Since the idea of the absent mother in fairy tales came up in class discussions a few times, I thought I would link to a recent series of Huffington Post "If They'd Had Mothers" parodies featuring Jasmine ("You're in love with a homeless man who lives in an alley with his pet monkey?", Ariel ("Did you steal these things? Are you a hoarder?") and Belle ("Your father and I are taking him out to the country... to a farm where he can run free with other beasts"). I hope there will be more instalments (and comments - because this is the Internet and comments make everything more interesting and hilarious).
On a related note, there's actually an entry in Snopes about Walt Disney's mommy issues. And here's a fascinating essay about the orphaned hero by author Terri Windling - great read for those interested in myth and folklore. I'm sure there are tons of scholarly literature on the topic, and it's not too late for classmates to change their final essay topic! ;)