It is Mother’s Day. The day you thank the woman who went through the shadow of the valley of death to give birth to you. (My mom says that’s what happened. She also said I looked like a lizard when I was born.) So I thought today would be a good day to reflect on mothers in fiction.
So let’s first look at the most terrible mothers ever!
5. Mrs. Bennett
Mrs. Bennett and her nerves are low on the list, because she isn’t actively malicious. She even does recognize how vital it is that her daughters get married, given that they had precious few other options to keep themselves fed in the future. But she goes about this in the most obtuse, silly way possible and darn near destroys her daughters’ actual chances with two good men. She has no problem that her youngest daughter lived with a man before marriage, or that the man in question is a lying jerk who had no problem with destroying Lydia’s reputation and then taking off for greener pastures (had not Mr. Darcy arrived on the scene). She’s silly, and she’s foolish, and no mom should be that.
4. Mrs. Reed
Now, Mrs. Reed wasn’t actually Jane Eyre’s mother, but she was in that position, and screwed it up so royally simply because…well, her dislike of Jane doesn’t stem from anything rational. She just doesn’t like the girl. She lets her own children get away with murder (John Reed was an abusive little jerk), and it comes back to bite her when her darling boy destroys his life with alcohol and commits suicide. Spoiling your kids is no better than mistreating them.
3. Lady Tremaine
Oh, where to start with her? Really, she’s the reason we even have a Mrs. Reed to begin with. She hates Cinderella because she’s prettier than her daughters, and that is literally her only beef with the girl. Her response is to be abusive and cruel, and teaches her own daughters to be exactly the same way. In the sequels she uses some sort of Timey-Wimey phlebotinum to arrange it so that her daughter Anastasia will marry the prince, regardless of how much the girl does not want to marry the prince. Lady Tremaine’s only redeeming characteristic is that she likes cats, and she even manages to teach her cat to be a jerk. Way to go.
2. Mother Goethel
Mother Goethel, despite her fantastic hair, is the most horrifyingly realistic abusive mother I’ve seen in fiction. She emotionally manipulates and guilts Rapunzel at every turn, is terribly passive aggressive about everything, and takes every opportunity to tear the girl down so she can keep her under her thumb. Although, if she had discovered Rapunzel’s tears had the same effect as her hair, who knows what the poor girl would have had to put up with.
1. Margaret White
Hoo, boy. Let’s get aboard the crazy train for this one. This woman is seriously screwed up in the head. She appears to have her own bizarre world ideas of religion, constantly abuses her daughter because it is a reminder of her own “sin”, and doesn’t seem to realize that pushing around the person who can kill you with her mind is a bad idea. You can complain about people raising their children to be too strictly “religious” all you want, but if they aren’t reaching Margaret-level fanaticism, I think it’ll be okay.
Honorable Mention: I just started reading A Game of Thrones, but already Cersei Lannister is on my list of “fictional characters I want to see die really really badly”. But Cersei’s greatest crime is giving birth to Joffrey. That should earn you a place on at least five different terrorist lists.
Well, but what about the good moms? You ask. I wonder why you’re asking this, since obviously you are reading what I have already written. But whatever, I don’t judge.
5. Mrs. Gardiner
Contrasting with Mrs. Bennett, Mrs. Gardiner is the type of mom everyone wants. She can be strict when necessary, but is intelligent, thoughtful, and shows interest in her nieces’ lives. She is observant and discreet, and it is no wonder that both Elizabeth and Darcy want her and her family to be part of their lives. One can easily guess that Jane and Lizzie spent plenty of time around their sensible aunt.
4. Mrs. Sowerby
Mrs. Sowerby is a breath of fresh air in The Secret Garden. She brings a maternal concern that both Mary and Colin have never known. We learn much about her at first only through her daughter Martha, who raves about her amazing mother. The woman may be in poor circumstances but she is bold enough to stop Mr. Craven with advice on raising children, and manages to keep her children fed and well. She encourages them to run out of doors and simply be children, and one of the most heartwarming moments is when Mary and Colin decide to call her “mother” as well.
3. Molly (Something Red)
Molly is the extraordinary leader of the troupe in Something Red. A former queen of Ireland, she nonetheless is able to mingle with the common folk, healing their ailments and dispensing advice. Throughout their travels, she is teaching her granddaughter Nemain to take her place, and raising our protagonist Hob as though he were her own. She has strong arms and a strong head, and many characters are quite taken with her. Maternal but fierce, she is the perfect sort of mother one would want in the fantastic and dangerous landscape of this book.
2. Molly Weasley
Molly Weasley is freaking amazing. Molly Weasley can take on Voldemort’s second-in-command. Saying the name “Molly Weasley” causes dark wizards to immediately surrender. This woman is seriously the epitome of the “everyone’s mom” type. If your mom wasn’t one of these, then you had a friend whose mom was one of these. Any young person that comes into their house gets all the coddling and all the chores that come with being this woman’s kid. Molly Weasley gives Harry the family he never had growing up, and happily accepts Hermione into their circle. She extends her motherly attentions to the entire Order of the Phoenix, providing them with plenty of food. Also, this part:
LOOK AT HER FACE AT THE END. THAT IS THE FACE OF EVERY DEATH EATER’S NIGHTMARE.
1. Lily Potter
And what would this list be without Lily Potter? She was kind, warmhearted, and she was willing to give up her life to keep her son safe. Lily’s motherly love is the center of the entire Harry Potter series. It’s that motherly love that comes through when Molly fights Bellatrix, and when Narcissa betrays her master to save Draco. It’s the most powerful magic in the entire Harry Potter series, and in our own world.
But remember, just because your mom doesn’t fight werewolves or dark wizards doesn’t mean she’s lame. I mean, it would be cool if she did fight werewolves and dark wizards, but those are hard to come by these days. Sometimes moms just face down really stupid people at your school, or spiders that crawl up your wall. Unless you’re my mom. Then we just sit as far away from the spider as possible and wait for someone to come rescue us. Yeah.