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Top 50 Older Women in Fiction - Grandmas Get Thing Done


Summon for hire
Welcome to the Top 25, where everyone got at least three votes! Nobody left comments on this character, though, and I haven't watched the source, so let's see what I can dig up...



Age: "Over 70"
Source: Yuu Yuu Hakusho
Created by: Yoshihiro Togashi
Portrayed by: Hisako Kyoda, Linda Young

Points: 71, Votes: 3, Highest: q 3

Genkai is a strong and determined master who went through extensive training to control the "spirit wave orb", and in turn trains the series protagonists. She can be cold and harsh but also genuinely cares about her pupils. Apparently she's also a big video game fan, and maintains her own private arcade in a remote mountain compound.


????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
I had Granny at #13 - maybe for reasons of rose-tinted nostalgia more than anything.

I had Genkai at #23. She is essentially just a female version of the old cranky martial arts master character with some extra sarcasm added in. She cares about her students but does seem pretty exasperated with their youthful shenanigans. I think I had her so low not because of something she did but something the author / story did to her - magically turning her younger for a short period of time.
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Summon for hire

#23 (tie)

Age: quite old
Source: The Princess Bride
Created by: William Goldman
Portrayed by: Carol Kane

Points: 76, Votes: 3, Highest: Patrick

I'm not a witch, I'm your wife!

Look, we all know who this is and can probably quote half her lines. She only appears for one scene but she's great. According to the novel, she was trained in potions, but poses as a witch because every Miracle Man is supposed to have one to work with. She acts as Miracle Max's conscience, prodding him into doing the right thing, and brings a personal touch to the business with delicious chocolate coating for Miracle Pills. Believes in the power of True Love.

Humperdink! Humperdink! Humperdink!


????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
I had Valerie / Mrs. Miracle Max at #11.

I loved how she immediately and vociferously called her husband out on his bullshit. Seemed to be encouraging by seeing the "kids" off with him but was realistic when briefly discussing their chances with Max after they were out of earshot.

Also, don't forget that the chocolate coating makes the miracle pill go down easier so it did have a practical purpose.

q 3

here to eat fish and erase the universe
Speaking of The Princess Bride, I almost voted for the heckler lady for being so memorable despite her even briefer appearance. Booo! Boooo!


Summon for hire

#23 (tie)
Dorothy Zbornak

Age: 54-62 (actress 63-70)
Source: The Golden Girls
Created by: Susan Harris
Portrayed by: Bea Arthur

Points: 76, Votes: 3, Highest: Felix

Our second Golden Girl, Dorothy is something of a leader in the group and a voice of reason, but is also willing to stick her neck out to call out injustice, hypocrisy, or just plain rude behavior. She was a long time high school teacher, but also tries her hand at tutoring, TV writing, acting, museum staffing, community organizing and even coaching football. She's battled a gambling problem, is a vocal advocate for getting people out of emotionally abusive relationships, and is also a staunch supporter of LBGT individuals (especially for the 80s!).

Bea Arthur said of the character "Dorothy Zbornak was probably the only sane person on the show. I loved her, she had great humor... She was the steady one. She was the great leveler. She was the great balloon pricker, if you will." And some more relevant thoughts from Bea: "When I was first sent the script for the pilot [of The Golden Girls], I fell in love with it — it was so bright, so witty, so adult. But it never really dawned on me it was about these older women. Apparently, it was presented to a number of producers and they turned it down — ‘Who cares about older women?’ I guess it was revolutionary because it was the first time older women were shown in an atmosphere where they were well-groomed, well dressed, had active sex lives. Prior to that, when old people were shown on television, you could almost smell them."

More trivia, apparently Elaine Stritch, who appeared earlier in our list as Colleen Donaghy from 30 Rock, also auditioned for the role.
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Summon for hire

#21 (tie)
Kim Shi-won

Age: 60s?
Source: The Great Pretender
Created by: Ryōta Kosawa, Wit Studio
Portrayed by: Kujira, Karen Huie

Points: 79, Votes: 3, Highest: JBear

Shi-won uses her older-woman status to expertly play the part of a credulous, harmless old lady while actually being a consummate con artist who can run scams with the best of them. She works on and off as part of Laurent's "Team Confidence", is generally kind and supportive toward her fellow teammates, and still knows how to party.

JBear said:
Shows up in the opening of the first episode as a drab lonely naïve senior being scammed by a fake plumbing gadget, only for the viewer to find out later that she's actually a notorious con artist pulling a double-con. A former femme fatale, she's transitioned smoothly into other cons in her later years, as it turns out that people tend not to expect an elderly Korean lady of being an international super criminal.

Bulgakov said:
A great con lady who doesn't care about much but having fun.


Summon for hire

#21 (tie)

Age: Varies, but often Quite Old
Source: The Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link, Link Between Worlds, Breath of the Wild
Created by: Miyamoto, Tazuka, Aonuma, and many others at Nintendo

Points: 79, Votes: 4, Highest: WildcatJF

Just as there have been many Links and Many Zeldas, there have been many Impas. She is almost always a member of the Sheikah tribe and a servant and protector of the royal family of Hyrule, usually specifically an attendant, bodyguard, advisor, or nursemaid to Princess Zelda and a guide and provider of information and motivation to Link. Although younger in some games, her most common form is that of an old lady, seen in TLoZ, TAoL, LBW, and BotW.

ViolentVixen said:
Varies by characterization but I like how much flexibility the character has
Impa would have been on my list, but probably not very high on it. I love the ole crone, but at best she's a minor npc in games that are relatively thread bare in the plot/exposition department.

I considered Kim Shi-won when putting together my list, but left her off of it in favor of others. She's a fun character, but I tend to reward characters for these kinds of lists that I either have a huge emotional attachment to, and/or are major players in their stories. And as dope as Kim is, and as dope as her show is, she's a very minor character in The Great Pretender.

Oh wow. Impa was my guess for #1 so since she's down at 21 I am completely thrown off.
My list didn't get submitted in time so it doesn't matter for the tally here. So I feel safe sharing that my top picks, that I expect to rank high or at the top here, are M from James Bond, Admiral Janeway, and Minerva Mcgonagall


I would have never thought of Impa. I always think of her in her OoT interpretation, where she clearly doesn't fit the category.


Impa would have been on my list, but probably not very high on it. I love the ole crone, but at best she's a minor npc in games that are relatively thread bare in the plot/exposition department.

Yeah, my thoughts came more from how it initially sounded like people were having trouble filling out 25 characters and I thought she'd be the character most people consistently remembered. I had her at #23 for the reasons you mentioned.

My list didn't get submitted in time so it doesn't matter for the tally here. So I feel safe sharing that my top picks, that I expect to rank high or at the top here, are M from James Bond, Admiral Janeway, and Minerva Mcgonagall

Aw crap I totally forgot M, I'm very upset with myself. Janeway is in her late 30s/early 40s, isn't she? I wouldn't have though she qualified. And I had McGonnagel high on my list but wondered if a lot of people on here would boycott voting for that series so I'm really not sure how that's going to play out.


Summon for hire
Sneaking in one more while I'm on wifi before I get on a plane...


Olenna Tyrell

Age: "wizened", 70-72 in books, actress 75-79
Source: A Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones
Created by: George R R Martin
Portrayed by: Diana Rigg

Points: 81, Votes: 3, Highest: JBear

Olenna Tyrell, matriarch of House Tyrell, Dowager Lady of Highgarden, lord paramount of the Reach, and the Queen of Thorns. Possibly more titles than anyone else on the list! She acts behind the scenes on behalf of her house, and is known to be cunning and quick-witted, and has a reputation for plainly saying the things that others dare not.

Executive producer D. B. Weiss said of Rigg's final scene as Olenna, "She’s probably the only character to win her own death scene."

JBear said:
Cool as ice, nerves of steel, experienced player of the game, and (spoiler) ultimately responsible for killing the one character everyone hated most in a story full of characters that everyone hates.

Dr. Nerd said:
A formidable schemer with sympathetic motivations, and an impeccable sense of style. I like her hat.


Summon for hire

Gytha "Nanny" Ogg

Age: 70+
Source: Discworld
Created by: Terry Pratchett
Portrayed by: June Whitfield, Lynda Baron

Points: 87, Votes: 3, Highest: Torzelbaum and Lokii

When it comes to the Mother-Maiden-Crone archetype, despite her age Nanny Ogg is decidedly the Mother. In addition to having a huge family of children and grandchildren, she is far more personable than most witches, able to socialize and get along with pretty much everyone, and is also considered the best and most sought-after midwife in history. She is also a consummate hedonist, unashamedly fond of food, drink, sex, loud off-key singing, and running naked in the rain. On top of all that she's still an extremely formidable witch - Pratchett himself said "I've always suspected that Nanny is, deep down, the most powerful of the witches and part of her charm lies in the way she prevents people from finding this out."

Lokii said:
The wise woman as unfettered id. Ask her to sing the Hedgehog Song.


Summon for hire

Mona Penelope Simpson

Age: 62-79... ish
Source: The Simpsons
Created by: Matt Groening
Portrayed by: Maggie Roswell, Glenn Close

Points: 91, Votes: 4, Highest: Johnny Unusual

Homer's mother Mona was a political activist in the 60s, involved in increasingly daring protests and actions that culminated in an attack on a biological weapons facility owned by Mr Burns. This resulted in her going on the run from the FBI, and her husband Abe telling Homer that she was dead. She later reconnects with her son but continues having to live on the run for various reasons, until something something spoilers. Mona is strong-willed, quite clever (probably where Lisa got her smarts), and cares deeply about her family despite rarely being able to see them.

I suppose people who keep up with the Simpsons already know the cool fact that she's voiced by Glenn Close, so the other trivia here is that she's named after a novelist married to one of the show writers who's maiden name was coincidentally Simpson, and who also happens to be the biological younger sister of Steve Jobs.

JBear said:
Homer's cool criminal mom who hasn't let the passage of time dim her rebellious hippie spirit.
Homer's mom is a fun character. I really liked her story and her appearances in the show. I saw a lot of my own mother in her. (Minus the whole abandonment thing, obvi.) I've got mixed feelings about her though because the culmination of her saga was the whole Homer Goes To Space thing, and I associate that specific episode with being the point where the Simpsons jumped the shark with me and I started losing interest in the show rapidly.


Summon for hire

Baba Yaga

Age: old
Source: Slavic folklore
Created by: Slavic storytellers hundreds of years ago

Points: 96, Votes: 4, Highest: Johnny Unusual

In the US we mostly know Baba Yaga as the witch with the chicken-legged hut, but from searching around for this it seems that flying around in a giant mortar-and-pestle is just as key to her iconography. Regardless of her accouterments, she is the ur-witch of slavic folk tales, appearing in a wide variety of guises and contexts, and can be anything from a baby-eating monster to a helpful wise woman, though she is almost always fierce and cloaked in mystery. Some 17th century wood block prints depict her riding a pig into battle against an enemy called Crocodile.

Cool trivia I just discovered: she appears as the antagonist in one of those Studio Ghibli short films that you never get to see because they only play in rotation at the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka.

JBear said:
A cool evil witch lady who drives around in a swamp hut with legs. What's not to like?