Sunday, June 1, 2014

Fantastic Sidekicks


Hands up all those of us who have a soft spot for the sidekicks in SciFi-Fantasy?

Buffy Season 1: the original sidekicks
Often it's the sidekicks who ground the heroine or hero, like the "Scooby Gang" in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

And like Samwise Gamgee in The Lord Of The Rings, and Zuzana in the Daughter Of Smoke and Bone series, the sidekick has the heroine or hero's back.

Often, too, the sidekick's character acts as a foil for the main character's strength or weakness
or, again like Sam and Zuzana, illuminates both.
Han Solo: sidekick & show-stealing loveable rogue

Other times, the sidekick steals the show, as that loveable rogue, Han Solo, did in Star Wars.

Clearly, sidekicks are important. And like the loveable rogues they often are, they have a way of wangling their way into a story.

In my Junior/YA novel, Thornspell, recently reviewed by Kate Forsyth, the hero (Thornspell is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the prince) finds sidekicks in unexpected places, including a shabby servant girl first met in a neglected garden:

"He turned away, kicking through a deeper drift, and saw that there was a girl standing beneath the bare crown of an elder tree... She looked like a servant, he thought, a girl from the scullery or laundry, with the ragged hem of her skirt stopping a few inches clear of bare, brown ankles. Her feet were thrust into the wooden shoes worn by the lower servants, and her hands were scratched, her hair a snarl of brown curls. She had a leaf caught above one ear and was looking at him sidelong beneath a tangle of dark lashes—a shy look, he decided after a moment, rather than sly.

“Who are you?” he asked. “What are you doing here?”

The girl pointed to her mouth and shook her head, and after a moment he guessed that she must be mute. “All the same,” Sigismund said, a little disconcerted, “I don’t think you should be here. You’ll get into trouble if anyone finds you.” 

It did not occur to him then, that he had already found her..."

In The Gathering Of The Lost (The Wall Of Night Book Two), the sidekicks are again vital to the action, including the part played by Raven, a hedge knight of dubious origin:

"“It's not far now,” his rescuer said at their next, brief halt ... [His] sardonic expression twisted into a grin. “You can call me Raven. I answer to it most days.”

The name suited the man, Carick thought. He was very dark and there was a sharp edge to his gaze, as though he was used to assessing men and situations at a glance. The shabbiness of his first appearance though, did not improve upon closer inspection. The old-fashioned sark had been mended with horn and bone in places, and his cracked leather gauntlets, like the helmet, had definitely seen better days. Carick had noted other signs of the disreputable as well: the tattoos glimpsed between the edge of the knight's sleeves and his gloves, the fetishes of bone and feather tied as a crest to his helmet—and horses that answered to a whistle. The father of one of Carick’s university friends, a prominent River merchant, held the unshakable opinion that horses that came to a whistle belonged exclusively to smugglers or brigands. In the merchant's world, mercenaries and hedge knights were only one step above brigands. 

“Ser Raven?” he said tentatively, not wanting to offend the man. But Raven just shrugged and remounted without replying."

Amongst more straightforward sidekicks, both the shabby servant girl in Thornspell and the disreputable hedge knight in The Gathering Of The Lost remain mysterious figures in their respective storiesbut like all good sidekicks they also play a pivotal role in the main characters' hero journey, frequently have the central protagonist's back, and illuminate their strengths and weaknesses. Unlike Han Solo neither steals the show, but both certainly complement it.

How about you: I'd love to hear about the SF-Fantasy sidekicks you "heart", and why, if you've time to leave a comment. :)

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