Wednesday, January 4, 2012

In Which We Watch A Tear-Jerker And I Survey My Shelves

So today Connor and I watched the 25th anniversary DVD edition of Les Miserables in between loads of laundry.  Well, I watched it, anyway-- Les Mis is not the most exciting movie ever for a five year old, though he did enthusiastically participate in some of the musical numbers.  It's been a while since I've seen it because my 10th anniversary edition is VHS and we don't have a player for it right now, so I was psyched when I got the DVD for Christmas.

Les Miserables is my favorite musical of all time, despite the fact that it makes me weep uncontrollably for several hours.  I've never seen it in person, but the 10th anniversary edition came out on video when I was 13 and I remember having sleepovers with my friends where we'd watch it together, sometimes multiple times a night.  We'd all read the book, and we'd sit around and discuss it and the musical with passion most teenagers at the time reserved for the latest episodes of 90210.  Nothing like a little 19th century literature to get the girls squealing, right?  We were kind of strange kids.

Oh, and also we watched it because we thought the guy who played Marius was totally hot.  So maybe we weren't that strange after all.   

Anyway, so I was watching while folding laundry and bawling, and I realized that John Valjean, the character the book and musical revolve around, is an adoptive parent.  That made me wonder just how many of our movies and books involve characters who are orphans. 

Answer: a lot

Out of curiosity I made up a list of the kids movies we have on our shelves that involve a main character who was either an orphan or a foundling, and here's what I came up with: Lilo and Stitch, The Sword And The Stone, Jungle Book, Tangled, Snow White, Enchanted, Cinderella, The Little Princess, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter, Oliver, Hercules, The Rescuers, All Dogs Go To Heaven, Peter Pan, James And The Giant Peach, Tarzan, Anastasia, The Secret Garden, Stuart Little, and of course, Annie.  Whew!

And that's just the movies.  Orphans in books-- especially young adult and childrens' books-- are so prevalent that I actually studied the Orphan Archetype in one of my literature classes.  If I listed all of the books I have on my shelves that contain orphan protagonists we'd be here all night.  And I'm pretty sure it's not just because I have an insane number of books and an eye for fictional characters that are plucky young orphans. 

I wonder which of the books and movies Ellen will identify with!  Of course I hope she'll enjoy Les Miserables (and there's a chance she will, because the DVD version I have stars one of the Jonas Brothers and I've been informed by the teenage daughter of a friend that he is "like, still totally hot, even though they are so not cool now").  I'm kind of curious now as to just how many kids books and movies are out there that feature a Plucky Young Orphan protagonist.  I looked for a list online, but haven't been able to find anything.  If one of you knows of a list, will you point me in the right direction? 



Jessyka said...

Out of curiosity, I used "orphans" as a search term in children's books on amazon. There were over 2,500 results!

Mary said...

Didn't you go with Mary J. and I to see Les Mis at Fair Park? I feel like we brought ye olde visiting-again foreign exchange student Martin with us too, but I sure thought you were there. Perhaps not.

Most of the protagonists in the book I'm reading are orphans and/or adopted, it seems. If I think through most of my favorite books, they're FAR from alone in that capacity.

Julia O'C said...

There's a PDF online called, "Folktales to Fiction: Orphans Characters in Children's Literature" that lists quite a few.

Julia O'C said...


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