Mother’s Day is dedicated to honoring the mothers and mother figures in our lives. These women come in many forms, from the women who raised us to the teachers and role models we've found in the world around us—even in fiction.
While I couldn’t possibly fit them all on one list, here are eight genre fiction mother figures I'm grateful for this Mother's Day. Share your favorite moms from science fiction and fantasy in the comments below!
Caution: Spoilers ahead.
While Harry Potter's plot often emphasizes the importance of Harry's biological mother Lily, another important mother figure in Harry's life is Molly Weasley, Harry's eventual mother-in-law and the mother of his best friend.
In the first book, Mrs. Weasley shows Harry more love in about five pages than he’s experienced almost his entire life with the Dursleys. She treats him with as much kindness and care as she would show any of her own children, despite the family’s financial woes.
When the reader learns that Harry envies Ron’s close and loving family, it’s absolutely no surprise—many of us readers probably did, too. And, of course, no one can forget Molly's bravery during the Battle of Hogwarts.
Lesson Learned: We can always make room for love in our hearts and families.
General Leia Organa
Leia Organa has seen some shit. By the time we see her in The Force Awakens, she’s a general in the Resistance, she and Han Solo are no longer together, and most troublingly, her son Ben has turned to the Dark Side and the First Order.
This is a woman whose life has been ripped apart by the Dark Side on multiple occasions. The Dark Side destroyed her adoptive and biological fathers, her home planet, and countless friends and loved ones. But the last request that Leia has for Han before he leaves on a mission to Starkiller Base? “Bring our son home.”
Despite everything Ben has done, including turning to the Dark Side and killing a village full of civilians, all she wants is her son’s safe return.
Lesson Learned: A mother’s love is unconditional.
The boy who would become Spider-Man was orphaned at a young age. But due to the love of his Uncle Ben and Aunt May, Peter Parker was never without a loving family.
Aunt May is a steadfast part of Peter Parker’s story, appearing in many Spider-Man comics as well as all three live action Spider-Man movie franchises. No matter what, her love and support for Peter remains constant. Peter’s affection for his aunt is so strong, in fact, that in one of the Marvel universes, he and Mary Jane name their daughter after her.
Lesson Learned: No matter how powerful we become, we can always leave a soft spot for the influential women in our lives.
Into the Badlands
In the unyielding and often cruel feudal landscape of The Badlands, the Barons have absolute power—and only one woman has ever become a Baron. Minerva, aka The Widow, earned the title Baron when she killed her husband and took over his oil fields.
What makes a ruthless killer like The Widow one of my favorite moms in sci-fi? While she does have a daughter, Tilda, and a number of young women she refers to as Tilda’s “sisters,” it’s more because The Widow acts as a mother to all of the young women (called 'Butterflies') who serve her barony.
Other Barons use and abuse the women of the Doll social class; the Widow treats them as worthy and important parts of her clan and family, even sending her own daughter to protect them. Her compound is invaded, and she herself holds off the invaders while her daughters and the Butterflies make their escape. In fact, the entire reason she killed her own husband was to end his abuse of her and Tilda.
The Widow doesn’t hesitate to take lives, but often her goal in doing so is to protect those in her charge.
Lesson Learned: Take care of your own, and try to make life better for your descendants.
Ripley’s maternal attitude towards Newt in Aliens is further developed in a deleted scene on the DVD edition, when viewers learn Ripley had a daughter named Amanda—and that Amanda grew up, fought her own battles, and died during the time Ripley was in stasis between Alien and Aliens.
While Ellen Ripley was already one of the greatest sci-fi characters of all time, the addition of “mother” to her lengthy list of roles changes not only how we see her relationship with Newt, but also how we view her as a character. Having a daughter doesn’t make Ripley less of a leader or a warrior. Players of Alien: Isolation, which focuses on Amanda's quest to discover what happened to her mother, know that Amanda is just as fierce and strong as the woman who raised her.
Lesson Learned: Having children doesn't define a woman, or make her any less capable of fulfilling the many other roles she has in life.
Dr. Beverly Crusher
Star Trek: The Next Generation
If my mother had dragged me onto a starship away from everything I’d ever known when I was in my sophomore year of high school, I somehow feel our relationship would have taken a turn for the worse.
Yet Dr. Crusher’s relationship with her son, Wesley, is one of the healthiest I’ve seen in genre fiction, even after she brings him aboard the Enterprise. They obviously care for one another—Dr. Crusher would never leave her son behind—and their communication is open and free of judgement. Dr. Crusher and Wesley clearly trust one another, and that trust makes them even closer.
Lesson Learned: Communication and openness in families make their bonds stronger.
Pinako Rockbell & Izumi Curtis
Edward and Alphonse Elric’s mother Trisha may be the catalyst of the manga and anime series Fullmetal Alchemist, but two women who protect and care for the boys throughout their journey are also important.
After Trisha’s death, Ed and Al are taken in by Pinako Rockbell, the grandmother of their friend Winry. Though Pinako lost her own child to the war in Ishval, there’s room in her heart not just for her only grandchild but for the Elric boys as well.
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Izumi Curtis raises the two after they depart the Rockbell household, and Izumi is the main reason the Elric brothers can do almost anything they do in the series: she’s the woman who taught them alchemy.
Although she won’t admit how much she really loves the Elric brothers, Izumi’s affection for them is obvious to readers and viewers.
Lesson Learned: Even in the face of tragedy, we can still find our own families.
A Song of Ice and Fire
Three words: Mother of Dragons.
Okay, so Daenerys Targaryen’s a bit more than that. In addition to being dragon-mom to Rhaegal, Viserion, and Drogon, Dany is also one claimant to the Iron Throne of Westeros, and one of the last legitimate descendants of the Targaryen royal family of Westeros. Beyond that, though, Dany has other types of motherhood under her belt.
Like Izumi, Dany lost her own child; later, upon observing slavery in cities like Meereen and Astapor, Dany’s instincts lead her to conquer those cities with the express intent of ending the slave trade and the corruption she finds there. It’s clear she feels a level of maternal instinct towards the people of Meereen, and when she sees their maltreatment, she knows she needs to do what she can to help them.
Lesson Learned: Love can give us the courage to stand for what’s right and to defend those who need protection.
Featured still of "Alien" via 20th Century Fox
This article was originally published on May 11, 2017.