Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

In the Harry Potter series, there are several exemplary father figures who enter into the life of The Boy Who Lived. There’s Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and even Arthur Weasley. But none had a bigger impact on me as a teenager than Albus Dumbledore.

To begin with, Dumbledore always sees the good in people, even if they seem to be beyond redemption. Even when Dumbledore realises that the young Tom Riddle has much darkness and hatred in him when he first meets him in that orphanage, he still takes the future Lord Voldemort into Hogwarts. Perhaps growing up in a dysfunctional family gave him the ability to empathise with children from a similar environment.

Also, Dumbledore is not one who gives you all the answers you need. Unlike the stereotypical Asian parent who spoonfeeds children, Dumbledore guides Harry down the right path but never reveals everything to him, even if this means endangering Harry’s life. He knows this is the only way for Harry to mature, grow up and make the right choices. “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities,” he says in The Chamber Of Secrets.

I don’t think Harry would have been the wizard he turned out to be if Dumbledore had held his hand every step of the way. Something Asian parents need to think about, perhaps?

Lastly, what is a hero without sacrifice? In The Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore willingly drank from the basin in the cave even when he knew it would make him deranged. I teared up so much when I reached that part of the novel and cried a river when he sacrificed himself for the greater good. Yes, a great father figure, and, with that action, the greatest wizard of all time, too. – Dinesh Kumar Maganathan

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Albus Dumbledore is arguably the key father figure in Harry Potter’s life.


Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I first met Atticus Finch when I was in my teens, and he did for me what any father should … what my own father actually did. He taught me to be a person.

Obviously, we are shaped by many forces throughout our lives, but Atticus has cast a long and beloved shadow over mine till today, and he means more to me than I can properly articulate.

Over generations he has taught compassion and empathy for everyone – from a black man wrongly accused to a reclusive and bullied neighbour to a crotchety old lady determined to die “beholden to nothing and nobody”.

But his most valuable lesson has always been to fight for what is right, even when you know you might lose the battle; to have the courage to stand alone out on that limb. We have to keep the larger war in sight – like Atticus, as long as we fight the good fight, we will win. – Suzanne Lazaroo

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Gregory Peck is ‘perfect dad’ Atticus Finch and Mary Badham is Scout Finch in the 1962 film version of To Kill A Mockingbird.


Jean Valjean in Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Who doesn’t love a bad boy gone good? Convict-turned-hero Jean Valjean is probably one of the best fathers in literature.

Valjean may not be the biological father of Cosette, the young girl suddenly thrown into his care. Yet he still looks after her with love and devotion as a single father, just because he made a promise to her dying mother. And that gives him tons of extra Great Dad points (24,601 of them, probably?) in my book.

From his humble beginnings as an ex-prisoner, Valjean climbs the ranks, becoming a rich, compassionate, and noble man who manages to provide a wonderful life for Cosette.

Yes, he is a little overprotective when the lovestruck Marius comes to woo his daughter, but let’s face it, what father isn’t in situations like this?

And then he joins a revolution to find Marius even when it may cost him his life. Valjean’s got guts! Bonus traits are he’s super strong, is a good marksman, and (according to the musical) has a lovely singing voice. Any lovelorn lady would love to take him home (ahem) to look after their children together. – Terence Toh


Matthew Cuthbert in Anne Of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Matthew Cuthbert from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne Of Green Gables series will forever be etched in my mind for not only his quiet, gentle character but also because his death was the first time I was moved to tears while reading.

We meet him early on in the first book of the series, as he travels to the Avonlea train station to pick up the boy he and his sister, Marilla, have adopted to help them around their farm.

Instead, he gets the surprise of his life when what awaits him instead is the red-headed, bubbly chatterbox, Anne.

Despite the mistake, Matthew soon warms up to Anne and, indeed, is the one who convinces his sister to let her stay.

His painfully shy personality means that Matthew is more of a quiet presence throughout the story.

However, his quiet love for Anne motivates him to occasionally intervene over Marilla’s strictness and frugality when it comes to Anne.

That moment of pure joy when Anne receives her long-desired dress with puffed sleeves thanks to Matthew is one to be treasured.

While Matthew may defer most of the child-raising to Marilla (in keeping with those times), he is always there for Anne as a fellow kindred spirit and loving father figure. – Tan Shiow Chin

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Megan Follows (left) and Richard Farnsworth are Anne and Matthew in the 1985 television adaptation of Anne Of Green Gables.


Morrie Schwartz in Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

Ailing 78-year-old sociology professor Morrie Schwartz and his former student Mitch Albom reunite every Tuesday for 14 weeks in the memoir Tuesdays With Morrie. Each Tuesday, Albom looks to Schwartz for his simple yet powerful life lessons.

He speaks about the things that matter most in life – the importance of chasing after your dreams, letting go of the past, forgiveness, family relationships, and more.

These Tuesday sessions feel intimate and precious. With Shwartz close to the end of his life, they are words to be savoured and remembered. Schwartz wasn’t just a father figure to author Albom. Having read Tuesdays With Morrie on the cusp of adulthood, he was indirectly mine as well. – Kenneth Chaw


Sam Vimes in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

Every night before bedtime, I read a book to my daughter. That book is called Where’s My Cow and is by Terry Pratchett. It is the most chewed book in the house.

The book is about Commander Sam Vimes of the City Watch, who reads a book called Where’s My Cow to his son, Young Sam. The book is about someone who has lost his cow. It goes, “Where’s my cow? Is that my cow? It goes cluck! It’s a chicken! That’s not my cow!”

Sam is good at making all the animal noises. It makes Young Sam laugh. I’m not as good at making those animal noises (though I do the hippopotamus “HRUMMPH!” pretty well), but it still makes my daughter laugh.

So, yeah, if there’s a book-dad I admire, it’s Sam Vimes. Because he makes good animal noises that makes his kid laugh. Now that’s a great dad. – Michael Cheang


Shylock in The Merchant Of Venice by William Shakespeare

He may not be the kindest of men, or the nicest. He definitely isn’t the most generous. But Shylock in The Merchant Of Venice isn’t quite the villain that he is traditionally made out to be. He is a single father and a shrewd businessman and though he has been accused of caring more about his wealth than his daughter Jessica, I have always seen Shylock as being “more sinned against than sinning”.

He isn’t nasty to Antonio and his gang for no reason – they have treated him unkindly. He may seem to love only his ducats (he’s worked hard for them so what’s wrong with that anyway?) but it’s not true – he’s obviously raised his daughter well enough for her to be the “gentle” and “noble” person the other characters perceive her to be.

Jessica has led a comfortable life and though some may argue that she’s been starved of affection, you’d think she’d have learnt to understand her father better and recognise that he shows his love in other ways.

He is admittedly not the gentlest of fathers but he’s protective of her (“Clamber not onto the casements then, Nor thrust your head into the public street”) and he cares enough to nag her (“What Jessica! What sleep, snore, and red apparel out”).

When Shylock learns that Jessica has fled Verona with her boyfriend, he is once again accused of caring more about losing his money (she stole his money and jewels) and the fact that she ran away with a Christian than actually losing her.

Wouldn’t you wail if you realised your daughter betrayed you on so many levels? Not only did she run away, she left with your enemy and with your money. The money you’ve sacrificed your life for. The money you were probably saving for her. Your money (hey, I’m sounding like him!).

Plus. He was MOST upset about the turquoise ring Jessica stole (and sold to buy a monkey!) which was given to him by his wife Leah before they were married. See, he’s not unfeeling at all.

He is a good father but he sired an ungrateful daughter. – S. Indramalar


William in Danny, The Champion Of The World by Roald Dahl

Danny’s father William is not rich or successful. He isn’t even properly on the straight and narrow – while he runs a petrol station by day, he poaches pheasants by night. But when it comes to being a father, William is just about perfect.

As a widower, he is Danny’s only other family, and puts his son at the centre of all his decisions. Despite their humble life, William tries his best to make life a joy for Danny by making even everyday activities exciting and telling him amazing stories.

William is the antithesis of the “traditional” father archetype: he is warm, caring, emotionally available, and treats his son as an equal.

And while the story revolves around how the two come up with an ingenious way to poach all the pheasants from the awful Mr Hazell, the actual lessons Danny learns from his father are much more important: decency, kindness and, overall, how to be a good human being. And that is why, like Danny says, William is “the most marvelous and exciting father a boy ever had”. – Sharmilla Ganesan