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Romancing the Widow

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Trying a bit too hard there, girl.

Behold the young bride, blissfully happy with her husband (or sometimes not...) until he dies before his time. Now she's single again, but disinterested in romance. Either her former husband was a jerk, and she no longer trusts men, or she loved her husband so deeply that no suitor can compete with his (possibly rose-tinted) memory. A third possibility is that the widow is hesitant to form bonds again because she is afraid of suffering the pain of that loss a second time.

But lo! Enter our protagonist, who wins her heart with his patient ways and teaches her to love again. This is of course a romance trope. Can be a way of bringing in an "older woman" love interest. Once she moves on, the old husband will rarely — if ever — be mentioned again.

Can face complications when dealing with the False Widow.

A form of Second Love. Compare Comforting the Widow, when the lover starts putting on the moves way too early, and the Black Widow, where she's single and there's a very good reason for that.

Word of warning to all time-travelers: This could result in you becoming your own Grandpa.

Often Truth in Television today and especially in past centuries, when shorter lifespans and a greater risk of dying in early adulthood (either in war or of disease) meant that it was common for people to remarry at least once in their lifetimes due to the death of their spouses. To cite just one famous historical example, James Madison hooked up with Dolley Payne Todd this way after her husband died during the yellow-fever epidemic that hit Philadelphia in the mid-1790's.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Jessie, protagonist of Blue Ramun, is already conflicted over her feelings for Eagle when she learns he's still in mourning for his deceased wife Yuma. In the end, it's Jessie's love that helps Eagle move on from his guilt over Yuma's death.
  • This is the plot of I Want Your Mother To Be With Me!, combined with the protagonist Ryo becoming a Parental Substitute for both Yuzuki's son Asahi and his own niece Haruka.
  • The main plot of Maison Ikkoku is centered on the trope, since the Love Triangle involves a beautiful widow who works as a landlady and is courted by a penniless would-be college student and a rich tennis coach. There's even a huge lampshade when she gets together with the first:
    "Promise me that even if it's by one day... you'll outlive me. I don't want to be alone again."
  • This is the plot of Natsuyuki Rendezvous in which Hazuki is in love with the widowed Rokka-chan, unfortunately for him her late husband is a very clingy ghost only he can see who promptly tries to get in the way.
  • Although his former marriage is not revealed for quite a while, this is gender-flipped with Kaoru falling for the older hesitant widower Kenshin in Rurouni Kenshin.
  • Karina from Tiger & Bunny, who has a crush on the widowed lead male Kotetsu, despite him being around twice her age. The scene is from the Grand Finale.

    Comic Books 
  • ElfQuest has two very different examples: Clearbrook's husband One-Eye is murdered during a sneak attack, and their old friend Treestump immediately takes care of Clearbrook emotionally during her Heroic BSoD to make sure she doesn't go insane with grief. When it turns out One-Eye is in a kind of magical coma, Treestump makes sure his friend's soul gets all the closure it needs, and he and Clearbrook gradually become lifemates after One-Eye is put to rest. A second, less conventional example happens when Cutter's family is kidnapped 10000 years into the future (far beyond his own natural lifespan) and he decides to at least keep on living normally for as long as he can. His childhood friends Nightfall and Redlance ask him to become their lovemate and live with them for as long as he wants, because the loneliness would otherwise consume him completely. (Interestingly, Nightfall is the best friend of Cutter's kidnapped lifemate Leetah, and it was thought by the entire tribe that she would end up with Cutter because they were born around the same time. Also interestingly, Nightfall's daughter Tyleet ends up becoming the lifemate of both Treestump's daughter Dewshine and Clearbrook's son Scouter.)
  • The Sin City story A Dame To Kill For has a subplot involving one of the few honest cops in Basin City getting involved in an affair with a recently widowed Femme Fatale. It ends tragically for him and his partner, whom he kills before committing suicide.
  • Gender inverted and without actual marriage (even if they were seriously considering it) in the Spider-Man comics. Gwen... named a certain trope and left Peter heartbroken. Enter Mary Jane whom helps him by being a supportive friend and the two become closer. A few years after her death, they share a kiss and begin to contemplate a relationship. Then this being comics, a Gwen clone shows up (and of course he spend a good deal of the arc believing it was genuinely her). The clone eventually helps him realize that his relationship with Gwen was NOT as perfect as he thought, her hatred of his alter ego ran too deep, and it was MJ he really in love with. However, he never really stopped angsting about Gwen, leading MJ to sometimes question if she really was his second choice (it's mostly entirely baseless, and they have never shown to have anything but unconditional love for each other, but the "what if I managed to save her thing" gets dragged out A LOT).

    Fan Works 
  • Grow Young With Me is all about Harry recovering from Ginny's tragic death, with help from a quirky non-magical woman who draws him out of his shell. Abby has very mixed feelings when she visits his home and sees photos of Ginny, recognising that her death is simultaneously a terrible event for him and his adorable children, yet also the reason Abby has a chance with him.
  • Inverted to "The Widow Romances The Protagonist" in the original version of The Night Unfurls. Grace Campbell lost her husband hundreds of years ago due to the war between Celestine and Olga. Judging from how she's pissed towards Olga because of her loss, it is clear that the pain has yet to fade. Despite this, she develops feelings for Black Knight Kyril Sutherland, becoming a member of his Unwanted Harem eager to pursue for his affections, even though Kyril is neither romantically interested nor sexually interested in any of them.
  • Second Chances (TheNovelArtist): Technically, both Marinette and Adrien are widows, but Adrien has recovered much better. He and Chloe married more because they were comfortable with each other than anything else, and were already separated when she died in childbirth; he does miss her and is saddened by the past, but he knows that the life he would have liked to have with her wasn't ever going to happen. And he has their daughter filling his attention. Whereas Marinette and Nathanael were passionately devoted to each other, and his untimely death tore her apart. It takes quite a while before she's able to face the idea of moving on and dating again. Ultimately, Emma forces their hand, latching onto Marinette as a mother figure and making her choose between being Emma's mother fully or walking out of her life entirely.

    Films — Animated 
  • Bébé's Kids starts with Robin Harris dating the newly widowed Jameeka, but it turns out he bit off more than he could chew, as he ends up babysitting her friend's incredibly rambunctious kids.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Finding Neverland, rumors of this arise as a result of all of the time that James Barrie spends with Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (a rather scandalous situation, considering that he is married). The reality is a platonic variation, and Sylvia's mother, Emma, is rather annoyed with James because his attentions are keeping this from legitimately happening to Sylvia.
  • The Film of the Book to Flight of the Intruder has a subplot where the main character ends up getting into a relationship with the widow of his bombadier/navigator, who died in the film's opening.
  • An unusual variant occurs in The Last Samurai with Algren romancing Taka, the widow of a man he had killed. Katsumoto has captured Algren as a prisoner of war, and orders Taka to quarter him in her home. She can't stand him at first and begs Katsumoto to kill him, but gradually she warms up to him and they share a kiss before the final battle.
  • In Key Largo, Frank with Nora, although it's mostly on her part. Frank is still dealing with the guilt of surviving the war where his friend—Nora's husband—hadn't.
  • In Too Many Husbands (1940), when Bill was declared Legally Dead after a boating accident, his business partner Henry helped the widow "in a million little ways," leading her to marry him six months later. This causes awkwardness when Bill returns from being shipwrecked on a Deserted Island.
  • In Miracle on 34th Street she's a divorcee, not a widow, but it's the same principle.
  • Sarah and Hull's relationship is like this in Pale Rider. Sarah's husband dies before the plot begins, but it's implied that she's the "loved her husband dearly" variety of widow.
  • The Magnificent Ambersons is about a (grown-up) Spoiled Brat with Mommy Issues who is horrified that his widowed mother is falling for her Childhood Sweetheart. Everyone else thinks he's making a fuss about nothing.
  • Edward towards Angela in 7 Faces of Dr. Lao; it takes a little magical assistance from the eponymous wizard for her to finally come around.
  • Alec wants to marry Julie, a young widow, in the film In Name Only. They both fall deeply in love, but the only problem is that his current wife, Maida, won't give him a divorce.
  • Wild River has Chuck the TVA man falling in love with beautiful Carol, whose husband died three years ago and who was left with two small children. Complicated in that Chuck, on behalf of the federal government, is trying to get Carol's family off their land so the badly-needed dam can proceed.
  • In the Marx Brothers films, Margaret Dumont played the rich widow, and Groucho played the one wooing her. In Duck Soup:
    Firefly (Groucho): Not that I care, but where is your husband?
    Teasdale (Dumont): Why he's dead.
    Firefly: I'll bet he's just using that as an excuse.
    Teasdale: I stayed with him till the very end.
    Firefly: Hmm, no wonder he passed away.
    Teasdale: I held him in my arms and kissed him.
    Firefly: Oh I see, then it was murder. Will you marry me? Did he leave you any money? Answer the second question first.
    Teasdale: He left me his entire fortune.
    Firefly: Is that so? Can't you see what I'm trying to tell you, I love you!
  • When the Last Sword Is Drawn: A close variant. Chiaki Ono married Yoshimura Shizu after her father Yoshimura Kanichiro came home mortally wounded, and her older brother (and Chiaki's best friend) Kaichirou left to take his father's place fighting in the Boshin War and didn't come back.
  • In A Blueprint for Murder, Cam starts to fall for his brother's widow Lynne. He is initially romancing her because he is attracted to her, but continues to do so because he becomes convinced that she is a Black Widow and wants to prove it.
  • The Secret (2007): Hannah is jealous of Ben's patient (Sam's guidance counselor) flirting with him while having their appointment (he works as an opthamologist), though Ben insists he wouldn't act on it. The woman is also unaware that Hannah's (kind of) still around, in Sam's body.

  • In Enoch Arden, Philip declares his love to Annie after Enoch has been missing for several years. He has to be very patient, as she is reluctant to give up on Enoch, and even when she finally marries him, it is mostly Remarrying for Your Kids at first. (She does finally come to return his feelings, however.)
  • Ista in Paladin of Souls, by Lois McMaster Bujold; she does a lot of the romancing herself, being the POV character.
  • Clive Cussler's The Mediterranean Caper. Dirk Pitt does this with Teri von Till, who is still in mourning for her car-racer husband. It later turns out that she's actually an undercover Federal Bureau of Narcotics agent named Amy, so her story may have been fake.
  • Vorkosigan Saga:
    • Miles Vorkosigan's love interest Ekaterin is widowed in Komarr, freeing her up for Miles' courtship in A Civil Campaign. Given the five-to-four male/female ratio on Barrayar, however, he quickly finds that he is not her only suitor. And given the unstable and classified circumstances under which the husband died, Miles finds himself slandered of creating a widow for himself...
    • In Barrayar, Count Vidal Vordarian had been courting the recently widowed Princess Kareen as part of his scheme to become Regent for Life for her four year old son Gregor. Emperor Ezar saw through him and arranged for his grandson's regency to be assigned to Lord Aral Vorkosigan instead.
  • Somehow subverted in Jorge Amado's novel Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, where the titular Flor is the widow who is eventually romanced, and who has to learn how to open to love again. Of course, things become more complicated, what with the ghost of her first husband coming back...
  • In the Incarnations of Immortality novel "Being a Green Mother," after the stunning Niobe loses her husband, she becomes the immortal Clotho. Some 40 years later, she meets and falls in love again with a different man, many years after his wife also died. He even comments (paraphrased) "It's almost like Fate has been saving you until the time was right."
  • Atretes, the hero of As Sure As the Dawn, is an ex-gladiator embittered by a failed Destructive Romance who strikes up a partnership with a widow named Rizpah who had previously adopted the child whom he had thought his previous lover had aborted. Despite hating one another's guts at first, they eventually fall for each other; she pulls him out of his nihilistic cynicism and he is able to help her experience true love for the first time (she was a prostitute as a child and her first husband was a kindly older man for whom she never had romantic feelings).
  • Gender inverted in The Silmarillion. Indis loved Finwë from afar even before he married. After he visits her when his first wife dies, she openly declares her love for him.
  • Messenger has a sinister version. Mentor trades away his true self to become young and handsome in order to romance Stocktender's recently-widowed wife.
  • In David Weber's Empire from the Ashes, Star Marshal Tsien Tao-ling does this for Amanda Givens, who lost her first husband in the battle of Zeta Trianguli Australis and subsequently completely shut down emotionally. Happens in the time gap between The Armageddon Inheritance and Heirs of Empire, meaning the romance is recounted in the narrative of the latter:
    Narration: Amanda Tsien feared nothing that lived, but she was also an orphan. She'd been only nine years old when she learned a harsh universe's cruelest weapon could be love... and she'd relearned that lesson when Tamman, her first husband, died at Zeta Trianguli Australis. Colin and Jiltanith had watched helplessly as she hid herself in her duties, sealing herself into an armored shell and investing all the emotion she dared risk in Tamman's son. She'd become an automaton, and there'd been nothing even an emperor could do about it, but Tsien Tao-ling had changed that.
    Many of the marshal's personnel feared him. That was wise of them, yet something in Amanda had called out to him, despite her defenses, and the man the newsies called "the Juggernaut" had approached her so gently she hadn't even realized he was doing it until it was too late. Until he'd been inside her armor, holding out his hand to offer her the heart few people believed he had... and she'd taken it.
  • A Brother's Price has Jerin with the princesses. Since the former husband was a jerk, the widow status is not much dwelled on, though—it is only important insofar as Trini does not really want to remarry, for fear she could get such a jerk again.
  • As they did in Real Life, the heroines of Susan Higginbotham's historical fiction often end up remarrying after their first husband comes to a historically sticky end.
  • In some of the later Dune books, the long-widowed Lady Jessica Atreides is said to have found love with Gurney Halleck, although given that they have by that time become the rulers of Caledan and Giedi Prime, respectively, their relationship is kept very low-key to avoid scandal.
  • Barbie from Under the Dome ends up in a relationship with (and, in the TV series, engaged to) Julia Shumway. Julia's husband Peter was killed shortly before the dome came down due to Peter's gambling debts, his inability to pay them, and then threatening the enforcer that came to collect. The enforcer? Barbie. When he finds out that Julia is Peter's widow, Barbie doesn't really hesitate with continuing their relationship. Aside from an angry outburst when she finds out, Julia isn't really perturbed that she's in a relationship with her husband's killer and makes it a point that she does want to continue their relationship.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Lucrezia Borgia of Borgia is surprisingly distraught after the death of her husband, Alfonso de Calabria. Lucky, her longtime lover (the other Alfonso) is still around to marry.
  • In Cadfael, widowed wool merchant Judith Perle has men discussing their prospects with her at her late husband's funeral. One of them is an egotistical wastrel who thinks her beauty should belong to him. The other is a dye manufacturer who couches the matter as both good companionship and really good business. Judith is interested in neither—instead, she falls for the widower bronzesmith who's renting out her old house, who doesn't try to flatter her despite his attraction and has sorrows like her own.
  • Call the Midwife: Midwife Trixie Franklin first meets Matthew Aylward — then happily married to his wife Fiona — when she attends the delivery of his son at the private Lady Emily Hospital. Sadly, Fiona dies shortly thereafter of leukaemia, and Matthew first turns to Trixie as a friend and confidante as he struggles to deal with both his profound grief and with raising a baby on his own. It's not until over a year later that they realise their feelings for each other have deepened and he begins courting her properly.
  • Carnival Row: Portia is a widow, and has become lovers with Philo (to the strong disapproval of one of her tenants, as they're unmarried).
  • Doctor Who: In "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood", the humanized Doctor falls in love with a widowed nurse working at the school where he teaches. She remarks at some point that it's not fair how the world expects widows to just disappear after their husbands die.
  • Frasier: Martin starts dating the widow of a friend and wonders whether he should feel guilty about it.
  • Janda Kembang is a romance series with janda (widow) in its title, so naturally...
    • The main plot of the series is Malik and Kemal's conflicting attempt to win over Salmah, whose husband died one year ago. Salmah hasn't moved on yet at first, but between her reciprocating their feelings, her daughter wanting a new father, and everybody encouraging her to move on, Salmah eventually has to choose.
    • A less-focused example is the RT leader's attempt to romance Sri, whose husband has also died. This one goes nowhere as RT leader's feeling is completely unreciprocated.
    • Rais/Neneng romance subplot in the later half of the series is also technically this. Since Neneng is divorced, the drama comes from Rais' fear that Neneng wants to go back to her ex-husband.
  • In the British thriller series The Last Enemy, Stephen and his brother's widow, Yasim, fall in love. Things get a bit more complicated when it turns out that his brother was Faking the Dead. Not that their marriage was in the best of states beforehand.
  • Patrick Jane of The Mentalist lost both his wife and his daughter when they were brutally murdered by a serial killer, which was kind of his fault. He feels incredibly guilty about it and continues to wear his wedding ring years later, all while bent on revenge. Consequently, any woman attempting to date him in the series falls into this, as he has a lot of issues and is extremely cagey about starting up with anyone new. Eventually he gets past this and starts a relationship with Teresa Lisbon. It ends very, very well.
  • Murdoch Mysteries:
    • Enid Jones a pretty young widow courted by Detective Murdoch when his on-again-off-again relationship with Dr. Ogden is off. She likes him a lot, but her son Alwyn is the most important person in her life, so she breaks it off because Murdoch appears too undecided and she doesn't want to see her son hurt.
    • Dr. Julia Ogden's husband Dr. Darcy Garland dies in "Crime & Punishment". Murdoch resumes pursuing her romantically — or more like he continues to pursue her romantically, because when Dr. Garland died, Julia was trying to get a divorce.
    • George Crabtree romantically pursues widowed Mrs. Brooks. They knew each other when she was a Miss Garrison. When they meet again, she's a young widow with a stepson Simon. She genuinely likes George and is beyond happy that George proves to be a good influence on Simon.
  • In North and South (U.S.), George Hazard and Madeline Main fall for one another after the murders of their respective spouses, Constance and Orry. And arguably, there was a faint thread of attraction between them even before Constance's murder.
  • In Single Father Dave and Sarah's burgeoning romance is taut with the presence of Rita's memory and how quickly they seem to have gotten together after her death. Rita was also Sarah's best friend and further complicates things by having a boyfriend at the time when she and Dave first get together.
  • In the second season of Tyrant (2014), Molly, having been led to believe that her husband Bassam Al-Fayeed has been executed, pursues a short-lived affair with Sammy's lawyer.
  • Shtisel:
    • Akiva falls in love with Elisheva, the mother of one of his students, who has been twice widowed already.
    • Akiva's father Shulem, a widower himself, pursues Edna Heshin, a recently-widowed rebbetzin, but breaks it off after she mistakenly calls him by her husband's name and he realizes she has feelings for him. In the next season, the recently-widowed Menukha Konigsberg pursues him, frustrated by his beating around the bush. She ends up being a toxic influence on him and he breaks up with her.

  • Garth Brooks' "That Summer" is made of this trope. It tells the story of a young farmhand hired by a widow who then falls for him.
  • The Great Big Sea song "Widow in the Window" is about a young bride who refuses to believe her husband died at sea, much to the disappointment of the narrator, who is in love with her.

    Myth & Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • In the Book of Deuteronomy: If a married man dies without leaving behind a son, the man's brother has a responsibility to marry the widow. If this brother then has a son with the woman, the son is considered to be of the deceased's lineage, to carry on his family name. Furthermore, if the brother refuses to marry the widow, she can take him before the town elders and have him publicly humiliated. (This was to ensure that a widow was properly cared for, as women in those days didn't have much means of supporting themselves without a husband or son.)
      • Onan's refusal to do this (he married his brother's widow and slept with her, but "spilled his seed" on the ground instead of inside her to avoid getting her pregnant) got him killed by God, because in the event that the resulting child was male, the brother's possessions would go to "his" son instead of Onan's (or Onan himself). This was later conflated with any male ejaculation happening outside of sex, hence onanism being an old-fashioned term for masturbating.
    • In the Book of Judith, the title character (who herself is a widow) becomes so famous for her Heroic Seductress role in defeating Holofernes, the leader of the Assyrian army, that many tried to marry her, but she ended up turning them all down and lived the rest of her life as a widow.

  • The Merry Widow is about a baron from the same small country as the title character trying to get her to marry a fellow countryman and not a Frenchman, so that her husband's money doesn't leave the country. They choose her old flame Count Danilo for the job, and Slap-Slap-Kiss ensues.

    Video Games 
  • Gender Flipped in The Banner Saga with Rook and Oddleif. If the player makes the right choices up to about halfway through game 3, they become a couple.
  • Dream Daddy:
    • The Main Character that can date any of the dads has lost his previous partner a while before the events of the series.
    • Robert had a wife, but she died in a car accident. He is a romantic option for you to date.
    • Another romantic option, Mat, also had a wife who passed away before she even saw the coffee shop they opened.
  • BioWare gender-inverts the trope into Romancing the Widower quite a few times across their various games:
  • Waaaay too many H-games to count.
  • Ramon wanted to do this to Vanessa in The King of Fighters. Never got further than being her Dogged Nice Guy.
  • In Mitsumete Knight, this is the scenario of one of the winnable girls, Claire Majoram.
  • Looking at the game code reveals that this was going to be an option in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but was cut. The Dragonborn would be able to romance Jarl Elisif the Fair, whose husband was murdered at the start of the Civil War, but there's no way (without using the developer's console) to reach the romancing dialogue.
  • The trope is genderflipped in Fire Emblem Fates if a Female Avatar successfully romances Gunther, a man whose wife and child perished alongside his Doomed Hometown.
  • Long Live the Queen begins with player character Elodie's mother, Queen Fidelia, suddenly dying. Her father, Joslyn, is subsequently approached by multiple suitors throughout the game; as the King Dowager and the Duke of Caloris, he makes an attractive partner to anyone looking. By default he remains uninterested in remarrying despite having no heir to his title (since Elodie is the crown princess, she can't also inherit Joslyn's title), but if Elodie's choices have gotten the nobles talking about the importance of heirs, he may be pushed into marrying in order to ensure the succession remains safe.
  • Harvest Moon:
  • A plot point in the backstory of Yakuza 2 is that veteran cop Jiro Kawara married Suyeon Jung, a woman violently widowed by her husband's death at the hands of yakuza. Said husband was a boss of a Korean mafia gang known as the Jingweon, Kawara himself prevented her from committing suicide and taking her son (who grows up to become Ryuji Goda) with him, they had a child together (who grows up to become Detective Kaoru Sayama), and Kawara spent years killing Jingweon members who took exception to Suyeon abandoning the group and intended to kill her and their children.

    Web Animation 
  • Uta's RomCom Manga Dubs: Souta meets and falls in love with a woman named Yuko who became a widow after her husband died, they become a couple in the end.

  • Gender-inverted in Something*Positive by Davan's parents. Fred was a widower who had lost his wife and son, which didn't stop Faye from falling in love with him. Despite harsh criticism from Fred's side of the family, Faye and Fred got married and had children of their own.
  • Monsterkind: A same-sex example. Wallace starts to develop a crush on Ben, his landlord who is still grieving his past love interest. Chapter 4 implies this to not be really one sided anymore, as they Almost Kiss.
  • Whale Star: The Gyeongseong Mermaid: Geon falls in love with Yeongyeong, who is (a) a widow (b) with a baby (c) who is more than a few years older than him (d) and is part of the independence movement. He's well aware that all of the aforementioned factors means a romance between them is unfeasible and is simply grateful for the time they get to spend together.

    Western Animation 
  • Several Looney Tunes cartoons revolved around this plot, usually the result of the would-be suitor discovering that the widow in question had inherited a fortune.
    • "At Your Service, Madame" - A mother sow is almost robbed blind by a con-man... er... pig (patterned after W. C. Fields) posing as a suitor, and her kids team up trying to stop him.
    • "Hare Trimmed" - Yosemite Sam attempts to woo Granny (called Emma in this cartoon) after discovering she inherited 50 million dollars. Bugs Bunny overhears about the plot, and poses as another suitor in an attempt to keep Granny from being conned, before pulling a Bride and Switch.
    • "Honey's Money" - Yosemite Sam (in his only solo cartoon) marries a wealthy widow, but quickly becomes a Henpecked Husband, and to make matters worse, has to put up with his new big-as-a-house stepson, leaving him to wonder if the money's even worth it. He ultimately decides "yes".
    • The same plot was previously used in "His Bitter Half" with Daffy Duck. Unlike Sam, though, Daffy decides it's not worth it and bails out once he's had enough.
    • A slight variation in "Little Boy Boo". Foghorn Leghorn realizes his rundown little shack won't suffice for the harsh winter ahead, so he decides to woo the local widow (Miss Prissy) deciding her house is warm enough. However, she won't commit unless he can prove to be a good enough father for her son, Egghead Jr.