I am in a reading rut right now. I haven’t been able to motivate myself to read from my classics list, and I’m not much enjoying what I have been reading (likely more on that down the road a bit). However, nothing makes me smile like Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings, except possibly thinking about Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings at the same time.
Which got me started thinking about sidekicks. Sidekicks are invaluable in fiction, and especially in fantasy fiction. There is nothing like a great sidekick to really demonstrate the attributes of the hero – both faults and virtues. But a GREAT sidekick is more than just a foil to the hero, a GREAT sidekick is a fully realized character. A GREAT sidekick could carry his own book, even though he doesn’t.
Now, it is true that sidekicks don’t have to be male. We can have great female side kicks as well, although it is sometimes hard to distinguish between girl sidekick, love interest, and heroine, especially when the main character is male. And now that I have written the word sidekick somewhere around twenty times, I am realizing that sidekick is one of those words that sounds weirder every time I say it to myself.
So, in the sidekick smackdown between Ron Weasley and Samwise Gamgee, who wins?
Ah, Samwise. Old school sidekick. Always loyal, willing to be subordinate, bursting with goodness. Samwise Gamgee is ALMOST too good to be true, as he is willing to, not just die for Mister Frodo but to, also, refer to him as Mister Frodo. Can anyone see Ron Weasley referring to Harry as Mister Harry? Yeah. But no.
Which brings me to Ron Weasley, new school sidekick. Best friend, but willing to admit that sometimes he gets jealous of the hero. Why should Harry get all of the great press, great wandwork, and great girls? But, when push comes to shove, he always comes through. Even if it requires a little ball of light to get him back where he should have been all along.
So, in a head-to-head comparison who prevails?
In the category of “sidekick most willing to submit to really awful stuff” I call the match for: SAMWISE GAMGEE. Sure, Ron deals with three-headed dog drool, he barfs up slugs, and is nearly eaten by giant spiders. Samwise, though, in addition to giant spiders, orcs, and the Nazgul (who sometimes ride giant lizard dragon things), he has to deal with Gollum. For two whole freaking books, as Gollum worms his way into the affections of Mister Frodo. Never is Ron forced to see his BF Harry being all Mr. Friendly-Pants with Draco.
Next up: “who keeps his head in the game better?” Again, SAMWISE prevails in this category. Because no matter what, Sam Gamgee never leaves Frodo. And, he carries him up the side of Mount Doom when he can’t walk anymore. Ron, I love you man, but are you seriously making out with Hermione in the basement during the Battle for Hogwarts? Seriously?
But that brings me to girls. Because it is possible to tell a lot about a guy from the girl he chooses. So, in the category of “who shows the most actual manliness in their choice of a girlfriend,” sorry, Samwise, but RON WEASLEY totally has you there. Because Hermione Granger is an amazing character in her own right – brilliant, loyal, and brave. Not one to sit at home and wait to have the world saved for her (cough, Rosie, cough), Hermione is in there battling with the best of them. Because, in fact, she is the best of them. Only a real man can handle a wife who will outshine him in nearly every single category. Props to you, Ron. You rock.
Finally, in the category of “which of these characters could sustain his own book,” I’ve got to go with RON WEASLEY again. It would be a comedy, sure, but it would be funny. It would also involve Fred and George, which would make it even funnier.
Overall, it’s a tough call. But, since I love Harry Potter just a little bit more than I love LOTR, my thumb is on the scale for Ron. Samwise is noble. Ron is awesome.
As I close this very silly post, I will note something about both of these sidekicks. Each of them, arguably and at various times, could make claim to actually BEING the real hero. Because sometimes the hero is the guy (or girl) who is willing to stay in the shadows a little bit, and play a supporting role. Ron struggled with this more than Sam did, but in the end, they both did it. Because they loved Frodo and Harry like brothers. And that’s what real heroes do for the people they love.