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Parental Substitute / Literature

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  • In the Age of Fire series, each of the three main protagonists gets one at some point or another after their parents are killed and they're scattered as hatchlings: AuRon had NooMoahk (the elder dragon who served as his mentor during his last drakehood years), Wistala had Rainfall (the elf who raised her most of her life), and RuGaard had FeHazathant (who took pity on him and adopted him into the Lavadome's Imperial Line when he arrived), respectively.
    • AuRon himself was in turn one to Heiba, the orphaned human girl he was tasked with protecting until he could get her back to her own kind, which took long enough that they ended up bonding closely.
  • Jane Austen:
    • Emma: Mrs Woodhouse died when Emma and Isabella were small children. Miss Taylor becomes a governess at the Woodhouses and she was like a mother to both girls. They all lucked out: Miss Taylor was lucky to be hired by such a loving family who treated her more like a friend and family member than an employee; the Woodhouses were lucky to find such a treasure of a woman who loved the girls like her own. Although she was supposedly a mother-figure, she was more like a sister to Emma because they adored each other so much. This in turn resulted in Emma not really having a lot of parental discipline growing up. When she marries, as Mrs Weston she also becomes a devoted stepmother to adult Frank Churchill, who clearly loves her.
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    • Mansfield Park:
      • Mrs Norris somehow manages to meddle in upbringing of the Bertram children, especially Julia and Maria. Their parents are both alive, but their mother is too lazy to bother. Her constant flattering does not improve their character.
      • Sir Thomas, Lady Bertram and Mrs Norris are all Parental Substitutes to Fanny Price, being her uncle and maternal aunts. They adopt her because Fanny's parents are poor and have too many children to take care of. Neither of them does a very good job as Fanny's guardians. Sir Thomas is too strict (and unreasonably so, considering how scared Fanny is), Lady Bertram can't be bothered, and Mrs Norris is downright emotionally abusive. The real Parental Substitute to little Fanny is her older cousin Edmund, who is the only really affectionate person in the house.
      • After they were orphaned, siblings Mary and Henry Crawford have been brought up by their Aunt and Uncle, Admiral and Mrs Crawford. Both were very loving to them as children, but they were not happily married, and generally it's assumed that they were a bad influence on them.
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    • Persuasion: Lady Russell steps in as Anne's (and Mary's and Elizabeth's) mother figure after Lady Elliot's death, and she's the only one who ever considers Anne's happiness and needs.
    • Pride and Prejudice: Mr and Mrs Gardiner are Parental Substitutes to Elizabeth and other girls, despite the fact that their parents are very much alive but their parenting skills are less than excellent and the girls are lucky they can approach such understanding, reasonable and affectionate adults. Mrs Gardiner is their favourite aunt and provides great advice and much comfort to Jane and Elizabeth (Lydia disregards all such attempts, however).
  • Madame (a.k.a. The Old Lady) in Babar took the role of Babar's mother after he gets lost in Paris, raising him and paying for his education creating a strong bond among them. This is expanded in the animated series.
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  • In The Baby-Sitters Club, Claudia's grandmother Mimi was this to both Mary Anne (whose mother died when she was very young) and to Claudia (whose parents are alive but don't really "get" her).
  • Subverted in Brotherhood of the Rose, by David Morrell. The two protagonists meet in an orphanage from which they're recruited by CIA chief Elliot, who presents himself as a surrogate father figure. They later discover that Elliot (and other members of his worldwide conspiracy) have done the same thing with other orphans, in order to create a team of Elite Mooks who'll obey their orders without question.
  • The Brothers Karamazov: Fyodor Karamazov cares little for any of his three sons; young Dimitri goes half-naked and unfed until Grigory steps in and virtually raises him himself; Ivan and Alexei are adopted by their uncle Miusov.
  • Centennial (by James Michener): A section of chapter 3, later reprinted in Creatures Of The Kingdom as "Portrait of Rufous", tells of a baby bison who imprints on one of the bulls, the eponymous Rufous, instead of his mother. It doesn't last; once the younger bull reaches maturity, he comes to see Rufous as a rival rather than a parental figure.
  • In The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, the titular teenage vampire is taken care of by his "Aunt" Nelly, who is in actuality a really close family friend of Vlad's deceased parents.
  • Cradle Series: It's mentioned that master/disciple relationships often become closer than parent/child relationships. So it shouldn't be a surprise that Yerin, who was tutored by the Sword Sage after her entire family was killed, saw him as her father. After he is killed, she spends weeks staying nearby in an attempt to recover what he left for her, fighting an entire combat school that entire time, when she could have easily just left. Later, we meet the Winter Sage, who was the Sword Sage's fiance. To Yerin's annoyance, she clearly sees Yerin as an estranged daughter, and tearfully asks why Yerin didn't come home.
  • Daystar and Shadow has the Professor, an old traveling storyteller who found Robin playing in the desert shortly after his memory began at the age of about eleven and raised him for the next five or six years.
  • In Deltora Quest Barda gradually becomes this for the seemly orphan Jasmine in the first series to the point where towards the Final Battle when Barda nearly dies she stays by his sickbed and cries openly. Jasmine, however learns her actual father is Doom and is overjoyed though if the second series is anything to go by Jasmine is still a bit closer to Barda. Lief loses his father Endon so Barda effortlessly fills the role in the second and third series and arguably had already proved himself a good father surrogate to Lief throughout Part 1.
  • After her parents go to war in Dirge for Prester John, Sefelet is cared for by Vyala, her mother's friend's mother. They appear to bond more than Sefalet did to her real parents.
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, this features twice in the orphaned Harry's Back Story. Justin exploited his need for one. Afterward, Ebneazer did a much better job of it; he is still protective of Harry and deploys such tropes as So Proud of You.
  • In Fire and Hemlock, Pollys grandmother is her parent substitute, as her own parents are in an unhappy marriage and fight a lot. They divorce later in the novel There is also Mr. Lynn and to a lesser extent his friends, who treat Polly more like a friend, but still qualify, as they readily step in when Polly's actual parents neglect her and her grandma is not nearby.
  • In Gene Stratton-Porter's Freckles, Freckles acquires two: McLean is a father figure, and Mrs. Duncan as a mother figure who assures him that she loves him like a son and weeps over how desperately he needs the affection.
  • In William Alexander's Goblin Secrets, the children were taken in by Graba.
  • In the Goosebumps book A Night in Terror Tower, Morgred the sorceror is set to fill this role for Edward and Susannah when they finally escape into the future to live new lives away from their evil uncle and the High Executioner. As the late, rightful King's court mage, he promised to protect them from harm.
  • In Hetty Feather, Hetty encounters lots of parental substitutes: Peg Cotton/Nurse Winnie in 'Hetty Feather', Mrs Briskett in 'Sapphire Battersea', Lizzie in 'Emerald Star', and Madame Adeline in 'Diamond/Little Stars'.
  • Harry Potter: Nearly every adult who has any interaction with Harry is a Parental Substitute to one degree or another. They range from mentor/grandfathers like Albus Dumbledore to doting/supportive uncle figures like Sirius Black and Remus Lupin (both of whom knew his father) or Hagrid. Minerva McGonagall was the head of his house and might possibly be the most consistent adult in his life and always does right by him. Harry thinks so highly of her that he uses an illegal curse on someone in the seventh book for spitting at her. Arthur and Molly Weasley basically became his parents once he got away from the Dursleys. Because this is Harry Potter, things don't end well for the first three.
    Hagrid: “Well. Hello. Yeh must be Harry. Hello, Harry Potter. I’m Rubeus Hagrid. And I’m gonna be yer friend whether yeh like it or not. ’Cos yeh’ve had it tough, not that yeh know it yet. An’ yer gonna need friends. Now yeh best come with me, don’t yeh think?”
  • In John C. Wright's The Hermetic Millennia, Soorm recounts how Asvid became for him the only father he had ever known, and taught him filial piety. He's lying.
  • Bush towards the decade-younger Hornblower in the Horatio Hornblower books, evolved out of a Big Brother Instinct from early in their careers; he's constantly worrying that his captain isn't getting enough rest or credit or human contact and Hornblower compares him to a mother hen at one point. Not that Bush quite realizes this since he's Britishly out-of-touch with his own emotions.
  • Celia and Tam Lin in House of the Scorpion who are Matt's caretaker and bodyguard respectively, are pretty much his Parental Substitutes, since being a clone, he has no parents, unless you count his original's parents, which would be technically, but they have been dead for over a century.
  • Jim could be seen as this to Huckleberry Finn, whose own father is a violent and uncaring drunk.
  • Haymitch develops this kind of relationship with Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games.
  • John Cleaver's therapist in I Am Not a Serial Killer acts like a father figure for John.
  • In Andre Norton's Ice Crown, the princess was raised by her grandfather. Roane appears to be in her uncle's charge, though he seems more taken with the notion of another pair of hands with less regulation since she's related.
  • In The Infernal Devices, Charlotte raised Will, Jem, and Jessie since they came to the institute. Will says that she would have been called a governess had she not been so intelligent and if she didn't have the ability to chop one into pieces.
  • Jeeves and Wooster: Since the issue of Manchild Bertie Wooster having parents is never dwelt on, there are plenty of implications that he regards Jeeves as something of a father figure. Jeeves, for his part, is often noted to cast a "paternal" eye on Bertie's antics.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Chessman Of Mars, U-Thor received a slave woman from his jeddak; he freed and married her, and regards the son she bore the jeddak, A-Kor, as like a son to him. When the jeddak, a Royal Brat, has A-Kor imprisoned out of fear and envy, U-Thor demands an accounting.
    I have made of her a free woman, and I have married her and made her thus a princess of Manatos. Her son is my son, O-Tar, and though thou be my jeddak, I say to you that for any harm that befalls A-Kor you shall answer to U-Thor of Manatos.
    • Also, in the earlier books Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars Tars Tarkas, Tardos Mors, and Mors Kajak are implied to have served this role for John Carter's son, Carthoris, after Carter was returned to Earth.
  • Journey to Chaos:
    • Nunnal Enaz is a second mother to Kallen Selios because she adopted the girl at a young age and she was already an Honorary Aunt at that point.
    • Dengel became a surrogate father to one of his students. He was even father-of-the-bride at her wedding.
  • Liz Pennykettle for David Rain in The Last Dragon Chronicles. Later, it turns out that she actually is his mother in an parallel universe. She even acts as a mother to Zanna at times.
  • In The Lightbringer Series Dazen, masquerading as his brother Gavin, takes on the role of father to Kip, who is actually his nephew.
  • In A Little Princess, Sara becomes this to Lottie.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion feature many parental substitutes: Bilbo (for Frodo), Théoden (for Éomer, Éowyn and arguably Merry), Elrond (for Aragorn), Maglor (for Elrond and Elros), Annael (for Tuor), Thingol (for Túrin) etc. Maglor's fostering of Elrond and Elros is perhaps especially notable in that Maglor had been (twice, reluctantly) involved in the slaughter of the boys' family before that, and that he had contributed to their mother's attempted suicide...
  • In Loyal Enemies, Rest spent most of his childhood as a poor kid whom nobody wanted to care about, constantly kicked out of every apprenticeship he tried. Then Veres (badass monster hunter Magic Knight) came, said the kid has a magic gift and took him on as his student. At the end of the book another wizard mistakes them for father and son. Rest corrects him, but states that he'd be proud to be Veres' child and he regards the wizard as a substitute parent.
  • In Malevil, the main character Emmanuel is adopted by his uncle Samuel after he runs away from home. Samuel is far more of a father to Emmanuel then his cowardly, hen-pecked brother Simon ever was.
  • Mirabile is set on a recently-established colony world where there are professional parental substitutes, like the protagonist's friend Elly, who make a living raising other people's children alongside their own. The protagonist explains that the "population is still so small we can't afford to lose genes just because someone's not suited, one way or another, for parenting".
  • In Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, Lindsey contrasts Lucian's pride in her to her own father.
  • Monster of the Month Club: Mr. Tamerow, a regular guest at the Harmony House B&B, is the closest Rilla has to a father for most of her life.
  • In The Mortal Instruments, Luke helped raise Clary along with Jocelyn. By City of Heavenly Fire, they're referred to as father and daughter more often than not by themselves and others. In a way, he was sort of a father figure to Simon, too, as the latter's father died when he was younger.
  • The Neverending Story: In one of the last chapters, Dame Eyola takes the role of Bastian's deceased mother for a time.
  • In Seanan McGuire's October Daye novel Late Eclipses, Toby reflects on how Sylvester has been this to her, despite his failings.
  • In Ian Fleming's "Octopussy", James Bond is sent to take a retired officer to justice. The man, working intelligence at the end of WWII, smuggled a cache of Nazi gold home and killed the mountaineer who had led him up to where it was hidden. It's business for Bond, but it's also personal, as he'd been a friend to the dead man, who had taught him to ski as a teen before the war, and was "something of a father to me at a time that I happened to need one."
  • George serves as this to Lennie in Of Mice & Men.
  • The One and Only Ivan: Stella becomes very motherly toward Ruby when the two start sharing a cage.
  • In Pet Sematary, Louis Creed, who lost his father at age three, meets Jud Crandall who becomes a father figure to him when he's an adult (although age-wise, Jud is at 83 closer to an grandfather- substitute).
    He called this man a friend, as a grown man must do when he finds the man who should have been his father relatively late in life.
  • Tamora Pierce: What with her penchant for killing off/extremely distant parents, it only makes sense that...
    • Alanna of Song of the Lioness first has Old Retainer Coram, who reminds her that he changed her diapers. As a page, she has Myles of Olau, who is such a good replacement father that he eventually adopts her.
    • The Immortals' Daine is "mothered" by three different women — Queen Thayet, K'mir warrior Buri, and horse trainer Onua.
    • Kel of Protector of the Small actually has living Good Parents, but obviously they're not around while she's training for knighthood and they're ambassading. Lord Raoul, her knight-master, essentially pulls her through the crappy, 15-18 years. Kel herself becomes a substitute parent to Tobe when she basically adopts him by buying his indenture from an abusive master.
    • The four main characters in the Circle of Magic series are raised by two women who, after a time, they refer to as their "foster mothers".
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany: Owen's real parents don't take much interest in Owen, so Johnny's mother pretty much takes care of him. This makes her accidental death at Owen's hands all the more heart breaking.
  • Prince Caspian has something of a mother figure in his nurse, and much more of a father figure in Doctor Cornelius.
  • Halt from Ranger's Apprentice is a father-figure to both Will and Horace. It comes up several times in the books that Will and Halt think of each other as father and son. Similarly, Pauline thinks of Alyss as a daughter.
  • RCN: Given Cordel Leary's frequent absences from the Leary household due to his political activities, Hogg serves as a substitute father for Daniel, teaching him what it means to be a man.
  • In The Red Abbey Chronicles, girls who newly join the Abbey usually choose a girl who has been there for longer, and follow her around all the time. Apparently, the Sisters do not formally control this, but encourage it by assigning the same duties to both girls. (The Sisters also serve as parental subsitutes, but cannot focus on one girl; only the very young ones have a Sister specifically devoted to caring for them.)
  • Georgia from Saving Max has helped out so much during Max's childhood, filling the role that would have been filled by his Glorified Sperm Donor, that he sees her almost as another parent.
  • Oliver to Lionel in Rafael Sabatini's The Sea Hawk.
  • Septimus Heap: Marcia Overstrand is this to Septimus, according to Word of God.
  • Dr. Montgomery in A Series of Unfortunate Events is a good example. In The Penultimate Peril, volunteers Kit Snicket and Dewey Denouement answer some of the Baudelaires' questions and the latter offers to become their guardian. All three of them die.
  • In The Shattered Kingdoms, Lahlil survived an attempt to kill her by exposure and was taken in by the Nomas people, acquiring some parental substitutes. However, some misapplied Nomas religious practices resulted in her being cursed with an illness, and she realised that at least some of them knew the source of her problem but were unwilling to admit it to her. She left, and didn't stay in touch. As such, she's estranged from both birth and adoptive parents.
  • Mrs. Alowo becomes this to her orphaned students in Someone Else's War.
  • Twisted like most things in A Song of Ice and Fire. Sansa Stark is forced to masquerade as Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish's bastard daughter for the sake of her own survival, which would be okay except Littlefinger can't seem to work out if he views Sansa as a daughter or as a younger, more beautiful version of the woman he'd loved obsessively since childhood.
    • As part of the same scenario, Sansa's cousin Lord Robert Arryn comes to view her as something between a parental substitute (for his late mother Lysa, who was murdered by Littlefinger after marrying her) and a Cool Big Sis (since Robert believes that "Alayne" is his stepsister).
  • In The Star Pixie and the Serpent Queen the title character, The Star Pixie, has no parents nor any others of her kind; yet the moon of planet Clarionix and the titular Serpent Queen play the part of her father figure and maternal figure, respectively.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Running a galactic government and occasionally saving it alongside one's scoundrel husband leaves little time for parenting, as the children of Han Solo and Princess Leia learn. Much of their parenting is done by Leia's longtime friend and aide Winter Celchu.
    • C-3PO, in a pinch, makes a surprisingly effective babysitter.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Dalinar Kholin does this quite a bit. At one point he even claims that everyone under his command is part of his family.
    • After his brother's death, he had to act as a father to his nephew, King Elhokar. Part of the problem with Elhokar's reign is that Dalinar coddles him a bit too much, treating him like a child.
    • After the climax of the first book, Dalinar starts treating Kaladin as a son, specifically like Adolin. It's just easy to miss because he treats Adolin like a soldier. It comes to a head when Elhokar is mad at Kaladin for derailing the plan to deal with Sadeas. Elhokar wants him executed, but Dalinar flat-out says that if he tries, he'll make Dalinar an enemy.
  • Jaxon is the closest to a father that Corie and Elisandra have in Summers at Castle Auburn, and he tells them all the time how proud their father would be.
  • Vikus from The Underland Chronicles is the closest thing to a parent Luxa has.
  • An Unkindness of Ghosts: Aint Melusine raised Aster from infancy after her birth mother's suicide, along with several other orphaned or abandoned children. Though she considers herself generally Maternally Challenged, they love each other like a family all the same.
  • Vampire Academy:
    • Victor Dashkov to Lissa and a bit to Rose, originally. He acts as a parental figure to both, offering advice and kind words, organizing shopping trips, and buying Rose gifts unavailable to her.
    • Tasha Ozera is the mother figure to Christian. She raised him herself once his parents were killed. He treats her like his mother and is uncomfortable whenever her love life is discussed.
  • In the Village Tales novels, the Duke of Taunton is this to his nephews and niece – rather to his sister-in-law's vexation, she being after all their mum, and present, living, and in her right mind. Then again, he is the duke, The Patriarch, head of The Clan, and, most importantly, the man whose lands, money, and titles the eldest nephew will presumptively inherit, so....
  • In Warrior Cats:
    • Brambleclaw and Squirrelflight raise Hollyleaf, Jayfeather, and Lionblaze as their own after Leafpool gives them up; only Squirrelflight and Leafpool know of this until the end of the 3rd series.
    • Brindleface fostered Cloudkit, and he loves her just as much as his mother.
  • In The Westing Game, Flora Baumbach acts as this for Turtle, who is treated as The Unfavorite by her actual mother. Baumbach's own daughter died years before the story started, and it is heavily implied that Westing paired Flora and Turtle together with the intent of invoking this trope.
  • In The Witches of Karres, Captain Pausert fills this roll for Goth and The Leewit while they are sailing with him.
  • Wolf Hall:
    • Thomas Cromwell sometimes thinks back on the late Cardinal Wolsey not just as master and mentor, but as a father. Wolsey certainly treated him with more regard and affection than Walter Cromwell ever did.
    • Cromwell ends up as a stand-in father to a lot of people. Initially there's his ward Rafe Sadler, who becomes his right-hand man in court intrigues. His nephew Richard takes the name Cromwell after his own father's death, explicitly saying "you are my father now," and an elderly family friend tells Cromwell to look after his wayward adult son. Cromwell also steps into this role for his young nieces as their guardian and looks out for their marriage prospects. Also, any poor but intelligent boy in the vicinity of his London home ends up living there (at one point he has a whole choirful of them) because he's mindful of how he went from Putney urchin to King's right hand and is eager to give other young men the same chance.
  • In Wuthering Heights, Nellie Dean serves as a parent to the second generation. As both children lost their mothers practically in childbirth, Nellie is the only mother either has ever known.


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