->''"Dorian forgot the first rule of killing innocents: one always escapes."''
-->-- ''Literature/TheNightAngelTrilogy''

The BigBad (often an EvilOverlord) has just learned that a child that can defeat them has been or soon will be born. The obvious solution to this problem is to ScrewDestiny. Nip this danger in the bud and kill the infant Hero before they can become any kind of threat. This is the stage where the problems crop up. Either the BigBad has no idea who this child actually ''is'', or other characters also aware of this destiny have taken the initiative to [[MosesInTheBulrushes hide and protect the child]] before the BigBad can actually reach them. Or the would-be killer ''thinks'' they've done the deed, but unbeknownst to them, some force or benevolent person intervenes and the child is actually NotQuiteDead. Or, the BigBad sent a [[{{Mooks}} mook]] to do it, but the mook either can't go through with it, or botches the whole thing through incompetence. Whatever the mechanism, the upshot is that YouCantFightFate.

Often the only thing to do in cases where they can't identify the child is to attempt to track down the newborn hero, baby-by-baby if necessary. The BigBad will investigate or, if impatient, simply kill any child in the proper age range to attempt to secure thier safety -- this may result in a ChildlessDystopia if he's thorough enough. Inevitably, [[InfantImmortality it never works]], and if [[ChildrenAreInnocent innocent children]] ''are'' killed, the resultant crossing of the MoralEventHorizon makes clear just how bad the villain is - and of course [[LaserGuidedKarma karmically]] [[KarmicDeath seals their fate]]. Worse yet, this act often directly ''[[GenocideBackfire backfires]]'', giving the hunted newborn [[TheUnchosenOne a reason beyond mere prophecy]] to go after the BigBad after he's grown up enough to [[CreateYourOwnHero take him on]]; this is a common SelfFulfillingProphecy.

This being a form of VillainBall, it almost ''never'' [[GenreBlindness occurs to anyone that a wiser thought might be to try to find and raise the child himself]]. Though you might occasionally see it among [[GenreSavvy smarter villains]], who take the view that the kid might love him too much to finish him or, in the worst case scenario, will be close at hand if he ''does'' HeelFaceTurn. This often doesn't work either, though, and is irrelevant if the prophecy is that the child ''will'' defeat him. Then again, all that's needed for the {{Prophecy|Twist}} [[ExactWords to be fulfilled]] is for the would-be slayer [[GoneHorriblyRight turned protege]] [[ICanRuleAlone to become]] TheStarscream (and be successful).

SisterTrope to GenocideBackfire, with which it can and does overlap. The primary difference is that this trope is specific to a BigBad trying to find a newborn Hero before they can be a threat. No more, no less. Genocide need not be a part of the method. The main factor for whether or not such a situation is this trope is if the genocide is merely a means to an end (Kill Tribe A to prevent the rise of Child B) or an end in itself (Kill Tribe A to stop any rising, period).

Also compare OffingTheOffspring for those occasions when the child is the son or daughter of the BigBad. See also InfantImmortality, which is, in writing terms, one of the primary reasons this rarely succeeds. If TimeTravel is involved, see MakeWrongWhatOnceWentRight.

[[JustForPun Not to be confused]] with NiceJobBreakingItHero However, it ''can'' be related to NiceJobFixingItVillain



[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Manga/OnePiece'' revealed that the government went on a newborn hunt trying to find the unborn baby of [[spoiler:Gold Roger.]] The baby's MamaBear protected her child ''[[LongestPregnancyEver by staying pregnant for twenty months]]'' so the child could not be associated with his father. That child? [[spoiler:Portgas D. Ace.]]
* An interesting variant in ''Manga/ElfenLied'' -- the antagonists actively seek out and imprison [[PersonOfMassDestruction diclonii]] as they're born. Their primary approach is to visit hospitals daily and inspect the nurseries, looking for horns. If one is found, they then make every effort to persuade the unlucky parents into giving up the infant, and if that fails, they take it by force [[ParanoiaFuel with the assistance of hospital security]]. [[spoiler:Then they go on to enslave and torture the children and, down the line, are surprised when they turn out twisted and angry.]]
* ''LightNovel/ScrappedPrincess''. Legends speak of a royal princess who will destroy the world. When she is born, the [[CrystalDragonJesus Church of Mauser]] throws her off a cliff. [[spoiler:The queen arranges for someone to catch her.]]
* The main villain of ''Mugen Densetsu Takamagahara Dream Saga'' actually does think of raising the kid himself. He just picked up all the kids it could have been and killed them when they proved not to be the one.
* This happens in some versions of Creator/OsamuTezuka's ''Manga/{{Dororo}}''. While in the original, Hyakkimaru's father simply sold his body parts to the 48 Mazins because he wanted power, most later versions had the Mazins offering him the deal because they knew his son was destined to defeat them. The fact that Hyakki is MessianicArchetype does go a long way toward explaining how he can survive with most of his vital organs missing...
* ''Manga/MahouSenseiNegima'' has some traits of this, since it has been explicitly stated that the demon attack on [[DoomedHometown Negi's village]] targeted him. He was one of the two[[note]]three if you count Anya, who was studying abroad at the time[[/note]] survivors and is ''really'' pissed.
** Well, in Negi's case it was more of SinsOfOurFathers... er... [[SinsOfOurFathers Sins of Our Mothers]]. Since the ones responsible were going after Negi because they couldn't go after his mother, in revenge for crimes... they framed her for.
* ''Anime/SaintSeiya'' also has an example of this, though the infant is well identified. Renegade Gemini Saint Saga murdered the rightful ruler of Sanctuary, and tried to assassinate Athena's reincarnation which was still an infant. She was saved in the nick of time thanks to the sacrifice of Sagittarius Aiolos, Saga somewhat convinced himself that he had succeeded in getting rid of her, and had his comeuppance and a lot of cold sweating when he found out she was well alive, and had founded her own guard of Saints.
* ''Manhua/TheStormRiders'' has a bit of a variation of this. Lord Conquer was given a prophecy for the first half of his life, which led to him slaughtering the families of the two heroes and adopting them to secure his reign, but isn't given the second part, in which they will bring him down, until they're grown. However, his attempt to stop this from happening cause it anyway.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* The "Messiah compleX" arc of ''ComicBook/XMen'' was about numerous different factions (for their own reasons) trying to find a new-born baby who happens to be the first mutant to have been born since Decimation (another Marvel event in which 99% of all mutants lost their powers). And yes, one of these factions (the rabid anti-mutant fanatic one) ''did'' attempt to 'locate' the child in question by killing all the babies in the infant's home town.
* In ''ComicBook/{{Camelot 3000}}'', the reincarnation of Mordred experiences a flashback in which King Arthur attempts to drown him as an infant, apparently having learned that his bastard child will one day destroy Camelot. This naturally pisses off his new incarnation enough to instantly turn him from a CorruptCorporateExecutive-type to the BigBad's new Dragon. [[spoiler: Possibly a subversion, as the flashback is induced by Morgan le Fay, who has her own reasons to manipulate him and might've ''faked'' the vision to inflame his hatred.]]
* In ''ComicBook/PrinceOfPersiaTheGraphicNovel'', an old prophecy of the invisible prophet of Marv proclaims that, on a certain night in a certain year, there will be born a boy destined to kill all the rulers and the ruled. The rulers of Marv accordingly kill every boy born on that date, except for one who escapes and seventeen years later leads LaResistance to overthrow the rulers. In a ProphecyTwist, the foretold destruction [[spoiler:is accomplished by the coincidentally invading Mongols, whose Khan was born at the prophesied time]].
* It has recently come to light that ComicBook/{{Thanos}}' current conquest, detailed in ''ComicBook/{{Infinity}}'', is to kill all of his children in fear of one of them overthrowing him, with his last target being on Earth. [[spoiler:At the end of the event, that son, Thane, traps Thanos in a "state of living death", and swears to become even worse than Thanos would ever be.]]

[[folder:Fairy Tales]]
* In "[[http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/authors/jacobs/english/fishring.html The Fish and the Ring]]", "[[http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/russian/russianwondertales/vasiliiunlucky.html Vasilii the Unlucky]]", "[[http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/authors/grimms/29devilgoldhairs.html The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs]]", "Literature/TheKingWhoWouldBeStrongerThanFate", and many other fairy tales, a man who finds his child [[SelfFulfillingProphecies doomed]] to marry a poor child starts by trying to kill the infant. When he learns that the child has grown up, he tries to kill them with {{Impossible Task}}s, before and after the wedding; in the end, he fails.
* The Queen in "Literature/SnowWhite" may be the most memorable example of this trope. She had little trouble finding the infant Snow White in the first place, but the kindly huntsman who spares Snow White's life and the Queen's ultimate downfall fully adhere to the trope.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* In the ''Literature/PercyJacksonAndTheOlympians'' fan fic ''{{FanFic/Aska}}'', the Olympians attempt to [[spoiler:kill any offspring of the Norse. They are successful until Ayra and her twin brother are born. Thinking that there is only one child, they kill him and stop looking.]] ''Big'' mistake.
* The backstory of ''FanFic/SonicXDarkChaos'': During the Demon-Seedrian War, Venus attempted to kill (pre-android) Tsali in order to prevent him from becoming the Ultimate Weapon. However, she's stopped by Hertia and Luke, who loved him as their adopted son. [[CassandraTruth Guess]] [[StartOfDarkness what]] [[YouCantFightFate happened]].
** Maledict tried to euthanize [[spoiler: Sonic, Shadow, and Eric]] after he created them and discovered their severe flaws. Not only did all three of them survive, but all three of them end up destroying his conspiracy.

[[folder:Films -- Animated]]
* In Polish animated movie ''Film pod strasznym tytułem'' (''Animation/DreadfullyTitledMovie''), the cruel leader of the Marbati [[EvilOverlord Marbas]] hears a prophecy about a child that is very small but older than his own parents and is going to defeat him, and starts to imprison children. Finally he is defeated by [[spoiler:{{shapeshifting}} Wił masked as a smaller version of a boy]].
* In Disney's ''Disney/{{Hercules}}'', Hades sends his mooks to turn Hercules mortal and then murder him, so that the kid can't derail his takeover plot in eighteen years. But the mooks are interrupted before the task is complete, so Hercules is still alive and has superhuman powers, even though he is indeed mortal. Guess what happens.
* The villainous Shen does this in ''WesternAnimation/KungFuPanda2''. It goes as well as you'd expect.
** It actually works twice. The [[spoiler:massacre of the pandas]] lets Po end up in the right place and the right time to become the Dragon Warrior and receive the training he will need for his eventual fight with Shen (well, he was training to fight Tai Lung, but still). Also, Po remembering [[spoiler:his mother's sacrifice during the massacre and coming to terms with it]] allows him to master the ChekhovsSkill that allows him to overcome Shen's weapons.
** Though subverted in that everyone including Shen believes Po will be seeking revenge for this act; in truth he's repressed the memory and is in complete ignorance of Shen's deed.
* ''WesternAnimation/ThePrinceOfEgypt'' shows this scenario through an Egyptian-hieroglyphic animation dream sequence, followed by a final confrontation between the Prince Moses and Seti I, his adoptive father: "Sometimes," Seti says, with a look of utter horror on his face at the memory (or is it fear of divine judgment?), "sacrifices must be made...." Then he tries to comfort his son with the worst words possible: ''"They were only slaves..."''

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* ''Film/TheChroniclesOfRiddick'' (the film) reveals this is back story of the titular character. The antagonist heard a prophecy that he would be killed by a native of a certain planet, and so wiped them all out. [[spoiler:Riddick was found with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, tossed in a dumpster.]] That will mess you up for life, which would go a ways to explaining Riddick's borderline sociopathic behavior.
* In ''Film/EscapeFromThePlanetOfTheApes,'' Dr. Otto Hasselien has learned of the fall of humanity, the rise of the apes, and the destruction of Earth, and fears that Zira's baby will bring about those events. His initial attempt to humanely abort the pregnancy fail and, when he resorts to illegally using sodium penethal to get the truth out, he persuades the President to have the pregnancy aborted. When Zira gives birth, he defies Presidential orders to have both Cornelius and Zira taken alive by killing Zira and her baby after a long chase before being killed by Cornelius. Unknown to Hasselien, Zira managed to use his obsession to swap babies with a primitive ape and, to ensure no one knew the truth, she threw the infant into the sea. Hasselien therefore set in motion the events that marked the downfall of humanity.
* In ''Film/TheGodfatherPartII'', the mob boss of the Sicilian town of Corleone kills little Vito Andolini's father over a debt. Then he realizes that Vito will inevitably come for revenge and tries to kill him young, but his mother sacrifices herself. Vito escapes to America, becomes Don Corleone, and returns to Sicily to take his revenge.
* In ''Film/KungPowEnterTheFist'', Master Pain (later called Betty) tries to kill The Chosen One when he is a baby, but gets his ass slaughtered.
* In ''Film/{{Looper}}'', [[spoiler: Old Joe finds the addresses of all 3 of the children who share a birthday with [[BigBad The Rainmaker]], and intends to kill all of them. He successfully kills one, but is caught before he can kill the second one. He escapes and manages to find Cid, who becomes the Rainmaker, but his attempted murder will inadvertently cause Cid to become the Rainmaker.]]
* ''Film/OmenIIITheFinalConflict''. Damien Thorn (the son of Satan A.K.A. TheAntichrist) tries to kill all babies born on a certain date in an attempt to prevent the Second Coming of Jesus. Seeing as this is the movie [[spoiler:where Damien is finally defeated and killed, it wasn't a good idea.]]
* ''Franchise/StarWars'': The Prequel Trilogy subverts this. There is a prophecy about the Chosen One bringing balance to TheForce; while some interpret this to mean that they'll decimate the Jedi who are more numerous than the Sith, the Jedi view, and the one espoused by WordOfGod, is that they will root out and destroy the Sith Lord lurking in the shadows. Palpatine knows about this prophecy, and when the Chosen One is discovered he doesn't kill him. He spends quite some time befriending and grooming the boy until he could cause a FaceHeelTurn and use him against the Jedi. However, the Original Trilogy then has the son of the Chosen One [[LoveRedeems redeem him]] and cause a HeelFaceTurn. Palpatine tries to kill the son, and the Chosen One kills him, finally fulfilling the prophecy.
** The Sith have their own prophecy, of the Sith'ari, who will both destroy their order and bring it its greatest height of power (the order in which this will happen not being explicitly specified). While WordOfGod holds that prophecy had already been fulfilled 1000 years earlier, many fans find it more appealing for Anakin/Vader to be the fulfillment of ''both'' prophecies, by destroying the Jedi ''and'' the Sith.
* The ''Franchise/{{Terminator}}'' movies are all pretty much Skynet's attempts at doing this. Further, in the [[Film/TheTerminator first film]], the Terminator hunts down everyone it can find named Sarah Connor. Ultimately, John Connor wouldn't have even been ''born'' if it weren't for Skynet's attempts to kill his not-yet-mother, as the Resistance sent back the man who would be his father to protect her from.
* Queen Bavmorda did something like this in ''Film/{{Willow}}'', rounding up all the pregnant women in her domain and checking each of their children for the mark of the one prophesied to bring about her downfall. The fact that she's defeated not by the the prophesied baby, but by the people trying to keep her safe from her constant attacks makes this a particularly overt SelfFulfillingProphecy.
** Elora's hair was use in the ritual that opened the portal so, technically, she did have part in defeating the Queen.

[[folder:Folklore, Mythology and Religion]]
* In Arthurian mythology, after hearing a prophecy that a child born on May Day, as Mordred was, will destroy him and his kingdom. KingArthur reacts in different ways, depending on the story.
** He rounds up all the noble May Babies and sends them away on a rickety ship. The ship sinks, and the only child to survive is Mordred, who is rescued and eventually returned to his parents.
** Arthur decides to actually take all the boys to be trained under him. It just so happens that Mordred was the ''only'' one of his pages to betray him.
** In ''Webcomic/ArthurKingOfTimeAndSpace'', Arthur knows the prophecy, but takes the position that the mass murder of babies is wrong, and Merlin points out that the prophesied baby would escape anyway. Unfortunately, [[LordErrorProne Sir Balin]] overhears the wrong part of the conversation and tells a scribe to issue a proclamation that all babies born on May Day are to be killed.
* This happens ''several times'' in [[Myth/GreekMythology Ancient Greek]] myths. One of the things oracles tended to predict was someone's child killing the one asking. Usually, trying to kill the child is what caused the prophecy to take place in the first place, at least in the long run. Perseus was such an example.
** Cronus and Zeus. Cronus was told that one of his sons would overthrow him, so he swallowed each of his children after they were born. However, the sixth child, Zeus, was hidden from him, and Cronus was tricked into swallowing a stone instead. Zeus was raised in secret and later overthrew his father as predicted.
*** In another version of the story, Cronus was just paranoid. He thought that since he had overthrown his own father, his children would overthrow him. His attempt at preventing this gave Zeus the motivation to overthrow him.
** Zeus himself was worried about being overthrown by his children. When it was predicted that if his lover Metis bore a son he would be overthrown, Zeus tricked Metis into transforming into a fly and swallowed her. Metis took up residence in Zeus' head, hammering armor for her future child, giving Zeus terrible headaches. Metis' child eventually was born, emerging full-grown and clad in armor [[BodyHorror from Zeus' head]], not a god but the [[NoManOfWomanBorn goddess]] Athena.
*** In another version, Zeus was told that the off-spring of Zeus and Metis would be far more powerful than her father. And indeed, Athena ''was'' more powerful than Zeus - but she was also totally loyal to her father and wouldn't dream of overthrowing him.
*** Zeus was perhaps right to fear, but could've known better by now, since it runs in the family. Before Cronus, his father Uranus feared an overthrow, and had children capable of doing it sent to Tartarus. Unfortunately, they were all their mother's favorites, and Gaia sent Cronus to take revenge -- Uranus's castration was [[MamaBear probably]] [[WomanScorned her]] [[CoolAndUnusualPunishment idea]].
** Oedipus' parents tried to kill him as an infant due to the Oracle's prophecy that he would murder his father and bed his mother. Unfortunately for them, he got rescued by royals of a neighboring city-state. And so we have the OedipusComplex...
*** Paris was also prophesied to cause the downfall of the kingdom and the death of his father. They pulled the same "we couldn't bear to kill him, let's just leave him to die/be found and brought up by a poor shepherd" that they did with Oedipus. By the time he returned to the kingdom as an adult, the oracle Cassandra who had made the prophecy had become ... [[TropeNamer well,]] TheCassandra, cursed to have everyone disbelieve her predictions. So the king and queen now disregarded the prophecy and welcomed Paris back with open arms, which led to him causing their destruction [[MikeNelsonDestroyerOfWorlds (albeit unintentionally)]].
*** In some versions of the story, Zeus [[TheChessmaster engineered the entire Trojan War]] solely to thin out the ranks of his demigod children so that none of them would overthrow him.
** A frustrated [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acrisius King Acrisius]] goes to the Oracle for want of a son only to be told that his grandson would kill him. When locking his daughter, [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danae Danaë]] in a tower fails, and [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perseus Perseus]] is born, Acrisius throws them both in a box and sends them adrift at sea. In the [[DarkerAndEdgier darker]] versions of the story, Perseus comes back for [[RoaringRampageOfRevenge revenge]] and subjects Acrisius' entire court to [[TakenForGranite the head of Medusa]]. In nicer versions of the tale, grandpa and hero make amends, Acrisius is proud of the hero Perseus has become and makes him his heir... only to get killed by Perseus in a gaming accident. Sometimes [[YouCantFightFate destiny is just a real bitch.]]
*** Considering who the baby's father was, Acrisius got off lucky.
** In a subversion, Zeus manages to avert this fate by learning that a certain goddess's (Thetis) child will become more powerful than his father, and proceeds to very carefully ''not'' sleep with her. He wound up arranging her marriage to a mortal, Peleus. The son? Achilles.
** Yet another time when Zeus was enough of a MagnificentBastard to actually be successful in pulling off this maneuver was the case of Typhon. Gaia had supported Cronus in his uprising against his father Uranus, and then Cronus had proceeded to treat his own sons and daughters just as badly -- so that Zeus had had to rebel against Cronus the same way. To Gaia, it seemed as if this was just another turn in the cycle of revenge and patricide, so she decided to give birth to a creature who was supposed to defeat Zeus in just the same way as Zeus had done for Cronus and Cronus had done for Uranus. This was the dragon Typhon, and it appeared to be a brutal creature with no redeeming qualities, much like the giants and cyclopes of Uranus's day. But Zeus was able to win his battle against Typhon, thus allowing himself to break the cycle of one tyrant replacing another -- for in this case, Typhon would surely have been worse than the god it replaced, not better.
** Typhon wasn't the last time. Gaia later attempted the same trick by giving birth to the Giants, snake legged creatures which could not be defeated by gods. Fortunately, Zeus and the others had enough of a warning to start getting hot and heavy with mortal women. By the time the Giants got born, they managed to breed Heracles, who was powerful enough to turn the tide.
** It is kind of averted at the end of the Trojan War. Astyanax, the infant son of Hector, is thrown from the walls of Troy so that he won't live to avenge his father's death. [[TheExtremistWasRight It worked]]. Of course, there was no prophecy involved, but the Greeks probably figured they couldn't be too careful. ...on the other hand, while Troy never rises again, the Greek chieftains who make this decision almost all come to unhappy ends.
*** However, the Greeks still fail to eradicate the Trojans, and Aeneas (in some stories another prince of Troy) escapes. He has his own journey searching for a new home, and settles in Italy. If mythology is to be believed, Aeneas' descendants became the Romans, who conquered the Mediterranean Sea and the land that bordered it (including Greece). It took awhile, but it wasn't lost on the Romans.
** In short, Greek Mythology is full of this kind of stuff, although few times do the would-be destiny-screwers explicitly try to ''kill'' the child (or its mother) with a weapon or anything, preferring to leave them to die in the wilderness. This was because in Ancient Greek times, killing a blood member of your family was the worst sin imaginable, and doomed you to living the rest of your life hounded by the Furies. If you "expose" your baby or cast someone into the wilderness, though, you're leaving their fates in the hands of the gods, and, nominally, giving them a MillionToOneChance of survival.
* Following this format to the letter is the Greek historian Herodotus's version of the birth of Cyrus the Great. According to him, Astyages, king of the Medes, had a [[DreamingOfThingsToCome Prophetic Dream]] that his daughter Mandane would give birth to a son who would destroy his empire. First he tried simply marrying her off to an unambitious vassal prince whom he didn't consider a threat, but when she got pregnant, the dreams resumed. When Cyrus was born, Astyages arranged for one of his generals, Harpagus, to kill the baby while Mandane would be told that her child was stillborn. Instead (for the reasons described above, and also out of fear of Mandane should she ever find out), Harpagus entrusted the job to a herdsman. But the herdsman's wife really had just had a stillbirth, and they left their own dead baby on the appointed hillside and kept Cyrus. When Harpagus's deception emerged years later, Astyages punished him by [[DisproportionateRetribution killing his son]] and [[ImAHumanitarian feeding him to Harpagus at a banquet]]. This caused Harpagus to [[TheDogBitesBack side with Cyrus in his rebellion against Astyages and help him conquer Media]], making this another of your good old [[SelfFulfillingProphecy Self-Fulfillling Prophecies]].
* In Myth/HinduMythology, the [[GodInHumanForm Avatar]] Krishna's uncle, BigBad Kamsa, hears a prophecy that his nephew will kill him. So he imprisons his sister and kills her 9 children one after another as soon as they were born. Krishna, the 10th child, escapes at birth. It does not end well for him.
* From ''Literature/TheBible'':
** King Herod's "Massacre of the Innocents" in [[Literature/TheBible the Gospel of Matthew]] is the TropeNamer. (There's some doubt as to whether the actual Herod did this literally or whether the story was allegorical, seeing as the Bible is the only place where it's mentioned. Still, Herod was by no means a benevolent ruler. See HistoricalVillainUpgrade for more information.)
** King Jehoash (usually rendered in the short form "Joash" in translations) of Judah escapes the blade when his aunt protects him as an infant from his grandmother Athaliah, who seeks to kill all heirs to the throne so that she could stay queen after her son Ahaziah died.
** Even before that, the Book of Exodus describes the Pharaoh ordering the elimination of every newborn son, to cut down on the Israelite growth (rather than taking out a specific individual.) However, his own daughter winds up rescuing one of them, Moses, who grows up and is called by {{God}} to free his people.
* This is the premise for the Sophocles play ''Theatre/OedipusRex'', the story itself derived from Greek myths. However, the old king should not be called the Big Bad because, although he doesn't realize it himself until the end, Oedipus is the big bad of the play. Perhaps his father should have been the big bad in another play.

* Subverted quite nicely in the short story "Another End of the Empire" by Tim Pratt, which you can read here: [[http://www.strangehorizons.com/2009/20090622/empire-f.shtml]]
* A large part of the prequels to Creator/DavidEddings' ''Literature/{{Belgariad}}'' deals with Polgara's task of safeguarding the line of young Rivan kings from Torak's assassins. In the main story, Asharak gets the full treatment, as Garion enacts a [[DeathByIrony very specific form of revenge]] upon him for the deaths of his parents.
** This is touched off by an earlier "Nice Job Breaking It, Herod" when Torak sent assassins to eliminate the Rivan royal family. Polgara's charges are the descendants of the one son who inevitably escaped the slaughter.
* ''[[Literature/TheChroniclesOfNarnia The Horse and his Boy]]'': The corrupt official Lord Bar in King Lune's court in Archenland learned of the prophecy that one of the twin newborn princes would someday save Archenland from the greatest danger that would ever threaten it. Even though Bar had no idea what this danger would be, on the off-chance it would be something he would cause, he decided to try to get the prince out of the way just to be on the safe side. Too bad for him Aslan was watching over things...
* In ''Literature/CurseOfTheWolfgirl'', it is revealed that RetiredMonster Malveria pulled this one out of the playbook back before the "retired" part. Since then, she's become part of the heroes' group of TrueCompanions, and when the obligatory survivor turns up, it is as the BigBad of the book.
* In ''Literature/{{Dune}}'', Emperor Corrino was told by the Spacing Guild to kill Paul Atreides to ensure his control over Arrakis. But Baron Harkonnen only killed his father Leto Atreides, while he left Paul and his mother in the desert. This backfired spectacularly, as Paul soon become the leader of the Fremen, and leads them in an all out war against the Harkonnens and successfully overthrew the Emperor.
* ''Literature/{{Earthsea}}'': A [[GodEmperor Godking]] of the Kargad Lands received a prophecy his empire will fall because of a member of the former royal house. By then, there were only two children left; a boy and a girl. Since they had RoyalBlood, killing them outright would be sacrilege, so he had them stranded on a desolate island. They survived until old age. Then, one day, Ged is shipwrecked on their island. The girl gave him an old family keepsake . . .
* In ''Literature/TheGraveyardBook'', the Jacks of all trades hear a prophecy that some toddler is going to be their doom. They send in an assassin, who kills his whole family but fails to get the baby. You can guess where this is going.
* In ''Literature/{{Gwenhwyfar}}'' by Creator/MercedesLackey, which is based on Arthurian Legend, the protagonist hears of how Arthur, under the advice of the Merlin, killed all newborn babies in the kingdom (it's even implied that this is the reason why [[spoiler: Gwen's mother dies while giving birth to her baby brother, who also dies]]). Toward the end of the book, [[BigBad Medraut]] reveals that [[spoiler: Arthur was trying to kill his illegitimate (and incestuous) son, but Morganna and Anna Morgause foresaw it and worked a spell that caused Medraut to be born a few months early, saving him from Arthur's wrath]].
* ''Literature/HarryPotter'': Lord Voldemort knew it had been prophesised that a child "born as the seventh month dies" would have the power to destroy him, and acted accordingly. Unfortunately for him, incomplete knowledge of the prophecy on his part rendered it [[SelfFulfillingProphecy self-fulfilling.]]
* Creator/JohnMoore's ''Literature/HeroicsForBeginners'' mentions a villain who succeeded to the throne of a kingdom by slaughtering the rightful ruler, his wife, their children, and so on. The catch was he couldn't get all of the children -- even though he'd been wise enough to schedule an assault on ''every potential heir and his or her family''. Amazingly, the villain was savvy enough to '''not''' attempt to break it; not because he didn't want the successors dead, but because if he did kill everyone in the necessary age groups -- teenagers and under -- he'd cripple the country's economy down the road. Instead, he went [[ProperlyParanoid psychotically paranoid and ended up locking himself in a nigh-inaccessible room.]]
* In ''Literature/TheIdhunsMemories'', a trilogy by the Spanish writer Laura Gallego, in the world Idhún, Ashran the Necromancer uses an astral conjunction to wipe out all dragons and unicorns after hearing one of each will destroy him. Eventually, one baby dragon and unicorn are rescued and sent to the Earth through magic, which will end up killing him.
* BizarreAlienBiology example: The Pak protectors, from the ''Literature/KnownSpace'' novels of Creator/LarryNiven, are compelled to destroy even infant Pak that aren't related to them because they don't "smell right", thus eliminating their own offspring's competitors. The fact that their inter-bloodline feuds tend to leave their planets devastated and every combatant's bloodline extinct, qualifies their ''entire species'' for this trope. Also a [[ArtisticLicenseBiology complete failure of biology]], as any Pak that successfully exterminated all rival genetic lines would then watch its own bloodline expire from inbreeding depletion.
* In ''[[Literature/NightWatch The Last Watch]]'' by Sergei Lukyanenko, it's revealed that Merlin's [[MoralEventHorizon example]] (yes, ''that'' Merlin- see Folklore, above) is what caused [[spoiler:his [[HeelFaceTurn switch from Light One to Dark One.]]]]
* In Fiona [=McIntosh's=] ''Royal Exile'', this happens twice: the first is at the very beginning [[spoiler:when King Brennus has another baby killed in order to protect his newborn baby daughter, and even the mother doesn't know what's up]], and later on when the warlord orders all boys around the prince's age to be killed throughout all the kingdoms.
* Inverted in ''Sarum'', where a Neolithic chieftain is so obsessed with a prophecy that he'll never sire an heir of his own unless it's by a "woman crowned in gold", that he raids other tribes, forcibly marries their highborn women, and then has them executed when they fail to conceive within a month. By the time a blonde woman arrives in the area, he's made enemies of all his tribe's neighbors and killed most of his advisors for trying to discourage this bloody practice.
* ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire''
** Subverted when the maegi Mirri Maz Duur magically kills Daenarys Stormborn's unborn son in utero, both for revenge against the father and because the unborn child is prophesied to be the Stallion That Mounts the World, an unstoppable city-smashing warlord. While it doesn't exactly turn out well for Mirri in the end, she ''does'' successfully prevent the boy from being born and (supposedly) averting fulfilling whatever the prophecy was supposed to be. However, this leads to a rather more straightforward ProphecyTwist; in revenge, Daenerys had Mirri Maz Duur burned alive and her death by fire hatches the three dragon eggs Daenerys had been given as a wedding gift. A single dragon can destroy a city or an army within seconds... and Daenerys considers them her sons. There have been multiple hints that it is [[spoiler:Drogon]] in particular who was named by the prophecy.
** When King Robert Baratheon also discovers from his spies that Daenerys is pregnant, he orders her killed too, much to the consternation of his right hand man, Ned Stark.
* ''The Tamír Triad'': King Erius in ''The Bone Doll's Twin'' kills off female relatives who can challenge him for the throne (traditionally held by a queen due to divine mandate). He spares his baby sister Ariani, but has no intention of doing the same for her daughter -- except that the daughter is passed off as stillborn and then raised in the guise of her dead twin brother.
* Mad Emperor Yuri of Barrayar from the ''Literature/VorkosiganSaga'' attempted to kill off everyone else who might have a claim to the Imperium, but he missed Aral Vorkosigan. (He did get Aral's mother and older brother, though.) He also didn't bother trying to kill Aral's father, Piotr Vorkosigan, who wasn't in the line of succession. (Since Piotr was the premier general of his generation, this is further evidence of just how mad he was.) Piotr threw his support behind Yuri's brother, who was also missed, and started the civil war that took Yuri down. Two years later, Aral, aged thirteen, got to take the first cut in the long drawn out execution of the ex-emperor.
* An example of this occurred in the ''[[Literature/TheWheelOfTime Wheel of Time]]'' series, where the prequel novel ''New Spring'' described attempts by the forces of the Dark to find and kill Rand right from the day he was born. Since they weren't entirely sure how old he was at the time, they went around killing pretty much every young male who showed signs of being a channeler.
** An interesting little WordOfGod statement mentions that this royally pissed off BigBad Ishamael badly enough that he messily killed the head of the Black Ajah at the time.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* In ''[[Series/BabylonFive Babylon 5]]: The Lost Tales'', John Sheridan is warned by Galen the Technomage that a young Centauri prince (and the grandson of ''B5'''s [[TheCaligula Caligula-expy]]) will one day inherit the throne, become a megalomaniac and invade the Earth -- obviously, he must be killed to protect innocent lives. However, the trope is subverted when Sheridan decides to raise the prince himself and teach him a better way. Furthermore, Sherdian gets Galen to all but confess that was his true plan all along.
* In ''Series/GameOfThrones'', [[spoiler: either Cersei or Joffrey (it's ambiguous which one of them) orders the slaughter of every single bastard child Robert Baratheon fathered. Such children may have posed a threat to Joffrey's rule. Of course, one escapes.]]
* An episode of ''Series/HerculesTheLegendaryJourneys'' used this plot.
** Also, the ''Series/XenaWarriorPrincess'' episode "Cradle of Hope" featured a baby prophesied to be the next king. In that case, Xena heads off the infanticide by convincing the king to adopt the child and make him his lawful successor.
** There's also the complete reversal in ''Series/XenaWarriorPrincess'' where someone sends a baby floating down the river to save her life... from the hero, because the baby is prophesied to bring about DOOM. While it's never entirely clear, there are hints within the narrative that perhaps the ensuing destruction could have been avoided if the baby had been brought up by a loving mother instead of having people try to murder it all the time.
** Not a baby, but the Archangel Michael says that as long as Xena's daughter is alive, Xena has the power to kill the Greek gods. What do the gods do? Attack Eve. What does that cause Xena to do? Kill the gods. Xena was never particularly fond of the gods in the series, but would she have gone on a killing spree if they hadn't endangered her daughter?
* Again, ''Series/JesusOfNazareth'' (the TV series from the 1970s) has an AWESOME Peter Ustinov play the trope-name scenario perfectly. First seen as an AffablyEvil AdiposeRex feasting and cynically chatting with Roman envoys about destroying newborn Messiahs 'like a new born scorpion, underfoot', he steadily degenerates over the course of the first two hours of the series as he fears the coming rival King of the Jews, finally falling into a gibbering near fugue state when he at last horrifies his court with the order to 'Kill! Kill! Kill them all! Kill! KILL THEM ALL!'
** Things don't work ''quite'' as he wants them to....
* This happens in ''Series/LegendOfTheSeeker'', where Darken Rahl finds out about Richard and attempts to find and kill him while still an infant, by slaughtering every first-born son in his hometown.
** The Rahl family in the books has this as a general policy for their own children who are ungifted. In the case of those that just can't use magic, it's because they're useless as an heir. For the ones who're [[AntiMagic pristinely ungifted]], it's because their immunity to magic can make them a threat.
* Played with twice on ''Series/{{Merlin}}''. Uther is so desperate to rid magic from the land that he drowns all the children who may have inherited magic. One baby escaped, the half-sister of [[spoiler: his illegitimate daughter]] Morgana, who would later turn Morgana against him and start the chain reaction to break his spirit. The other example is his genocide of the dragonlords. One does escape, and winds up fathering [[TheChosenOne Merlin]], who is destined to bring magic back to Camelot.

* Let's not forget ''Theatre/{{Macbeth}}'' (the [[Creator/WilliamShakespeare Shakespeare]] version): Because the witches have told him that the offspring of Banquo will be kings, Theatre/{{Macbeth}} decides it's a good idea to have Banquo and son murdered. The murderers kill Banquo, but naturally screw up the ''important'' part of the job. It's a ''variation'' on the trope, because Theatre/{{Macbeth}} is not killed or overcome by Fleance, but his descendants later fulfilled the prophecy (at least according to the erroneous genealogies of Shakespeare's time).
** The witches' first apparition warns Macbeth to beware of Macduff, the Thane of Fife, who had previously rejected Macbeth's invitation to the royal banquet. Macbeth sends the murderers to kill his wife and children, while Macduff is gathering English soldiers to storm the castle. The murder of Macduff's family further enfuriates him, as he is ultimately revealed to be the [[NoManOfWomanBorn one prophesied by the witches]] that can defeat Macbeth. Macduff confronts Macbeth for murdering his wife and children in a climactic battle [[spoiler: which Macduff wins]], and Malcolm takes his place as the rightful king of Scotland.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''VideoGame/YoshisIsland'':
** In the original game and ''[[VideoGame/YoshisIsland The New Yoshi's Island]]'', Kamek's scheme is to prevent the conflict between Mario and Bowser from ever starting by getting rid of Mario and Luigi while both are still infants. If anything, he only accomplished the ''opposite''; in effect, he ''began'' the conflict by getting the ball rolling.
** In ''[[VideoGame/YoshisIsland Yoshi's Island DS]]'', Bowser and Kamek (the second still not having learned his lesson) kidnap all of the Mushroom Kingdom's babies in hopes of finding the seven Star Children.
* Variation in ''VideoGame/DragonQuestIV'': Aware that TheChosenOne is currently growing up ''somewhere'' in the world, the monsters attempt various plans to track down and destroy that child. One of these plans gets the attention of Ragnar, who learns of the prophecy while thwarting the plot and leads him to set out in search of the chosen one. Later, it's revealed that Ragnar is one of TheHero's Chosen Companions. Later, the monsters find the hidden village where the Hero is being raised. They attempt [[DoomedHometown the obvious solution]], which naturally doesn't work.
* ''VideoGame/DragonQuestV'': [[spoiler:Grandmaster Nimzo and Bishop Ladja try to kill the "Legendary Hero" because they believe that one of the Hero's children (preferrably the son) would grow up to be the true Chosen One. Since the children have been well-hidden by the residents of Gotha Castle, Ladja has to [[TakenForGranite petrify both the Hero and his wife]] and wait until the child grows up. As a statue, the Hero is sold to the Porgie family, and is [[AndIMustScream forced to watch]] as their child, [[PunnyNames Georgie]], grows up... and then gets mistaken for TheChosenOne and kidnapped by monsters... all the while the twins are growing up sheltered until they find their father and restore him to flesh and blood, and they would soon save the day... with help from the Hero's son, of course]].
* The backstory of ''VideoGame/JadeEmpire'' showcases the Emperor wiping out the Spirit Monks to the last, so that none will remain to protect the Water Dragon, allowing him to enslave her for great power. However, he missed you, the PlayerCharacter, who was hidden away and raised by the Emperor's brother. This trope then turns out to be [[spoiler: invoked and subverted; the only reason the Emperor's brother saved you was so that ''you'' would have the motivation and drive necessary to overthrow the Emperor, at which point his brother steps in, bumps you off, and sits his ass on the throne]].
* In ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfDragoon'', the Black Monster, [[spoiler: Rose]], kills the Moon Child every 108 years [[spoiler: to prevent the birth of the Virage Embryo]]. Dart's hometown Neet was razed as a result, seeing as how the Moon Child, Princess Louvia, resided there. The only problem? [[spoiler: Louvia had a twin, Shana, and she was in fact the real Moon Child.]] Oops.
* ''VideoGame/FableII'' begins with Lucian murdering your sister and attempting to do the same to you because you have hero's blood and have the potential to unravel his plan. It would've been a very short game if he'd managed it.
* Zeus in ''VideoGame/GodOfWar'' is told of a marked warrior who will bring about his downfall. Naturally, he kidnaps the nearest birthmarked kid and imprisons him in Death's Domain. Unfortunately for Zeus, the kidnapped kid's brother is Kratos, who gets a tattoo in the image of his lost brother's mark. It's all downhill from there.
* In ''Videogame/NiNoKuni'', Oliver is targeted with a curse when the BigBad learns it is Oliver's destiny to interfere in their plans, but the curse ends up killing Oliver's mother instead. Oliver learning that he has the chance to bring his mother back from the dead is what gives him the resolve to become a hero.
* In ''VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim'', Alduin the World Eater crashes an execution party in the fort town of Helgen. Everyone thinks their enemy summoned the dragon: The Stormcloaks think the Imperials did it. The Imperials think the Stormcloaks did it. The Blades think the Thalmor did it. The Thalmor think the Blades did it. They're all wrong. [[spoiler:He's after You the Player Character, an as-yet unrealized Dragonborn with the as-yet-untapped power to oppose him. He sensed your dragon soul, but had no means to figure out which of the little mortal morsels running about was his target. In the end, he ultimately saved you from a wrongful execution and enabled your escape. Many other people died in the process, however, and Helgen is in ruins.]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Referenced in ''WebVideo/DoctorHorriblesSingAlongBlog'' when the [[DepartmentOfRedundancyDepartment Evil League of Evil]] demand Doctor Horrible commit a murder to be admitted to the League:
-->'''Moist''': There's a kid in Iowa grows up to become President. That'd be big.
-->'''Billy''': I'm not gonna kill a little kid.
* The AdditionalEvilOverlordListCellblockB has some advice to {{Big Bad}}s on how to deal with such prophecies.
-->''If I hear about a prophecy or prophecies that state that a child will be born in a certain place with a birthmark or some other sign who will bring about my downfall, I will not immediately send troops to kill the child and its entire family. Instead, I will wait until the child is about five, while keeping it under surveillance, and then have it kidnapped and killed. Once this is done, I will bury the body in a careful location so the body does not get eaten by wild beasts, resurrected by the good guys or wash up on some foreign shore. And for everyone's sake, I will make sure that the child is actually dead, instead of just stabbing it once or suffocating it. Bullets are very helpful, especially fifty-fold.''

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'' -- After Avatar Roku died, Sozin knew the next one would be an Airbender, so he had them wiped out... and ''still'' [[LastOfHisKind failed to kill the right one]].
** To their credit, the Fire Nation realized fairly quickly they missed Aang, and spent a century trying to track him down. (Most of them got much less concerned as the years went by and the Avatar never showed up.)
*** In a strange twist to things, Aang escapes because he was trying to run away. He ran away because some monks wanted to take him away from his mentor Gyatso, who was the only one to treat Aang as the twelve year old boy that he was after Aang was revealed to be the Avatar. The monks wanted to take him away from Gyatso for more training (while what he really needed was someone to treat him as an ordinary kid) because they sensed war on the horizon... The same war Sozin would instigate by killing all the air nomads. So... NiceJobFixingItVillain /Herod once removed?
** Also, there's the Fire Nation's campaign of capturing and exterminating waterbenders of the Southern Water Tribe. (The exact reasons for this are not explained, though [[WildMassGuessing theories]] abound that they were trying to stop another Avatar[[note]]If the missing Avatar had died in the interim, the next in the cycle would be from the Water Tribe. And the Southern Water Tribe was an easier target than the larger, more militarized Northern Water Tribe.[[/note]] and/or wipe out resistance.) They missed Katara, who went on to train Aang and play a part in their downfall...though it should be noted that they only missed her because [[spoiler:[[MamaBear her mother]] told the Fire Nation commander that [[HeroicSacrifice she was the last waterbender, and died for it.]]]]
* ''WesternAnimation/SonicUnderground'' featured Sonic the Hedgehog and two siblings being hidden from Dr. Robotnik by their mother the queen.
* ''WesternAnimation/SheRaPrincessOfPower'': Hordak kidnaps Princess Adora and trains her as a general, until [[WesternAnimation/HeManAndTheMastersOfTheUniverse1983 He-Man]] shows up and touches off her HeelFaceTurn into She-Ra. It might have worked better if Hordak and Shadow-Weaver had not, for reasons known only to them, raised Adora to have a fully-functioning sense of justice and morality which requires them to deceive and magically control her to retain her loyalty... but the show ''is'' aimed at kids, after all.
** Actually, Hordak (after trying to kidnap ''both'' babies) and Shadow Weaver left most of Adora's early upbringing to [[http://www.he-man.org/cartoon/episode.php?id=50&ep=297 Shakra]]. ("The Caregiver", [=PP077=]) Shakra is a kind, loving person, and instilled much of her own sense of morality in Adora, regardless of Shadow Weaver's spellcasting. Goes to show what happens when the bad guys don't pay attention to what's going on under their noses.
* Brainiac (or rather, the one from the distant future) tries this in ''WesternAnimation/SupermanTheAnimatedSeries'', using TimeTravel to attempt to kill Clark while he's still a teenager. The villain seems to have the upper hand, but doesn't count on one thing - how gutsy Ma and Pa Kent are. Sure, their shotguns can't exactly hurt him, but it gives Clark a second to recover, and the villain's true folly comes when Clark rips his arms off and hurls him into the sun. (Given that this is a future version of Brainiac, it's justified to assume [[KilledOffForReal this was truly the end of him]].)

* The EvilOverlordListCellblockA gives a ''partial'' solution to this problem with resolution #101:
-->I will not order my trusted lieutenant to kill the infant who is destined to overthrow me I'll do it myself.
* This is a core idea behind bacteria acquiring anti-biotic resistance: Taking an anti-biotic medicine recklessly (without a proper prescription) will usually kill MOST of the bacteria infecting a person, but there will be a few survivors with a resistance to the medicine that will then repopulate, with the new generation of pathogens being more resilient and resistant than the previous one.