Subverting the "evil adoptive parent".:

Total posts: [9]
Aussie Tolkien freak
In a number of stories, there is this idea of "someone is adopted and the adoptive parents turn out to be evil/want to use them". Even in stories like "Rapunzel", where even though it's never said, everyone assumes that the sorceress is evil. Right now I'm drafting an Urban Fantasy retelling of the Sigurd The Dragon Slayer legend, where this trope pops up and I want to subvert it.

The hero is a prince who is born after his pregnant mother fled to another court in the aftermath of a battle where her husband was killed. She marries the other king, and then when the hero's born he goes to live with a dwarf blacksmith as a foster son. His foster father treats him well, but it eventually turns out he is being raised so that the foster father, who's the youngest son of the murdered king of the dwarves (at least in the version I'm familiar with) can reclaim a hoard of treasure from a dragon as compensation for his older brother's death, and he wants to kill the hero and take the treasure for himself.

Now in my version, (incidentally set in the same universe and fictional city as my main Urban Fantasy project) the hero is your average teenage boy, being raised by an exiled dwarf prince who wants his treasure (and kingdom) back. How do I subvert the "evil adoptive parent"? After all, if someone really loves a child, they don't try to kill them.

edited 16th Feb '13 8:09:26 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
The story I'm writing has a similar emotional arc to an "evil adoptive parent", but the twist is that it's not an evil adoptive parent, it's a just-plain-evil-parent, who actively hates their own, biological child. The protagonist undergoes Grand Theft Me with her son, and she can't tell because she's never paid much attention to her kid anyways.
I'd say I'm being refined

Into the web I descend

Killing those I've left behind

I have been Endarkened
Aussie Tolkien freak
Does anyone have any ideas on how I could subvert this?
The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
Would him being Happily Adopted help subvert it at all?
Aussie Tolkien freak
Don't know. He already is Happily Adopted, (as he was in the earliest written version in the Poetic Edda) but there's still the "foster father wants to kill him for treasure" aspect of the original story to deal with. *

edited 17th Feb '13 1:27:30 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
6 ArsThaumaturgis17th Feb 2013 06:26:42 AM , Relationship Status: I've been dreaming of True Love's Kiss
Well, I suppose that the basic idea might be that the adoptive parent appears to try to kill the child, but is in fact doing something in the child's interests out of love — perhaps some form of "tough love". Perhaps it's survival training (especially in the "Hansel and Gretel" form of "evil adoptive parents"), or perhaps they're attempting to drive the child away to protect the child from danger that's drawing near to the parent, or perhaps they're attempting to teach the child to value life over valuables by demonstrating the potential consequences of holding worldly wealth in too-high a regard, or perhaps the treasure is cursed and they're trying to drive the child away from it (but why not say so? perhaps the child would be unlikely to believe them, or the curse is such that it would draw the child to it in any case...). It might break the parent's heart to so hurt the child, might leave them crying inconsolably at night, but they do it out of love because the child's well-being is more important to them than getting to retain the child's love and trust.
7 KillerClowns17th Feb 2013 06:28:20 AM from the Midwest , Relationship Status: Healthy, deeply-felt respect for this here Shotgun
Not as singularly broad-minded as a turnip
Happily Adopted would likely be an aversion, Not a Subversion. You have to set it up so the reader thinks they're evil adoptive parents, and then reveal they're not, for it to be a subversion.
have the parent have a moral delemia over it. he initally raised the kid to just use him for the treasure than kill him, but when it comes close to the hero fullfilling the purpose the parent raised him for, have the parent have second thoughts over whether he should go through with his plan or not.

if he actually does try to kill his son afterwards or not, could depend on which was you want the story to go
Aussie Tolkien freak
@Ars Thaumaturgis: The treasure was cursed in the original tale. Actually, the original tale was the basis for the Ring Cycle of operas.

edited 17th Feb '13 2:25:34 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
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Total posts: 9