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Life Lessons from Literary Dads

In honour of Father’s Day 2019, we’re taking a look at fathers, step-fathers, or simply strong male role models in the literary world. Check out our post from last year to read about our favourite literary dads. Characters who act as fathers not only speak to their children in the stories, but to every reader too. We can learn a lot from our literary dads, and there are so many to list, but we’ve picked out our top five life lessons from literary dads.


The Man/Papa – The Road

‘The Road’ is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Cormac McCarthy published in 2006. The story follows a father and son travelling across a post-apocalyptic America in search of a safe dwelling. Written in a heart-wrenching narrative with hallowing descriptions, McCarthy takes a very minimal approach to dialogue. Despite this, we are shown the incredibly strong relationship between father and son and the humanity that remains long after the breakdown of society.

“He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke.”

The man dotes on his son and teaches him all he can, as he knows he will soon die. He often speaks of his son using mystical language. The above quote expresses his absolute faith and undying love for the boy. A continued motif is that the pair are ‘carrying the fire’. The man teaches his son resilience by example, and that he must ‘carry the fire’ no matter what. The fire, a representation of hope, is more than symbolic as it becomes their lifeline.


Bagheera – The Jungle Book

Not a biological father, but certainly a strong male role model in Mowgli’s life, Bagheera the panther is a strong influence on the pack-raised child. Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, first published in 1894, explores the adventures of a human child or ‘man-cub’ in the animal heartland. Mowgli is seen as a source of power as the animals believe he can create the most harmful thing to the animal world: The Red Flower.

“Let them fall, Mowgli. They are only tears.”

Bagheera is an independent creature respected by most others. We learn that he roams free after smashing through his cage and breaking free from humans captures. He watches over Mowgli throughout his childhood. Mowgli often considers himself a wolf having been raised by them, but Bagheera always keeps him on track. He reminds him of his roots and ensures he always stays true to himself.


Caractacus Pott – Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car

The father from this classic children’s tale has a name that’s derivative of the ‘crackpot’, a slang term for being mad. First appearing in Ian Fleming’s 1964 book, later portrayed by Dick Van Dyke in the musical film just four years later, Caractacus Pott (named Caractacus Potts in the film) is the exciting and zany father we all may have wished for once upon a time.

“Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes,’ otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.”

An ambitious inventor who doesn’t believe anything is impossible, Mr Pott teaches his children the meaning of life through wild and unexpected adventure. Once his own creation in a fashion comes to life, the magical car turns their fantasy into reality. They have the adventure of a lifetime while saving a chocolate shop and themselves from menacing gangsters.


Hans Hubermann – The Book Thief

Markus Zusak’s 2005 novel explores various types of relationship, including a significant father/daughter bond. Centring on a young girl called Liesel, who is adopted by the Hubermanns during the Nazi Regime in Germany. Liesel faces the loss of innocence as she tries to understand the world around her. Liesel begins stealing books so she can learn to read. Her adopted father Hans encourages her learning and participates with her.

“In 1933, 90 percent of Germans showed unflinching support for Adolph Hitler. That leaves 10 percent who didn’t. Hans Hubermann belonged to that ten percent.”

Hans Hubermann teaches Liesel the importance of words and language. Together they learn the power of both in the right and wrong hands. With Max, their Jewish friend who they are hiding in the basement from persecution, Liesel reads and writes. Her love for reading and courage taught to her by Hans is what eventually saves her life.


Sirius Black – Harry Potter series

J. K. Rowling’s internationally acclaimed series features a lot of fathers who make awful decisions against the best interests of their children. However, one of the exceptions to this is Harry Potter’s godfather Sirius Black. Infamous in the Wizarding World for being jailed in Azkaban prison for mass murder, we later discover that Sirius was in fact framed by his former friend, the traitor Peter Pettigrew. Sirius made it his mission to ensure his godson Harry knew the truth.

“What’s life without a little risk?”

Once Sirius broke free from prison, he struck up a strong relationship with Harry. Harry learns about his past and even things that are happening around him while he’s being kept in the dark by his other protectors. Never broken down by torture of dementors or taunting of death eaters, Sirius Black, above all, teaches Harry defiance in the face of injustice. During his few years of freedom before his tragic death, he teaches Harry the importance of defiance against corrupt governing powers.

Why not return to a childhood classic to revisit the lessons from memorable dads? Have a browse through our fantastic fiction books and discover fictional relationships that reflect heavy in our own lives.

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What life lessons have you picked up from literary dads? How about life lessons from your own father that have stuck with you over the years? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • Reply Goanna Archibald-Reid June 21, 2019 at 7:53 pm

    My father’s wisdom, creativity, love for books and studying helped me survive a deadly physical torture in my pregnancy. It did not happen somewhere in a remote full of savages place, but in the centre of a civilized entity that supposedly takes care of people’s health.
    I live a second life and my unborn child is well in my womb.

    • Reply Jonella Vidal June 24, 2019 at 1:14 pm

      Hi Goanna, thank you for sharing your story. I’m so glad to hear you have such a supportive father and that you are doing well now.

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