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Orphan's Ordeal

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Some orphans have it easy, but not these ones.

This trope is about fiction highlighting the unpleasant side of losing one's parents to death or abandonment. The parents have been lost recently, and the main plot (or at least a major subplot) involves dealing with this loss. This generally includes some combination of:

The character is often a Heartwarming Orphan. If they're especially unlucky, they will be Raised by Orcs.

Contrast with Conveniently an Orphan, where orphanhood is used simply as a plot-enabler. Also see Happily Adopted.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan: Orphans are extremely common, with many joining the military to survive. Eren, Mikasa, and Armin are all orphaned during the fall of Wall Maria, being among the many refugee children left without families. Later on, Connie is left orphaned when his village is destroyed. Discovering the secrets of his father's research is one of Eren's driving goals, and a major plot point of the series.
  • In Balancing My Support Magic and Summoning Magic in a Different World, two of the main characters, Arisu and Tamaki, are orphans, but rather than being adopted into loving homes from the orphanage, are taken in by Bitch in Sheep's Clothing Abusive Parents who treat them like shit and give them serious complexes, due to the trauma of severe emotional abuse over the tiniest slight, real or imagined.
  • Barefoot Gen: many, many children were made homeless orphans by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
  • Chrono Crusade:
    • Although most of Rosette's history as an orphan is more of a case of Conveniently an Orphan, in the manga it's revealed that one of the major points of Rosette's personality — her difficulty with being able to sit and wait — partially comes from the trauma of being able to do nothing but wait as the adults that knew her parents arranged their funeral and sent her and her brother to an orphanage.
    • Joshua, Azmaria and Satella all show lingering affects of the deaths of their parents, as well. And, in fact, even Aion's issues stem partially from what happened to his mother. This trope is really one of the biggest reasons why the characters in Chrono Crusade come off as such a Dysfunction Junction.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, it is the champion motivator and common trait among all ranks in the Demon Slayer Corps, the slayers who are not orphaned in some manner are the exception in the series's narrative; their collective loss at the hands of demons is what makes the slayers so fervently determined to kill all of them, even if they are very likely to die in doing so, as long as they go out by taking a demon with them that's one duty fulfilled. Among the series's main characters their common orphaned status impact their characters in different ways: Tanjiro works solemnly to eradicate the suffering demons cause so no one else may lose their families like he did; Zenitsu has a traumatic and desperate sense of belonging since he was orphan since birth, wanting to make a family as soon as possible and have others look up to him as a hero; Inosuke was raised by wild boars in the mountains, with almost zero human contact save one exception, that made Inosuke socially unsympathetic at first, having no care for the fellow person.
  • In the Turning Red spinoff 4★Town 4★Real, Jesse is revealed to have been adopted as a baby and then to have lost his adoptive father to an accident as a toddler leaving him with an emotional void.
  • In Fruits Basket, the death of Tohru's mother Kyoko seems like a convenient plot device at first, since it leads to Tohru moving in with Yuki, Kyo, and Shigure and finding out about the Sohma clan's Hereditary Curse. However, it's later revealed that Kyoko's death affected Tohru much more than she lets on, since her over-attachment to her mother's memory keeps her from moving on in several aspects of her life, including falling in love with Kyo, since she feels she's disrespecting her mother by loving someone else.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Ed and Al. It all happens before the start of the actual story, but it still drives the plot: they begin their quest for the Philosopher's Stone after losing their bodies in an attempt to bring back their beloved mother, who'd raised them alone after their father left early on (albeit with good reason). They later find him, and the issues between them (namely, the reason he left) also drive most of the plot.
  • In Full Moon, not only is 12-year-old Mitsuki an orphan, she has terminal throat cancer, a cold grandmother who doesn't let her do anything remotely fun, and later finds out that her first childhood love died in a car accident. Geesus!
  • Hellsing: poor Integra Hellsing. Not only did she lose her mother years before, but the day that her father died of lung cancer, his brother Richard attempted to murder her in order to gain control of the family vampire-hunting organization. Fortunately, she is saved after fleeing to the basement when she discovers Alucard who was sealed there for the last twenty years and after he takes out the mooks and blocks a bullet for her, she shoots her uncle and lives to tell the tale, but damn, what a hell of a day that must have been.
  • Kaze No Shojo Emily: Emily's beloved father is dead and she copes by writing poems to his spirit. She also lost her mother when she was young, and barely has any memories of her.
  • Last Exile: Claus and Lavie swing between this and Conveniently an Orphan — after all, they wouldn't be teenage vanship pilots in their father's old vanship if their mother and fathers were still around — but the loss of both their fathers in the Grand Stream and the later death of Claus' mother is a hard blow that forces the two together into a makeshift family, to learn how to fly the vanship on their own so they can support themselves and is tied in with their ambition to succeed at the task their fathers failed in, as well as certain plot points involving Alex, captain of the Silvana.
  • In March Comes in Like a Lion, Rei's dealt with a lot since his family's death. At their funeral, most of his remaining blood relatives were none too concerned about him, with one even promising to send him to a "nice" orphanage. His foster care was built upon a lie on how much he liked shogi, and even when he was taken in, there was friction between him and the real children in the family as he surpassed them in shogi and fell into the most favor with their father. These problems never really went away until he pushed himself forward into the professional shogi circuit and left home early to live on his own.
  • Monster: Aside from Johan and Nina (obviously), the former of whom is raised at an orphanage designed for brainwashing children into becoming perfect soldiers, there is a whole slew of orphans whose lives are horribly screwed up. A little Czech boy, for example, receives a hint that his mother might be found at the local Red Light District, where he ends up witnessing a borderline rape of a druggie hooker.
  • Naruto:
    • Sasuke Uchiha. A perfectly happy child with a large clan that he viewed as an extended family, he returned one night to discover they were dead. All of them except for his beloved older brother. Who had just killed their parents. Needless to say, this had a rather large impact on his future personality (disorders) and career and life goals.
    • Naruto Uzumaki is an orphan too, and he also has it pretty rough. In fact, there are a lot of orphans, mostly because their parents worked in a high-risk profession, and all these orphans frequently wind up with severe psychological issues because There Are No Therapists.
  • In Natsume's Book of Friends, after his parents died, Natsume found himself passed around from distant relative to distant relative because nobody wanted to deal with the Creepy Child who claimed to see dead people and monsters everywhere. As a result, he has a great deal of difficulty being open and honest with anyone for fear of rejection.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • Asuka and Shinji have been selected as the second and third children to pilot Evas because their mothers are dead. Their souls were used in the creation of Eva-01 and Eva-02. Shinji's father abandoned his son because he was afraid of him and of screwing him, while Asuka's father, almost immediately after her mother's death, married the woman with whom he was having an affair. It shouldn't surprise anyone that Rei doesn't have any parents at all. Also Misato's father was killed with the entire rest of the Antarctic expedition, and Ritsuko's mother killed herself after Gendo got her into his bed to exploit her. This is a major part of each of these characters' plots and one of the main reasons behind the show's Dysfunction Junction.
    • Kaji also discovers that Shinji's school is a front for the powers that be, and that all of Shinji's classmates are potential Children candidates, meaning many of them may be orphans as well. It's suggested for two side characters, and canonically stated for one, that their parents are dead as well.
  • In Pokémon Adventures, when Emerald's parents died in an unspecified accident, his relatives essentially played hot potato with him all across Hoenn as none of them wanted to be bothered with taking care with a kid with legit dwarfism. This, along with being bullied for said dwarfism, led to his self-esteem issues and inability to accept help from others.
  • In Princess Tutu, many of Fakir's flaws stem from his parents' deaths — particularly the fact that he witnessed them, and he was at least partially to blame.
  • Shimeji Simulation: Both Shijima and Big Sis, her older sister, are orphaned for years without their parents at all, who both lived in the decrepit apartments in West Yomogi, citing that the town they are in is just not for them at all. Until Chapter 45 shows the actual truth behind their parents' fates: the Tsukishima siblings are mere creations of the simulation, elaborating the truth behind their time as orphans.
  • Tiger & Bunny: Barnaby was orphaned at the age of four and has since been raised in an orphanage (though certain circumstances have lead him to believe otherwise). Flashbacks prove that he was a cheerful, contented kid before this; but twenty years later we see him as a cold, cynical Broken Ace who is hell-bent on avenging his murdered parents. Despite all this he was apparently quite popular at school, is fairly affluent as an adult and competent at his job — not that he'd allow such things to hinder his quest for vengeance.
  • Tokyo Ghoul has numerous characters that are orphans, and touches on not only the trauma of losing parents but the difficult life young Ghouls face once their parents have been killed.
    • After the death of his mother, Kaneki was left in the care of his maternal aunt and her family. Suffice to say, it was not a happy home life and he was subjected to considerable resentment, neglect, and outright abuse until he was finally able to move out.
    • Nishiki and his older sister were orphaned quite young, and shown to be living in destitute conditions throughout their life. His older sister worked hard to support them both, but her death left him alone and deeply bitter.
    • When their father was caught by Investigators, Touka and Ayato were shown to have waited for several days alone in their apartment until a neighbor came to check on them. She promptly turned them in to authorities, forcing them to flee and live on the streets, fighting for survival until Yoshimura took them in years later.
    • CCG takes full advantage of the emotional scars, taking in children orphaned by Ghoul attacks and encouraging them to train to become Ghoul Investigators, fostering as much resentment and hate as possible rather than encourage them to heal.
  • Tower of God: Anaak Jahad's parents relationship was an illegal one, so her parents were killed and Anaak just barely managed to survive. She tries to get revenge on the perpetrators by wiping them out entirely, however, the Jahad family is not only the royal family, but also gathers the strongest warriors and adopts them.

    Comic Books 
  • DC Comics:
    • Batman's story is worse than average in some ways (he saw both parents violently killed up close), better in others (Alfred turned out to be the ideal Parental Substitute for him). This also happened with his adopted children. One of the explanations for why he adopted Dick Grayson is precisely so that Dick wouldn't end up as damaged as he is. Jason Todd never showed much grief for being an orphan until A Death in the Family, which also coincided with his emotional instability. And while Tim Drake wasn't orphaned until much later, and lost each of his parents in seperate instances, he went through a lot of trauma with their deaths and initially resisted being adopted, though that was due to his anger at Bruce for Stephanie's death.
    • Done in the Silver Age Doom Patrol with the character of Beast Boy (yes, that one). The poor kid was already a bright green shapeshifter, but he couldn't save his parents. And then his uncle Galtry took him in. The Patrol took care of Galtry, and Gar wound up Happily Adopted by Rita Farr and Mento...(well, until she got killed, too).
    • Post-Crisis versions of Supergirl suffer from PTSD and Survivor Guilt due to her parents' loss. Kara has been known to openly say she wishes she would have died together with them.
    • The Pre-Crisis version of Superman had him often fixated on the loss of his biological parents and his world with his super-memory of his short time there, made worse by several time travel adventures that allowed him to visit Krypton and get to know his parents, while knowing that there was nothing he could do to save them. The modern version however has no such baggage, having no memories of Krypton at all, having been raised as a normal Earthling by the Kents. Even learning of his past as an adult usually does little except give him an abstract sense of sadness.
  • Marvel Comics:
    • The Unstoppable Wasp: This is a heavy part of Nadia's backstory. Her mother was killed after being kidnapped and Nadia was placed inside the Russian Red Room. After years of being used for science, she was able to escape using Pym Particles and made her way towards her father, Hank Pym. However, he had died just before her escape and now she's trying to find a replacement family and a place in the world.
    • X-23: A substantial source of the lingering emotional damage suffered by Laura Kinney is the death of her mother/creator, Sarah Kinney, and not having her there to help her put her life together after breaking out of the Facility. It's made even worse by the fact Laura was the one who killed her, in a trigger-scent fueled Unstoppable Rage set up by Zander Rice. With Sarah's death, and Laura being forced to sever contact with her only remaining family to protect them, she was left with no one, which drives her into deep and at times suicidal depression, and eventually leads her into the clutches of Zebra Daddy and a life as a Streetwalker.
  • Omega the Unknown: James-Michael is orphaned and, as a result, is thrust from a life of isolated study in the mountains into NYC's Hell's Kitchen, where he goes to an Inner City School and is bullied by Delinquents, and trudges daily through a neighborhood full of sex workers, porno theaters, winos, drug pushers, and roving gangs of muggers.
  • Planet Terry: The series follows Terry as he tries to find his parents, since he was launched into space by accident upon his birth. He comes close to reaching them on Alphatraz, only to be separated by them when they launch off from that place to escape it. Vermin the Vile at one point leads Terry into believing he is Terry's father, but that proves to be false when Vermin's real son, the Hood, is found.
  • Usagi Yojimbo: Keiko lived in poverty with her grandfather after her parents died some time before the series began, only for him to be murdered by a group of bandits, who were in turn massacred by Jei. With her entire family dead, and her home burned down, Keiko ends up following Jei and becoming his travelling companion — which means she's now under the guardianship of a demonic mass-murderer, who only lets her live because she fulfills some abritrary standard of "innocence", and is now forced to witness every atrocity Jei commits. The original idea for her was apparently to serve as Jei's new host, but the writer ended up changing his mind, atleast until Senso, which is set 20 years after the main series, where a now adult Keiko finally does become possessed after Jei's original body is destroyed.

    Comic Strips 
  • Little Orphan Annie. Since a stable home life is boring, and there's only so many variations on the plot of thieves trying to steal Daddy Warbuck's fortune, Annie would often be separated from her guardian and resume living on the street.

    Fan Works 
  • A Crown of Stars: The prologue describes how Shinji and Asuka had led tough lives after their mothers' deaths. Their fathers abandoned them, a shady organization forced them to fight a war against alien monsters, they died, outlived the end of the world and had to survive in a wrecked, desolated world inhabited by warlords, thugs and rapists...
  • Advice and Trust: After kissing for first time, Shinji and Asuka open up to each other and find out their childhoods were very similar: their mothers died, their fathers left them with no explanation or apology, they had nightmares the whole time about it, and they were always alone because no one cared about them or tried to understand their pain.
  • Adoption Nightmare: Brina has been adopted and abandoned by one hundred and ten households for various and uncontrollable reasons, resulting in her developing some rather serious trust issues.
  • all of the things we did wrong.: Artina's father passed before she was born, and her mother died when she was four. She honestly isn't certain just how much time she spent on the streets before Mother Edith found and took her in, but it was at least two years... as well as long enough for her to forget her original name.
  • The Bolt Chronicles: In “The Seven,” Young Bolt and his six friends lose their mothers when the owner abandons the puppy mill they call home. They’re lucky to survive the harrowing ordeal, as most of the other dogs die on site or immediately afterwards.
  • The Child of Love: In chapter 5, Shinji and Asuka talk about their mothers' deaths during a festival. Shinji says he shut himself up because he was frightened of other people, and Asuka explains that she pushed people away because she didn’t want to get hurt again.
  • Children of an Elder God: Shinji and Asuka lost their mothers and were abandoned by their fathers shortly after. Fortunately their parental substitutes were more competent in this story than in canon, so they were somewhat more stable and less introvert before the beginning of the War (and then a bunch of world-shatteringEldritch Abominations came along and their sanity suffered serious blows).
  • Diaries of a Madman: Taya's backstory is deeply unpleasant. After both her parents were murdered by bandits in front of her eyes, she was forced into living on the streets until being rescued by Navarone.
  • Doing It Right This Time: Shinji, Asuka and Rei led crappy lives after their mothers' deaths: Shinji thought he had no reason to go on living, Asuka fabricated a loud, attention-seeking personality to validate her existence and Rei was a Death Seeker. After dying during the end of the world and being given a second chance they decided to support each other to try to cope with the inminent trauna train.
  • Evangelion 303: In chapter 4 Shinji talked Asuka about his childhood. He revealed that he lost his mother when he was a baby, and his father sent him away afterwards. He changed schools constantly, barely made friends and developed little social skills. Although he is older than his canon self and is clearly better at dealing with it, it is clear losing his mother still haunts him.
  • Getting Back on Your Hooves: Applejack's grief over her parents' death, while touched on in the main stories, is the central point of "Happy Mother's Day", though all three Apple siblings are shown to be still be grieving on some level. According to Word of God, the reason it hit her the hardest is that, being the middle child, she was old enough to remember them (unlike her younger sister Apple Bloom), but young enough to still be emotionally dependent on them (unlike her older brother Big Macintosh) when they died.
  • In Ghosts of Evangelion Shinji and Asuka suffer from severe PTSD in their late thirties and have meager social skills. All of it can be traced back to teir mothers dying when they were little kids.
  • HERZ: Shinji and Asuka lost their mothers when they were barely four. Afterwards, their fathers and everybody else treated them like crap. In chapter 2 Asuka reflects that she lost much and suffered terribly after her mother's demise.
  • Higher Learning: Shinji and Asuka went through a lot after their mothers demises. Their new teacher, though, helped them to see matters from a different perspective and realize they did not have to be alone. Later, when he talks to Shinji, he does not beat around the bush when he tells that he and Asuka had led very tragic lives.
  • Last Child of Krypton:
    • After his mother Yui died and his father Gendo left him, Shinji lived virtually alone for one decade. During that time he found a recording revealed his DNA had been modified with Kryptonian chromosomes. When his DNA donor said he hoped his father raised him properly, Shinji snorted.
    • Shortly after her mother's suicide, Asuka's father married his mistress and abandoned her daughter. Asuka threw herself into becoming the best Humongous Mecha pilot ever to validate her existence. Unfortunately, no one in her organization cared about her, and she was regarded as a tool to use or discard, or lust target to be leered at by perverts.
  • The Last Draconequus: Discord becomes the last surviving member of his species when he's accidentally left out of a ritual that allows the other draconequi — including his mother and elder siblings — to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. As he was no older than five at the time, and had little experience or power with his magic, he was forced to spend his childhood and early adolescence as a feral child, including being hunted down like vermin by ponies unaware that he was a sapient being and being sold to a circus and becoming subject to a violently abusive animal trainer. His early isolation and the various misfortunes that followed it are implied to have played a very large part in shaping him into the person he became.
  • My Mirror, Sword and Shield: Suzaku lost his mother to her addiction and ends up homeless for a year with no relatives to take him in. He almost dies when a simple illness gets exacerbated by his poor living conditions.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide, all Evangelion pilots are considerably traumatized due to their mothers' loss. In a scene, Keiko tells Asuka about her mother's death leading her to want to kill herself, and both girls bond over their missing mothers.
  • The Night Unfurls:
    • Sanakan and Hugh. Forced to fend for themselves in the streets via pickpocketing due to Parental Abandonment. Forced to bear scars should they get caught. All because their respective parents are not there to protect them. And then the Black Dogs invade the village they are residing in to Rape, Pillage, and Burn. The two kids would not survive past Chapter 4 if Kyril, who would later become their mentor and grant them strength, arrived late for one second.
    • Hugh deserves special mention, as the story later reveals more details about his family. His mother, now a minor noble, married another man to have another son and daughter, which culminated in Hugh's abandonment. Before his apprenticeship under Kyril, Sanakan was the only person to show him genuine affection, being a fellow Street Urchin like he was. To end it off in a peculiar note, Hugh has made peace with the fact that he doesn't want to see his mother or his mother's family ever again, yet he is badgered by these people to come back and become their heir, letter of forgiveness and all.
  • Once More with Feeling:
    • Shinji makes repeatedly clear that it was very hard growing up without a mother.
    • After Kyoko’s death, Asuka was ditched by her family. She was raised by guardians who didn’t care about her –- save two exceptions — and grew up thinking that she could trust nobody and depend on nobody.
  • The One I Love Is...: Shinji had led a crappy life after his mother Yui's demise, and he thought Asuka was way more strong-willed and brave than him. However he gradually discovered Asuka was another orphan with a very fragile self-esteem regarded herself as a catalogue of failures.
  • The Outside: Much of the story revolves around some form of this, as Ryuuko was, after her parents splitting and Soichiro's death, living with her agoraphobic older sister, Satsuki, who raised her in isolation and kept her indoors, before being declared an unfit guardian, which thrusted Ryuuko into foster care, while social services tries to find her mother, Ragyo, who left when the former was a toddler. Later on, we get Shiro and Nui, who lost their families at young ages, the latter of the two wishing for a family to spend Christmas with.
  • Scar Tissue: Shinji and Asuka are horribly broken in this story, and it all began when their mothers died. The story starts out when they begin to try to recover from a decade of abuse and psychological trauma left them severely damaged.
  • Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: Asuka's mother died when she was barely four and her father — who never loved her because she had been conceived by sperm donor — abandoned her straight after. Asuka grew up thinking she had to be the best at everything or nobody would ever care about her, and she strove to excel and become self-reliant, but she was a very lonely, scared child whom everyone regarded as a tool.
  • Survivors: Kara loses her parents in the beginning of the story. More than one decade after landing on Earth, she is still traumatized over her loss; and torn between missing them and resenting them.
  • In The Second Try, Shinji and Asuka had suffered a great deal because their mothers died, and they needed to get over that trauma in order to become good parents to Aki.
  • In Thousand Shinji, Asuka told Shinji that piloting Eva became all what she had left after her mother's death. Later on, after a shopping trip Shinji told Asuka that he broke down after his mother died and his father ditched him with no explanation.

    Films — Animation 
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven: Features an orphan girl, Anne Marie, who goes through a very peculiar ordeal; she lives in a junkyard and ends up kidnapped by a pack of talking, gambling dogs. Of course she's the only human who can understand them. Orphans being kidnapped by talking dogs to be exploited for gambling. What is the world coming to?
  • An American Tail: Feivel gets separated from his family, under circumstances leading his parents to assume he's dead. Most of his adventures come from trying to find his parents again.
  • Disney:
    • Frozen: Although its direct impact on the plot is only in the first ten minutes of the film and the reason for the coronation in the first place, the death of Anna and Elsa's parents still adds to the emotional weight of the movie. At the end of the song "Do You Want To Build A Snowman", after their parents have died at sea, Anna is forced to attend their funeral alone, since Elsa refuses to end her isolation for fear of losing control of her ice magic. Likewise, Elsa, who is now queen by default (and is nowhere near emotionally ready for the responsibility), is mourning in her room, her grief having caused her to frost over her entire room and for snow to hang in the air. During the final verse, Anna crumples into a fetal position against Elsa's door after the funeral, desperately asking for her to come out. Elsa, in the same position against her side of the door, can't bring herself to respond. The final shot for the song is both girls on their respective side of the door, quietly sobbing into their knees.
    • Meet the Robinsons: Lewis was left at the orphanage by his mother as a baby and has some pretty serious hang-ups at the start of the movie because of it. He initially believes he is destined to remain unloved, perpetuated by the fact that he's been through over 100 failed adoption interviews (due to his Mad Scientist ways), and that he believes that he was abandoned because his own mother didn't love him. He is also turning 13 in a matter of weeks, and knows teenagers almost never get adopted.
    • The Rescuers: Penny's need for a new family is a recurring point. Mme Medusa is marked as a true villain by her casual cruelty to Penny; one particular moment of dog-kicking is when she tells Penny, "What makes you think anyone would want a homely little girl like you?" To say nothing of the fact that she decided to make a small child dig in a frequently-flooded cave for diamonds.
  • Kung Fu Panda 2 has Po finally realize he was orphaned by the most horrific means, but he then achieves Inner Peace by remembering how Happily Adopted he was and how far he's come. We eventually find out his birth father is alive, and Po reunites with him in the third installment.
  • Storks: Tulip's delivery address was smashed and thus she was never delivered to her parents. She was instead raised by storks, who cannot wait until they can legally get rid of her.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Australia: It makes a hash of these issues, when a boy who is half-aboriginal loses his mother the characters say that he needs someone to take care of him, and Nicole Kidman's character should do it because she's a woman.
  • Batman: A boy witnesses the death of his parents and revenge becomes his all-consuming purpose.
  • By Hook or By Crook: Both protagonists, Shy and Val, have a backstory related to the loss of their parents. Shy's family home is foreclosed on after the death of his father, and Val was given up for adoption by his birth mother, then adopted by a family that institutionalized him when he was twelve for being Transgender.
  • Paulette in Forbidden Games is a 6-year-old French girl who is orphaned in June 1940, when both of her parents are killed by a Nazi plane while fleeing Paris. She temporarily finds a home with a farm family, but the film ends with the mean-spirited father turning her over to the Red Cross.
  • M3GAN: Poor Cady. She loses both her parents in a car crash, gets sent to live with a Maternally Challenged aunt, and worries that she will eventually forget her parents. When she gets M3GAN, she becomes unhealthily attached to her as a Parental Substitute.
  • Mustang is about the tragic destiny of five orphan girls.
  • Mosul (2020): The Nineveh Province SWAT team encounters a pair of orphans who are carting the body of a dead parent. The younger one wishes to go with the SWAT over to the safe zone, while the elder brother stubbornly refuses to leave the body, having sworn an oath to bury them. After a long argument between the two, the younger brother tearfully parts with his older brother and leaves with the SWAT. In the safe zone, Jasem then bribes (and threatens) a passing Iraqi refugee family to adopt the child they picked up. The fate of the older brother is sadly never revealed.
  • Prime Cut: Poppy endures a traumatic and abusive childhood in an Orphanage of Fear before being sold into prostitution.
  • Sabine Kleist Seven Years Old: The heroine loses her parents in a car crash and comes in the orphanage (the orphanage isn't really bad, but...). She runs away to try and find a new parents — but in the end she realizes this isn't going to happen and returns to the orphanage.
  • Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. This is a dual orphan plot in that a young man (Luke) is raised by "relatives", and tries to avenge the man who "killed his father" as well as seek his own identity. He wishes he wasn't an orphan but after he finds out that Big Bad is his father in the Luke, I Am Your Father scene then he wishes he WAS an orphan.

  • Nellie O'Malley from the Samantha series in the American Girls Collection goes through this. After her parents die of influenza, Nellie and her younger sisters are sent to live with their only living relative, Uncle Mike (her brother's brother). Mike immediately exploits them by selling everything they own for drink, then promptly abandons them; the sisters end up going to an Orphanage of Fear called the Coldrock House for Homeless Girls. There they are treated badly, expected to learn to defer to their "betters", and underfed. Nellie almost gets separated from her sisters when she is selected to go out west aboard the orphan train without her sisters, who are considered too young. She and her sisters are rescued by Samantha from Coldrock and later adopted by her uncle Gardner and aunt Cornelia. But in Nellie's Promise, Uncle Mike comes across Nellie again and threatens to take back custody of her and her sisters so he can make them work in a factory for his own needs (rather than him having to work). Nellie almost escapes to Boston to prevent this and when the fears of her issues with him finally come out, Samantha's aunt and uncle (who are now formally Samantha's guardians as well) locate Mike and make him sign away his rights to the O'Malley sisters. It is only then that the poor girl really starts to get a break.
  • The German author Antonia Michaelis has two books (The Adopted Room and Secret of 12th Continent) which deal with two inmates of an orphanage. Both lost their parents and are very unhappy about it. in the end, one gets Happily Adopted, while the other manages to find his father
  • Black Dogs: This happens to Lyra, but she is quickly taken under the dog soldier Sadrao's wing.
  • Agatha Christie: Adoptive families in Christie's works tend to be dysfunctional at best — in 'Appointment With Death', Mrs. Boynton is a monster to her adopted children.
  • Dogsbody: This is essentially Kathleen's story. A bit different in that her father is kept apart from her in prison. When he does die during an escape attempt, her situation changes for the worse. She's taken in by relatives before the book begins, but some of them treat her as servant and abuse her emotionally.
  • The Dragonslayers: Brian loses both his parents as a child, and is saved and taken back to King Mildred's castle, where he works as a page but is treated poorly by the other pages because he does such a good job that it unintentionally makes them look bad.
  • The Dresden Files: Harry having been orphaned at the age of six (his mother died in childbirth and his father had an aneurysm) is still a source of anguish in his adulthood, both in itself (he is often lonely due to his lack of a family) and because of the situation it left him in (he was adopted by a man who turned out to be a dark wizard, who trained Harry in a particularly harsh manner, and eventually tried to enslave him and his other adopted child (who was also Harry's lover) when they were in their teens, forcing Harry to kill him). He eventually gets hints that his parents' deaths may not have been accidental, and that his mother (also a wizard) ran with a very bad crowd. In later books, it starts to work out. Harry discovers that his mother left her dark allies behind, that he has a brother and that his maternal grandfather is still alive and wants to be a part of his life. He also finds the identity of his mother's killer, allowing him to avenge her.
  • In Earth's Children, Ayla is orphaned by an earthquake in the opening pages of the first book and subsequently taken in by the Clan (Neanderthals). Though she's more or less Happily Adopted, Ayla struggles to adapt to Clan life (especially as she's Cro-Magnon, who have some fundamental differences from Neanderthals), and is regarded as quite strange and ugly. She gets into dire trouble for breaking Clan rules and protocols, and then there's villain Broud, the leader's Jerkass son who hates her guts and does everything he can to make her life ten times harder, up to and including beating her into unconsciousness and raping her. She later gets kicked out of the Clan and has to survive completely alone, with no human contact, for close to three years. All before the age of seventeen, we might add.
  • Escape to Witch Mountain begins the day after the death of Granny Malone, the guardian of the two protagonists, Tony and Tia. They're sent to an Orphanage of Fear (which is run as a juvenile home), and begin seriously trying to remember their past before Granny Malone took them in. They run away from the Orphanage of Fear when they are adopted by an Illegal Guardian because Tia remembers that he's not the blood relative he claims to be — he turned them over to Granny Malone in the first place, though neither she nor her brother remembers why.
  • In Flawed, though Flawed couples can get married, any children are taken away from them and raised by the government to be as perfect as possible. Making any attempt to find their birth parents gets them deemed as Flawed. Carrick, who was taken from his parents when he was five, didn't take well to his teachings, and sought out his parents as soon as he graduated, making him Flawed.
  • In Galaxy of Fear, Tash and Zak Arranda were offworld when Alderaan was destroyed, and with it their friends and family. The only one to take them in was their shapeshifting alien "uncle" Hoole, related only because his brother had married one of their aunts. Hoole was usually distant and cool, mostly leaving them to his droid assistant DV-9, who resented being relegated to babysitting and reminded them of this often. Both of them gradually warmed to the siblings, but it took time. As xenoanthropologist who didn't want to stop working, Hoole also took them across the galaxy into a succession of horrifying situations. It's not for nothing that this series is called Goosebumps IN STAR WARS.
  • Green-Sky Trilogy: Genaa D'Anhk is going through a version of this involving her father. A key plot point is what actually happened to him.
  • Exaggerated in The Hapless Child. The child protagonist not only loses both of her parents and her uncle, her only other living relative, but she is then sent to an orphanage where she is treated cruelly by the other children and teachers. She then runs off, gets kidnapped and sold to a mentally ill "brute", forced to make paper flowers in poor living conditions, becomes nearly-blind, and finally gets run over by her own father who was desperately looking for her. Made even worse when her father can no longer recognize her from all she's been through.
  • Harry Potter: In addition to being orphaned as a baby and having to spend the first eleven years of his life living with his abusive aunt and uncle, Harry spends a decent amount of time throughout the books looking for a father figure who won't die on him along with having to deal with all his other problems.
  • Anzha, one of the main characters of In Conquest Born, loses her parents by assassination, courtesy of a hideous poison, right in front of her. Her father's dying agony triggers her psychic awakening, driving her into years of psychosomatic sensory deprivation. The most painful part for Anzha is that she had some telepathic awareness before the poisoning and spotted the assassin before the attack, but as a 6-year-old child she did not fully comprehend or know how to communicate the threat she sensed.
  • James and the Giant Peach: The titular character's parents were mauled by a rhino when he was little, and is forced to live with two monster aunts who hate and abuse him so much, even the narration thinks death was the kinder fate.
  • A Little Princess: Sara's only living parent, her father, dies while she is at Boarding School. Sara never gives up though even after all the crap she goes through.
  • In The Mermaid in the Millpond, most if not all of the child labourers at the cotton mill are orphans. They work long hours in an unbearably hot room with machines that could maim or kill them if they lose focus, they aren't fed enough and are sometimes Denied Food as Punishment, and they're subjected to severe Corporal Punishment if they misbehave. Bess considers herself lucky because she knew a mother's love for eleven years — some of the children, like her new friend Dot, don't remember ever having parents and are stunted from years of neglect.
  • Oliver Twist: This could damn near be the trope namer. Oliver's mother dies in childbirth, he's raised in an abusive "baby farm" before being moved to an even worse workhouse where the children are beaten and starved, and finally ends up as an apprentice to an undertaker, which would have been somewhat better had it not been for the undertaker's cruel wife and another apprentice who is jealous of Oliver. He finally runs away, only to end up being drawn into the criminal world through pickpocket leader Fagin, and the robber and murderer Bill Sikes.
  • Protector of the Small: Tobe, a young boy living near the Scanran border in the last book. His mother died in childbirth and nobody would take him after the midwife passed away, since he has blond hair and blue eyes like a Scanran. He ends up an indentured servant to a violent innkeeper and has a few people give him false hope of rescue. When Kel finds him, he's bruised, malnourished, flea-bitten, and cynical.
  • Rissa Kerguelen: This is a prevalent theme. The heroine and her brother lose their parents very early and are raised, separately, in a "Total Welfare" institution. Their childhoods leave her with issues and him with what can only be described as a subscription. Bran Tregare is not orphaned, but his parents protect him from UET by abandoning him to its clutches — a military academy where the policy is, sometimes literally, "kill or be killed". Zelde M'tana's earliest clear memory is of being part of a band of "Wild Children".
  • Sassinak: Space Pirates destroy the title character's home, murder her parents, turn her best friend into a depressed wreck, and make her their slave. She spends the rest of her life setting things right.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Baudelaire children bounce from one Illegal Guardian or useless caretaker to the next, and investigate their family's secret past. The Quagmire triplets have their own set too, though a good deal of it is offscreen.
  • In The Sisters Grimm, Sabrina and Daphne Grimm go through one Illegal Guardian after another when their parents disappear.
  • The Someday Birds: After their parents were killed in the Siege of Sarajevo, Ludmila and her brother Amar were sent to America, where they were split up. Amar was sent to an abusive, bully-infested military school, while Ludmila went through a series of foster homes. Some were good, and some were terrible. One good thing came out of the experience — Ludmila's favorite foster mother, the astrophysicist Dr. Joan, with whom she's still in contact.
  • Someone Else's War: Most characters are Child Soldiers, and thus many of them have to deal with the reality of a world in which they can never go back to their parents. Special mention goes to Otto, who left his destitute parents in order to spare them the expenses of feeding an extra mouth.
  • The Stand: Leo Rockway was still a kid when the Superflu wiped out most of the human species and took his family. He afterwards nearly died of infection, and was so traumatized he stopped talking and took to carrying a knife around all the time. Nadine becames his Parental Substitute but it doesn't end well. In the end, he's adopted by Larry and Lucy.
  • Talion: Revenant: Nolan's whole family was murdered, and he joined the Talions in hopes of someday taking revenge on the person he holds responsible. He's still traumatized about it years after.
  • Trixie Belden has Jim, who was taken in by his abusive stepfather after his parents' deaths, used for free labour and regularly beaten or left tied up for days on end as punishment. When found by the protagonists he's homeless, sleeping rough in an abandoned building and terrified of being caught and forced to go back. He's eventually Happily Adopted at age fifteen (to the point of Angst? What Angst?).
  • To Shape a Dragon's Breath:
    • Theod Knetch's family—and a great majority of his people, the Naquisit—were massacred in what the Anglish call the Nack Island Uprising (started when coal deposits were found on the island, leading to the Anglish breaking their treaty to get access to it). Theod's father was executed with many others and his mother was hanged immediately after his birth—as in the very next day; he was sent to an orphanage in New Linvik, where he was raised until he was six and then made a servant of an Anglish household. He is painfully disconnected from his Native culture because of this, initially considering himself the son of murderers and only knowing the Anglish side of the history of the Naquipaug massacre until Anequs comes around and informs him otherwise.
    • Liberty's Black parents escaped enslavement in Berri Vaskos (the part of North Markesland colonized by the Vaskoshish) to New Anglesland where chattel slavery was outlawed. However, her father died in a mill fire when she was six and her mother of a fever when she was ten. She tried to get work to pay rent but was turned out by her landlady and sent to the Vastergot Society for Friendless Girls; here she was trained as a maid of all work and later hired to work as a laundry maid for the academy.
  • In The Wanderer, by Sharon Creech, Sophie is currently Happily Adopted. However, it becomes very clear in flashbacks, that for a few years, she was living in foster families which didn't really cared for her.
  • Warchild Series: Jos loses his parents in the opening page of the first book. He's then kidnapped along with several other children on the same starship, and gradually loses them too. He doesn't have much time to cope with the loss of his family, since he's also facing abuse and captivity at the hands of a psychopath. But when he escapes said psycho, he has a slew of issues to work out. Much of the book focuses on his emotional need for a surrogate family coupled with his trouble trusting anyone enough to make the connection.
  • The Water-Babies: One of Tom's parents is dead, and the other has been Sentenced to Down Under. Before his transformation into a water-baby, he works as a chimney-sweep for a cruel master named Mr. Grimes who beats him several times a day and doesn't feed him enough.
  • The Witch of Knightcharm: A rookie witch named Janet Yawkly says that she doesn't have family anymore, heavily implying that she's an orphan and her family is dead. This means that, after Yawkly gets stuck in an evil Wizarding School and her life is endangered on a regular basis, nobody knows to look for her and there's no chance of her being rescued.
  • Women of the Otherworld: Elaine Michaels is orphaned in a car crash at five, goes through a series of foster families, some of them abusive. And then gets turned into a werewolf. Many other characters in the series have missing parents, and those that don't sometimes wish they did.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ashita, Mama ga Inai: Kids at the orphanage go through a hell of a lot. Most of their parents are alive, but unable or unwilling to look after them.
  • Bones: While we never see it, Dr. Brennan did not have a happy time in foster care after her parents mysteriously vanished. It also serves as a Freudian Excuse for her being rather cold and detached.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Downplayed example with Nicholaj, Boyle's adoptive son from Latvia. He doesn't seem to have suffered any abuse, his ordeal mostly revolved around how unlucky he was, since apparently the orphanages he lived in kept suffering various natural disasters.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Faith's home life before she sides with the Mayor is terrible, as she is stuck living in a dump of a motel room, where the TV and A/C don't really work, and she is seen at least once arguing with the manager about rent.
  • Diff'rent Strokes: The premise (a white millionaire adopting two black boys from Harlem) is set up when the boys' mother dies. (A Back Story explains that father had passed some years earlier.)
  • Little House on the Prairie: Several episodes had children becoming orphans and the Ingalls becoming involved (in some way) to help the children grieve and/or find new housing. Prominent examples:
    • The Sanderson children — John Jr., Carl, and Alicia — are left parent-less after their mother dies of a long illness. Mr. Edwards and his wife-to-be, Grace Snider, agree to take in the children.
    • Albert Quinn, the street urchin left on the streets of Winoka after his drunken father (a dirt farmer) abandons him. The Ingalls take custody of Albert and legally adopt him, but not until overcoming custody challenge by the boy's father (who comes forward only after learning he could lose his potential farmhand).
    • In 1980, a one-up episode was a re-write of an old Bonanza episode ("A Silent Cry") featured a cranky old man (Dub Taylor as caretaker of the Blind School, where Mary is a teacher) wanting to adopt both a "normal" boy and his mute brother and adoption officials want to separate them).
    • In 1981, Charles and Albert are hauling freight with a young couple and their two children (Jason Bateman and Missy Francis, as James and Cassandra Cooper) when a tragic accident involving the other couple's wagon (the horses became spooked and, in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the runaway wagon, the brakes fail) crashes, killing both parents. The two children — who stay behind with Charles and Albert, and witness everything unfold — go into shock, and the Ingalls agree to take them in ... temporarily, until a suitable family is found that will adopt them. It's thought at first James and Cassandra will be taken to a loving home, but the father proves to be anything but (he whips James when he is unfairly accused of stealing). When the children take refuge at the Ingalls after the whipping incident, and Charles — after visiting with the father, who was out looking for the children — senses that the man is abusive, he and Caroline conclude that, despite their already crowded house, they have a moral obligation to take custody of the children. Both James and Cassandra remain a part of the cast for the 1981-1982 season, until the Ingalls' departure for Burr Oak, Iowa, in the fall of 1982.
    • Later in 1981, the bratty orphan, Nancy, is legally adopted by the Olesons. Nancy claims that she was abandoned by her "loving" mother, but she tells this lie to help her cope with the truth: her birth mother had died while giving birth to her (a condition today known as pre-eclampsia), and with hospital officials unable to find her biological father, she is taken to an orphanage. Of all people, it is Mrs. Oleson — the series villain, who had wanted to adopt Nancy just to spoil — who helps her realize she has people who love her and are willing to give her a stable home. And truth be told, Nancy's own unstable life prior to being taken in by the Olesons may have played a large role in her personality: Moving around from orphanage to orphanage, likely much of it not her fault; and abuse (both physical and sexual) that was likely unchecked given the era.
    • In 1982, Laura and Almanzo (by now, the series two main leads) take in their niece, Jenny (Shannen Doherty, in her first major role). Jenny becomes orphaned when her father dies suddenly of heart disease; her mother had died some years earlier. Jenny is shaken by losing her father and tries suicide, but it is a friend of the Wilders — Jeb Carter, who is Jenny's age — that rescues her from suicide by drowning ... and at the same time, overcome his fear of water and shut up Nancy for good.
    • During the 1982-1983 season, Mr. Edwards (a year after divorcing his wife, due to his alcoholism) is involved in two custody battles. In "The Wild Boy," a mute boy is discovered to be orphaned, although he does have someone — a cruel circus master, who had doped the boy so high he acts like "The Wild Boy" — "taking care" of him, and Edwards rescues him from the circus to give him a stable home. (An episode later in the season has the boy returning home to his loving biological father.) An episode played more for laughs is when Edwards agrees to take care of Blanche the orangutan, after her master dies suddenly.
  • Party of Five: The show's basic concept. The creators stated that they set the show six months after the parents' deaths to avoid making it all about the grieving process, but things are pretty much a mess all around for the Salinger clan, old wounds are constantly reopened, and the story makes it quite clear that being orphaned has changed them into completely different people. Although it was often criticized for being overly sentimental and melodramatic, the cast admitted that while the largest section of the show's fanbase watched for the show's three attractive leads (especially Scott Wolf and Matthew Fox — while Party was consistently one of Fox's worst-performing shows overall, it was consistently Fox's best-performing show in the 18-49 age range for females), most of the fan mail they received was from orphans praising the show for its' realistic depiction of orphaned life.
  • Star Trek: Discovery: Michael Burnham lost both of her parents to a Klingon raid when she was a child, and has carried Survivor's Guilt for it ever since. She was fostered by Spock's parents, Sarek and Amanda, and her attempts to immerse herself in the stoic culture of Vulcan has done nothing for her ability to handle grief in a healthy fashion. She later learns that her mother is alive, but trapped in the distant future due to Time Travel.
  • Voyagers!: A recurring plot point is Jeff dealing with the deaths of his parents. As emotionally close as he becomes to Bogg, he still remembers his mother and father and frequently finds his memories of them being triggered. The loss of his parents also heightens his fear when it seems like something might happen to Bogg or the two might be separated.

  • In Jemjammer, Ælfgifu's earliest memories are of a caravan she and her parents were on being attacked and her parents dying. After that she was raised by a kind man in the woods.

    Video Games 
  • Battle Arena Toshinden: David has one of the darkest and nightmarish childhoods to be had. When he was six, his parents were burned alive and his home razed to the ground by an organization who had their eyes set on him to become the incarnate body of a dark fighting god, and the event was so traumatizing that he fell into a deep confused depression and detachment from any sense of connection and affection. He was eventually accepted into an orphanage — one used as a front to provide said organization with plenty of children and teenagers to sacrifice for their messy magic rituals — and ripened to a nice age of sixteen, where his birthday would find him witness to the horrific fates that would befall the rest of his lifelong friends. Panicking and fearful of death before being sacrificed in the actual ceremony, David only escaped after snapping and taking the chances into his own hands, arming himself with a chainsaw and leaving behind a bloody massacre on the way out.
  • Diablo III: This applies to a majority of the Demon Hunters; their ranks are mainly survivors of demon raids on villages and entire cities, who have usually lost family members to the unrelenting war machine. The player character herself has lost her parents to the demon raids, but what hurt the most was losing her sister to demon-inflicted PTSD later.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: There are several orphans in the game, and they all have it pretty rough. Lucia in Whiterun in particular is a sad case. Her parents are gone, her aunt and uncle kicked her out because they don't want to raise her, the only person in Whiterun who has shown her any kindness is the surly town drunk, and she has to beg for a living. And that's not even mentioning pretty much everyone at Riften's Honorhall Orphanage, run with an iron fist by Grelod the Kind.
  • Final Fantasy X:
    • Yuna has a horrific time of it, although it's heavily implied at best. Her mother died when a world-killing god-whale named "Sin" wrecked the ship she was in, which left her father so broken that he went to defeat it so nobody else would have to feel that sort of pain. Of course, Yuna then had to go through the next ten years being reminded of her father's sacrifice, which turned out to be futile since Sin just ended up coming back. It leads to Yuna herself undertaking the same journey to kill Sin for good in memory of him.
    • Tidus didn't have it that easy either. When he was still a little kid his dad, who he never got along with that well, vanished overseas and his mother died of heartbreak. Auron looked out for him as a favor to Tidus' father Jecht but Tidus still developed a lot of parental issues.
  • Fire Emblem:
    Nah. I soon learned that I'd have to work hard to fit in and survive in my new home. I did chores before I was asked. I helped defend the house from marauding Risen. I thought that if I could make myself useful, they would stop... hating me. I mean, how could they resent a child that always helped and never asked for anything? But they never accepted me... I just learned to deal with disappointment. I had no friends. No one to talk to. ...I was utterly alone. And I never once mentioned how much I missed my father and mother. *Sniff* I... I didn't even ask... when... when they would come back for me...
    • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade just hates orphans. Lucius, after having his father killed by Renault, has his mother die of disease. He is then put in an orphanage where he was tormented and brutally picked on by adults and children alike. After this, he's hired on with the Cornwells, who become sort of a surrogate family to him until they die, too, by committing suicide when their house is attacked. As a result, he has a "sickness of the soul" that he cannot get rid of and that plagues him frequently. After the end of the game, he opens his own orphanage which is heavily implied to be destroyed shortly before Sword of Seals with Lucius sacrificing himself to save his charges.
    • Genealogy of the Holy War: The vast majority of the members of your army in the second half of the game have both of their parents dead or missing. This is because they are the children of your army members from the first half who were all slaughtered halfway through the game.
  • Mass Effect:
    • If you choose the Colonist background, Commander Shepard watched batarian pirates destroy his/her home town shortly after s/he turned sixteen. Not only did Shepard's parents die, but everyone except Shepard who wasn't killed was Made a Slave as they were dragged off. Not the happy origin, clearly.
    • Taken even further for a Colonist with the Sole Survivor military history, as Shepard went on to join the military, but during one of their first missions was forced to watch as their entire squad was killed off by a thresher maw. By the second game, Shepard is forced to work for the group responsible for orchestrating the Thresher Maw attack, but sadly there is no dialogue to address this.
  • Mother 3: Lucas has his mother die in front of his eyes, his brother disappears into the mountains trying to avenge her immediately afterward, then his grandfather yells at him for letting his brother leave without telling anyone, and, finally his father spends most of the next 3 years in the mountains looking for his brother, leaving him all alone and very, very sad.
  • Rule of Rose all the way. There's a reason why the narration never fails to refer to Jennifer as the "poor, unlucky girl", and the other orphans aren't much better; at least Clara, the "Frightened Princess" is probably actually significantly worse off, but she isn't the focus of the story.
  • Suikoden II: Pilika had a horrible childhood. Her whole family and village were butchered by Luca, the bloodthirsty prince of the Highlands Kingdom, becoming a war orphan and the sole survivor of her village. Later, the same man nearly cut her in half, while smiling and laughing. She is saved at the last minute, but becomes mute for most of the game. She is then separated from Jowy, her replacement father, who joins Luca's side (although he has good reasons) and is forced to stay with the hero who ends fighting Jowy (the hero's best friend), in the opposite army. When Luca finally dies and Jowy replaces him as the king of Highlands, the war isn't quite over yet: during a meeting where both sides should have signed a peace treaty, she is being used by Shu, the hero's strategist, as a human shield in order to save the hero's hide (turns out the peace treaty was a trap set up by Jowy), abandoning her to the enemy side (which is, in fact, a good thing since Jowy will take care of her, and it's her reunion with Jowy which grants her speech back). In the end, when Highlands is losing the war, she is sent to Harmonia, a distant country, by Jowy along with Jillia, Luca's sister, in order to survive and start a new life, Jowy staying behind. Yes, she has to leave her only parental figure remaining forever, and flee with the sister of her parents' murderer (in Jillia's defense, she's not crazy like her brother). You can't help but to feel sorry for her.
  • In The Walking Dead, it's established early on for the player (and for Lee) that Clementine's parents are dead. However, she herself remains completely unaware for most of Season 1 and insists on trying to find them when possible, despite Lee's awkward attempts to address the subject. When she finally finds out the truth in Episode 5 (via seeing them as walkers with her own eyes), she takes it about as well as you'd expect. In Season 3, when Gabe laments how "parents always think that we can't hear them", she makes an offhand comment about not knowing about that, due to her parents' deaths during the events of Season 1.

    Visual Novels 
  • Another Code: Both games could be described as Ashley learning about what happened to her mom in the past before she died and seeing how her dad is coping with the grief after leaving her.
  • In Fate/stay night, Shirou Emiya loses his biological parents in the fire that Kiritsugu saved him from, then lost Kiritsugu, his adoptive father, five years later. Fortunately, he does have Taiga and her grandfather Raiga.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend has multiple characters who are orphaned, but Hitori in particular has his entire life trajectory set by it. He deals with the pain of losing his birth family by devoting himself to the care of the other orphans he lives with... so the eventual loss of this second family becomes unbearably destabilizing for him.
  • Last Window: While Kyle still had his mom, the game does explore the ramifications of his dad's death and his attempts to find out more about why he died.
  • Little Busters!: It isn't obvious at first, but much of the plot of Little Busters! revolves around exploring the long-term consequences of Riki's parents dying when he was a small child and how it left him scared of the outer world and overly dependent on the only people who were there for him at the time — the other Little Busters.
  • In Mystic Messenger, part of Jaehee's route is discussing how losing both her parents (her father when she was a child and her mother when she was a teenager) has taken its toll on her mental health and self-identity, which is to say that she doesn't really know who she is because she's spent her life since their deaths working to be completely self-sufficient so she wouldn't have to rely on anyone else, and thus didn't have any time or energy to spend leaning about herself.

  • A number of cases in Crepuscule:
    • Lark's parents individually died before/shortly after he was born, leaving him all the more lonely in a world where he's persecuted — and all the happier when he leaves and finds new family in the form of Angela. Who then dies ten years later, causing him to lose it and spends the entirety of the season learning how to cope.
    • Carne's parents died in an accident, and she's shown to be fairly lonely after the fact, thus bonding with Setz — her main companion afterwards — all the more easily, if not unhealthily so. That's not even getting into what happens when, ten years later, she remembers that she actually killed her parents.
    • Bathory's mother abandoned her and thus she spent most of her life searching for another relative, desperate for some sort of family bond. Unfortunately for her, said relative is Angela who, as mentioned, bites it, nearly causing Bathory to cross the Despair Event Horizon.
    • A far more well-adjusted example, but it's mentioned that Sia's father died a few years back and that he took it badly, which is why he tries to reach out to Lark after Angela's death and stop him from doing anything stupid, as he can't sit back and watch him be self-destructive.
  • Digger: The hyena Grim Eyes is technically not an orphan at the start, but her mother Blood Eyes was abusive to Grim Eyes and her father Skin Painter. Skin Painter killed Blood Eyes for it, and as punishment his "name was eaten", a treatment considered a Fate Worse than Death by hyenas.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court. Antimony spends the first several chapters dealing in her own way with the double-whammy of her mum's death and her father's subsequent disappearance. Now she's trying to solve some of the mysteries from the Court's and her own parent's histories. And when her father finally does show up, he's an emotionally abusive jackass who treats her like dirt, and all the other adults in the court just shrug it off with "you just have to get to know him better."
  • Kevin & Kell takes the trope every which way:
    • The most standard play on this is mouse Tyler Meadowvole, the nephew of Mark Meadowvole. His father was eaten in 2018 when he was 7, leaving him an orphan. Faced with going into "spawn services"—implied to be a hopeless fate for many young mice—Mark's case to adopt him is bolstered when his girlfriend, Aby Eyeshine, proposes to him. Despite being a cat herself, there are plenty of friends willing to vouch on her behalf, so they are allowed to adopt him.
    • Then comes a massively extreme case with Ophelia Stoat. Her family was gradually wiped out by pelt hunters, leaving her vagrant by age 13. At age 20, she crossed paths with George Gopher, who saved her from the pelt hunters with the help of several connections at his college, Beige University (such as Lindesfarne Dewclaw, fellow student Greta Garter, and Greta's boyfriend Todd). She eventually got a job as a nanny for Savanna, the daughter of Leona Mangle and Carl.
    • The case for rabbit Miranda Hutch is much more muted. Her parents were hunted when she was a baby, but she was quickly adopted by her uncle and his male partner. This is considered a fact of life for rabbits, and she doesn't have any angst over it.
    • Corrie Dale, a sheep, is a strange case. She was put up for adoption by her parents, Wanda Woolstone and Ralph Dewclaw, who were teenagers when she was conceived (as well as being a sheep and a wolf, respectively, which would've been frowned upon at the time). Her mother died in childbirth, and she was fraudulently adopted by medical researchers. She eventually escaped the facility, and became friends with a young wolf, Bruno Lupulin, who wore her as a sheepskin to keep her safe (and they fell in love as they matured). Around age 14, Bruno ended up caught by the researchers (they were moles, and he smelled like Corrie), and learned Corrie's parentage. When they found out her father was the uncle of one of their friends, she revealed herself, and Ralph took her in.
  • Muted: Camille loses her mother and sister in a fire, is given to her abusive Aunt Athalie, and the plot kicks off when she starts discovering things about her parents' past.
  • The Silver Eye: After his father's death, Apen Shephard was exiled from his country and had to struggle for survival in the Deadlands. After miraculously surviving, he has a hard time coming to terms with the fact that he might have to start his entire life over again from scratch, but eventually accepts the family that took him in and realizes that he might be able to start over again. This is before Enel shows up, ruining everything, of course.
  • True Villains: Played for Laughs with the six-year-old orphan girl Mia, who's such a Pollyanna that she describes the whole thing cheerfully and ends up Happily Adopted by the Villain Protagonists.
    Elia: What are we supposed to do with her? You did just murder everybody she's ever known or loved.
    Mia: Oh, no! My parents have been dead for years! My friends too. I never had many friends, but the few I did have all died in unnecessarily tragic ways. One of them was eaten by a wolf!

    Web Videos 
  • Tales from the SMP: Robin from the episode "The Village That Went Mad" lost his parents in a Great Offscreen War and is looked down upon by most of the village for being an orphan child; while he does have a surrogate father-figure in the form of Catboy, he ends up executed for supposedly murdering someone. Ultimately, Robin is heavily implied to become a Death Seeker as a result of his trauma, not defending himself when the townsfolk turn their accusations on him and have him killed.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: Although Marceline's father isn't dead, he's pretty evil and not exactly a great parent. Marceline's mom is also implied to have died in the great Mushroom War, leaving Marceline without much of a family. Wandering the nuclear wasteland, her only real father figure, Simon Petrikov/The Ice King slowly went insane due to the power of the Crown. Overall, her life just wasn't great.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
  • The Dragon Prince: Losing his mother and stepfather badly traumatized Callum. He wistfully draws his mother's image from memory, and expresses hatred at Avizandum for taking her away from him. He breaks down when he finds out his stepfather was killed, and he visibly carries that grief. However, this experience has made him want to live up to his adopted father's moral lessons on love and forgiveness, and his losses have made him extremely protective of his family and loved ones.
  • The Simpsons: In "The Wandering Juvie", Gina turns out to be without a family, explaining her violent path.
  • South Park: An episode touches on this when the McKormick children are sent to a crowded foster home where the children are suspended from the ceiling and hosed down with Dr. Pepper for not being ambiguous about God, angels, or other religious icons.
    • For context, the episode parodied the "abusive fundamentalist" type of foster family you often see in media using this trope, except the family in question were fundamentalist agnostics, and applied their extreme ambivalence in all aspects of their lives, even what they drank. Since Dr. Pepper is neither cola, nor root beer, that's all they would keep at home.
  • Star Wars Rebels has Ezra Bridger, a street rat turned Jedi who lost his parents at age seven when they were seized by the Empire, and then had to grow up alone until the Ghost crew found him at fourteen. This left him with severe abandonment issues and a deep fear of losing his new family, which for good and ill forms the basis of his Character Arc.


Video Example(s):



The film opens with Oliver, along with a litter of other kittens, living in a cardboard box on the street, being sold for low prices. One by one, every kitten is sold, until only Oliver is left. With seemingly no one wanting him, the poor orphan kitten is left in the rain to fend for himself, until his cardboard home is destroyed.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / AbandonedPetInABox

Media sources: