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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. Contrast with I Miss Mom (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.


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.
  • 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, her father is never mentioned.
  • 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.
  • 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 Cilan and Iris, has 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.)
  • 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. Considering Medusa is a Mad Scientist witch who treats her child as nothing more than a lab rat, it's often speculated that either Medusa conceived Crona with a man she had no emotional attachment to or that Crona is an Artificial Human that has no father.
  • 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.
  • 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 or may not imply that the Mercurial family patriarch is deceased. The sequel series Figment 2 shows Capri Harmony living with her single mother Jess, but her unseen father's whereabouts are not known due to him being unmentioned.
  • 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.

    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. (The second sequel does mention her and hints that she's dead, however.)
    • 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.
    • 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 only appears in the movie, but vanishes afterwards 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.
  • Sing: Where's Johnny's mother? He and his dad certainly aren't going to tell you. Meena's father is also never seen or mentioned.
  • The Swan Princess: Odette's father King William is killed early on, but her mother is never seen or mentioned.
  • 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.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Stargirl: We never learn what became of Stargirl's father. He's just not around, for one reason or another.


    Live-Action TV 
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Orla's dad in Derry Girls. 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.
  • 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 and 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.
    • Freddie Benson lives with his overbearing and overprotective mother, similar to how Sam is only confirmed to live with her mother; however, unlike Sam, 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Utopia: 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: Siuan is shown with her father as a girl, and they were close. Her mother is not seen or mentioned though.

  • 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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In the prologue of The Last of Us, Joel is a single father to twelve-year-old Sara, but it's unknown what happened to her mother. The only clue we have comes when Joel (twenty years later) tells Ellie he was in his late teens when Sara was born, and that he was married to Sara's mother for a while. When Ellie asks for followup, Joel just tells her, "Too much."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan portrays Charlie Chan as the father of ten children. Neither a mother nor adoption are ever mentioned.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • Tina's father is shown several times, but her mother is unmentioned.
    • Billy is usually seen with his mother Felicity, but the one mention of his father makes it unclear whether his parents live together or share custody and Felicity was just dropping Billy off.
    • Carrie's father turns out to be the Monster of the Week in "The Mirror", but her mother is rarely talked about; In "The Drama", her voice is heard from behind a grave in the cemetery.
    • Hector's father was mentioned once but is never shown around the cave Hector and his mother live in. That one mention describes him as a giant even larger than Hector; it's possible he's just too large to live anywhere nearby.
    • Minor character example: An oval man is seen with his son in many episodes, but the mom is never seen. However, in "The Oracle," the dad is seen along with other dads waiting for their wives.
  • Amphibia: Sprig and Polly are looked after by their grandfather, and their mother is eventually stated to have died when they were both young, but their father (and other grandparents) are unmentioned. Even a flashback to when Sprig was years younger (and Polly presumably not born yet) only shows him with Hop Pop. The season 2 episode "After the Rains" reveals Sprig and Polly's parents were killed in a heron attack on Wartwood while Hop Pop was out of town.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Numbuh 2's dad is never seen in the show. He shows up in the comic "Operation: T.R.I.K.E.", but said comic is explicitly set before Hoagie ever joined the KND. "Operation: C.A.K.E.D.-F.O.U.R." refers to him in the past-tense, suggesting that he might be dead.
  • In Defenders of the Earth, LJ and Jedda are the respective children of Lothar and the Phantom, but the series never mentions what happened to their mothers, neither of whom appear onscreen. Averted with Flash's son, Rick, whose mother appears (and dies) in the opening episode, and Kshin, who is explicitly stated to be an orphan and has Mandrake as a Parental Substitute.
  • In DuckTales (2017), the disappearance of the triplets' mother, Della Duck, is a major plot point, but their father is still not mentioned. Word of God confirms he will remain so for the time being, with co-creator Francisco Angones saying that they will be dealing with "one parental mystery at a time" and commenting that as far as he's concerned, Uncle Donald is their father. For the record, the triplets imply in an offhand mention early in the original comics that their father is a deadbeat.
  • In Elena of Avalor, Mateo has a mother, but his father is absent. Word of God is that he isn't important to the story and will never be brought up.
  • In Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Mac's father is absent and unmentionednote ; the official writers' bible confirms that his parents got divorced shortly before the events of the series.
  • Get Ace: Besides Ace and Becky, any character (kid or adult) shown to have a parent only has the one with no other mentioned.
  • Gravity Falls:
    • Wendy's father and three brothers are Recurring Extras, but her mother is unmentioned in the show. In an AMA, the show's creator implied she was dead.
    • Soos's maternal grandmother is implied to have raised him, and his father left him when he was four, only sending occasional postcards from that point on. The whereabouts of Soos's mother, however, are never brought up. Given that young Soos dreams of his father returning but not his mother, she's probably dead.
  • Harvey Beaks only ever shows or mentions Piri Piri's mother Hanzi, who is evidently single (she's one candidate proposed to date Princess' widower father).
  • The titular character of Hilda is explicitly the daughter of a single mother, but no mention is ever given to her father or his whereabouts.
  • In Invader Zim, Dib and Gaz live with their dad, Professor Membrane, but their mother is never mentioned. Word of Saint Paul says that had the show continued, they might have revealed that Dib was actually an Artificial Human created by his father; theoretically, this would mean that he doesn't have a mother, but how does Gaz fit in with that?
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Tohru's mother is a recurring character, but his father is never mentioned.
  • Johnny Bravo: While Johnny's mom, Bunny Bravo, is a recurring character, Johnny's dad was never shown or mentioned during the entire series.
  • In Kid vs. Kat, both Coop and Millie live with their single father but their mother is never mentioned.
  • Legends of Chima: Laval is the son of King Lagravis, but there is no mention of his mother the queen.
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series: In the episode "Fibber", Pleakley's mother Mrs. Pleakley, brother Bertley, and sister Pixley show up after being told that he is engaged to be married. His father Mr. Pleakley does not show up and is unmentioned, leaving it unclear as to why the latter is not around.
  • The Lion Guard: Muhimu has a son Hamu who became born in "The Mbali Fields Migration", but her mate is never shown. The same goes for Twiga, who has a daughter Juhudi.
  • Littlest Pet Shop (2012): There was no mention to whatever happened to Blythe Baxter's mother until Season 4, where it's implied she passed away years before the show.
  • Mira, Royal Detective: Only Mira's father Sahil is shown, and her mother is never seen aside from her picture in their room. She's also mentioned several times, and it's heavily implied she's passed away.
  • Trini's mom in Molly of Denali. We know she has a dad who runs the library and a grandma somewhere (probably in Texas) but her mom isn't mentioned. Later on averted in "Molly and the Great One", where we find out that her mother is in the military.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The season 8 episode The Parent Map is about Sunburst's mother Stellar Flare and Starlight's father Firelight. No mention is made of Sunburst's father or Starlight's mother. In fact, a few minor plot points and similarities with Sunburst/Firelight and Stellar Flare/Starlight has led to one persistent fan theory that Sunburst and Starlight are actually siblings following an amicable Solomon Divorce. Though there was a stallion who appeared briefly in a flashback who could have been Sunburst's father, there was never anything obvious.
    • The Season 9 episode Common Ground is a Parent with New Paramour plot, but it's left ambiguous whether Wind Sprint's father separated with her mother or passed away. All we know is he's not around anymore and Wind Spring worries Quibble will "replace" him.
  • In The Long Long Holiday, Lily lives with her father and mentions him a lot, but her mother's whereabouts are unknown.
  • In Over the Garden Wall, we know that Wirt and Greg are half-brothers and that their mom is currently married to Greg's dad. All three parents are unseen, but it's unknown if Wirt's father is deceased or simply divorced from Wirt's mother (and, in the latter case, how involved he is in Wirt's life). We actually hear Wirt's dad in the "For Sara" tape, interacting with a toddler Wirt, but his current status is still unknown.
  • The Owl House: A family photo seen in "Yesterday's Lie" establishes that Luz Noceda's father was a part of her life when she was a child, but he is never seen in the present day and has yet to be mentioned by Luz or Camila at any point in the series. It's eventually confirmed in "Reaching Out" that he's dead.
  • Peppa Pig: Suzie Sheep lives with her mother. However, her father is not present and hasn't been mentioned on-screen.
  • In PB&J Otter Flick Duck lives with just his mom Shirley, no mention of the dad ever coming up. Munchy Beaver similarly lives with his mom Betty Lou but his dad is at least implied to live far away and once sent his son a wooden boat as a present. The accidental sinking of the boat kicks off the plot in one episode.
  • In Phantom Investigators, articles and press releases leading up to the show's premiere mention that Casey lives with his single dad; what happened to his mom was never stated.
  • In Phineas and Ferb, the two eponymous characters are stepbrothers, with Phineas and Candace's mother Linda being married to Ferb's father Lawrence. However, Phineas and Candace's biological father and Ferb's biological mother are never mentioned. All Word of God has said is that Phineas and Candace's father isn't Dr. Doofenshmirtz, which was a fairly popular fan theory. In any case, all three of the Flynn-Fletcher siblings appear to be Happily Adopted, with Candace and Phineas happily calling their stepfather "Dad"note . This is Lampshaded in the (non-canon) two-part special Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars. After years of being a stormtrooper, Candace reunites with Phineas, who introduces Ferb and explains their mother has remarried. Candace asks what happened to their father, and the Death Star blows up before Phineas can reply.
  • Rick and Morty: The whereabouts of Beth’s mother have not been given a proper explanation. Rick has implied that his marriage to her was not stable and that they did separate before his disappearance. Beth sheds a tear in "Pilot" when Rick tells her that he wishes her mother was present to eat the family’s breakfast, but it is never confirmed if Beth’s mother is actually dead. In “The Rickshank Redemption”, Rick is shown a memory in which a woman named Diane is his wife as well as Beth’s mother, and she is killed in it; however, this specific memory was fabricated by Rick to fool his interrogator, so Diane may not even have existed. In the season 5 premiere, Rick's nemesis Mr. Nimbus asks what Diane would think of him if she were still alive, which Rick refers to as "establishing canonical backstory." The Season 5 finale reveals that indeed is the case, at least for our Rick's original universe's Diane
  • Prior to the episode "Mother's Day" (which revealed her to be deceased) on Rugrats, Chuckie's mother was mentioned but never seen. One of the writers admitted that they couldn't decide between divorce or premature death because the Nickelodeon censors at the time wouldn't allow either topic to be explored in a show for as young a demographic as this one.
  • In Scooby-Doo, Fred was the only one out of the Gang whose parents were never seen by A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, though other family members like uncles and cousins have been brought up. What's New, Scooby-Doo? introduces them in the Pirates Ahoy! movie, which shows them to be perfectly normal, if somewhat eccentric. On the other hand, the optional prequel shows Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated and Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! have some fun with this, where Fred's parents are presumably estranged from him when he leaves with the Gang at the end in the former and Fred being implied to have been raised by his mother while his father was in jail. Nowadays, Scooby-Doo likes to use whoever was established as the Gang's parents first (such as Daphne's parents being the ones from the original shows instead of the newer Mystery Incorporated or Velma's parents being the ones from Mystery Incorporated because there was nothing to use about them in A Pup), so the precedent of Fred having issues with his parents probably stems from them never appearing in the original shows.
  • Sofia the First: No mention was ever made of Sofia's biological father and Amber and James' biological mother until the final season. Sofia's dad was a sailor who got lost at sea and never returned. In Amber and James' matter, Roland's wife didn't have children for years until he made a wish for her to do so at a wishing well, giving birth to them in return; however, her body wasn't stable enough to handle the birth, thus she fell gravelly ill and died.
  • Spongebob Squarepants: Mr. Krabs is Pearl's father, but no one ever mentioned her mother. They're also different species (a crab and a whale, respectively), so it's unclear if Pearl is his biological or adopted daughter.
  • In Steven Universe, several young residents of Beach City only have one parent accounted for.
    • Peedee and Ronaldo Fryman live with their father, but their mother is never seen nor mentioned. "Joking Victim" had a Deleted Scene where Mr. Fryman compared Peedee to his mother, but even that doesn't specify where she is now.
    • Same applies to Jenny and Kiki Pizza, who live with their father and paternal grandmother.
    • Sadie Miller's overbearing mother Barb is a recurring character, but her father never appears or gets any kind of mention. Barb is once called "Miss Miller", suggesting she is a single mother.
    • Buck Dewey's father is a recurring character, but his mother is unseen and unmentioned. Bill was somewhat open about having a crush on Pearl, suggesting he and Buck's mother are divorced at the least.
  • TaleSpin: Molly lives with her mother, Rebecca. Her father is never seen or mentioned during the course of the show. Word of God claims that Rebecca is divorced, while a comic states that Molly's father is dead.
  • In Tiny Toon Adventures, Buster Bunny is among the few who’s parents are never seen, he does mention his mother a few times in passing, implying she may be alive. One idea the writers had was Bugs Bunny was going to be his father, but it was never used.
  • The Transformers: Spike Witwicky and his father Sparkplug work as construction workers together and Spike's mother is never seen or mentioned. The show's writer's bible states that Sparkplug is a widower.
  • Vampirina: Poppy and Edgar Peepleson only have a mother present; their dad is never seen nor brought up once. Same goes for Bridget.
  • In Xiaolin Showdown, Kimiko's father appears, but her mother was never seen or mentioned, not even in the episode where the boys visit her house.
  • In Young Justice, Garfield Logan/Beast Boy's father is Adapted Out of his origin story, and he lives with family friends after his mom dies. Possibly relevant is the fact that, according to the canonical tie-in comic, his mom is attracted to women, but her exact sexuality and relationship to Gar's father is still undetermined.

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.
    • 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 in 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?
  • Frozen has Kristoff missing both of his parents before being taken in by the trolls, but it's never explained.

    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.
  • 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.

    Light Novels 
  • 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 

    Western Animation 
  • DuckTales:
    • The absence of Huey, Dewey, and Louie's parents is never explained in DuckTales (1987). Most viewers simply assume that the triplets are orphans.
    • DuckTales (2017):
      • Webby is known to have been raised by her grandmother for most of her life, possibly since she was hatched. However, it is unknown when or how she lost her parents. Subverted in the finale, in which in turns out Beakley isn't her grandmother, and her "parents" were Invented Individuals. Webby was actually the clone-daughter of Scrooge all along.
      • Though the first episode gives names and shows photographs of Donald and Della's parents, all flashbacks show them living with their Uncle Scrooge. It's unclear if Scrooge raised them (or why), or just spent a lot of time with them.
  • Fire & Ice: It's never said or shown what became Nekron or Raleil's son's fathers.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends never mentioned either of Frankie's parents. Her presence in the house photos even when she was a little girl led some fans to believe that she was raised by Madame Foster, but Word of God says that that's not the case, and both parents were alive during the course of the show.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures:
    • Jackie was sent to America to live with Uncle when he was a boy, much like how Jade was sent to live with him. Unlike Jade, whose parents made a few appearances throughout the series, Jackie's parents were never seen and their fates were never revealed.
    • Paco. He spends a lot of time with El Toro Fuerte, who may or may not be his legal guardian. Either way, his parents are never seen nor mentioned.
  • Muppet Babies (1984): It's never mentioned where any of the Muppet Babies' parents are or why they're all living with Nanny.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Applejack has a large extended family, but her parents are never shown except in flashbacks, unlike any other member of the Mane 6. She and Apple Bloom also tend to treat Granny Smith and Big Macintosh as their parental figures. The show implies but never quite says that the Apple siblings are orphaned, though it's confirmed by Word of God.
  • Teen Titans:
    • Starfire's parents are never mentioned. As she was raised by a nanny, and her older sister was the one ruling once she returned to Tamaran, one presumes they died before Starfire got to know them.
    • We know Robin's parents are dead, due to him being the apprentice of Batman, but why did he leave Batman to begin with? It's never shown in this version.
    • Beast Boy's parents are never mentioned or seen, and he was apparently raised by the Doom Patrol.
    • Cyborg's father isn't mentioned or seen, ever. His mother, however, is explicitly deceased.
  • As official sources for Voltron: Legendary Defender put Shiro’s age at 25, one would expect his parents not to be as important as the younger paladins’, but after eight seasons of the others missing their families, tracking down long lost relatives, and having tearful reunions, his family is becoming conspicuous by its complete and total absence. Even Coran gets a grandfather!

Alternative Title(s): Ambiguously Orphaned