From Rags to Riches: Famous Underdog Stories

We all know the world can be cruel. There are, however, stories that inspire us to keep trying. Moving tales of men and women who started from scratch and went on to touch the lives of millions have always existed. Here is a list of our favorite inspiring underdog stories.

Alexandre Dumas
The man who wrote classics such as The Man in the Iron Mask, The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, has a story that could have been turned into a novel of its own. His father was born to a Frenchman and slave mother. He was the first man of African origins to become a general at the army. After being captured as a prisoner of war, his health deteriorated. He died when Alexandre was only four years old. As a result, Alexandre grew up in poverty. His family could not afford school fees. So he educated himself. The stories he heard about his father inspired him to write. And when he started writing articles for magazines and plays for the theatre, he used his slave grandmother’s last name, Dumas.

Frank McCourt
McCourt belonged to one of the very few Irish families who traveled from the United States back to Ireland during the depression. This happened after his baby sister died as an infant. He moved with his family back to Limerick, which, during the depression, was a cruel, cold place to live. He lost two more of his siblings due to disease, poor nutrition and the cold. His alcoholic father could never keep a job and they lived on very small government support. His mother was as helpless as he was. In his memoirs, he details how he returned to the States for a fresh new start as a teenager. There, he worked, finished his studies and became a university professor. His memoirs, Angela’s Ashes, is one of the most inspiring, well-received books in modern literature.

Abdelhalim Hafiz
Born in a village in Sharqiyah, Egypt, Abdelhalim did not have a chance. His mother died a few days after giving birth to him, and then his father followed five years later. He grew up in poverty, living in an orphanage after his father passed away. He then moved to his uncle’s house in Cairo, but the poverty remained. Abdelhalim had to sing in clubs until he got his big break, when he was heard by Mohamed Abdelwahab. Hafiz then went on to be one of the most influential Egyptian musicians of all time.

Michael Jackson
The King of Pop also had a rough childhood. He grew up in a working-class family. His father – so eager for his children to get dancing and singing routines just right – would often whip him. Michael’s psyche was affected by the emotional and physical abuse he endured as a child. This, however, did not stop him from becoming a legend. Since he started out and until his death, Michael Jackson rightfully kept his throne as King of Pop. He remains an inspiration to many artists until this day.

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