From the beginning of storytelling, epic adventures have had their heroes — the larger-than-life, charismatic persona who is willing to endure fantastic quests in order to right a wrong or secure their place in infamy. Though the particular quest may differ from story to story, there are similarities in these tales. Generally, there’s an obstacle that requires immense strength or extreme cleverness to conquer.
And often, the hero has a trusted companion to help him do it.
In ancient stories (see the Mesopotamian poem ‘Epic Of Gilgamesh,’ or the Iliad), the role of sidekick was to exclusively serve the hero, and the story generally ended in tragedy for the sidekick and sometimes the hero as well. The death of the sidekick often provided the motivation for the hero to propel themselves into the final act of the story.
But as our stories evolved, so has the role of the sidekick. They’ve become more defined, no longer existing to simply serve at the whims of the hero. Instead, they have their own agency, filling a part of the story that makes them integral to not just the hero, but the overarching plot as a whole. And while there are thousands of characters, each with their own individual character traits, it’s the ISFJ as the Protector that emerges most consistently in recent sidekick characters.
Batman and Alfred
When thinking of who belongs at Batman’s side, Robin is probably the most common answer. But when looking at the story of Bruce Wayne over the many mediums, we see that Robin is actually a small piece of Batman’s larger story. In comparison, there’s one person who has always been by Bruce Wayne’s side: Alfred Pennywise.
The dynamic between Alfred’s protective ISFJ persona is sometimes in direct conflict with Bruce’s more challenging ENTJ personality. Batman thinks with his head, while Alfred feels with his heart. But it is Alfred’s ability to use his Sensing traits and experiences to talk logic to Batman’s more instinctive Intuitive side.
A quiet butler, Introverted Alfred prefers to stay far away from the actual crime-fighting action. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t actively involved in the vigilante hero’s quests. Alfred’s Judging tendencies make him an ideal companion; taking care of Wayne Manor above and the Batcave below, all while ensuring Bruce takes care of himself most of all. He ensures every mission is set up for success and helps Bruce balance life between his crime fighting alter ego and that of the playboy billionaire.
Alfred brings tradition and a sense of calm to Bruce’s chaotic determination to shake the underworld of Gotham up. He keeps Bruce grounded and compassionate, never letting him get away with cold logic when feelings need to be considered. Their joint Judging traits mean they work well to stay on task, getting work done before the billionaire can disappear into the night. This provides the structure and discipline it takes to keep Batman’s alter-ego hidden, making Alfred Batman’s true sidekick in both versions of his life.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson
A case of literary luck, or bad luck as it were, ensured the paths of ISFJ Dr. John Watson and INTP Sherlock Holmes crossed. And that luck continued when their landlady goes missing, sparking an intriguing crime-solving partnership.
From the outset, Dr. Watson is fascinated watching Holmes’ Intuitive problem-solving skills at play. Watson, dominated by his Sensing traits, sees the facts first, building to a big picture. He is drawn to the way Holmes does the exact opposite, and marvels at the way he solves cases. This ability to ask ‘what if’ and explore alternate realities while examining evidence is something Watson would never do, making Holmes a captivating figure for Watson.
Extraverted Watson pushes the Introverted Holmes to communicate more by asking questions, but he also draws the reluctant detective into the public realm more by insisting on publishing his cases. This is also sparked by Watson’s outrage when Holmes isn’t given due credit for solving a crime, showing how the Extraverted Feelers can benefit the Introverted Thinker.
Sherlock is methodical when it comes to solving crime, but in his overall life he is dominated by his Perceiving tendencies to stay open and flexible. Watson’s Judging traits help balance Holmes, bringing a sense of order and consistency to the detective. In all, Watson is drawn to Holmes, but Holmes is steadied by Watson, making their partnership a powerful one.
Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee
Frodo Baggins may have been chosen with the enormous task of destroying the One Ring in Mordor, but it’s the strength and loyalty of Samwise Gamgee that ensures Frodo is successful. Sam and Frodo’s ISFJ meets INFP friendship shows how even the quietest of personalities can be the strongest—especially together.
The relationship between the Healer and the Protector is one that can be mutually supportive. Frodo tries to stop Sam from following him, but Sam’s Sensing self takes Gandolf’s instructions to stay with Frodo no matter what quite literally, almost drowning in his attempt to follow through. His loyalty stems entirely out of his feelings but it’s also cemented with his Judging side, as he knows Frodo needs a plan and steady-hand to help him on this enormous quest.
Once Frodo accepts that Sam isn’t going anywhere, they learn to rely on each other. As Feelers, both driven by their feelings, they have a mutual compassion and empathy for others. But Sam’s Sensing roots bring a more traditional view of life. This can cause frustration in the more Intuitive Frodo under normal circumstances, but the way Sam reminds Frodo of returning to the Shire ends up grounding Frodo, which helps him resist the pull of the Ring.
Often, the practical Judging viewpoint can clash with the more abstract Perceiving tendencies, but in this case the two styles blend beautifully. Sam brings a pragmatic approach to the quest, while Frodo’s idealistic bigger picture works together to drive them forward, through even the most difficult experiences. The way they overcome obstacles, taking the best of their strengths to create a ferocious united front is the thing friendship goals are made of. Frodo and Sam show us how to find strength in our own weaknesses by allowing others to make us better.
It should come as no surprise that the Protector is an ideal companion and makes for an excellent sidekick. These characters stick to their hero through thick and thin, providing support in whatever ways they can, always making sure they also provide guidance. Their Sensing tendencies ensure they stick to facts but their Feeling side never closes the door to compassion and empathy. And their grounded, no-nonsense Judging traits ensure that they aren’t afraid to give their hero the tough love required to get them back on track when necessary.
Stories constantly evolve. Moving from simple moralistic journeys, our plots now struggle with complex societal challenges where there is rarely an easy answer. But the evolving role of the sidekick also shows how we began to realize that a hero is never a hero on their own. They are always supported, and the individuals supporting them aren’t meant to exist solely for the hero to use at their whims. Rather, it needs to be a mutually supportive relationship, where the sidekick is just as valuable as the hero.
In this evolution, the grounded ISFJ offers support and offers a state of calm that many personality types are drawn to, making the Protector the ideal companion in both life and fiction.