Fairy tales are full of orphans. No parents, or bad ones, not only give the main characters a need to survive, but they don’t have anyone in the way of their doing it. They are on their own to grow and learn, to try whatever desperate quest may be necessary.
Villains try to stop them, witches, wolves, etc., I admit, but the trick is for the character to recognize the villain and to outwit her by cunning, brute force, cooperation, anything but sheer dumb luck. The outer demons just call forth the inner demons: resentment, self-doubt, phobias, cowardice.
How many of our inner demons come from our family of origin, our learned behaviors? This is not a “Mommie Dearest” bash nor a plaint of “I ain’t got no Daddy,” but we do learn from our parents what they learned from theirs. We either follow their footsteps or carve out our own opposite path, still fighting with the family story, often unconsciously. Without conscious awareness, no escape from the family story is possible.
My fairy godmother’s clients have issues. The girl has lost her mother, and the two boys, their fathers, through the machinations of the local villain, a controlling, manipulative type, with a charming, sweet side, if she likes you, and you do what she advises. I’m still dragging her depths to see why she’s motivated to do what she does. Having a purely evil character is no more fun than having one who is just insane.
So what do motherless girls do for a role model? What do fatherless boys do?
Often they fantasize about who the missing parent is, and how no other person of that gender quite measures up. They imagine how different life would be with the absent parent, and they long to find that other and prove themselves worthy. Failing that, they may try to take on the role of the missing spouse, trying to look after the remaining parent, especially if that person is not doing such a great job of holding things together. In the WIP, lots of things are falling apart.
Does it all come down to needing to be loved? Learning how to love?
One thing magic can neither cause nor overcome is true love, whether it be parent and child, lover and lover, or some other variation of friend and friend. How can a child not wonder why the parent is not there, not have some resentment of being betrayed and abandoned, not have some longing for that gap to be filled, preferably not by an evil stepparent?
Makes you wonder why there are no evil stepfathers in fairy tales? Fathers are disreputable enough, millers in particular putting their daughters at risk, but they have nothing on kings for abuse and desire for incest. Step mothers just put their own interests, or those of their own children, ahead of the character’s, completely understandable from a different perspective.
How are these issues resolved? What happens if the missing parent returns? If the missing parent is proved dead? Or if the parent turns out to be one assumed to be the character’s deepest enemy? Those are the questions I seek to answer.
Mommy issues. Daddy issues. We won’t talk about mine here, but I’m sure they will show through.