Sidekicks are often the unsung heroes of the stories we read, their deeds somewhat overshadowed by the actions of the main characters and the focus on them, which just as often makes us forget that the hero or heroine could never have achieved what they did without the help – and sometimes sacrifice – of their faithful sidekicks. So I will celebrate not one, but several of my favorites.
Sam Gamgee (The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien)
There was little doubt in my mind about the character that would be showcased first in this post: Samwise Gamgee is the one who stood at Frodo Baggins’ side all along their perilous journey to Mount Doom, often going without food to keep Frodo’s strength up (and we all know what food means to a Hobbit…), and it was Sam’s moral support that carried Frodo through the worst moments when he felt that his quest was impossible. Unlike many sidekicks, however, Sam received all the credit he deserved, not least by Frodo who called him friend of friends.
Jean Tannen (Gentlemen Bastards, Scott Lynch)
Although being a wallflower is not exactly Jean Tannen’s modus operandi, his personality appears less ebullient than that of his longtime friend and partner in crime Locke Lamora. The two seem perfectly matched, Jean being the voice of reason that tries to counterbalance the insanity of some of Locke’s plans, even though he’s certainly not a timid personality – just think about his weapons of choice, a pair if lethal hatchets he has named The Wicked Sisters. Still, I believe that without Jean Locke would have met some terrible fate long ago, and fortunately he knows and appreciates that.
Suzume Hollis (Generation V, M.L. Brennan)
More than a sidekick, Suzume is an ass-kicker, and more often than not the behind she needs to kick is that of her partner Fortitude Scott, a vampire in the making who does not enjoy the idea of being a blood-sucker from a renowned family. Suzume is a kitsune, or – in her own words – a fox who can shapeshift into a woman, and one of her joys in life consists in embarrassing Fortitude out of his despondency. Her mischievousness is nothing short of delightful, but it also serves as a cover for her friendship and sense of protectiveness toward Fort.
Mr.Kindly (The Nevernight Chronicle, Jay Kristoff)
This is one of the most mysterious and eerie characters I ever encountered, because it’s not a solid one, but rather a shadow taking the shape of a cat: Mia Corvere, the protagonist of Jay Kristoff’s series, meets Mr. Kindly on the day her family is destroyed and she finds herself running for her life. The cat-shaped shadow not only helps her survive but becomes a sort of familiar, drinking away her fears and turning her into a formidable adversary. What I most love about Mr. Kindly are the barbed quips it exchanges with Mia, and the way it acts as… well, not so much her conscience as a devil’s advocate in many circumstances.
Nymeria and Ghost (A Song of Ice and Fire, GRR Martin)
When the Stark children, at the beginning of the first novel, bring home the direwolf pups they found alongside their dead mother’s corpse, they establish a strong bond with these creatures that are bigger, stronger and more ferocious than ordinary wolves, and in time we learn of their extraordinary capabilities of melding with their humans and allowing them a… different perspective, so to speak. Up to the last book written (and also in the TV series which is drawing to a close) only two of them survive: Nymeria, Arya’s direwolf (although the two had to part company long ago) and Ghost, who is Jon Snow’s faithful companion, but all of them showed a ferocious determination to protect the human they were linked with.
Hodor (A Song of Ice and Fire, GRR Martin)
This would not be a true sidekick celebration without mentioning Hodor, the feeble-minded giant who acts as Bran Stark’s guardian and protector (and carrier, since the boy is paralyzed). Unable to speak, he only utters the word “Hodor” in a variety of intonations, and only in Season 6 of the TV series we learn the origin of the word that became the man’s name: it’s one of the most terrible and poignant scenes I have ever witnessed, and it shed a heartbreaking light on this character.
Ka-Poel (Powder Mage, Brian McClellan)
Young, diminutive and mute, the silent companion of powder mage Taniel might easily be overlooked, but she’s a powerful wielder of magic – and of a kind that I find disturbing, since it often involves the creation of voodoo-like dolls through which Ka-Poel can work her enchantments on the chosen victim. Despite her lack of voice, she always comes across as a though character, one whose loyalty and strength are never in doubt, and one I always liked to read about, even more than I did with Taniel.