Orphans as Protagonists

I’ve recently realised that orphans are protagonists in numerous books, thanks to a video on YouTube where Simon from SavidgeReads interviews E. Lockhart. They can be characters who are on their own, forced to look for a place they can call home. But they are also used to showcase either strained or loving relationships with other family members besides parents. When there is really no family member left to take care of them, they are a window to the difficulties faced by children who are institutionalised.

Glancing through my shelves, I found some books whose protagonists are orphans of both parents at the beginning of the story.


Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter

Probably the most famous literary orphan, Harry Potter lives, at the beginning of The Philosopher’s Stone, with his horrible uncle and aunt unaware that his parents were two famous wizards killed by the evil Lord Voldemort. I’m sure there is no need for me to tell you more about his story.


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – Jane Eyre

The title character of this book by one of the Brontë sisters lives with her maternal uncle’s family, the Reeds, at the beginning of the novel. Her parents dyed of typhus, and her uncle was the only one in the family who showed her some kindness. But, after his death, she is left alone with four people who are abusive to her, until she is sent to a school for poor and orphaned girls, where she is first a student and then a teacher. She is afterwards employed at Thornfield Hall by Mr Rochester. Jane Eyre is one of my favourite classics.


The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – Frodo Baggins

Frodo is a Hobbit from the Shire who plays a crucial role in the quest to destroy the One Ring. His parents drowned in a boating accident and he was then adopted by his “uncle” Bilbo, who made him his heir.


Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – Pip

The main character in this novel, Pip, is an orphan who lives with his abusive older sister and her kind husband, Joe Gargery. He tells the story in the first person, starting with the moment when he encounters a convict next to his parents’ graves. He makes many mistakes, but grows up to be a better person in the end.


A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin – Daenerys Targaryen

One of the last members of House Targaryen, Daenerys is the daughter of King Aerys II and Queen Rhaella. Her father was killed at the end of Robert’s Rebellion and her mother died after giving birth to her. She lived in fear in exile together with her abusive brother Viserys. Throughout the series, she grows into a more confident woman.

It’s likely that she is not the only protagonist who is an orphan at the beginning of the series. But as that possibility hasn’t been confirmed in the books yet, I’ll not say who I’m talking about so not to spoil those who don’t watch the TV series.


What books have you read with orphans as protagonists? Tell me in the comments!


4 thoughts on “Orphans as Protagonists

  1. 0wlmachine says:

    There are so many but right now I can only think of the absent/distant/incompetent parents of popular YA like Twilight and The Hunger Games. I guess kids with capable parents don’t get into novel-worthy situations, at least, not easily.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Café Society says:

    Well, there’s Anne of Green Gables of course. I think a lot of books for so have what I would call ‘pseudo-orphans’ in as much as something happens at the beginning to get the parents out of the way and allow the story to concentrate on the children with no awkward adults a round telling them how they ought to behave. A large part of Enid Blyton’s catalogue works in this way as well as the Narnia books.

    Liked by 1 person

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