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Ambiguously Absent Parent

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"And by the way, they never do say what he died of, but by the look of his incredibly deteriorating health, you know it just had to be broad-shoulder-itis. You know, the same that I'm sure took her mother that doesn't exist."

The ambiguously absent parent arises when a character has a Disappeared Dad or Missing Mom but the creator doesn't feel like explaining the specifics of their absence. It applies to parents who aren't mentioned or shown and their absence is notable because the other parent is regularly present. The absent parent may be addressed through Word of God, though in its essence the trope means the story itself won't explain it.

Often a source of Fanfic Fuel. Sub-trope of Parental Abandonment and Unknown Character. Might overlap with Lineage Comes from the Father if the absent parent is the mother. Contrast with I Miss Mom and Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You (where the character acknowledges in-universe said parent), Mysterious Parent (where the absent parent is an integral part of the story) and compare and contrast to Invisible Parents (where neither parents are seen but may be mentioned, and the audience has no reason to believe they are out of the picture). May be the result of Never Say "Die". May overlap with Nephewism and Raised by Grandparents.

Note: Do not add examples if the character's existing caretaker is NOT implied to be single. This trope only applies to cases where the audience has every reason to assume that the parent is NOT a part of their child's life offscreen, not just "one parent is shown but not the other". Also, do not add examples without context.

Example Subpages:

Other Examples:

Examples of one Ambiguously Absent Parent

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ace of the Diamond: All we know of Kazuya Miyuki is that his father works at a steel factory and is not often home and their relationship is implied to be strained or at least very distant. His mother is seen in a picture but given the lack of care in the house, and that Kazuya has to cook his own meals implies she either died or might have divorced at some point.
  • Halfway through Animal Land, Taizo's Parental Substitute Monoko gets pregnant and gives birth to a daughter. She tells Taizo that she's a Truly Single Parent and that her daughter has no father. Taizo doesn't believe her but the story never reveal who Moko's father is, nor is he ever around to raise Moko even after Monoko dies to save Taizou and Moko from being attacked by wild dogs. This becomes one of the most asked questions sent to the author, who eventually reveals in a bonus strip that Moko's father is Piman.
  • In Digimon Fusion, while Mikey's mother appears, his father is never seen or mentioned. Supplementary material reveals that he's a sports trainer traveling around Japan.
  • In Digimon Universe: App Monsters, Haru lives only with his mother, with his father's whereabouts never being mentioned, despite said father's own father later playing a significant role in the plot. In the same series, Eri seems to live with a single mother without anything being said about her father.
  • Riza Hawkeye's mother in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is absent from her life by the time her mentally-unstable father dies when she's a young adult, but when and how her mother left her life is unknown.
  • In Girls und Panzer, while Miho and Maho's mother, Shiho, is shown from time to time, their father is never mentioned.
  • In Hunter × Hunter, Gon's goal is tracking down his Disappeared Dad but his Missing Mom is mentioned exactly once, in a recorded message by his dad. Gon shuts it off when he starts explaining, because as far as he's concerned his Parental Substitute Aunt Mito is his real mom and he didn't want to complicate things further.
  • The fanbook for Kaguya-sama: Love Is War lists Osaragi's mother as the only member of her immediate family. Unlike with Kaguya's mother (who died when she was young) or the Shirogane siblings' mother (who walked out on the family seven years before the story began), it's never stated what happened to her father. Given the Tabloid Melodrama of her mother's affair when she was in middle school, her parents are most likely divorced.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2016), Link's parents are never seen or mentioned despite his Adaptational Backstory Change, even when Link discovers his Doomed Hometown in the Twilight Realm.
  • My Hero Academia mentions Izuku's father in a Flashback to his childhood, with his mother referring to him as "my husband." The fact that he's never seen or mentioned at all in the present day, however, left most fans assuming that he died or left during the intervening decade. Eventually official material revealed that no, he and Inko are still married, it's just that he works overseas. Word of God has said that he'll appear at some point.
  • Naruto:
    • Among Naruto's peers, the manga only shows Neji, Shino, Hinata, Ino, and Chouji's fathers, never their mothers. The anime shows the latter three.
    • In Boruto, Metal Lee is Rock Lee's son, but his mother is unknown.
  • One Piece:
    • We eventually find out Luffy's father is the revolutionary Dragon, and his paternal grandfather is Vice-Admiral Garp. His mother and other grandparents are never mentioned.
    • Likewise, we know who Nico Robin's mother is, but no mention of her father besides a vague silhouette. His absence means that Robin has to stay with her mother's brother and sister-in-law while her mother's away, despite the fact that her aunt does not want Robin around.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • Pokémon: I Choose You!: Verity is maybe the daughter of Cynthia, but her father is never seen nor mentioned.
    • Ambiguously absent parents are something of the norm for the protagonists for the anime. Ash's father was mentioned once in the second episode, which was infamously not elaborated on any further, but that's still more than many of his friend's parents. No mention of Dawn or Serena's fathers has been made. Clemont and Bonnie's mother isn't brought up. Misty, as well as Tracey, Cilan and Iris, have neither parental figure ever mentioned. Mallow's mother was thought to be this as well, until it was revealed much later on that she had died years earlier and Mallow didn't like talking about it. As for Brock's parents... let's just say the dub introduced a plot hole involving his mother, due to a line in an early episode being contradicted by a later episode. Funnily enough, Max and May are a rare exception for companions: not only do we see both parents, one episode had as a plot their father being mistaken for cheating on their mother... more information than you get for the rest. Gen 7 and beyond would end up providing the main characters with both parents and occasionally making them important to the plot.
    • Pokémon Horizons: The Series would introduce Roy, who lived with his grandfather on a small island but no sign of either his mother or father. Liko on the other hand does have both parents present in her life.
  • In Servant × Service, Ichimiya mentions coming from a single-parent family, and that his mother's long work hours makes him the de facto parental figure to his little sister, Touko. He never mentions his father... although when Chihaya speculates that they're divorced because of Taishi, he denies it.
  • Soul Eater: Medusa is Crona's mother, but no mention is made of their father. When asked, the author stated Crona's father was "an anonymous man". Considering Medusa is a Mad Scientist witch who treats her child as nothing more than a lab rat, it's often speculated that Medusa conceived Crona to have a loyal minion and test subject.
  • Weathering With You: Hina and Nagi's mother was shown hospitalised at the start of the film, and is dead by the time Hodaka enters the picture around a year later. Their father is never mentioned at all. He is implied to be dead too by how the police never bring him up as an option for legal guardianship, but nothing is stated explicitly onscreen.
  • X1999: Kamui was raised by his mother, Tohru, who died prior to the series. His father wasn't mentioned or seen at all.
  • Your Name: Taki is shown to be living with his father, but his Missing Mom is never depicted or even mentioned. There is all of one vague reference in supplementary material of him having to learn to get used to staying with the father, but what that means and why is never explained.

    Comic Books 
  • Disney Kingdoms:
    • In the first Figment series, Blair Mercurial/Dreamfinder's father is not seen or mentioned. Blair is the one working to support his mother and siblings, which may imply that the Mercurial family patriarch is deceased.
    • Figment 2 shows Capri Harmony living with her single mother Jess, but her father isn't mentioned or seen, leaving it unclear as to why he is out of the picture.
  • Green Arrow: Roy Harper's father was a forest ranger who died in a fire when Roy was only two. Roy never met his mother and never even knew her name.
  • The Sandman (1989): In issue #1, "Sleep of the Just", the mother of Alex Burgess is absent from his life for unknown reasons and unmentioned, leaving him with only his abusive father Roderick.

    Film — Animated 
  • Common in Barbie films:
    • In Barbie as Rapunzel, the mother of Prince Stefan and his little sisters and brother is never accounted for, while their father plays a decent-sized role in the plot.
    • In Barbie of Swan Lake, Odette and Marie's mother is never seen nor mentioned, while their father plays a minor role in the plot.
    • In Barbie as the Island Princess, Rosella reunites with her mother, but her father's absence is not elaborated on.
    • In Barbie Fairytopia, Dandelion's mother is mentioned, but not her father.
  • Seems to be common in a number of Disney movies:
    • In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Snow White's mother is obviously dead since she has a stepmother, but we know nothing about her father. Since the queen is able to reduce Snow White to servitude and since her throne room has only one throne, we can probably assume the king died too.
    • The King in Cinderella is an important character in the movie. However, the Prince's mother is never seen or mentioned, nor is she seen in any of the paintings that serve as a timeline of her son's life, though her husband does. This was eventually subverted with the third film, which finally fleshes out the King's relationship with his wife, while also confirming that she died at some point before the original film's events.
    • The absence of Belle's mother is never brought up in Beauty and the Beast. Every other adapation, including the 2017 Live-Action remake, has her dead, usually from childbirth if stated at all or, in the case of the 2017 film, plague. Chip Potts' father is also never seen or mentioned in the animated film but gets an explanation for his absence in the live action remake.
    • A Goofy Movie: The whereabouts of Max's mother, Goofy's wife, are unknown. She's not even present in a baby picture of Goofy holding their son. The show's creators have declined to comment on the matter.
    • Tarzan: Jane's mother is spoken of in past tense only.
    • The Princess and the Frog: Charlotte lives with her rich father, but no mention is ever given to her mother.
  • The Land Before Time:
    • Petrie's father is never seen nor mentioned.
    • Ducky's father appears in the original movie and has cameos in some of the early sequels but eventually vanishes without an explanation, never to be mentioned again. In the 14th movie, however, Ducky and Spike can be seen attending the hatching day of their new siblings, proving that their father (or a new partner who took his place) is still around off-screen.
    • Cera's mother also disappears without any explanation after the first movie, and her dad eventually gets a new girlfriend.
  • In the Monica's Gang movie “The Princess and the Robot”, Princess Mimi’s father the rabbit king is present throughout the movie, but her mother is never seen or mentioned.
  • In Sing and its sequel, the younger performers are only seen with one or no parents.
    • In the first film, Johnny is shown living with his father, but his mother never appears and it's unclear whether she's present at all. Likewise, Meena is shown living with her mother and grandparents, with no sign of her father. And Ash, who Buster explicitly refers to as a teeanger, is already introduced living at an apartment with her boyfriend, and her parents are never seen or mentioned at all.
    • In the second film, Nooshy appears to be close to Johnny's age, but is introduced as a street performer and her parents or family in general are never brought up. Meanwhile, Porsha is introduced as the teenage daughter of the film's Big Bad Jimmy Crystal, but there's no sign of her mother. After Jimmy's arrest at the end of the film, both Nooshy and Porsha go with the rest of the Moon Troupe to leave Redshore City for good (before the bus is stopped by Suki), possibly suggesting neither of them have remaining relatives to stay for.
  • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse: The film focuses a lot on Gwen's strained relationship with her father, with the two living in a small apartment. Gwen's mother goes entirely unmentioned (in the comics, she's dead.)
  • The Swan Princess: In the first film, Odette's father King William is killed early on, but her mother is never seen or mentioned. After over two decades of fan theories regarding her absence, the penultimate film, A Fairy Tale Is Born, would eventually confirm that Odette's mother - Queen Aubri - died while giving birth to her daughter.
  • In Toy Story, Andy and Molly's father is never seen, and the characters never address this. This was probably done so they could make one less human character model back when doing so would cost a lot of time and money. Word of God has actually commented on the subtext that this adds, however: without a father figure in his life, Andy instead gravitates to two contrasting masculine archetypes in Woody and Buzz.
  • Wish Dragon: Neither Din's father nor Li Na's mother are ever mentioned.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Bandslam: Sa5m's dad isn't seen, only her mom, and he's not mentioned either. Presumably her mom is a single mother.
  • Born in the Maelstrom: There are no men in the community. As a result, it's left unclear who the fathers of the children are, or where they went. It's possible that like Rebecca they were conceived by rape or otherwise that the women were in bad relationships, explaining their animus toward men and making their own sons leave after they get older.
  • Cut to the Chase: We don't learn what became of Max and Izzy's mom, since there is no sign that she was around even in the flashbacks of the two as kids.
  • Played straight twice in A Diva's Christmas Carol: Ebony's mother's fate isn't mentioned, same with the mother of her brother Ronnie's daughter Olivia after her birth.
  • Duck Butter: Nima and Sergio discuss the relationships which they have with their mothers, while Sergio's also shows up. Sergio never mentions her father, while Nima was closer to hers.
  • Feast of Love: Oscar's mother isn't around or mentioned.
  • Elysium: Matilda's father is never seen or mentioned.
  • Jack & Diane: Only Jack and Diane's mothers appear or are mentioned. This doesn't mean either one's dad is gone, but it's rather conspicuous.
  • In The Jungle Book (2016), Mowgli's father was killed by Shere Khan when he was an infant, but whatever happened to his mother is unknown.
  • Kiss Me (2011): Frida's father isn't mentioned in the film, but her mother is single as she's getting married to Lasse.
  • A Knight's Tale: William is the son of John Thatcher, who is seen in flashbacks and visited by his son near the end of the film. William's mother is never seen nor mentioned. Taking the time period into account, she's most likely dead.
  • Knives Out: Despite the film focusing heavily on Harlan Thromby's Big, Screwed-Up Family -including his children, their spouses, his grandchildren, and his ancient mother - there is no mention of the mother(s) of Linda, Walt, and Neil.
  • Legends of the Hidden Temple: Thak and Zuma's mother/Olmec's wife isn't seen or mentioned in the flashback.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Loki's biological father is Laufey, the king of Frost Giants, but it is unclear who his biological mother was and what happened to her — she is never seen, mentioned, or alluded to on-screen. Word of God does not provide much clarity either, stating only that Loki is a bastard and hinting that his mother was not necessarily a Frost Giant. This makes sense given that Loki is uncharacteristically small for a Jotunn and the only one of them who is shown to have hair.note 
    • Erik from Black Panther is eventually revealed to be the child of T'Challa's uncle after he fell in love with an American woman. After the death of his father, Erik was completely alone, but no one mentions why his mom couldn't be there to raise him. Word of God says she was jailed before the events of the flashback and the plan N'Jobu was seen going over was to bust her out. She eventually died in there.
    • In Captain Marvel (2019), Maria raises her daughter Monica as a single mother with only Monica's "Auntie Carol" as support before Carol's accident. It's never explained how Monica's father left the picture, though she was probably pretty young when it happened.
    • Avengers: Endgame has a character identify Hawkeye as the "son of Edith". His father doesn't get a mention. Hawkeye (2021) sheds no more light on his background, barring a flashback revealing his mother was arrested when he was kid which was deleted.
  • Stargirl: We never learn what became of Stargirl's father. He's just not around, for one reason or another.
  • Summer School: Pam talks about sharing a house with her brother and his wife and kids and her brother and sister-in-law attend the parent-teacher conference at the end, implying Pam's parents aren't in the picture or are busy somewhere.
  • Through Black Spruce: Annie and Suzanne's father is not around, or even mentioned in the film. However, Uncle Will, their mother's brother, fills in as a paternal figure to them.
  • We Are the Night: Lena lives with her mother, with no appearance or mention of her father.
  • Wendy: There's no clear sign of the Darling kids' dad. Later, this also goes for grown-up Wendy with her own daughter.
  • Wild Rose (2018): No one ever mentions the father(s) of Rose-Lynn's kids. Since it turns out she'd had them as a teenager, it's likely she's always been a single mother.
  • Willow:
    • Bavmorda orders Elora's mother killed offscreen. We hear nothing of her father though.
    • Sorsha's father is not mentioned either in the film, although the Deleted Scenes and novelization show him. An entire subplot was cut for time where Sorsha learns he's the king of Tir Asleen, who had been turned to stone by her mother along with his court. Learning this helps cement her turn against Bavmorda, and he still appears in a cameo at the end (he's the older man with long white hair standing behind Sorsha), but the audience won't know without seeing the Deleted Scenes or reading the book who that is.

  • A Christmas Carol makes no mention of Scrooge's mother in the Christmas Past scenes. She could theoretically have been alive during his childhood since we only see his child self at boarding school, but only his father is mentioned. Several of the many adaptations say that she died when he was born and that this is why his father neglects him.
  • Gabi's dad in Dad, Are You the Tooth Fairy? is a single father and we don't know who the mother is.
  • "Fairest of All": Siofra's father is not mentioned at all, making it unclear if he's dead, left her mother, or what.
  • The Northern Caves: Marsh's father is an important character, but his mother is never seen or mentioned. Paul wonders about this, but opts not to ask about what could be a sensitive topic.
  • Sweet & Bitter Magic: Tamsin's mother becomes a major character, and the relationship which they have (quite poor initially) gets explored heavily. On the other hand, her father is never even mentioned.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Alphas, the father of Skyler's daughter Zoe is never mentioned, nor his absence explained.
  • In the Barney & Friends season 1 episode "My Family's Just Right For Me", Kathy reveals that she lives with her mother and grandmother, but her father's whereabouts are unknown since he isn't mentioned at all.
  • In The Brady Bunch, we never learn the fate of the girls' father. Whereas we learn that Mike Brady was a widower in the pilot (and even that is never mentioned again), Word of God has said that Carol was divorced, but that was too controversial to mention on TV at the time. The second Brady Bunch movie suggested that the girls' father was lost at sea, but that's not considered canon (and was really more of a shout out to Gilligan's Island, which Sherwood Schwartz also produced).
  • Cluedo: Ms. Scarlet is Ms. Peacock's stepdaughter rather than her biological daughter in at least some of the episodes, but neither of her biological parents is ever mentioned. Her father isn't the late Jack Peacock, at least not according to "The Bolivian Connection", where she tries to flirt with him to avoid being evicted when he turns out to be Not Quite Dead.
  • Creepshow: In "Model Kid" Joe's dad is never mentioned. Because he's living after his mom's death with his aunt and uncle, it can be safely assumed that his dad is out of the picture in one way or another.
  • Dark Winds: Sally lives with her mother alone. Her father is not seen or mentioned.
  • Derry Girls:
    • Orla's dad. Her ma is single (she has a thing with the man working at the instant photo printing shop in one episode) but Orla's dad is never mentioned at all, and she has her mother's last name, implying they weren't married or she never even knew who he was.
    • James' mum and stepdad are both mentioned, but his biological father is never seen or mentioned. It was established in the first episode that James' mother had originally traveled to England with the intention of getting an abortion (but didn't), implying that James' father was never in the picture to begin with.
  • Drake & Josh: The two titular characters are stepbrothers, with Josh's father having married Drake's mother at the beginning of the series. Josh's grandmother also appears as a recurring character. However, no mention is made of Josh's mother or Drake and Megan's father. Even in the flashback of Drake and Josh getting into a fight as children, the absent parents aren't seen while the known ones are.
  • In Friends, Emily's mother is never brought up despite the fact that her father is explicitly remarried. She is not shown at Emily and Ross's wedding, and the closest thing she gets to a mention is when Ross says the building he and Emily are getting married in is the same one Emily's parents were married in— and even that could just be referring to her father and his current wife.
  • In the third season of The Good Place, Eleanor finds out her mother is actually alive and now lives in Nevada under a new name with her boyfriend Dave and his nine-year-old daughter, Patricia. It's never explained why Patricia's mother doesn't seem to be a part of her daughter's life.
  • Gotham: Selina's father, Bridget Pike's father, and Nyssa al Ghul's mother are completely unmentioned.
  • Hanna:
    • It's unclear what became of Marissa's mother, though her abusive father is a strong presence in the show.
    • Abbas is a father it turns out, though the mother of his daughter isn't mentioned. She instead lives with his mother, her grandmother.
  • Hawkeye (2021): Maya's mother is never seen nor mentioned.
  • House of Anubis: Amber, Mick, Joy, and Victor have all had their fathers appear as characters; however, no mentions of their mothers have been made. With Victor, it's especially strange as we've seen flashbacks to his childhood. His father was present, but his mother was nowhere to be seen, and it's implied his father had full guardianship over both him and Sarah Frobisher-Smythe.
  • iCarly:
    • Carly lives with her older brother, Spencer, acting as her legal guardian. While their dad is mentioned a lot on the show as being in the military, her mother is never mentioned, and Dan Schneider only said that she wasn't confirmed to be dead. The revival episode "iHave a Proposal" finally addresses the fate of Carly and Spencer's mother...sort of. They both dance around the topic, but it's implied that their mom left their dad and practically abandoned the family. She even appears at the end of the episode (though she's not visible to viewers), setting up a cliffhanger, which will go unresolved due to the series' abrupt cancellation.
    • Freddie Benson lives with his overbearing and overprotective mother, similar to how Sam is only confirmed to live with her mother; however, unlike Sam, (who has outright stated that her father abandoned the family), Freddie's father has never been mentioned. All we get is a mention on that his name was "Leonard", and that he almost certainly isn't involved in his life, proven when his mother was dating and planning to marry Spencer in the Christmas special.
  • In From the Cold: Anya's horrible mother Svetlana is her worst enemy. Her father however is not mentioned so far.
  • Kiss Me First: Leila's father never gets mentioned, so it's unknown what became of him.
  • Knightmare: Sidriss the Confused is the daughter of Hordriss the Confuser, but the identity and whereabouts of her mother are never revealed.
  • Legend of the Seeker: Darken Rahl and Taralyn's mothers were mentioned, though never seen, with what's become of them left unexplained.
  • Midnight Sun (2016):
    • It's never said who Nadji's father was, nor what became of him. He was probably a teenager like his mother though.
    • Sparen's loss of his son is core to his character. What happened with the boy's mother is uncertain, as she's never even mentioned.
  • The Night Manager: Jed is apparently a single mother, the father of her son unmentioned and unseen (we can surmise he isn't involved or providing them support as she's Roper's mistress since her family has cut her off).
  • The Outpost:
    • It is not explained what happened to Janzo's or Ilyin's fathers. They are just left unmentioned in the show.
    • Tobin's mother also isn't mentioned.
    • Later, Wren's father is also unexplainedly absent.
  • Resident Alien: Asta's birth father is never mentioned. Given that her birth mother, Mary-Ellen Taylor, turns out to be a layabout who never wanted children, it's possible she has no idea who the birth father is.
  • The Sandman (2022): As is the case in the source material, Alex Burgess's mother is absent from his life for unknown reasons and not mentioned at all.
  • The Shannara Chronicles: Lyria's father isn't seen nor mentioned at all.
  • Stranger Things:
    • Dustin's seen being raised by a single mother, but we never hear anything about Dustin's dad—but given that the show takes place in the 1980s and that divorce rates were at an all-time high during that particular decade, it's safe to assume that Dustin's parents are (probably) divorced.
    • Eleven's biological father is not brought up. Eleven's aunt, Becky, implies that Terry was in college when she got pregnant, so the father of her child was likely one of her classmates. The most likely scenario is that Eleven's biological father either didn't know Terry was pregnant or just didn't care.
      • The companion book Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds reveals that Eleven's dad was sent to Vietnam by Brenner and killed to get him out of the way; whether this is canon within the show itself is unclear.
    • Max and Billy are step-siblings, with Billy's father being married to Max's mother. Max has said that her dad lives in California and she misses him, but no mention is ever given to Billy's mother, nor what happened to her.
      • Season 3 reveals that Billy's mother left the family because she was being abused by her husband. This partially serves as Billy's Freudian Excuse.
    • Eddie lives with his Uncle Wayne and it's never mentioned what happened to his parents. The most we get is an aside by Eddie that his dad taught him how to hotwire cars to steal, so it's implied at least one of his parents may be in jail due to criminal activity.
  • Utopia (US): Jessica's mother is not mentioned at all. Since Christie later says she was "made", it's possible Jessica never knew her at all, or she's the result of IVF etc.
  • The Wheel of Time (2021): Siuan is shown with her father as a girl, and they were close. Her mother is not seen or mentioned though.
  • Yellowjackets: Van has to wake up her mom in the pilot so she can have a ride. Her dad is not seen, and it seems implied that he's not in her life.

  • Most of the major conflict in My Beloved Mother that drives the plot revolves around Sinbell, the 12-year-old Raised by Robots protagonist, trying to find his biological mother, but at no point does he question who's his father. Turns out Sinbell's father is Carl, the resident doctor, and Sinbell is born from a forbidden affair.

  • In The Fantasticks, Matt's mother's absence is never explained. Luisa's is only mentioned as the original owner of her treasured pearl necklace. Their fathers, however, play significant roles in the plot.
  • In the works of Shakespeare:
    • Hamlet: Ophelia and Laertes' mother is never seen or mentioned, though their father is a major character.
    • In King Lear, the mother of the eponymous character's three daughters is only mentioned once in passing as being dead.
    • Jessica of The Merchant of Venice has a father named Shylock, but her mother is unknown. Shylock does mention a "Leah" who gave him a turquoise ring that he still treasures, though; it seems likely that she was Jessica's mother and that she died.
    • In Titus Andronicus, Tamora marries Saturninus, but at the start of the play, she already has three grown sons with another man who is neither seen nor mentioned. Additionally, no mention is ever given to the mother (or mothers) of Titus's children.
    • Twelfth Night: Viola and Sebastian's father died when they were thirteen, but their mother isn't mentioned. Additionally, Olivia is mourning the death of her brother when the play begins, but her parents are never mentioned; presumably this would be a significant loss for them as well, but only Olivia is mentioned and all the servants in the house answer to her, implying her parents are dead as well.

    Video Games 
  • Devil May Cry: Nero was introduced as the "ambiguously orphaned" variety, since he was found abandoned on Fortuna and raised by Kyrie's family, with his birth lineage only being hinted at. It isn't until Devil May Cry 5 that he's explicitly established to be Vergil's son, but the question of his birth mother is only ever brought up in passing once or twice, and neither her identity nor status are touched upon.
  • The Big Bad Ensemble of Far Cry Primal are both parents: Batari had a son called Krati who she had burnt alive for rebelling against her, and Ull of the Udam has a daughter and a baby who he's raising in the Udam caves and entrusts to Takkar by the end of the game. But we don't know who they had those children with. Knowing Batari, Krati's father was most likely a Sex Slave who Batari killed once he had outlived his usefulness. In Ull's case, perhaps his wife died of "skull fire" like most of the Udam.
  • Olga Marie Animusphere from Fate/Grand Order never brings up her mother and said mother noticeably doesn't seem to have been involved in anything regarding Chaldea, the primary organization a majority of the cast works for that the Animusphere family founded. This sticks out because her father Marisbury became increasingly prominent as a backstory figure as the game went on, but neither Animusphere family member ever talk about the idea of a mother/wife in relation to them. Everyone else in Chaldea frames the Animuspheres solely as a father and daughter affair, with the only exception being Kirschtaria Wodime, an outsider floated as a designated heir for Marisbury who would pass over Olga Marie.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's: Despite later games' focus on the Afton family, there's no direct mention of a mother. Fanon generally dictates she divorced William, based off the idea that "The Immortal and the Restless" from the fifth game is meant to have parallels to Michael's home life. One of the minigames in Freddy Fazbear's Pizzeria Simulator, Midnight Motorist, may feature her, and Five Nights at Freddy's: Security Breach hints at a connection between her and Ballora, as a vaguely Ballora-styled security bot is a stand-in for an Afton family recreation, but nothing more is known about her.
  • Only half of the cast in Harvest Town have a full set of parents. While we do know why some characters are missing a parent (Mary Morris and Jim Ortiz are divorced, while Tom Cole is a widower), there is absolutely no explanation as to why Bill Hanks, Chris Trump, and Lulu Lopez have no mother.
  • Kirby: Planet Robobot: The Big Bad Pres. Haltmann was mentioned to have a child that was missing in the past due to an accident, and that event made him more driven in his intergalactic business. No mention is ever given to his wife.
  • The Last of Us
    • In the prologue, Joel is a single father to twelve-year-old Sarah, but it's unknown what happened to her mother. The only clue we have comes when Joel (twenty years later) tells Ellie he had Sarah at a young age, and that he was married to Sarah's mother for a while. When Ellie asks for followup, Joel just tells her, "Too much."
    • Ellie's mother Anna died when Ellie was very young. Her father is never directly mentioned, but Ellie implies he's dead when Joel asks where her parents are. He likely either died before she was born or was never involved in her life at all.
    • Abby in The Last of Us Part II is the daughter of Jerry Anderson the Firefly surgeon that Joel killed in the previous game. Abby's mother is never mentioned at all.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Zelda in Skyward Sword is the daughter of her school's headmaster, but her mother is never shown. She's probably dead, given that there are only about forty people living on Skyloft and the surrounding islands and no other Hylian settlements left in the world.
    • Breath of the Wild:
      • In a flashback, Link's father is very briefly mentioned as being part of the royal guard, but was presumably killed during the Calamity or died of natural causes during his son's hundred-year healing coma. His mother on the other hand receives no kind of acknowledgement.
      • Riju's father doesn't appear at all after she becomes the Gerudo chief after her mother's untimely death. Granted, it's entirely possible he lives outside of the women-only Gerudo Town, but within the story Riju is treated as an orphan.
      • By the present day Prince Sidon and King Dorephan are the only living members of the Zora royal family, but it's unclear what happened to Sidon and Mipha's mother.
  • Mass Effect: Shepard's mother Hannah Shepard is a minor recurring character with the Spacer background, but his/her father is never discussed.
  • Mortal Kombat 11 has Cetrion and Shinnok as the children of the Titan, Kronika. It is never mentioned who their father is or if they even have one at all.
  • Mother 3: Duster lives with his father Wess, but no mention of Duster's mother is ever made by anyone, not even Wess himself.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door: Koops initially lives with his girlfriend because his father went missing ten years ago, but neither he nor anyone else ever mentions his mother at any point during the game.
  • In Phantasy Star III, Sari's father is never mentioned. This raises further questions because Sari is the ruler of Landen and Satera, but her mother Lena has no claim to Landen's throne and Rhys (the former Prince of Landen) is not Sari's father.
  • Pokémon: In most games, the protagonist lives with their mother, but their father receives only vague mentions. Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire is an exception, where Brendan/May's father Norman works as a Gym Leader and is fought halfway through the game. As far as spin-offs go, the player character of XD's dad is explicitly said to have died a few years prior.
  • In The Quarry, Ryan talks about his little sister that he's apparently a major caretaker of and that their mother isn't 'exactly' around. What this mean is never elaborated on. A father doesn't get mentioned, at all.
  • The hero's mother appears sporadically in the first quarter of Shin Megami Tensei I, before being eaten and impersonated by a demon. No father is mentioned. Word of God is that his parents divorced before he could remember.
  • In Super Sized Family, you play as one parent of the seven children, but there's no sign of the other parent.
  • Discussed in Thimbleweed Park: There is no mention anywhere in the game of Delores and Lenore's mother (who would presumably be Franklin's wife or ex). This eventually gets Lampshaded by AI Chuck, who presents the absence of a mother in Delores' life as evidence that they're living in a simulated reality that doesn't extend beyond the plot of the video game they're in. Delores is forced to agree when she realises that not only does she not know who or where her mother is, she has no memories related to ever having a mother or being curious about the absence of one.
  • In Uncharted, it’s said protagonist Nathan’s mother died when he was a kid and his dad gave him and his brother Sam up to the state when she died. It’s never specified if he’s alive and they just don’t talk to him or if he’s dead.

  • Modern MoGal: Early in the series, it was suspected both Wendy and Carmilla were missing their dad and their mom, respectively. Later strips show that Wendy's dad is a lawyer and that they're indeed a loving family while Carmilla's mom was still a no-show though until Carmilla's mini-arc, where she appears for a teacher-parent conference. One reason fans suspected Wendy was missing her dad was that her mom would sleep alone, which had not been addressed at the time.
  • Something*Positive: We never really learn anything about Aubrey's father, who is noticeably absent from her wedding (Fred, father of her childhood best friend, walked her down the aisle). Flashbacks or anecdotes about her childhood don't mention him either.

Examples of the Ambiguously Orphaned

    Anime and Manga 

    Film — Animated 
  • Arlo the Alligator Boy
    • When Ansel T. Beauregard talks about his past growing up in Seaside by the Seashore, his parents were neither mentioned nor appear in the flashback. In fact he left by himself to become a success in the city with no adult supervision. It is unknown whether Ansel is an orphan or a runaway. In "I ♡ Arlo," during episode "Swamp Itch," when Ansel attempts to cook his son dinner, he briefly wonders what his parents fed him. We see a flashback of Ansel telling his mother he was hungry before trying to eat a rock. That showed that Ansel at least had a mother who appeared not to pay attention to him. And since Ansel uses the word parents, it's possible that his father was in the picture but was not mentioned in the flashback.
    Ansel (in the most innocent tone): Mommy, I’m hungry.
    • It is also unknown what happened to Bertie and Alia's parents either. Both are teenagers living independently from parental supervision. Bertie mentions growing up that she used to be normal before she grew bigger and became different, did not mention any parents, or if she was an orphan. And nothing is known about Alia's past, including whether she had parents.
  • In Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper, Erika's parents are shown in a brief flashback to her birth at the beginning of the movie, and are said to have taken on a lot of debt to feed Erika, but their whereabouts in the present day are unexplained. Considering Erika is solely responsible for paying off her family's accumulated debt, however, it is strongly implied that they are deceased.
  • In Beauty and the Beast, the Beast's family situation is unknown. He was apparently an eleven-year-old living alone with his servants when the Enchantress cursed him, so where were his parents? If they're dead, why is he a "prince" instead of a "king?" Does he have a sibling ruling the country, and if so, why haven't they gone looking for their lost younger brother?
  • The Emperor's New Groove: Eighteen-year-old Kuzco is the Emperor, with no mention of what happened to his parents. At one point the villainess Yzma claims that she "practically raised him", possibly giving a reason for his being the way he is.
  • Frozen has Kristoff missing both of his parents before being taken in by the trolls, but it's never explained.
  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie: Princess Peach's backstory establishes that she, like Mario, is not a native of the Mushroom Kingdom. She was transported there by a warp pipe as a baby and was raised by the Toads as one of their own. She doesn't remember any details before that point, raising several questions as to how Peach ended up in the Mushroom Kingdom to begin with and what happened to her parents. Did her parents die? Was she abandoned? Did she somehow wander off and get sucked down the warp pipe by mistake?

    Film — Live-Action 
  • A Wedding (1978): Dino's third cousin Victoria (the bridesmaid who Ruby finally gets a joint from) and her grandmother both attend the wedding, but her parents are never seen or mentioned.
  • I, Robot: Spooner was raised by his grandmother, with no explanation of what happened to his parents.
  • The Last Starfighter: Maggie lives with her grandmother; the reason for her parents' absence is never mentioned.
  • In The Naked Witch, Kirska lives with her grandfather. It is not clear what happened to her parents, but the witch says that there are only three people in the town with the surname Schöennig: Kirska, her grandfather, and his brother.
  • In Napoleon Dynamite, Napoleon and Kip live with their grandma, but whatever happened to their parents is never explained.
  • In The Toll of the Sea, the heroine Lotus Flower's parents are never mentioned, nor are any other relatives. In the source material, Madame Butterfly, Cio-Cio-San's father committed Seppuku long ago and the rest of her family disowns her for converting to Christianity out of love for Pinkerton, but the silent film is a Compressed Adaptation and never explains why Lotus Flower is the mistress of her own house at so young an age.

  • My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU: The Hikigaya siblings suffer from Parental Abandonment, Hachiman had a Promotion to Parent to protect his little sister Komachi. Their parents are barely mentioned in the series, but nothing more. Mrs. Hikigaya only appears a little in volume 3 of the light novel and the manga, in which is seen giving more favors to Komachi instead of Hachiman but is stated she loves both. In the anime instead, she doesn't appear at all.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Bear in the Big Blue House: Bear seems to be the main parental figure for Tutter, Ojo, Treelo, Pip, and Pop (although only Tutter and Treelo live with him), and based on the song "Look At You Now" he seems to have raised Treelo from infancy. Whatever happened to their parents is never mentioned.
  • Sesame Street: Big Bird is six years old (and has been for decades), but unlike the show's other child Muppet characters, who usually have parents, he lives by himself, with all the adult humans serving as Parental Substitutes for him. He has a Granny Bird whom he sometimes visits, and in a few episodes he mentions his mother, but where his parents are and why they're not with him is unknown.

  • In Oklahoma!, Laurey lives with her Aunt Eller, but her parents' whereabouts are never explained.
  • In Urinetown, Little Sally is a street urchin and appears to have no family, though Officer Lockstock does act fatherly towards her sometimes during the show.

    Video Games 

Alternative Title(s): Ambiguously Orphaned