Thursday, June 1, 2023

From "Band of Brothers" — to Bromance!


My premise, of course, is that the bromance is both integral to, and a natural extension of, the "band of brothers" in Fantasy. :-)

The great film bromance...

The bromance is the platonic friendship between two companions, often from diverse backgrounds and usually part of a larger band, who are brought together by (usually adverse) circumstance and sworn closer than brothers. Once, we would have said "blood brothers", but it's the same idea.

Steve Rogers & Sam Wilson: definite bromance territory

And no, to be a bromance, it can't be a romantic relationship. The whole idea, imho, is the celebration of friendships that are forged in adversity and as strong, if not stronger, than romantic relationships.

Merry & Pippin -- partners in crime

Starting with the most classic of examples, The Lord of the Rings, has both the nine "companions of the Ring" and several "bromances" within it:  Frodo and Sam, Merry and Pippin, and Gimli and Legolas — and no, I'm not mistaken about the latter pair!

Legolas & Gimli -- the book bromance

Although the bromance was Legolas and Aragorn in the films, in Tolkien's book it was definitely Gimli and Legolas. In many ways, they're the most archetypal of the bromances, because of the longstanding schism and mistrust between elves and dwarves, which the friendship between the two surmounts.

Frodo & Sam
I hesitated over Frodo and Sam, because Sam is Frodo's servant, whereas a "bromance" implies a relationship between equals. Their friendship grows far beyond a master/servant relationship, though, and into one of equals in spirit, deeds, and fact. I believe Tolkien may even have said that Sam was the 'true hero" of The Lord of the Rings -- but I feel all the nine companions deserve that accolade. :-)

When it comes to Fantasy bromances, I can never go past Tenaka Khan and Ananais in David Gemmell's The King Beyond The Gate. Although a band of rebels forms about them, their experience, fighting abilities, and longstanding friendship are its core. And at the end, Tenaka sets aside his ambition (which is considerable), and sense of destiny, deferring both for Ananais's sake.

Another of the great bromances, but also one of the most tragic, is the close friendship and sworn brotherhood of Rodrigo Belmonte and Ammar ibn Khairan in Guy Gavriel Kay's The Lions of Al-Rassan. In a culturally and militarily divided realm (think the Moorish and Christian kingdoms of Spain), they serve together as mercenaries when both are exiled from their home realms. Later, events and prior loyalties see Rodrigo and Ammar on different sides, similar to Cuchulain and Ferdia in Irish legend (the Ulster Cycle.) 


A comparable "sistermance" (a female equivalent of "bromance" apparently) are Tarma and Kethry, swordmaster and sorceress respectively, in Mercedes Lackey's Vows and Honor series. Formerly part of the Sunhawks mercenary band, they travel the realm of Valdemar and set wrongs to right.

More recent Fantasy examples include Marcus and Belair in AK Wilder's AMASSIA trilogy. Both are savants and the heirs of neighbouring realms, but are thrown together in a way that doesn't encourage friendship. However the subsequent quest-journey tempers their relationship into personal loyalty and an unwavering alliance -- within their larger "band", which is desperately trying to stave off catastrophe for their world.

The Amassia series

Dev, a caravan scout and onetime child-thief, and Kiran, an apprentice blood mage, are the protagonists in Courtney Schafer's Shattered Sigil series. Although from very different backgrounds, Kiran is on the run for his life and initially only Dev has the wilderness knowledge and skills to get him to safety. As the dangers that surround them both intensify, their growing friendship and loyalty to each other become the rock against which their enemies founder.

In T Frohock's Los Nefilim trilogy, the primary bonds are those of family, between the protagonist, Diago, and his husband Miquel, and son, Rafael. Conversely, the relationship between Diago and Guillermo, the leader of Los Nefilim, is not without tensions. Nonetheless, their friendship has been tempered across lifetimes and their fraternal loyalty is also one of the story's primary, and most enduring, relationships.

And yes, bromances are also found in my The Wall Of Night series. :-) In Book Two, The Gathering of the Lost, the close friendships between Audin and Hamar, Raher and Girvase -- all part of a larger band of young knights bent on winning renown and glory amid darkening events -- are definitely bromance territory. 

In Daughter of Blood, the battle-forged friendship between the Storm Spear, Kalan, and Tirael, a prince-captain from an opposing house is unquestionably a bromance -- to the extent that they fight side-by-side to defend a bridal caravan, and Tirael swears brotherhood to Kalan when events separate them again.

Although these are just a few examples, I know there are many more in the Fantasy genre -- and would love to discover a few of  your favorites via the Comments. :-)


About the Author

Helen Lowe is an award-winning novelist, poet, and lover of story. With four books published to date, she is currently completing the final instalment in The Wall Of Night series.

Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and tweets @helenl0we.


Previous Posts:

February: Honing in on 2021Celebrating the "Band of Brothers"
March: Celebrating the "Band of Brothers" in Fantasy #2
April: Celebrating the "Scooby Gang" #3
May: Celebrating the "Band of Sisters"


Kim said...

Helen, I love this post. As always, so insightful for both readers and writers.

What stands out for me is how bromance transcends the lines of social background, ideologies, and as you say, longstanding schisms and mistrust. It is the journey from antagonism and skeptical wariness to comradery and genuine loyalty that is inspiring to read, and to write.

Thanks so much for including Marcus and Belair in the too.


Helen Lowe said...

Thank you, Kim. :)

I think all the reasons you cite are why we all love a good bromance, for its reminder that we can break out of our boxes and rise above our divisions. I 'think', too, it is another way of expressing that love really is the world's most powerful and transformative force.

And huzza for Marcus and Belair, and your wonderful AMASSIA story! :D