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When you imagine a good son, you may conjure up the image of a child or man who always respects their parents or does something above and beyond the average son in some self-sacrificing way, but this list is not about those sons.
March 4th is National Sons Day (yes, there’s a National Son Day in September and a Son and Daughter Day in August - yes, it’s confusing), so now would be a good time to highlight some of the low-key goodest sons in literature. These are not the sons framed with blinding halos, but rather ones with glaring flaws, ones who’ve lost their fathers or mothers, or ones who quietly but deeply love their parents and deserve the title of goodest sons.
Warren the 13th
We’re completely unbiased in saying that Warren from Tania del Rio’s middle grade Warren the 13th series is one of the goodest sons. If you feel for Harry Potter and his longing for his murdered parents, then you’ll find Warren’s love for his deceased father just as bittersweet. Throughout the books, Warren regularly visits the Hall of Ancestors, where he updates the portrait of his father on the goings-on at the Warren Hotel. Despite his countless number of chores, he always manages to visit the memento of his father, and the main reason he works so tirelessly to upkeep the dilapidated hotel is because of his love and respect for his father and his father’s father and so on. Warren is the 13th Warren, afterall, and despite the obstacles he faces throughout the series, he’s constantly thinking about the ones who came before him, their hard work, and making his father proud.
The third and final installment of the series, Warren the 13th and the Thirteen-Year Curse, comes out later this month on 3/24, so keep an eye out for more goodest son Warren content!
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Similar to Warren, Mitsu from Hisae Iwaoka's Saturn Apartments manga is a dedicated, kind boy, following in his father’s footsteps. Instead of cleaning a hotel though, Mitsu washes windows in a future where humans live in a transparent ring, circling the Earth within its atmosphere. His job could be summarized as requiring the gear of astronauts and the skills of window cleaners from our world. Akitoshi, Mitsu’s father, was also a window washer, before a tragic accident with one of the tethers sends Aki falling down to Earth and leaving young Mitsu an orphan. Mitsu’s constant dedication to his work and customers is a direct reflection of the ideals his father instilled in him, and although Mitsu’s colleagues compare his kind heart and work ethic to Aki, Mitsu never lets it get to his head and always thinks about how he can continue to make his father proud. Like Warren’s visits to the Hall of Ancestors, Mitsu takes small moments on top of the ring apartments to look to the sky and remember his father.
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Robin, Nightwing, Agent 37: whichever superhero identity you associate Dick Grayson with, he’s here to remind us that dark and brooding Batman does in fact need his other half. Dick Grayson may have lost his parents in a tragic trapeze accident (not really an accident), but he found a second father in Bruce Wayne. Depending on Dick’s maturity level (and often the comic writer), the details of his personality can fluctuate, but at his best, he’s a patient, loyal, and understanding son. He’s the light to Bruce’s dark, often acts as Bruce’s anchor in times of stress, and is one of the few people that Bruce listens to. Whether Dick adds levity to a situation with a standard Robin joke or he reminds Bruce that it’s not weak to ask for help, Dick keeps Bruce grounded and on a healthier path than he would without his ward. Also, Dick’s in the select handful of people that get along with Bruce’s biological son, Damian, so big brother bonus points for Dick!
With a history dating back to his first appearance in 1940, there’s a lot of Dick Grayson content out there, but for those new to the Batman world, check out Robin: Year One by Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty (illustrated by Javier Pulido and Marcos Martin).
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Up until now we’ve mentioned the good sons that obviously fit the more general “good boy” label, but Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl is not one of those boys. From the young adult Artemis Fowl series, Artemis is a manipulative, cold, and sometimes brutal boy from a dysfunctional line of criminals, but past his surface-level, psychopathic tendencies, Artemis is a surprisingly lonely boy who does the illegal things he does for the sake of his parents. Each book is one dangerous adventure after the other, and the first book’s journey is to help combat his mother’s deteriorating mental state. He succeeds in saving his mother’s mind, after buying a wish from a fairy, only for the Russian Mafia to kidnap his father. The second book follows another daring quest, this time to save his dad, and flashing forward to the sixth book, Artemis time travels to save his mother from a different illness. This boy is going on save-the-parent adventures left and right in this series because despite his ruthless nature, he loves his parents and even grows to love others in time.
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Danny Torrance from Stephen King’s The Shining and Doctor Sleep isn’t someone you’d first think of when making a list of goodest sons. Considering his weaker moments in Doctor Sleep when he basically tells his mother’s ghost to bugger off (with less civil wording), it’d be easy to classify him as the opposite, but we’ve all fought with our parents and had similar moments. And how many of us can say we jumped on our roque mallet-wielding father’s back to try and protect our mother when we were a terrified five year old? And despite Jack’s violent attacks in the books, young and grown Danny tries to understand his father’s breakdown and rightfully blames the hotel instead of his father for what happened. Kubrick and Flannagan’s films interpret Jack in a more abusive and less redeemable light, but it’s worth mentioning that Dan has a powerful moment in Doctor Sleep where he stands up for Wendy to Jack’s ghost and another tender one with his mother’s ghost. Whether you’re looking at The Shining or Doctor Sleep there’s small moments in both that arguably support titling Danny a good son.
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Our honorary mention goes to Saroo Brierly from his memoir A Long Way Home (aka. Lion). As a real-life person, Saroo doesn’t necessarily classify as a literary character, but his goodest son status shouldn’t go unnoticed. At age five, Saroo is separated from his family in India and adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later and with the help of Google Earth, Saroo retracts his steps and journeys to India to reunite with his biological mother. After all these years, he still cares for his Indian family, so much so that he buys his mother a house, but he doesn’t forget his Australian parents. You understand his love for both families through his writing, but also through small acts like bringing his adoptive mother to meet his biological mother. He’s not a literary character, but he’s still a goodest son in our book.
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