She wanted to scream. There were so many blasted ships and no way to stop one little boat from escaping. Though she was terrified of the sea dragons, she prayed that they would rise from the water. She prayed for another of Artham’s sudden, dashing arrivals, but she knew he was on the other side of the Dark Sea.
– Andrew Peterson, The Monster in the Hollows
There are people who are both unshakably good and preternaturally strong. They are the ones who step forward, who always know what to do in the moment of crisis, who incur risk boldly and selflessly. If we’re lucky, we end up on their side. If we’re especially lucky, they end up our special protectors.
And then, before our names can be written in greatness in truly heroic adventures, they have to go away.
From King Arthur on down, the heroes of fantasy tales have often had a stronger, wiser personality behind or beside them. Then, before the danger gets truly epic, the strong one vanishes. This is the Too-Powerful Sidekick, the mentor or guardian or counselor who has to leave before the hero can come into his own.
Gandalf is a classic example. Tolkien found it necessary to separate him from Bilbo and the Dwarves before things got really dark in Mirkwood – and before they met Smaug. He had more important business to tend to, like driving out the Necromancer. So it was Bilbo’s turn to be the hero.
In Lord of the Rings, where Gandalf had no more important business, Tolkien had to devise other ways to keep the wizard away. First it was Saruman – or Frodo would have made it to Rivendell on time, far ahead of the Ringwraiths. Then it was the Balrog.
Then, a few chapters later, it was Aragorn’s turn. He had vowed to save Frodo “whether by life or death,” so Tolkien had to get rid of him, too. He is another Too-Powerful Sidekick. Even the other Hobbits, Merry and Pippin, had to broken off from Aragorn before they could have their moment. With him around, what would have been left for them to do?
And then there is Artham Wingfeather, Throne of Warden of Anniera, Peet the Sock Man. In every book Andrew Peterson had to detach him from the Wingfeather children in a new way.
In On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, it was Nia and Podo’s shunning that created the distance. They drove him away even after he saved the family, permitting them to fall again into troubles that, had the Sock Man been at hand, he would have fought away.
For North! Or Be Eaten something else was needed, so a Troll dragged Peet away and the Fangs locked him up in a cage. At the end of the book, he was reunited with his charges again. So, at the beginning of Monster in the Hollows, they had to separated again. This time, rather than have others pull or drive Artham away, Peterson finally gave him a reason to leave of his own accord. Though it could be contended that the decision was made, as they say, under duress.
If Artham had been allowed to hang around a few more chapters, he would have spared the Wingfeathers all sorts of troubles. That was the problem with him, as with all Too-Powerful Sidekicks: They save the heroes out of tight spots. But it’s only in tight spots that you can ever be heroic.