It was at this moment that Peet the Sock Man leapt from the rim of the gully at top speed, his arms spread wide like wings. Janner watched his uncle with awe.
His socks had long since fallen away in shreds, cut to pieces by the talons at the end of his reddish forearms. Peet’s white hair trailed behind him; one of his eyebrows lay flat and low, the other arched like a curl of smoke; and in Peet’s eyes blazed a single purpose: Protect. Protect. Protect.
What struck Janner most about his uncle in this moment was not the graceful leap through the air or the deadly, mysterious talons, but that amidst all the danger and panic, Artham P. Wingfeather’s gaze was fixed on him with what Janner knew to be a fierce affection.
– Andrew Peterson, North! Or Be Eaten
It began when the little girl kicked the Fang. Before it ended, whole armies came after the Wingfeather children. But fortunately, Peet the Sock Man – either bravely crazy or crazily brave – was always willing to stand between the Wingfeather children and armies.
He was their Guardian Angel. Andrew Peterson even gave him wings, a fitting – though probably unintentional – touch.
The Guardian role is not too often cast. Aslan sometimes acts like one – appearing to direct the heroes’ path, intervening when they finally can do nothing. No one in the Chronicles of Narnia really gets home without him. But in all that, he is not really being a Guardian Angel; he’s being a Jesus-figure.
In Lord of the Rings, Aragorn and his Rangers act as the Guardian Angels of Bree and the Shire – “sons of forgotten kings walking in loneliness, guarding from evil things folk that are heedless.”
A less classic example, but still a true one, is the goose woman in The Wolf of Tebron. Although she never does physical violence on behalf of the hero, she watches over him and sets him on the right road. Her guardianship is one of wisdom, not strength.
The goose woman, like Aragorn and the Sock Man, is a Rejected Outsider. They all also cross with the Mysterious Yet Benevolent Stranger – with bonus points for being Not Dressed for Success: Do You Judge By Appearances?
What Aragorn and Artham are, but the goose woman is not, is a Too-Powerful Sidekick. This is why they are detached from the hero in surprisingly short order and sent to be Guardian Angels somewhere else.
It makes sense that the protector should be stronger than his charge. It even makes sense, in a way, that he should be unknown. But it’s a little strange that Guardian Angels are so often pariahs, cast off from society. Perhaps it helps them fulfill their role; perhaps it helps them get into it.
Guardian Angels are a noble breed, but they are most noble when they combine with the Pariah archetype. It may or may not be a burden to spend your life protecting people when you do it to applause; it’s always hard when you do it to misunderstanding and rejection. And yet Aragorn and Artham carried on, satisfied just in being the Guardian Angel.