The Three Assumptions Behind Most Underdog Stories
1. In every situation there always has to be a winner and a loser. A happy ending requires not just someone’s triumph but also someone else’s defeat.
2. The best way to win is to have the individual power to take control and win by one’s own actions
3. A truly happy ending occurs only when a person who was oppressed achieves a position in which it’s possible to oppress others.
Maurice Sendak’s “Where The Wild Things Are” is an excellent representation of these political assumptions. Surprisingly few award-winning texts for children celebrate the value of groups of people working together as equals; far more celebrate the power of individuals controlling groups.
– from The Pleasures of Children’s Literature by Nodelman and Reimer
The opposite of an ‘underdog story’ is a ‘carnivalesque’ story. Read Pippi Longstocking for a prime example of carnivalesque.