Literary Friendships: Celebrating Best Friends in Books

Jane Austen once wrote, “There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends.” Since Sunday, August 5, is National Friendship Day, we thought this week was the perfect occasion to celebrate some of our favorite literary friendships. In honor of this very special day, Bas Bleu’s editors have selected ten of our favorite pairs—and sometimes trios—of kindred spirits from classic literature. Check out our list (beware spoilers!) then tell us about your favorite literary friendships in the comments section below.

Anne Shirley and Diana Barry, Anne of Green Gables: The original “kindred spirits,” Anne and Diana are as different as night and day. A plucky red-headed orphan sent to live (mistakenly) at Green Gables, Anne is longing for a “bosom friend” when she meets prim, raven-haired Diana Barry. The girls hit it off instantly, Diana swept up by Anne’s powerful imagination and adventurous spirit. Pretty much every scrape Diana finds herself in is Anne’s doing (raspberry cordial, anyone?), and they face their fair share of misunderstandings over the years. But Anne and Diana bring out the best in each other: Anne nudges Diana beyond her comfort zone, while Diana brings stability to Anne’s life and loyally supports her grand dreams.

Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, The Lord of the Rings trilogy: Frodo and Sam’s epic friendship does not begin on equal terms: Sam is actually Frodo’s gardener, who agrees to accompany “Mr. Frodo” on his quest to carry the One Ring to Rivendell for safekeeping. But as their journey becomes increasingly dangerous and Frodo increasingly vulnerable to Sauron’s dark forces—and even when Sam questions the wisdom of their quest—Sam refuses to abandon Frodo, braving dangers and even taking up the quest to destroy the ring when he fears Frodo has died.

Huck Finn and Jim, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Some may argue on behalf of the friendship between Huck and Tom Sawyer. But where that relationship is steeped in boyhood (adventure, one-upmanship, and little regard for consequences), Huck’s friendship with Jim changes the way he sees the world and draws him toward adulthood. Thrown together in their quest for freedom—Huck is fleeing his dangerous father and the Widow Douglas’s attempts to “sivilize” him, while the slave Jim is running for his life—the pair join forces out of desperation. But Jim shows Huck the care and guidance Pap Finn never did, and Huck comes to realize Jim is as worthy of freedom as he is, cementing one of literature’s most memorable friendships.

Elizabeth Bennet and Charlotte Lucas/Fitzwilliam Darcy and Charles Bingley, Pride and Prejudice: Jane Austen’s literary masterpiece offers up not one, but two interesting friendships to readers. (For these purposes we’re ignoring Lizzy and Jane’s friendship on the basis that it’s rooted in sisterhood.) Elizabeth and Charlotte, like Darcy and Bingley, have been friends since childhood. And though their backgrounds may be different—the ladies raised in genteel poverty, the gents to the manor born—both friendships test the famous lovers over the course of the novel. Proud, romantic Lizzy is appalled when her smart, sensible friend Charlotte chooses security over love by marrying the ridiculous Mr. Collins. Proud, pragmatic Darcy is appalled when Bingley falls head over heels for the sweet, but socially unsuitable Jane Bennet. But as Elizabeth and Darcy evolve over the course of the novel, so too does their understanding of (if not quite appreciation for) their friends’ choices, allowing the dearly held friendships to persevere.

Nancy, Bess, and George, the Nancy Drew series: Teen sleuth Nancy Drew is famous for her nose for trouble, her zippy roadster, and her ability to solve just about any mystery. But no girl detective is an island, and Nancy never would have survived all of her shenanigans without the help of best friends Bess and George. Nancy is cautioned against more than one potential disaster by “scaredy cat” Bess, who nonetheless is right by Nancy’s side when things get dicey. And adventurous tomboy George balances the trio, with her straightforward attitude and willingness to drop everything and jump into action. As “ride or die” friends go, Bess and George rule!

Elena and Lila, the Neapolitan novels: Elena Ferrante’s quartet of Neapolitan novels all were published in the past six years, yet they quickly have become modern classics renowned for their nuanced portrait of female friendship. Following introspective Elena Greco and wild child Rafaella “Lila” Cerullo throughout their lives in Naples, Italy, the series tracks their complicated relationship as friends and rivals, the push and pull of their friendship instantly recognizable to anyone with a lifelong best friend whose bond is stronger than marriage and as unbreakable as blood.

Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, the Aubrey-Maturin series: First introduced to readers in 1969’s Master and Commander, this unlikely duo went on to co-star in twenty(ish) novels by Patrick O’Brian. Naval officer Jack Aubrey and physician/naturalist (and spy) Stephen Maturin are opposites in demeanor, disposition, appearance, and profession. And yet a shared love of music, wit, and the bonding effects of long sea voyages serve to cement the mismatched pair into inseparable friends as they navigate adventure, drama, and more than a few bad decisions—on sea and on land—during the Napoleonic Wars.

Mary, Dickon, and Colin, The Secret Garden: Mary Lennox may be a pill, but her life hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park. Sickly and unloved by her selfish socialite parents, Mary’s life goes into a tailspin when just about everyone she knows (including said awful parents) dies in a cholera epidemic and the child is shipped from her home in India to a cousin’s remote English estate. Life continues to look grim until she discovers a hidden garden and is befriended by kind-hearted Dickon. Soon, the little girl begins to bloom like the once-neglected garden, and together she and Dickon draw her invalid cousin Colin out of seclusion…and together they bring the garden and each other back to life.

Young Cathy and Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights: Most readers focus on the tumultuous adult relationship between Cathy Earnshaw and Heathcliff, but their epic story begins as a childhood friendship. When Cathy’s father returns home from a trip with the orphan Heathcliff in tow, his wife and their son Hindley are not happy. But even as Hindley torments Heathcliff, young Cathy grows to love him, forming a fierce bond with the mysterious boy she comes to consider “more myself than I am.” Hindley does his best to make him pay for it, of course, and Heathcliff doesn’t handle it well when Cathy makes new friends down the road at Thrushcross Grange. But once upon a time, those crazy kids were pals.

Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, The Three Musketeers: Because it’s nice when you can sum up your friendship with a catchy motto: All for one, and one for all!

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