The protagonist in most books will quite likely have a friend or few friends to bolster, bounce off or build a story. More often than not the friend is a sidekick or a foil for the main character appearing in the story once in a while in order to carry it forward. But sometimes the friend is not as straightforward as one would expect and is in fact so interesting that the reader’s interest is piqued more by the friend or even the friendship rather than with the main story. While talking about friendships in books, we realised that there were many strange, weird and wonderful friendships which were not the immediately obvious ones.
LL: We always expect friends to be of the same age, similar interests…
PS: In school or college together or working together…
LL: But really the more fascinating ones are the ones which may not even look like a friendship on the face of it. In Harry Potter the most obvious friendship spoken about is the trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione but really if you think about it Hagrid was Harry’s first friend and the two remained staunchly loyal to each other right through to the end.
PS: There was also the friendship with Harry’s owl, Hedwig, which predated his friendship with Ron and Hermione. I felt we could have seen much more of Hedwig through the books before she was so abruptly disposed of by J.K. Rowling.
LL: And there was Dobby…But leaving aside Harry Potter, there is the most amazing friendship in Alan Bradley’s books between Flavia, the eleven year old amateur sleuth and her bicycle Gladys.
PS: Anthropomorphisation provides for quite a few unusual and amazing friendships. The most fascinating one is Calvin and Hobbes. While it may be normal for children to be friends with their pets or even their stuffed toys, Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin come to mind, the relationship between Calvin and Hobbes is in a very grey area. The reader is never quite sure how real Hobbes is. Which makes it intriguing but also somewhat sinister.
LL: Diana Wynne Jones has written an interesting friendship in Howl’s Moving Castle series between the Wizard Howl and the fire demon Calcifer. In the first book one is never quite sure whether they are friends or enemies.
PS: Speaking of frenemies, there is Lucy and the talking Skull in the jar, in the Lockwood series. The reader is constantly waiting for the skull to betray Lucy and it does keep leading her astray but when it comes to the crunch it bails her out.
LL: Also, since we mentioned Lucy, then we can’t not think of Lucy and Mr. Tumnus from The Lion, the witch and the Wardrobe. That was a different friendship between people of different worlds, different species and different age groups.
PS: But both enjoying their tea and toast in front of the fire. In Fredrik Backman’s book My Grandmother sends her Regards and Apologises, the main character Elsa is seven years old and her Grandmother who is seventy seven, is her Superhero and only friend.
LL: And then there are friends who never meet. 84, Charring Cross Road tells of a friendship that develops through letters between two people across continents.
PS: Some people can become friends not just without meeting but without even realising that they are friends. Like Scout and Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird. Both occupying their own space in the town and in the story but each fascinated by the other which provides the connection.
Also there are friends outside of books who talk only of books and it’s almost as if nothing else feels real!