Aside from, of course. the main character, touched on in the original post, the loyal sidekick is perhaps the most important in my eyes. These characters are always my favorites--Samwise Gamgee, Walter Foley, R2D2 (kinda a stretch), etc--and being such I hope to write them well and enjoy when they are written well.
I know the Lord of the Rings story pretty well, and Tolkien wrote this character very good in my opinion, so let's go with Samwise Gamgee, gardener to the main character Frodo Baggins.
When he is first introduced into the story Sam is portrayed as a hilarious fat hobbit (as Gollum notices ;) ) without a care in the world. But it is made very clear that no matter what dangers lie ahead Sam will never leave Frodo and that he'd be there when all of Middle-Earth crashed around them.
"I made a promise Mr. Frodo. 'Don't you leave him Samwise Gamgee' and I don't mean to!"
Man, I love these kind of characters. This little gardener has no clue what is coming ahead. He can't even comprehend the little that Fordo knows, and yet he very clearly is committing to stay at his side--his servant and friend.
These characters are incredibly loyal.
This trait is shown pretty well in the movies when Fordo sends Sam away. Sam retreats for a bit but then chases after his master upon finding that he is in danger.
And that brings us to another important point.
Loyal Sidekicks are filled with courage when their friend comes into danger.
So you have a hobbit gardener. He's good for what? Trimming the bushes? But when a nazgul or an orc messes with his Master Frodo you'd better watch out--this fat hobbit is about to get feisty.
Good friend characters do that. They risk their lives blindly for the sake of their comrade.
Sam demonstrates this a number of times. Especially in ROTK when Frodo is taken by Shelob and then later the orcs of the Cirith Ungul. He's filled with courageous wrath and takes down the spider and the warriors. First for Frodo and then for his people.
The other good thing that they are for is comic relief.
Come on, who doesn't love a bit of humor? Regardless of how serious the story is, readers/viewers often need a good dosage of humor. The main characters do as well, and these best-friend-types are great for that kind of thing.
Say it with me--"PO-TA-TOES"
Now here comes the two most important things, in my opinion, that these characters can do.
- Remind the hero of what they're fighting for
- Carry the hero
This is VERY important to me. Hope is what drives people, even in the real world ;). And so when the hero looses faith, as they often do, they must recover their hope or else fail altogether.
Here's a good example, again from Sam;
Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo? It'll be spring soon and the orchards will be in blossom, and the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And the whistle in the summer barley in the Lower fields. And eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?
They are standing on Mount Doom. The end of the world has come--all hope is lost. Their strength has run out and the Ring is bearing down on Frodo more than he can bear. There is only one thing now that can give him strength. Not the rescuing of Gondor, not the safety of Gandalf, Merry, Pippin, or anyone else. Not even the saving of his own life, for to him it is already lost. No...what he was willing to climb that mountain for only Sam knew.
And so that passion was ignited with his words.
But the ring bore down so hard. The pain of the quest, the sorrows the hero had faced, the misery, the lost, the darkness, and all things that are evil caused our hero to lose hope. He'd come to terms with reality--evil would win. Fear had taken over.
No, Sam. I can't recall the taste of food, nor the sound of water, nor the touch of grass. I'm naked in the dark. There's nothing--no veil between me and the wheel of fire. I can see him with my waking eyes.
And it is when the hero can no longer move himself, can no longer bear to stand, that the loyal friend must step in.
I can't carry It for you, Mr. Frodo, but I can carry you!That is the purpose of these characters. And if you're like me, it makes you cry and draw swords when you read/hear those words.
These loyal "sidekicks" are the real heroes, without them the "heroes" wouldn't have made it as far as they did. These guys/girls are inspiring, to me. I want to be a Sam to my friends, and I long for friends like that.
I don't know about you...but I want to write characters like this. Loyal, courageous, encouraging, loving, characters.
So...what do you think? lol