Is it the complete lack of parental supervision or the fact that their absence renders adversity more adverse that makes books about orphans some of the most popular books ever written? Parents act as a safety net even if they are just in the back ground so their complete absence tends to make a story much more of an adventure and the reader ends up investing more emotion because of the sympathy factor.
The news since yesterday has been about the queues of people waiting to pick-up their pre-ordered copies of the eighth Harry Potter book. That got us talking about the fascination authors have with orphans. Do they base their stories on orphans for the poignancy that they lend or is it that the situations are heightened because there is no guiding hand? Whatever the reason, authors have crafted some really memorable and timeless stories about orphans who endear themselves to the readers by being better human beings than most of the people around them despite the adversities they face. We were amazed with the length of the list we have complied over a cup of tea.
- The most popular one of our times that we can’t seem to get away from of course is Harry Potter. The boy who lived and went on to save the world from the evil of Voldemort.
- Heidi who is so content with whatever she has although it is nothing in today’s materialistic set up.
- The very irrepressible Anne of Green Gables. The books by L.M. Montgomery were a sensation in their time and have been popular for generation thereafter.
- So many of Charles Dickens’s characters – Oliver Twist, Pip from Great Expectations, David Copperfield, and a surfeit of them in Bleak House.
- Jane Eyre
- Tom Sawyer
- Pippi Longstocking
- The children in A Series of Unfortunate Events
- Judy Abbott in Daddy Long Legs
- Orphan Annie
- Frances Hodgeson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and The Little Princess. Although in the latter, Sara Crewe’s father turns up at the end of the book, she and others around her believe her to be an orphan through the story.
- Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz
- Mowgli and Tarzan
- Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci series is a whole series littered with orphans.
- And let’s not leave the comics out, Bruce Wayne who so famously became Batman because of being orphaned. Then there is Peter Parker as Spiderman and quite a few of the X-Men.
But surely none, not even James Bond (another orphan), have created the hysteria, franchise and fan following as the first one on the list.