It’s happened to all of us. We’re reading a book, and then, out of nowhere, the protagonist is no longer our favorite character. Now, we’re dazzled by someone else—by a secondary character who steals the show along with our hearts. This person becomes our favorite. The one we root for more than any other character in the book, not because the protagonist no longer matters but because this individual encompasses everything we love.
When I first began writing my debut series, Project W. A. R., my favorite character was obviously the protagonist, Wynter. Until a new character came to life in my brain: Jenner. Now, I still love my girl, Wynter—don’t get me wrong—but Jenner just has that special quality that makes him stand out more than anyone else. He’s funny. He’s likable. He’s protective. He’s the light in a dark world while still having something about him that makes him complicated and interesting. Basically, if I could turn him into a real person, I would shrink him down to pocket-size and pull him out whenever I need a cuddle. I love him that much.
My point is, we all have those characters we become borderline obsessed with, and they don’t even have to be the hero or the heroine of the story. They can be the lover. They can be the friend. They can be someone who was created solely for moral support of the other characters. Regardless of why they exist, we’re just so freaking happy they do.
With that said, I thought I would present to you my top ten list of my favorite literary “besties.” Some of them cross the border into lover territory, but first and foremost, they are the friends to our protagonists that we all wish we could have in real life.
10. Mogget from Sabriel
Mogget is an interesting character as he isn’t exactly friends with the protagonist, Sabriel. He helps her in her quest to find her father, but strictly because he is bound by magic to serve the Abhorsen and all subsequent Abhorsens, making him her servant more than anything else. The reason he’s included on this list—apart from being an awesome character—boils down to his actions when he and Sabriel find themselves in one particular moment of trouble. Sabriel knows the only way to get out of their predicament is to free Mogget of his bond and unleash his true form (with the intention of using his power to help them). In his true form, Mogget is overcome with anger toward the Abhorsen for imprisoning him in the first place, and generally, wants nothing more than to exact his revenge. What he does here instead suggests at least a respect for Sabriel: not only does he help her, but he offers her the one way to bind him again, rather than kill her and take his freedom. He willingly chooses servitude over liberation, and in the end, is the one who gives Sabriel the power to defeat evil.
9. Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice
Fitzwilliam Darcy, or Mr. Darcy as he’s more commonly known, is pretty much the standard for what all women want in a man. Tall, dark, and handsome. Brooding but affectionate. And to top it off, he’s a great friend. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But Mr. Darcy is an ass! He purposely separated Mr. Bingley from Jane, and they were soulmates! SOULMATES, I TELL YOU!” Let me just say, I hear you loud and clear. Mr. Darcy was a bit of an ass and acted prematurely, but you have to see it from his perspective. Mr. Bingley is THAT friend. You know the one. The one who crushes a little too hard on people and doesn’t seem to realize when the feelings aren’t mutual. The one who just can’t seem to take a damn hint. Pride and Prejudice also took place in a time when you would propose to someone after a five-minute conversation. How well did Mr. Bingley really know Jane? They never spoke to each other the way Mr. Darcy did with Elizabeth. They just frolicked on the dance floor at a handful of balls and co-inhabited the same home while Jane recovered from the flu. Mr. Darcy didn’t know Jane and saw her shyness as indifference, so he thought he was sparing his friend inevitable heartache down the line by nipping things in the bud before they had the chance to develop. Sure, he could’ve actually used his noggin and looked into their relationship a tiny bit more, but he made up for it by bringing them back together in the end. He embraced his mistakes and went out of his way to fix them.
8. Newt & Minho from The Maze Runner trilogy
These two are kind of a package deal. You rarely encounter any moments in the trilogy where you have one without the other, and it doesn’t seem right to only include one on this list. With that said, these two are devoted friends to the protagonist, Thomas—sticking by him and defending him pretty much from the get-go, even when they don’t really have reason to do so (and even if they don’t always agree with his actions). At only one point do we feel a strain in their relationship, and even that ultimately boils down to trying to protect one another from an otherwise horrific fate. They display an unprecedented bravery and determination considering their age and the world they live in, and show a loyalty toward friendship that helps to set this series apart from other books.
7. Will Parry from the His Dark Materials trilogy
Will doesn’t actually show up until the second book in the His Dark Materials trilogy, but in spite of that, he steals the show. Thrust into a world completely different to the one he knew, instead of giving into fear and uncertainty, he helps Lyra, the protagonist, without question or hesitation. Although he has his own reasons for joining in on her adventure, he still sticks by her side throughout the remainder of the trilogy, venturing into dangerous situation after dangerous situation, and showing such absolute and admirable bravery for a child. He even stands up to pretty terrifying adult characters, unwilling to back down when Lyra is in trouble. He even makes one of the hardest choices a human, let alone a child should ever have to make: separating from someone you love for the greater good of all mankind. Not only is he Lyra’s bestie, he’s pretty much the bestie of the entire universe for saving the day.
6. Ian O’Shea from The Host
Like a few of the others on this list, Ian kind of dances on the brink between friendship and love. In the beginning of The Host, he’s a bit of a shit and even tries to kill the protagonist, Wanderer, at one point. However, once he gets to know her and sees that she isn’t a threat to their community, they develop a sort of friendship that later becomes something more. Even though they’re different species and a relationship is difficult because of Wanderer inhabiting the body of Melanie (who is ironically the girlfriend of Ian’s best male friend, Jared), Ian still goes out of his way to show his dedication to her. He defends Wanderer, he protects her, and he even supports the idea of banishing his brother when his own flesh and blood tries to murder the soul he loves. Not to mention, he has the absolute best line in the entire book.
5. Brienne of Tarth from the series, A Song of Ice and Fire
Similar to Mogget, Brienne is a character bound more by servitude than actual friendship. Still, girl is loyal to a fault and makes damn sure to follow through with her promises—or die trying. She ends up in some pretty tricky situations where old alliances are tested, but when she sees the people she cares about in danger, she does what’s necessary to save them, no matter the cost.
4. Mikael Blomkvist from the Millenium trilogy
Mikael Blomkvist has a rather unusual relationship with the protagonist of the Millenium trilogy, Lisbeth Salander. You couldn’t find two people more different from one another, and yet, their friendship not only worked, it was some of the best chemistry I’ve ever read. Their relationship was sometimes sexual, but it never detracted from how much Mikael respected Lisbeth. In the last two books in particular, he went above and beyond to help her, really setting their friendship apart and setting the bar for a great bestie. When Lisbeth is suspected of murder and everyone believes she’s guilty, Mikael is the only person to see her innocence. When everyone else is trying to bring her down, he risks everything to save her life. What makes him an even better friend is the fact that Lisbeth isn’t exactly the most grateful human being. She has a tough exterior and refuses to show weakness, but in spite of that, he never once gives up on her. He works hard to break through her walls and is there for her without fail when the rest of the world isn’t.
3. Margo Dunne from Gone Girl
While Margo is technically the protagonist’s twin sister, she is also, in many ways, his best friend. When Nick’s wife goes missing and he is suspected of foul play in her suspicious disappearance, Margo not only takes him in, she stands by his side throughout the entire investigation. Even when she finds out he committed adultery and questions whether he actually did murder his wife, she still sticks by him, regardless of any uncertainty about his innocence. She becomes the brunt of incestuous rumors due to her public defense of her brother, and at one point, she even gets arrested because of her involvement with him. Nick is one selfish S.O.B., but through it all, Margo is there, defending him and standing beside him, even when she thinks he’s making the wrong choice. If that doesn’t make you a great friend, then I don’t know what does.
2. Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series
I’m not sure I really need to explain this one. Hermione is easily the best character in the Harry Potter series. She always has all the answers and never backs down when her friends are in trouble—not even out of fear. She’s brave, determined, and she makes some incredibly difficult choices throughout the series, which makes her stand out as truly selfless. When she sees injustice, she fights against it. When she realizes her very existence could put her family in danger, she erases all memory of herself from every facet of their lives. But what makes her a great friend is what she does in the final book, The Deathly Hallows. At this point, the romance between her and Ron is starting to really become evident, but when the ginger packs up and leaves, she sticks by Harry to help him finish his quest. She chooses friendship and what’s right over chasing after the boy she loves, even though it pains her. She sticks by Harry’s side because at that point in time, she’s needed as a friend more than she’s needed as anything else. Plus, she helped stupid Ron and Harry with their homework throughout the entire freaking series. Girl has some legendary patience.
1. Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings trilogy
Choosing my top literary best friend was easy. Aside from my undeniable and inextinguishable love for The Lord of the Rings and all things Tolkien, my decision to choose Samwise wasn’t at all biased. Sam doesn’t have any special qualities. He’s not brave—at least not at first. Truthfully, he’s a bit of a homebody. He just wants to do some gardening and make some babies with the hot tavern lady. He doesn’t ask for adventure but embraces it anyway because his best friend needs him. He is put in dire situation after dire situation, comes close to death who knows how many times, and yet, never lets the fear get to him because protecting his friend is top priority. When Frodo chooses to abandon the fellowship and go to Mordor alone, Sam goes with him. When Frodo starts acting like a bit of an assbag and shows a preference to Gollum who we all know can’t be trusted, Sam sticks that much closer to his friend out of determination to keep him safe. When Frodo gets kidnapped by the enemy, what does Sam do? Homeboy takes down a GIANT FREAKING SPIDER and then slaughters shit tons of goblins until he not only finds his best friend but saves him. Finally, when the duo arrives at the Crack of Doom and Frodo inevitably gives into the darkness, ultimately choosing to not destroy the one ring, Sam STILL rescues his friend and essentially saves the day. On top of all that? He doesn’t take credit for any of it. He lets everyone think Frodo is the hero. A true friend is someone who will stick by your side through thick and thin—who will be selfless in your friendship by putting your needs before their own. Samwise Gamgee might not have special powers. He might not be a warrior or even a leader. But he exhibits all of the qualities of a true friend, and in my opinion, that makes him a hero.
WORST LITERARY BEST FRIEND
While there were many contenders for this particular dishonor, there is really only one character truly deserving of the award for the Worst Literary Best Friend. The winner is Jorah Mormont from the series, A Song of Ice and Fire! Now, it was kind of a toss-up between him, Theon Greyjoy and Frodo Baggins. All three have exhibited pretty craptastic qualities that make them terrible friends, but the reason Jorah ultimately takes home the crown is because of his actions toward Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones. I’m pretty sure trying to get your bestie assassinated is the worst thing you can possibly do as a friend.
Well done, Jorah. At least you manage to redeem yourself later.
M. A. PHIPPS is an American author who currently resides in the picturesque English West Country with her husband, daughter, and their Jack Russell, Milo. A lover of the written word, it has always been her dream to become a published author, and it is her hope to expand into multiple genres of fiction. When she isn’t writing, you can find her counting down the days until the new season of Game of Thrones.