While the most common complaints are aimed at evil (step)mothers in fairy tales, almost as many people protest absentee or abusive fathers as well. Caring, involved, likable father figures are a very important part of representation, and they seem to be somewhat lacking in tradition.
Not completely, though.
The Persian legend of Zal wins at a lot of things - fatherhood among them. Zal does not only help his wife deliver their son (by C-section none the less), but also follows along the hero's entire journey giving him advice, support, and care.
(The legend of Zal is part of the Shahnameh, I recommend this edition)
Fionn Mac Cumhaill, Oisín, and Oscar
At the heart of the Irish legends of the Fianna there are three generations of men who do fatherhood right. Fionn raises Oisín alone after his wife is kidnapped; Oisín is usually shown raising Oscar alone as well, whose mother is barely ever mentioned. In some versions of the stories, Oisín is the only one who can keep his son from his battle frenzy. Because the Fianna legends are very temporally nebulous (and also because all three have some fae blood in them), the three are usually portrayed together in the Fianna's adventures. It is said that one of the two times anyone ever saw Fionn cry was at Oscar's death.
(For Fianna stories, read any of these books. For a Fionn-and-Baby tale, read Eddie Lenihan's book)
The robber and his sons
Some versions of this delightful folktale type (ATU 953) tell about a father who is a retired robber, and is trying to keep his three sons form following in his footsteps. He saves all three of them from execution by telling outrageous tales from his own criminal youth.
(I wrote about this folktale type in detail here)
In this Hungarian folktale, a poor man carves the figure of a child from wood, and the boy comes to life (déja vu, anyone?). When he sets out to seek his fortune, he tells his father what signs to watch for to know if he is in trouble. When he gets killed on a quest, his father sees the signs and sets out to revive him.
(You can watch a gorgeous cartoon telling of this story here, with English subtitles!)
|Metabus and Camilla|
One of my favorite Roman legends about the exiled king of the Volscii rescuing his newborn daughter by tying her to a spear and throwing her across a river before he saves himself. Don't try this at home.
(Read about it here)
A father's love
This adorable folktale from India features a minister who is always late for work because he is busy raising his six-year-old son. When the king questions him, the minister puts him through a test to see how good a father he would make...
(Read the story here)
Are there any father figures you think I should add to the list? Let me know in the comments! :)