Kathryn rambles about literature and challenges Gwen


I missed June 9!  So, since I’ve been thinking about this….

Recent exploits of the Gwelsey Virus (particularly the demon-cat hunt and the marshmallow jousters) have left me thinking about large families. Gwen’s family of 5 children and 2 parents has lots of fun together.

Perhaps they aren’t the norm. Large families  of 5 or more children in literature certainly don’t seem to do as much together as a family or to have as much fun together.

The Weasleys in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series are 7 children and 2 parents. For the majority of the series, there are 7 of them (5 children) in the house. The twins get up to all sorts of mischief, but they don’t do all that much (apart from eat) together as a family and what they do together seems often to be forced. They all listen to Celestina Warbeck on Christmas; they help to set up for large get-togethers. They do chores (de-Gnoming the garden, remove doxies from the curtains) together or in larger groups (3+). Perhaps the closest the Weasleys get to hunting the demon-cat is Bill and Charlie’s wrestling match of airborne tables, but that was only 2 of a family of 9 and the least visible 2 at that.

J. K. Rowling has a sister.

The Stantons in Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence are 9 living children and 2 parents. The second book of the series, the book that introduces the Stantons, begins with the children complaining that there are too many of them. Mischief all together? Not really. Will, the main character, is set apart from the family. They lounge around together in the grass while Will reads a book about the Picts, then he goes off on adventures that they don’t know about alone.  Even when decorating for Christmas, they all have their own jobs.  Large groups of them go off caroling and enjoy that.

I can’t find anything about Susan Cooper having siblings.

The Gunns of the Charlie Bone books by Jenny Nimmo are a whole family of musicians, which I imagine is fun, but their sounds are not symphonic. They’re mostly a background family. I couldn’t even name most of the children. I can’t find any fansites that do.  Their house provides cover for plotting and hiding things.

Jenny Nimmo is an only child.

The Bennets of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice are 5 daughters and 2 parents.  They have almost no family cohesion. Lydia and Kitty are silly and flirt. Mary preaches and plays the pianoforte. Elizabeth and Jane are sensible. Mr. Bennet has no compassion on Mrs. Bennet’s nerves.

Jane Austen was 1 of 8.

Honorable mention goes to the Gamgees of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, probably the largest fictional family I can think of anywhere (13 children). Unfortunately, they are only appendix material as their story takes place after the destruction of the Ring. I have no idea what hijinks they might have gotten up to when they were together.

Tolkien had a brother.

So the majority of writers that I can find writing about large families come from small ones.  Maybe they don’t know what large families are really like?

So, Gwen, is your family just made of awesome or are writers representing large families poorly? If it’s the latter, at the risk of starting something huge, consider yourself challenged.  😉

Catch the virus!


About Kathryn

My love of books has been carefully cultivated by the adults who raised me and also by the friends who love to share. My life has led me down long library shelves, to online forums, fanfiction sites, the front of a lecture hall, and into the desks of college classrooms. With an English degree and a couple master’s classes in Children’s Literature, I am now a bookseller for Barnes & Noble. I have been an editor for Wizarding Life Networks (the people who brought you Wizarding Life, Panem October, and MyHogwarts now HogwartsIsHere).

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