Trope Tuesday is a meme/series created by yours truly. On Tuesdays, the goal is to discuss one trope that you dislike, love, are indifferent to, hate, currently annoyed by, think is problematic, want to kill with fire, or throw out the moon door (a la Petyr Baelish). You can learn more about Trope Tuesday here.
Dead Parent Het is one of my favorite tropes ever. There’s a good chance that while you probably aren’t familiar with it by name, you’ve seen it around once or twice in books and other forms of media.
Dead Parent Het is a term coined by myself and Zeena. We adored a non book couple, and realized that they were very similar to James and Lily from Harry Potter. In fact, they shared some of the exact core tropes along with even sharing the same hair color. We loved the tropes that we found in these two couples so much, that we decided to name the collection of tropes and lovingly call it ‘Dead Parent Het’ referring to both their status as dead, parents, and the quintessential heterosexual couple.
There are several vital components to Dead Parent Het:
- The couple being referred to as Dead Parent Het must be the parents of the main character, and they must be dead before the story begins or dead by the prologue at the latest. Their demise can come about in anyway, but it must be in the form of some tragedy like a shipwreck or getting skewered by a giant monster.
- In addition, the couple should have had some legendary/infamous status in their world. It can be on a smaller scale like in Harry Potter. For example, Harry often runs into people who knew his parents at Hogwarts and they compare him to them. James and Lily were not famous figures in the wizarding world before the time of their death, but their presence in the world Harry is engulfed in was enough to be influential for his experience at Hogwarts and as a wizard. Or the couple can be the leaders of the entire city/country/world/coven/etc.
- The Dead Parent Het’s actions when they were alive or legacy must also have at least some amount of influence on their child from the grave. Because Dead Parent Het is rare in non-fantasy stories, there typically is a prophecy they didn’t fulfill or some supernatural villain that they couldn’t defeat. Their child, the main character, will have to deal with the repercussions of their previous actions, or finally be the one to defeat the big bad magical villain. And sometimes in fantasy Dead Parent Hets, their influence will turn direct and they will actually met up with their child through some supernatural loop hole and help them with their journey.
- One of the biggest components of Dead Parent Het is the whimsical, highly idealized, generation transcending love that persists death and have a legacy even after they pass. I have never had a problem identifying Dead Parent Het or thinking ‘I’m not quite sure if this is really it’. That magical quality always shines through. You just know it when you see it.
The ultimate literary Dead Parent Het is Stephen Proctor and Rebecca Bishop from the All Souls Trilogy. Stephen and Rebecca encompass everything I look for in Dead Parent Het.
Both Stephen and Rebecca were incredibly powerful witches and respected professors. Their relationship originally caused a stir because they were both from such powerful lines of witches that people didn’t think they should mix. Along the way, they make several prominent, powerful enemies like Peter Knox, which causes problems for their main character daughter, Rebecca Bishop.
Stephen and Rebecca die violently in Nigeria while on a trip. Before their trip, they did many things to ensure that Diana would be able to complete their job as Rebecca knew from a premonition that they were going to die. Some of the things included spellbounding their Diana in order to protect her from people who would hurt her for her powers, and spelling Ashmole 782 so only she could open it.
Like in some other fantasy stories with Dead Parent Het, Stephen has a direct interaction with his daughter after his death. Because Stephen could timewalk, as an adult, Diana accidentally meets up with him on one of her timewalks long after his death.
My Verdict: Love of my life. Can do no wrong.
What do you think of Dead Parent? Can you guess which non-book Dead Parent Het I keep making thinly veiled references to, and want to expose me by talking about it in the comments below?