The Grandest Characters

“What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life. And, most importantly, cookies.” — Rudy Giuliani

Well, with one of my grandmothers, it was root beer floats, not cookies, but the point still stands. Grandparents, and those wonderful people who step into the role, are often fundamental people in a child’s life. They impart wisdom, they teach us to have fun and enjoy the little things, and we carry those lessons with us throughout life. I was lucky enough to grow up with three of my grandparents living nearby and involved in my life. Maybe that’s why I love grandparent characters in books and movies so much.

The grandparent character is a common trope in fiction. They’re rarely the main character of the story; instead, they usually show up at key moments to support the main character and get them back on track. Sometimes this involves a pep talk, sometimes a light-hearted break from tension, and sometimes just a reassurance of unconditional love. Often, grandparents serve as a reminder of the character’s origins, of where they come from.

In honor of Grandparents Day, celebrated on the Sunday after Labor Day, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite fictional grandparents.

The grandfather from the movie adaptation of The Princess Bride is a wonderful example of the grandparent trope. When his grandson is home sick, he pays a visit to read a traditional fairy tale (to his grandson’s dismay). This grandfather humors his grandson’s aversion to romance, reassures him when the characters are in peril, and successfully distracts him from both his misery and his video game.

In complete contrast, Grandpa Edwin from Little Miss Sunshine is a crass, rude, and vulgar character. He does, however, openly adore his granddaughter Olive. He shows his love for her by supporting Olive’s dream of winning a beauty pageant, bolstering a truly inspiring level of self confidence. His approach to showing affection to the rest of the family is, at best, described as tough love, but Grandpa Edwin doesn’t let anyone talk down to his granddaughter.

Granny Weatherwax from the Discworld series doesn’t have any biological grandchildren, but she does have apprentices. Granny Weatherwax isn’t openly affectionate, but she looks out for her charges and teaches them important life lessons. The most important lesson, and the core of Granny’s personality, is the difference between Right and Wrong. Granny is a no-nonsense, strong-willed, and clever role model for her pseudo-grandchildren.

I haven’t read the Princess Diaries books, but in the movies, Mia’s grandma Queen Clarisse is a complicated grandmother. She’s strict, royal, and unfailingly diplomatic. Clarisse is firm about teaching Mia the tedious skills she will need as a ruler. However, she isn’t averse to occasionally setting her duties aside in order to have fun with her granddaughter. When it comes down to it, Clarisse shows time and again that she puts her granddaughter’s happiness first.

The world is blessed with so many wonderful grandparents. I’ll leave you with this quote to celebrate amazing grands:

You are the sun, Grandma, you are the sun in my life.
—Kitty Tsui

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