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Magical Nanny

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"She had style, she had flair, she was there — that's how she became the Nanny!
Who would have guessed that the girl we described was just exactly what the doctor prescribed?
Now, the father finds her beguiling —Watch out, C.C. —
And the kids are actually smiling — such
joie de vivre!"
The Nanny theme song

A Magical Nanny is a woman who is hired to look after children, but ends up having a profound effect on the whole family. She may have genuine magical powers or she may just have a magical effect on the household. Even children who have scared off a number of previous nannies can be tamed by a Magical Nanny.

Magical Nannies come in two flavors:

  1. A free spirited nanny will often be seen in households with strict parents, who are often cold and neglectful toward the children. She will encourage them to be themselves and talk about The Power of Love. Eventually this message will spread to the parents, drawing the family together. This type of Magical Nanny is often musically talented.
  2. A sensible nanny will usually work for aloof or ineffectual parents with rambunctious children. She will be strict, but fair and impose a sense of structure on a family that badly needs it. Before long, the parents will be in awe of her — perhaps after a stage of resenting how their lavishness did not win the children's hearts but her firmness (and attention!) did — and any naughty children will have learned that behaving themselves can be fun.

A sub-flavor includes magical nannies that are literally Magical Nannies. Often they will be a parody or even Deconstruction of the Ur-Example, Mary Poppins.

While Magical Nannies are often threatened with the sack, they are not easy to get rid of. When their employment ends, it will be on their own terms. Typically they will decide that their work here is done or they will stay and marry the head of the household. (Note that they never become the Wicked Stepmother.) The latter is particularly common in the Romance Novel; indeed, the heroine may become the stepmother first and still fulfill the role of Magical Nanny.

Compare Fairy Godmother.

Contrast the Babysitter from Hell and the Badly Battered Babysitter.


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    Fan Works 
  • Emily in The Secret Life of the Backyard Kids is a literal version.
  • A complicated and somewhat at first literal version of this shows up in Strained Harmony. Setsuna is in the market for a nanny to raise Hotaru, and selects a young, somewhat awkward girl. Said girl happens to be Ranma, who is hiding from Nabiki and a Hong Kong bigwig the former sold Ranma off to. Ranma’s skill in martial arts are actually what Setsuna is looking for, to help with Hotaru’s lack of stamina. What Setsuna didn’t see coming, was the Magical part becoming literal, as Hotaru somehow has caused Ranma to become one herself, though only with support abilities, leading Setsuna to think that Hotaru is making Ranma into a bodyguard of sorts. In an almost inversion of the usual version of this trope, Setsuna is working on grinding away Ranma’s social naivety and Raised by Wolves tendencies, and eventually proposes to Ranma.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Subverted in Addams Family Values; the family finally finds a nanny who will put up with the children because she wants to marry Fester, then kill him, for his money. Being the Addams Family, they consider her to lead a very respectable lifestyle and are mainly irritated with her choice of Pastels as a color palette.
  • MBA graduate Jennifer "Jenny" Morgan in Au Pair becomes the second type after mistaking a job opportunity as an executive assistant. She tames and befriends the two rambunctious children of their single, CEO father whose job duties prevent him from taking a more active role. She gets him to spend more time with his children and falls in love with him. Yeah, it's a Disney Original Movie, of course.
  • The two Ur Examples of this trope were both played by Julie Andrews.
    • The Sound of Music: Maria Von Trapp is the guitar-playing free spirit who ends up marrying the head of the household.
    • Mary Poppins: Poppins is the no-nonsense nanny with magic powers who draws the family closer together, tames the unruly children, then vanishes into the sky. She returns in, well, Mary Poppins Returns, played by Emily Blunt.
  • Golly, the nanny in Harriet the Spy isn't magic, but is amazing.
  • Mrs. Doubtfire: A Rare Male Example is Mrs. Doubtfire (and the book Madam Doubtfire) where a divorced dad crossdresses so he can be hired as a nanny and spend more time with his kids. As you do.
  • Nanny McPhee & Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang: A more witch-like version of Mary Poppins, who is considerably less whimsical, but cares for her charges and becomes more beautiful as her lessons succeed.
  • Random from Out of the Blue (1979).
  • Bob the Butler: Bob; sorta. Bob's actually totally incompetent as a butler (he's actually not even a real butler, he's never had training). The only thing he manages to do is to get the kids to like him and bring their mother closer to them. They end up getting married of course.
  • Adventures in Babysitting could perhaps be considered a one-night-only version of this, as some life lessons were learned and it's a miracle neither the babysitter nor her charges got themselves killed.
  • Played with in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The film is largely a Spiritual Successor to Mary Poppins and good witch Eglantine Price fits the trope in some ways, but she isn't a nanny; instead she's coerced into becoming a caregiver when some orphaned Blitz Evacuees are dropped off on her doorstep. The kids change her life as much as she does theirs, and by the end, she becomes their permanent adoptive mother. Julie Andrews nearly played this one too.
  • Big Momma's House series: Played straight in the first two films where Big Momma becomes a member of the family and draws everyone together.
  • Parodied in Mr. Nanny, where Hulk Hogan is hired as a bodyguard, but has to take over nanny duties for the two precocious lonely kids.

  • Mary Poppins is of course the Ur-Example, the Trope Maker, the Trope Codifier, although not so whimsical as her film counterpart.
  • The Nurse Matilda books which the Nanny McPhee books were based on. Nurse Matilda herself is a sensible nanny with magic powers, which tends to be more disturbing than in the movies.
  • Discworld: Susan Sto Helit is naturally sensible and, upon leaving school, does a brief stint as a Magical Nanny in Hogfather. She is very Genre Savvy and promises herself "if she ever did find herself dancing on rooftops with chimney sweeps, she'd beat herself to death with her own umbrella." She's also significantly more violent than the average Magical Nanny. When the children complain of bogey-men in the closet or in the basement, she teaches them to face their fears... with vivid demonstrations involving a fireplace poker. If she's feeling generous, Susan just terrorizes the bogeys to the point that they won't even think about bothering her charges again.
  • Polgara the Sorceress in Polgara the Sorceress, The Belgariad, and The Malloreon is a powerful sorceress that is well recognized as such when she isn't tending to more than two thousand years of little boys as their "Aunt Pol" who cooks, cleans and manages their lives for the better. Like Mary Poppins, she isn't necessarily free spirited, but is an extremely competent and magical nanny.
  • Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, whose cures for bad behaviors like selfishness or not wanting to go to bed are based on the philosophy of "give bratty kids what they want, and make them regret it"). If used in real life, such cures would probably result in a lawsuit and/or emotional scarring rather than making anyone good little children. Interestingly, while some of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's ideas (like the Radish Cure) involve fairly reality-based (if improbable) foundations, she also has a number of magical powders, candies, pills, and liquids which can make children turn invisible, lose their voices, or literally become idiots. The only explanation as to how she got this is that her husband found them from his days of pirating. In the series Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Farm, the kids are mostly cured by being dropped off at the titular farm and spending a few weeks learning to adapt to life there. This inevitably leads to a situation in which the child must overcome their issue.
  • Jane Eyre: Jane is a sensible governess who's great for sweet but shallow Adele and tries moulding her into a worthy person. She ends up falling for the head of the household.
  • Subverted in Saki's "The Schwartz-Metterklume Method" where Lady Carlotta behaves like a Type 1 Magical Nanny, but turns out to be an imposter who has been acting outrageous simply to amuse herself.
  • In Gene Stratton-Porter's Michael O'Halloran, a magical tutor straightens out two violent Royal Brats in about a day.
  • Ms. Wiz acts as this for the children of Class Three despite her first appearance being a teacher. She shows up in all the books in some new job just when the children need help. She actually does babysit in the fourth book. She ends up as a mother herself.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Phoebe Figallily in Nanny and the Professor.
  • Winnie Goodwin from Free Spirit (1989), an American Sitcom which has faded into obscurity, practiced witchcraft, unbeknownst to all mortals other than the children she cared for.
  • The Nanny: Fran Descher's character, who ended up marrying the father. She's able to connect with the kids in a way they'd been missing, and she specifically helps neurotic youngest child Grace.
  • An episode of Amazing Stories, "The Babysitter", had one of these from Jamaica who managed to be a Magical Negro as well.
  • Supernanny: Truth in Television: the appearance of a sensible Magical Nanny is the main premise of this Reality Show.
  • Reality show Nanny 911.
  • My Wife and Kids spoofs this in one episode with a Parody Sue nanny (played by the always awesome Betty White) who evokes a mystified "Wow..." from everyone around her.
  • Doctor Who plays with this idea a lot in the seasons Steven Moffat was showrunner for:
    • Mentioned briefly in the episode "A Christmas Carol". Having gone back in time to try to change the life of a scrooge-character for the better by destroying his Freudian Excuse, he briefly claims to be his new baby sitter.
      Doctor: Have you ever seen Mary Poppins?
      Kazran: No.
      The Doctor: Good, 'cause that comparison would have been rubbish.
    • The Eleventh Doctor finally becomes one in "The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe".
    • Clara Oswin Oswald is shown to be leading a double life as barmaid and nanny in The Snowmen, with her nanny persona being an almost spot-on impersonation of Julie Andrews's Mary Poppins. Her present day counterpart is also a nanny when she first meets the Doctor, and takes her charges on an adventure with the Doctor in "Nightmare in Silver" (admittedly, because they blackmailed her into it).
    • Missy, the Big Bad of Series 8 (in which she creates a new army of Cybermen from the dead of humanity, posing as a kindly steward of "Heaven") and a central character in the Twelfth Doctor's Myth Arc, has mannerisms and an appearance that are a grotesque parody of the cinematic Mary Poppins, down to the umbrella. This is taken to its natural conclusion in the Expanded Universe short story "Teddy Sparkles Must Die!" (The Missy Chronicles): Missy becomes a "magical" nanny to a trio of siblings in the early 20th century, though most of their adventures are facilitated unwillingly by the teddy bear-esque, reality-altering alien she's kidnapped. When the now-grown kids realize they were manipulated into becoming pawns in her latest evil scheme, they and Teddy have a devil of a time trying to undo it. The punchline is that as part of setting things right, Teddy rewrites reality to turn Missy into the inspiration for Mary Poppins, meaning that a crowd of humans recognizes her with delight and insists that no matter how much she may claim to be Card-Carrying Evil, she's really good at heart, leading her to leave in disgust.
  • Charles in Charge features a relatively rare example of a male magical nanny.
  • The title character in Jessie.
  • Dexter:
    • Widowed Dexter hires Sonya in Season 5. She's a nurse and the only one together lady in line of Terrible Interviewees Montage. Dexter never, ever has a problem getting his nanny to look after Harrison, no matter how unpredictable his schedule is. Sonya eventually has enough of it, though.
    • Jamie in Season 6. She's still a student and says Dexter pays her very well. Dexter says she's perfect for Harrison. In season 7, Jamie tries to find a new girlfriend for her employer.
  • S Club 7 act as this in an episode of their TV series. They encounter a kids' camp that seems more like a prep school — where the Child Prodigy campers rely too much on books and learning (one girl's dance lesson consists of her reading about various forms of dance). S Club teach the kids — and their camp head by extension — the importance of having fun while they still can.
  • The titular character in the Hallmark Christmas special Mrs Miracle, who comes to the aid of a widower struggling to deal with his Bratty Half-Pint twins, who somehow end up being in the their school's Christmas pageant, which the local travel agent is organising. With it being a Hallmark presentation, you can probably guess how the storyline goes...

    Web Comics 
  • Girl Genius: Von Pinn is a Type 2, at least according to the children in her care. She's also an ultraviolent battle-cyborg in a dominatrix dress.

    Western Animation 
  • Animaniacs: Parodied in "The Sound of Warners". As annoying as the nanny is, as Karmic Tricksters the Warners can't attack someone who hasn't hurt them first. So they pay Slappy to get rid of her. After meeting her, Slappy returns to the kids and tells them that this one will be on the house. Although for her trouble, the nanny gets blown into the household of a family that'll appreciate her more than the Warners did. The end of the episode has a Mary Poppins Expy arriving as her replacement — at which the Warners run screaming "Slappy!"
  • Miss Moon: Miss Moon is a literal example who isn't even from our dimension.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Twilight Sparkle had Princess Cadance, Winged Unicorn and niece to Princess Celestia, as her foalsitter. In fact, Twilight's fond memories of Cadance allow her to suspect that something is wrong when the true Cadance gets kidnapped and replaced by an evil shapeshifter. The nanny in this case is literally magical and wields The Power of Love.
  • Robotomy: "The Playdate": Invoked by Blastus, who dresses as Mary Poppins and drives a motorcycle through Thrasher's house before jumping off as the motorcycle heads for the window. Unfortunately, this does nothing to help the kids behave.
  • Sabrina: The Animated Series: Uncle Quigley leaves the girls and tells them he's hired a nanny to look after them. They assume it'll be a Magical Nanny but it turns out she's a Drill Sergeant Nasty called Frau Strudel and they resort to magic to make her nicer. They go overboard and she turns into a parody of a Magical Nanny called Rainbow where she sells all their electronics to buy gongs and a Japanese sand garden, makes them eat grass and tree bark for dinner and tye-dyes the cat before abandoning all her clothes to become a "nature child."
  • The Simpsons has Shary Bobbins, an obvious parody, who comes and temporarily transforms the family, only for them to revert to their former unruly selves. She then leaves, not because she thinks her work is done, but because she realizes they're hopeless cases. The episode closes with her getting sucked into a jet engine as she flies away.
    "Don't think it sour grapes,
    But you're all a bunch of apes,
    And so I must be leaving yoooou!"
  • South Park: Parodied with the various reality show nannies trying to tame Cartman. It ends badly for all of them until the Dog Whisperer comes and gets Cartman to shape up. Only after he fails to marry Mrs. Cartman do things become undone.
  • The Venture Brothers: Dr. Henry Killinger could be considered a Magical Nanny. He flies with a parasol and has a magic bag. A Magic Murder Bag, but a magic bag nonetheless. Also all his charges are adult supervillains he mentors into achieving their full potential for villainy.