->"When I was a kid, I used to wish some stranger would come and tell me my family wasn't really my family. They weren't bad people, they were just… insignificant. And I wanted to be different. Special. I wanted to change. A new name; a new life. The watchmaker's son… tick… became a watchmaker. It is so futile. And I wanted to be… important."
-->-- '''Sylar''', ''Series/{{Heroes}}''

A trope with its base in RagsToRoyalty. It takes an OrdinaryHighSchoolStudent (or elementary school student) and whisks them off to meet their real family, whose lives are always more glamorous, dangerous, and full of adventure than the dull foster family the hero has been living with, and [[ThickerThanWater delighted to meet this stranger who happens to be a blood relative]]. This may involve going DownTheRabbitHole if not hopping cities or countries.

Or, more rarely, they have been living with the [[ObliviousAdoption unusual parents]] all along, who are pulling off an elaborate {{Masquerade}} to keep the truth from them until the [[BrokenMasquerade time is right]].

If the two families are not the same, the [[MuggleFosterParents foster family]] is usually an [[AbusiveParents abusive]] and [[WickedStepmother unloving bunch]]. They tell the hero that they'll never amount to anything, and they had better not think about [[RoyalBlood royalty]] or [[SuspiciouslySpecificDenial magic]]. Most shows won't even bother revisiting the foster family after the first episode, except (maybe) to have them show up as minor dupes of the BigBad later. The plot has obvious appeal for any teen who has ever felt unloved. (Piling on the {{Glurge}} is optional.)

They may even have an OrphansPlotTrinket to signify their heritage. Compare CinderellaCircumstances, where the [[CanonicalListOfSubtleTropeDistinctions main difference]] is that the heroine is always worse off and doesn't have to be [[SwitchedAtBirth switched]], if the parent fell on hard times and [[WickedStepmother remarried]].

In both television and other media, this is an increasingly SubvertedTrope. The most common subversion is for the adventures to be so dangerous that the hero decides IJustWantToBeNormal. The second most common is for the real family to be unpleasant people, possibly even the BigBad.

Perhaps this is due to the greater acceptance of adoption today. It used to be extremely taboo and "shameful" to discover that one was adopted. Nowadays the Changeling Fantasy is evolving into dualism; with the main character having one foot in both worlds. Yes, they have a fantastic lineage; [[HappilyAdopted but it's their down-to-earth family that ultimately shaped their values]].

Compare EscapistCharacter, AscendedFanboy, RagsToRiches.

Often overlaps with MosesInTheBulrushes and/or SwitchedAtBirth and very often IJustWantToBeSpecial.

Related to DoorstopBaby aka {{Foundling}}, and SeparatedAtBirth. MuggleFosterParents is a specific subtrope.

[[IThoughtItMeant You may be looking]] for the DarkerAndEdgier version known as ChangelingTale, which is the source of the name. [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/changeling A changeling]] is an [[TheFairFolk elf/troll/gremlin/etc.]] baby that gets swapped for a human baby and ends up being raised by humans (or the baby is merely abducted and [[WildChild raised by elves]]). It's very common in [[FairyTaleTropes medieval folklore]]. '''''Examples of fairy abduction should go there, not here.'''''

It's also a component of TheHerosJourney, especially when a {{farmboy}} is involved.

!!Straight examples:


[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Anime/HanaukyoMaidTai''. At the beginning of the series Taro discovers that he belongs to a fabulously wealthy and powerful family.
* ''Anime/MartianSuccessorNadesico'': [[LittleMissSnarker Ruri Hoshino]], after having lived the bulk of her life as a lab experiment, discovers her real family is the CloudCuckoolander royalty of a ThemePark-like{{Ruritania}}. [[spoiler: She ultimately decides that her biological family is a bunch of useless idiots and returns to the crew of the Nadesico, who she also considers a bunch of idiots but who just happen to be the useful idiots she happens to care about.]]
* In the manga version of ''Manga/MermaidMelodyPichiPichiPitch'', Lucia has been living with Nikora all along, but hasn't been told she's a princess.
** Kaito also just happens to be [[spoiler:part of the ancient Panthalassa race]].
* ''LightNovel/TheTwelveKingdoms'':
** The heroine of ''The Twelve Kingdoms''. There's a tinge of deconstruction, however, as Youko has to massively adjust to her new circumstances and seriously dislikes having people bow to her. Yet ultimately, massive political headaches and frequent coups are still preferable to her old life.
** Subverted with Yuka (in the anime, at least), who is convinced this is the case for her. It's not.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* In ''ComicBook/SpyBoy'', Alex wishes at the beginning for one to escape his crappy school life until he realize how brutal the espionage world really is.
* Franchise/{{Superman}}:
** Superman values both his Kryptonian heritage and his foster parents. However, this perception varies from medium to medium or even from [[DependingOnTheWriter writer to writer]]. His origin doesn't fit this trope very well either way; in UsefulNotes/{{the Silver Age|of Comic Books}}, he always knew he was Kryptonian due to super memory of his early years on Krypton. In the ComicBook/PostCrisis take, Superman didn't know he was Kryptonian until adulthood but it was evident long before then that he wasn't human (or at least, a normal human). In the latter version, he tends to cling to his human values and upbringing (especially in the ''Smallville'' series).
** Superman doesn't ''have'' changeling fantasies, he embodies them. He is a vehicle for other people's changeling fantasies. That is basically the foundation of his existence as a fictional entity, embodying fantasy life elements so people can vicariously enjoy them through him. It's why [[SuperDickery Silver Age Superman pulled so much shit]].
* ''{{ComicBook/Violine}}'' revolves around Violine searching for her missing father, and after finding out [[spoiler: her abusive mother is not her real mother, goes in search of her real mother along with her father]].

* This commonly appears in ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'', most often featuring either Twilight Sparkle wishing she were the child of Celestia, or Scootaloo fantasizing being the daughter or sister of Rainbow Dash.
* This trope is invoked in ''Fanfic/BlackkatsReverse'' when Kurama decides to play himself as Naruto's uncle and ends up kidnapping him. Naruto doesn't mind, because Kurama showers him with love, teaches him things about his parents and how to protect himself, and makes him meet other kids like him - who also become Kurama's wards via abduction.

[[folder:Film -- Animation]]
* Don Bluth's Princess ''WesternAnimation/{{Anastasia}}'' is a long-lost, [[LaserGuidedAmnesia amnesiac]] Russian princess. (With an interesting twist: prior to her discovery of her true heritage, she plans to ''pretend'' she's the princess and takes appropriate lessons in history and protocol. Then she's in for a surprise when the BigBad, who swore to destroy the entire royal family, comes after her…)
* In ''Disney/{{Hercules}}'', instead of being a Zeus bastard like in the original myth, the title protagonist turn out to be his legitimate son, found later by his farmers foster parents.
* ''WesternAnimation/BarbiePrincessCharmSchool'': Blair Willows [[DoorstopBaby was adopted by her poor foster mother]], became a waitress, then enter the titular school as a Lady Royal. [[spoiler: The ending reveal Blair was Sophia, the lost princess and heir to the throne, all along.]]
* ''Disney/{{Tangled}}'': The woman whom Rapunzel calls "Mother," who raised her—and who keeps her cooped up in a tower, makes demands of her, and insults her—isn't her real mother. Her real parents are a kindly king and queen who love her unconditionally and still celebrate her birthday every year as they wait for her to find them again.
* ''Disney/{{Frozen}}'': Kristoff is a changeling, having been raised by the trolls since he was a small boy.

[[folder:Film -- Live-Action]]
* ''Film/PansLabyrinth''. Although Ofelia rather loves her human mother, and seems to have loved her long-dead father, it's presented as an unambiguously better thing to live in the underworld full of magic. Mostly because dad is dead, mom is very weak-willed, and new stepdad is a zealous fascist. Unlike most examples, Guillermo del Toro actually takes into account [[HumansAreTheRealMonsters the implications of such a statement]].
* In ''Film/{{Wanted}}'', the main character is bored and dissatisfied with his mundane life until he finds out that his father was a bad-ass super assassin and he's inherited his powers.
* ''Who's Your Daddy?'', about a boy who inherits his father's (played by Wayne Newton) porn empire.
* The premise of ''Film/ThePrincessDiaries''. Subverted at first because Mia resists the idea of going from socially awkward, pathless San Francisco high schooler to ruler of a foreign country for most of the movie.

* The ''Franchise/HarryPotter'' series. Then again, both of Harry's parents are dead--and most of the other parental figures he acquires either abuse or betray him, or are killed. And the Dursleys who raised him get slightly sympathetic by the end. (Well, his aunt and cousin do anyways. [[EvilUncle The uncle]] stays a {{jerkass}}.)
* [[spoiler:Kaye]] from Holly Black's ''Literature/ModernFaerieTales'' is a [[ChangelingTale literal changeling]], swapped as an infant for a human baby. She later meets the child she was switched with, who has aged only a few years in the Seelie Court.
* ''Literature/OliverTwist'' by Creator/CharlesDickens is a low-rent version, where the missing parent turns out to be middle-class--but given that the title character was thoroughly poverty-stricken, it's a major leg up.
* In Creator/EvaIbbotson's ''The Star of Kazan'', the main character, Annika, a [[MosesInTheBulrushes foundling]], despite having a loving family, endlessly dreams of the rich woman who will sweep into the house one day and tearfully ask for the baby she abandoned in a church years ago. When such a woman really does appear, Annika finds that she does not like life as a [[AristocratsAreEvil noblewoman's daughter]] and, at the end of the book, [[spoiler: is perfectly willing to accept that the woman is not her real mother, as expressed by her ''jumping off of a boat'' to get away from her]].
* In ''Literature/TheHorseAndHisBoy'', Shasta turns out, in the end, to be a prince. An unusual example in that TheReveal comes after the climax; he goes through the entire book believing himself to be a commoner. He does overhear at the beginning, though, that the man he thought was his father really found and adopted him, and he briefly fantasizes that he might be anyone, even royalty. Then he has to run away and seems to forget all about it. Shasta is also an unusual example in that, although he's happy enough to learn that King Lune and Prince Corin are his father and brother, he's considerably less thrilled to discover that this means he'll have to be king someday. (His brother Corin is delighted to be shoved off the throne. "Princes have all the fun!")
* In Creator/AndreNorton's ''Scarface'', at the end, Captain Cheap reveals that he has his RevengeByProxy: Justin Blade is the son of his old enemy Sir Robert Scarlett and will hang as a {{Pirate}}. Whereupon he learns that Justin's case had been remanded on new evidence even before they learned this.
** In ''The Jargoon Pard'', Kethan was SwitchedAtBirth to ensure his mother [[HeirClubForMen had a son]]. ContrivedCoincidence ensures he meets his birth parents and the girl they are raised, and he ends up with them. (This combines with HappilyAdopted, though--the girl stays with them, too.)
* Creator/ChristopherPaolini's ''[[Literature/InheritanceCycle Eragon]]'', which features the titular {{Farmboy}} becoming a DragonRider and leaving the village where he grew up with his adoptive parents. He knew they were not his real parents from the start, however, and didn't find out until much later on who his real father was.
* In the sixth book of L. J. Smith's ''Nightworld'' series, ''Soulmate'', Hannah learns that she is an olld soul, and emotionally related to Thierry.
* In Creator/JamesThurber's ''Literature/The13Clocks'', at the end, the [[AristocratsAreEvil Wicked Duke]] reveals that the Princess Saralinda is not his niece; he had kidnapped her.
* In ChroniclesOfNick and TheDarkHunters, this is usually a bad thing. Your absent parent is usually a demon or a [[JerkassGods jerkass god]], so you will probably have [[WhoWantsToLiveForever a long, but emotionally and mentally tiring life]] that will make you bitter against those [[HumansAreMorons stupid humans]].
* Percy from ''Literature/PercyJacksonAndTheOlympians'' book series.
** Percy and about ninety percent of his friends.
** Finding out the ''other'' parent is often a bad thing. For starters some parents were kind of absent. One can understand not telling a kid since they'd brag (Hey, it didn't turn out so well for poor Phaeton!) but when they ''need'' to know and they aren't there… well… Things are improving in the new saga, apparently. (demigods were claimed instantly; and they actually ''talk'' to their children)
* The title character of Zilpha Keatley Snyder's book ''The Changeling'' spends almost the entire book trying to convince herself and a friend that she is just that.
* Deconstructed in ''Literature/ThePrincessDiaries'' novels. A princess's duties and responsibilities are tough, and poor Mia didn't even want them in the first place.
* In the ''Literature/{{Tunnels}}'' series, Will learns that he was adopted and that his real parents are inhabitants of the Colony, a secret civilization BeneathTheEarth. Subverted, however, when his biological parents turn out to be just as unpleasant as his adoptive ones.
* The ''Literature/{{Temeraire}}'' series has an odd take on this. While the [=titular=] dragon ''is'' considered a valued and unique [[OrganicShip piece of ordinance]] in the British Aerial Corps; when he goes to China he finds out that A) dragons in general are treated as large [=citizens/subjects=] with wings rather than talking warbeasts and B) ''he'' is by rights part of the Imperial Household. While he does return to Britain it is with plans for reform on his mind.
* In ''Literature/{{Animorphs}},'' [[TheWoobie Tobias]] admits at one point that as a child, he had liked to imagine that his [[ParentalAbandonment absentee parents]] had some sort of amazing lives/reason for abandoning him. In fact, [[DisappearedDad his father]] [[spoiler:was an alien [[VoluntaryShapeshifting transformed into a human]] who left [[DaddyHadAGoodReasonForAbandoningYou to fight a war]]]], while [[MissingMom his mother]] [[spoiler:was unable to care for him due to medical problems]].
* In ''Literature/SeptimusHeap'', Jenna, the only daughter of the Heap family, after ten years of living within the Heap family is revealed to be the daughter of the Queen and heir of the Castle. She had been adopted by the Heaps after the Queen was shot and Marcia Overstrand only barely managed to rescue Jenna from the Assassin sent out to kill them.
* In Creator/GeneStrattonPorter's ''[[http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/904 Her Father's Daughter]]'', Linda knows her father is her father, but she seriously doubts that her sister is her sister. When she turns eighteen, she learns that her mother DiedInChildbirth, and when her father remarried, he and his new wife had agreed to raise their children like actual sisters. (But it couldn't be hidden because it was InTheBlood.)
* The story of the ''Ugly Duckling'', who in the end turns out to be a young swan.
* In Creator/GeneStrattonPorter's ''Literature/{{Freckles}}'', it's inverted; the hero is convinced that his birth is as lowly as it seems, and the other characters set out to persuade him otherwise.
* The main charachter of ''Mio, My Mio'' by Creator/AstridLindgren is this. His actual father is a king in a magical land.
* It's mentioned in ''Literature/BridgeToTerabithia'' that Jess has these fantasies due to the fact he is considered so unusual compared to the rest of his town (or really, the entire town). Subverted as he's not adopted.

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* Emma's story in ''Series/OnceUponATime''--she's found on the side of the road as a baby and grows up believing her parents abandoned her. In reality they're Snow White and Prince Charming who sacrificed themselves to send her to the real world and free her from the curse which is keeping them trapped in Storybrooke.
** The same also applies to Henry, who yearns to be with his [[TheChosenOne birth mother]] over his adoptive one, who of course is the Evil Queen.
* Connor, from ''Series/{{Angel}}''. The [[AWizardDidIt son of two vampires]], he was abducted as a baby and raised in a Hell Dimension by a fanatical demon hunter, eventually returning to Earth as a teenager. His memories are later replaced with an elaborate web of fake ones, allowing him to live an ordinary teenage life, at least until a demon tied to his past comes looking for him.
** Thankfully, he gets to keep his elaborate web of fake memories, so as not to go AxCrazy.
* Odo in ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine'' discovered that he was actually a member of a dangerous race of [[VoluntaryShapeshifting shapeshifters]] who were also the leaders of [[TheEmpire The Dominion]], the BigBad of the series. Bonus points here, because his species was (due to their powers) actually ''called'' "changelings", just as the [[ChangelingTale changelings in legends]] did.
** This is a variation in that it's evident from the beginning that Odo is from another species (its more the revelation of what place his species occupy in the Dominion that comes as the shock), although he has no clue who they are and longs for their discovery just as in the trope.
** Subverted by the fact that Odo's adoptive culture is friendlier then his home culture.
* This was [[BigBad arch-villain]] Sylar's StartOfDarkness on ''Series/{{Heroes}}''. It was further played with in Volume 3, with two wealthy [[EvilGenius Evil Geniuses]] each gaining his loyalty by claiming he really ''was'' adopted, and that they were his ''real'' parents. When he found out that it was all complete BS, he killed one and almost killed the other.
** In Volume 4 they have Sylar's Changeling Fantasy actually turn out to be ''true'', in that he really was adopted, and his biological father turns out to have been a powerful supervillain… but it's subverted as Sylar finds him a "big disappointment" due to all the VillainDecay his dad had undergone, courtesy of Princesse, apparent poverty, and sheer boredom with life. Its implied as well that he never really did much with his abilities anyway other than kill people for their power [[spoiler: and Sylars mom]], and was just a self-centered JerkAss who doesn't give a crap about his son and never did. [[spoiler: When he finds out Sylar has a HealingFactor and is effectively immortal, he tries to kill him for it and get a new lease on life. Except Sylar overpowers him without much effort.]]
* ''Series/TinMan:'' DG is a waitress and part-time college student with little direction in life. She's plagued by a vague, unsettling feeling she doesn't belong in Kansas and strange, recurring dreams. [[spoiler: Turns out she's princess of the O.Z., descended from and named for her ancestor Dorothy Gale, and the people she thinks are her parents are a pair of robots]].
* In ''Series/{{Fringe}}'', Peter is revealed to actually be the son of "[[AlternateUniverseReedRichardsIsAwesome Walternate]]" from the parallel universe.
** Initially played straight, as Peter is happy to return home and reconnect with his real family. Later subverted as it becomes readily apparent that, due to losing his son to his doppleganger from a parallel universe, Walternate's sanity became even more damaged that his counterpart. Given how the latter spent 17 years in a mental insitution, that's saying a ''lot!''
* ''Series/PeakyBlinders'': Deconstructed with Michael. He wants something more exciting than the pretty little village where he grew up, and the Shelbys are ''certainly'' that. But he's also visibly taken aback by the grimness of Birmingham. Still, he goes home, and then once he's 18, he chooses to come back.

[[folder:Myth And Legend]]
* ''KingArthur'' is raised by Sir Ector. Though treated well, he's considered of lower rank than Ector's biological family, who have no idea of his true identity.

* Takua from ''Toys/{{Bionicle}}'' was always thought to be a Fire-type Matoran, however, it is later revealed that he was a Matoran of Light, removed from his homeland and brainwashed into forgetting his past for his own protection.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* The hero in ''VideoGame/DragonQuestVIII'' was actually brainwashed so that he wouldn't remember that he's actually [[spoiler: half Dragovian]].
** Inverted with Angelo and Marcello, though…
* Cecil in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIV'' is adopted by the [[AllThereInTheManual King of Baron]]. His mother was a normal human, of whom blissfully little is said, his dad was an alien from the moon. In a subversion. we later learn that his adoptive father-figure, the King of Baron, was not a human either, but the Eidolon Odin.
** A similar tune with Terra in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVI'' except her dad was an Esper. She also wasn't so much adopted as ''"brainwashed"'' and mind controlled. For someone who spent most of her life that way, she takes it surprisingly well.
* Played ''very'' darkly in the ''VideoGame/KingsQuest'' universe with both Alexander and Edgar. ''Literature/TheKingsQuestCompanion'' manages a {{Deconstruction}} by stating that Alexander doesn't even think of himself as a prince. Inwardly, he still thinks of himself as "Gwydion," [[EvilSorceror Mannanan's]] former slave, and signs his name as Alexander-Gwydion.
* ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'' has Thrall, who eventually became the Warchief of the Horde and was the son of a shaman.

* In ''Webcomic/GirlGenius'' Agatha doesn't know that she's sole surviving heir to a dynasty of {{Mad Scientist}}s, or that her adoptive parents are their iconic assistants Punch and Judy (although she did know they were Frankenstein-esque "constructs"). She preferred her normal life. In a [[SubvertedTrope subversion]] of sorts, [[spoiler: her mother is evil, and she has tried to possess Agatha, practically succeeding.]]
** Gilgamesh believed himself to be an orphan taken into the Baron's care, and spent the first years of his life at the bottom of the pecking order established by the other kids on Castle Wulfenbach. He used to imagine who his parents might have been (maybe even a lost Heterodyne!). After a couple of [[RedHerring red herrings]], he finally found out he was the heir to the Wulfenbach empire, raised in secret for his own protection. Unfortunately that revelation (and the need to keep it secret) drove a wedge between him and his friends, especially his former best friend Tarvek, a situation not helped by his father intercepting all of their attempted correspondence. [[spoiler:Actually, Gil gets a double dose since his mother is the amazonian Queen of the fabled hidden LadyLand of Skifander, as shown by his ability to ''throw an entire titan-class clank'' (though he did sprain his shoulder doing it) and his father believes Gil had to be kept hidden from his mother's people as well for reasons he has yet to explain.]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Literature/WhateleyUniverse example: introverted Bill Wilson has no idea that he's about to manifest as a mutant, or that his parents are not only mutants themselves, but ''[[ExtranormalInstitute they work for the CIA as mutant superheroes]]''. Or that his older brother and younger brother are actually mutants themselves (they don't know this yet either). This family is about to have a lot of 'splainin' to do.
* Both tropes are explored and played tragically straight in the short story "[[http://strangestoriesaboutsadpeople.blogspot.com/2009/10/changelings-and-fair-folk.html Changelings and Fairfolk]]" at ''Strange Stories About Sad People.''

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In a nearly forgotten cartoon series called ''WesternAnimation/{{Wildfire}}'', an 'ordinary American cowgirl' named Sara turns out to be the princess of a realm from which she was removed in infancy for her own safety. Later in the series she discovers that [[spoiler: the man she lives with as her 'adopted' father is her true father the Prince, exiled for his own safety and brainwashed to forget his heritage, presumably to keep him from trying to return.]]

!!Subversions, Inversions, and Parodies:

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Franchise/SailorMoon'' meets her mother from a past lifetime (her parents were still her parents in this life) and turns out to be the heir to a magical kingdom. [[IJustWantToBeNormal She just wants to be normal]].
* ''Manga/AyashiNoCeres'' has the real parents using the {{Masquerade}}--and utterly evil.
* ''Manga/{{Bleach}}'' has the protagonist grow up in a relatively normal, if somewhat wacky, household. Except for that whole "ability to perceive ghosts" thing. What Kurosaki Ichigo doesn't know is [[spoiler:that his father is also a {{shinigami}} himself and has been so from the beginning. That raises a lot of questions about his true purpose and origins]].
* In ''Anime/AshitaNoNadja'', [[spoiler:Rosemary]] likes to think she'll somehow find herself in the middle of this. When [[spoiler:her best friend Nadja]] is revealed to be a lost noblewoman… [[GoMadFromTheRevelation she]] [[FreakOut snaps]]. [[BodyDouble Big]], [[BitchInSheepsClothing BIG]] [[ManipulativeBastard time]].
* In ''{{Manga/Berserk}}'', we meet a little girl named Rosine, a bright, imaginative child with a terrible [[AbusiveParents home life.]] Her favorite fairy tale was about an a boy by the name of Pirkaf, who while loved by his parents never fit in amongst humans and eventually came believe he was a elf (due to being in similar appearance) and ran off to live with them. Believing the same about herself Rosine runs off as well but she obviously ignored the ending of the fairy tale. [[spoiler:Pirkaf meets the Elves and learns that he is indeed human; his appearance was caused by the magic used to save him as infant thanks to his parents begging request for help. Upon hearing this Pirkaf runs back home only to find mysterious forest had sprung up overnight, caused by the Elves' anger over no one mentioning how they saved the boy's life, and Pirkaf--now completely alone--wept and wept.]] [[spoiler: In the end Rosline finds no Elves and falls in despair only made worse by being found by her abusive father who then starts beating the crap out of her at that moment her [[DespairEventHorizon deepest despair]] activates a [[ArtifactOfDoom certain little egg]]. The summoned Godhand grants her wish to become an elf by transforming her into a fairy-like Apostle in exchange for both of her parents' lives.]] She has since taken to creating a "fairyland" where the children that she kidnaps are turned into her creepy little pseudo-elves in a very twisted version of the ChangelingTale, one that eventually comes crashing down when Guts comes calling.
* Relena Darlian from ''Anime/MobileSuitGundamWing'' learns early on that her birth parents were the rulers of a pacifist European nation, but it comes with a lot of "howevers". She didn't find out about this until her adoptive father was assassinated. Her adoptive family is very warm and loving, and they weren't boring by any stretch of the imagination (her father being an important diplomat who took her on business trips all over the planet). Also, her adoptive father was her birth father's right-hand man, and he was specifically asked to take Relena to safety as TheFederation attacked their homeland. On top of all this, the "adoption" happened when Relena was two years old, meaning that while she loves her birth parents, she didn't really know them. As a result, while she reveres her birth parents as important people, she seems to love the Darlians more, and takes up their name once more in ''[[Anime/MobileSuitGundamWingEndlessWaltz Endless Waltz]]''.
* Alois Trancy from the second season of ''Manga/BlackButler'' claims this is what happened to him, since he went missing as an infant (which caused his mother [[DrivenToSuicide kill herself from despair]]) and reappeared years later after living with a foster family in an ordinary village and was taken back in by his father, the late Earl Trancy. In the first episode it's mentioned that he claims fairies abducted him, which his uncle is incredibly suspicious about and intends to prove he's a fraud. [[spoiler:The uncle's right, Alois is actually Jim Macken, an ordinary boy who was only posing as the Earl's son… and was actually his SexSlave until he snapped and killed the Earl by making a contract with a demon.]]
* In ''Manga/NarutoGaiden'' Chouchou becomes convinced that her parents aren't her biological parents. The problem is she looks ''[[StrongFamilyResemblance very much]]'' like them. Everyone but her seems to notice the resemblance.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Ditto with the comic book ''ComicBook/{{Runaways}}'', with the added punch that the evil parents [[KnightTemplarParent committed all their crimes to help their children]].
* Also parodied in Mark Millar's comic book mini-series ''ComicBook/{{Wanted}}'', where the real family is evil and the "hero" decides he wants to become just like them.
* Rather savagely parodied in ''ComicBook/TheSandman'', in which a dream-avatar cuckoo sums up this trope with the line "Girls' fantasies are much simpler--their families aren't their families, their lives aren't their lives. Little cuckoos."
* Subverted in ''ComicBook/{{Bone}}'' by [[BadAssGrandpa Badass Grandma]] Rose Ben being a member of the young [[MessianicArchetype Thorn's]] real family as well. Thorn wasn't so much adopted as she was stolen away by her grandmother for her safety, who's just as much a hidden royal as Thorn is. As Thorn goes through the story and returns to her rightful position, Grandma Ben is right alongside her (for the [[IJustWantToBeNormal most part]]), returning to her royal position also.
* In the comic strip ''ComicStrip/{{Zits}}'', Jeremy's parents eventually revealed that they had been raising him in a dull middle-class existence when they were really [[spoiler: dull middle class people]].
* In ''Comicbook/SuburbanGlamour'', the teenage protagonist learns that [[ChangelingTale she's a literal changeling]], and is the daughter of Fae royalty. She's initially elated to have the chance to get out of her dull, miserable life in a small middle-of-nowhere English village, but soon comes to realize that her Fae family are controlling and distant, and that [[WhatTheHellHero they did abandon her for seventeen years without any explanation]] and as such have no right to barge into her life and start making demands of her. She decides to remain with her human parents, who at least love and respect her even if they don't always understand her.
* The ''Magazine/DoctorWhoMagazine'' comic strip companion Izzy was adopted, and--having tension with her adoptive parents--often indulged in these kind of fantasies (which were often alluded to in the strip). By the end of her time with the Doctor, however, she'd adjusted to who she was and returned to her adoptive parents. The identity of her true parents was never revealed.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* [[InvertedTrope Inverted]] in ''FanFic/{{Anthropology}}''. A unicorn named Lyra is thrilled to discover she has human parents and gladly gives up her magic power and life in Equestria for a pair of glorious hands.

[[folder:Films -- Animated]]
* The protagonist wishing for this is what drives the entire plot of ''WesternAnimation/{{Coraline}}''.
* [[MosesInTheBulrushes Inverted]] in ''WesternAnimation/ThePrinceOfEgypt'': Moses believes himself to be Egyptian royalty until he bumps into a Hebrew slave who fiercely insists that she is his sister, and that he's Hebrew as well. When the woman he thought to be his mother confirms this to be true, and that she first found MosesInTheBulrushes, he [[HeroicBSOD doesn't take it very well]]. In [[Literature/TheBible the source material]], his real mother served as his wet nurse, and he grew up knowing the truth.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* ''Franchise/StarWars'':
** Luke Skywalker is the son of a Jedi, rather than the navigator on a spice freighter that his uncle always told him he was. However, his father has [[FaceHeelTurn gone evil]] and become Darth Vader, TheDragon to the [[BigBad Emperor]]. Thankfully, Luke is able to redeem him, and turn him back to the Light.
** His twin sister Leia Organa as well, though she had a hard time accepting her biological father and always regarded herself as her adopted father's daughter.
* [[SubvertedTrope Subverted]] in the Belgian film ''Toto Le Héros'', where this is a children's fantasies returning again to him on his senile dementia against his rich neighbor.
* In Creator/DavidLynch's ''Film/TheElephantMan'', the title character occasionally expresses a wish to find his real mother, on the hope that she could "love me as I am." What makes this so tragic is the subtle implication (which is historically true, by the way) that she clearly abandoned him for being… [[TheGrotesque well, you know]].
* There's a scene in ''Film/{{Twins}}'' where Vincent mocks the idea of his origins.
* In ''Film/JupiterAscending'', Jupiter Jones is the genetic reincarnation of the Queen of the Universe. There are three groups that are looking for her: the Queen's elder son who wants to kill her so she can't reclaim the inheritance he received, the Queen's younger son who wants to marry her (and then kill her) so he can steal the inheritance, and another group trying to protect her.

* Literature/TheShadowOverInnsmouth, by Creator/HPLovecraft, features a young man who travels to New England to explore his genealogy and who ultimately learns that his great-grandmother was the queen of a race of amphibious fish-people, and that he is destined to eventually metamorphosize into a fish-person himself. But once you actually ''are'' a fish-person, you think it's awesome.
** ''Tales of Innsmouth'' is a collection of stories by various authors, one of which raises the point that said fish-people will be Very Vengeful about their city being torpedoed thanks to his running to the authorities--the protagonist finds the perfectly preserved flayed skin of the original character. He is still alive as a skinless fish-man though.
* For an unusual (and very Byzantine) subversion, see Caroline Cooney's teen novel [[Literature/{{Janie}} The Face on the Milk Carton]] and its sequels.
* In ''Literature/TheHunchbackOfNotreDame'', Quasimodo's birth parents are glamourous and exciting gypsies, but they abandoned him on the steps of a church, where BigBad Archdeacon Claude Frollo--about 16 at the time--took him in ''[[AntiVillain out of kindness]]''. Naturally, Disney couldn't cope with all this moral ambiguity, and in their version, Quasi's birth parents were very loving, and Frollo killed them, taking the child in out of guilt, and not even raising him himself.
** It's implied that Quasi was traded for [[spoiler: Esmerelda when she was just a baby and he was about 4]] and was then taken by the church. His parents were such nice people, don't you think?
* Subverted in the short story "Dragon's-Eyes," by Margaret Ronald.
* In Creator/LMMontgomery's ''Literature/TheBlueCastle'' the trope is inverted in universe--Valancy's relatives explicitly talk about whether she is a changeling because of her sudden peculiar behaviour, and it gets shot down because of her age.
* Harshly deconstructed in ''Literature/TheMerchantPrincesSeries'' by Creator/CharlesStross. All the elements are there: Miriam Beckstein discovers she is the daughter of a powerful noble family with seemingly-magical powers from a medieval kingdom in another world, where she is engaged to marry a prince. But her family turns out to be an amoral organized-crime family that uses their magical powers for drug smuggling; the other world is by modern standards a squalid hellhole, where women have no rights; the prince is mentally retarded, and she is expected to marry him with no argument for the political advantage of her family, regardless of whether she wants to.
* In ''TheBadSeed'', Christine Penmark has always had this thought in the back of her mind that she was adopted, though unlike most examples of this trope, the idea fills her with horror. Her parents profusely deny this, and her friends assure her that this is a common childhood fantasy and no more. [[spoiler: Unfortunately for her, it turns out that she was right, and her biological mother was a psychopathic serial killer… who may have passed on her murderous nature to Christine's daughter.]]
* In Creator/EdgarRiceBurroughs's ''Son of Literature/{{Tarzan}}'', the [[DamselInDistress heroine]] Meriem is the kidnapped daughter of a French general, and reunited with her parents in the end after being raised by an Arab who kidnapped her out of {{Revenge}}.
* Neal Stephenson's ''The Diamond Age'' is an interesting subversion. Nell is ''actually'' the biological child of Brad and Tequila, but over the course of the novel she comes to believe that her true mother is the woman who she can feel speaking to her through her Primer. [[spoiler:And to some extent, she is correct: Miranda does behave far more like a parent to Nell than either Brad or Tequila, notably by sacrificing her own career and freedom to make sure Nell will be safe]].
* ''Literature/VorkosiganSaga'':
** Subverted heavily in ''Literature/TheWarriorsApprentice'', when Elena Bothari finally meets her mother. Turns out her mother wants nothing to do with her, because [[spoiler:Elena is the product of rape. Then Elena's mother kills her father in revenge.]]
** In the Bharaputra clone creche where Mark Vorkosigan grew up, the staff encourage their charges' changeling fantasies [[spoiler:so that the clones don't try to fight or run when "Mummy" or "Daddy" comes to pick up his or her [[GrandTheftMe healthy new body]]]].
* In ''Evil Genius'', by Catherine Jinks, Cadel Piggott (who knows he's adopted) learns that his father is Dr. Phineas Darkkon, who is, well, an EvilGenius. Subversion occurs when [[spoiler:Cadel learns that his adoptive parents are actually in the employ of Darkkon, and deliberately cold so that Cadel would bond with his real father when they meet]]. Subverted some more when [[spoiler:Thaddeus Roth, Cadel's therapist and Darkkon's right hand man, claims that HE is Cadel's real father]].
* The RogerZelazny novel ''Changeling'' has its plot built on this trope. No, it is not the TropeNamer (see ChangelingTale). It's a subversion because Pol (né Daniel) acknowledges that the family that raised him was nothing but supportive, and openly admits that his real father was a terrible man when he went off the deep end, especially after learning more in ''Madwand''.
* [[ChangelingTale Subverted]] in Literature/{{Coraline}}. The Other Mother is, in fact [[spoiler:an evil faerie]] and the Other Father is [[spoiler:a servant of said faerie. The other world is [[CrapsaccharineWorld a horrible place to live]]]]. In the end Coraline is very happy to have her own parents back.
* [[InvertedTrope Inverted]] in Sharon Creech's ''The Wanderer'': Sophie constantly thinks of her adopted family as her biological one, until she is finally forced to admit that she is adopted and that the sea (which she likes a lot) killed her biological parents.
* The last arc of ''Literature/{{Aztec}}'' introduces us to Malintzin. When Mixtli meets her, she is an orphan brat with DelusionsOfGrandeur. Aztec custom names the child by their day of birth (hers is One Grass) and they're given a full name on their seventh birthday, but because she's an orphan, her name remains One Grass (Ce Malinali). By the time he meets her later, she's become Cortez' interpreter and consort to one of Cortez' men. She's also made up a back story for herself: that she was [[IndianPrincess formerly royalty]], but her family sold her when they fell on hard times. The "tzin" suffix (which means lord/lady and is assigned to nobility) is entirely fabricated.

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* Tossed, seemingly at random, into Quinn's backstory for the SciFi Channel seasons of ''Series/{{Sliders}}''.
** Although, originally, this was planned to be a complicated ruse engineered by the [[BigBad Big Bads]], that would be revealed at the end of the season.
* Subverted in ''Series/KyleXY'' at the end of the first season where the main character supposedly found his real parents. In fact, [[spoiler:Kyle was grown in a lab, the parents are actors, and Kyle goes along with the plan to protect his adoptive family, a situation which lasts a whole episode and then requires Kyle to make up another story for why he's returned]].
* ''Series/VeronicaMars'': Parodied. In the episode "My Mother the Fiend," Veronica finds out who Trina Echolls's real parents are. After the big reveal, Trina confides to Veronica that she had always dreamed that her real parents were movie stars. To which Veronica answers: "Trina, your parents ''were'' movie stars…"
* One episode of ''Series/YoungDracula'' revolves around Robin theorizing that he and Vlad could have been SwitchedAtBirth (during a rather unlikely Branagh family holiday in Transylvania. Matters aren't helped when Ingrid then fakes a diary of her mother's to prove that this is the case.
* ''Series/{{Fringe}}'''s Peter Bishop was kidnapped by an alternate reality version of his father when he was seven. This (combined with the fact that crossing over permanently damaged the fabric of reality) kicked off [[BigBad Walternate's]] StartOfDarkness and attempts to destroy the other world. Needless to say, Peter had some issues with Walter after finding out.
* Inverted by ''Series/{{Lost}}'': Alex learns she's not really the daughter of the leader of the Others, but that of a crazy woman who lives in the jungle. She's still happy about it, though.

[[folder:Newspaper Comics]]
* One ''ComicStrip/CalvinAndHobbes'' strip has Calvin find a strange pushbutton device in the house. He pushes it and is whisked away to a secret high-tech underground base where his parents are preparing to go out and fight crime as superheroes! Of course, he's just daydreaming, and the last panel shows the real world, where his parents are as ordinary as ever.

* Subverted by Calderon's ''Life is a Dream'', where Segismund grows up in a prison, because it was prophesied that [[Theatre/OedipusRex he would one day kill his father, the king]]. When he is reunited with his father and discovers that he's a prince, he's too angry to be overjoyed.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* Alistair in ''VideoGame/DragonAgeOrigins'', although he is well aware that he is actually a blood heir to the throne, he doesn't want it in the least bit, and actually treats this like this isn't really impressive. However he ''does'' know that he has a half-sister in Denerim, and when he meets her, she is almost enraged to see him (or even find out he still ''lives''), and asks for money because she's not very wealthy (and has ''plenty'' of children) and Alistair is kinda… saddened more by finding out his half sister is incredibly rude than that he could actually become [[spoiler:King of Ferelden]].
** He ''can'', however, [[spoiler:Be [[TakeAThirdOption persuaded to marry Anora, his half-brother's wife, as a political marriage, that way people supporting Anora ''and'' him for the Throne would be glad.]]]] Course, good luck persuading him to do that unless you [[GuideDangIt said the right options to him]] when you met his sister.
** The truth is even weirder: [[spoiler:his supposed half-sister's baby brother DID die. Alistair's real mother is a Dalish Grey Warden Mage legendary heroine, leaving him even MORE of a controversy to Ferelden politics than being the bastard child of a scullery maid, hence the excessive deception that even Alistair doesn't know about. Bonus points for Alistair unintentionally denouncing his own mother for the subjugation of Redcliffe]].
** Potentially a dangling plot thread when you consider that [[spoiler: the father of Morrigan's baby can either be a male grey warden, meaning anyone from a city elf to a teyrn's son, Teyrn Loghain, or Alistair, who may potentially be ''king'' of Ferelden.]]
* Flipped around around and inverted in ''VideoGame/DragonQuestVIII''. When Angelo's family died, he went off to the Abbey in hopes of having a place to live and at having a future, not having anything left to his name cept for a small sack, thanks to his dad being a bit reckless. The first person he meets at the Abbey who kindly greets him tells him it'd be his home from then on turns out to be his half brother, who was cast out and disinherited by said father because of Angelo's birth… and ''immediately'' tears into him, telling him to leave the abbey, accusing him of attempting to destroy his life there, and from then on, was never kind to him in the least bit.
* Played oddly in ''VideoGame/DragonQuestVII''. The protagonist's foster mother actually ''did'' give birth to the him; he was conceived hundreds of years ago and gestated for seven months, at which point his real mother turned into a mermaid (thus lacking a womb) and the Spirit of Water teleported him into a random woman's womb at a random point in the future.
* Squall Leonhart of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVIII'' turns out to be the son of the president of Esthar, the most technologically advanced and prosperous country on the planet. The game never actually shows Squall acknowledging this fact or expressing any thoughts about it, however; by the time it's possible for him to connect the dots, he's got more important things to worry about. Squall has also become pretty important on his own steam by that time, as the commander of a MagiTek special combat force which is the only thing capable of saving the world.
* [[spoiler:Elisha]] of ''GloriaUnion''. [[spoiler:Her real parents are Gariored and Enryetta, both of whom have great political and physical power. How exactly Zazarland came to raise her is unexplained.]]
* ''VideoGame/Uncharted3DrakesDeception'' reveals that [[spoiler:Nathan Drake is not a descendant of Francis Drake as he claims. As a child he was abandoned by his parents to an orphanage, where he became obsessed with Drake and took his name.]]
* ''[[VideoGame/FireEmblemAkaneia Fire Emblem Gaiden]]'' has both protagonists being this. Alm, actually Prince Alpine Rudolf of Rigel, was raised by a retired Zofian General. Meanwhile, Celica is the princess of Zofia, but was raised in a monastery as priestess. [[spoiler:The reason for their upbringing was a massive XanatosGambit by King Rudolf in order to end the reign of local deities of life and death Mila and Duma]]

* Direct [[InvertedTrope inversion]] in ''Rêveillerie'': Emelind is a [[ChangelingTale literal changeling]], but she considers the universe where she was raised to be her true home.
* In ''Webcomic/TheInexplicableAdventuresOfBob'', Rocko Sasquatch is shocked to learn he is actually [[spoiler: a [[BigfootSasquatchAndYeti Sasquatch!]] (Did that really need a spoiler tag? Oh well.) His tribe abandoned him because he was born bald]].

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Inverted by Nacht in Literature/WhateleyUniverse: she was raised by the Bell Witch to be both a supervillain and her personal cat's paw. She resists throughout her life, but is twisted into a SnarkKnight as a result, as she magically bound to obey her mother and cannot avoid her call when she shows up. Marzena's power over her is only broken when the [[OrphansPlotTrinket locket which she is bound with breaks open]], revealing the face of Kate's ''real'' mother, something Nacht ''never suspected''.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/AdventuresOfSonicTheHedgehog'' had Tails adopted by a loving fox family who later turned out to be robots created by Dr. Robotnik to capture him. Sonic is completely unaware of the ruse, and spends most of the episode debating whether or not letting Tails go was the right thing to do.
* In the ''TabletopGame/BattleTech'' animated series, Franklin Sakamoto is kidnapped [[spoiler: by his second-in-command, who had been secretly watching over him the whole time. It is revealed that Sakamoto was the illegitimate son of the Coordinator of the Draconis Combine. With the legitimate heir captured by the Clans, a group of hard-liners decide to use him as a figurehead, so they could remove the aging Takashi Kurita. Franklin escapes them, and in front of both the hardliners and the Combine agents sent to kill him, renounces his claim on the throne. Double-subverted in the game itself, as, after the events of the series, the Coordinator and his family accept him anyway]].
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Futurama}}'': Leela, who only has one eye, believes she's an orphaned or abandoned alien, and dreams of meeting her species; later in the series, she discovers that her parents are mutants. Since mutants are [[FantasticRacism second-class citizens relegated to the sewers]], her parents figured their relatively normal-looking daughter would live a better life if everyone believed she was an alien.
* Disney's ''Disney/{{Hercules}}'' TV series had the lead's dull foster parents turn up to a parent evening, rather than his divine parents like he expected.
* [[WesternAnimation/{{Metalocalypse}} Skwisgaar Skwigelf]] convinces himself he's a god (or half-god; being very into Viking mythology to the point of swearing on the names of Odin, it may not make much difference) because he doesn't know who his mortal father is, and because his mother's neglect and promiscuity was what drove him into the snow, only to discover and subsequently learn to play the guitar he found in a cave. This may or may not be true; there's a theory [[EpilepticTrees amongst the fans]] that Dimneld Selftcark, Toki's guitar teacher, was Skwisgaar's biological father.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyTales'' episode "Princess Problems", Patch is suspected of being a long-lost princess, but the tomboyish Patch does ''not'' look forward to having to leave her friends and family behind for the life of royalty. Fortunately, it turns out Patch isn't the princess they were looking for.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheReplacements'': While Dick Daring and Agent K are not related to Todd and Riley by blood, they're a lot better than the orphanage they were living in before.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Rugrats}}'', "Princess Angelica": Angelica convinces herself she's really a princess, and when the "Home Office King" comes to fix her mother's fax machine, stows away in his truck.
* Happens to Bloom, the protagonist of ''WesternAnimation/WinxClub:'' First she learns [[ChangelingTale that she's a fairy]], and then is revealed that her parents aren't her real parents, and that she's a princess of another world. It's averted, since Mike and Vanessa (Bloom's foster parents) are very loving, caring and supportive.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{WITCH}}'' uses the "evil real family" subversion, with a surprising lack of GenreBlindness--the BigBad is aware of this trope and exploits it.
** Well… more just an [[TheEvilPrince evil older brother.]] In the comics, we see a vision of Elyon's birth parents, who seem to have been good people before dying.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* The African dictator Jean-Bedel Bokassa tracked down his long-lost illegitimate daughter, who was living in poverty, and brought her back to live with him. Which makes the "evil real family" [[SubvertedTrope subversion]] an example of TruthInTelevision.
* Opal Whiteley, or Princess Francoise Marie de Bourbon-Orleans (both names are engraved upon her tombstone), was a TeenGenius naturalist living in Oregon who kept a diary (now a respected classic) from the age of five or six. Stories about her life vary depending on who is telling them, but she seems to have believed almost from the beginning that she was adopted and was really the daughter of Prince [[http://bit.ly/1s9FjUq Henri d'Orleans]] of France (himself a naturalist who wrote several books on geography). She later became a CloudCuckoolander and ended her days in a hospital for the insane.