A close friend called last week with the news: his wife had a baby. Except it was someone else’s baby.
How’s that for a hook? Relax. His wife was a surrogate, for her close friend. Can you imagine? Surrendering your body to someone else for nine months? An extraordinary act of selflessness… and, at the same time, a rather ordinary act of best-friend-ness. After all, best friends do tend to do those extraordinary things for one another, don’t they?
We love to read and write about the sustaining and transformative power of friendships, so we thought we’d use this week’s space to outline some of our favorite BFFs (i.e. Best Friends Forever) in fiction. Here’s but a sampling:
Han Solo and Chewbacca, the Star Wars Saga: The sweetest duo in the entire franchise (even nudging out Jabba the Hutt and Bib Fortuna) and one that, for my money, is best encapsulated in a small scene from The
Empire Strikes Back: night has fallen on Hoth, and the Rebels have to close the shield doors to their base, leaving Han and Luke outside in the sub-zero temperatures. And as the doors slam shut, Chewie lets out a wail—of pain, of fear that he’s never going to see his best friend again. Ultimately, Han and the Wookiee’s friendship reinforces a simple truth: you can go from one side of this galaxy to the other, but just don’t do it solo.
George and Lennie, Of Mice and Men: In the span of a brief novella, Steinbeck created what may be the most tender portrait of friendship between two males in all of American literature—and since their story ends with one friend shooting the other in the back of the head, that’s saying something. (But George loved Lennie! It was a mercy killing, to save him from an even more gruesome fate. I swear!)
Anne and Diana, Anne of Green Gables: Orphaned Anne Shirley longs for “a bosom friend–an intimate friend, you know–a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul.” And she finds that in neighbor Diana Barry. Their instant connection beautifully depicts how deep and strong female friendships can be. Anne’s spirited imagination and penchant for trouble is tempered by Diana’s gentleness and loyalty. Anyone who’s ever had a girlhood best friend knows how much this young duo resonates.
Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, Lord of the Rings movie trilogy (2001-2003): When Frodo declares, “I’m going to Mordor alone,” Sam immediately answers, “Of course you are, and I’m going with you!” Perhaps the only thing more inspiring than Frodo’s quest to save the world is Sam’s refusal to leave his side while he does it: “I made a promise, Mr. Frodo. A promise. ‘Don’t you leave him, Samwise Gamgee.’ And I don’t mean to. I don’t mean to.” In perhaps the best moment from Return of the King, Frodo collapses at the foot of Mount Doom, while Sam cradles his friend in his arms, unable to hold back his tears. Determined to end his friend’s suffering and be rid of the ring forever, Sam’s voice rises with conviction: “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!”
Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins, Parks and Recreation: We dare you to find a better portrayal of female friendship on TV. Unlike so many gal pals that are characterized by competition over men and subtle attempts to tear each other down… it’s easy to see how much Leslie and Ann love and admire each other. Their friendship is real. They are loyal and supportive, they fight, they make up. They care about the quality of their friendship. In Leslie’s own words: “Ho’s before bros. Uteruses before duderuses. Ovaries before brovaries.”
Forrest Gump and Bubba Blue, Forrest Gump: Sure, Forrest had Lt. Dan and Jenny. (Heck, he and Jenny were “like peas and carrots.”) But Bubba was Forrest’s “best good friend”—the one he risked his life to try to save in Vietnam and the one whose dreams he kept alive by buying his own shrimping boat. And as with all important friendships, by helping Bubba, Forrest helps himself: his dedication to Bubba’s memory is what put him on his path to become a millionaire, as the founder of that “house-hold name” brand, Bubba-Gump Shrimp Company. Naturally, Forrest put Bubba’s name first.
John Wheelwright and Owen Meany, A Prayer for Owen Meany: As the book’s climax suggests, these two were literally destined to be friends. And Owen will do anything to protect John, including cutting off John’s forefinger—to keep him from getting drafted into the Vietnam War. (Before he lowers the saw blade, Owen tells John, in his uniquely wrecked voice, “I LOVE YOU. NOTHING BAD IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO YOU—I PROMISE.”) Not even the fact that Owen hits the foul ball that kills John’s mom can ruin this friendship; in many ways, it cements it.
Mike and Trent, Swingers: The Romeo and Mercutio of 90’s cinema, with Jon Favreau’s Mikey as the lovelorn sad-sack and Vince Vaughn’s Trent as the fun-loving, “personality-plus” party-guy. The best thing about this relationship is Trent’s total devotion to his friend: in virtually every scene, his only goal is to make sure Mikey has a good time. Sure, he’s a bit of a swaggering misogynist, but when it comes to friendship, Trent Walker is money.
OK… now that you’ve read our thoughts on the best friendships in fiction, let’s hear from you. Which BFF’s are your favorites? Whom did we leave out? Use the comment section to give us your suggestions. Popular pairings will be featured in an upcoming blog post!