Created By: PaulJohnson on February 17, 2013 Last Edited By: PaulJohnson on March 1, 2013
Troped

Stumbling Upon the Lost Wizard

Travellers stumble upon a powerful scientist or wizard who disappeared or was exiled many years ago.

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Caught in a storm or Negative Space Wedgie, one or a party of travellers happen on a long-lost scientist or wizard (depending on the setting). This person has considerable local power, often with some kind of slaves or robots to do his bidding, but either cannot leave their place of exile, or chooses not to.

This is a trope about accidental rediscovery (at least from the traveller's point of view). If the travellers have gone looking for the lost scientist or wizard then they are more likely to be seeking a Hermit Guru.

In most cases the Affably Evil lost scientist or wizard has either a dark secret or a sinister goal that requires the travellers. He may have a supporting cast of servants or slaves, and may also have a beautiful daughter to provide romantic interest, typically introduced in a No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine scene. He may be famously lost so that one of the heroes can fill in his Back Story by starting with "I read about him at school...". .Any unusual equipment the he has is justified by A Wizard Did It.

If the lost scientist or wizard is not evil then he may have been secretly watching the party and decided that these people are worthy of help, usually some form of Applied Phlebotinum. The arrival of the right heroes can also induce a Heel–Face Turn on the part of an evil scientist/wizard, or induce a formerly good one to take off their Jade-Colored Glasses.

The earliest known version of this trope is The Tempest, in which the exiled wizard Prospero causes a storm in order to bring a party travelling by sea onto his island in order to wreak revenge. The setting of a lost wizard on an island won't work in the modern world, but the concept has been Recycled In Space several times, most famously in Forbidden Planet, with a scientist on a planet instead of a wizard on an island. The lost scientists in these versions lack Prospero's Invisibility Cloak, so only the dark secret or motive is kept hidden. Instead the relationship between the travellers and the scientist is used to drive a mystery plot with the travellers gradually realizing that all is not as it seems.

The Unbuilt Trope from which this came may have been the King in the Mountain.

Examples

[[folder:Film]]
  • Forbidden Planet is The Tempest IN SPACE!, with Prospero replaced by Dr. Edward Morbius.
  • The Black Hole had the lost scientist Dr. Reinhardt alone on a giant ship full of robots some of who turn out to be the original crew with mind-control implants, plus big robot Maximillian as The Dragon. The eponymous black hole is the Negative Space Wedgie.
  • Star Wars has Luke 'accidentally' meet Obi-wan Kenobi. Later it transpires that Kenobi has been keeping a close eye on Luke, and their meeting was no accident.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Franchise]]
  • BIONICLE: in "Riddle of the Great Beings", Tarduk and his group, on their their journey to Northern Bara Magna, encounter Surel, a warrior thought lost from the Core War.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
  • Star Trek: The Original Series used this a couple of times:
    • "Metamorphosis": Lost scientist Zefram Cochrane, inventor of the warp drive, is discovered by the Enterprise.
    • "Requiem For Methuselah": Mr. Flint owns a planet in the Omega system. He has a number of robots as servants and a beautiful female ward named Rayna Kapec. He has tremendous technological power, enough to destroy the Enterprise. He has two dark secrets. The first is that he is an immortal man from Earth and is thousands of years old. The second is that his ward is not human, but actually an android robot in female form, and he needs to have her emotions wakened so she will love him. Her name may be a reference to Karel Čapek, who coined the word "robot".
  • Babylon 5: Sheridan meeting Lorien on Z'ha'dum. Lorien had been living there for millennia, and as he was the First One, the Shadows had built their stronghold around this place out of a largely-forgotten veneration. Sheridan was the first of the young races to "come this far" and actually meet Lorien, who then became instrumental in helping him. Since he has some powers that might be described as "supernatural", one could say he's a "lost wizard" of sorts. Lorien has no sinister motive, but that doesn't stop Garibaldi suspecting him of one.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Literature]]
  • The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne is a sequel to 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea in which five American balloonists are marooned on an island in the South Pacific. They eventually discover the aged Captain Nemo still living in the Nautilus, which is hidden in a cave under the island. Nemo turns out to have been behind a number of strange but helpful events in the story
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Theatre]]
  • The Tempest. Wizard Prospero is the exiled Duke of Milan with Ariel and Caliban as his slaves and Miranda as the daughter. Prospero starts out intending to revenge himself on the shipwrecked party, but changes his mind after Miranda falls in love with one of them.
  • Charles Ludlam's play Utopia, Incorporated borrows liberally from the plot of The Tempest, and thus has Anarch, leader of the utopian island (with beautiful daughter).
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Webcomics]] [[/folder]]

[[folder: Western Animation]] [[/folder]]

Community Feedback Replies: 23
  • February 17, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Live-Action TV

    Babylon 5: Sheridan's meeting Lorien on Z'ha'dum might qualify. When Sheridan leaped to his "death" in the pit, Lorien revived him and imparted life energy to him. It turned out he'd been living there for millennia, and as he was the First One, the Shadows had built their stronghold around this place out of a sort of token but largely-forgotten veneration. Sheridan was the first of the young races to "come this far" and actually meet Lorien, who becomes instrumental in helping him persuade the First Ones to leave the galaxy so that the younger races can continue to mature unmolested by them. Since he does have some powers that might be described as "supernatural", one could say he's a "lost wizard" of sorts.
  • February 17, 2013
    StarSword
    Cleanup: Namespaces and formatting. Also fixed a Zero Context Example I was familiar with, but the others need to be patched as well.

    Webcomics:
  • February 22, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Holy CRAP is this an awful name.
  • February 22, 2013
    Duncan
    • Charles Ludlam's play Utopia, Incorporated borrows liberally from the plot of The Tempest, and thus has Anarch, leader of the utopian island (with beautiful daughter).
  • February 22, 2013
    PaulJohnson
    @Larkmarn: I'd be willing to entertain suggestions for improvement.
  • February 22, 2013
    Megaptera
  • February 22, 2013
    Stratadrake
    No New Stock Phrases, but at least that's a better-known example.
  • February 23, 2013
    PaulJohnson
    Livingstone is not a good enough example to be the trope namer. So I'll try a more literal and less poetic title.
  • February 23, 2013
    PaulJohnson
    I've dropped the Babylon 5 example, as I don't think it fits.
  • February 23, 2013
    Mauri
    Well Stratadrake is right about the better known example (and to my criteria the namer but needing to find the Shakespeare book to confirm the dialogues). But for example there are some films that copy paste the tempest and there is a film example on it. As well as being rehashed every so often but example names escape me; specially on some children shows.

    Given this is finding a character instead of a Mac Guffin it is a possible take on it.
  • February 23, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    ^^ Why not? Lorien had pretty much exiled himself to Z'ha'dum, until the right person came across him--and then was pivotal to that person's heroic arc, as a Sufficiently Advanced Alien who could do some things we'd call "miraculous", or "magic" if you will, by Clarke's Law--and being venerated so much by the other First Ones because of who he was also helped Sheridan tremendously.
  • February 24, 2013
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • Star Trek The Original Series
      • The episode "Requiem For Methuselah" also fits. Mr. Flint owns a planet in the Omega system. He has a number of robots as servants and has a ward, a beautiful woman named Rayna Kapec. He has tremendous technological power, enough to destroy the Enterprise. He has two dark secrets. The first is that he is an immortal man from Earth and is thousands of years old. The second is that his ward is not human, but actually an android robot in female form, and he needs to have her emotions wakened so she will love him.
  • February 24, 2013
    PaulJohnson
    OK, Lorien is back in, as it does meet the criteria in the first paragraph. By the same token Stanley and Livingstone are out. Its a pity, as I like real life examples, especially when they combine other tropes (Darkest Africa and Intrepid Reporter in this case). But there is no way that Livingstone was a wizard with a dark secret.

    Does anyone know how to get folders to work in YKTTW? Or don't they?
  • February 24, 2013
    DracMonster
    Locating The Recluse? or "Reclusive Genius" or "Powerful Recluse"? Does it count if the characters are deliberately trying to find him? If we don't have that already.

    If so then:
    • In War Games, Playful Hacker David and his girlfriend track down the reclusive creator of the JOSHUA supercomputer, to help them convince it to stop trying to play its "Global Thermonuclear War" simulation game with the actual U.S. nuclear arsenal.
  • February 24, 2013
    PaulJohnson
    Hmm. I don't think this is an example for this trope, but "Powerful Recluse" may well be a supertrope. "Finding the lost scientist/wizard" would definitely be a subtrope, but the recluse who must be found is a different plot device to the recluse who is stumbled over. Perhaps we need a Recluse Index. Also that implies a more descriptive title for this trope.
  • February 24, 2013
    Specialist290
    Folders don't work in YKTTW, for whatever reason. And I can see something like Powerful Recluse or Formerly Influential Exiled Figure being a possible supertrope.

    I also think that the wizard / powerful figure in question being evil (or misanthropic) isn't so much a necessary part of the trope itself as a variation on how it sometimes plays out; in the "good" variant, the Wizard figure often becomes either The Mentor or a Deuteragonist and is likely to have been a Hero Of Another Story in the past (although if the Wizard has had his Jade Colored Glasses on since his exile, he might take convincing). I think the important thing here is that the hero stumbles onto a powerful but reclusive figure who has been living alone, whether exiled by others or by his own choice, and who goes on to play a key role in the plot by either developing the hero himself or giving him means, motive, and / or opportunity for his future actions.

    With that in mind, proposing the following be added to the list:

    Film
    • The Star Wars series has a couple of examples:
      • A New Hope: Luke Skywalker's path down the road to heroism comes when he is saved from Tusken Raiders by the exiled Jedi Obi-wan Kenobi.
      • The Empire Strikes Back: After escaping Hoth, Luke goes to Dagobah to find Jedi Master Yoda, who puts him through a Secret Test Of Character to judge whether or not Luke is worthy to become a Jedi Knight himself.

    Also, a note on the Wargames example (since I saw that film recently myself): The scientist in question is entirely willing to sit back and leave humanity to a nuclear holocaust for "playing with fire," and is only convinced to change his mind by the main couple's earnest appeals to his better nature.
  • February 25, 2013
    PaulJohnson
    I agree that the found scientist is not necessarily evil. But the crucial distinction is that finding him/her (are there any female examples) is an accident. Hence Luke finding Obi-wan is an example, but not finding Yoda because Luke went to find Yoda.
  • February 25, 2013
    PaulJohnson
    Thinking about the Jade Coloured Glasses, yes that is another way this trope can play out. I've noted Prospero as an example of this: initially he intends to harm the party, but this turns around after Miranda falls in love with one of them.
  • February 25, 2013
    Specialist290
    ^^ Fair enough.
  • February 26, 2013
    PaulJohnson
    This is my first trope, so what is the protocol for moving this forwards? I think its ready to publish. Can I remove the tags at the top? I think we've got the right title now, we have enough examples, nobody has pointed out an existing trope, and the description is OK (feel free to disagree with me, or better yet make suggestions). So what next?
  • February 26, 2013
    MokonaZero
    Played For Laughs in Shrek The Third Merlin is portrayed as a mentally unstable teacher that was forced to leave the school that he taught at since he needed psychological help.
  • February 27, 2013
    OmarKarindu
    The Unbuilt Trope version of this is probably the "king in the mountain" folktale found in many cultures.
  • February 27, 2013
    KZN02
    BIONICLE: in "Riddle of the Great Beings", Tarduk and his group, on their their journey to Northern Bara Magna, encounter Surel, a warrior thought lost from the Core War.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=9pgjkp7jxjctij4holkfmqvf&trope=StumblingUponTheLostWizard