Monday, July 1, 2019

Best Bromances in Literature

Every so often, I see a need to update old lists and reflections, so here goes.This blog post was first prompted because of the popularity of the drama 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,' especially when it was first released. A huge focus in this play is the heartwarming friendship between the sons of two traditional enemies, Harry Potter's son Albus, and Draco Malfoy's son Scorpius. At the time I noticed several fan groups across the internet theorise that the boys' friendship was rich with gay subtext. They expressed crushing disappointment that JKR and her fellow authors decided not to take Albus and Scorpius in that direction. A couple of crushes on females have clearly been written in for each of the boys, but several critics I've come across online call this a cop-out. Fan art and fiction to change this is no doubt still being produced as we speak. The friendship has advocates trying hard to claim it for the LGBTQ community while it claims to be no such thing itself.

I can't help wondering if this highlights a bit of a gap in our culture. Are so many people trying to read romance into Albus and Scorpius' friendship, just because of of its depth and sensitivity? Can't a pair of teenage boys enjoy a strong, affectionate friendship without being gay? Could it be because we see so few intense male friendships of this nature presented in literature and the media that so many people instantly read in what was never intended to be there? Even when I searched through images of friends for this blog post, I found an abundance of close girl friendships (hugging, arms around each other, foreheads together, smiling etc) but hardly any similar images for males. I'm thinking it must be high time to resurrect the 'bromance', which is defined as a close, non-sexual relationship between guys.

These thoughts prompted me to start searching through my mind for good examples of literary bromances. And although I initially felt as if I was scraping the barrel, I came up with quite a few, often in unexpected places. Friends, they are out there if we know where to look. Here is a bit of a springboard.


The hot-off-the-press bromance that started this train of thought will start my list too.

1) Albus and Scorpius
These two boys are a perfect friendship match on many different levels. First, they turn established patterns on their heads. A dark, resentful Potter hits it off with a cheerful, optimistic Malfoy. Their fathers' history of mutual antagonism means nothing to them, because they take people on face value. They discuss sensitive, emotional issues with honesty and are both willing to admit that their life at Hogwarts would be unbearable without each other. When forced apart they are entirely miserable, and aren't afraid to acknowledge that they intend to always be there for each other.

2) Harry and Ron
You can't start with Scorpius and Albus without mentioning the Hogwarts generation that came before. Although they were often part of a trio rather than a pair, Harry and Ron shared a close, best friend relationship. They had their ups and downs, but proved many times over that their manly affection for each other extended to death if necessary. There were moments of misunderstanding, but they were committed enough to their friendship to get through them stronger than ever.

These examples are not even human, but hey, they work, so who cares? 

3) R2D2 and C3PO
There's no reason why we can't look to droids to provide examples of decent bromances. These two are firm friends who travel together, look out for each other, translate for each other, understand each other and hate the thought of being separated.

4) Pooh Bear and Piglet
This is a reciprocal bromance in which each friend supplies input that strengthens the other. That's what makes a friendship rock solid. Piglet is an appreciative and willing listener who offers occasional constructive editing advice when Pooh recites his poetry. And in turn, our favourite bear helps his smaller friend shake off his many fears, and face the world with optimism instead of dread. Eventually, circumstances force them to become housemates, which suits our little pair just fine.

5) Timon and Pumbaa
Since bromances can come in many shapes and forms, why not a meerkat and warthog duo? Wily Timon hijacks his friend Pumbaa's bright ideas, but puts up with a lot of bluster and bad smells from his friend for the privilege. The 'Hakuna Matata' philosophy they cooked up together is one we could all adopt. They face the world together with a 'no worries' attitude.

6) Frodo and Sam
Hobbits get it right too. I wasn't sure whether to include this one, wondering if their relationship is on quite the right footing to be considered a bromance. There is always a bit of servitude in Sam's attitude toward his beloved Master Frodo, but hey, I wanted to grab something. And by the end of their adventures together, the bond between the pair of them gets steadily stronger. Especially when Sam saves Frodo's life on numerous occasions.

If we have to go back to Victorian England to find a good bromance, then that's what we'll do. Because Dickens nailed it! 

7) Pip and Herbert
The awesome mates from Great Expectations make me think Charles Dickens himself would have loved the term 'bromance'. These young men become best friends and housemates with reciprocal concern for each other. Herbert tactfully informs Pip when his etiquette needs a quick tweak. They look out for each others' interests, paint the town together, cook their Victorian dude food, and are totally trustworthy and comfortable together. And by the end, we have to give the nod of approval when they become business partners.

8) Mortimer and Eugene
You can't help loving these two lazy lawyer lads from Our Mutual Friend. They went through school together and eventually share an apartment on their meager finances, where they throw wise cracks, grumble about work, deal with unexpected callers, and always have each others' backs. I love Mortimer's way of telling Eugene he's so silly and ridiculous, when what he really means is, 'You're so cool.' A heavy dose of drama, and near death toward the end of the book helps them both realise even more what their friendship has always meant to each other. Awww!

Now we dig deeper into other works of literature.

9) Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn
I admit I've never read these American classics. Being an Aussie, they weren't set on our school curriculum. But from reports I've heard all my life, I assume these two lads are inseparable friends on the same wavelength. Should I read them? They are definitely on my radar, and I'd appreciate any recommendations or deterrents.

10) Holmes and Watson
They are both intelligent, professional gentlemen who at least give lip service to a relationship of equality. Watson is always keen to tag along on Holmes' detective escapades to see what his friend will come up with next, and so he can say, 'You're incredible, Holmes!' And he never seems to find that smug, 'Elementary, my dear Watson,' at all condescending. Maybe not a perfect bromance either, but once again, I grab them where I find them.

11) Darcy and Bingley
These two seemed to be unlikely friends because of their different temperaments, but I guess they tick the bromance boxes. They enjoy hanging out with each other, they travel together and make sure to synchronise the plans in their calendars. And they've been friends for long enough that they make allowances for each others' foibles in a good-natured, eye rolling sort of way.

12) Hamlet and Horatio
The moody Prince of Denmark always had his best buddy to try to make things easier for him. Sadly Horatio's best efforts didn't make a whole lot of difference in the end, but at least he was always there for his friend, and Hamlet appreciated him.

Okay, it's definitely no classic, but I'll drop it in.

13) Michael and Jerome
I'm referring to one of my own published novels here, A Design of Gold. I worked really hard on this bromance between two young men who had nothing in common on the surface, yet felt thrown together in several different ways, until they realised they were more alike than either of them would have imagined. And it takes a life or death sort of situation for them to come to this point. I didn't realise I was adding to the sparse bromance literature, but I'm glad to have worked it out.

I guess this Biblical example has a lot to live up to, when we consider all these guys went through out of loyalty to each other.

14) David and Jonathan
The ancient bromance sets the bar high for all future bromances. These two were devoted to each other to such an extent that David declared Jonathan's love superior to that of a woman, and King David was definitely a red-hot male who loved his women. Jonathan's actions proved that David's opinion was justified. He was the Crown Prince at the time of the friendship. Even though David's rising popularity jeopardised his own chances of someday becoming King of Israel, that didn't matter to Jonathan. He helped his best friend escape from his father, who was set on murdering him. He remained devoted to David and his cause all his life. And in turn, David was loyal to Jonathan's direct line of descent after his death in battle.

If you can think of any more good bromances, please let me know. It's high time boys were free to celebrate their BFFs, as girls do. My sons have a number of fairly close male friendships, so we all know they are out there in reality. We just need to see them reflected as often as possible in stories and art.


  1. Fascinating concept and great list. I love your unusual examples especially Pooh and Piglet.

    I just finished up Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Kidnapped. The friendship between Balfour and Allen in that book was one of the all time great ones.

    1. Thanks Brian, it's surprising how many unusual ones there are 😊 I started Kidnapped many years ago and don't remember if I even finished it. But thanks for the suggestion. I'll look forward to your review of it.

  2. What a cracking list! Timon and Pumbaa = the best! As for Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, I'm not sure I'd call theirs a healthy relationship - it seemed to me half the time Huck just wanted to be left alone, and Tom kept insisting they do things his way... it's more a friendship of convenience, proximity + time + familiarity, than a deep and abiding affection for one another. I did love Darcy and Bingley's relationship, and how carefully Austen revealed it to the reader over the course of P&P. You're so right, we do need more honest, deep, complex and affectionate male friendships in fiction!

    1. Hi Sheree, it's so true, right! After reading your blog post, I did begin to wonder about Huck and Tom. I'm going to read those two books. From what you said, maybe Huck and Jim's is more the classical bromance. I'll look forward to finding out.