(Or “When the Sidekick is Better than the Hero”)
Have you ever read a book about a broken hero?
Yeah, that one about the hero who really isn’t that nice of a character, who might have some kind of addiction, or a very shady past. They’re becoming more and more common nowadays. Everyone likes a broken hero, because we’re all broken heroes in our own ways.
But what happens when the glorious Ally shows up?
Suddenly our less-than-perfect Heroine is a loser. She’s a pathetic coward compared to the fearless Ally who is willing to sacrifice her own goals for the heroine’s. What kind of heroine is she, anyway, to let the wonderful Ally sacrifice for her?
|Yeah, she's back, but it's a nice picture|
Some authors solve this problem by making it so the Ally is only perfect on the outside. They’ve got some broken thing inside them, too, but no one can see it. But when those authors do that, the reader feels cheated. We were looking up to the Ally, and so was the Heroine, only to discover that this admirable Ally isn’t so admirable after all. They’re just like us; they wear a mask to hide their true selves.
Other authors find it useful to pull the “savior” card with the Ally. The Hero is moping along, being their beat up, despondent selves when
The Ally drops in from the heavens to the sound of an angelic chorus and redeems the Hero. Within the course of a chapter and a half, the Hero has laid aside his anger issues, his regrets, his drunkard identity, recovered from amnesia, depression, and his OCD.
Because when Allies find someone like the Hero in real life, this always happens.
A very, very common use of that sort of strategy is through the Love Interest. This poor guy/girl falls in love with the dark, sad main character. I really do pity them, falling in love with… that. But somehow, they teach the main character to love again, to be healed and new and beautiful.
In the course of the week the book spans.
While defeating the real villain, pulling down the totalitarian government, and restoring order to the universe.
The Ally who is “good”, who is in some way “better” than the Hero, can’t just be there to solve the MC, and they can’t just be there to empathize with the MC. If that’s the only reason the Ally is there, it would be better if they did not exist.
Let me give you an example, like I’ve been doing the past few weeks. I could give you Ron, because not only is he special, but he is in several regards better than the protagonist.
However, let’s expand our views look at a different Ally. He very well may be the most famous of all Allies, the one you immediately thought of when you heard the word.
He’s special, different, has his own reasons to exist, and is in many ways better than his Hero.
His name is Samwise Gamgee.
|Because his po-tay-toes are better than your po-tay-toes.|
Before we talk about how he is the kind of Ally who is better than the Hero, yet goes about it correctly, let’s check to make sure he really does need to exist:
-Does he have goals of his own?
Certainly. He wants to be a gardener. More than anything else in the world, it seems, he loves plants. Whether for food or for beauty, there’s nothing he loves more, except his Master Frodo.
-Does he sacrifice his goals for the Hero’s?
Above all else. Samwise gives up everything to follow his Master Frodo, even to Mordor, which is the polar opposite of everything he loves. Samwise comes to realize that Frodo’s goal of destroying the Ring of Power is more important than his own desires for the comforts of home and for his garden. In fact, he gives up everything he deems precious (including his prized collection of pots and pans!), even himself.
Samwise is noble, kindhearted, and all-around a good character.
Not so Frodo. Part of it is due to the ring: we see him become selfish under its influence, as well as cruel. He’s broken by his hardships, and aware that the world is not so innocent a place as Sam sees it.
But does Sam ever try to “fix” Frodo? Certainly. As Frodo is taken under the power of the ring, he repeatedly points out the affects. Yet Frodo is unchanged.
And does Sam ever reveal something in himself that is broken just like Frodo is broken?
While he certainly proves he is not perfect, he never once shows himself to have the same dark mantel on his shoulders.
Sam understands that he is not there to fix the MC. He realizes that his job is to sacrifice what must be sacrificed to help Frodo attain his quest.
He is the contrast by which we see the evil of the Ring truly portrayed.
He is the light Frodo needs to keep going, to fight his inner self.
Sam is the one who carries Frodo, when he knows he can’t carry the true burden himself.
And isn’t that the job of the Ally?
Aren’t they the characters which carry the Hero, even when they know they can’t carry the true burden of the Goal?
That is a beautiful character.
That is an Ally worth cheering for.
What about you? What about your Allies? Do they sacrifice something for the Hero? What is it? Leave a comment and share!