Great fathers make for good books, and these five strapping papas are my top picks for the world’s best book dads.
#1: Mr. Everdeen
Creator: Suzanne Collins
Book Appearances (mentioned): The Hunger Games (trilogy)
Why I Love Him: Although he’s deceased by the start of the first book, Mr. Everdeen (who was never given a first name by author Suzanne Collins) is an incredibly strong presence throughout the entire series.
He is the father of Katniss and Primrose Everdeen. A coal miner from the Seam, Mr. Everdeen was killed in a mining accident that left Katniss as the head of the household. Following his death, Mrs. Everdeen was rendered catatonic by grief and an impenetrable sadness.
To keep her family from starving, Katniss uses skills she gleaned from her father to hunt and gather in the woods, and signs up for tesserae (grain ration) to supplement what she can’t acquire from the woods.
Throughout the series, we learn that most of Katniss’s philosophies on life, not to mention her affinity with a bow and arrow, were acquired from her father. Her fierce devotion to her sister Prim, her protective nature, and her courage are also qualities she got from him. So, it is not too far of a stretch to say that Katniss’s original decision to volunteer as tribute in Prim’s place at the Reaping was a direct result of the ethos given to her by her father.
The love of a father was instrumental in taking down a despotic Capitol.
May the odds be ever in your favor, Mr. Everdeen.
#2: Maverick “Big Mav” Carter
Creator: Angie Thomas
Why I Love Him: Maverick “Big Mav” Carter is the definition of fatherly devotion. His children include Starr (the main character and protagonist of THUG), Seven, and Sekani.
Maverick has experienced more trauma than any one person should have to endure. Despite that, as patriarch of the Carter family and a leader in the Garden Heights community, he is able to transcend that trauma and create a beautiful legacy for his family. He makes sacrifices so his children have more opportunities for advancement than he himself was given. He teaches them about their cultural heritage, about Black history, and how to survive in a world that makes harmful assignations against them because of their skin color.
“When the Khalils get arrested for selling drugs, they either spend most of their life in prison, another billion-dollar industry, or they have a hard time getting a real job and probably start selling drugs again. That’s the hate they’re giving us, baby, a system designed against us. That’s Thug Life.— Maverick “Big Mav” Carter, The Hate U Give
The above quote is from a conversation Maverick has with his daughter, Starr, in chapter ten of the book. In it, he quickly summarizes for Starr the reason why so many Black communities are kept disenfranchised: a prison industrial complex that disproportionately incarcerates Black people and incentivizes a system that perpetuates white supremacy at the expense of Black people and their communities.
For more on the prison industrial complex, check out this lecture by Dr. Angela Y. Davis, a longtime activist, author, academic, and revolutionary.
#3: Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark
“When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.”— Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark, Hand of the King, Warden of the North, and Lord of Winterfell, A Game of Thrones
Creator: George R.R. Martin
Book Appearances: A Song of Ice and Fire (series)
Ah, poor Ned. Poor headless Ned. A virtuous man if ever one lived. Gritty yet gracious. Stern yet solid. Courageous yet kind. Husband of Lady Catelyn Stark and father to Robb, Jon, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon. Loyal to the core. Willing to get his hands dirty but unwilling to engage in dirty Westerosi politics. His idealism and his sense of fidelity are what lead him to travel south with King Robert in the first place, and are both inextricably tied up in his downfall.
Why I Love Him: Ned Stark lives by a code of honor going back hundreds of years. This code is based on familial piety, stewardship, and justice. Our way is the old way. The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. He passes this code onto his children, whom he guides with a firmness grounded in love.
It’s pitiable that his best character traits are the very reason he is unable to overcome the machinations of Queen Cersei (The Original Evil Wine Mom) and her spoiled brat of a tyrant, Joffrey. I guess one could say that it is better to die with dignity than live with regret. Rest In Peace, Ned. We’ll never forget you.
#4: Don Vito Corleone (referred to as Godfather by everyone)
Creator: Mario Puzo
Why I Love Him: Sure, ol’ Vito is a ruthless killer. Sure, he emotionally damages all of his children in different yet equally debilitating ways. Sure, he mumbles a lot and is very demanding. None of these facts make me love him any less.
Vito is the personification of the American Dream. He was an orphan, a penniless immigrant who came to America’s shores with nothing. And he created an empire. Despite his penchant for killing his enemies in business, he is very loving toward his family and his colleagues who don’t cross him.
“I don’t trust society to protect us, I have no intention of placing my fate in the hands of men whose only qualification is that they managed to con a block of people to vote for them.”— Don Vito Corleone, The Godfather
#5: Horton the Elephant
Creator: Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss)
Why I Love Him: First of all, hats off to Horton. We stan a king in this house. Horton the Elephant is probably the finest example of a devoted single father in all of literature. He’s tricked into keeping an egg warm while the mother, a derelict bird named Mayzie, decides she wants her freedom and absconds to Palm Beach, ostensibly for the remainder of her life.
“I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent!”— Horton the Elephant, Horton Hatches the Egg
When the going gets tough, a lot of folks get going. Not Horton. Even though he was a victim of deception, he takes up his mantle as surrogate father with pride and panache.
When the egg hatches to reveal a creature with features of both an elephant and a bird, we the readers see that nurture beats nature every time, even when it comes to breaking the laws of biology and genetics.
Who are your favorite fictional fathers? Let me know!
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