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Literature / The Whipping Boy

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The Whipping Boy is a children's novel by Sid Fleischman.

Prince Horace, better known as "Prince Brat", runs away from home, and forces his servant Jemmy (whose job it is to be whipped in the prince's place whenever the prince misbehaves, since it's illegal to whip royalty) to accompany him.

Winner of the 1987 Newbery Medal.

A TV movie based on the novel was made in 1994.

This book provides examples of:

  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Whipping boys were actually Truth in Television, believe it or not. Children from poor families considered it a pretty good deal, despite the whippings, since they got to be educated alongside the children of royalty. Most often, however, the whipping boys were themselves from lesser nobility, though use of commoner children was not unheard of.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Betsy and Petunia arrive in time to stop the thugs from attacking the two boys. And when they refuse to let them go, Betsy yells "Sic 'em, Petunia!", and the bear chases them off.
  • Break the Haughty: Prince Horace.
  • Butt-Monkey: Jemmy, which kind of comes with the territory of being a whipping boy.
  • Corporal Punishment: Happens more than once, per Jemmy's job. Later when Horace is mistaken for the whipping boy, he gets spanked as well.
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  • Character Development: Prince Horace towards the end. Jemmy to a certain extent as well.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off: Jemmy's job is to take spankings in place of the prince, since it's forbidden to touch royalty.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: "Prince Brat". Horace is mortified when he hears it and realizes his subjects don't respect him, which is a key moment in his character development.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Betsy's dancing bear, Petunia.
  • It's All About Me: Horace, a spoiled brat that neglects his learning, constantly causes trouble, and is stuck up and haughty.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Prince Horace.
  • Mistaken for Servant: When the prince and Jemmy are abducted, the abductors believe Jemmy is the prince and Horace is the whipping boy, because Jemmy has better manners and hasn't been shirking his education.
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  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Hold-Your-Nose Billy and Cutwater.
  • Pride Before a Fall: Prince Horace.
  • Prince and Pauper: Horace and Jemmy don't exactly look alike, but they do manage to be mistaken for each other.
  • Royal Brat: Prince Horace, who is even (unbeknownst to him) nicknamed "Prince Brat" by his subjects.
  • The Runaway: Prince Horace runs away out of sheer boredom and drags Jemmy along for the ride.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Delivered unknowingly to Horace by one of his subjects while he's in disguise. Horace is abashed to learn that people think of him as "Prince Brat", which becomes a turning point in his Character Development.
  • The Scapegoat: Jemmy's role as the whipping boy.
  • Street Smart: Jemmy.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Hold-Your-Nose Billy and Cutwater.

The 1994 movie adds examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The movie added a lot of other things to the original plot, including Jemmy having been an orphan street rat with a younger sister (who catches rats to sell for rat-catching games). Horace also doesn't run away on a whim, but instead out of anger at his father after a prank where Horace releases rats at a formal dinner gravely offends a visiting ambassador, leaving his father to declare he's had enough, and that there will be no more whipping boy, among other punishments. Jemmy's sister is also arrested on flimsy pretenses after being falsely accused of being a thief by a rich man.


Example of: