Tough Travels: Moms

tough travelsIt’s Thursday again so I’m participating in the Tough Travels meme which is hosted by Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn. These posts are fun explorations of common tropes in fantasy, (sometimes) inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’s The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. Join me in the search for examples of this week’s topic – and don’t forget to check out other people’s lists, they’re wonderful and my TBR pile grows every week because of them!

It appears Mother’s Day is coming up in the US, so we’re looking for MOMS this week. While we celebrated Mother’s Day back in March in Slovenia, this topic is dear to me because I’m a new mom (since September) and I’m still trying to figure out what this means, exactly. I suspect this will be a life-long process…

Anyway, these examples include both great characters and some particularly nasty ones – in terms of their personalities. I’m wary of judging them as mothers, because it’s difficult to say what “good parenting” is – is it really wrong to do absolutely everything for your child? Probably, but there are people who would argue with me on this. I tried to sort them a bit – based on how they are portrayed – we’ll see how that goes!


Absent mothers – either dead or missing or just plain disinterested in the lives of their children.

  • harry-potter-sorcerers-stoneLily Potter, Harry Potter’s mom. She sacrificed herself and died for her infant son, which vanquished Voldemord’s power. Ah, the mother who sacrifices herself. What a common trope! Too common, if you ask me – how often do we get dads perform similar selfless acts?
  • Katniss’s mom from The Hunger Games – after the death of her husband, Katniss’s mom sunk into a deep depression, forcing Katniss to provide for her family, especially her younger sister, Prim. I didn’t really like how this was portrayed – while it’s dreadful that Katniss had to hunt and that they nearly starved to death, depression isn’t something one embraces willingly.
  • Jocelyn Frey, Clary Frey’s mom from The City of Bones by Cassandra Clare – Jocelyn drinks this potion that puts her into a coma and is then kidnapped by her crazy husband, leaving Clary with no clue what is happening – because Jocelyn has been hiding her true heritage from her. SURPRISE! This was a supremely bad idea since the heritage came and bit Clary in the butt.
  • Laurian, Kvothe’s mom from The Kingkiller Chronicle – she was beautiful and had an amazing voice, but I particularly liked her wit and the affection she showed her son and husband.



Rather average, well-adjusted mothers – I have no idea how to phrase this without using the word “normal” which is so problematic sometimes but you know what I mean, right? There aren’t that many of them that I could remember!

  • name-of-the-windCatelyn Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire – well, before she… ummm… met her very weird fate, she was as good a mother and person as she could be considering she lived in a world where everyone conspired to kill off all her children – and her husband.
  • The Golden Queen, Yarvi’s mom from Half a King and Half the World – not the most affectionate of mothers, true, but she did care for her son and I liked how she ruled her financial empire.
  • Queen Kettricken, Prince Dutiful’s mom, from The Farseer trilogy (and subsequent books) by Robin Hobb. This one was my husband’s addition to the list – I only read the first trilogy so I really only experienced her as a wife and queen but I liked her immensely as a character.
  • Molly Weasley, mother of seven Weasleys, from Harry Potter – she was always portrayed as this (stereo)typical stay-at-home mom, always washing socks and listening to cooking advice on the radio, but in Deathly Hallows, and especially in the Battle of Hogwarts, she shows her badass self!


Batshit crazy mothers – those who are just plain bad people, and would probably would have been nasty even without kids.

  • angelfall-susan-eeCersei Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire – OK, so she is definitely one of those “I did everything for my children” types. But was it really necessary to kill so many people while you were taking care of your precious golden-haired babies? She’s a wonderfully complex character, Cersei, but I wouldn’t want to cross paths with her.
  • Lysa Arryn from A Song of Ice and Fire – another example of Martin’s weird mothers. Throwing people through a hole in the floor so they plummet to their deaths is a favourite pastime of this neurotic, delusional lady.
  • Penryn’s mom from Angelfall – weeeelll, this one really is mad. OR IS SHE??!! She certainly feels crazy, what with the gruesome corpse-mutilating and collecting rotten eggs and whispering to the demons. But she has her lucid moments and she’s probably the most scary when she makes sense.

If you want more reading about moms in SFF, I think this week-long event on Book Punks should be interesting!



Tell me, which mothers would you add to my list?

Do you disagree with my sorting?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

  • WOW that’s a lot of moms. Great sorting. First mom that I thought of was Penryn’s. She really makes that series interesting. And I kinda liked how batshit crazy she is. lol

    • Yeah I went a little crazy this week, I just had SO MANY examples I wanted to mention. And yes, Penryn’s mom’s craziness definitely contributes to the whole vibe of the novel. I can’t wait to read Book 3!

  • Firstly, let me say that I love the way you broke down your list. You truly are the Queen List-Maker! Secondly, Penryn’s mom. I agree, she’s got her seriously whacked problematic aspects. But I was reading a really interesting post on Susan Ee’s website a few months ago where she talks about Penryn’s mom and her role in the series, arguing that she’s not really a “bad person” (but being a bad mother is not addressed, I don’t think) but someone who has broken down. That’s why she seems to be so successful in the “world after,” because human society has now broken down. Is she a hero? Is she a villain? Who knows! Anyway, I thought it was an interesting discussion. <– There's the link!

    • I love making lists. I can probably be too obsessive sometimes but they make me feel more organized even if it’s not actually true.
      Ooh, thanks for the link. Will read!
      I don’t think Penryn’s mom is a bad person – it’s like with Katniss’s mom: they are both sick and it’s not like they chose to be like that or that they can help it. But P’s mom’s illness manifests in such a gruesome way!

  • I love your batshit crazy moms category. LOL.

    And congratulations on your (relatively) new motherhood!!

    • Thanks, Jenn :)

      And yeah – I had to name them something and this just fit the bill!

  • Tiara

    I really liked how you broke this list down and sorted mother in various categories. You used some great examples for each.

    • Thanks, Tiara! I guess we could have picked any of the categories as a trope and used it as a topic for Tough Travels :)

  • MaddalenaSpaceandSorcery

    How twisted am I if I think that the “batshit crazy mothers” make for very intriguing characters? ((insert insane & evil laugh))
    :-D :-D

    • Well, twisted for sure, but also very, very right! :)

  • Lynn Williams

    I love the way you’ve broken this down and such a lot of good examples. I love that you got Lily – what a shining example!
    Lynn :D

    • Ahh, yes, Lily! I would have loved to read a book about Lily Evans and her time at Hogwarts (her relationship with Snape must have been so complex…).

  • I love the way you divided this up into different groups, great idea! And I love that you included both moms from Harry Potter, Lily deserves some love too!

    • Yep, both Lily and Molly were pretty awesome! I wish we’d gotten a chance to get to know Mrs Granger, too, even though she’s a dentist :) She must be one hell of a mom to have raised Hermione!

  • I love your categories, especially “batshit crazy moms” ;)

    BTW, that’s a very nice Tough Traveling icon!


    • Thanks, my brother will be happy to hear that :)

      Well I needed to call the weirdos *something*… I hope I didn’t offend anyone!

  • Laura @ Half-Strung Harp

    Like everyone else, I love how you broke your list down into sub-categories, and I LOVE the new look of your blog – it’s so cute! :D

    The mother from Angelfall sounds terrifying! And I totally agree about the unfair portrayal of Katniss’s mum – surely it’s the terrible government’s fault that they didn’t provide bereavement support for the family, and not her mother’s fault for suffering?

    • Thanks, I’m glad people seem to like the new look – I’ve been waiting for a while to unveil it! :)

      Yeah, Katniss’s mom’s problem is terrible. But I fear it isn’t that far-fetched in “the real world”, either!
      Well Angelfall is pretty dark – if you like urban YA fantasy at all, give it a try. Book 3 is coming out next week and I can’t wait!

  • Lily Lau

    A Song of Ice and Fire moms are completely out of this world… I’m a huge fan! :)

    Lazy Penguins

    • Welcome, Lily! :)
      I’m a fan of Martin’s moms, too! I wish I’d thought to include Dany on this list, though I’m not entirely sure which category would suit her best :)

  • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Yes, Lysa is batshit crazy, though maybe not quite as crazy as her son. Cersei is a bit of a sociopath. Fun list!

    • Well, Lysa’s son is the product of her upbringing – though I suspect Martin would have made sure he was weird even if she hadn’t raised him…

  • What a great collection of Mothers! I like your categories and also your point that we should try our hardest not to be too judgmental – being a mom ain’t easy! That said, I think the mom’s in your last category count as horrible. The two Martin mothers are interesting because really all they’ve done is convinced their children that they are the best and given them everything they want, protected them from hardship. Isn’t that what a mom should do? Unfortunately while building up self-esteem they’ve fostered arrogance and and inability to relate to other people rather than a healthy confidence in their kids.

    • Yep, Martin’s crazy mothers are something else. I think you can assert your rights (and those of your child) until you start encroaching on the rights of others. But hey, I can’t say what I would or wouldn’t do for my kid – I hope I never get into a situation where I’d have to decide on such horrible stuff as they did!

  • There is a slow clap for this list, complete with the sorting. Loving it.

    • Thanks, Nathan :)
      I really like making these lists – I (and probably all Tough Travelers) appreciate your efforts in hosting them!!