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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

CCC Part One - Loyal Sidekick

Do you remember that old post called "Characteristics of Characters and Their Character?" I promised then that I'd do a series on the different types of characters and so now, drum roll please, we are ready to ......................... begin!

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.
  1. Remind the hero of what they're fighting for
  2. Carry the hero
Heroes often become distressed in their situations--who can blame them?--and, in many stories, are tempted to give up the quest all together. When all hope is lost there is only one person in all the story world that can give them hope, and that is their best friend--their Sam Gamgee.

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.

The Shire.

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


Chris said...

Ahh, yes. Same Gamgee. Who could forget about him? I don't exactly have one particular Sam Gamgee in my book, though I have many secondary characters. In my view, secondary characters are really the sidekicks to your protagonist.
Nice post. But R2D2? lol I suppose he was just there for comic relief.

Nathan R. Petrie said...

Yeah, the Sam-characters can be split up among a few. It's like that in mine. I have a comic-relief character, two friends, and then a more Sam-like friend. They all do the same thing at different times.

Regardless of how the loyal, encouraging, etc is portrayed I think it's an important part to these kind of stories. Unless of course those themes don't fit the story <_<

And yeah....R2D2 is tottally C3PO's sidekick :P He'd never leave him lol...well....nvm...he does leave him...and often.

But definitly comic relief lol

Barie-ah Hue-en-la said...

Your post totally makes me feel guilty for not making my sidekick chars more prominant in my stories, hehe. I shall have bestow more priveledge on them . . .

Madeline said...

Sam is amazing. I love the little dude. Where would our characters be without the bf to encourage them?? Where would WE be without people like that?

Galadriel said...

I love SAM! He's so great!

Nathan R. Petrie said...

Barie, lol....I'm sure they'll love you for giving them privileges. Ooh! With great power comes great responsibility! Oh wait...that line's taken <_<

Sam IS amazing :) THE hero in my opinion lol

Amen Madeline :)

♥Bleah♥Briann♥ said...

I love your blog. I'm following. :)

Nathan R. Petrie said...

Thanks Double-B (I'd rather not type that all out :P haha)!

You writing anything?

Ian said...

*realizes how long its been since he's visited this blog*

I've never quite been able to think about it that way...thanks for helping me wrap my head around something I think I've been missing - a lot - in my writing. :)

Very inspiring post. :)


Nathan R. Petrie said...

Ian, you've visited before? ::laughs:: It must have been a long time :P jk jk lol

Glad I was able to help :) So you too like those type of characters? I think they're inspiring too lol

Ian said...

Nathan, I think the last time I commented here was on one of your first three posts (I think it was the first). :P

And yes, I do like those types of characters. They are extremely important to (most) stories.

Hmm...I wonder if that's why my writing always seems kind of dry...


Storyteller said...

Very good post, Keeneye!

I have heard it said that even in real life, "the people who make the most difference are the nobodies." Who first told the famous missionaries and preachers the gospel? We do not know. But without them, history would be completely different. The "main character" needs someone to help them on the way to victory.

Nathan R. Petrie said...

Ian, probably was an early one lol
Dry is good ;) 'cause you can get it all wet later :)

ST, SOOOOOOOO true! Somebody's gotta open the door for 'em.

Gwendolyn said...

Is R2D2 ever a stretch, Nathan? *eyebrow*

Very good lecture on what makes a good sidekick! I love the way you present your information and fill it in with examples that catch and hold attention.

Just one thing, though - lose is not spelled loose. I've noticed that spelling error on a lot of what you write, and just thought I'd bring it up.:)

Jessica said...

Thank you for this post Nathan, I really enjoyed it. You have so well defined precisely what a loyal sidekick should be.

An unconscious motto seems to run through the sidekicks veins that I say poorly and in a repetitive manner but it is true. If it is worth living for it is worth dying for, if it worth dying it worth living for so thus I fight for it.

The loyal sidekick is one of my favorite characters they always inspire me in a way no matter how heroic the hero can't inspire me. When I have come across the occasional awful sidekick that deviates for loyalty and likes to take turns with being the hero then dragging his feet when it isn't recognized; I always want to hop in the book and shake the character give them a good round scolding and send them on their way reformed but so far I haven't been able to do that. :)

Nathan R. Petrie said...

Gwen, R2D2 is every kind of character :) lol

Thanks. I can never remember how to spell it :P lol Thanks. I'll watch it more often now ;)

Jessica, Thanks so much!

That's an awesome motto girl! I have a chapter called "Worth Dying For". I think showing that aspect of any character is important. What will they die for? Everyone will for something I think.

Totally. I hate weak selfish good guys :P

Celebrilomiel said...

Sam. ♥
I hope that my supporting characters can be as supporting as Sam.

But you missed one of Sam's crucial bits of dialogue!!! (Okay, so maybe I'm just on the fanatic side, but still.)

Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come.
And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.

Nathan R. Petrie said...

Celeb, that line makes me cry...every single time. <3

I'm hoping my supporting guy is as good as him too ;) maybe even better o.O lol jk

Peter Stone said...

Great post, I liked all the aspects of sidekicks you mentioned, such as hope and loyalty.

Nathan R. Petrie said...

Thanks Peter! I think those themes are the biggest part of any story--hope and loyalty. Or at least many of them.

Anna said...

Awesome! Incredible!
Oh, and Sam is awesome too.

Now I know where I'm going with my MC's best friend. It's annoying when I get so wrapped up in my own characters, I actually forget what my characters are there for.

Ah well, thanks for reminding me! Apparently, I needed it. :)

Nathan R. Petrie said...

Anna, glad this post was able to help :) Everybody loves a good Sam ;)

I will be putting up the next in the series shortly, sorry for the delay. Stay tuned!

Evergreena said...

I just discovered your blog. So... Hi!

I love secondary characters/sidekicks. And yes, they are often my favorite character in the story. (Sometimes, the ONLY character I like, such as Donkey in Shrek.) I also love Riley, from National Treasure (awesome movie!)

In my own novels, the sidekick tends to be almost the opposite of the MC. For example, in my science fiction novel The Shadow of Greed (and the sequels) the main character is a fighter, pessimistic, and rather sarcastic. Then there's the guy that she's supposed to mentor, and he's young, naive, lighthearted, and not really good at anything except being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In a fantasy story idea I have, it's the opposite situation. The MC is carefree, jolly, and loves to try new things. The sidekick is a bit of a worrywort.

And yet, both are extremely loyal to the MC (and occasionally save his/her life!), like you pointed out.

Sorry for this looong comment. Anyway, great blog you've got here!

Nathan R. Petrie said...

Evergreena, just plain awesome haha
That's an interesting idea, having them completely opposite the main character. I like it haha

But yeah, the loyalty thing is, for me, the most important part of a lot of stories.

Thanks for the comment!

"Stand tall now and proclaim what you have seen, speak in whispered roars..."