11 of the Most Eccentric Relatives in Fiction

Holiday dinner table

It’s that migratory time of the year. At some point in the next few weeks, it stands to reason you’ll be spending a large portion of time with an assorted bunch of freaks, geeks, and asylum fodder. I mean your relatives, of course! There’s Grandpa, with his scratch-and-sniff suspenders. Over yonder, your aunt and uncle are talking about their new extreme sports obsession—there’s a photo slideshow. By the time that one second cousin totters up to list all the exotic ailments he’s contracted, it’s understandable that you might want to write Guinness about your new record for World’s Most Eccentric Relatives.

Then again, repeat after me: It could always be crazier. As proof, mix and match a wacky fictional family with some of literature’s most eccentric kin:

Mother: Mrs. Bennet (Pride and Prejudice)

Pity the poor marriageable daughter in the Bennet household, for her squawking hen of a mother will not rest until a suitor is found—and she, in all her uncouth glory, is her own worst enemy in finding contestants for The Newlywed Game. As her husband exclaims, “How can you be so tiresome!” But she can’t stop. She won’t stop.

Father: Death (Discworld series)

As well-meaning a skeleton as he is, Death—father to Ysabell, grandfather to Susan—is not going to be much help on physics homework (ask Susan about that tree trunk–removing swing). He’s also got an unusual, repetitive, and skeletal taste in aesthetics. But boy is he a hit on game night…that is, if game night coincides with the possible last night of your life. Truth or Death, anyone?

The Aunts (Practical Magic)

Witches get stuff done, and the aunts are quite entrepreneurial in their stay-at-home witchcraft business. But Aunt Frances really sums it up best: “My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage.”

Uncle: Bilbo Baggins (The Lord of the Rings)

He may be the bravest little hobbit of them all, but to Hobbiton, Bilbo Baggins will always be peculiar. It doesn’t take a Sackville-Baggins to see the old boy’s never been quite right since all those unseemly adventures. That business with the trolls and dragon addled him, I say. Nothing else explains that ruckus he made at his 111th birthday party, all that disappearing nonsense.

Son: Vardaman Bundren (As I Lay Dying)

His mother is a fish. His mind is a ship that’s already out to sea.

Delinquent son: Raskolnikov (Crime and Punishment)

Boy, did that escalate quickly. When your little boy turns out to be a murderer with Napoleon ambitions, a mother’s only hope is that he ends up with a nice prostitute. As an aside: This may very well be what became of Kevin McAllister after Home Alone.

Disquieting little brother: Charles Wallace Murry (A Wrinkle in Time)

Charles Wallace is a college professor in a boy’s body, and it’s disconcerting six ways to Sunday. While he seems to be on the up and up, so much wisdom at such a young age is bound to catch up with Chuck in such a way that if he ever met up with Ender Wiggin, we’d have the makings of a wonderfully disillusioned road-trip novel.

Big brother: Mycroft Holmes (The Complete Sherlock Holmes)

Here’s someone else who likely knows nothing about the carefree days of youth. Mycroft: all of Sherlock’s keenness of mind and peculiarity of character, now with twice the body fat! The man who is the British government has the distinction and honor of being defined most vehemently by his extreme laziness and “unwieldy frame.” So engaging is Mycroft that his go-to hangout, the Diogenes Club, has a strict silence rule. Rave on.

Grandfather (Everything is Illuminated)

There’s nothing more comforting than arriving in a foreign country, strolling up to the car waiting on you, and finding your driver has brought along his seeing-eye dog. In this case, Sammy Davis Jr., Jr., is not needed in her “officious” capacity, as Grandfather is not blind, despite his protestations. But her presence sets the scene for one of the more cantankerous, uproarious elderpersons this side of Grampa Simpson.

Great-great-great-great-etc-grandmother: Agnes Nutter (Good Omens)

Agnes Nutter was a witch burned at the stake in the 17th century. That is not nearly the oddest thing about the ancestor of young Anathema Device. The strangest thing is that Agnes—by way of her prophecies—was always right, even down to the way she was executed (though that darned mob was late). Not that the crowd at her burning got to enjoy the fact that she accurately predicted the coming of the Antichrist, because good old Agnes took ’em down with her, via the 80 pounds of gunpowder and 40 pounds of roofing nails she’d sewn into her clothes. Like a Girl Scout, that one. Always prepared.

 What fictional relative would you least want to see at your house Christmas morning?

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