It’s that time of year, ladies and gents: Father’s Day. Though it generates a bit less fanfare than its maternal predecessor on the holiday calendar, Father’s Day still requires some celebration. We should use the occasion to acknowledge the fine gentlemen who have taken on the not-inconsiderable task of being a dad, hopefully doing so with a steady hand, a bit of wisdom, some solid grilling skills, and, of course, corny-dad-jokes. With Father’s Day just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to take a look at a few of our favorite dads from the sci-fi and fantasy spectrum. Potential spoilers await, consider yourself duly warned. So, without any further ado…
Eddard (Ned) Stark, A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Look up the phrase “honorable to a fault,” and you’re likely to find a picture of Ned Stark. It was, of course, a foregone conclusion that a man as honorable, wise, and valorous as good ol’ Ned was not long for the Seven Kingdoms. He cared not only for his own natural born children, but two others as well – one of whom was technically a hostage. Though he was only featured in one volume of the novels and the first season of the adaptation, Ned’s remained a fan favorite, known for having one of the most tragic deaths in the series.
Arthur Weasley, Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
Likely to offer some fatherly advice and even join in his children’s shenanigans, Arthur Weasley is, in many ways, the quintessential dad’s dad. Arthur was both a steadying presence for the Weasley family and a reminder that joy and laughter can be found even in the hardest times. His fascination and glee with Muggles and their way of life was infectious, as was his steadfast loyalty to his friends and family. Arthur Weasley might not be the flashiest father in fantasy literature, but there’s a reason his kids uniformly proved themselves heroes when it mattered most.
Sam Vimes, Discworld (Series) by Terry Pratchett
Juggling responsibilities with family comes with the territory of being a parent — it’s a matter of priorities and making it work. Sam Vimes, a reluctant aristocrat and Commander of the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork, certainly qualifies as busy. But once his son made his way into the world, making it home every night to read a bedtime story to young Sam rocketed right to the top of the elder Sam’s to-do list and, come hell or high-water, that’s precisely what he did.
The Father, The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Being a father is difficult enough when you’re not trying to survive in the desolate hellscape of a post-apocalyptic America, as imagined through the starkly horrifying prose of Cormac McCarthy. The Road is one of McCarthy’s finest novels, and the unnamed Father is one of his most tragic characters – which is really saying something. At its base, The Road is about a father working against all odds to secure a better life for his child – precisely what fatherhood is all about.
Halt, The Ranger’s Apprentice (Series) by John Flanagan
While technically not an actual father to his young apprentice Will, legendary Ranger Halt nonetheless proved to be a pivotal paternal figure and the greatest influence in Will’s life. Equal parts wry and taciturn, Halt’s gruff and demanding exterior just barely masked his deep affection for Will. Halt was a harsh taskmaster, but a fair and steadying hand in Will’s life.
Praxidike Meng, Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey
Prax Meng’s search for his kidnapped daughter may not be the main plot thread in Caliban’s War, but it is an integral storyline that holds the larger narrative together. More importantly, it is a perfect depiction of a father’s dedication to his child. Prax pushes himself to the very limits of endurance to find his daughter. And here’s the thing about Prax, and this is key: he is in every conceivable way an ordinary man. He is not a hero in the conventional sci-fi/fantasy sense, he’s simply a father willing to move mountains – or figure out who can move the mountains for him – in order to save his child.
Rick Grimes, The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
In terms of worst case scenarios to raise a kid, “zombie apocalypse” ranks pretty high on the list. Rick Grimes was thrust into this world in one of the worst possible ways – he woke up from a coma to a devastated world. In the midst of this literal nightmare, he managed to track down his family, reunite with them, and pull together a ragtag group of survivors. The one thing that has continued to drive Rick Grimes over the course of 150+ issues of The Walking Dead is his desire to ensure the survival of his son, and perhaps find a way to return to some degree of pre-zombie normalcy. Rick will do whatever it takes to make that happen.
Jonathan Kent, Superman
A father figure lifted directly from a Norman Rockwell painting – that’s possibly the best way to describe Jonathan Kent. He’s an unassuming salt-of-the-earth farmer who passed along the wisdom, values, and morals that crafted one of the world’s greatest superheroes. Imagine the devastation that Superman was capable of, and how different the world of DC could have been had Superman been scooped by a Luthor, for instance, rather than a Kent. If a parent can be measured by the sort of person their child becomes, then Jonathan Kent has to stand near the top of the list of great sci-fi and fantasy dads.
Those are a few of our top picks. What are yours?