Character Background and Biography
Abagail's parents, John and Rebecca, were freed slaves. Prior to the Civil War, John's master had been one Sam Freemantle of Lewis, South Carolina; but the two men had had an agreeable relationship, enough so that John stayed on as a paid laborer after the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. Like many freedmen in those days, he took his former master's surname.
Eight years into the Reconstruction, John relocated his family to Hemingford Home, Nebraska with a handsome severance package from Sam, which he used to buy farmland. Hardworking, innovative and honest, John faced hardship and racial prejudice, but eventually won the respect of most of his neighbors. By 1902, in a landmark vote, John was invited to join the Nebraska cooperative farmer's alliance known as the Grange, giving him and his family "a chance to prosper with the rest of the corn belt."
Abagail was the youngest of John and Rebecca's children. She married and outlived a succession of three husbands — David Trotts, Henry Hardestry and Nate Brooks — and had children by all of them, six sons and one daughter, all of whom she also outlived. By the time of the superflu epidemic, Abagail had an estimated thirty-two grandchildren, ninety-one great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren. Presumably, they all perished in the plague.
At the time of the plague Abagail is 108 years in age. Kind, nurturing and wise, Abagail has seen and experienced most of what life can throw at one person. She is quietly but deeply religious, with psychic and prophetic tendencies. In her leisure time she enjoys singing and playing her guitar.
Abagail perceives and knows that she is Randall Flagg's "opposite number", and that she will be the focal point for all plague-survivors who do not throw their lot in with Flagg. At times she seems to placidly accept this destiny as God's will.
At other times, she bitterly resents that she has lived so long, witnessing the shrinkage of her family estate and the deaths of all of her loved ones, and wonders why she cannot simply be permitted to die in peace in her own house. Her prophetic gift tells her that before the struggle is over she will die far away, among strangers, far from the land she loves so dearly.
Sensing the imminent arrival of the first party of survivors, and knowing they have probably been have spent weeks eating out of cans and whatever else they can forage, Abagail goes out of her way to make sure they will be welcomed with fresh food. She even takes two days to make the round-trip on foot to the nearest farm, in order to obtain and slaughter several chickens for cooking. The trip turns into a rather more harrowing ordeal than initially planned when Flagg sends an army if weasels to terrify Abagail. She stands her ground and faces down Flagg's minions.
Nick Andros, Ralph Brentner, Tom Cullen and several others arrive, and Abagail informs them of the role they will all be playing that post-plague summer. After a day or two's recuperation, they all move on to Boulder, Colorado to found the community that will come to be known as the Boulder Free Zone.
Boulder Free Zone
Plague-survivors in the hundreds begin to arrive in Boulder, all drawn there because they have dreamed of Mother Abagail. She makes a point of greeting each new travelling-party personally, but starts to worry that their awe is bordering on worship, and that if she is not careful, the sinfulness of it will turn her head.
There is an ad hoc, and then a permanent, Boulder Free Zone Committee established as a primitive governing body, with Abagail as its titular head. She declines to interfere with the secular, day-to-day matters of the Zone, but does insist on being consulted in all matters relating to Flagg.
Abagail becomes frustrated that God is no longer speaking to her — that she is "praying into a dead phone". She has an epiphany that the Boulder Free Zone is not serving the intended purpose God had in bringing its members together, and somehow her own hubris is at fault. Leaving a note, she disappears into the wilderness to fast, pray, and repair her relationship with God so that she can begin receiving his instructions clearly again.
During her absence Harold Lauder constructs a dynamite bomb which Nadine Cross plants in the house shared by Nick Andros and Ralph Brentner. Just prior to the bomb's detonation during a Committee meeting, Abagail's return is announced outside; most of the meeting's attendees rush out of the house to hear the news. This greatly reduces the number of bomb casualties, although there are still seven deaths and many bystanders are injured.
Abagail is in terrible shape from exposure, starvation and dehydration, all exacerbated by her extreme old age. On her final night alive, she summons the five surviving Committee members to her bedside: Stuart Redman, Larry Underwood, Ralph, Glen Bateman and Fran Goldsmith. She explains that God did not spare them from the plague and bring them all together to start rebuilding society; he did so in order that they should go confront Flagg. In treating the menace of Flagg as a back-burner issue, they have all sinned, and have only begun to pay the blood-price for their dereliction of duty.
She states that God wants the four men left on the committee to go west "this very day, and in the clothes you stand up in." They are to carry neither food nor water, and are to travel on foot. One of them will "fall by the way" though Abagail does not know which; the surviving three will be brought before Flagg. She cannot guarantee their survival or their victory, only that it is God's will that these things be done.
At sunrise, just as she predicted, Abagail dies.
Resigned, the four men decide they have little choice but to obey Abagail's final instructions. Hundreds of miles into their journey, in the Utah badlands Stu breaks his leg and must be left behind. In the miniseries, Mother Abagail appears to Stu in a dream shortly before he is rescued by Tom Cullen to let Stu know that he must witness what is about to happen and bring news back to Boulder.
The other three men are captured just west of Fremont Junction, Utah; Glen is shot to death by Lloyd Henreid after he enrages Flagg by mocking him.
In downtown Las Vegas Ralph and Larry are scheduled for a public execution by dismemberment. The execution is interrupted, when the Trashcan Man arrives, hauling a nuclear warhead out of the desert and into the assembled crowd.
The "hand of God" detonates the weapon, destroying Las Vegas and vaporizing everyone at ground zero, including Ralph and Larry. In the miniseries, as the Hand of God descends, Mother Abagail's voice proclaims that "the promise has been kept as God has willed it. Amen." She then tells Larry and Ralph that they have done good and to come on home which they eagerly accept.
In the TV miniseries, Frannie named her daughter Abagail in honor of her (in the novel the baby is named Peter, after his grandfather.) In the miniseries, Mother Abigail's spirit appears in the nursery window to comment on the beauty of her namesake. Only Kojak and Leo Rockway see her however.