Where the Red Fern Grows

by

Wilson Rawls

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Billy’s Mother / Mama Character Analysis

Billy’s mother is a kind, religious, and anxious woman who dreams of one day moving her family from their Ozark home into the city where they can have access to better educations and more economic resources. Mama is deeply anxious when Billy starts hunting in the Ozarks—she worries about him being out every night and getting into trouble or danger. At the same time, Mama knows that her “little boy” is growing up and wants to allow him the freedom to explore the world around him and learn important lessons about life, love, and perseverance. Mama is one of the most religious characters in the book—she is a woman who believes in the power of prayer and who wants to impress upon her children the important role that faith can play in a person’s life. Mama is also one of the most emotional characters in the novel—though she is a woman, her arc often ties in with the novel’s theme of masculinity and emotion as she shows Billy through example that it is more than okay to feel one’s feelings deeply and authentically, even when those feelings are vulnerable or difficult. Through Mama, Billy learns important lessons about faith, feeling, and love.

Billy’s Mother / Mama Quotes in Where the Red Fern Grows

The Where the Red Fern Grows quotes below are all either spoken by Billy’s Mother / Mama or refer to Billy’s Mother / Mama. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Yearling edition of Where the Red Fern Grows published in 1996.
Chapter 3 Quotes

I remembered a passage from the Bible my mother had read to us: "God helps those who help themselves." I thought of the words. I mulled them over in my mind. I decided I'd ask God to help me. There on the bank of the Illinois River, in the cool shade of the tall white sycamores, I asked God to help me get two hound pups. It wasn't much of a prayer, but it did come right from the heart.

Related Characters: Billy Colman (speaker), Billy’s Mother / Mama
Page Number: 20-21
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

"l never saw anything like it. Little Ann wouldn't have fought the lion if it hadn't been for Old Dan. All she was doing was helping him. He wouldn't quit. He just stayed right in there till the end. I even had to pry his jaws loose from the lion's throat after the lion was dead."

Glancing at Old Dan, Papa said, “It's in his blood, Billy. He's a hunting hound, and the best one I ever saw. He only has two loves—you and hunting. That's all he knows."

Related Characters: Billy Colman (speaker), Billy’s Father / Papa (speaker), Billy’s Mother / Mama, Old Dan, Little Ann
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

'Don't touch it, Mama," my oldest sister whispered. "It was planted by an angel."

Mama smiled and asked, "Have you heard the legend?"

'Yes, Mama," my sister said. “Grandma told me the story and I believe it, too."

With a serious look on his face, Papa said, "These hills are full of legends. Up until now I've never paid much attention to them, but now I don't know. Perhaps there is something to the legend of the red fern. Maybe this is God's way of helping Billy understand why his dogs died."

“I’m sure it is, Papa," I said, "and I do understand. I feel different now, and I don't hurt any more."

Related Characters: Billy’s Sisters (speaker), Billy’s Mother / Mama (speaker), Billy’s Father / Papa (speaker), Billy Colman (speaker), Old Dan, Little Ann, Grandma
Related Symbols: The Red Fern
Page Number: 279
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Where the Red Fern Grows LitChart as a printable PDF.
Where the Red Fern Grows PDF

Billy’s Mother / Mama Character Timeline in Where the Red Fern Grows

The timeline below shows where the character Billy’s Mother / Mama appears in Where the Red Fern Grows. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2 
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
...have enough money for such a purchase. Having failed to convince Papa, Billy goes to Mama—she, too, refuses him out of hand, telling Billy that he’s too young to be a... (full context)
The Natural World Theme Icon
...Oklahoma. The homestead is on a plot of Cherokee land which was allotted to Billy’s mother due to “the Cherokee blood that flow[s] in her veins.” The land is fertile and... (full context)
Masculinity and Emotion Theme Icon
...“grieving” with each passing day and refusing to eat or play. One evening, Billy overhears Mama tell Papa that something needs to be done about Billy’s melancholy. Papa explains that he... (full context)
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
...family’s housecat, Samie. Billy’s sisters scream and cry as the cat struggles in the trap. Mama rushes over to help and she manages to get Samie free. As Samie skulks away,... (full context)
The Natural World Theme Icon
Masculinity and Emotion Theme Icon
...his parents to buy him the dogs, but his requests are only met with his mother’s tears and his father’s sadness. In order to distract Billy from his longing, Papa tells... (full context)
Chapter 3
Faith and Prayer Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
...longing is renewed, but he agonizes over how to earn $50. He recalls something his mother once told him: “God helps those who help themselves.” He prays that God will help... (full context)
Chapter 6
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
...home. Billy is relieved to be in familiar territory—but he’s also nervous about facing his mother and father and explaining why he ran away from home. After deciding that he’ll simply... (full context)
The Natural World Theme Icon
Masculinity and Emotion Theme Icon
...As he steps inside, he sees his family gathered together in the living room. His mother looks up at him—Billy can see that her face is full of worry and grief.... (full context)
Faith and Prayer Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
...anywhere near other people. Billy’s father’s face grows solemn. Papa tells Billy that he and Mama don’t intend to live in the mountains forever—one day, Billy and his sisters may very... (full context)
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
Faith and Prayer Theme Icon
...fashions collars for the dogs out of tough leather. That night, Billy confides in his mother about how hard he prayed for his dogs. He also tells her about the coincidence... (full context)
Chapter 7
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Masculinity and Emotion Theme Icon
As Billy bounds into the yard, Mama begins crying—she asks Billy if he’s been bitten by a snake. He excitedly tells her... (full context)
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Masculinity and Emotion Theme Icon
...stick and he begins beating the raccoon to death. Billy’s sisters start to cry, so Mama leads them away—but Billy watches transfixed and unafraid. After delivering the final blow, Papa begins... (full context)
Chapter 8
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Masculinity and Emotion Theme Icon
...midst of preparing, his father approaches him for a heart-to-heart. Papa warns Billy that because Mama is so nervous about Billy being out hunting all night, it’s important that Billy let... (full context)
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Faith and Prayer Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Masculinity and Emotion Theme Icon
That night, as Billy prepares to head out on the hunt, Mama fusses over him and she tells him that she doesn’t approve of his hunting. Papa... (full context)
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
Masculinity and Emotion Theme Icon
Papa explains that Mama was worried sick when Billy didn’t come home. Billy tries to hold back his tears... (full context)
Chapter 9
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
...way, Grandpa compliments Billy on his hard work on the tree. Back at the house, Mama greets Billy and she fawns over him. She has prepared one of his favorite dinners:... (full context)
Chapter 11
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Faith and Prayer Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
...a cold and is stuck in bed for several days. While convalescing, Billy asks his mother about prayer one afternoon. He asks her if every prayer offered up to God is... (full context)
Chapter 12
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
...Even Billy is, in spite of himself, looking forward to the following night—but knowing his mother will worry about him associating with the Pritchard boys, he decides not to tell his... (full context)
Chapter 13
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Masculinity and Emotion Theme Icon
Back at home, Billy wakes his parents and he tells them everything that’s happened. Mama begins crying and she wraps her arms around her “poor little boy.” Papa, however, stands... (full context)
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Masculinity and Emotion Theme Icon
Over the next several days, Billy is plagued by terrible guilt and nightmares. Billy asks Mama if there’s anything he can do to help, but she insists the Pritchards “don’t like... (full context)
Chapter 14
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Faith and Prayer Theme Icon
Masculinity and Emotion Theme Icon
...begs Papa to agree to go with them. Papa is hesitant and he insists that Mama needs his help around the house. Mama says she won’t need Papa’s help for “several... (full context)
Chapter 18
Faith and Prayer Theme Icon
...two with the silver cup. Billy’s sisters run back up to the porch to show Mama Billy’s spoils—she, too, is proud and excited. When Papa shows Mama the box full of... (full context)
Faith and Prayer Theme Icon
Masculinity and Emotion Theme Icon
...notices a light out in the yard. He looks out his window to see that Mama has brought two large plates of food out to Ann and Dan’s doghouse. Billy watches... (full context)
Chapter 19
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Masculinity and Emotion Theme Icon
Back at the house, Billy wakes his parents. Mama immediately gets to work on Old Dan’s terrible wounds, washing his entrails and sewing him... (full context)
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Masculinity and Emotion Theme Icon
Mama and Papa go to bed, but Billy stays up by the fire. Around dawn, he... (full context)
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...worst is not over. When he comes in from working in the field with Papa, Mama tells him that Little Ann has been refusing food all day and that she’s now... (full context)
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Faith and Prayer Theme Icon
...heavens. He asks God why his dogs had to die—and why he now must suffer. Mama approaches Billy and she comforts him by telling him that “even the Good Lord suffered... (full context)
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Faith and Prayer Theme Icon
Masculinity and Emotion Theme Icon
...God does. Over a dinner of sweet potato pie, Papa tells Billy that he and Mama have been praying each day to be able to save enough money to move the... (full context)
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Faith and Prayer Theme Icon
Billy concedes that God may have given the dogs to him in order to fulfill Mama and Papa’s prayers—but Billy wonders aloud why He took them away. Papa says there is... (full context)
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Faith and Prayer Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Masculinity and Emotion Theme Icon
...middle of the night, Billy gets up and goes out to the doghouse to cry. Mama hears him outside. She comes out to get him and bring him back in. Billy... (full context)
Chapter 20
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Faith and Prayer Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Masculinity and Emotion Theme Icon
...spring arrives in the Ozarks, and Billy and his family prepare to leave for town. Mama and Papa are elated about the move. On the day they’re to set out, Billy... (full context)
The Lessons of a Dog’s Love Theme Icon
The Circle of Life and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Faith and Prayer Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Masculinity and Emotion Theme Icon
Billy calls for his parents and his sisters, and they all approach the hillside together. Mama in particular is in awe of the red fern, and Papa concedes that “perhaps there... (full context)