Book of

The Kindness of Strangers: The Abandonment of Children in Western Europe from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance, by John Boswell

Before there was TVtropes (though not, of course, before tropes), Boswell wondered if Doorstop Babies were common in myth and legend because they are like quicksand or like divorce. Quicksand is rare in reality, but fascinating and convenient for fiction, so it shows up in stories a lot. Divorce is also common in fiction (especially “literature”) — but, if anything, even *more* common in real life.

Boswell marshals evidence showing that abandoned children were one of the fundamental facts of life from the classical though the modern period in Europe, though the exact ways and means varied in different periods.

Required reading for anyone who wants to abandon a fictional child.

actual post date: Dec. 28th 2009

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