It's Mother’s Day and here at Willoughby we’ve been discussing and compiling a list of our favourite mothers in literature. We asked ourselves: What makes a mother? A mother can be a guide, an emotional support, a burden, a friend, she can have a wand and tiara even. Sometimes, a mother isn’t a mother at all. Like families, mothers come in all forms and guises. Sometimes a book can feel like a mother. We may feel comforted, protected and guided by the pages of our stories.
We think a mother can be anything because a person can be anything!
Have a read of our favourites and let us know your most memorable literary mothers in the comments below.
Moominmamma, from Tove Jansson’s Moomin books, is the ultimate Mum! She’s kind and calm and never lets anything bother her. Nothing is ever a problem, and her only desire is the happiness of her family. She’s quick on her feet and always prepared. Her handbag is full of useful things for an emergency...wire, sweets, stomach powder- you name it, Moominmamma’s got it.
Cersei is formidable, she’s determined, she’s headstrong. All of these are objectively good qualities for a mother. Yet mix this with a ruthless streak and a penchant for violence and you have a very dangerous woman indeed. Whether you’ve read George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series or have simply watched the series, you will probably agree that Cersei is a force to be reckoned with.
Caroline ‘Ma’ Ingalls
The matriarch of the Ingalls family in The Little House on the Prairie books, is amazing mother to four. She’s loyal, gentle, generous, and never favours one child over another. She is strong and helps each of her children grow to become the best they can be. She doesn't always understands them, especially Laura, but she does always love and support them.
The Other Mother
Is there a more surprisingly sinister mother than ‘The Other Mother’ in Coraline by Neil Gaiman? Also known as ‘The Beldam’, the Other Mother is a terrifying, shapeshifting, soul-sucking nightmare of a character, whose sole purpose is to lure children into her uncanny alternate world. At first, she resembles Coraline’s real Mum and appears to be more fun and accommodating than her actual mother (albeit with buttons for eyes!). However, when the Other Mother suggests Coraline moves to the alternate world forever, her real Mum seems like a much more favourable prospect…
Marilla is the guardian to Anne, Shirley, Davy and Dora Keith in the Anne of Green Gables books, by Lucy Maud Montgomery. She is initially very self-restrained with her emotions. Her sense of humour gradually emerges over time, as her relationship with Anne develops. She may not be a mother in the literal sense, but her protection and love for the wild, joyful Anne brings colour and meaning to her life. Marilla is a character that shows that families can be chaotic and wonderful, all at the same time.
She’s annoying, she’s overbearing, she’s hilarious. Bridget Jones’ mother is the quintessential stereotype of a British mother. She’s perpetually trying to marry off her daughter to a man of wealth and success, has a short-lived and ill-advised affair with a colleague and is very frank about her views on motherhood (To be honest, darling having children isn’t all it’s cracked up to be). She does introduce Bridget to Mark Darcy though, so we can be grateful for that at least.
Matilda doesn’t have a positive and selfless role model until she starts at Crunchem school. Compared to the mean and neglectful Mrs. Wormwood, her teacher Miss Honey is loving and encouraging to the young Matilda, providing her with books and educational support. The two have a special bond and eventually Miss Honey adopts Matilda, allowing them both the perfect life they have always wanted.
Ma from ‘Room’
Emma Donoghue’s character Ma is perhaps the bravest Mum on this list. Kidnapped at 19, the now 27-year-old spends her days shielding her son from the reality of their daily lives. She educates, plays with and protects Jack, all while making sure she never loses hope that one day that they will escape captivity. She’s fierce and loving and committed to making sure she and Jack see the outside world.
There are countless mothers that deserve a spotlight. Let us know!