Sidekicks & Sundry: Memorable Aides-de-Camp in Fantasy Literature
Fantasy literature, with its entrancing realms and bewitching narratives, has forever been the refuge for those who crave a bit of magical escapism.
But let’s take a moment to tip our proverbial hats to the unsung heroes of these tales—the trusty sidekicks.
They may not always bask in the limelight, but we’d be hard-pressed to imagine our heroes traversing treacherous terrains or vanquishing dastardly villains without them.
Samwise Gamgee (The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien)
We’d be as forgetful as a goldfish to not mention our dear old Sam. This hobbit doesn’t just carry Frodo’s luggage, but on occasion, Frodo himself.
Who needs a GPS when you’ve got Samwise?
Armed with his unyielding loyalty, pot of potatoes (boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew), and the odd heroic monologue, Samwise truly encapsulates the spirit of a fantasy sidekick.
Nighteyes (Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb)
Who wouldn’t want a wolf as a sidekick? Nighteyes, with his ancient wisdom and candid observations, steals the show in Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy.
While Fitz might be the royal bastard with assassin skills, it’s Nighteyes who provides the emotional support, humour, and even philosophy.
Fancy a good telepathic chat? Look no further.
Jean Tannen (Gentleman Bastard Sequence by Scott Lynch)
Every con artist needs a reliable partner, and Jean Tannen fits the bill perfectly for Locke Lamora.
Jean isn’t just your token big guy with an axe but a scholar, strategist, and a dab hand at intricate swearing.
He’s the meticulous planner to Locke’s hasty schemes.
His loyalty is as unwavering as his love for fine brandy.
Without Jean, Locke would be as lost as a pirate in a desert.
Bitterblue (Graceling Realm Series by Kristin Cashore)
Introduced as a minor character in ‘Graceling,’ Bitterblue blooms into a steadfast sidekick in ‘Fire’ before seizing the main stage in her titular book.
She might be a queen, but her relentless quest for truth and justice, combined with her pragmatic approach, make her a superb sidekick.
Also, she manages to retain her royal dignity while dealing with mystical nonsense, which is quite a feat, isn’t it?
Tia (Aru Shah Series by Roshani Chokshi)
Tia, the pigeon who’s really a vahana (vehicle of a deity), adds a dash of plucky charm and sass to the Aru Shah Series.
Sure, Aru Shah’s reincarnation as a Pandava is pretty cool, but who can overlook a pigeon who can transmogrify into a flashy car and dispense sage advice, all while looking impeccably stylish?
Asha (The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon)
An epic fantasy by Samantha Shannon, ‘The Priory of the Orange Tree’ introduces us to Asha, a dragon slayer of repute and a steadfast ally.
Asha provides an invigorating contrast to the courtly intrigues with her bluntness, courage, and a healthy dose of dragon-related badassery.
Wayne (Mistborn Series: Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson)
Wayne, an expert shapeshifter and quick-witted con artist, adds a dash of levity to the intense world of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series.
Armed with an impressive array of accents, a love for hats, and a bizarre sense of humour, Wayne serves as the perfect foil to the more serious Waxillium.
They’re the dynamic duo of the rough-and-tumble world of the Roughs.
Loial (The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan)
Loial, the Ogier scholar from Robert Jordan’s sprawling ‘Wheel of Time’ series, is as endearing as sidekicks come.
This giant, book-loving, somewhat naïve character offers a softer and often humorous contrast to the tumultuous world around him.
Despite his peaceful nature, Loial is stalwart in his loyalty, proving time and again that there’s more to this gentle giant than meets the eye.
Gurton (The Axe and the Throne by M. D. Ireman)
‘Gruff yet tender-hearted’ could be the motto of Gurton, the loyal sidekick from M. D. Ireman’s ‘The Axe and the Throne.’
With his masterful skills in tracking and survival, Gurton is more than just a supporting player.
His unyielding loyalty and unexpected depths keep the readers engaged and rooting for him.
Sophronia (The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin)
Sophronia, a godling in a child’s form in N.K. Jemisin’s ‘The Inheritance Trilogy’ provides comic relief, poignant moments, and powerful insight.
While she might appear as a playful child, her wisdom and ability to see through deception add layers to her character, making her an unforgettable sidekick.
Syl (The Legacy Chronicle by T.J. Garrett)
The Legacy Chronicle gives us Syl, an impish sprite who accompanies the main character, Alex.
Witty, fun-loving, and full of surprises, Syl is the perfect counterpoint to the series’ darker elements.
We’ve heard of a light at the end of the tunnel, but a light leading you through a magical world? Now that’s special!
Finn (The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung)
In Michael McClung’s Amra Thetys series, Finn is the steadfast companion of the titular thief, Amra.
A wizard with a mysterious past, Finn brings a balanced mix of wisdom and levity to the adventure-filled narrative.
His faithfulness to Amra, despite her criminal lifestyle, adds a touching depth to his character.
Minalan’s Familiars (Spellmonger Series by Terry Mancour)
The Spellmonger series introduces us to an unconventional sort of sidekick—a group of magical familiars who assist Minalan the Spellmonger.
These familiars, including a feisty fay, a resourceful raven, and a motherly hawk, each contribute their unique magic and perspective, making Minalan’s adventures a magical delight.
Kestrel (Kings or Pawns by J.J. Sherwood)
Kestrel, a cheeky yet highly skilled thief from the Steps of Power series, serves as an engaging counterpoint to the seriousness of the royal intrigue surrounding him.
His unorthodox methods and quick wit bring a refreshing touch of humour to the narrative, making him a memorable sidekick in this epic tale.
Snickers (Legends of Dimmingwood series by C. Greenwood)
In C. Greenwood’s ‘Legends of Dimmingwood’ series, Snickers might be a squirrel, but he’s a loyal friend and companion to the series’ protagonist, Ilan.
Don’t underestimate this furry little chap—his keen senses and quick reactions often help Ilan out of sticky situations.
Just goes to show, you don’t need to be big to make a big impact.
Bayaz (The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie)
Bayaz, the First of the Magi in Joe Abercrombie’s ‘The First Law’ Trilogy, may seem like a typical wise old wizard at first glance.
However, his mysterious past, hidden motives, and a decidedly manipulative streak add layers of complexity to his character.
He serves as a guiding light and occasional puppet master to the trilogy’s protagonists, ensuring that the narrative is anything but dull.
Falcio’s Greatcoats (The Greatcoats series by Sebastien de Castell)
Falcio’s companions, Kest and Brasti, in Sebastien de Castell’s ‘The Greatcoats’ series, form a trio that is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
They provide much-needed camaraderie, banter, and support for their leader, Falcio, making their adventures a delightful ride.
Their unwavering loyalty to each other and their shared cause makes them more than sidekicks—they are brothers in arms.
Kip’s Squad (Lightbringer Series by Brent Weeks)
In Brent Weeks’ ‘Lightbringer’ series, Kip’s squad of talented misfits serves as an engaging ensemble of sidekicks.
From the wise-cracking Gunner to the brave and resolute Teia, each member brings unique strengths to the table.
The dynamics within this diverse group are humorous, heartwarming, and at times, heart-wrenching, making them an unforgettable part of Kip’s journey.
Bronn (A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin)
Let’s turn to George R. R. Martin’s sprawling saga, ‘A Song of Ice and Fire.’
Bronn, the sellsword who becomes an unlikely sidekick to Tyrion Lannister, is a fan favourite.
His pragmatism, dry humour, and surprising loyalty to Tyrion provide a refreshing contrast to the intrigue-laden world of Westeros.
And who can forget his notable mantra, “I’ll stand for the dwarf?”
Iorek Byrnison (His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman)
In Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’, Lyra’s journey wouldn’t be quite the same without the mighty Iorek Byrnison.
The Panserbjørne (armoured bear) adds muscle and an unusual wisdom to Lyra’s quest.
Also, he’s a giant talking bear who can make and mend armour, so he’s ticking quite a few boxes on the cool sidekick checklist.
Tasslehoff Burrfoot (Dragonlance Series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman)
The Dragonlance series introduces us to Tasslehoff Burrfoot, a kender (a race akin to hobbits) whose curiosity and kleptomania often lead to humorous and unexpected situations.
Tasslehoff’s sense of adventure and knack for getting out of sticky situations make him a sidekick to remember.
He’s the kind of fellow who’d ‘borrow’ your keys, wallet, and possibly your socks, but you’d still want him around for his unwavering optimism and courage.
Calcifer (Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones)
In Diana Wynne Jones’ ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’, the fire demon Calcifer plays a key role as a sidekick.
Calcifer powers the titular castle and aids the young protagonist, Sophie, in her quest to break her curse.
With his sarcastic humour and hints of a deeper, more complex past, Calcifer lights up the narrative—and not just because he’s a literal flame.
Jimmy the Hand (The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist)
From Raymond E. Feist’s ‘Riftwar Saga’, we have the charming and resourceful Jimmy the Hand.
This master thief may start as a minor character, but his courage, quick-thinking, and knack for getting in and out of trouble make him an unforgettable sidekick.
Whether he’s navigating the dangerous alleys of Krondor or the intrigues of court, Jimmy proves time and again that a clever mind can be as potent as any sword.
The Luggage (Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett)
Finally, where would a list of sidekicks be without The Luggage from Terry Pratchett’s brilliant Discworld series?
This sentient, multi-legged travel case made of Sapient Pearwood has been a loyal and, shall we say, ‘forceful’ companion to Rincewind the inept wizard.
Unflinchingly loyal, literally eating up foes, and offering an infinite amount of storage, The Luggage redefines the term ‘travel buddy.’
Each of these sidekicks, in their unique ways, enhances the epic narratives they are part of, providing support, camaraderie, humour, and occasionally, a reality check for our heroes. They may not be the ones wearing the crown or sitting on the throne, but their role in shaping the story is just as important, if not more so.
Who are your favourites? Share yours in the comments.