Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and to celebrate Bas Bleu’s editors compiled a list of some of fiction’s most memorable moms. Several are noble, others are downright notorious, yet all are legendary in their own right. Check out our picks below, then head to the comments section to tell us about your favorite literary mothers. (WARNING: plot spoilers ahead!)
Ellen O’Hara and Mammy, Gone With the Wind: Margaret Mitchell’s indomitable heroine Scarlett O’Hara is such a handful that it takes not one, but two women to raise her up: her gracious, genteel mother, Ellen, who sees the best in everyone and whom Scarlett strives (and fails) to emulate, and her longtime house slave, Mammy, who sees Scarlett for the conniving diva she really is—and loves her anyway.
Marmee, Little Women: While her husband is away at war, the March family matriarch manages a household that, although financially poor, is rich in love. A tireless advocate for the less fortunate, she always finds the time and energy to nurture her four daughters’ dreams, soothe hurt feelings, and referee disagreements. She seems too good to be true—and never more so than when she comforts Jo by confessing her own struggles with a tempestuous temper.
Queen Gertrude, Hamlet: Lots of kids have a tough time when their parents remarry. But in Hamlet’s case, his mother marries his Uncle Claudius…who he’s pretty sure murdered his father. To make things worse, the queen dismisses her son’s suspicions by deciding he’s just gone nuts. Not cool, Gertrude. Not cool.
Charlotte, Charlotte’s Web: When a frightened young pig named Wilbur is brought to Zuckerman farm, he is shunned by the other barnyard occupants—all except for a kindly arachnid named Charlotte. Her quick thinking and mad web-spinning skills save him from the slaughterhouse, and when Charlotte dies before she can welcome her own children into the world, Wilbur follows her example and plays surrogate mom to the new arrivals.
Molly Weasley, Harry Potter series: With seven children of her own, Mrs. Weasley could be forgiven for never wanting to see another kid. Instead, she welcomes the orphan Harry warmly into her home, loving him as one of her own instead of treating him like the savior the rest of the wizarding world so desperately needs him to be. Yes, she sometimes comes off as a frazzled housewife. But when her family is threatened, Mrs. Weasley doesn’t hesitate to release her inner Mama Grizzly.
Caroline Ingalls, Little House series: Immortalized in her daughter Laura’s novels about the family’s real-life homesteading adventures, Caroline was a devout, devoted wife and mother, a constant source of strength and reassurance who always led by example and rarely missed an opportunity to impart sage advice to her four daughters.
Corinne Dollanganger and Olivia Foxworth, Flowers in the Attic: We’re not sure who’s worse: Olivia, who horsewhips her prodigal daughter, calls her grandchildren “devil’s spawn,” and locks them in her attic; or Corinne, who marries her uncle, allows her mother to imprison her kids, then proceeds to poison them so that she can inherit her father’s fortune. We do, however, feel safe saying neither woman will ever win Mother of the Year.
Marilla Cuthbert, Anne of Green Gables: When red-haired orphan Anne Shirley arrives at Green Gables, austere, rule-loving Marilla is none too pleased. (She wanted a boy, after all.) Though constantly exasperated by Anne’s shenanigans, Marilla’s formidable personality conceals a kind heart, a sly sense of humor, and a devotion to her adopted daughter that no blood tie can rival.
Mrs. Bennet, Pride & Prejudice: She’s shrill, judgmental, and ill-mannered, never hesitating to serve up hefty doses of maternal and marital guilt to get her way. That said, she knows better than anyone just how bleak the future is for a poor, unmarried woman in Georgian England. Though her daughter Lydia’s elopement very nearly ruins the family, nothing soothes a doting mother’s nerves like a son-in-law with ten thousand a year.
Margaret White, Carrie: The abusive and unstable religious fundamentalist believes her daughter Carrie’s telekinetic powers are a sign of witchcraft, refers to female breasts as “dirty pillows,” and tells her child that her first period is punishment for her sins. Needless to say, for this horrible woman, what goes around comes around—with a vengeance.
Mrs. Wormwood and Miss Honey, Matilda: In classic Roald Dahl fashion, brilliant, precocious Matilda is saddled with some of the most insufferable parents a kid can have: a crooked used-car salesman father and a crass, bingo-obsessed mother. In their eyes, Matilda is an idiot and a pain in the rear. Fortunately, her sweet-tempered teacher Miss Honey sees Matilda for the treasure she really is. So when the Wormwoods skip town to evade the police, Miss Honey happily volunteers to be Matilda’s new mom.
Jocasta, Oedipus Rex: Never. Play. Chicken. With. The Oracle. It will not end well.