Academic Articles

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From Folktales to Fiction: Orphan Characters in Children’s Literature

Melanie A. Kimball

1999

Orphan heroes and heroines are familiar characters in children’s literature, particularly in the fiction of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. This type of protagonist has its roots in folktales. An analysis of fifty folktales from different cultures reveals that, while the details of or- phan stories vary, there are some universal elements. A comparison of these patterns to a literary orphan story, The Secret Garden, demonstrates how the patterns found in orphan folktales were adapted and applied in children’s fiction.