17 May 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Literature's Also-Rans, Sidekicks, and Otherwise Overlooked Characters

This week's Top Ten Tuesday list, sponsored by The Broke and the Bookish, is a particularly fun one: minor characters.

1. Tom Bombadil from The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.  No, he's not fully drawn, but with his minor appearances there's no real reason for him to be.  But in the few sketches that Tolkien gives us, I'm quite taken with him--a character both entirely dwelling in the natural world, yet seemingly not of the world. 

2. Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling.  It's true that I like him better in fan fiction than in canon, but I think Snape is the most interesting and complicated character in the series, not to mention a pivotal player whose unpleasantness overshadows his importance. 

Had to leave this image larger 'cause it's so cool!
3. Poppet and Widget, the Murray twins from The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  In all fairness, this book probably doesn't belong here since it's not published for another four months, but I just finished reading it this morning and it's fresh in my mind.  These twins are great--wise beyond their years and yet never without their belief in the impossible.

4. Mr. & Mrs. Gardiner from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Can you imagine how differently Jane and Elizabeth Bennet's lives would have turned out with the Gardiners for parents? 

5. Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Was ever a better fool created in all of literature?  If so, I've not encountered him yet.  (This book is also fresh in my head because I'm reading P&P on my phone right now, just a few pages a day whenever I find myself waiting in line.)

6. Almost anybody from my childhood favorite author of L. M. Montgomery, author of the Anne series and Emily series. Matthew, Marilla, Davy, Rachel Lynde, and Katherine from the former.  The Aunts Laura, Elizabeth & Ruth,  Cousin Jimmy, Dean from the latter.

7. Alfred Ludlow from "The Legends of the Fall" by Jim Harrison. Ach, but the man breaks my heart.  Trying so hard to always do the right thing, and always losing despite his honorable intentions and guileless enough not to realize he doesn't belong in politics.

8. Dogberry from Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare.  Wow, not many lines and yet ye somehow manages to mangle them all.  Comparisons are odorous, indeed!

9. The entire cast of characters from The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart. It's really an ensemble cast, but if I had to choose beyond Balthazar & Hebe Jones, arguably the two main characters, I might go with the Reverend Septimus Drew, who is chaplain of the Tower but who moonlights as both a rat exterminator AND a writer of women's erotica.

10.  Once again, a list that I thought would be easy to compile is leaving me stumped.  So I'll leave it blank for you to tell me your favorite minor character(s). 


  1. I agree with you on Mr. Collins: a perfect fool, and indispensable to boot. Wonder what Austen would say about keeping up with her characters a scooch at a time in the grocery aisle? Lucky you to own a smart phone, though.

  2. I had Tom Bombadil on my list too. I found him simply enchanting and relished those small moments when he featured in the book

  3. Well, it has to be said. Hermione Granger. I mean, she's not "minor" per se, but definitely underdeveloped by JK Rowling. Now, we know that Hermione is *much* better developed in the fanfic genre (a la Anna @ withcfics) but in canon, underdeveloped and under-appreciated.

  4. Nothing from the King of Minor-character-dom? Charles Dickens??

    Mr. Macawber in David Copperfield. Mr. Turveydrop, the model of deportment, in Bleak House. THE-VEGETABLE-THROWING-GENTLEMAN-NEXT-DOOR in Nicholas Nickleby!!!!!

  5. Mr. Collins - how could I forget him. He's going to be my number 11. Also what about Boo Radley from To Kill A Mockingbird? Not an original thought but I did see it on another list and I do think he is one of my favorites.

  6. I'm glad you mentioned The Night Circus - I've got it too and I'm happy to hear something positive about it before embarking on the unknown.

  7. Law, Rob, I can't believe I left Dickens off this list. You properly shame me.

    Belle, Boo Radley would be a great addition to this list.

    Jennifer, I hope you enjoy The Night Circus. I was entranced with it.

    Melanie, you know that I know how we both feel about that. :)

    Kayleigh, I can't believe we both have Tom Bombadil on our lists!

    Laurie, I"m incredibly lucky to have that phone. Now if I only I could figure out how to work everything on it...

  8. Totally with you on Mr. & Mrs. Gardiner!

    Never heard of The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise, so I'm glad you mentioned it.

  9. Tom Bombadil--so awesome.

    I'd also say, Mammy from Gone With the Wind.


  10. I'm sorry but I really can't stand Tom Bombadil and I think LotR would been much improved by excising him totally!

  11. Ah! Here's my dilemma re commenting: I mainly read people's blogs at work, and my workplace blocks whatever program the commenting thing is, so I can't comment until later and then I usually forget.

    But I MEANT to comment on this and say that The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise looks really good and now I want to read it. ;)


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