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'Missing Mother' and Other Tropes: Examining a fantasy protagonist's backstory

This article seeks to pinpoint and discuss re-used/well-worn tropes in literature surrounding the issue of family and the background/ongoing story of a fantasy literary protagonist! What exactly is it about the tropes that fuels a protagonist’s backstory – that makes it interesting? Why are these tropes used time and again (i.e. Dead Parents, Wicked Stepmother, Death by Childbirth); and in your opinion, are they useful, or too well-worn? Are there any notable exceptions where family either doesn’t play a huge role (i.e. they’re not mentioned), or they do, and are treated much as part of the protagonist’s current story line as their past reason for doing things/giving them angst and trauma?

(It could be worth looking at TV Tropes and other websites for names of particular ‘tropes’ to discuss and explore).

  • Great idea. The absent parent, especially the absent mother, ties into a fear we all have about what it would be like if no one cared about you. Having no parents or a cruel stepmother means we immediately sympathise with the central character. It can be more interesting if there is a twist in this trope though. In The Hunger Games Katniss's father dies and her mother becomes lost in her grief for some time. Katniss is forced to become the adult at a very early age. As a result her relationship with her mother is strained because she wasn't there when she needed her. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,however, the children are evacuated to the country and barely mention their parents. – SarahPhilip 3 years ago
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  • You could explore more about latinamerican writers, such as Roberto BolaƱo, Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortazar. – Pedroaft 3 years ago
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