Molly Carpenter of The Dresden Files
(Margaret “Molly” Katherine Amanda Carpenter)
formerly Human (Wizard); now High Sidhe (Winter Lady)
In Jim Butcher’s best-selling series, “The Dresden Files” there exists a cast of support characters who, when Harry permits them to do so, assists him in fighting the forces of evil. Naturally, some characters get more play than others; whereas Karrin Murphy is in virtually every novel, lesser characters such as John Marcone or Doctor Waldo Butters show up only once in a while. But of all these other folks I doubt any of them have gone through as many changes as Margaret Katherine Amanda Carpenter, or as we best know her, Molly.
Michael Carpenter, one of the Knights of the Cross met his future wife, Charity, while literally slaying a dragon. She, the damsel in distress, was being offered up to the beast and he, the knight in shining armor, rescued her. It was love at first sight. At that time Charity was a practitioner of magic so when she and Michael were soon thereafter married, some of that latent magical stuff (for lack of a better word or explanation) was still lingering in her when their first child, a daughter, was conceived. What this means is Molly was born with the innate ability to use magic.
Making her “Dresden Files” debut in novel five, “Death Masks,” Molly is fourteen years old and something of a part-time Goth. When she leaves the house she changes out of her “proper” clothing and into her Goth-gear, adding piercings and heavy make-up. She became aware of her magical talent, or at least suspected something when she came home from school one day. Assuming her mother to be out, Molly decided not to change clothes before going home; she was wrong. Panicked and ashamed to be seen all Gothed-out Molly unconsciously cast an illusion about herself when she bumped into her mother. Charity didn’t see her baby girl as she truly appeared and did not freak and come down like the hand of God on her.
Thus began their dangerous game of cat and mouse.
Molly, already a strong willed gal, began to test her teenage boundaries. After her arrest for possession ecstasy and marijuana, Molly and her mother were never able to come to terms with one another; eventually she dropped out of school and moved out of the family home.
Although she has a police record, Molly is essentially a good-girl—and this is what gets her into real trouble. When her friend, Rosana, announces she is pregnant in book eight, “Proven Guilty,” Molly decides to use her magic to help Rosana and the baby’s father, Nelson, get off drugs. True enough she did this to be a good friend but also to do what she could to see to it their unborn child got the best chance it could in life. Unfortunately, this caused her to unknowingly use Black Magic. Even in the wizard world ignorance of the law is no excuse; the While Council discovered her crime and announced she broke one of the Seven Laws of Magic. Molly would have been captured and executed for this crime except Harry stepped in and spoke in her defense. Rather than an immediate beheading he asks for her death sentence to be commuted to the Doom of Damocles as he claims her as his apprentice.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term or have out and out forgotten what it means, here goes: Molly is placed under the care and tutelage of Harry; Harry accepts full responsibility for her teaching and actions. If at any point in the future she slips up and uses Black Magic, even by accident before becoming a full-fledged wizard in her own right, both of them instantly forfeit their lives.
It is interesting to note at this point little Molly has a crush on Harry. Not only was he similar to her own father, a sort of champion of good, but her boyfriend at the time had more than a passing resemblance to him; he was even something of a wise-cracking smart-ass. Over the course of the books, Molly never quite gets over her childhood crush. As she gets older her emotions about her mentor intensify but Harry, like many guys in his position, is blissfully unaware, until the day she throws herself at him. Harry, ever the gentleman, gently refuses her advances and as kindly as he can, puts her back in the student position. Unhappily, she agrees, for now.
Molly thrives under Harry’s training. Referring to her often as his “Padawan” (a Star Wars reference to a Jedi in training) or as “Grasshopper” (the nickname given to Kwai Chang Kaine in the TV show “Kung Fu” 1972-75). Harry actually learns a bit of magic from Molly as they have different abilities and approaches to the same art. Harry was never very good with creating illusions or veils but this is a skill Molly excels at, soon bypassing the ability of her mentor to teach her in this arena. Harry is very good at combat magic, able to channel and throw raw power and create powerful defenses; however, this is something Molly is not so good at, as she is a sensitive, picking up on people’s emotions and magical ability, sometimes becoming overwhelmed by them. Molly is very precise in her studies; her talent allows her to weave several spells together for a greater effect. Although she is not the combat monster her mentor is, Molly is very clever and patient—she uses her veils and illusions to trick her enemies, both mortal and magical, into combat and killing one another.
In her mid-twenties by the time book twelve, “Changes” is out, Molly is a bit tweaked. The events of the novel, especially the combat at Chichen Itza, overwhelmed her magical senses. Before she has a chance to recover from the emotional overload she suffers, let alone the bullet she took to the leg, she is told that her mentor (and longtime standing secret love) was killed.
Six months later, Molly appears on the streets as something of a vigilante hunting down the magical and dangerous threats to the city. Called the Ragged Lady she leaves a shredded bit of Harry’s old duster shoved in the mouths of her kills. Harry’s death created something of a vacuum in the city of Chicago and every evil magical nasty who previously would never have shown their face all of a sudden find the courage to do so, trying to carve out a piece of territory for themselves at the same time.
During this time Molly is also forced to live on the run—with Harry dead, she has no mentor to vouch for her, therefore the White Council tries to carry out the execution stayed all those years ago. Fortunately for her Warden Carlos Ramirize, Regional Commander of western parts of North America, knows Molly, and never looked into her whereabouts with too much interest. Partly this is because he and Harry were friends, but also a little bit because he has a crush on her. If I have not mentioned it before, Molly is something of a total sex-bomb—so much so Harry forbids Bob the Skull from ever animating in her presence or speaking to her.
“Ghost Story,” book thirteen in the “Dresden Files” series, opens with Harry mostly dead (which means he is still a little bit alive). During this time Lea, Harry’s Fairy Godmother, takes it upon herself to look after Molly and see to her wellbeing and magical training out of the kindness of her heart (yea, right!). Lea’s methods of teaching differ greatly from Harry’s, forcing her to be a quick study, as fairy techniques can be harsh. Apparently, pain is a great motivator but not as great as actual lethal consequences for failure. Lea is never more adorable than when she is trying to kill you to make a point.
When Harry is able to make his ghostly presence known to the rest of the world, it is Molly who is called upon to use her wizard Sight to verify to the gang the ghost claiming to be Harry is in fact him and not some sort of shade trying to get one over on them. Murphy and Butters are worried about her mental stability, going so far as to consider her a threat and even question if her Sight can be trusted. Molly, hurting, cynical, and a little wired does nothing to prove to her old friends they are wrong in their assumptions.
Book fourteen, “Cold Days” picks up with Harry alive and in Mab’s clutches, fulfilling his role as her Winter Knight. I will not go on and give any spoilers here, as I love being one of Jim’s beta-readers and would do nothing to break his trust in me. I will say that if you are fan of “” (and let’s face it, if you’ve read this much of the blog, ya’ are) I can promise you it’s freaking awesome and you will love, LOVE, love it. And as soon as it comes out were can chat all about it in the comment box below.
Till then, hasta la bye-bye!
P.S. This article was written well in advance of the publication of Cold Days. As it has now probably been read by those reading this, we invite you to start the ball rolling in the comment box below.