An Instance of the Fingerpost is taking me ages to finish. After a week I’m barely 1/4 in. I’m seeing my 2010 resolution of reading at least one more book than last year slip away. It’s hard coming back from holidays…

So while stalling, I’m making literary lists, which everyone knows is the best thing after reading and browsing books. Since reading Cranford for the read-long, I’ve been thinking about my favorite  intriguing secondary characters, aka “I wish they got their own storylist. I’ve always loved a good best friend, sidekick and minor cast member and often feel my eyes following them more than the main characters. In no particular order:

Faramir, Steward of Gondor from The Lord of the Rings

“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Númenor.”

Faramir was the secondary character that made me appreciate secondary characters. He wasn’t planned – according to Tolkien he took a life of his own and became one of his favorite characters. He’s a warrior who favors peace, a scholar who lived and learned with Gandalf himself. He carries a lot of weight on his shoulders, after all, he was the one who stayed behind holding the fort. He loves his country, his family, and to top it, he loves one of the only strong female characters in the series. I’d like a whole series based on his life before and after LOTR.

from North & South.

“Nicholas – clean, tidied (if only at the pump-trough), and quiet spoken–was a new creature to her, who had only seen him in the rough independence of his own hearthstone.”

He’s a working class man fighting for what he believes. He has a strict moral code but no problem in admitting when he’s wrong. He has a great relationship with his daughters. He’s ready to raise the kids of a man he didn’t respect because he feels workers should stick together. His good sense is also able to put clueless (and often annoying) Margaret in her place. I’d like to know about his childhood, his marriage, how he managed to raise two girls after his wife died, how he became so interested in socialist ideals. Although only a secondary character, for me he stole the show.

Professor McGonagall
in the Harry Potter series

The firs’-years, Professor McGonagall,’ said Hagrid.
‘Thank-you, Hagrid. I will take them from here.’

And she did. The perfect authority figure and she’s cool to top it. Tell me more! What was she like as a student? Likely she was the Hermione of her time – or even better.

Richard from the Lymond series

“(…) running his home of Midculter, raising his children, sustaining, year after year, the blows which fell without warning, the traps which opened, the doors which shut in his face because of his brother Crawford of Lymond.”

Another with a Faramir-like syndrome (do I see pattern here?). What do you do when you’re the brother of one of the most fascinating, self-obsessed and complex characters in historic fiction (Lymond said of himself: I lack intellectual humility. A good thing to be without.)? You become the family’s rock, you become an expert in putting out fires and counting slowly to 50. Dorothy Dunnett does wonders with the people orbiting around Lymond but Richard is the one I’d invite over for a nice Belgian beer.

Mr. Holbrook from Cranford

He’s a fellow book-lover and he’s not afraid to be the eccentric in a village where tradition is law. He goes to Paris when everyone is expecting him to sit quietly waiting for death. Respect! What was he like as a young man? Does he have many regrets? What did he think of Paris? Gaskell should have written his memoires.

Mary Bennett from Pride & Prejudice

She may be an obvious choice, but Mary is one of those characters who has a life beyond (and sometimes different from) what the author meant. Behind the holier-than-thou façade, there’s a need to impress that’s moving. She’s stuck between the two wise, pretty ones and the two young, outgoing ones and you get the feeling no one really gives her a chance. Mary deserves her 5 minutes of fame, as a lot of fanfic authors out would agree.  Another character in similar circumstances is Flavia’s sister Dauphne in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.


After reading the above I found interesting the similarities among the male characters. I never liked the bad boys and always went for the steady types, so I guess that’s reflected in my literary tastes 🙂

Any interesting secondary characters I forgot?