Carol, children and motherhood on The Walking Dead: is Carol really a “mum”?

Carol (Melissa McBride) and Sam (Major Dodson), The Walking Dead/AMC, via
Carol (Melissa McBride) and Sam (Major Dodson), The Walking Dead/AMC, via /
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Since she lost her only child in season 2 of The Walking Dead, Carol has been affected by a strange curse. Children seem to be drawn to her, in spite of her efforts to send them away – and most of the time, it ends badly. Because she was first introduced as a mother, Carol is often defined as “motherly” or “nurturing”… But how fair is this description of her character? We have a look at Carol’s complicated relationship to children and motherhood.

Of all the characters on The Walking Dead, Carol is probably the one who has had the most surprising evolution. A fun procrastinating activity can be to look at old fan forum discussions from a few years ago and see Carol being described as “short-haired mum” or similar expressions by viewers who couldn’t even remember her name. Indeed, she was initially introduced mostly as a battered wife and a mother. Surprisingly, though, she survived both her husband and her daughter. She became much more than the meek, mousy housewife we’d first met in season 1 of The Walking Dead.

Still, even after losing her status as a wife and mother, Carol’s character has constantly been linked to the theme of motherhood and nurture. Sometimes the trope was played straight: at the beginning of the series, or when she took care of Judith. Sometimes, it was clearly subverted or even completely turned on its head: having to kill Lizzie made Carol go from nurturer to killer, and her “act” in Alexandria was a creepy parody of her former self as a housewife and mother.

So, how fair is it to say that Carol is a “nurturing”, “motherly” character?