Thoughts About Orphans

Been reading some children’s books lately, and, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, parents are a bit scarce, especially in fantasy. Everyone is either an orphan, ala Harry Potter, or something else has happened to remove the parents from the story, whether they’re missing or merely completely irresponsible, absorbed in their own world with no time for their offspring.

The reason for this is simple. If you want a child character to go off and have dangerous adventures, it’s much easier if they don’t have a loving family to care when they disappear. If they’re tied down, it’s hard to get full freedom.

Also, it’s hard to believe that a loving parent wouldn’t do everything in their power to protect or chase after their child.

So storytellers throughout the ages have reacted to this by removing the parents. This is often true for everyone from the very young through teenagers.

I would argue, though, that it’s possible to have a character have parents and still have an adventure. It’s easier the older the character is because people naturally gain more freedom as they age.

To stick with my Harry Potter example, even though Harry’s an orphan, both Ron and Hermione have both their parents. And while Hermione’s are removed from the wizarding world, Ron’s are not, and are often in the thick of things.

In fact, one could argue that the HP world is more believable because adults are involved in the plot. There are very few worlds where children would truly have an adventure on their own. There are usually adults, and especially for something as epic as someone trying to take over the world, they would generally be involved.

But children don’t want to read about adults–they want to read about children, especially about children saving the day on their own.

Still, even then, there can be trusted or sidekick adults. As long as the kids drive the action, adults are welcome to play as well.

Well, enough rambling from me. What’s your feeling on parents in children’s/MG/YA stories? Is it possible for a main character to have their parents and still have adventures?

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One response to this post.

  1. I love how Madeline L’Engle handled it in “A Wrinkle in Time” because she creates a story where the children come from a happy family with two parents, but one of the parents disappears on a top-secret business trip and the children end up going on a journey through rescue him. I’ve always thought that the Murrays were such wonderful role models.

    Reply

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