5 of the best mothers in literature

In honor of Mother’s Day, let’s talk about some of the best moms in literature. These women, though fictional, exemplify what it means to be a great mother – they are kind, protective, humorous, and tenacious – among a myriad of other attributes that make them incredible female role models. (Caution – potential spoiler alerts ahead!)

Photo courtesy of NYPL Digital Collections

Photo courtesy of NYPL Digital Collections

5. Miss Honey – Matilda, by Roald Dahl: Raised by selfish, uncaring parents who didn’t support her need to read, Matilda grew up isolated and underappreciated. It is not until she is enrolled in school and encouraged by her teacher that Matilda is able to see her own potential. Miss Honey does all she can to foster Matilda’s love of learning and cherishes Matilda in a way her own parents never have. At the end of the story, she adopts Matilda, giving them both what they have always desired: a loving family. The two go on to enjoy a wonderful life together, full of laughter, love, and books – lots and lots of books.

4. Rosa Hubermann – The Book Thief, Markus Zusak: Though rough at the edges and prone to outbursts of creative swearing, Rosa Hubermann has a heart of gold. Fostering Liesel Meminger after Liesel’s mother is accused of Communist ties in Nazi Germany during WWII, Rosa treats Liesel as her own daughter. And she doesn’t bat an eye when her husband, Hans, hides a young Jewish man named Max in their basement. Instead, she makes sacrifices in order to feed, clothe, and protect Max, just as she did when Liesel came to live with them. Unflinching and full of generosity masked by a veil of vitriol, Rosa Hubermann is not only a great mother – she is an incredible woman altogether.

3. Ma – Room, by Emma Donoghue: Locked away and raped repeatedly by the man who kidnapped her years ago, Ma is left to raise her son by herself. The tiny room in which they exist is the only world Jack knows, and Ma does her best to make it a child-friendly, homey environment for him. Ma risks everything, including her and Jack’s lives, to try to escape from their captor. The novel is told from five-year old Jack’s perspective, allowing the reader to see Ma as Jack does – devoted, protective, relentless in her efforts to give him everything he needs, and brave enough to attempt to rejoin the real world, even when the odds are against them. She is a hero not only to her son, but to women and mothers everywhere.

2. Marmee, aka Mrs. March – Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott: One of the most universally recognized mother figures in literature, Marmee instills in her daughters respect, humility, kindness, patience, and generosity. Espousing female and maternal values of her time, Marmee is the shining example of a selfless mother. Not only does she raise her daughters to be good little women, she also makes sure to recognize each of her children as individuals, doing all she can to further their education and to allow them to make their own choices – no easy feat for a mother living without her husband during the Civil War.

And, finally, tied for first place….

1. Lily Potter & Molly Weasley – The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling: The late Lily Potter is referred to throughout the HP books as a gentle, generous, and kind woman, one who possessed great intellect and boundless amounts of magic. She makes the ultimate sacrifice to protect Harry from Lord Voldemort, and her brave actions later save the entire Wizarding world from falling into Voldemort’s hands.

Molly Weasley essentially adopts Harry, saving him from the awful Dursleys and treating him as her own son without a second thought. She does everything in her power to protect Harry and to make him feel loved, and she always remembers him in her sweater-knitting endeavors. She also kills the notorious Bellatrix Lestrange when her daughter’s life is in danger. Fierce, loving, and overall one bad-ass b****, Molly Weasley is a champion to mothers everywhere.

Of course, no Mother’s Day post would be complete without a shout-out to the mothers integral to my own story. To my grandmother, my beloved Aunt Scud, my sister, and all my “second mamas” in Ashland who helped raise me (you know who you are) – thank you! I could never have accomplished all I have or become the woman I am without your love, inspiration, and support. But mostly, this one’s for you, Mom… thank you for all you have done for me, all the clothes you have let me “borrow,” and all the stories you read to me before I could find the words myself. I love you!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there – fictional or real.

Photo via Visualhunt

Photo via Visualhunt

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Shannon Bowring

About Shannon Bowring

I am 26 years old. I was raised up in the County, in the tiny town of Ashland. I attended the University of Maine in Orono and graduated in 2012 with a BA in English, with a concentration in Creative Writing. Reading and writing have always been the greatest loves of my life. I am most at home in the dusty corners of used bookstores, surrounded by forgotten books. One day, inspiration struck when I decided I wanted to combine all my loves – writing, reading, traveling, exploring these beloved shops – to create an outlet in which I can share my bookish adventures with an audience of like-minded readers who could appreciate my love of words and stories.