There’s something about mythical beasts that has always been a draw for me. Fantasy has long been my wheelhouse, and from the moment I met the Unicorn and her nemesis, the Red Bull, in Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, I was lost for good. Mythical creatures were an immediate favorite, and they have stayed there ever since. But the best of them, the ones that really grab me and don’t let go, are the mythical companion beasts. I think it may have started because my dad refused to let us have a pet in the house when I was young, so any story in which the protagonist got to have a pet became a way for me to fulfill my fantasies of having a pet (he has since reformed, we have two practically-direwolf family dogs, now).
From films to books to television, we’ve seen countless protagonists and their trusty animal sidekicks. I’m not counting aliens (sorry, Stitch), and I tried really hard not to double up on any individual type of creature, because otherwise this list would probably have been titled “10 most fantastic dragon companions” instead.
10) The Worm, Labyrinth
This helpful little guy shows up right when Sarah needs him the most and helps her on her journey. With his charming little cockney accent and his incredible hospitality, is there anyone who wouldn’t love this guy instantly? I will admit that it’s a bit of a stretch calling him a companion when he only spends a few minutes helping Sarah out, but he’s just so darned friendly and eager-to-please that you know he’d have continued to be a delightful addition to her quest, if she’d only taken him with her.
9) Gizmo, Gremlins
Gizmo is a mogwai, and the source of the now-ubiquitous “don’t feed them after midnight” joke, used by babysitters the world over. He’s the cutest thing, all fluff and ears… until you get him wet, and suddenly there are five more of him and they’re all full of mischief. Feeding them after midnight makes them evolve into reptilian, murderous horror versions of themselves. The movie starts out as a cute story about a guy who gets a funny little pet and develops into a full-blown action film after one of them jumps into a pool and spawns an army. It’s a good thing they’re allergic to sunlight! I loved those little creatures. It was my dream to have a herd of them with which to destroy my siblings.
8) Falcor, The Neverending Story
Everyone deserves to befriend a Luck Dragon. This friendly, fuzzy, flying dog-like dragon carries Bastian around in the skies of Fantasia, not only getting him from place to place but also keeping him from being pulled into the Nothing (which he can evidently fly through without trouble). His soothing voice and floppy ears make him a really calming character in general, and the way he is able to keep Bastian calm when he feels like things are going wrong all around him is precisely why he is such a valuable companion.
7) Zero, The Nightmare Before Christmas
Wherever Jack Skellington goes, you know Zero will go with him. This floating kite of a dog with a glowing pumpkin nose is Halloweentown’s answer to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and he is (dare I say it) way cuter than that little reindeer ever could be. Look at how eagerly he fetches the rib! Zero is a viewing companion for me every year from October to December. He’s such a charming little thing.
6) Ghost, A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones
The Stark children each have a direwolf, all of which were discovered in the very early parts of A Song of Ice and Fire (or episode 1 of the TV show). But I promised myself that I would choose one, and based purely in the fact that Ghost has by far the most time for us to get to know and love him because he belongs to Jon Snow, he got the choice. The direwolves are incredible. Huge, imposing megawolves from the North, direwolves hadn’t been seen south of the wall in ages before Jon and his brothers found the pups on their way back to Winterfell. Bran fell immediately in love, and thanks to his pleading, the family rescued the pups–and they’ve been there ever since. Wherever Jon goes from here, Ghost will not be far behind. You couldn’t ask for a better companion.
5) Iorek Byrnison, His Dark Materials
Iorek Byrnison is an especially large and exceptionally intelligent armored polar bear. Let me repeat that last bit: he is an armored polar bear. He is a companion, he serves as Lyra’s epic mount for some part of her travels, and when it comes time to throw down, he doesn’t pull any punches. There is not a single person in the world whose life would not be improved by being on Iorek Byrnison’s good side, that’s for sure. Especially when being on his bad side might lose you a jaw.
4) Fawkes, Harry Potter
Leave it to Dumbledore to have one of the most powerful and flashy companion animals of all time as a pet. Phoenixes don’t die, they simply start the cycle anew–and their tears can heal, as Harry luckily found out at the end of Chamber of Secrets. The ability Fawkes has to burst into flame is only one of his handy tricks. He can also lift enormous weights, heal wounds, and conveniently appear exactly when he is most needed.
3) Pantalaimon, His Dark Materials
Pan is unique even among mythical creatures, because Pan is a daemon. He is a reflection of Lyra Belacqua’s soul, and as such he morphed from shape to shape when she was young, eventually settling after she had grown and matured. His personality did not match Lyra’s, but rather mirrored it. Upon reading this series I definitely spent a lot of time wondering what my own daemon might look like, if we had them in this world.
2) Fizzgig, The Dark Crystal
Fizzgig! Oh, Fizzgig. Just a few weekends ago I found myself at the Center for Puppetry Arts here in Atlanta, and there in the back of the Jim Henson exhibit is Fizzgig in all his fluffy, furry glory. This movie was my favorite as a child, and I’m pretty sure the fact that I wanted a Fizzgig of my very own was a large part of the reason. He was like a very ornery tribble, and he came with a defensiveness of his territory that mirrored my own (my siblings and I had a very contentious “get out of my room” phase). What’s not to love?
1) Drogon, A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones
Man, that is one good-looking dragon. I have had a lifelong love affair with dragons. From Smaug to Dragonheart to Elliott to Toothless, I have made many, many dragon attachments in my time as a fantasy nerd, and I have loved them all with my whole heart. But I forced myself to choose one, and Drogon is the king. As the largest of Daenerys Targaryen’s three dragons, he is the de-facto ruler of the skies of the known world in A Song of Ice and Fire. The sheer power that Dany wields simply by being his “mother” is immense, and one can only wonder what will come in the future for them. I loved him when I read the books, and seeing him on-screen on HBO’s adaptation has only made that love stronger. I’m not joking when I say Drogon is my favorite character.