This Folio Life: Fathers in fiction

To celebrate Father’s Day, it’s the turn of fictional dads to take the limelight. From classic novels to dystopia, crime and children’s favourites, there are fun and formidable father figures who stand out on the page and are etched in our memories. Here are a few of our favourites.


The Silly dad: Harry Wormwood, Matilda 




Used-car salesman Harry Wormwood is not what you’d call a good role model. He relishes cheating his clients and making fun of his daughter Matilda when she eschews the Wormwood television obsession for books. A typical over-the-top Dahl creation, Harry Wormwood is more a figure of fun than authority, and he becomes increasingly ridiculous as Matilda is empowered through reading.

Illustration by Quentin Blake



The Dedicated dad: Odysseus, The Odyssey



Illustration by Grahame Baker-Smith


If you thought cheering on the sidelines of a football match in the driving rain was the ultimate in parental dedication, you clearly need to dust off your edition of The Odyssey. Having fought in one of the most brutal military campaigns in ancient history, Odysseus spent ten painful years trying to get home to his wife and son. Following encounters with Scylla and Charybdis, a storm sent by Poseidon, and a battle with a Cyclops, he clocked up several thousand sea miles and a fantastic collection of after-dinner anecdotes.



The Fun dad: Caractacus Potts, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 




An eccentric inventor? An idyllic rural life? A magical flying car? Who wouldn’t want to spend their childhood under the erratic and endlessly exciting care of the lovable Caractacus Potts? As madcap as his inventions, single dad Caractacus is also besotted with his children and intent on giving them a carefree childhood.

Illustration by John Burningham



The Devoted dad: The Man, The Road 



Illustration by Gérard DuBois


A man guides his son through the appalling landscape of post-apocalyptic America, and it is their incredible bond that keeps them alive and clinging to hope. The unconditional love of a father for his son makes this novel a particularly difficult read but is also powerful and redemptive. The man protects, educates and nurtures his son, one day at a time and that is the most precious of gifts a parent can give.



The Mysterious dad: Koichi Tamura, Kafka on the Shore 




To call Koichi Tamura a ‘hands-off’ dad would be an understatement. A renowned sculptor who leaves his son to pretty much handle his own life, Koichi delivers a devastating prophecy that Kafka will kill him, as well as sleep with his own mother. It’s hardly surprising that 14-year-old Kafka takes his chances out in the world when he runs away from home to escape the toxic atmosphere and the oppression of the evil prophecy.

Illustration by Daniel Liévano



The Gangster dad: Vito Corleone, The Godfather



Illustration by Robert Carter


No one’s going to mess with you in the playground if they know your dad is Vito Corleone. Loved by his family and friends, feared by pretty much everyone else, Vito is a man to be reckoned with.