Ancient One and Doctor Strange passed a test of the entity Death, earning them an ageless life, and an ankh-shaped mark on their foreheads only appeared when their lives were in dire jeopardy.
- According to Mordo, the Ancient One is Celtic, hailing from Ireland.
Behind the Scenes
- Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has stated that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe there have been several individuals who have held the title of The Ancient One throughout the ages: "As we were developing this film we looked at The Ancient One as a mantle more than a specific person. The sorcerers have been around for millennia, protecting us from things we didn’t know about until this story. There have been multiple [Ancient Ones], even if this one has been around for five hundred years, there were others. This is a mantle, and therefore felt we had leeway to cast in interesting ways."
- The casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One has been the subject of much controversy, with many accusing it of whitewashing. A variety of opinions on this issue have been stated by crew members and actors of the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- Screenwriter C. Robert Cargill explained that the motivation behind the casting was that the character in the comics is considered a racist caricature originating from Tibet, as well as the history of political unrest between Tibet and China: "The Ancient One was a racist stereotype who comes from a region of the world that is in a very weird political place. He originates from Tibet. So if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people who think that that’s bullshit and risk the Chinese government going, ‘Hey, you know one of the biggest film-watching countries in the world? We’re not going to show your movie because you decided to get political.’ If we decide to go the other way and cater to China in particular and have him be in Tibet… If you think it’s a good idea to cast a Chinese actress as a Tibetan character, you are out of your damn fool mind and have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about."
- Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige also stated that the character's race and gender were changed to avoid stereotyping: "The casting of The Ancient One was a major topic of conversation in the development and the creative process of the story. We didn’t want to play into any of the stereotypes found in the comic books, some of which go back as far as 50 years or more. We felt the idea of gender swapping the role of The Ancient One was exciting. It opened up possibilities, it was a fresh way into this old and very typical storyline. Why not make the wisest bestower of knowledge in the universe to our heroes in the particular film a woman instead of a man?".
- Benedict Wong praised the film for its diversity: "I'm really pleased with this whole production. This production really is about championing diversity. We have two strong female leads, Mads, Chiwetel, posh Benedict and not-so-posh Benedict. It has all the colors."
- Lewis Tan, who portrayed Zhou Cheng in Iron Fist, was more critical of the casting: "I’m not the biggest fan of that casting choice. I can see why they wanted to switch it up. Producers, studios, directors, writers — there’s a lot of voices. I think that an Asian woman would’ve been fantastic cast in that. They said she would be too much of a "Dragon Lady" or too stereotypical, but I disagree."
- Swinton discussed the issue in a lengthy series of emails with Margaret Cho.
- Morgan Freeman, Bill Nighy and Ken Watanabe were originally considered for the role.
- The Ancient One in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the second live-action incarnation of the character, following an incarnation portrayed by Michael Ansara.
- Julia Schunevitsch was a stunt double for Tilda Swinton in the role of the Ancient One.
- Annarie Boor was a stand-in for Tilda Swinton in the role of the Ancient One.
- ↑ 'Avengers 4' to Bring Back ANOTHER Deceased Marvel Character
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Doctor Strange
- ↑ Doctor Strange Prelude
- ↑ Expect “Mind-Bending Weirdness” From DOCTOR STRANGE, Says Kevin Feige
- ↑ EXCLUSIVE! DR. STRANGE WRITER “C. ROBERT CARGILL" - Double Toasted Interview
- ↑ Kevin Feige On ‘Captain America: Civil War’ And All Things Marvel – Deadline Q&A
- ↑ Doctor Strange: Benedict Wong on Updating the Character
- ↑ 'Iron Fist' Star Lewis Tan Reacts to Marvel Whitewashing
- ↑ Tilda Swinton Sent Us Her Email Exchange with Margaret Cho About Doctor Strange, Diversity, and Whitewashing
- ↑ Morgan Freeman Among Those Eyed For 'The Ancient One' Role In DOCTOR STRANGE