Imagine this: a tired hobbit is climbing up the side of an enormous active volcano. A very heavy ring sits on a chain around his neck; the weight of the ring is making the individual chain links cut into his skin. He hasn't had food or drink for days, and since leaving his home months ago he's been stabbed, tied up in a web, and chased by orcs. He keeps climbing, determined to make it to the top, but eventually fatigue wins out and he collapses on the side of the volcano. The end. Game over. Evil triumphs and proceeds to make life generally miserable for everyone.
Bad ending, huh? That's what would have happened in Lord of the Rings if Frodo hadn't had Sam at his side. As we all know (or if not, SPOILER ALERT!), what really happens after Frodo collapses is that Sam picks him up, carries him to the top, and saves his life/the world. Which raises the question: how many of our favorite stories only turned out the way they did because of a courageous sidekick? To honor these unsung heroes, I'd like to present the Five Best Sidekicks Ever.
5. Peeta, The Hunger Games (for ages 12 and up)
While the debate rages on on the Hunger Games message board about whom Katniss should end up with, one thing is pretty obvious: without Peeta and the dramatized love story he helped her pull off, Katniss might not have made it to the end of the games. The fact that he actually does love her just adds a whole new twist to this hero-sidekick relationship. That relationship will probably be one of the focal points of the sequel (also ages 12 and up), Catching Fire (which comes out September 1, 2009) — at least, I hope so!
4. Snowy, The Adventures of Tintin
Part of me thinks it might be a good idea to keep a Wire Fox Terrier around at all times in case I ever get tied up by some mustache-twirling villain. Snowy has chewed through ropes that were tying Tintin's hands many, many times. Plus, he's just really funny and pretty darned cute. Snowy is actually so famous in Europe (where he's known as "Milou") that he appeared on a 10-euro coin back in 2004, next to his pal Tintin.
3. Ron/Hermione, Harry Potter
This is tricky, 'cause technically Ron and Hermione are actually two people. But there's no question that Harry needed them BOTH to defeat You-Know-Who, and how can you pick Ron over Hermione or vice versa? Hermione's so smart, always coming up with brainy solutions or providing a crucial bit of magical trivia. And Ron is unflinchingly loyal, supportive, and brave. But if I really had to pick one, I guess I'd . . . nah, I can't do it! To make up for that cop-out, here's the recently released two-minute trailer for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, out in only a couple months . . .
2. Bean, Ender's Game
Bean was already really cool in Ender's Game. The tiny supergenius helped Ender develop some of his best Battle Room strategies, and he was right there at his side when Ender started training on the asteroid. But Bean got even cooler in Ender's Shadow, the "parallel" companion novel to Ender's Game, in which it's revealed that Bean was behind a lot of the successes and "lucky breaks" that helped make Ender a star — for example, he helped put together Ender's army using undervalued, unappreciated players. (Although part of me wonders why Orson Scott Card wanted to undermine his original protagonist . . . )
1. Sam, Lord of the Rings
Not much doubt about this one, was there? Almost everything that Frodo goes through, Sam goes through as well — and in the end, he's the one who has the strength to actually pick Frodo up and carry him up that mountain. In a lot of ways, Sam is the emotional heart of that whole story, especially as Frodo becomes more and more distant towards the end. Sean Astin's strong performance as Samwise Gamgee in the movies ensures, thankfully, that this character will be remembered for a long time.
Who are your favorite sidekicks? Let me know in the comments!
— Jack, STACKS Staffer