Superman was a Foundling
Superman was a Foundling

Superman was a Foundling

40 Brunswick Square London WC1N 1AZ
25 Sep 2014 — 01 Jul 2018
  • Artists’ Projects
Award-winning poet, playwright and 2014 Foundling Fellow, Lemn Sissay MBE, has created Superman was a Foundling, a poem printed on the walls of the Museum Café.

Superman was a Foundling is a striking exploration of the powerful role of orphaned, fostered and adopted children in our culture. Sissay, who experienced growing up in care, describes the project as addressing the disparity between our admiration for fictional characters and a widespread disregard for their real-life counterparts:

Superman was a Foundling upraises the fictional stars of popular and classic culture who are fostered, adopted or orphaned. They range from Romulus and Remus of Rome’s foundation myth, to Lisbeth Salander of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Their adventures have enriched our lives, but we do not recognise the connection between the fictional characters and the fostered, adopted and orphaned children in our midst.

Did Superman have ADHD? Did Harry Potter have an uncontrollable temper? Was Lisbeth Salander unable to form lasting relationships? For all their complexity and pain, these characters are shining examples of how to be your best. Young people in care enrich our lives in a similar way.”

Can you think of other fictional characters who grew up in children’s homes or were fostered, adopted or orphaned? Let us know on Twitter, or leave a note at the Information Desk on your next visit. We will pass all suggestions on to Lemn, who aims to build the most comprehensive list in the world of fictional characters who had alternative childhoods.

Lemn Sissay’s public art installations can be found at Royal Festival Hall and Fen Court. He was the first official poet of the Olympic Games and the resulting work, Spark Catchers, is displayed in The Queen Elizabeth Park. He was aided by artist Charlotte Jonsmyr in the realisation of this mural.

A full list of the characters included in Superman was a Foundling:

Alem Kelo was fostered, Refugee Boy, Benjamin Zephaniah, 2001

Anne Shirley was adopted, Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery, 1908

Annie Warbucks was adopted, Annie, 1982

Asajj Ventress was orphaned, Star Wars: Clone Wars, 2003

Batman was orphaned, DC Comics, first appeared 1939

Becky Sharp was orphaned, Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray, 1847–48

Boba Fett was fostered, Star Wars, first appeared Star Wars Holiday Special, 1978

Brenton Brown was fostered, Brixton Rock, Alex Wheadle, 1999

Carrie Willow was fostered, Carrie’s War, Nina Bawden, 1973

Cassia Xiao was adopted, The Concubine of Shanghai, Hong Ying, 2011

Christopher Banks was fostered, When We Were Orphans, Kazuo Ishiguro, 2000

Cinderella was fostered, Cinderella, first appeared 1697

Darth Bane was orphaned, Star Wars, first mentioned Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, 1999

David Copperfield was adopted, David Copperfield, Charles Dickens, 1850

Dick Whittington was orphaned, folklore, early seventeenth-century

Dorothy Gale was adopted, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum, 1900

Edward Cullen was adopted, The Twilight Series, Stephenie Meyer, 2005

Edwin Drood was orphaned, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Charles Dickens, 1870

Eppie was adopted, Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe, George Eliot,  1861

Estella Havisham was adopted, Great Expectations, Charles Dickens, 1860

Esther Summerson was fostered, Bleak House, Charles Dickens, 1852

Euphrasie was adopted, Les Misérables, Victor Hugo, 1862

Eva Luna was fostered, Eva Luna, Isabel Allende, 1987

Evey Hammond was orphaned, V for Vendetta, Alan Moore and David Lloyd, 1982

Fanny Price was fostered, Mansfield Park, Jane Austen, 1814

Fanny Robin was fostered, Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy, 1874

FitzChivalry was adopted, Farseerers Trilogy, Robin Hobb, 1995

Frodo Baggins was adopted, The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkein, 1954

Galen Marek (Starkiller or The Apprentice) was orphaned, Star Wars, first appeared Star Wars: the Force Unleashed, 2008

Gideon Smeed was a foundling, Hetty Feather, Jacqueline Wilson, 2009

Ham Peggotty was adopted, David Copperfield, Charles Dickens, 1850

Han Solo was orphaned, Star Wars, 1977

Harriet Beadle (Tattycoram) was a foundling, Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens, 1855

Harry Potter was fostered, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling, 1997

Hashio Mizouchi was a foundling, Coin Locker Babies, Ryu Murakami, 1980

Heathcliff was a foundling, Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë, 1847

Heidi was fostered, Heidi, Johanna Spyri, 1880

Helena Landless was orphaned, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Charles Dickens, 1870

Hercules was adopted, Hercules, Disney, 1997

Hetty Feather was a foundling, Hetty Feather, Jacqueline Wilson, 2009

Hortense was an orphan, Small Island, Andrea Levy, 2004

Hotaru Tomoe (Sailor Saturn) was adopted, Sailor Moon, Naoko Takeuchi, 1992

Huckleberry Finn was fostered, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, 1884

Jack Dawkins (Artful Dodger) was orphaned, Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens, 1838

Jack Dawson was orphaned, Titanic, 1997

Jack Worthing was a foundling, The Importance of Being Earnest, Oliver Wilde, 1895

Jacob Vaark was orphaned, A  Mercy, Toni Morrison, 2008

Jamal Malik was orphaned, Slumdog Millionaire, 2008

James Bond was fostered, James Bond, Ian Fleming, 1953

James Trotter was fostered, James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl, 1961

Jane Eyre was fostered, Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë, 1847

Jean Valjean was orphaned, Les Misérables, Victor Hugo, 1862

Jerusha Abbott was orphaned, Daddy Long-Legs, Jean Webster, 1912

Jude Fawley was fostered, Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy’s novels, 1895

Kikuyuki Sekiguchi was a foundling, Coin Locker Babies, Ryu Murakami, 1980

Klaus Baudelaire was fostered, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket, 1999

Lisbeth Salander was adopted, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Steig Larsson, 2005

Luke Skywalker was adopted, Star Wars, 1977

Lux Bonteri was orphaned, Star Wars, 1977

Lyra Belacqua (Lyra Silvertongue) was fostered, His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman, 1995

Madeline was orphaned, Madeline, Ludwig Belemans, 1939

Makoto Kino (Sailor Jupiter) was orphaned, Sailor Moon, Naoko Takeuchi, 1992

Mamo was orphaned, Garbage King, Elizabeth Laird, 2003

Mamoru Chiba was orphaned, Sailor Moon, Naoko Takeuchi, 1992

Mary Lennox was adopted, The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1911

Matilda Wormwood was adopted, Matilda, Roald Dahl, 1988

Messalina was fostered, I, Claudius, Robert Graves, 1934

Miss Honey was fostered, Matilda, Roald Dahl, 1988

Miss Wade was orphaned, Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens, 1855

Natty Bumppo was adopted, Leatherstocking Tales, James Fenimore Cooper, 1841

Nell Trent was adopted, The Old Curiosity Shop, Charles Dickens, 1841

Neville Landless was orphaned, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Charles Dickens, 1870

Oedipus was a foundling, mythical Greek king of Thebes, Oedipus Rex, Sophocles, first performed 429 BC

Oliver Twist was orphaned, Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens, 1838

Ororo Munroe (Storm) was orphaned, X-Men, Marvel Comics, first appearance 1975

Philip Pirrip was orphaned, Great Expectations, Charles Dickens, 1861

Pippi Longstocking was orphaned, Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren, 1945

Pollyanna Whittier was orphaned, Pollyanna, Eleanor H. Porter, 1913

Prince Caspian was orphaned, Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia, C. S. Lewis, 1951

Princess Leia was adopted, Star Wars, 1977

Quasimodo was adopted, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Victor Hugo, 1831

Ram Mohammed was orphaned, Q & A, Vikas Swarup, 2005

Rapunzel was fostered, Children’s and Household Tales, Brothers Grimm, 1812

Richard Carstone was orphaned, Bleak House, Charles Dickens, 1852

Robin was orphaned, DC Comics, first appearance Detective Comics #38, 1940

Romulus and Remus were foundlings, twin brothers and central characters of Rome’s foundation myth

Rosa Bud was orphaned, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Charles Dickens, 1870

Rose Maylie was adopted, Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens, 1838

Sade and Femi Solaja were fostered, The Other Side of Truth, Beverley Naidoo, 2000

Sarah Crewe was fostered, A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1905

Scarlett O’Hara was orphaned, Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936

Setsuko was adopted, Grave of The Fireflies, Akiyuki Nosaka, 1967

Smike was fostered, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Charles Dickens, 1839

Snow White was fostered, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, Brothers Grimm, 1812

Sookie Stackhouse was orphaned, The Southern Vampire Mysteries, Charlaine Harris, 2001

Sophie Fevvers was a foundling, Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter, 1984

Spider-Man was adopted, Marvel Comics, first appearance Amazing Fantasy #15, 1962

Sue Trinder was adopted, Fingersmith, Sarah Waters, 2002

Sunny Baudelaire was fostered, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket, 1999

Superman was a foundling, DC Comics, Action Comics #1, 1938

Sylvia Green was adopted, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken, 1962

The Penguin was orphaned, DC Comics, first appearance Detective Comics #58, 1941

Tiggist was orphaned, The Garbage King, Elizabeth Laird, 2003

Tohru Honda was orphaned, Fruits Basket, Natsuki Takaya, 1998

Tom Hagen was adopted, The Godfather, Mario Puzo, 1969

Tom Jones was foundling, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, Henry Fielding, 1749

Tom Riddle was orphaned, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling, 1998

Tom Sawyer was adopted, Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain, 1876

Turanga Leela was a foundling, Futurama, 1999

Violet Baudelaire was fostered, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket, 1999

Wedge Antilles was orphaned, Star Wars, 1977

William Beech was fostered, Goodnight Mr Tom, Michelle Magorian, 1981

Wolverine was orphaned, Marvel Comics, first appearance The Incredible Hulk #180, 1974

Yuri Zhivago was adopted, Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak, 1957