Every Thursday, Nathan over at Fantasy Review Barn hosts a weekly party where blogs set out with Diana Wynne Jones’ hilarious book The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Essential Guide to Fantasy Travel in hand to explore all the tropes from their favorite stories. So sit back and enjoy the fun.
11th June, 2015 – ORPHANS
No one in Fantasyland amounts to anything if they still have both parents. Rule number one. Thanks to Stephanie for the suggestion (and let us all be surprised together that it isn’t in the Tough Guide).
Let’s get going. There has to be a lot of these.
This most famous (arguable) of all orphans was only 12 years old when his parents drowned in a boating accident. Always a rascally child, it was several years before Frodo’s 99-year-old Uncle Bilbo Baggins adopted him and brought him to live at Baggins End. Something that changed Frodo’s life and perhaps the fate of Middle-Earth itself!
Now, I realize that Bilbo was a father-figure to young Frodo, and some people might view this young hobbit as not an “orphan” because of that, but to me, anyone that has their parents taken from them and waits almost a decade before being adopted has “orphan” imprinted on them forever. So for that reason (and the fact that LoTR is one of my favorite series of all time) Frodo sits on top of the list.
Buy The Lord of the Rings: One Volume at Amazon.
Okay, I am not a big fan of this guy. I’ve never read any of the books, have only watched the first two movies, and have no children who are (or have been) obsessed with this guy. I guess, I was too old and jaded by the time Mr. Potter showed up for me to really be interested in his adventures. Be that as it may, even I, know this guy is the ultimate orphan in modern fantasy literature — which means that no list on “orphans” in fantasy would be complete with Mr. Harry Potter.
The urban fantasy poster boy is . . . yeah, he is an orphan. One who never knew his mom and lost his dad at a young age. Sure, he was eventually adopted, but he did spend time in state care until that happened.
Truthfully, Harry was one of those people I totally forgot was an orphan until I started thinking outside the box. I mean, I have only read the first book in the series, and I don’t recall his adoption being a big issue there — though it might have been briefly mentioned. It was only after researching Harry that I even recalled that he was an orphan.
Another famous orphan. This guy lost his parents in a horrible shooting and devotes the rest of his life to fighting crime. While there have been lots of vigilante crime fighters, Bruce Wayne is one of the most famous, and an orphan whose past has definitely shaped his future.
TARZAN — TARZAN
This son of a British lord and lady marooned off the Atlantic coast of Africa later became an orphan after the deaths of his parents. Thereafter, he was a feral child, raised by apes and gained his name of Tarzan. Later in life he meets other Europeans, learns about his British identity as John Clayton, Viscount Greystoke, falls in love and marries, and tries to return to civilization. But modern society doesn’t agree with the Lord of the Jungle, who clearly sees its hypocrisies. Thereafter, he returns to the wild to live out the remainder of his life with his family in Africa.
Yeah, this orphan is a legend that has to be included on this list.
This one is a no brainer. A planet destined to explode. A brilliant scientist who wishes to save his only child. A mother who is willing to send her son off to a distant planet instead of witnessing him die. And a small spaceship rocketing off into the darkness taking Kal-El.
I know the future Superman is discovered by Jonathan and Martha Kent and raised as their son, but his tale begins with him becoming an orphan. Something that changes the whole course of his life.
Buy Superman Vol. 1: What Price Tomorrow? (The New 52) (Superman (Graphic Novels))
Okay, I know most of the cast in this series are orphans or are about to be orphans, but Daenerys is just the one I picked to represent the Game of Throne series. Plus the lady has dragons. I mean, that has to count for something.
This is a character and series I’ve read A LOT about the last few years, and I have the book sitting on my shelf ready to read when I have a spare moment. But other than reviews and things of that nature, I have no real idea who the hell Kvothe is. Some of the descriptions about this red haired Kingkiller have remained in my memory however. Things like Kvothe describing himself as being gifted at everything he ever tries, having earned everything he ever got, and being an uber-sex god to the ladies. Among those tidbits of retained information was that dear old Kvothe became an orphan at some point in his early life, surviving as a semi-feral street child. So, in my book, that makes Kvothe eligible for this list.
Peter is raised by his uncle and aunt after the death/disappearance of his parents. While Aunt Mae is like a mother to him and Uncle Ben is like a father, Peter is still an orphan, so he has to be included in any list such as this.
This child of unknown parents is abandoned at a monastery near Crydee, a town on the north-west coast of the Kingdom of the Isles. As a boy, he is sent to Castle Crydee, adopted by the keep’s cook and grows up the proverbial simple peasant boy. Years later, he finds himself overlooked by every master on Choosing Day. Before Pug completely gives in to teen angst though, the court magician Kulgan takes him as his apprentice. This small step eventually leads this orphan to grow up to become the most powerful magician in Midkemia.
For all the above mentioned reasons, Pug has to be on this list.
This poor, peasant boy (God, I think I’ve heard that before) loses both his parents when he is an infant. He is raised by his Aunt Pol at Faldor’s Farm in the very conservative nation of Sendaria and is completely ignorant of his and their true identity.
Honestly, I could say more, but the simple fact is Garion is yet another example of fantasy fictions affinity for orphans.
This young Badawi tribeswoman has been gifted with the ability to take the shape of a lion. Unfortunately, this special talent was not able to help her save her tribe and family from the vicious ghuls of a vile sorcerer. Thus, our young heroine becomes an ORPHAN.
After this, Zamia follows a path of revenge that takes her to city of Dhamsawaat, where she falls in with Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, an aging ghul hunter. And while Zamia isn’t the focus of the story that follows, she is definitely an integral part.
Now, I suppose I will get bashed for including this guy on the list. Some people will say that while Luke grows up believing himself an orphan he isn’t really. Others who view anything Star Wars related as utter garbage will say my inclusion of a SW character shows my poor taste in literature. And my response to both points of view is “It’s my list. Go make your own and join the Tough Traveling fun.”
Anyway, in my opinion, Luke is definitely an orphan. He is raised as one, believes his parent are dead, and never has an meaningful relationship with the parent who he later discovers is actually alive, so he stays on my list.
Buy The Star Wars Trilogy, Episodes IV, V & VI
Like Luke above, I’m sure some people are going to second guess me on this pick. They will point out that Star-Lord discovers later in life that his father is real and alive. And I’m not going to argue that, because it is true in the comic series. BUT my contention is that growing up without one parent then losing the parent who actually raised you makes you an orphan whether the disappearing parent shows up later. Just my mindset though. Feel free to toally disagree with me.
Anyway, while Star-Lord in the Guardian of the Galaxy comic series has a bit of a different backstory and personality than his big screen persona, both guys have one thing in common: they are orphans. Orphans who have been deeply affected by the death of their mother. So for that reason (and the fact I thought Star-Lord was terribly funny in the movie) this guy is on the list.
In this dystopian world, a group of teenagers find themselves trapped in a glade surrounded by an unsolvable maze filled with horrible creatures. And while none of these guys know who they are when they awake in the glade, they later go on to discover that they are orphans being used in an experiment that might or might not be evil.
Okay, I haven’t read the books, but my kids have watched this movie a dozen times, so I feel pretty confident that everyone in the glade is an orphan. Plus, I googled it, and everything I read confirmed my suspicion.
This youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, kept far away from his father and his goblin mother. In fact, Maia has basically lived as an “orphan” his whole life, even though his parents were still alive. Now, however, he has truly become an orphan as his father and three older brothers are killed in an “accident.”
While I haven’t read this novel as of yet, it is one that I’ve read great reviews about and definitely intend to get to in the near future.
Yet another series that I have not read, but (unlike the others I’ve mentioned on here) this is one I have no intention of reading. I just do not believe it is targeted toward me. At least, that is my impression from reading reviews and posts from the author.
Be that as it may, Celaena is on this list because in Throne of Glass she is an orphan who has been reared as well as trained as an assassin by someone. Honestly, I’m not sure who. And while that might mess with the head of many a youth, Celaena is a female Kvothe; she is gifted at everything, morally ambiguous, and witty as well as being completely captivated by herself and not ashamed of it.
Buy Throne of Glass
This Prince of the Telmarines is described as noble, handsome, brave and merry, and he plays a role (no matter how small) in four of the books in this series. Caspian is also an orphan.
As the story begins, it is explained that the prince’s parents were slain when he was just a small boy and his uncle has raised him since. Something that appears very altruistic but might not be.
Without a doubt, Caspain develops into a fine person, whose goal is to restore a balance to Narnia between his people and its magical denizens.
These twins are two sides of the same coin. One the brawny, brainless warrior with a big heart, and the other the weak, brilliant wizard whose thirst for power cannot be quenched. And while Dragonlance will never be mistaken for Lord of the Rings, the story of these two brothers is one of the best things about the original series and its immediate follow-ups.
Naturally, these guys are on the list because they were orphans. For many years they had a father and a mother, but a terrible accident killed their father and led to their mother’s self-induced death. That is why their older sister Kitiara helped raise them to such an extent as they grew into manhood.
Another classic epic fantasy. Another orphan. Another epic quest to save the world.
Yeah, I know all that sounded very familiar, and it is, especially if you have read 1980 and early 1990 fantasy. Back then the poor orphan boy growing up to save the world seemed to be the extent of epic fantasy. (It wasn’t, but it definitely felt that way sometimes.) Thankfully, though, times have changed and readers now have an amazing array of sub-genres within fantasy to choose from now.
I started this list with LoTR, and I am going to end it with LoTR. (Yeah, I am doing this because one of my readers mentioned I’d left Aragorn off the list.) But really isn’t it fitting that any list of orphans end with this one? I think it is.
So who (else) have I overlooked?