Heroes and Heroines who embark upon Quests, as is normal in Genre Fantasy, almost always either set off with companions or acquire them along the way. There are exceptions, but the extended narrative sweep of most fantasy novels written since J R R Tolkien offers ample scope within which secondary characters may act out their destinies. Tolkien's own The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955) possess skilful demonstrations of the usefulness (and appeal) of the band of companions, who fill the scene, bolster the hero, perform feats he or she cannot, depart upon ancillary quests whose accomplishment (see also Plot Coupons) will help trigger the climax, and die if necessary.
Two subcategories are used in this encyclopedia to help describe the various groupings characteristic of Heroic Fantasy as it has developed over the past half-century. They are the Dirty Dozen, a group brought together by force, and most often found in Military Fantasy; and the Seven Samurai, a voluntary association (like those in Tolkien), commonly found throughout adventure fantasy.
Companions may be of the same stock as the hero and heroine, but more usually represent as wide as possible a selection of character types, Talents, species and Realities of origin. The reasons for this are obvious: variety, pleasure, a reservoir of possible responses when action is required (see Plot Devices) and a pool of characters to develop further when required. Companions may therefore be taken from the ranks of available apprentices, Bards, gifted Children, Demons, Dragons and/or other creatures from the Bestiary, Dwarfs and/or Elves and other visitors from Faerie, Ghosts, the Goddess in disguise, Gods in disguise, Jacks, Knights, Magi and/or Wizards, Talking Animals, Temporal Adventuresses, Tricksters, Witches, etc. [JC]