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Rules of Orphan Economics

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Worst day ever. Bobby's parents have died in a terrible freak accident that has him living in an empty house. It is up to the author, however, to decide whether life will be sunshine and puppies, or downright gruesome. Depends on the point of the story.

In a more realistic setting, Bobby will not go on an adventure. Instead, he will be forced to live life like the rest of the townspeople. Because the world is evil, Bobby will not be sent to the Orphanage of Love, nor will some kindly old couple take him home because of his cute little stare. After all, Social Services Does Not Exist.

So now we get to the trope. Remember that house in which Bobby has been living since his parents died? That's his new abode. But there is no way that Bobby, a child, could pay for the water, the food, the drinks, the crazy weekend parties and the taxes, right? Bobby isn't even old enough for a job!

This is where the road will fork:

  • Type I: He probably shouldn't worry about the situation. No problem, he's an orphan, right? The cereal in the cupboard will restock itself and the letter carrier will skip over his house when the taxes are due. The Internet will work cost-free and his boombox will still impress the ladies come Sunday night.
  • Type II: In a wonderful twist of fate, some awesome, wealthy, kind person or organization who may or may not have known Bobby's parents has decided to pay for all of Bobby's expenses! In fact, the orphans may even gain help through inheritance.
  • Type III: Worst case scenario, in a brutal take on Truth in Television, Bobby will be forced to somehow pay for all his expenses by working, whether it be stealing, factory work or whatever.

Because these scenarios seem to set off the Fridge Logic sensors in viewers' brains, barely any consequence-free examples are left these days.

May overlap with Undead Tax Exemption. See also "Friends" Rent Control.

Sorting through The Other Wiki's list of notable literary orphans (at the bottom), other tropers can probably help expand this article, so if you've read any of those stories, sort the orphans.


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    Anime And Manga 
  • Grave of the Fireflies: After their mother dies in a bombing, 14-year-old Seita and his much younger sister Setsuko move in with their aunt, who resents that they consume food without working. Seita gets fed up with the aunt's insults and moves out with Setsuko into an abandoned bomb shelter, where he tries to provide for the both of them, but the only way he can do so is by stealing. Both of them suffer from malnutrition and end up dying.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's : Hayate Yagami's source of funds is brushed off as a wealthy friend of her late parents. In reality, it is a rogue TSAB Admiral waiting for her to become one with the Book of Darkness in hopes of trapping it before too much of the world gets lain waste to.
    • StrikerS: It was established early on that Fate had been providing for Erio and Caro before they enlisted.
  • Naruto: The fourth Hokage's dying request was that the village take care of his son. They comply, in the most grudging, mean-spirited way possible.
  • Please Twins!: Maiku makes his money as a freelance, work-from-home programmer. (His employers are unaware that he's a minor.) The girls' source of livelihood, though, is never mentioned.
  • Sailor Moon: Sailor Jupiter seems to live without any visible means of support. Fanon often presumes a parental trust fund, but there was no mention of same in the show or comic.
  • Shounen Maid: When the protagonist's mother died, he thought (and was ready to accept) he'd be alone, but then he then learned she eloped from a wealthy family because they didn't approve his father and her brother took him in.
  • Tokyo Mew Mew has Bu-ling, the Kid-Appeal Character of the group. She is eight years old when the series begins and, though only her mom's dead, her dad has gone off to train in the mountains and left her with five younger siblings to care for and a dojo to run — but she's dirt poor, knows it, and has to perform in the street to pay the bills. Even when she's given a job at Cafe Mew Mew, she continues to perform — sometimes even during work to entice the customers to give her tips — and has to count her change to see if she can buy a bottle of ketchup. The anime had a filler episode revealing that her father apparently arranged for her to be engaged to a grown man, with the implication that it was only set up to legally allow her to keep the house.

  • While they aren't exactly orphans (their mother is alive but wasn't aware of their situation), the scenario is portrayed in something of a Type II in The Outside, as Satsuki and Ryuuko do seem to be living off of resources their passed on dad left for them and they are implied to be wealthy, especially since the former is agoraphobic and isn't mentioned to be stepping out of the house willingly.
  • In Paradoxus, if you are from Domino and a female war orphan with an aptitude for magic and the right age, then you're probably going to get recruited cough cough kidnapped cough cough by some mysterious nymph, then hellishly trained so you can serve as the bodyguard and personal army of Domino's heiress. Well, at least you now have a new purpose in life and you get food, a place to sleep, and a cool bow! Note that you were previously a Type III.

  • Bruce Wayne is supported by Wayne Enterprises (which he will eventually run) when his parents are killed in a mugging, and is given a foster mother as a caretaker. Robin (or at least Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and eventually Tim Drake) is taken in, in turn, by Bruce.
  • Billy Batson, the world's youngest full-time radio presenter, started out as homeless, selling newspapers near the subway station where he slept at night. Freddie Freeman (Capt. Marvel Jr.) was doing all right living with his grandfather until Capt. Nazi fell into their fishing boat. Now he's an orphaned newspaper boy living on his own, although he has a tiny garret apartment.

  • This is the setup in the 1967 film Our Mother's House (based on Julian Gloag's 1963 book). Dad deserted the family and the children are cared for by their ailing mom. When she dies they're afraid they'll be split up, so they bury her secretly and continue to live according to what she taught them. The money comes from Mom's annuity; the kids forge her signature on monthly checks. Although there are power struggles among the kids to determine who should be in chargenote the economics work out all right, until Dad shows up and blows all the money on prostitutes and booze.
  • Nobody Knows by Hirokazu Kore-Eda: Four children are abandoned by their irresponsible mother, and are on their own in an apartment in which food and other supplies are slowly running out. With no money, they must resort to various means to find food and keep up a pretense of normality (not that anyone seems to care, hence the title). Not all of them make it. Unfortunately, based on a true story.
  • The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. The Other Wiki article says her father "...made plans to allow Rynn to live alone...", presumably including financial matters.
  • Another Real Life example on film is the short film ''Down from the Mountains. The "left behind" children of China are rural kids who actually have parents, but because the parents have to live where the jobs are, sometimes a thousand miles away, the kids stay in the family home, take care of the farm, go to school and raise themselves and each other. The parents send money home for their upkeep and, most important of all, their education.

  • James Bond has his parents dying in a mountaineering accident. He inherits their home, and joins the Royal Navy when he comes to the age.
  • Harry Potter has the Dursleys providing a roof over his head, and his parents' money for expenses in the magical world.
  • Jane Eyre begins as an orphan in the household of her aunt by marriage who reluctantly provides her with a home. She then goes to Lowood school where she doesn't exactly have to work for her keep but the conditions are terrible, although the education is good and she excels in her classes to prove herself. Following this she does earn her keep by becoming a teacher at the school. She then becomes a governess at Thornfield. Finally, at the end of the novel she conveniently receives a huge inheritance from the uncle she never knew who wanted to adopt her all along before he died.
  • In the case of Pippi Longstocking, you wonder about this at first, until you realize that she actually has a whole pile of pirate gold on hand to pay for the things she needs. (And, a lot of the time, she has no idea of the actual value of the gold she's slapping down for trivial things like ice cream. She resists any attempt to give her change because that's too many little coins to keep track of.)
  • In Gene Stratton-Porter's Michael O'Halloran, Mickey does odd jobs to support himself. Then, given the time frame, children worked then. He was working even before his mother's death, and she had carefully prepared him to live on his own.
  • David Copperfield had his stepfather sent him to London to work, ran away to his great-aunt and got adopted by her.
  • In Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen this happens to the main character Ruby. She lives in a single parent household until her mother disappears. She attempts to work and go to school until she turns 18. Unfortunately a social worker comes and forces her to move in with her older sister.
  • Willie Connolly does this to a certain extent in J.R. Lowell's Daughter of Darkness after she accidentally kills her mother with one of her Ritual Magic spells. Although her dad's still around, he has a Heroic BSoD for a time before he starts working again, then devotes all his time to that, so twelve-year-old Willie takes over all the housekeeping and financial responsibility for the next three years.
  • Mama, Let's Dance by Patricia Hermes has Mama deserting her three kids in rural North Carolina and flittering off to New York to be a dancer.note  16-year-old Ariel gets a minimum wage job and they hide their situation from the county welfare people, fearing they'd be split up and sent to foster homes. Their neighbors, an older black man and his niece, suspect what's going on and help in subtle ways. When the youngest sister dies, he takes in the other two as his own.
  • The Hunger Games: Katniss still has a mother, but she might as well be furniture after her father died in a mining accident, which sent Mrs. Everdeen into years-long shock so bad she was not able to provide for herself, let alone her two daughters. At some point, the three nearly died to starvation, until Peeta donated Katniss a loaf of bread out of pity, giving her motivation to earn money by hunting. Eventually, her mother recovered and started contributing to the family's finances, but Katniss remains the primary breadwinner.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Daenerys Targaryen's brother Viserys was orphaned when he was eight, and was immediately forced to flee to a different continent with his baby sister and a few people loyal to their deposed royal family. The two had a moderately comfortable living for a while, until their caretaker died and their servants took all of their savings, leaving a fourteen-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl to fend for themselves in an alien environment, completely penniless. The two had to beg for mercy from place to place, with Viserys even having to sell his beloved mother's crown just to keep them fed, all while enduring jeers from people who called him "the Beggar King". Which took a toll on his sanity, causing him to start beating Daenerys regularly.

    Live Action Television 
  • The Onlies in the Star Trek episode "Miri" have been living out of the supplies left by the original colony for three hundred years. Captain Kirk tells them they would not be able to survive much longer this way because the food's running out. Some fans speculate that they could have made it a while longer. Many children are capable of learning to take care of themselves, and space colonists would have emphasized this. Learning how to plant and grow food in gardens would have been a big deal; they would even have had books on it, and older kids would have taught younger ones to do this.
  • After Joyce's death in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Buffy's Promotion to Parent, Buffy does not work a paying job but still somehow manages to pay the bills. Her financial concerns later become plot points in season 6, though.
    • It's mentioned in season 6 that Joyce had a life Insurance policy. It was mostly eaten up by medical bills, but only 'mostly', thus explaining where the money comes from in Season 5.
    • And from Giles. And presumably the almost-Disappeared Dad is paying Dawn's child support. And Willow and Tara live there (but Tara has no means of support either, so....)

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In the British newspaper strip The Perishers, Wellington is an orphan who lives with his dog Boot, initially in a large concrete pipe in an abandoned factory yard, later in a closed railway station. It's never explained how the two of them survive, but the implication is that they live on handouts from Wellington's friends, plus Boot's theft of the occasional string of sausages.

    Video Games 
  • Hilariously done in The Sims. The children are literally unable to do anything about the taxes or get money.
    • In the sequel game, the same thing happens with children, however Teens can live alone and get a job.
    • In the later games, children will be removed from the household and placed into the pool of adoptable kids if the adults in the house all die. Teens are more independent and, as such, are left to fend by themselves... but they still have to attend school full-time and the only jobs they can work are minimum wage, so good luck paying the bills.
  • Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale: Recette is left to fend for herself, and work as a shopkeeper to pay off the massive debt left behind by her vanished father, but with a good amount of adventuring involved as well.
  • Your PC can adopt the new orphan NPCs introduced in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim DLC Hearthfire. Or you can kill off the parent(s) of other child NPCs, then adopt the newly orphaned children.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Double Homework, after the deaths of their parents, the protagonist, Johanna, and Tamara get some money from the state, but Tamara has to get a job during the summer (since both her siblings are in summer school), because the stipend doesnít cover all their living expenses. Afterwards, itís mentioned that the three of them split the bills, but itís a mystery how, since none of them is mentioned to have a job.
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry, it is eventually revealed that Irie is taking care of Satoko and Rika and the two are technically under the custody of the village chief Kimiyoshi. It is left unexplained for most of the series until then.
  • Shirou in Fate/stay night is being taken care of by... well, a yakuza head, who was a friend of his father. The Yakuza head's sweet granddaughter drops by every now and then to make sure he hasn't got into any trouble as he lives in his dad's giant sweet mansion, but he's still an entirely emancipated minor. Shirou, however, has a streak of independence which makes him keep the entire giant mansion clean all by himself, with only one of his younger female classmates coming by to help. The sweet granddaughter, despite being sweet, is no help, instead sponging off of him to devour his great homemade meals. Shirou also maintains an income by fixing up the Yakuza head's motorcycle and keeping up with three different part-time jobs. In times of need, however, Shirou can ask for a maid from the Yakuza head to keep his house in order.
  • It's been pointed out on the headscratchers page for Katawa Shoujo that it's never explained how the character of Hanako Ikezawa, a penniless orphan, is able to afford her studies in an expensive, prestigious, specialized private boarding school. Other characters are explicitly shown or stated to be rich, enjoy generous scholarships, or simply have families who can support them, but Hanako's story outright shows that she can't financially support herself, leaving the question of her studies a bit of a mystery. Some people like to believe that the school itself (which was originally created for the benefit of disabled children, and has influential backers) would support her, but the page itself points out, this sounds a lot like wishful thinking. As kind as everyone in the story is, running such an expensive operation as a private school for the physically handicapped as a charity just wouldn't work in real life.
  • Riki Naoe, the protagonist of Little Busters!, mentions in the second Rin route that he has an inheritance left behind by his parents, which he uses to get by after he and Rin run away from school, but also mentions that he feels awkward spending the last thing connecting him to his parents. That route also establishes that he does have a legal guardian who took him in and it's implied they take care of expenses like the Boarding School he attends, but it's also implied Riki isn't really close to them emotionally.

  • Obliquely touched on in Gunnerkrigg Court. By enrolling his daughter Antimony at the Court prior to his disappearance, Anthony Carver had insured that she would be provided for, since the Court has no tuition fees and provides for all the students' needs. All of them.
    • As if the Court would let a descendant of a fire elemental and a potential medium go anywhere else.