The Comic Companion


Has anyone noticed the ever-present 'comic companion’ in successful stories? He or she is virtually the same figure from tale to tale.

Sam in The Lord of the Rings, has remarkable similarities to Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird, or Piglet in Winnie the Pooh, or Herbert in Great Expectations, or Ron in Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, or R2-D2 and C-Threepio in Star Wars, or the porter in Macbeth. Why are these figures there? Why are they so alike?

One standard answer is 'to provide comic relief'. But the real answer, the universal answer, is to be found in the book How Stories Really Work.

If the protagonist of a story has a life that is all about being robbed of more and more, physically, emotionally and even spiritually, in order to draw in the reader’s attention relentlessly, then a comic character provides interludes, breaking things up a little, relieving the relentless build-up of emptiness.

A side issue, not essential to the overall plot, is addressed through these characters, who bring with them laughter, a sign of something minor being resolved, a symptom of relief.

The reader, drained by the trials of the protagonist who is losing more and more as the story goes on, experiences a moment of relief. That moment of relief serves to make the protagonist’s situation even darker by contrast.

The comic figure also has something essential to do in the end: they have a key role to play in the protagonist’s quest.

Don’t take my word for it - look at these examples.</