Friday, May 8, 2015

Best Of: Literary Mothers

Housekeeping note: In looking over the last few weeks, I must apologize for the lack of book reviews here. I've been reading Richard the Third, which is a hefty book, and what little reading time I have has been sorely cut out by a full-house carpet replacement, work, and speaking engagements. I hope to resume book reviews in a couple of weeks, and in the meantime will do my best to provide thoughtful, book-related posts to carry us through the gap. Thank-you! 

 In celebration of Mother's Day (coming this Sunday, hint hint) we have the best literary mothers featured on the blog! As memorable as Mrs. Bennet and Hyacinth are, they aren't exactly the kind of inspiration we're looking for. So here are my favorite mothers and mother-figures in literature.

1. Kathryn Carter (Cloak of the Light)--In Chuck Black's Cloak of the Light, she's one of the involved moms in literature. Widowed after her husband was killed in combat, she pours a lot of time into caring for Drew after he goes blind.
2. Mrs. Duncan (Freckles)--The sweetest scene in Freckles is when he asks her if kisses wash off, and she tells him of course they don't. They strike down deep into your heart and stay there forever. She gave him the mother's love that his hungry heart needed, and always had a timely word ready.
3. Janet (Sir Gibbie/The Baronet's Song)--Donal's real mother, and Gibbie's adopted mother, Janet showed a steadfast hope in the Lord and a loving care for the hungry, abused orphan who came to her doorstep. Her bannocks and milk sounded delicious.
4. Mara (The Hidden Hand)--At our house we eye Mara's son with a wary eye (compared to strong and carefree Herbert, Travis is rather high-strung and weak-willed) but Mara, steadfast, heartbroken wife of a man who abandoned her, is a sweet woman that you just want to take under your wing and shelter.
5. Mother (Laddie) --I love her. Her speech to Mr. Pryor about how they raised their boys and girls, her brave, concealed heartbreak when Laddie proposed to the Princess, and her willingness to let Little Sister try homeschooling when the one room schoolhouse just didn't work. Mother didn't know how to read when she got married, and when the children thought their father drilled them in school subjects for their benefit, they never knew it was so he could give an education to his wife, who worked side-by-side with him heart and soul.
6. Marmee (Little Women)--No list would be complete without Marmee. She had loving advice, a heart for the poor, and managed to raise four beautiful and free-spirited daughters.
7. Jo March (Little Men, Jo's Boys)--The wildest of the lot growing up, Jo manages to have the most children, and raises a happy bunch of boys and girls in Little Men. I think her own wild heart (tamed over time) gave her the compassion for Dan that he desperately needed.
8. Caroline Ingalls (Little House on the Prairie)-- She moved all over with Pa Ingalls, lost her baby son, and her oldest daughter went blind, but she had a resilient spirit. The Caroline series was always my favorite of the Little House additions, because it gave her life from early childhood until marriage. She always had a wise saying on her tongue and was a hard worker.
9. Kanga (Winnie the Pooh)--Is so.cute. We love her around here. Her baths--and soap--and strengthening medicine. And whenever she says "We'll see, dear," to Roo, we all burst out laughing, because "We're always seeing, and nothing ever happens."
10. Robin Stuart (Jane of Lantern Hill)--Robin was not a good wife, and in some instances her weaknesses made her a less-than-perfect mother. But she did love Jane, and loved her own mother, and her little secret gestures to Jane were sweet.
11. Marfa Strogoff (Michael Strogoff)--One of the toughest, most stalwart women I've read about. Willing to endure shame and torture so that her son would not be revealed to his enemies. She was also willing to lay her very life on the line to prove her trust in him, if that's what it took.
12. Kate Comstock (A Girl of the Limberlost)--She's a bitter, shriveled up woman when the book
starts, but softens out into a spunky, discerning, practical person. I like her quite well, and she's one of those mothers that has a happy ending.
13. Maria Von Trapp (Story of the Trapp Family Singers)--not only did she become step-mother to a lot of children, she crossed the Atlantic while pregnant, conducted a music tour, and kept her immigrant family alive in America through a series of hilarious escapades.
14. Paula Bonhoeffer (Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy)--I don't know much about her, but what I do know I like. Married into a smart family that didn't really want religion, she kept alive her past family's religious heritage. I'm sure a lot of that influenced Bonhoeffer's interest in the church.
15. Alec's mother (Black Stallion)--Who wouldn't want an awesome mom like that? She lets her son ride a killer of a horse, go to horse races all over the country, travel to Arabia, buy an even greater killer of a horse, and just makes sure he's well fed and loved in the meantime.
16. Grace (Best Christmas Pageant Ever)--She ran a church Christmas pageant. With the Herdmans. Guys, if you haven't read this book, it will have you laughing from page 1.
17. Sarah Wheaton (Sarah, Plain and Tall)--At first a step-mother, and then with children of her own, Sarah brought healing and imagination to Anna and Caleb after their own mother died. Since my dad grew up in Maine, I loved her Maine heritage as well. :)
18. Julianna Von Stolberg (Dr. Oma) --She had seventeen children. Her son was William of Orange, and she grew up in a volatile historical time with a deep faith in God.
19. Mama (All-of-a-Kind-Family)--Her Jewish food made my mouth water. A good mix of kind, strict, and her heart was securely in the home taking care of her family.
20. Mother (Swiss Family Robinson)--We never knew her name. Mother is all she's known by. But in the movie and in the book, she has a kind, pioneering spirit like Ma Ingalls, only on a deserted island. Her boys (and husband) loved her.

There aren't--ahem--very many mothers in literature. Louisa May Alcott and the Little House Books have the most, as well as probably some children's books. Is losing a mother a necessary character lack for the purpose of every story? Perhaps. At any rate, there are a lot of motherless lads and lasses running around, and I hope they find someone to take care of them soon!

I'm indebted to my own mother, who has driven and walked with me to the library so many times, homeschooled me with great dedication all the way through highschool, and read so many books aloud to us. Without her years of investment, this blog would not exist. :)

Which mothers would you add to this list? :)

Credit for Sarah Wheaton goes to The Good and the Bad: Memorable Moms in Literature, by Cheshire Library blog. I am not familiar with the other site content. And thanks to Junior B. for suggesting 18 and 19. 


  1. What a great blog post idea right before Mother's Day!

    I'm trying to think of ones not on your list...
    -Ender's Mother in the Ender's Game series - she's pretty awesome, especially if you read the "Shadow" half of the series where she gets a bit more page time
    -Zara from my own "Minstrel's Song" series is a pretty fantastic mom
    -Willow from "The Magic Kingdom of Landover" books (though she doesn't become a mom until I think the last book in the series)

    Yeah... not a lot of mothers around, especially in fantasy.

    1. Poor fantasy characters. It is almost a given that they are orphans. :) I was trying to think of some from Tolkien, and one of my friends suggested Aragorn's mother--but most fantasy mothers, if they have a cameo scene, are pretty tragic. Except, perhaps, Mrs. Igiby from the Wingfeather Saga!

  2. Definitely Mama from Mama's Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes. And Mother in The Railway Children by E. Nesbit is lovely too.

    There's a mother character I love in a more obscure book, Points West by B.M. Bower. Mrs. Harris (yes, a Mrs. Harris who actually exists) is a delightful, no-nonsense rancher's widow who deals with one irrepressible daughter, one rotten stepson, and becomes a surrogate mother to the orphaned protagonist. She's great fun.

    1. A Mrs. Harris who actually exists. Haha! She sounds absolutely lovely. And Eleanor Pruitt was a wonderful mama as well. :)

  3. This is a lovely post, Schuyler; I agree with you at the marked absence of parents, and mothers in particular in many works of literature. It is rather grievous, I agree! (Though *cough cough* in my novel, Jane's mother died when she was small, and Ernest's father died when he was younger. . . a lot of it is a plot device and character development, but what parents *are* in the story, definitely play an important role in the story :)...

    These are some wonderful mothers, though I actually haven't read all these books. Some of the familiar ones for me are of course are Caroline Ingalls (LOVE her!), Julianna Von Stolberg, Maria Von Trapp (we're gonna see "The Sound of Music" 50th Anniversary screening at our local cinema tomorrow, Lord willing, for Mother's Day :D!), Marmee and Jo March of course.

    I quite forgot Drew's mother, but you are right, she is absolutely lovely and such a trooper!
    Also as Elisabeth mentioned the mother of the Railway Children is such a delightful mother . . . so loving and caring, responsible and motherly. She also writes stories as a mother and sells them to earn money for her family in hard times! Definitely a favourite.

    For a "real-life" mother figure from books, I just remembered Edith Schaffer from the autobiography "L'bri" :D. We love that book because just their family adventures, Edith's house-hunting tales (So like what our Mum did so often!) and how God was with their family always inspired us deeply.

    1. Aww, so cool that you got to see the Sound of Music. I didn't know it was the 50th anniversary coming up! That's really neat; we love that movie.

      I have a mama I really like in War of Loyalties. I just can't use my characters yet. :P And you have a mama in ALTNF too!

      I would love to try L'bri. I don't know much about the Schaffers, but they have inspired a lot of people, for sure. :)

  4. I love Mrs. Duncan, I really, really do.

    Also, the mother from The Swiss Family Robinson actually did have a name, but I believe it was mentioned only once in the book. I happened to remember it because it was Elizabeth. :)

    Thanks for a wonderful post! Please tell your mom Happy Mother's Day from us!

    1. I want one of Mrs. Duncan's hugs and one of the Angel's frosty glasses of goodness. Until then, my life will be incomplete. ;)

      Did she indeed? Well, well, I never knew that! That's so cool. :D

      Thank-you so much! I will be sure to pass those on to my mom. :)


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