If you need something done, there’s usually only one person for the job… and no, we’re not talking about a chosen one. We’re talking about the women who roll up their sleeves and get sh*t done, whether it’s holding down the fort in a wizarding resistance, or standing at the right hand of power in a planetary Empire—these mothers, mentors, and matriarchs are some of the most imposing figures the world (or universe) over, and they really don’t have time for our crap right now…
Molly Weasley—Harry Potter series
Molly Weasley is everyone’s mother, intent on keeping the entire wizarding resistance against Voldemort fed and clothed and well cared for. She establishes her own clan as Harry’s de facto family once he makes friends with her youngest son Ron in their first year at Hogwarts, and is certain to send him Christmas presents and invite him over in the summer every chance she gets, keeping him away from his abusive aunt and uncle. Sometimes Molly’s overprotective instincts can be damaging; she’s awful to her son Bill’s fiancée Fleur when they first get to know her, and her insistence on keeping her children and Harry in the dark about the upcoming war is often less helpful than she believes. But she is always prepared to offer love and care at a moment’s notice, because Molly Weasley knows the importance of family better than anyone. She’s just a little scary sometimes (in the cutest way possible if we’re counting Julie Walters in the films).
Adela Silver—Silver in the Wood
Adela Silver is what you might call a practical folklorist—meaning that she studies folklore and then uses it to keep various monsters at bay, as her late husband did before her. Her son Henry has an interest in the more academic side of the job, but a shocking lack of practicality when it comes to the execution. Which is how Adela ends up at Greenhallow Hall, trying to find out what happened to the young man. What she finds is a woodsman named Tobias, who informs her that her son has been taken… by someone who is not quite human anymore. Though Henry seemed to have difficulty treating the whole situation practically, Mrs. Silver is here now, and it’s clear she means to save the day through unflappability and her practical knowledge. She needs Tobias’s help, though, and he gamely offers it, as it’s not as though he has much of a choice once she has him in her sights.
Nineteen Adze—A Memory Called Empire
Her height. Her all-white wardrobe that somehow never gets spoiled by even a fleck of blood despite things in Teixcalaan’s city-planet starting to go pear-shaped. The fifteen-syllable epithet that accompanies her name: “Nineteen Adze, whose gracious presence illuminates the room like the edge-shine of a knife.” Her equally intimidating coterie of newsfeed-tracking protégées who camp out in her imperial apartments keeping tabs on the city. This striking, dangerous Teixcalaanli ezuazuacat, one of the Emperor’s most trusted advisers, would be completely swoonworthy… if you weren’t worried about winding up on the wrong side of her metaphorical knife. Nope, still just as alluring.
Sybil Vimes—Discworld series
Breeder of fearsome swamp dragons, the wife of Sam Vimes, Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, is a formidable soul with perpetually singed-off hair. (She wears a wig at all times to cover up the side effect of being a dragon mom.) The Duchess of Ankh has a high-class background, but is never afraid of getting her hands dirty, and performs many actions as a wife and mother not because she must—she has quite a few servants in her household to cook and clean and so forth—but because she fees a strong sense of duty to do so. Her husband is a perpetually distracted sort, being entirely bound to his job, and she often struggles to let him know what’s happening on the other end of his life, up to and including her own pregnancy. But she keeps perfectly busy without him, so he has little to worry about.
Essun—The Broken Earth Trilogy
When her daughter is kidnapped immediately following the murder of her son, nothing will stop Essun from finding the girl. She is a important reminder to us all that motherhood is one of the hardest tasks on the planet, and that it’s not always the nurturing, tender enterprise that the world would have us believe and applaud. Such an expression of maternal care is a rare thing to find in fiction, and Essun’s journey is harder than most, seeing as her world is on the brink of catastrophe and she has one goal in mind regardless. She takes care of the people she comes into contact with, including a boy named Hoa, but she’s a powerful woman, and a powerful orogene (a person who can control tectonic activity on her world). Her care is not something to be taken lightly, and neither is her rage at the way her kind are treated.
Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan—The Vorkosigan Saga
Cordelia Naismith is a master of maneuvering her life into the formation that she prefers, even to the point of marrying her military “enemy,” Admiral Lord Aral Vorkosigan, and becoming a Barrayaran subject. Though it is not uncommon for Barrayaran wives and mothers to have independence and assert themselves in their relationships and responsibilities, Cordelia chose to stay out of the spotlight as a political wife in order to devote more of her time toward raising her son, Miles Naismith Vorkosigan. She was also later appointed Vicereine of the planet Sergyar, and though her husband was Viceroy at the time, her title was not bestowed as the result of her marriage, but of her abilities. Her impressive military career is only the very start of her story, and her accomplishments run the gamut in the political and parental realm. Be intimidated, folks.
Aunt May Parker—Spider-Man Comics
Depending on the incarnation, Aunt May can seem like an exceedingly sweet old woman who does her best to raise her nephew Peter following the death of both his parents and her own husband, Ben. But anyone who really knows May Parker knows she is not a woman to be trifled with. Peter himself certainly knows this, and has witnessed Aunt May come to his defense over and over again, to everyone from JJ Jameson to Captain America himself. Her appearance in Into the Spider-Verse was particularly touching, given the fact that she loses her own Peter only to meet an alternate version. She then proceeds to straighten his life out despite having just met the guy—and he dearly needs it because he lost his own Aunt May back where he’s from. No matter what universe you’re in, May Parker will always bee there to help you find the very best in yourself and others.
Who are your favorite badass matriarchs?