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Pining After Protagonist's Parent

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He holds a torch for the protagonist's mother.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Eievie on Oct 18th 2017 at 11:48:47 AM
Last Edited By:
Eievie on Nov 19th 2017 at 12:36:46 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

There's just something about heroes' mothers: They seems to be Dude Magnets. This is doubly true if they're a Missing Mom or Posthumous Character now.

This trope is about someone who loved the protagonist's mother once—often an Unlucky Childhood Friend who knew her as a child—but who didn't wind up with her. Maybe All Love Is Unrequited. Maybe she did have feeling for him once, but it just didn't work out. Either way, she moved on, and went on meet the protagonist's father and have the protagonist. He... didn't. Because of the nature of unrequited love, it's often quite long-lasting. This nicely sets up a scenario for Unbalanced by Rival's Kid, or even Love Father, Love Son.

Why? Protagonists' mothers are generally portrayed in a positive way, especially if they're dead by the time the story starts. As thus, they're usually pretty lovable.

This is useful in a narrative sense, as not only does it lend characterization and backstory to both the mother and the person in question, but it also affects the way they treat her child, the protagonist. Nicer ones or those whose relationship with the mother ended amicably will be kinder to the kid. More mean-spirited examples may take it out on the child. Additionally, if the mother's suitor is a rather ambiguous character—which they not uncommonly are—love for a good woman can often be a humanizing trait for them.

This trope can be fulfilled by a father's suitor as well, but there is a definite slant toward it being mothers. Thus a father example is a Gender-Inverted Trope.


Examples

Live Action TV

  • Grey's Anatomy: Meredith Grey starts working at Seattle Grace hospital, her mother's (Ellis Grey) former hospital, and is introduced to Chief of Surgery Richard Webber, who was in love with her mother back when they were residents themselves. Flash forward several seasons and Maggie Pierce starts work at the hospital—unknown to everyone, she's the daughter of Richard and Ellis.

Literature

  • Chronicles of the Kencyrath: Heroine Jame's father Ganth is a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds by the time we meet him, but as the story goes it, it's revealed that he Used to Be a Sweet Kid. Back then, he and Trishien had a thing for each other. It didn't work out: First there was a Parental Marriage Veto, and then Ganth fell in Love at First Sight with the woman who would later be Jame's mother, and Trishien couldn't hold a flame to her. Trishien never really stops loving him though.
    Trishien: [W]hen we were both young, I was fond of your father and he of me. Under other circumstances, you might have been our son.
  • In Harry Potter, the titular Harry's mother is Lily Evans. Severus Snape and her were friends when they were young, before they came to Hogwarts. He was rather in love with her. At Hogwarts, he fell in with the wrong crowd, and their friendship eventually disintegrated. Lily went on to marry James and have Harry. Snape went right on loving her.
  • In Kushiel's Legacy Everyone Is Bi, providing us with a Gender Inverted example. Delaunay is determined to help and protect Ysandre (a hero, though not the protagonist) because Ysandre's late father Rolande was the great love of Delaunay's life. Unlike some examples of this trope, Delaunay and Rolande actually were a couple, and though Rolande also had to marry a woman—that woman being Isabel, Ysandre's mother—they were still lovers at the time of Rolande's tragically early death.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: The mysterious narrator Lemony Snicket holds a torch for a woman named Beatrice, who is revealed to be the mother of protagonists Violet, Klaus, and Sunny.
  • The Stark children are the closest thing A Song of Ice and Fire has to heroes, and their mother is Catelyn Tully. Her Unlucky Childhood Friend Petyr Baelish loved Catelyn since they were children, and he never grows out of it. It's part of why he schemes against their father Ned, and why he's so fixated on oldest daughter Sansa, who greatly resembles Catelyn.

Video Game

Webcomic

  • Gunnerkrigg Court:
    • Reynard loved Antimony's mother Surma, and in fact mistook Antimony for her mother when they first met. This love is reflected in his treatment towards Antimony — despite being The Trickster archetype, he is somewhat affectionate and even helpful towards her, eventually caring about her as her own person.
    • Sir James Eglamore also dated Surma when they were younger, and never quite understood why she chose Anthony over him. He's easily unbalanced whenever he sees Antimony.

Western Animation

  • Steven Universe: Pearl was deeply in love with Steven's mother, Rose Quartz. Rose ended up with Greg Universe and had a child with him. Pearl loves Steven like a son, but remembering her can be awkward for Pearl, as shown in "Rose's Scabbard." It's why she doesn't think highly of Greg as well.

Feedback: 19 replies

Oct 18th 2017 at 12:05:13 PM

Title currently violates No New Stock Phrases and will get nuked right away should it get launched. Maybe something like Loved Their Mother or Pined For Their Parent for the name?

Not only does it lend characterization and backstory to both the mother and the person in question, but it also affects the way they treat the child. Nicer ones or those whose relationship with the mother ended amicably will be nicer to the kid. More mean-spirited examples will take it out on the child.

  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Sir James Eglamore dated Antimony's mother Surma when they were younger, and never quite understood why she chose Anthony over him. He's easily unbalanced whenever he sees Antimony.

Also, this is a borderline example because it relies on heavy Homoerotic Subtext and allusions by other characters, not sure if it's explicit enough to count:

  • Implied to be the case with Aura Blackquill in Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney Dual Destinies. She cared very deeply for Athena's mother Metis, but Metis's murder, Athena being accused of it, and Aura's brother Simon taking the fall for Athena turned her into an angry woman who resents Athena.

Oct 18th 2017 at 12:34:35 PM

  • Pearl from Steven Universe was deeply in love with Steven's mother, Rose Quartz. Rose ended up with Greg Universe and had a child with him. Pearl loves Steven like a son, but remembering her can be awkward for Pearl, as shown in "Rose's Scabbard." It's why she doesn't think highly of Greg as well.

Oct 18th 2017 at 1:09:35 PM

Only watched a handful of episodes so I don't know how well this fits.

  • Mr. Gar from OKKO Lets Be Heroes is shown to be affectuated with Carol, KO's mom. The two were part of a team in the past before something happen to ruffle their relationship. Though, it's only from his part since Carol is still friendly with Gar while he becomes a nervous wreck around her.

Oct 18th 2017 at 6:31:48 PM

Oct 18th 2017 at 7:29:36 PM

@Synchronicity, it's not a direct quote from any story in particular, so does it still count?

Oct 18th 2017 at 7:36:21 PM

Needs a better name. Pining after parent is the best suggestion so far.

Oct 18th 2017 at 7:39:33 PM

Also: Live Action TV

  • Greys Anatomy: Meredith Grey starts working at Seattle Grace hospital, her mother's (Ellis Grey) former hospital, and is introduced to Chief of Surgery Richard Webber, who was in love with her mother back when they were residents themselves. Flash forward several seasons and Maggie Pierce starts work at the hospital — unknown to everyone, she's the daughter of Richard and Ellis.

Oct 18th 2017 at 7:39:44 PM

@lakingsif At first I called it "I Loved Your Mother" because that's the phrase the trope brings to mind for me. I was told that name's against the rules and it had to be changed. Of the suggestions, I agree that Added Alliterative Appeal is always good, and Pining After Parent is the best one we have yet

Oct 18th 2017 at 7:45:02 PM

Edited Gunnerkrigg Court example, I forgot the more important character who held a torch for Surma for some reason.

^^Stock phrases refer to titles that sound like dialogue, so phrasing like "I [Loved]" and "[Loved] Your" will be a strike against it.

Oct 19th 2017 at 12:12:08 AM

Pining After Parent is nice and short, but ambiguous, as it doesn't specify after whose parent the character is pining. Without further quantifiers, it can even be read as an incest trope.

Compare Love Father Love Son, where the character no only loved another's parent, but then transfers those feelings onto the child.

Oct 19th 2017 at 9:46:42 AM

Can this be use for villains?

Oct 19th 2017 at 10:09:21 AM

I think Pining After Protagonists Parent is perfect

Oct 19th 2017 at 2:01:47 PM

It's a tad long for my tastes, but it gets the point across and that's the main thing.

Nov 15th 2017 at 4:31:29 PM

Did a minor formatting change: !Examples to !!Examples

Nov 15th 2017 at 8:33:36 PM

The title doesn't say who's doing the pining, so that makes it sound, really weird, to me.

Nov 15th 2017 at 9:11:17 PM

Added more context to ASOIAF example

Nov 18th 2017 at 7:57:41 PM

@Malady can you think of a better alternative?

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