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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tough Travels – Snarky Sidekicks

Every Thursday, Nathan (over at Fantasy Review Barn) leads the gang in touring the mystical countryside, looking for fun and adventure. His Tough Traveling feature picks one of the most common tropes in fantasy each week, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones, and invites us to join in the adventure. All are invited to take part, so if you're joining the journey late, no worries . . . we'll save you a spot in the caravan.

This week’s tour topic is: SNARKY SIDEKICKS

Why is everyone so serious all the time? Perhaps they need a friend that is there with a quick bit of wit to liven the day; even if the day is looking to quickly turn to blood. (Not actually found in the Tough Guide)

Okay, I can see myself having a lot of fun with this one, especially since I find myself identifying so much more with those sidekicks than with the epic, brooding heroes. I find more on-screen sidekicks stick with me than on-page ones, but let's start with the books and go from there.


One of the first such sidekicks I can remember encountering in my literary travels is Tasslehoff Burrfoot, the irrepressible little Kender from Weis & Hickman's Dragonlance saga. Short and stocky, with his hair tied in a topknot, he has a tendency to get bored very easily, which is never good for those around him. At best, he'll drive you crazy with his incessant babble . . . at worst, he'll 'borrow' anything around him that's not tied down (out of sheer, innocent curiosity, of course).


In Terry Pratchett's Discworld saga, we get two early sidekicks for Rincewind - Twoflower the barbarian and the Luggage. Twoflower is the single most naive person in Discworld, believing he can never come to harm since he's merely a spectator. It helps that he travels with the Luggage, a sentient suitcase that is able to grow hundreds of of tiny feet, and which hides rows of big, square teeth and a pulsating red tongue beneath it's lid. Oh, and it maniacally devours anyone or anything that poses a threat to Rincewind and Twoflower.


While he is not snarky (per se), Moonglum is definitely responsible for bringing a little light banter and human heroism into the darkness of Michael Moorcock's Elric saga. Elric is a sickly albino sorcerer, destined to destroy everyone he loves, who is kept alive by a demon-blade that steals the souls of those it kills. If anybody ever needed a friend, it's Elric. Described as cheerfully ugly, Moonglum is the most loyal of Elric's companions - the only friend Elric has ever trusted.


If we're going to make a transition from the page to the screen, then we have to talk about Fezzik from William Goldman's The Princess Bride (the book and the movie). Either a good-natured, unemployed Turkish wrestler, he is the simple, innocent friend that Inigo Montoya needs, engaging him in silly rhyming games to distract him from thoughts of death and vengeance. He not only goes on to save Inigo from a drunken stupor, but leads him to his glorious destiny with The Man in Black.


Another screen sidekick that I first encountered on the page (I used to devour movie novelizations as a kid) is Philippe "The Mouse" Gaston from Ladyhawke. With the very dark, very serious, very driven Etienne utterly consumed by his desire for revenge against the Bishop, the Mouse provided some much-needed humor and sarcastic wit. Rutger Hauer, propped up by Mathew Broderick. Classic.


Sticking with the big screen, how can you talk sidekicks and not think of Sallah from the Indiana Jones movies, played (of course) by John Rhys-Davies. Sallah is a good and honest man, a dedicated father, and a good friend to Indy. He's also a bit of a coward, but a good-humored one. You can't possibly think of Indiana Jones without thinking of snakes, and you can't think of snakes without hearing that musical baritone saying, "Asps... very dangerous. You go first."


Finally, switching to the small screen, there are two characters who define the sidekick - Iolaus from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Gabrielle from Xena: Warrior Princess. A loyal travelling companion and best friend, Iolaus is perhaps best known for always having 'an old hunter's trick' to help save the day. Gabrielle, meanwhile, is a naive farm girl who initially joined a reluctant Xena to escape a marriage, but who becomes a best friend and accomplished warrior. Iolaus and Gabrielle always had the best lines, and their smiles lightened even the most dangerous moments.

14 comments:

  1. The last two are classic. Iolaus and Gabrielle were perfect companions.

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  2. Ooh, Fezzik! I recently watched The Princess Bride again and it's awesome. Good idea for remembering it! :)

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  3. Haha! It's been forever since I've seen Indiana Jones, but you're right, can't forget that!

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    1. I avoided the temptation to talk Short Round, but I couldn't skip Sallah.

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  4. No more rhyming now, I mean it.

    Anyone got a peanut?

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  5. Is it wrong that the luggage is my favorite character? I really need to read Moorcock already. I haven't seen Princess Bride in ages! I had it totally memorized as a kid though.

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    1. The Luggage was awesome - next to Rincewind, he defines Discworld for me.

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  6. Great call with the Luggage! Brilliant list. :)

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  7. Nice, I like how you include movie sidekicks. I think I'll have to do that next time if I'm feeling stuck - like this week, I struggled to think of snarky sidekicks, the only ones to come to mind at first were from Disney films :P

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

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    1. It's all the same genre - I figure switching formats isn't too much of a cheat. :)

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  8. roflmao - it's inconceivable that you got Princess Bride - it's not at all snide! Thought I'd try the rhyming too! Especially for you!!!! hee hee
    Lynn :D

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  9. I like the multimedia approach and the ones you picked are so good! Fezzik may be my favorite character in The Princess Bride. And I LOVED Ladyhawke so much as a teenager - It's because of that movie I have an inexplicable fondness for Rutger Hauer. Good Call!

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  10. Another mad fan of Ladyhawke here. Must have watched it umpty billion times as a teenager.

    Another great sidekick is Oberon in the Iron Druid Chronicles. He's so funny he's my favourite character in the series.

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  11. Fezzik is a great choice! It's kind weird to think of him as a sidekick since he's such a fan favourite, but you're right he really is. Gentle giants are a personal favourite of mine.

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