Sunday, 11 May 2014 | MYT 12:00 AM

Mothers in literature: The women who stand out from the rest

The stepmother aka Queen in Disney's 'Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs'.

The stepmother aka Queen in Disney's 'Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs'.

The mother figure is an ever present force in literature. Love or hate them, we look at a few who stand out.

The Queen from the Grimm Brothers’ Snow White: A practitioner of the dark arts and a parent who relishes the prospect of filicide best describes the queen mother in the Grimm Brothers’ tale. 

Still, she is the reason Snow White connected with her Prince – if she had been the loving mother everyone wishes for, our fairytale princess would have just stayed home!

Mrs White from William Wymark Jacob’s short story The Monkey’s Paw: It is said the pain of losing one’s only child is the worst pain one can experience. So when Mrs White loses her son to a factory accident, she uses her powers to bring him back from the dead – never mind the horrifyingly mutilated body. 

She may be wrong in going against the laws of nature but a mother’s love goes beyond skin deep.

Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations: A woman who never takes off her wedding dress should not be allowed to adopt children no matter how wealthy she is! True enough, she messes up her adopted daughter’s future in her blind need to punish all men for being jilted at the altar. And so her adopted daughter doesn’t know enough to love the boy who loves her dearly and instead marries an abusive man. 

Fortunately, realisation dawns as Miss Havisham nears death and there is a happy ending for her daughter.

Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham in 'Great Expectations'.

Vianne Rocher from Joanne Harris’ Chocolat: Of all the literary mothers, Vianne Rocher tops them all with her free spirit, courage and entrepreneurial prowess. In a small, conservative community, it must have been quite a test for this single mother, not only in terms of culinary talents but also diplomacy. 

But by focusing on the simple goals in life, ie, to have her daughter by her side and to settle down to a normal life, everything falls into place. 

Personally, if there was ever a model to emulate, Rocher, with her mild but firm manner towards every challenge that rolls into her path, would be it.

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