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A Magical Nanny is a woman
who is hired to look after children
, but ends up having a profound effect on the whole family. She may have genuine magical powers or she may just have a magical effect on the household. Even children who have scared off a number of previous nannies
can be tamed by a Magical Nanny.
Magical Nannies come in two flavors:
- A free spirited nanny will often be seen in households with strict parents, who are often cold and neglectful toward the children. She will encourage them to be themselves and talk about The Power of Love. Eventually this message will spread to the parents, drawing the family together. This type of Magical Nanny is often musically talented.
- A sensible nanny will usually work for aloof or ineffectual parents with rambunctious children. She will be strict, but fair and impose a sense of structure on a family that badly needs it. Before long, the parents will be in awe of her — perhaps after a stage of resenting how their lavishness did not win the children's hearts but her firmness (and attention!) did — and any naughty children will have learned that behaving themselves can be fun.
A sub-flavor includes magical nannies that are literally Magical Nannies
. Often they will be a parody or even Deconstruction
of the Ur Example
, Mary Poppins
While Magical Nannies are often threatened with the sack, they are not easy to get rid of. When their employment ends, it will be on their own terms. Typically they will decide that their work here is done
or they will stay and marry the head of the household. (Note that they never
become the Wicked Stepmother
.) The latter is particularly common in the Romance Novel
; indeed, the heroine may become the stepmother first and still fulfill the role of Magical Nanny.
Compare Fairy Godmother
Contrast the Babysitter from Hell
and the Badly Battered Babysitter
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- Subverted in Addams Family Values; the family finally finds a nanny who will put up with the children because she wants to marry Fester, then kill him, for his money. Being the Addams Family, they consider her to lead a very respectable lifestyle and are mainly irritated with her choice of Pastels as a color palette.
- MBA graduate Jennifer "Jenny" Morgan in Au Pair becomes the second type after mistaking a job opportunity as an executive assistant. She tames and befriends the two rambunctious children of their single, CEO father whose job duties prevent him from taking a more active role. She gets him to spend more time with his children and falls in love with him. Yeah, it's a Disney Original Movie, of course.
- The two Ur Examples of this trope were both played by Julie Andrews.
- The Sound of Music: Maria Von Trapp is the guitar playing free spirit who ends up marrying the head of the household.
- Mary Poppins: Poppins is the no-nonsense nanny with magic powers who draws the family closer together, tames the unruly children, then vanishes into the sky.
- Weebo from Flubber. Unusually, Weebo is a robot.
- The nanny in Harriet the Spy isn't magic, but is amazing.
- Mrs. Doubtfire: A Rare Male Example is Mrs. Doubtfire (and the book Madam Doubtfire) where a divorced dad crossdresses so he can be hired as a nanny and spend more time with his kids. As you do.
- Nanny McPhee: Similar to Mary Poppins, but minus the songs.
- Random from Out Of The Blue (1979).
- Bob The Butler: Bob; sorta. Bob's actually totally incompetent as a butler (he's actually not even a real butler, he's never had training). The only thing he manages to do is to get the kids to like him and bring their mother closer to them. They end up getting married of course.
- Adventures in Babysitting could perhaps be considered a one-night-only version of this, as some life lessons were learned and it's a miracle neither the babysitter nor her charges got themselves killed.
- Subverted in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, as its Magical Nanny is coerced into becoming one when some Blitz Evacuees are dropped off on her doorstep. By the end, the kids and the witch will stay together, while the con man goes off to war.
- Big Mommas House series: Played straight in the first two films where Big Momma becomes a member of the family and draws everyone together.
- Parodied in Mr Nanny, where Hulk Hogan is hired as a bodyguard, but has to take over nanny duties for the two precocious lonely kids.
- Nurse Matilda: Nurse Matilda herself was a sensible nanny with magic powers, which tended to be more disturbing than in the movies.
- Discworld: Susan Sto Helit is naturally sensible and, upon leaving school, does a brief stint as a Magical Nanny in Hogfather. She is very Genre Savvy and promises herself "if she ever did find herself dancing on rooftops with chimney sweeps, she'd beat herself to death with her own umbrella." She's also significantly more violent than the average Magical Nanny. When the children complain of bogey-men in the closet or in the basement, she teaches them to face their fears... with vivid demonstrations involving a fireplace poker. If she's feeling generous, Susan just terrorizes the bogeys to the point that they won't even think about bothering her charges again.
- Polgara the Sorceress in Polgara the Sorceress, The Belgariad, and The Malloreon is a powerful sorceress that is well recognized as such when she isn't tending to more than two thousand years of little boys as their "Aunt Pol" who cooks, cleans and manages their lives for the better. Like Mary Poppins, she isn't necessarily free spirited, but is an extremely competent and magical nanny.
- Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, whose cures for bad behaviors like selfishness or not wanting to go to bed are based on the philosophy of "give bratty kids what they want, and make them regret it"). If used in real life, such cures would probably result in a lawsuit and/or emotional scarring rather than making anyone good little children. Interestingly, while some of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's ideas (like the Radish Cure) involve fairly reality-based (if improbable) foundations, she also has a number of magical powders, candies, pills, and liquids which can make children turn invisible, lose their voices, or literally become idiots. The only explanation as to how she got this is that her husband found them from his days of pirating. In the series Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Farm, the kids are mostly cured by being dropped off at the titular farm and spending a few weeks learning to adapt to life there. This inevitably leads to a situation in which the child must overcome their issue.
- Jane Eyre: Jane is a sensible governess who's great for sweet but shallow Adele and tries moulding her into a worthy person. She ends up falling for the head of the household.
- Subverted in Saki's "The Schwartz-Metterklume Method" where Lady Carlotta behaves like a Type 1 Magical Nanny, but turns out to be an imposter who has been acting outrageous simply to amuse herself.
- In Gene Stratton Porter's Michael O'Halloran, a magical tutor straightens out two violent Royal Brats in about a day.
- Mary Poppins, although not so whimsically as her film counterpart.
- Ms Wiz acts as this for the children of Class Three despite her first appearance being a teacher. She shows up in all the books in some new job just when the children need help. She actually does babysit in the fourth book. She ends up as a mother herself.
Live Action TV
- Phoebe Figallily in Nanny And The Professor.
- Winnie Goodwin from Free Spirit, an American Sitcom which has faded into obscurity, practiced witchcraft, unbeknownst to all mortals other than the children she cared for.
- The Nanny: Fran Descher's character, who ended up marrying the father. She's able to connect with the kids in a way they'd been missing, and she specifically helps neurotic youngest child Grace.
- An episode of Amazing Stories had one of these from Jamaica who managed to be a Magical Negro as well.
- Supernanny: Truth in Television: the appearance of a sensible Magical Nanny is the main premise of this Reality Show.
- Reality show Nanny 911.
- My Wife and Kids spoofs this in one episode with a Parody Sue nanny (played by the always awesome Betty White) who evokes a mystified "Wow..." from everyone around her.
- Doctor Who:
- Mentioned briefly in the episode "A Christmas Carol". Having gone back in time to try to change the life of a scrooge-character for the better by destroying his Freudian Excuse, he briefly claims to be his new baby sitter.
- Doctor becomes one in "The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe."
- Charles In Charge features a relatively rare example of a male magical nanny.*
- The title character in Jessie.
- Widowed Dexter hires Sonya in Season 5. She's a nurse and the only one together lady in line of Terrible Interviewees Montage. Dexter never, ever has a problem getting his nanny to look after Harrison, no matter how unpredictable his schedule is. Sonya eventually has enough of it, though.
- Jamie in Season 6. She's still a student and says Dexter pays her very well. Dexter says she's perfect for Harrison. In season 7, Jamie tries to find a new girlfriend for her employer.
- Girl Genius: Von Pinn is a Type 2, at least according to the children in her care. She's also an ultraviolent battle-cyborg in a dominatrix dress.