Like many other mammals depicted throughout history as predators, bears are actually passive animals, and won't attack humans unless provoked. Despite this, if you even think about getting between a mother bear and her cub she'll tear straight through you. Threaten her children, and you are in for a world of hurt. Righteous awesomeness will ensue, and the heroine reclaims her child with a tearful embrace.
Heaven help you if an Action Mom or even a Team Mom invokes this trope. If you think a normal Mama Bear is scary, hell hath no fury like a Motherly Scientist with access to One-Man Army levels of weaponry/technology/money/superpowers to protect her children. It can lead to a Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu? moment.
Losing her child may cause a Start of Darkness into villainy or Anti-Hero-dom... anything if it will get her revenge, and not just on her own enemy but on anyone who would inflict this same pain on others. If the character is already a villain, expect it to overlap with Villainous Parental Instinct.
The Spear Counterpart is referred to as Papa Wolf rather than "Papa Bear". Disneyfication aside, male bears are notoriously poor parents in the animal kingdom (infanticide among bears is the main reason why mama bears are so protective in the first place), whereas male (and female) wolves will react to their offspring being threatened in a very similar manner to mother bears.
Sometimes overlaps with Apron Matron and Pregnant Badass. It can be a cause of Let's Get Dangerous!, showing that the sweet and caring mother figure is dangerous. They may be a Knight Templar Parent. Provides a simultaneously simple and believable way to switch someone between dangerous and more "cute" modes without compromising the character as either. After all, if It's Personal then the claws come out.
If an older sibling is the one who takes up the role, s/he is a case of Big Brother Instinct/Big Sister Instinct. For a teacher who behaves like a Mama Bear if their students are threatened, see Badass Teacher. When it's the child who shows extreme feats of bravery or strength, and/or is very protective of their mother, it's Extremely Protective Child.
Related to Beware the Nice Ones and Berserk Button. See also the non-human counterpart, Monster Is a Mommy. Not to be confused with Bears Are Bad News (unless you're dealing with a literal Mama Bear). The Violently Protective Girlfriend is a much younger form of this trope that applies when the mate is in danger. Evil characters can use this too; after all, Even Evil Has Loved Ones. A particular Subtrope is the Badass and Child Duo which can take the form of a female badass protecting an orphaned, unrelated young child, though male badasses are also common. Also compare Cub Cues Protective Parent for examples from the animal kingdom.
Remember when adding examples that this is Always Female. The male equivalent is Papa Wolf, so all Spear Counterparts should be placed there. When Mama Bear and Papa Wolf team up, it's a Battle Couple and all pairs should be placed there. Parents in Distress is the inversion, when Mama needs to be bailed out by the kids. If she has a Mama Bear of her own, it's a good idea to Never Mess with Granny.
Also, remember that this this trope is mama bear, so it is not about being protective of one's friends, unless of course it is something like an Intergenerational Friendship or Team Mom. In that case, it is okay. Otherwise, don't do it. Tropes about helping friends should go to A Friend in Need, The Power of Friendship etc.
This trope is Truth in Television, and universal.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Films Animation
- Films Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Web Original
- Western Animation
- Real Life
- Dilbert: Dilbert's mother frequently gives her son a hard time, but she does take exception to MIBs making noises about executing him.
- The Far Side:
"Tragedy struck when Conroy, his mind preoccupied with work, stepped into the elevator — directly between a female grizzly and her cub."
- In another example, two of Larson's typical "dumb kid" types are playing catch with a live grizzly bear cub unaware that the mother is coming up right behind them. The caption sums it up: "And no one ever heard from the Anderson brothers again."
- Rose is Rose played this trope completely straight with a Sunday strip, featuring Rose transformed into a "Mama Bear" to symbolize her overprotective nature before she meets Pasquale's new babysitter. However, Rose relaxes when she opens the door she finds that the prospective sitter is apparently a Mama Bear as well.
- Diss Reba McEntire, I dare you; Terri Clark will take your face off
- A literal Mama Bear appears in mothy's "Moonlit Bear", in which the protagonist, Eve (portrayed by Miku), steals two "apples" from a bear, which then proceeds to chase her through the forest. Turns out that the Mama Bear is a human mother after all, and the two "apples" are actually her twin children, whom she is desperate to retrieve. Out of fear as well as her desire to have children of her own since hers are deceased, Eve ends up murdering the "bear".
- "Harper Valley PTA," a 1968 country song sung by Jeannie C. Riley, tells the story of Mrs. Johnson, a young widow living in the sleepy little town of Harper Valley with her teenage daughter (named "Dee" in the movie based on the song). One day, Dee comes home from school with a note from the PTA addressed to her mother, in which the members lecture Mrs. Johnson about how her outlandish behavior, such as drinking in public, dating multiple men, and (GASP!) wearing mini-skirts is setting a bad example for her daughter. In response, an unamused Mrs. Johnson attends the next PTA meeting (while wearing a mini-skirt) and proceeds to air each member's dirty laundry, exposing them as Hypocrites who are in no position to judge her abilities as a parent. The song ends with the narrator revealing herself to be Dee, who describes the event as "the day my momma socked it to the Harper Valley PTA."
- Persephone's mother Demeter, goddess of the harvest, refuses to allow any growth of crops until her daughter is returned to her from the Underworld, resulting in many mortal deaths. Made more interesting in that Persephone's kidnapper/husband is also her uncle, Demeter's younger brother Hades, and that in several versions Persephone was not kidnapped, but actually eloped with him to put herself beyond her mom's reach.
- Invoked quite literally in one story by Zeus. One of his numerous paramours was turned into a bear by Hera (or Artemis, depending who you ask), with one of the added benefits if it was Hera being that either the woman or her son would kill the other. So how does Zeus save both of them? By turning the son into a bearcub.
- Durga from Hindu Mythology. She is a nurturing mother goddess, but she is also a very powerful warrior. As The Berserker Kali, she takes this to a dangerous extreme.
- Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire. According to legend, she regards all the volcanic rocks on the shores of the Big Island to be her children, and will inflict a horrible curse on any tourist who dares to take one of the rocks home with them as a souvenir.
- Primordial Greek goddess of darkness Nyx, according to Homer, to the extent that Zeus was afraid of incurring her wrath by harming her son, Hypnos.
- In 2 Samuel 17:8, when Ahithophel plans to attack King David, Hushai warns against it, noting that David and his mighty men will turn fierce like a bear robbed of her cubs.
- According to Proverbs 17:12, it is "better to meet a mother bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly." [N.I.V.]
- A literal example occurs in 2 Kings 2:23-24, as the prophet Elisha is going from Jericho to Bethel after Elijah ascends to heaven in a fiery chariot, some young men mock him for his baldness and tell him to go up; Elisha calls for a curse, and two female bears attack forty-two of the youths immediately afterwards.
- Since Proverbs was written during the reign of King Solomon, and the 2 Kings example occurred some time after Solomon's era during the reigns of King Jehoram of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah, these examples are Older Than Dirt.
- In Hosea 13:8, God plans to meet the proud-hearted with the fury of a bear robbed of her cubs, tearing their rib cages open and devouring them like a lion.
- Dino Attack RPG has Sarah Bishop. She even got a moment homaging the climax of Aliens. At the same time, however, Sarah Bishop is partially a deconstruction. She is (understandably) concerned about her daughter being in a war zone, but her own worries made her completely psychotic to the point that many players expressed genuine fear of her. This same thing also broke her psychologically once the war was finally over and she'd realized what she had done.
- Unknown Armies has the Mother archetype. High-level Avatars of the Mother get huge bonuses in combat when they're either defending a child, or pregnant. The phrase "mama bear" even shows up in the rulebook description of their second Avatar channel.
- Munchkin invokes this with the "Mommy" card. When someone is in combat with a weaker monster or one that's been turned into a Baby, you can play this card to summon the monster's mother, who is ten levels higher. And woe is you if the Baby + Mommy combo is applied on a Lv. 20 Plutonium Dragon...
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- 1st and 2nd Edition AD&D:
- Monster Manual. When a pair of mated dragons have offspring, any attack on the young dragons causes the father and mother to attack the intruders with a ferocity bonus of +2 to hit and +1/+3 on clawing/biting damage.
- Monster Manual II. If a female cheetah's cubs are threatened, she will attack at a +2 to hit and do +2 Hit Points damage per attack.
- Judges Guild The Dungeoneer magazine #18 "Monster Matrix". If its young are threatened, a female Jinx Cat gains +4 to hit for three combat rounds and +2 thereafter.
- Mayfair Games' Role Aids supplement Lizardmen. When female lizardmen are guarding the eggs in the hatchling pool, they fight as level 3 fighters (instead of their normal level 1), a bonus given by the lizardman deity Rega.
- Dungeon magazine #18 adventure "Crocodile Tears". A female wana (50 foot long crocodile) has buried its eggs underground and is resting nearby. If the PCs try to dig up the eggs, she will attack them with great ferocity.
- Dungeon magazine #28 adventure "Pipes of Doom". The Player Characters may encounter a family group of werewolves. If the PCs attack any of the young werewolves, their mother will attack the PCs at +3 to hit and do maximum damage for each attack.
- Dungeon magazine #38 adventure "Things That Go Bump in the Night". The firbolg giantess Lieulg is very protective of her twin sons. If the PCs attack her sons in front of her, she will become enraged and attack them with a +2 bonus on her "to hit" and damage rolls.
- Dungeon magazine #56 adventure "Briocht". A family of wereboars lives in a small cottage in the woods. If any of the four wereboar children are threatened, their mother will attack at a +2 "to hit" and not have to check her morale.
- Dungeon magazine #70 adventure "Kingdom of the Ghouls". If the Player Characters attack the troglodytes' hatchlings, the female troglodytes will attack them at +2 on "to hit" and damage rolls.
- The Grey Render◊ is a huge monstrosity with a penchant for "adopting" small creatures of other species (even ones it would normally eat), to whom it will thereafter bring food and protection. And if you dare so much as look at them funny, it will tear you down like the squishy little piece of meat you are and share your body with its protegés.
- Gynosphinxes, the sole female subrace of sphinx, prefers an androsphinx mate, disliking the dimwitted criosphinxes who try to woo them by bribery, and avoiding the vile hieracosphinx who doesn't bother with any pleasantries. Nonetheless, a gynosphinx will defend her cubs to the death, regardless of who the father was.
- Gargantua are gigantic reptilian (usually) beasts (think Kaiju/Godzilla) found on tropical islands in the Kara-tur setting. Normally, they shy away from humans, but threaten their offspring and you won't live to regret it. Angry gargantua have been known to travel thousands of miles and swim entire oceans to find humans who have harmed their young.
- The 3rd Edition Splat book Tyrants of the Nine Hells gives a strange example; erinyes and their evolved form, brachina, the only devils who can bear children (other than unique female devils) are said to be fiercely protective of their offspring, raising them in hidden and well-guarded enclaves in parts of Hell that are the most hostile to beings other than devils.
- 1st and 2nd Edition AD&D:
- In GURPS Bestiary, a sidebar makes it very clear why you shouldn't get between a mother animal and her young.
Mothers protecting their young are the fiercest foes on Earth, and probably anywhere else for that matter. Mother animals know no fear, are quick to feel threatened, take offense easily, and will attack viciously, giving no quarter.
- Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game (SAGA System) Adventure 3 Fantastic Four: Fantastic Voyages. In the adventure "Wild at Heart", a monster emerges from the earth in a small town and starts destroying the place. If the heroes don't subdue the creature quickly enough, a much larger monster appears and starts searching for the smaller one — it's the smaller monster's mother. If the heroes have hurt its child it will go berserk, trying to destroy anyone and anything it can see.
- Chaosium's generic RPG supplement All the Worlds' Monsters
- Female bears and tigers: if cubs are attacked, they fight at +2 to hit.
- Elder Daughters of Kali do double damage to anyone attacking her children.
- The Morrow Project. Female bears and pigs are noted as being especially protective of their young and prone to attack if they are threatened.
- Champions Organization Book The Circle and M.E.T.E., adventure "The Hatching". The M.E.T.E. (Metropolitan Extra Terrestrial Enclave) receives a large spherical object (called Case 39) that was found in a national park. The object eventually hatches out an alien Blob Monster which goes on a rampage. Three months later the alien's mother shows up and tries to rescue its child, and heaven help any superhero who gets in its way.
- Star Fleet Battles. The interstellar monsters known as Space Dragons sometimes ravage inhabited worlds. If a ship gets between a Space Dragon mother and its child, the mother will change course, move toward the ship and attack it.
- Encounter Critical supplement Asteroid 1618. Inside the Vanishing Pyramid, the PCs can find eggsacs laid by a Giant Spider. If an eggsac is broken open (from prodding or gunfire) 1-20 baby spiders will emerge and attack the PCs. If PCs kill any of them, the mother spider will smell the babies' blood on the PCs, track them down relentlessly and ferociously attack them, doing double damage.
- Hollow Earth Expedition main rules sample adventure. When the PCs first arrive in the Hollow Earth they will encounter a herd of triceratops, including a mother and her child. If the PCs get too close, the mother will charge them, and if they attack the child, she will become enraged.
- Khan Aletha Kabrinski of Clan Ghost Bear in BattleTech demonstrated her Mama Bear credentials when Clan Blood Spirit dared to attack an unarmed Ghost Bear ship full of retreating civilians, killing thousands while they were helpless in the ship. An enraged Kabrinski ordered every single vessel she had to attack the enemy flagship, including her own warship, regardless of the risk. Kabrinski and her Ghost Bears then tore the Blood Spirit's 810,000-ton heavy battlecruiser to pieces within minutes. Then there was the time that Word of Blake threatened Ghost Bear holdings, suicide-bombed their previous Khan, and attacked civilians with NBC weapons. Kabrinski led Ghost Bear forces to personally grind anything and everything between her and the Word of Blake into paste—even Draconis Combine forces who were also fighting the Blakists were trampled underfoot by a wave of angry Ghost Bears led by the de-facto Mama Ghost Bear.
- Varanae generic RPG supplement Monstrum 1. Cerberus are a type of three-headed dogs. Parents will fight to the death to protect their young.
- Smash Up: One of the factions introduced in the What Were We Thinking? expansion pack is the Grannies. It has an action card called "Get Away From My Babies!", which protects all of the player's minions from other player's cards. The art on the card features an elderly lady fearlessly beating away a werewolf with her Handbag of Hurt.
- Midkemia Press's supplement Heart Of The Sunken Lands. If two of the monsters known as Purples are encountered, they will be a mated pair. One quarter of mated pairs will have a cub with them. If so, each Purple will make attacks at +4 "to hit" while the cub is present.
- Kim from Miss Saigon shoots her own cousin who tries to kill her illegitimate son by an American GI, yelling "I have no other choice, what I must do I will!" as she does so. A lot of people remember the part as a defining moment for Kim, especially with her screaming "YOU WILL NOT TAKE MY CHILD!"
- The interpretation of Umbridge in A Very Potter Sequel likes to consider herself a mama bear In-Universe — ""It's your Mama Umbridge's job to keep her baby bears safe!" However, she doesn't actually fulfill this role and just embarrasses the girls.
- Invoked in a Dream Sequence in Dream Girl to prove that Georgina's killing of Clark Redfield in cold-blood was a justified act of self-defense:
"For what was this novel of hers that Clark Redfield sought to annihilate with the cruel strokes of his sharp-edged tongue and stabbing wit? It was her baby, ladies and gentlemen, the child of her spirit, as real to her and as dear to her as though it had been, indeed, the flesh-and-blood creation of her body. For it was conceived in the beautiful ecstasy of spiritual passion, nurtured for long months in the dark, secret recesses of her soul, brought forth in an agony of travail. And as it lay nestling in her bosom, so to speak, Clark Redfield struck at it with his lethal weapon! And with the noble, unerring instinct of outraged maternity, she struck back—struck back at the would-be assassin of her baby. Could any mother, could any woman do less?"
- The Small Woman in Grey is an old story about a woman trying to protect her newborn child at all costs. It usually starts at a convenience store in Midwest United States. Two guys run a small store. One night, a woman comes in, dressed all in grey, takes a glass container of milk from the dairy case, and leaves without paying for it. The two guys are frozen for a moment at the audacity of such a shoplifter, and when they run out the door after her, she's gone. Two days later, it happens again, the woman comes in, takes a bottle of milk, and leaves without paying. The third time this happens, they're ready, chasing after her, down the street, until the eventually lose her. But then they find a small cemetery they had never noticed before, and hear a baby crying. Following the cries, they come upon a fresh grave, where the headstone indicates that it holds a woman and her baby, who died together, possibly via miscarriage. And the crying is coming from it. Not knowing what else to do, they find shovels, and did up the coffin. Inside, they find the woman's dead body, holding a very living infant, along with three empty milk bottles. Whoever had interred the two had incorrectly declared the baby dead, burying it alive, and its mother had defied death to feed it until this was discovered.
- Misty Fey from Ace Attorney totes around a sword-cane and swears to do anything necessary to keep her remaining daughter Maya safe (the eldest one, Mia, had been already killed), up to and including Morgan's death, or her own. The latter comes to pass when she deliberately channels Dahlia's murderous spirit so little Pearl won't be able to, and "Dahlia" gets killed while trying and failing to bring her plan about.
- Umineko: When They Cry:
- In Episode 1, Natsuhi Ushiromiya banishes the two remaining servants, the family doctor, and her niece Maria because she suspects them of being murderers and wants to protect her daughter Jessica. This does not end well. She also fights the Golden Witch Beatrice in a duel, although you might call that a subversion: the desire to protect daughter and gun not equal to ability to defeat 1000-year-old sadistic witch. The trope name itself is referenced during the proceedings.
- In its second arc, Rosa Ushiromiya does the same thing as her sister-in-law Natsuhi in order to protect her daughter Maria. (Even more noticeable since Rosa is an Abusive Parent as well). Furthermore, at the very end of that gameboard, the last twilight begins, and golden butterflies and goat-headed servants are released to eat all remaining humans on the island. Rosa, in one of the most badass scenes in the whole game/anime, take on the goats with fountain pens to the eyes and gunshots at close range. She manages to take out three before they both die.
- Taken further in the final game installation, EP8. Erika, darling, never ever tell poor little Maria that her mommy doesn't love her. Because said mommy will not only flip her shit at that, but fucking shove a rifle down your throat. Don't say we didn't warn you.
- Hanako Ikezawa's deceased mother in Katawa Shoujo. As she and a little Hanako were trapped in a fatal fire that decimated their house and had already claimed the family patriarch's life, she chose to protect her child by shielding her with her own body and burning to death rather than letting the poor kid die. And even when the kid was mentally and physically scarred, it worked.
- In Spirit Hunter: NG, the Urashima Woman's entire motivation as a ghost is to find the baby that was stolen from her. She kills anyone who can't tell her where it is, or who appears to be a threat to the dead fetuses that were dumped in the lake. The novella reveals that, even after walking through a storm, giving birth, and then being assaulted and drugged, she still chased down the midwife that kidnapped her newborn child.