Sherlock + Watson, and 7 More Literary Bromances

Sherlock Holmes Cumberbatch cover

Season Three of Sherlock was unleashed upon the American public last night, and considering the fact that fans of the show have been stewing over last season’s enigmatic cliffhanger for over two years, it’s a kind of miracle nobody spontaneously combusted in anticipation. We’re celebrating the momentous return of everyone’s favorite socially challenged detective with this list of the top 7 bromances in literature. Obviously, topping the list is the very special partnership of…

1. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series

As the BBC adaptation has gleefully emphasized, it takes incredible patience to be Sherlock Holmes’s friend. Blunt, aloof, and arrogant, Holmes is all rough edges. That’s why Doyle leveled the character out with Dr. John Watson: Holmes’s foil, friend, and biographer. Watson’s admiration for his friend’s mind outweighs his frustration over his many vices, and it does not go unnoticed. As Holmes often says in the books, “You know my methods, Watson.” That pretty much translates to “I love you, man” for Sherlock Holmes.

2. Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series 

This tearjerker of a bromance proves that behind every great hobbit is a seriously devoted gardener. Frodo is the “chosen one” in the series, selected by Gandalf to destroy Sauron’s ring. But when all is said and done, Frodo is nothing without his best friend. It’s Sam’s determination and support that ultimately brings Mount Doom crashing to the ground.

3. Aramis, Porthos, Athos, and D’Artagnan, of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers

Who says bromances have to be duos? The swashbuckling shenanigans of these bros show that quartets are double the fun as far as male bonding is concerned. This group of rogue warriors laugh, weep, and party together—when they’re not taking down the most powerful man in the land, that is. It’s no wonder they sum up their deep friendship with the iconic motto, “All for one, and one for all.”

4. Hamlet and Horatio, in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Hamlet is tossed into a total nightmare right at the top of this story: his father’s murdered, his uncle’s guilty, his mom plays dumb, and his girlfriend’s cracking up. The only constant in his life is his loyal friend Horatio, who does everything he can to help Hamlet wreak vengeance on Claudius. Horatio is the only main character that survives this bloodbath of a play, but he promises his dying friend he will set Denmark right. A good friend until the end.

5. Huckleberry Finn and Jim, in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

You might think Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer are the real bromance in Twain’s famous books, but that ain’t so. The friendship between Huck and the runaway slave Jim is the real gem, as this odd couple’s love runs deeper than the Mississippi. After escaping their respective troubles on a raft, Huck and Jim end up saving each other many times over (and on a few different levels, too). Twain’s masterpiece shows that true friendship transcends race, age, and tradition.

6. Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay, in Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

In Chabon’s magnum opus, 19-year-old Josef Kavalier is forced to flee his native Prague when Hitler advances into Czechoslovakia. He escapes to his extended family in New York City, and immediately hits it off with his cousin, the superhero-obsessed Sammy Clay. Together, they create an intricate comic book mythology that reflects their own deep fears and desires, even as disaster strikes in Joe’s war-torn homeland. The bond between the cousins is cemented by the extreme ups and downs they share in this brilliant masterpiece.

7. Gilgamesh and Enkidu, in The Epic of Gilgamesh 

This friendship between the Uruk king Gilgamesh and the wild man Enkidu proves that bromances are as old as the written word. Created by the gods specifically for Gilgamesh, Enkidu is a true soul mate, and it’s possible that their love transcends the platonic (let’s just say they enjoy cuddling a lot). Much like the romance between Achilles and Patrocles in The Iliad, the homoerotic friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu suggests that bromances were far more fluid in ancient times. We can only wonder how male friendships will continue to evolve in the future, though we think chips and salsa will remain a staple.

What famous literary bromances did we miss?

  • mim

    Well chosen, Becky. But it’s Patroclus, not Patrocles.