Updated: Sep 8, 2022
Sidekicks get a bad rep: It can be easy for audiences to overlook a supporting role in favor of lavishing praise and adoration on the main character. Sometimes, sidekick can even be considered an insult: After all, who wants to be Robin, when you could be Batman? Sidekicks are inferior and therefore less important by nature, right? Wrong!
The fact is that sidekicks are integral to protagonists’ character arcs and the entire narrative structure at large! It takes a village, and a true hero is nothing without their sidekick(s). Without further ado, here a few iconic characters who prove that sidekick is not a dirty word.
1. Charlotte, Charlotte’s Web
Here’s a story in which the book is named after the sidekick! Without the efforts of Charlotte and the wonderful words she spun into her web, our main character Wilbur would have been slaughtered for his meat. In addition to saving Wilbur’s life, Charlotte also serves as Wilbur’s closest animal friend. She provides a voice of wisdom to guide the emotional pig into adulthood, ultimately completing his character arc when Wilbur must later do the same for Charlotte’s children after her death.
2. Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes
Although Dr. John Watson is typically seen as the sidecar to Detective Sherlock Holmes’ motorcycle, the army doctor is quite indispensable. Sherlock may be the titular character, but the books actually unfold from Watson’s point of view. Being able to see the genius Holmes at work through the eyes of his closest friend allows the audience to be endeared to an eccentric, at times otherworldly man whose mind might be too much to swallow directly. One could argue that what makes Mr. Holmes so lovable and enduring is the fact that Dr. Watson finds him so.
3. Ron Weasley, Harry Potter
Harry’s red-haired friend might be considered a contested favorite in some circles. However, Ron Weasley made it on this list because he belongs here, and here’s why: although he did harbor resentment for falling into The Boy Who Lived’s shadow, in the end, his loyalty and love for his friend always overcame it. Without hesitation, Ron invited Harry into his family and stuck with Harry through thick and thin. After all, the line from The Prisoner of Azkaban, “If you want to kill Harry, you’ll have to kill us too” rightfully belongs to Ron, even if the film gave it to Hermione instead (not that I’m bitter...).
4. Piglet, Winnie the Pooh
Pooh and Piglet’s friendship has inspired many a interest worthy watercolor tattoo, and for good reason! What makes Piglet such an iconic sidekick is how he brings to life “the virtue of the small”. His timid nature has made him the object of fond adoration for many, and sweet, nervous disposition juxtaposes well with Pooh’s own slow, unruffled sensibilities. Here again we see the nature of character foils at work: Pooh often encourages and inspires bravery in Piglet, and in turn, Piglet shows the audience what it is that makes Pooh such a wonderful friend and protagonist.
5. Rue, The Hunger Games
Rue is a truly remarkable character in that, despite dying in the very first book, her influence stays with Katniss and colors the rest of the entire trilogy. In addition to providing Katniss with some much needed companionship in the treacherous Hunger Games, and revealing the gentler nuances of our protagonist in the process, Rue is arguably the spark that began the fire of the revolution Katniss later leads. Young Rue’s death, and Katniss’ sincere, public mourning of that death, served as the first big stand against the Capitol. The revolution began, not with Katniss, but with Rue.
About the author: I'm Briana Gonzalez, word nerd and card-carrying theatre kid. Writing is just a more accessible form of talking, so it's no wonder I can't stop doing it. Check out my lit blog on Instagram @what_that_book_do!