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Rules of Orphan Economics
Worst day ever. Bobby's parents have died in a terrible freak accident that has him living in an empty house. It is up to the author, however, to decide whether life will be sunshine and puppies, or downright gruesome. Depends on the point of the story.

In a more realistic setting, Bobby will not go on an adventure. Instead, he will be forced to live life like the rest of the townspeople. Because the world is evil, Bobby will not be sent to the Orphanage of Love, nor will some kindly old couple take him home because of his cute little stare. After all, Social Services Does Not Exist.

So now we get to the trope. Remember that house in which Bobby has been living since his parents died? That's his new abode. But there is no way that Bobby, a child, could pay for the water, the food, the drinks, the crazy weekend parties and the taxes, right? Bobby isn't even old enough for a job!

This is where the road will fork:
  • He probably shouldn't worry about the situation. No problem, he's an orphan, right? The cereal in the cupboard will restock itself and the letter carrier will skip over his house when the taxes are due. The Internet will work cost-free and his boombox will still impress the ladies come Sunday night.
  • In a wonderful twist of fate, some awesome, wealthy, kind person or organization who may or may not have known Bobby's parents has decided to pay for all of Bobby's expenses! In fact, the orphans may even gain help through inheritance.
  • Worst case scenario: In a brutal take on Truth in Television, Bobby will be forced to somehow pay for all his expenses by working, whether it be stealing or factory work, or whatever.

Because these scenarios seem to set off the Fridge Logic sensors in viewers' brains, barely any consequence-free examples are left these days.

May overlap with Undead Tax Exemption.

Sorting through The Other Wiki's list of notable literary orphans (at the bottom), other tropers can probably help expand this article, so if you've read any of those stories, sort the orphans.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • In Naruto, the fourth Hokage's dying request was that the village take care of his son. They comply, in the most grudging, meansprited way possible.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's , Hayate Yagami's source of funds is brushed off as a wealthy friend of her late parents. In reality, it is a rogue TSAB Admiral waiting for her to become one with the Book of Darkness in hopes of trapping it before too much of the world gets lain waste to.
    • In StrikerS, it was established early on that Fate had been providing for Erio and Caro before they enlisted.
  • Shounen Maid: When the protagonist's mother died, he thought (and was ready to accept) he'd be alone, but then he then learned she eloped from a wealthy family because they didn't approve his father and her brother took him in.
  • Sailor Jupiter in Sailor Moon seems to live without any visible means of support. Fanon often presumes a parental trust fund, but there was no mention of same in the show or comic.
  • In Onegai Twins. Maiku makes his money as a freelance, work-from-home programmer. (His employers are unaware that he's a minor.) The girls' source of livelihood, though, is never mentioned.
  • Grave of the Fireflies is a pretty good example of the worst-case scenario. And then it gets worse.
  • Tokyo Mew Mew has Bu-ling, the Kid-Appeal Character of the group. She is eight years old when the series begins and, though only her mom's dead, her dad has gone off to train in the mountains and left her with five younger siblings to care for and a dojo to run — but she's dirt poor, knows it, and has to perform in the street to pay the bills. Even when she's given a job at Cafe Mew Mew, she continues to perform — sometimes even during work to entice the customers to give her tips — and has to count her change to see if she can buy a bottle of ketchup. The anime had a filler episode revealing that her father apparently arranged for her to be engaged to a grown man, with the implication that it was only set up to legally allow her to keep the house.

Comicbooks
  • Bruce Wayne is supported by Wayne Enterprises (which he will eventually run) when his parents are killed in a mugging, and is given a foster mother as a caretaker. Robin (or at least Dick Grayson) is taken in, in turn, by Bruce.
  • Billy Batson, the world's youngest full-time radio presenter.

Film
  • This is the setup in the 1967 film Our Mother's House. Dad deserted the family and the children are cared for by their ailing mom. When she dies they're afraid they'll be split up, so they bury her secretly and continue to live according to what she taught them. The money comes from Mom's annuity; the kids forge her signature on monthly checks. Everything works out great until Dad shows up and blows all the money on prostitutes and booze.
  • Nobody Knows by Hirokazu Kore-Eda: Four children are abandoned by their irresponsible mother, and are on their own in an apartment in which food and other supplies are slowly running out. With no money, they must resort to various means to find food and keep up a pretense of normality (not that anyone seems to care, hence the title). Not all of them make it. Unfortunately, based on a true story.
  • The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. The Other Wiki article says her father "...made plans to allow Rynn to live alone...", presumably including financial matters.

Literature
  • Harry Potter has the Dursleys providing a roof over his head, and his parents' money for expenses in the magical world.
  • Jane Eyre begins as an orphan in the household of her aunt by marriage who reluctantly provides her with a home. She then goes to Lowood school where she doesn't exactly have to work for her keep but the conditions are terrible and she excels in her classes to prove herself. Following this she does earn her keep by becoming a teacher at the school. She then becomes a governess at Thornfield. Finally, at the end of the novel she conveniently receives a huge inheritance from the uncle she never knew who wanted to adopt her all along before he died.
  • In the case of Pippi Longstocking, you wonder about this at first, until you realize that she actually has a whole pile of pirate gold on hand to pay for the things she needs. (And, a lot of the time, she has no idea of the actual value of the gold she's slapping down for trivial things like ice cream. She resists any attempt to give her change because that's too many little coins to keep track of.)
  • In Gene Stratton Porter's Michael O'Halloran, Mickey. Then, given the time frame, children worked then. He was working even before his mother's death, and she had carefully prepared him to live on his own.
  • David Copperfield had his stepfather sent him to London to work, ran away to his great-aunt and got adopted by her.
  • In Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen this happens to the main character Ruby. She lives in a single parent household until her mother disappears. She attempts to work and go to school until she turns 18. Unfortunately a social worker comes and forces her to move in with her older sister.

Live-Action Television
  • The Onlies in the Star Trek episode "Miri" have been living out of the supplies left by the original colony for three hundred years. Captain Kirk tells them they would not be able to survive much longer this way because the food's running out. Some fans speculate that they could have made it a while longer. Many children are capable of learning to take care of themselves, and space colonists would have emphasized this. Learning how to plant and grow food in gardens would have been a big deal; they would even have had books on it, and older kids would have taught younger ones to do this.
  • After Joyce's death in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Buffy's Promotion to Parent, Buffy does not work a paying job but still somehow manages to pay the bills. Her financial concerns later become plot points in season 6, though.
    • It's mentioned in season 6 that Joyce had a life Insurance policy. It was mostly eaten up by medical bills, but only 'mostly', thus explaining where the money comes from in Season 5.
    • And from Giles. And presumably the almost-Disappeared Dad is paying Dawn's child support. And Willow and Tara live there (but Tara has no means of support either, so....)

Newspaper Comics
  • In the British newspaper strip The Perishers, Wellington is an orphan who lives with his dog Boot, initially in a large concrete pipe in an abandoned factory yard, later in a closed railway station. It's never explained how the two of them survive, but the implication is that they live on handouts from Wellington's friends, plus Boot's theft of the occasional string of sausages.

Video Game
  • Hilariously done in The Sims. The children are literally unable to do anything about the taxes or get money.
    • In the sequel game, the same thing happens with children, however Teens can live alone and get a job.
  • Recettear is left to fend for herself, but with a good amount of adventuring involved as well.
  • Your can PC adopt the new orphan NPCs introduced in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim DLC Hearthfire.

Visual Novel
  • In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, it is eventually revealed that Irie is taking care of Satoko and Rika and the two are technically under the custody of the village chief Kimiyoshi. It is left unexplained for most of the series until then.
  • Shirou in Fate/stay night is being taken care of by... well, a yakuza head, who was a friend of his father. The Yakuza head's sweet granddaughter drops by every now and then to make sure he hasn't got into any trouble as he lives in his dad's giant sweet mansion, but he's still an entirely emancipated minor. Shirou, however, has a streak of independence which makes him keep the entire giant mansion clean all by himself, with only one of his younger female classmates coming by to help. The sweet granddaughter, despite being sweet, is no help, instead sponging off of him to devour his great homemade meals. Shirou also maintains an income by fixing up the Yakuza head's motorcycle and keeping up with three different part-time jobs. In times of need, however, Shirou can ask for a maid from the Yakuza head to keep his house in order.

Webcomic
  • Obliquely touched on in Gunnerkrigg Court. By enrolling his daughter Antimony at the Court prior to his disappearance, Anthony Carver had insured that she would be provided for, since the Court has no tuition fees and provides for all the students' needs. All of them.
    • As if the Court would let a descendant of a fire elemental and a potential medium go anywhere else.

Real Life


Raised by GrandparentsOrphaned Index    
Rule of ThreeLaws and FormulasRules of the Internet
Room DisserviceNarrative DevicesSadistic Choice

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