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Deceased Parents Are the Best
"Parents are only there to cause angst for the hero. If they're loving and supportive they must die. If they're not then they're mean and abusive so the hero must run away bemoaning his fate."
— From this Eragon Sporkings article.

Parents Are Useless. They leave you and abuse you. Good Parents are hard to come by. It appears that the only decent parents are the dead ones.

These are the parents that leave the characters behind, not by choice, early on in the story, sometimes even before the story begins. The characters are now all alone with no family. They may find a Parental Substitute, but they may not always be the best guardians.

These often heroic characters will always have fond memories of their parents. That's because these parents did everything right while they were alive. They spent time with their children and taught them invaluable life lessons that they continue to keep even to this day. Even though the parents are gone now, the actions of the parents still affect the character and keep him going.

An essay on dead parents as a literary device can be found here.

This is especially commonplace for Superheroes, whose parents or parental figures frequently suffer Death by Origin Story.

If it turns out that they weren't quite such amazing parents as believed by the characters, but still treated as such, then it's Never Speak Ill of the Dead. See Good Parents for examples of these who manage to stay alive.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 
  • Trisha Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist was portrayed as being a wonderful, loving mother; so much so that her children decide they're going to bring her back to life. Big mistake.
  • Ciel Phantomhive from Black Butler's parents, Rachel and Vincent Phantomhive, died when their mansion was mysteriously set on fire. They were described and remembered by Ciel as loving and devoted parents, though Vincent's moral alignment is left slightly ambiguous.
  • Kyoko Honda, Tohru's mother, from Fruits Basket was an amazing person who imparted her wisdom and desire to help both others and her daughter Tohru, causing her memory to live on with her. She dies in a car accident shortly before the series begins.
    • For that matter, Tohru's dad, Katsuya. Apparently he was such an understanding sort that he fell in love with Kyoko while she was still a delinquent, got her to see that she could be better than everyone thought, and married her despite objections from his family. In fact, a good deal of the wisdom and attitude that Tohru's mother imparted to her comes from the faith she learned from Katsuya. Although Tohru herself suggests that she felt some resentment toward her father for her mother's suicidal behavior after he died.
    • Kyo's mother is more or less an exception. She basically kept him locked up in the house all day, and Kyo suspects she was ashamed of him. This doesn't stop his biological father from holding her suicide against him. Kyo himself is more or less Happily Adopted.
      • Kyo's mother is a unique issue because it was basically because of his father's emotional and verbal abuse towards his mother that she mistreated him and then committed suicide.
  • Masaki Kurosaki from Bleach was a kind-hearted woman who loved her family very much. She left them when her children were very young, risking her life to protect Ichigo from certain death. Her husband Isshin practically worships her memory to this day - a large poster of her is hung in the kitchen of the Kurosaki's house.
  • Subverted in Code Geass. Lelouch practically worshiped his late mother, only to learn that 1) she's not really dead, and 2) she's pretty much identical to his much-despised father, and they both engineered the horrible events of Lelouch and Nunnally's lives in hopes of toughening them up. And they considered those two their favorites.
    • Gets worse in the novelizations, which contain a Flash Back scene where Bismarck sees Marianne interacting with her kids and notices, to his shock, that there's absolutely no love in her face or demeanor - to her they're just objects.
  • Negi's father and mother in Mahou Sensei Negima! is a Disappeared Parents Are The Best variation, since they're not confirmed dead, only MIA (At least, Nagi is. Arika...not so sure). Yes, he's never actually met either of them, but given all the crap they had to go through, they did a damn good job getting Negi the best (and safest) childhood that they could.
  • Probably the most normal, stable adult in Ouran High School Host Club was Haruhi's dead lawyer mom. The more benign of the other adults are Wholesome Crossdresser Cloudcuckoolanders.
  • Partially deconstructed in Naruto. Naruto's parents died the day he was born, though they did love him and even protect him from beyond the grave. Still, he's an emotional basket case, though not as bad as Pain, Sasuke or Gaara (though in Gaara's case becoming an orphan was merciful, since his father kept trying to kill him). It's only partially deconstructed because while many parents are abusive or negligent, some of Naruto's friends do have good parents.
  • Kimba the White Lion: Kimba's father was killed trying to rescue his pregnant wife from hunters, and during her time with Kimba, his mother taught him his father's ideals. When she was killed off, Kimba aimed at becoming a benevolent ruler of his father's jungle for the honor and pride of his family.
  • Possibly subverted or played straight in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Shinji has very loving memories of his mom, Yui, and her death affects him well into his teenagers years. Gendo, the living parent, wound up abandoning Shinji after his wife died and didn't see him for years until he was needed to pilot Unit 01 (although it's often implied, if not outright stated, that getting away from Shinji was the only way Gendo could cope with Yui's death). But on the other hand... there are hints Yui wasn't as innocent and sweet as she seemed. She might have known beforehand about being absorbed into Unit 01, and brought her four-year-old son to watch it happen anyway. Like her husband, she seems to have a bit of The Chessmaster vibe to her, but it's unclear how heartless she really was/is.
  • Sango and Kohaku from Inuyasha always have fond memories of their strict but loving father. Inuyasha's dead mother did her best for her half-bred son and loved him dearly, so that Inuyasha did not hate humans entirely.
  • Sangatsu no Lion:
    • Many of Rei's happiest memories come from his biological parents during his early childhood. While Kouda himself is not bad, he's guilty of a bad case of Parental Obliviousness.
    • The Kawamoto sisters speak very fondly of their mother; Akari and Hina have strong memories of how well of a caretaker she was. Their father, on the other hand, is a mystery. Rei notices that they always speak of their mother and never of their father, leading Rei to theorize in his narration that something happened between the sisters and their father that doesn't exactly place him in a positive light.
  • Subverted in Berserk. Sys, Guts' adopted mother, was the only one who loved him as a child, having picked him as a baby from underneath his deceased mother's corpse and raising him as her own. (So of course, she's dead from the plague a few panels later.) However, while nurturing, she is also depicted as more than a bit unhinged after a miscarriage shortly before. As for his adopted father Gambino, well....
  • A Cruel God Reigns: Jeremy's dead father seemed like a pretty cool, incredibly sweet guy. Too bad he's dead, or it would have saved Jeremy from his Trauma Conga Line.

     Comic Books 
  • Batman: Bruce Wayne's parents, specifically in the film Batman Begins. His parents worked hard to give Bruce a strong sense of justice and knowledge of right and wrong, and the importance of helping those who need it (although they meant using the family fortune to improve the lives of Gotham's citizens, as some stories portray them as pacifists who would've disapproved of Bruce's methods). These lessons naturally fueled his drive to become Batman after their deaths.
  • Daredevil's father was a good, honest man, who pushed his son to be the best man he could be. Since the elder Murdock was a boxer, he encouraged Matt to study as hard as he could and get a good education, not being uneducated and forced to fight for a living like himself. In addition to being the superhero Daredevil, Matt became one of New York City's most respected and honest defense lawyers. And of course, his dad was killed by the mob before he got to see it happen.
    • However, this is slightly subverted. Jack Murdock loved his son, but Matt, as an adult, admits that he greatly resented his father forcing him to study instead of being allowed to play with other children. Further, when Matt got into a fight and beat up a boy who was picking on him, Jack actually slapped him, something the adult Daredevil tries to turn a blind eye to.
      • Matt Murdock's mom was also dead in the original origin, but Frank Miller later retconned it so she became a nun and Jack lied to Matt about her being dead.
  • Stan Lee, co-creator of Daredevil, loved this trope, and it's especially noticeable in Spider-Man, where Peter Parker is three times an orphan, with his biological parents already dead at the beginning of Amazing Fantasy #15 and his surrogate father, Uncle Ben, killed in that story. It was later revealed that his parents were Bad Ass secret agents who once saved Wolverine. Oh, and Uncle Ben apparently saw Captain America first-hand. Other examples from the Silver Age:
    • Sue and Johnny Storm turned from half-orphans to orphans by the death of their father, Franklin Storm, in early Fantastic Four. Neither Reed Richards nor Ben Grimm had living parents (that was later changed for Reed by John Byrne), Ben just mentioned his Aunt Petunia (who was also first shown by Byrne). Subsequently Ben was also given a dead brother, Jake, so he could angst over his violent death as well.
    • Scott Summers, an orphan in the original version, as was his brother Alex, although Chris Claremont later introduced Corsair as their long-lost father. Scott was originally mentored by the criminal Jack o' Diamonds.
    • Professor Charles Xavier, another triple orphan, losing his father, his mother, and his stepfather in his origin stories, gaining evil stepbrother Juggernaut in the process.
    • Janet Van Dyne already had lost her mother, the murder of her father was what drove her to become the Wasp.
    • It even extended to supporting characters, most notably in the case of Gwen Stacy, who perhaps had the coolest dad of Marvel's 1960s.
      • Certainly this trope is very pronounced in Spider-Man, where Betty Brant was an orphan to begin with and then also lost her brother Bennett in a shoot-out. Harry Osborn's mother was also dead from the beginning, in ASM #122 he also lost his father, the original Green Goblin (he got better, though). When Mary Jane finally got an origin in the mid-1980s, it was revealed that her mother also is dead. J. Jonah Jameson was introduced as a widower, which of course made his son John a half-orphan. The trope as inverted with Joe Robertson, who once mentioned he had another son, Patrick, who died.
  • Superman both uses and averts this trope. Jor-El and Lara are shown to be very loving toward their only son, even if Krypton might not have been the best place for little Kal-El to have been raised, and of course are killed when Krypton explodes. Ma and Pa Kent on the other hand, while not Clark's biological parents, are loving, understanding, and always there to give their superpowered alien son helpful advice whenever he needs it.
    • Basically, the whole reason Superman is The Cape is because of good parenting.
      • In the pre-Crisis version and also the first Christopher Reeve movie, Pa Kent had to die before Clark would leave Smallville for Metropolis.
  • Lex Luthor actually killed his parents in the current continuity—well, cut their brake lines on a rainy night, which—well, you know. Reason? Got in his way.
  • Inverted by The Punisher. He would have been a good parent. But it was his kids who died, not him.
  • James-Michael's parents in Omega The Unknown were very caring despite being robots.
  • In the Jack Chick tract "Happy Hour," the mother dies as an indirect result of her alcoholic husband's actions. The children blame him for her death, and the girl even says that he should have died instead, but they forgive him and convince him to turn his life over to Jesus.

     Fan Works 

     Film 
  • Alice in Wonderland: Alice's father, Charles Kingsleigh, would comfort Alice after having a nightmare. He would also encourage her unconventional thought patterns and tell her that it's okay to be mad. Alice would eventually follow in her father's shoes and take up his old business ventures.
  • In A New Hope, Luke Skywalker's mother is dead, and his father is implied to be dead as well (though by now everyone knows the truth). Furthermore, his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, the parental figures who raised him afterward, are killed by stormtroopers shortly after Luke meets Obi-wan Kenobi.
  • Vana's mother in My Girl. Subverted in the sequel when Vana goes to her mother's old home town to do research on her for a school project and finds out she wasn't so perfect.
  • Jack the Giant Slayer: Jack's father and Isabelle's mother are both very decent people. Jack's father comforts Jack when's he frightened by a storm. Isabelle's mother encourages her to go on adventures and to be the best she can be.
  • Sam's father in A Cinderella Story was practically a living saint.

     Literature 
  • The Heroes of Olympus have Esperanza Valdez and Emily Zhang. Subverted with Marie Levesque and Jason's unnamed mother.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicles have the main character Kvothe detail how his parents were killed by the Chandrian, and his attempts to find them so he can avenge his parents. Before they died however, they raised him well, teaching him skills that serve to help him throughout the books.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: The parents were supportive and passed their best traits on to their children, but not forcefully. Then the parents die in a house fire, and the children live with many unsuitable guardians.
    • Subverted later, when the kids remember things about their parents that bugged them, their small rows, and flaws. But they conclude that they still loved their parents.
    • It is possible that Count Olaf suffers from this also, his parents being poisoned years before by the "good" guys.
  • Harry Potter- Harry Potter's parents, even if Harry can't remember them.
    • There is a slight twist with James though. Making him a bully in high school was a brilliant move. It's a flaw that strikes a nerve the frequently nerd-identified fans and fleshes James out a bit so that he's no longer the perfect but flat dead father. For many fans though, it struck too much of a nerve, and they can't get past James and Sirius's bullying past. It doesn't help that we never get to see James grow as a person, and the idea that someone can grow out of being a bully is not widely seen in media.
    • Lupin attempts to deliberately invoke this trope in the final book, in the belief that he'll do more for his son by dying heroically than by living on as a hated werewolf. The idea that a child would be happier with his father dead cuts a little too close for Harry, who blows up at him. Tragically, however, both Lupin and his wife Tonks die in the final battle anyway.
  • James and the Giant Peach: James had two loving parents until they were eaten by an escaped rhinoceros (yes, a rhinoceros) when he was 4 years old. The absurdity is so deliberate it's a Better than a Bare Bulb example of this trope, or an Exaggerated Trope. Highly unusual in that it's making light of the tragic death of his parents, a Mood Dissonance.
  • Every living mother in every single Jane Austen novel is ineffectual in some way or other. There are three dead mothers: Mrs Tilney in Northanger Abbey, Emma's mother in Emma, and Lady Elliot in Persuasion. They were all epitomes of perfection.
  • Maniac Magee
  • Kinsey Millhone lost her parents at the age of 5 and doesn't seem to miss them much, and was quite content to grow up with her aunt as a guardian.
  • The Edge Chronicles provides a subversion. In The Last of the Sky Pirates we meet Deadbolt Vulpoon, who tells Rook what a good and noble man his father Thunderbolt Vulpoon was, dying to save others. Except that the reader already knows from the previous book that he was actually a slave trader who got his comeuppance. It's not clear whether Deadbolt is lying or genuinely believes what he's saying. It's not quite Never Speak Ill of the Dead because there's only one character still around who knows what his father was really like, and he doesn't really say anything other than that he'd met him once.
  • Harry Dresden's both died when he was very young. His mother subverted the hell out of this — she led a pretty troubled life in the world of magic before she fell in love with Nice Guy Malcolm Dresden. Harry's father played it straight. Harry described Malcolm as a good if naive man, and as Harry grew older he could see what his late mother saw in him. When his father died in his sleep one night, Harry felt truly alone for the first time in his life.
  • Elric is the emperor of Melniboné, so by definition his parents must be dead. (When they died is the subject of confusion, as one book has him remembering his parents fondly while another says that his mother died giving birth to him.) Plus, if there'd been more than one person left in the empire who Elric didn't completely despise, he might not have felt like destroying the entire civilization.
  • The Arrandas of Galaxy of Fear. They were on Alderaan, along with almost everyone else Tash and Zak knew, and the kids were profoundly changed by their loss.
  • There are exactly two living parents that we see in the Den of Shadows series: Dominique, and Erin's father. Other than that, all the protagonists' parents have been dead.
  • Tessa's and Jessamine's parents in The Infernal Devices.
  • The Hunger Games. Katniss' dead father is described as practically perfect in every way and was the one who taught her everything that helped her feed her family and survive the Games. Heck, even post-hijack Peeta remembers him fondly.
  • Swedish writer Simona Ahrnstedt subverts this in her debut novel Överenskommelser. You would expect this trope to be played straight here, considering how Beatrice is treated by her uncle. But while she misses her parents, she can still admit that they had flaws.
  • In The Underland Chronicles, we never learn much about Luxa’s parents, but apparently they were pretty decent people.

     Live-Action TV 
  • In Merlin (1998), the titular character is an orphan, born to a mortal woman without a mortal father. Queen Mab seemed to deliberately invoke this trope, as she didn't make any move to save Merlin's mother after she'd given birth to him. Before dying of childbirth, Elissa made Ambrosia promise to take care of Merlin.
  • Maddigan's Quest plays with this trope; Garland idolises her father Ferdie, occasionally to the detriment of her mother, while Eden has complete trust in the ideals his parents died for. His brother Timon, on the other hand...
  • Frasier and Niles' mother Hester is often remembered in the best possible light by them (and Martin) as a compassionate, considerate, cultured and down to earth woman. There is the occasional hint that this view is not entirely accurate; she had a brief affair, it is sometimes implied that her method of raising the boys was ultimately damaging to them, and (if her appearance on Cheers is anything to go by) she could be outright hostile to Frasier's love interests. It's still made clear that despite her faults this is not an entirely inaccurate view of her, however, and that for her faults she was still a loving mother and wife to them, hence why they choose to remember her fondly.
  • More often played for laughs than straight, although there was a couple of those moments, was Del Boy's and Rodney's mum in Only Fools and Horses. She is often spoken of in hushed reverenced tones as if she was the Virgin Mary...the truth of course is that she was a less than perfect parent but she always did the best she could for her kids.
  • Charmed: The girls' mother and grandmother, the former of whom they remember fondly (if at all) and the latter of whom raised three of the four of them alone. Paige's adoptive parents were also noted to be very good parents, before they died in a car crash when she was sixteen. Prue, Piper and Phoebe's father Victor and Paige's father Sam are both completely out of the picture, with Victor only becoming a more regular presence after Prue dies and Piper has her first child, while Sam pops in once every three seasons before completely disappearing yet again.
    • The grandmother continues to appear posthumously on the show and subvert the trope. It's revealed she was a bitter misandrist who was engaged six times and married four.
  • Played straight initially in Party of Five with the kids' dead parents - who never appear in the series. But eventually subverted and borderline deconstructed. It's eventually revealed that the father was an alcoholic and that Charlie actually does remember him hitting their mother (but had repressed it). Their mother also had an affair with a musician friend. Additionally in a What If? episode where they hadn't died, they're shown to be almost excessively smothering on Julia - to the point where she feels she's Not Allowed to Grow Up.
  • In Supernatural, Mary Winchester, Sam and Dean's mother who died when they were young, is portrayed as a gentle but protective figure as opposed to their father.
  • Jackie Tyler has painted an idealized picture of her late husband for their daughter Rose who is rattled to discover that the little business ventures which Jackie described so fondly had, back in the day, caused more than a little marital tension as there was never enough money. But while Pete Tyler may be a bit of a flake is some ways he proves himself a card carrying hero - in any reality.

     Theater 
  • Electra takes this kind of attitude towards Agamemnon in Electra, even feeling morally justified in wanting to kill her mother to avenge his death.

     Video Games 
  • Pretty common trope in Nippon Ichi games. The parents of Laharl, Mao (mother unknown, presumed to be dead), Marona, and Danette were all depicted as loving parents before they died.
    • Disgaea 2's Adell too.
  • Averted very well in the first two MOTHER games, where the main character's parents are not only loving and supportive but remain alive and well. Mother 3, being the Darker and Edgier game, kills Lucas's mother, Hinawa through a jarring case of Dropped a Bridge on Him. Not only was Hinawa a great mother, but Flint, the father, falls into a pit of grief-driven insanity and becomes neglectful and distant towards Lucas after her death.
  • In Final Fantasy games, no Player Character ever has a full set of parents by the end of the game. Most of them start with a pair of dead parents, and only two characters (Edge of Final Fantasy IV and Hope of Final Fantasy XIII) even starts the game with two living parents (the former's parents are killed in front of him, the latter loses one almost immediately). And several who do start with one surviving parent lose said parent by the end. In fact, it's not until the sixth game that you even see a parent survive and even that one is crazy and doesn't recognize his son.
    • Though Final Fantasy III does break the cycle first (numerically), it's not until its release on the Nintendo DS that the story gets fleshed out in this way. In III, each of the main characters were orphans, but were raised by kind and loving people: Luneth and Arc are raised by the elder of Ur. Refia is raised by the blacksmith of Kazus, and Ingus is raised as a soldier under the King in Castle Sasune.
  • Mars' parents in Shining Wisdom are both dead. His father died after succumbing to poison inflicted upon in him a battle with a dragon...while his mother is rarely mentioned.
  • Played straight and subverted depending on the parents in Fire Emblem Awakening. Lucina puts Chrom on a pedestal, Cynthia idolized Sumia to the point of cutting her hair off when she died and Owain regards his parents as heroes. On the other hand, Gerome shut off any feelings he had towards Cherche and his father, refusing to even call them "mother" and "father" when reunited with their past selves. Severa does both; at first it seems she resents Cordelia for both being "perfect" and for dying. Then it turns out she uses resentment and anger as a cover for how much she loved her mother and how much it hurt when she died.

    Visual Novels 
  • Miles Edgeworth's father in Ace Attorney was so good that his character was partially based on Atticus Finch. He's murdered when Miles is nine, unfortunately leaving him in the hands of a far more Amoral Attorney.
    • Likewise, it's practically hammered home what a loving father Byrne Faraday is during the course of investigating his murder. No wonder his daughter Kay wanted to carry on his work.
  • Part of the reason Ange hates her aunt Eva so much in Umineko: When They Cry is because she doesn't think anyone could ever replace her parents (no to mention the fact that she suspects Eva was the one who killed them). This is subverted to Hell and back in episode 7, where it turns out Eva did kill them, but in what was more or less self-defense, since it turns out that Kyrie and Rudolf were in fact the real murderers and would have killed her otherwise. Needless to say, Ange doesn't take it well.
  • In Katawa Shoujo, the parents range from being uninvolved in their children's lives (Hisao's parents, Rin's parents) to outright abandoning them (Lilly's parents) or being Abusive Parents (Shizune's father), with the exception of Emi's mother. The deceased parents are considerably better; Emi speaks fondly of her deceased father, and Hanako's mother shielded Hanako with her body during the house fire, saving her daughter's life at the cost of her own.

     Webcomics 

     Western Animation 

Death by Origin StoryBackstory IndexExpansion Pack Past
Deader than DeadFairy Tale TropesDistressed Dude
Dating What Daddy HatesThe Parent TropeDeliver Us from Evil
Decapitation RequiredDeath TropesDeparture Means Death

alternative title(s): Disappeared Parents Are The Best
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