Fatherhood is a slight theme in The Life & Times of Ichabod Brooks. He is proud of being a father and there is one story that involves a father/son. Another involves orphans being escorted to their new homes. Originally, I was going to do the 7 Humorous Tips type of post for this, but then I realized something. I couldn’t really think of many fantasy fathers. Most of them fall into these categories:
- Deranged father who the child has to overthrow.
- Deranged father who the child works for.
- Dead/missing father who the child either looks for or wishes to live up to.
- Missing father that doesn’t come up in conversation.
- Killed at the beginning.
Parents in general seem to be fairly expendable in fiction because authors love to take away that layer of protection for the protagonists. If there’s anybody who is going to stop a character from going on an adventure then it would be their parents. With them being dead, you don’t have that ‘obstacle’ and most people can relate to the idea of avenging the parents. If not that then simply not having someone to stop you, but the point is that they aren’t in the picture. Yet, I’ve seen more dead fathers in fantasy than mothers. If the latter is dead then the former is either already dead or died with her.
You also get more of the absent father stuff in fantasy. They’re simply not in the picture for one reason or another. I’m not sure why this is. Sometimes it sets the father up as one of the villains or a future encounter of some kind. Yet, I’ve seen it usually just be a vestigial aspect that comes up once. ‘Your father was a great man who died’. ‘Your father was a horrible man who abandoned us’. ‘We aren’t sure who your father is because we want a big reveal later’. I guess with fantasy typically being medieval settings, it’s easier to believe that the father is out of the picture than the mother. Actually, I think that goes for these days too because people really don’t touch on single father much outside of comedy or stories where he finds a new wife. I wonder if there’s a genre here.
Anyway, a lot of this went through my head when I was designing Ichabod Brooks. In fact, it was the big part of his transformation. He started as a science fiction character who could survive on the toxic surface of Earth and worked as a Diver, but he was an anti-social hermit. When I decided to make a hero who had a family, Ichabod came back to my mind and changed. The biggest factor for his personality going from anti-social to friendly was him having a son. He became a guy who would happily talk about his family, especially his son. Yet, he is restrained on this topic because he doesn’t want to reveal too much about the kid to potential enemies. So, you get a sense of pride for his son while also a desire to protect.
How did I come up with that? Naturally. I used my own feelings toward my son to design Ichabod. Still, I wondered if there had to be something different since Windemere is a magical world. That’s where the trophy collection came from. I don’t always make it clear what Ichabod takes back for his son, but he has a trinket from every adventure. This is because he has a dangerous job and wants his son to have things that remind him of the man he is. These are physical items, but he will have stories written down for each one and goes over the collection with his son all the time. More that he answers questions and lets him examine the safer items. Not that there is anything dangerous, but he wants to be careful.
The more I write this post and think, the more I realize that you don’t see a lot of fatherhood in fantasy. They really do get placed more often as fallen heroes, drunks, absent, abusive, dead, and other roles that don’t involve raising the child. Am I complaining? A little bit because I’m at a stage where I’d like to see more male characters find balance between family and the big job. Maybe it is because we connect fantasy to a period of history where men didn’t do much, if anything, for child-rearing. Maybe male characters are simply more expendable because we’re used to them dying in droves. I just can’t figure out why the closest things I had to getting help with Ichabod was thinking about myself and remembering ‘Lone Wolf & Cub’. Only difference is that Ichabod’s son doesn’t go on the adventures, which might be for the best.
Anyway, what do you think about fathers in fiction? Is there a change to this role that you would like to see?