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Banes at 12:00AM, May 25, 2023

It never really occurred to me how many of our heroes are orphans.

Superman was the last survivor of a planet that perished. He was adopted by loving Earth parents, but he's one of the iconic orphans in fiction.

His counterpart Batman, of course, lost his parents at an early age and their deaths defined his entire life and mission.

Spiderman's origin also involved losing his beloved father figure - but he was already an orphan, being raised by his Aunt and Uncle.

Luke Skywalker's parents were evidently long gone, as were Harry Potter's. When we meet the movie version of Iron Man, his parents are already gone and Stark has some issues around that. The Hulk had a dead mother and a monstrous father.

Jesse Custer, the hero from “Preacher” had wonderful, strong, cool parents, who of course were killed when Jesse was a kid, leaving him in the care of his demented Grandmother.

The Blues Brothers in the classic film were raised by nuns in an orphanage. As were the Three Stooges in their modern day movie adaptation.

Even Elvira was a nun-raised orphan - and she turned out great!

In many manga, even the comedic sort, so many teenage heroes have dead parents, which allows them to have a house to themselves and nobody to put a stop to whatever chaos will unfold in the story.

Going back to old fairy tales, there is so often a deceased mother, and a nasty step-mother who shuns the young MC, sending them off into the woods.

So many orphans!

Sometimes the hero's status will set up a long-lost family or secret lineage plot. Or maybe it sets up the main character as more of an outsider. Someone could feel like an outsider even with living parents, but maybe this helps dramatize a main character who is incomplete in some way, who has a journey of self discovery to make, and without an easily available confidant. They have to make their own way and find their own answers with less protection and guidance they might have had otherwise.

Many series characters, like in sitcoms, WILL have parents who show up sometimes. This is handy in a different way, to provide conflict and comedy for the characters.

S'what crossed my mind today, anyway…

See you next time!

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TroyVS at 1:24PM, May 25, 2023


dragonsong12 at 12:52PM, May 25, 2023

@PaulEberhardt I don't disagree. I wasn't necessarily defending it. My comment was just to explain why that trope shows up so often.

marcorossi at 10:33AM, May 25, 2023

Since I'm a big fan of Propp, I'll put here another link to another article by the translator:

marcorossi at 10:27AM, May 25, 2023

Sorry the book I was referring to is the one they speak about in this article: perhaps it is still being translated in english; the one I linked to before only has extracts

marcorossi at 10:07AM, May 25, 2023

@bravo1102 Propp's theory says that say that fairy tales came from pre-history and then morphed (including european middle ages). For example it is common in fairy tales that the commoner hero marries the king's daughter and therefore becomes king himself; in historical europe though inheritance through marrying someone's daughter was extremely uncommon. Propp wrote this stuff in the first half of the 20th and isn't 100% accepted (and his use of fource wouldn't be considered scientific today) but he is still one major author. Propp wrote this theory in his "Historycal roots of the fairy tales", only recently translated in english as "Theory and history of folklore". This book was translated only recently in english because Propp was a soviet guy heavy on marxist theory, but in other parts of the world is more famous (and anyway is way less unscientific than Campbell).

PaulEberhardt at 9:33AM, May 25, 2023

@dragonsong12: I think that's really down to what kind of hero you're going for. It might be their first challenge on their rise to hero-dom to somehow escape the clutches of their protective, loving parents. The parents could also be pretty badass in their own right and in a plot twist save the day when their young one is in a fix. There's got to be a million stories like that.

PaulEberhardt at 9:27AM, May 25, 2023

I was about to say the same thing as bravo about deaths in childbirth (or by plague or by war among rivalling feudal lords). For all I know the trope might then have been rediscovered in modern times, when Freudian thoughts about past childhood traumas creating the quirks people have in adult life became fashionable. Once advances in hygiene and medicine had made orphans somewhat less common, it must have occurred to authors as a convenient subtle way to present their hero as destined to stand out from birth.

dragonsong12 at 7:02AM, May 25, 2023

Parents are just sort of inconvenient if you want to tell a story about younger people. If they're any sort of responsible caregiver they probably wouldn't allow many adventures to happen in the first place. So they either need to be depicted as grossly incompetent or just absent in order for the story to happen. I always just sort of viewed the trope as a sort of shorthand. If the relationship with the parents isn't part of the story then there's no reason not to just remove that factor to get to the meat of it. This isn't arguing that parental relationship aren't important or aren't worth writing about in stories (I actually wish it would get explored a bit more) just that I understand and accept that a lot of times it's just easier to write them out and get past it.

Ozoneocean at 5:56AM, May 25, 2023

-The story was actually probably invented by the Frenchman, Galland, who compiled and "translated" the original work as a satire on French society, disguised as an Arabian story about "China", using Persian characters and setting to make it look authentic.

Ozoneocean at 5:45AM, May 25, 2023

Luke Skywalker... also Rei and ugh... "Anikin" -_-

Ozoneocean at 5:42AM, May 25, 2023

@Bravo- The story of Aladdin didn't come from China, that's a misunderstanding based on the text and the fact it was added to the 1001 Arabian Nights a little later. In the story it says it takes place in "China" and that's where the misunderstanding of the origin comes from, the story itself is clearly a story about an urban middle eastern culture, nothing at all in it indicates it was from anywhere further east than India (the names, descriptions of the culture, the people, the mythology, the politics, the occupations, the style. etc). The China thing was basically like saying "this happened over there far away in that strange eastern place".

bravo1102 at 5:04AM, May 25, 2023

At least one version Aladdin had sparent somewhere, just not with him. Once upon a time it wasn't unknown to kick out children to find their fortune so you'd have apparent orphans who were just abandoned.

bravo1102 at 4:58AM, May 25, 2023

In fairy tales the trope of the step mother was the average 30% chance that the mother would die in childbirth, so families with step children were not uncommon. Most fairy tales are from the Middle Ages and do reflect Medieval European culture. Those of other origins usually adapted to the telling culture over time like the Aladdin story going from China to Arabia via the Silk Road.

marcorossi at 4:27AM, May 25, 2023

There are many fairy tales heroines who have stepmothers (hence orphaned at least from one side). Here the theory is that originally the story was that the heroine was sent to a shaman for an initiation ritual, but as time passed people didn't understand the shaman character who then became a witch or similar; then the idea that the parents sent away the kid had to be justified (in some societies that have initiation rituals and exogamy this happens normally) and therefotre the parents become step-parents who hated the child for some reason. Not the same thing of the OP but possibly related.

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