13 Female Sidekicks in Literature Who Deserve Their Own Books
Male sidekicks in literature and pop culture are a dime a dozen. Dr. Watson is always right behind Sherlock Holmes; Robin is always right behind Batman. A leading man is nothing without a quippy, slightly less attractive bro at his right hand — a bro who's there when the male protagonist needs a sarcastic one-liner, an extra bullet, or dose of tough, masculine love. But where are the female sidekicks in literature? Where are the female Watsons hiding?
There are female sidekicks to be found, but we have to look closely. They're distinctly less visible than the Watsons of male-dominated literature, and often come disguised in the role of a best friend, wife, or mother, as opposed to a crime-solving, gunslinging comrade who tramps beside the hero on the dusty path of life. Here are some literary ladies who stood out at me — and could easily hold their own, if given more page time — but if you can think of any more, let me know. A good secondary character will make you believe he or she needs a book of their own, and literature can certainly use more strong-willed, interesting, female ones.
1. Lila, Gilead
The wife in Gilead is a fascinating figure — she's married to a man much older than her, and is facing the fact that he will die soon, leaving her to care for their very young son alone. She's a strong woman and a sweet mother, but we don't get much of a glimpse into her inner life. How does a wife psychologically prepare for the inevitable death of her husband?
2. Ash, The Interestings
Ash is the perfect one; Jules is the flawed one. We're trained to find imperfections interesting in literature, which is why it feels right that Jules narrates The Interestings, but Ash has a haunted past and a troubled present all her own, despite the fact that's she's really pretty and pretty successful and extremely rich. Jules' insecurities are all over every page in The Interestings, but what does Ash think about at night?
3. Silsby, Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?
The girlhood best friends in this slim novel fall into familiar roles: the intellectual one and the sexual one. One sells tickets at their summer job, the other plays Cinderella. Silsby, the Cinderella, is not the narrator, so we never quite get a handle on her character, but her life is deeply scarred, marked by a troublesome early puberty, and fascinating — she'd carry off her own book easily. After all, not everyone can play Cinderella.
4. Priscilla Grant, Anne of Avonlea
Anne meets a number of kindred sprits during the Anne series, but her best friend, Diana, is — can I be honest? — a little bit boring. Priscilla is much more interesting: a "pale spiritual-looking maiden ... full to the brim of mischief and pranks and fun."
5. Lady Macbeth, Macbeth
Sure, Lady MacBeth gets plenty of stage (and page) time. But it's her cowardly husband, and not her fiery self, who bears the name of the play. What was she like before she became so power-hungry? How did she become so fearless, so ready to kill?
6. Hermione, Harry Potter Series
Brilliant Ms. Granger is probably the most prominent female sidekick of our times, and thankfully, we know lots about her, from her Muggle-born upbringing to the dude she ends up marrying. But can you ever get enough Hermione?
7. George and Bess, Nancy Drew Series
Nancy Drew's two faithful sidekicks are on opposite ends of the spectrum: George is brave and tomboy-ish, Bess is easily scared and a die-hard romantic. It feels wrong to pick favorites, but George Fayne is such a cool name… honestly, I was always especially curious about her story.
8. Nora Charles, The Thin Man
Nora is a rich socialite who marries a retired detective — and then helps him solve murders. She drinks heavily, can't cook, and was based on author Dashiell Hammett's long-time lover, the famous screenwriter Lillian Hellman. Altogether fascinating; altogether worthy of a spin-off series.
9. Tinker Bell, Peter Pan
Tinker Bell gets a lot of flack for being a jealous little fairy, but in all fairness, she had Peter first. Where did she come from? Where are her people? What's it like being a fairy in a world of messy Lost Boys?
10. Beezus, Ramona Series
Long before Yeezus and Sheezus, there was Beezus, the grouchy, intelligent, aggravating, misunderstood older sister of wild Ramona. I'd love to know what she writes in her journal at the end of the day.
11. Kitty Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
Jane is the sweet one. Lizzy is the smart one. Mary is the grouch. Lydia is the wild one. But what's up with Kitty? Even though she's older than Lydia, she seems content to hover in the background while Lydia scoops up all the attention and 90 percent of the cute officers. Does Kitty enjoy her life of Lydia-worship, or would she rather break free and star in her own story?
12. Éowyn, Lord of the Rings Series
An entirely new trilogy would not be enough for Éowyn's backstory. The woman is cool, fearless, and so good at riding horses. Plus, she gets to play the classic role of woman-riding-into-battle-disguised-as-a-man, which comes complete with this thrilling reveal: "No living man am I! You look upon a woman." *rips off helmet to reveal cascading blonde hair*
13. Éponine, Les Misérables
Any character who's forced to die in the arms of her unrequited love deserves a book of her own.