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Been There, Shaped History
aka: The Zelig
"Yeah, sir, you might want to send a maintenance man over to that office across the way. The lights are off, and they must be looking for a fuse box, 'cause them flashlights, they keep me awake."

What if it turns out that the character was responsible for a major well-known incident?

Enter this character. While in many cases an original and often very well-written character in their own right, this character simply cannot get around the fact that a good chunk of his screen time is being the driving force behind major events that have already been written or described by others. In effect, he is made more interesting by association due to having "guest starred" in a suitably major event.

Supertrope to Historical Rap Sheet. Almost always the source of a Historical In-Joke. See Seemingly Profound Fool, Mistaken for Special Guest. When done poorly or overbearingly, can be a sign of a Canon Sue. Contrast Beethoven Was an Alien Spy where they simply use the real person.

Examples:

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     Anime and Manga 
  • Blood+: Though they didn't actually cause it, Saya and Haji were both involved in The Vietnam War, with an Intrepid Reporter taking the photos of Saya's bloody rampage that spur his son on to follow in his footsteps.
  • Oscar, the protagonist of Rose of Versailles, is involved in many events of France's internal politics from Marie Antoinette's arrival to the Storming of the Bastille where she's killed by the defenders.

     Comic Books  
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen features Orlando (based loosely on the titular character of a book by Virginia Woolf), a gender-changing Immortal who fights in every major war from Troy to World War II, as well as causing the rift between Romulus and Remus and posing for the Mona Lisa. Also, he started the Renaissance.
  • The Sandman occasionally features Morpheus becoming involved with or perpetuating some of history's biggest legends. Throughout the Fables and Reflections trade paperback, he is the catalyst behind the City of Glass myth, as well as giving Joshua Norton the dream to become the Emperor of the United States on a bet with his siblings. He also made an arrangement with Shakespeare, giving him the stories and the immortality he wanted in return for two plays: A Midsummer Night's Dream as a gift to Oberon and Titania, and The Tempest for himself.
    • The Greek poet Orpheus was also suitably retconned into becoming Morpheus' son, with many of the Endless helping to perpetuate his famous descent into the Underworld to retrieve his dead wife. For that matter, many of Apollo's deeds are explained as Morpheus' doing, with him explaining that Apollo was a god of storytellers and legends; aspects which fall under Dream's purview and confuse casual listeners.
    • All explainable by the fact that it's Dream's job to inspire people to greatness. So most people with lasting fame have interacted with him in some level.
      • And by the fact that he's the personification of dreaming: both the dreams you have when you sleep, and the dreams that you strive for when awake.
  • In one story, Booster Gold time travels into the past, meets Sinestro, and convinces him that he's part of the... um... Sinestro Corps. Sinestro likes the idea.
  • Atomic Robo alternately averts this trope and plays it straight. Robo participates in World War II in a story where Robo is off on a side mission while real-life soldiers are fighting real-life battles; goes along for the ride for the first Mars probe mission but does not contribute anything to the actual accomplishments of NASA; and he declares himself neutral during the Cold War. He has, however, been to the moon, but probably well after humans had already made it. Essentially, Atomic Robo has Been There, Shaped History in that he's around for all sorts of historical events, but he's an aversion because he never takes away from what was done by historical human beings.
    • It's the stated intention of the producers not to reduce the significance of any historical figures' effort or sacrifice.
  • In Marvel Comics, Rick Jones even recognized in his autobiography he was "Gumping" the Marvel Universe.
  • Don Rosa likes to do this too. In The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, Scrooge is shown to be the reason Theodore Roosevelt went back into politics (and the origin of some of Roosevelt's famous quotes). Scrooge also gave Buffalo Bill the idea to do Wild West shows, and was a major influence on Jack London's The Call of the Wild. He also meets Wyatt Earp, sails on the Cutty Sark and witnesses the eruption of Krakatoa, nearly became the owner of the real world Anaconda Copper Mine, causes the sinking of Titanic, etc. etc. etc.
    • What makes this even more impressive is that Rosa definitely did the research with regard to where these people were and how they acted at the time Scrooge met them.
  • Being "The Spirit of the 20th Century", Jenny Sparks from the Wildstorm Universe was a part of every major event from 1900 to 2000, including the Titanic and "Shagging the three main players in World War Two". The most outrageous of these was when she was living in Vienna and told a local struggling artist to give up, because his paintings were no good. But he was a good public speaker, so maybe he should consider going into politics. But first he'd have to change his name, because nobody was going to vote for somebody named Adolf Schicklegruber.
  • In Tag And Bink Are Dead, the title characters are inept padawans turned rebels who are responsible for several things in the Star Wars series, such as helping a young Anakin Skywalker romance Padme.
    • Tag and Bink have actually had a number of comics. Somehow they find themselves involved in almost every major event of the movies, and any gaffes or plot holes from the series are usually credited to the pair.
  • In Sandman: Endless Nights, a cocktail party of the gods, at the dawn of time, ends up Gumping the origins of both Superman and the Green Lantern Corps.
    • Similarly, in James Robinson's Starman, Jack Knight becomes a Gump to Jor-El, father of Superman, by giving him hints of where to find Earth.
  • Several times, Mortadelo y Filemón have become parties to several important historical events. For example, in El Quinto Centenario, drawn to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America, they get accidentally sent to the past and become part of the crew that discovers America, next to Cristobal Colón (who resembles Felipe González, Spanish President in 1992) and Fray Requemado Sinsilla (who is drawn to be like Alfonso Guerra, Spain's vice-president in 1992), Pepe Gotera, Otilio and Rompetechos (all of them Ibáńez's characters). For example, Mortadelo and Filemón cause the sinking of the Pinta in the Americas.
    • Siglo XX, ˇqué progreso! has Mortadelo, Filemón, Ofelia and Bacterio travel to the start of the twentieth century, and become part of history: they cause the Russian-Japanese War, World War I and II, Ofelia becomes Mata-Hari and kills Rasputin, they meet the Wright brothers, Mortadelo and Filemón are nearly executed during the Spanish Civil War, they become acquainted with many small and great inventions...
  • Astérix: Asterix and Obelix do this a lot:
    • Tea is brought to Great Britain thanks to some strange potion that Getafix gave Asterix before leaving to Britain in "Asterix in Britain".
    • Belgian fries and mussels are invented in "Asterix in Belgium" when a Belgian chieftain sees a cauldron with oil boiling in a Roman camp and when Obelix later finds a piece of the pirates' ship with mussels on it.
    • In "Asterix in Spain" Asterix battles a bull with a red cape which accidentally fell in the arena, thus inventing bull fighting in Spain.
    • In "Asterix and the Great Crossing" Asterix and Obelix accidentally drift off on the ocean and unknowingly discover North America.
    • Why does the Sphinx have no nose? Answer: Obelix broke it.
    • Why does the Venus de Milo have no arms? Obelix broke it.
    • Why is the Colosseum partially collapsed? Guess. Apparently, most of the destruction done to landmarks from ancient history is Obelix's fault.
  • First ever Doctor Doom story starring the Fantastic Four? The Thing becomes Blackbeard. Yeah. The Blackbeard.
    • Originally he was there, but due to Comic Book Time Doctor Doom (as the bandaged man) was part of the Red Skull's / Adolph Hitler's secret organization. Due to the sliding timescale, it got retconned as him travelling to the past in order to learn secret nazi secrets.
  • If you ever wonder how the real Red Baron was killed, you should ask Corto Maltese, since he was there to witness the scene. He was shot by an Australian shepherd, whose aiming skills became improbable when he was drunk. He also took part in The Irish Revolution when the Sinn Fein still was a young party, just after using the Battle of Caporetto as a cover to retrieve a hidden treasure. And all of this only happens in one of his albums, Les Celtiques.
  • In Watchmen, it's heavily implied (and outright stated in The Movie) that the Comedian was the gunman who killed JFK back in November of 1963.
    • Doc Manhattan is there waiting when Neil Armstrong steps out of the lunar lander. And the famous Victory Kiss photograph after WW2 is a bit different due to the presence of a certain female vigilante (in place of the male sailor).
  • The mini-series Sub-Mariner: The Depths seems to suggest that Namor was responsible for sinking the Titanic.
  • Batman villain Ra's al Ghul, being over seven hundred years old, takes for numerous historical events. His spotlight issue during the New 52 Villains Month implies that he was responsible for the Great Fire of London, the cholera epidemic of 1832, and training Gavrilo Princip, the assassin of Franz Ferdinand.

    Fan Fic 
  • The third part of Day of the Barney reveals that Barney and Baby Bop were alive and present at the extinction of the dinosaurs and are hinted to have caused it. The list of historical events they are shown to have caused is long: Since the extinction of the dinosaurs, they are revealed to have met and corrupted Caligula, caused the spread of the Black Death, saved the life of and met Adolf Hitler, and befriended Anne Frank, only to betray her and her family to the Nazis after learning that she is a Jew.
  • The Ai Yori Aoshi fic Miyabi Remembers reveals that Miyabi was present in New York during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, having been on a business trip, and assisted in saving several injured civilians.
  • AA Pessimal has fun with this one in his Good Omens fics. The angel Aziraphile and the demon Crowley, in the slightly-less-than-seven thousand years of the Planet Earth, have hitched a lift on the Ark with Noah and his family; gatecrashed the Last Supper; been confidantes of the Borgia family; been in at the birth of modern ritual magick; assisted a young Adolf Hitler with opera tickets; and sponsored Black Sabbath (Crowley) Cliff Richard and Andrew Lloyd-Webber (Azaraphile)note  into pop music careers.

    Film 
  • The former Trope Namer, Forrest Gump, was based around this concept. Throughout the movie (and source novel) that shared his name, he was responsible for any number of historical events: exposing the Watergate break-ins, teaching Elvis how to dance, was involved in a famous anti-Vietnam rally, among other things. The real world Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., on the other hand, was created in response to the movie.
  • Batman Begins: Ra's al Ghul reveals to Bruce that the League of Shadows are responsible for, among other things, the Sack of Rome, the Black Plague, the Great Fire of London, and, of course, the Wretched Hive of a Crapsack City that Gotham has become.
  • In Back to the Future, we see that Marty is responsible for the skateboard, the Frisbee, and rock and roll.
  • The Trope Maker, Zelig. While he doesn't actually discover anything, the earlier and influential Woody Allen film is a mockumentary detailing the title character's celebrity and includes old photos of him posed with famous people as well as interviews from real academics about him. The movie does a good job of justifying why its audience would never have heard of Zelig by treating him as one of many fads of the 1920s and 1930s, forgotten when the public discovered something new of interest.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian shows Brian attending a speech by Jesus, being mistaken for Jesus, and being involved in numerous other Bible shenanigans.
    • "He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy!"
    • Funnily enough, the original idea for the movie was a subversion. Brian was envisioned as an unheard-of apostle who, because of various contrivances and scheduling conflicts, was constantly forced to miss the important events Jesus took part in (the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, etc).
  • The second National Treasure movie featured a minor character, Nicholas Cage's character's great-grandfather, burning a vital clue to a hidden treasure given to him by John Wilkes Booth minutes before the assassination of President Lincoln, thus preventing the Confederates from recovering the treasure and having the funding to start a second Civil War.
  • Jackie Chan's and Owen Wilson's characters from Shanghai Knights, Chon Wang and Roy O'Bannon (real name Wyatt Earp), have on their record, among other things, creating the names of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, getting Doyle interested in writing, and getting Charlie Chaplin interested in acting. Roy also decides not to invest some of their funds in this new-fangled device called an auto-mobile
    • Ignoring the errors that they present (Chaplin was born in 1889, two years after the movie is set), there was also Chon's sister getting attacked by Jack the Ripper, and tossing him into the Thames.
  • The Man from Earth plays this straight and also averts it: John Oldman barely remembers a lot of the historical events he took part in, because at the time he took part in them, they were not important historical events, just things that he happened to do that day. It was only later, upon reading history books, that he realized his probable involvement. He also points at that he's just one man in one place at one time, so there is a very limited number of important or famous people that he could meet even during the course of a 14,000 year life. That said, he claims to have known Van Gogh, studied under Siddhartha Gautama, and in an attempt to spread those teachings to the Middle East became known as Jesus.
  • Inspired by the success of Forrest Gump, a Hong Kong movie called The Umbrella Story has three generations of umbrella makers being visited by assorted classic Hong Kong film stars from as early as the '50s.
  • In the 1999 film Dick, the Watergate break-in is unwittingly exposed by two ditzy teenage girls. Who are also responsible for the 18 minute gap in Nixon's tapes.
  • The fictional Czech genius Jára Cimrman has been involved in just as many historical events as Forrest Gump; for instance, in the movie Jára Cimrman lying, sleeping, his biography, he - among other things - aids Eiffel with the design of his tower, advises Anton Chekhov to write Three Sisters rather than two, and inspires Marconi to invent a wireless telegraph after accidentally breaking down his telegraph poles. Oh yes, and he also invented the light bulb, dynamite, etc. (but arrived at the patent office a minute after Edison and Nobel, respectively).
  • Space Jam posits that the Looney Tunes and evil cartoon aliens persuaded Michael Jordan to return to basketball. One suspects they were not involved in real life.
    • In a way, they were: as part of his contract, Michael Jordan demanded that Warner Brothers construct a basketball court with all imaginable amenities for him to practice himself back into shape.
  • Parodied by Walk Hard - Dewey frequently meets famous musicians, from Elvis to the Beatles, but they are all deliberately horribly miscast (Jack Black as Paul McCartney?) and Dewey always refers to all of them by their full names. The scene with The Beatles takes it the furthest - they all deliberately state that there is a rift between the four of them, George Harrison complains that they never let him write songs, and they all really obviously drop the names of songs that hadn't been written yet.
    • Also, Dewey apparently invents punk.
  • According to Ridley Scott, Robin Hood is responsible for the Magna Carta.
  • Titanic implies that its heroes inadvertently doomed the ship—the watchmen didn't see the iceberg soon enough because they were distracted by Jack and Rose kissing on the deck. These two also manage to visit every area of the ship as it sinks and one moment or another, and are even on the stern when the ship goes down. Between Jack, Rose, and a few other main characters, we see every major episode of the sinking.
  • Company Man, a 2000 comedy movie, had a whole cast of these that set the stage for the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
  • According to an interview by a Bill & Ted fansite, Bill and Ted was originally going to be one of these movies, with these two idiots causing the Titanic disaster and the Holocaust as they travelled through time, but this was considered "too dark".
  • A blink-and-miss moment in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows implies that Moriarty arranged the murder of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria as part of a carefully elaborate plan to spark a world war in 1891.
  • In Neighbours, apparently Delta Psi is responsible for inventing toga parties, beer pong, and the boot and rally. Subverted when Pete explains that hundreds of fraternities have also claimed credit for inventing them.
  • X-Men:
    • In X-Men: First Class, Mutants both caused and averted the Cuban Missile Crisis.
    • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Magneto was arrested for his involvement in Kennedy's death (as in the magic bullet; the Viral Marketing raises the hypothesis that Mystique in guise of Lee Harvey Oswald was the one who shot), and the Paris Peace Accords that closed America's involvement with the Vietnam War now have Bolivar Trask and some mutants in attendance.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier has the titular villain, an assassin active over the last seventy years, who HYDRA used to shape the world into the current era of paranoia. It's heavily implied, judging by the numerous Russian features they gave him, that the Winter Soldier is directly (though unwillingly and unknowingly) responsible for escalating the Cold War.

    Literature 
  • Nick "Ace" Geraci, from The Godfather sequels, is a rare case where this turns out to be the canon explanation for events as the licensed continuation of the franchise. He is responsible for beating the two college kids who assaulted Bonasera's daughter. He executed Tessio in the first chapter of The Godfather Returns as a test of loyalty to the Family. Later on, he manipulates Fredo into unwittingly betraying Michael by offering him help with a plan that would show his worth to Michael. Finally, he kidnaps and executes Tom Hagen by strapping him into a car and driving him into the Florida Everglades.
  • The Flashman series often moves in this direction, having him not only indirectly responsible for important events in British history, but also having him as the inspiration for The Prisoner of Zenda and Uncle Tom's Cabin (!). One novella, Flashman and the Tiger, has him getting the Sherlock Scan from lawyer friendly cameos of Sherlock Holmes and Watson and isn't as well done since the series (outside of the characters of Tom Browns Schooldays) doesn't have literary characters as real people, only as the inspirations for them.
    • Fictional uncertainties aside, Flashman certainly serves as a splendid Gump, as his career spans virtually every notable conflict in the world from the First Afghan War to the Boxer Rebellion (though sadly his author died before recounting some of Flashman's highest-profile adventures, e.g. the American Civil War and (most) of the Zulu War).
    • He's also used to fill in some of the gaps in historical accounts. Unknown soldier leading the Charge of the Light Brigade? That was Flashman. Unidentified figure in a painting just after the Indian Mutiny? Flashman again.
  • Sharpe is a similar example - if he'd been killed in India, Britain would probably have lost the Napoleonic Wars. Some things Sharpe is responsible for: the assassination of Tipu Sultan; saving the Duke of Wellington's life; the capture of Gawilghur; stopping an Indo-French treaty (by murdering an accredited diplomat no less) to force Britain out of India; capturing the Danish fleet at Copenhagen; securing funding for the Lines of Torres Vedras; the explosion at Almeida; covering up a scandal involving the Peer's brother and the British ambassador to Spain; leading the Forlorn Hope at Badajoz; shooting the Prince of Orange at the Battle of Waterloo; helping the Chilean Revolution to succeed.
    • Similarly, the character of Uhtred from the Saxon Stories series is involved in most of Alfred The Great's campaigns against the Danes. His absence from historical records is explained in-universe as the result of a dislike for the pagan Uhtred on the part of the Christian monks who wrote them. In both cases, the series began as attempts to depict the careers of famous historical figures- the Duke of Wellington and Alfred the Great, respectively- from a different, more earthy perspective than usual.
    • His The American Civil War character, Nathaniel Starbuck was responsible for warning Nathan Evans (who is portrayed as a hilariously Lethal Joke Character) of the Union flanking movement at the First Battle of Manassas Junction, thus saving the Confederacy and setting the stage for a long Civil War.
  • The Brazilian novel O Homem Que Matou Getulio Vargas (released in English as Twelve Fingers: Biography of an Anarchist) has an interesting inversion - the main character, a Serbian assassin, would be responsible for several historical events, like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the transport of French troops to the Marne and the bribery of the jury who put Al Capone in jail, if he didn't always screw up. He does however "suicide" the titular Brazilian president (who is distantly related to him).
  • Another Brazilian book, O Vampiro Que Descobriu O Brasil has a Portuguese vampire coming after the body snatching one that bit him, leading both to Brazil. They stumble on every possible historical fact.
  • The Others from the Night Watch 'verse. Name a war, a cause, a philosophy, an artist - it was either them or they were The Man Behind the Man.
    • They've had a few big experiments tried to fix the world they helped bring about. Including the communist revolution, capitalism, and democracy. Oh and Christianity...
  • My Nine Lives By Cleo is a children's picture book about a Gump who happens to be a cat. She's the inspiration for the invention of constellations, the alphabet, sundials, forks, and parachutes, among other things. Oh, and she's the reason for the Mona Lisa's smile.
  • The Science of Discworld novels posit our world being a sort of novelty science experiment on the Discworld, where the wizards' meddling is not only responsible for life in general, but more specifically William Shakespeare's and Darwin's successes.
  • Inverted in the Horatio Hornblower series, where the author deliberately keeps Horatio out of the way of most of the major historical events of the time. Forester did this while at the same time using many real historical figures (there was a Captain Pellew, for example), but usually not in a way that you'd expect their interaction to merit special historical notice. (You can see the full list here at The Other Wiki.)
    • Commodore Hornblower, set in 1812, specifically places Hornblower in the Baltic dealing with Russia. This was to avoid any mention of the War of 1812 between the British and the USA. The stories themselves were written 1937 to 1967, and avoiding any hint of conflict between the RN and the USA was a priority.
  • Similarly inverted in Gustave Flaubert's Sentimental Education which, despite being set around the tumultuous events of the 1848 French Revolution, makes sure its hero is absent for the most dramatic events, (such as going on 'honeymoon' with his love interest).
  • In the Earth's Children series, the protagonist Ayla was solely responsible (with a little help from Jondalar) for many of the most important technological discoveries of her prehistoric era, including domestication of horses and dogs, suturing wounds, starting fires using flint, the travois, and the atlatl.
  • The Thursday Next novels start out set in a clearly alternate reality, but via the actions of the books (and healthy doses of Time Travel) the setting gets closer and closer to our world as the series progresses.
  • Captain Alatriste from the Spanish series of adventure books meets several historical figures and takes part in several historical events.
  • Randall Flagg from The Stand deserves an honorable mention. He remembers being involved in many of the most horrifying events in recent American History, everything from The Mason Family to handing Lee Harvey Oswald pamphlets, meeting Donald Defreeze (and suggesting the name Cinque in the first place), went to school with Charles Starkweather, and plenty else. All the more horrifying in that he has absolutely no investment in any of this, any misguided cause, or even desire to profit. He just likes to be part of the hate.
  • Both main characters in Robert Merle's Fortune de France series. They interact with an lot of historical figures, and are parts of important events during XVI and XVIIth centuries.
  • The Chee from Animorphs are very long lived androids who helped build the pyramids and use advanced holographic projections to masquerade as humans, appearing to age normally and eventually faking theirs deaths and assuming new identities when they decide they're getting too old. Some of the people they refer to are Moses (Erek's "father" was his law professor), Catherine the Great (Erek used to cut her hair) and Roosevelt (Erek "was the White House butler when he suggested the phrase "New Deal". Of course, it was during a poker game."). One Chee is also said to have been a famous actress in a previous life-cycle.
    • Averted, too: For example, Eric mentions he worked on the pyramids—as a slave hauling blocks.
    • IIRC, The Chee take care to stay out of any great historical events. Erek mentioning that he thought up "New Deal" is probably the most they've ever contributed. Most often they're just on the sidelines, such as Erek mentioning he was Beethoven's assistant for a few years, and at least one Chee is a homeless person.
  • In Good Omens, Crowley owns the original sketch of the Mona Lisa. A footnote then re-constructs a conversation between Crowley and da Vinci in which the artist blows off the lower quality of the painting, because "who's going to see it?" He goes on to ask Crowley about an invention, which apparently he later takes credit for.
  • Ender's Shadow retells Ender’s Game from the perspective of Bean, who is revealed to have been responsible for a lot of Ender's successes, making him this trope in a fictional setting. (And provoking some people to consider him a Canon Sue.)
  • John Jakes' Kent Family Chronicles. Starting with The Bastard, it takes its young French hero through young manhood - where his best friend is the Marquis de Lafayette - sends him to England in search of his true parentage, then fleeing to the Colonies when framed by unscrupulous relatives, and arriving in Philadelphia just in time to meet and take advice from Benjamin Franklin (he even becomes a successful printer!). This continues through several novels and more generations, as he and his descendants frolic through an all-star reading of history.
  • Elias Vaughn in the Star Trek Novel Verse. Introduced in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch, he was an elderly Starfleet officer with a long history in Starfleet Special Operations. He went on to make apperances in novels fleshing out many established events in the Federation's history; the Tomed Incident, the Betreka Nebula Incident, and the fight to liberate Betazed from the Dominion, among others. That well-known but as-yet-unexplored historical event? Vaughn will probably have been involved. Some readers certainly feel this trope got over-used with Vaughn.
    • A novel also tries to fit the Eugenics Wars in the 1980s\90s listed on Khan's debut. So Khan kills Ayatollah Khomeini, helps the South Korean democracy movement, opens a hole in the ozone layer, and an attempt by fellow Augments to kill him causes an earthquake in India. The advanced spaceship when mankind barely explored the Solar System is also explained by having it reverse engineered from the Ferengi ship that crashed in Roswell (as shown in Deep Space Nine).
  • In Time Cat the protagonist, Jason, travels through time via magic and ends up being a part of many historical events and meeting and influencing various famous figures from the past.
  • In Uller Uprising, the heroes get much-needed information from a porn novel whose author is a stickler for historical detail mixed in with the pornography. The main character of the novel is a very HOT Gump.
    "The heroine is a sort of super-Mata-Hari, who is, alternately and sometimes simultaneously, in the pay of the Nazis, the Soviets, the Vatican, Chiang Kai-Shek, the Japanese Emperor, and the Jewish International Bankers, and she sleeps with everybody but Joe Stalin and Mao Tse-tung, and of course, she is in on every step of the A-bomb project. She even manages to stow away on the Enola Gay, with the help of a general she's spent fifty incandescent pages seducing."
  • In the Jin Yong novel The Deer and the Cauldron, Wei Xiaobao blunders his way into several historical events, including the signing of the first equal treaty between China and a foreign power and being the first to step foot on an island that later fell into dispute between China and Japan.
  • The point of half the novel Hundraĺringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann (The Hundred-year-old who stepped out through the window and disappeared), which devotes every other chapter to the long and exciting life of its protagonist.
  • The Amelia Peabody novels center around a family of Egyptologists working in Egypt in the 1880's-1920's (so far). Since they have to make discoveries periodically, the author has them make all the discoveries of Flinders Petrie, a real-life Egyptologist who worked in the same era. In order to avoid awkwardness due to actually meeting him, the author gave the main character's husband an uncontrollable dislike of him.
  • Andre-Louis Moreau, the protagonist of Scaramouche, is shown as one of the driving forces behind the French Revolution.
  • In The Pillars of the Earth two main characters are present at the assassination of Thomas Becket. William was one of the assassins, and it was Philip's idea to make a saint of him.
  • In Tom Holt's Flying Dutch, the immortal alchemist Montalban turns out to secretly be responsible for pretty much all of modern science and technology—all of which he developed in an attempt to cure the horrific stench that was an unfortunate side-effect of his immortality potion.
  • The protagonists of James Ellroy's Underworld USA trilogy are involved in the 1960 Kennedy campaign and subsequently become prime movers and shakers involved in virtually every major American historical event of the next decade, including the Bay of Pigs invasion, both Kennedy assassinations, the killing of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Vietnam War.
  • Shows up occasionally in The Dresden Files. Ebenezer McCoy claims credit for The Tunguska Event, Krakatoa, and the New Madrid earthquake. Kemmler was behind World War I (though exactly how he did it is left vague). It's implied that the Red Court caused a lot of the general bad governance in Latin America. The short story "Even Hand" implies that Gard assisted Admiral Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar.
  • Perry Rhodan has Atlan, of course. Even with some hibernation periods, ten thousand years stuck on Earth make for a fair few opportunities for somebody who was already a certified badass before ever coming here to leave a mark. Among other things he supplied the poison that killed Attila the Hun, and he knew and crossed at least figurative swords with Nostradamus — who after his eventual reappearance in more modern times during the Swarm arc likewise turns out to be more than he seemed at the time. Oh, and we mustn't forget the original lost Arkonide colony on Earth that was named after him...
  • Dr. Anton Murik, a noted nuclear physicist and the Big Bad of Licence Renewed, is mentioned to have worked on the Manhattan Project, which was responsible for the very first atomic bombs.
  • Heavily implied as part of the backstory of an immortal assassin in the Horus Heresy novel The Unremembered Empire, mentioning being recruited in the battle of Iwo Jima, and then making two notable kills on behalf of his employers in the second millennium, someone he refers to as the Good Man, in Memphis, and another he refers to as the Brother, in The City of Angels.

     Live Action TV  
  • The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Befriending T.E. Lawrence and helping him take Jerusalem, drinking with Picasso, losing his virginity to Mata Hari, inspiring the Red Baron to paint his plane red, killing Dracula himself, and hunting Al Capone is just some of the less extreme contrivances in young Henry Jones Junior's life. If he or she's famous in the 20th century, Indy has probably met, befriended, fought, fallen in love with, killed or slept with that person.
    • The book series added a bit more. For example, Indy was discussing the origins and bases of the character of Sherlock Holmes with Arthur Conan Doyle shortly before returning to the United States. Aboard the Titanic.
    • And in a reversal, Jenny Sparks from The Authority is said to have known Indiana Jones.
      • Somewhat justified there, in that Jenny is the "spirit of the 20th century" — being Been There Shaped History is part of the job description.
  • In Just Shoot Me!, Nina Van Horn's A&E Biography had her responsible for busting Studio 54, breaking up the Eagles, and a historic answer to Wheel of Fortune, among other things.
  • Like Forrest Gump, the Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files has been responsible for the JFK assassination, rigged the Oscars, sabotaged the Soviet Union's goalie to allow for the US comeback in the 1980 Olympics, arranged a change of venue for the officers involved in the Rodney King beating, and has vowed that the Buffalo Bills will never win a Super Bowl and has taken steps to make that happen.
    • Lampshaded when CSM delivers a long, cynical speech that begins with "Life is like a box of chocolates..."
  • Buffyverse:
    • A flashback in the Anya-centric "Selfless" episode shows the ex-vengeance demon and her friend Halfrek dining in a room full of massacred victims in St. Petersburg in the year 1905. Halfrek praises her for granting a wish which sparks the 1905 Revolution.
    Halfrek: There’s a revolution going on outside that you are somewhat responsible for. Aren’t you the teeniest bit interested?
    Anyanka: Well, what is there to be interested in? The worker will overthrow absolutism and lead the proletariat to a victorious revolution, resulting in socio-economic paradise on Earth. It’s common sense, really.
    • Anya's past Marxism is a comical allusion to her later Patriotic Fervor which sees her fall deeply in love with capitalism.
    • In the earlier episode "Lessons", there is a brief mention of Anya interacting with a "Mrs. Csolgosz", which some have suggested is meant to be a reference to Leon Czolgosz, the assassin of President William McKinley.
    • The Darla-Angel-Drusilla-Spike family have been linked to various events, but not necessarily causing them. From Spike killing a slayer in the Boxer Rebellion to Angel hanging out with Elvis, Bugsy Siegel and The Rat Pack in Vegas.
    • In "School Hard" one of the random vampires claimed to have been at the Crucifixion. Spike was highly skeptical of that, for good reason; the Sun was only dark for 3 hours and it was noon when the darkness started.
    Spike: If every vampire who said he was at the Crucifixion was actually there, it would've been like Woodstock. I was at Woodstock; that was a weird gig. Fed off a flower person and spent the next six hours watching my hand move.
    • Sahjhan, a member of the Big Bad Duumvirate of Angel season 3, claims that he invented daylight savings time.
  • Doctor Who:
  • An episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine takes a slightly different track. During an episode where much of the main cast was transported to the time period of the original series, they were responsible for many off-screen events which took place during "The Trouble With Tribbles" episode. Thus, it is an example of DS9 playing this to another fictional series.
    • Particularly notable because the technology used to insert Forrest Gump in historical footage is exactly the one used to create this episode. The very episode was inspired by a technician showing off some quick'n'dirty insertion in an original Star Trek episode. (It helped that the TOS masters were surprisingly well preserved.)
    • Another episode has several of the characters going back to pre-First Contact times, to the time of an uprising in San Francisco that caused a major overhaul to the laws regarding the unemployed/homeless. Sisko even gets recorded in history as Gabriel Bell, a major figure in the riots. Starfleet Command, however, is not amused on finding his face in history books.
  • Immortals in Highlander:The Series live for centuries, so they have plenty of opportunity to mix with some pivotal events. Given their potential lifespan, if a character doesn't actively seek out an historic event, it's likely that one will just happen while they're around.
    • Most notably, Pompeii was the result of an Immortal being killed on sacred ground. There's a reason why all Immortals respect sacred ground.
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and to a greater extent Xena: Warrior Princess each had the titular characters delving into full-on Gumpdom.
    • Hercules embedded Excalibur itself in stone, found himself caught up in the Norse gods' Ragnarok, invented the Olympics (with Salmoneus providing the name), saved King Midas from his gold curse and was present at the destruction of Atlantis. Iolaus, meanwhile, was implied to be one of the Three Wise Men and helped claim the Golden Fleece.
      • The Golden fleece makes sense seeing as Hercules was one of the Argonauts.
    • Xena was responsible for Lucifer's fall from grace. She also gave a donkey to a certain pregnant couple on their way to Nazareth. By way of Greece. She took the Sword out of the Stone and then put it back in. She aided Boadicea's army and was the pirate captain that captured Gaius Julius Caesar. Yes. Xena is the master chef of the Anachronism Stew. She puts a bit of herself into each delicious bowl.
  • Drew Carey's mother in The Drew Carey Show was apparently responsible for a number of famous things, including inventing the term "Rock and Roll". Drew refers to her as "Florence Gump".
  • Brazilian miniseries Copas de Mel had the titular character and her husband helping Brazil conquer most of its FIFA World Cups.
  • Vorenus and Pullo on Rome have been described as the Forrest Gumps (Sylvanus Gumpae) of Ancient Rome. They are the direct cause of, or at least heavily involved in, several key events during the late republican years through the rise of Augustus. A few examples include: Pullo actually fathering Caesarion (Caesar's son by Cleopatra), the results of one of Pullo's barfights leading to Caesar crossing the Rubicon, saving Octavius from captivity, finding Cleopatra, Vorenus helping Marc Antony committ suicide, Vorenus' departure from the senate house making it possible for Brutus and company to murder Caesar, Pullo killing Cicero... And that's just a few examples.
    • Lampshaded in that one of the aforementioned episodes is even called "How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic."
    • In another they have a chance to capture Pompey after the Battle of Pharsalus but let him go. Caesar is not amused but concludes they must have "powerful gods on their side" considering how much unlikely shit they've gone through and decides not to punish them.
  • Quantum Leap often had Sam Beckett being responsible for a great many things while in the guise of various people. Creator Donald Bellisario referred to these as "kisses with history," giving Sam a chance to slyly affect the world more than just what the main plot required. Among the many things that Sam is responsible for are teaching The Twist to Chubby Checker, performing the Heimlich Maneuver on Dr. Heimlich, giving a young Stephen King ideas for some scary stories, encouraging Buddy Holly to continue with music (even helping him write "Peggy Sue" by trying to catch a pig), and teaching the Moon Walk to a young Michael Jackson.
    • By the last season, these became less subtle. Sam leapt into Marilyn Monroe's personal bodyguard (keeping her alive long enough to make The Misfits), Lee Harvey Oswald (where it turns out that Jackie Kennedy died in the original history) and Elvis Presley (having to ensure the King of Rock and Roll would get his big break).
  • In the flashbacks of LOST's fifth season finale, the infamous Jacob appears repeatedly in other peoples' flashbacks, always being responsible for something important in those characters' lives: he buys Kate the lunchbox she uses for her time capsule, gives Sawyer a pen with which to write his letter to the real Sawyer, preventing Sayid from being hit by the car that kills Nadia, saying hello to Sun and Jin at their wedding, asking Ilana for help with an unspecified task, speaking to—and possibly reviving—Locke after he is thrown out a window, giving Jack a candy bar after his first surgery, and convincing Hurley to return to the island.
    • In a simply "stumbling through history" case, Nikki and Paulo's episode shows them discovering the Beechcraft and the Pearl station before the other castaways, and seeing major events of the show (the plane crash, the "live together, die alone" speech, and in a deleted scene, the discharge).
  • A episode of Blossom spoofed the trope namer in a dream sequence. Blossom had this role and was responsible for inadvertently giving Michael Jackson the inspiration for the moonwalk. The parody is spoiled because the writers didn't do their research — they meet after the Pepsi commercial shoot which left him injured, which was in 1984. He first performed the moonwalk the previous year.
  • In an episode of Red Dwarf, Lister ends up playing a part in the JFK assassination, thanks to time travel abuse. (He doesn't actually pull the trigger, he merely convinces JFK to go back in time and assassinate himself.)
  • Dr. Helen Magnus from Sanctuary is 160 years old, has lived through the entire 20th century (give or take a few decades in Victorian London), and has had various run-ins with various historical figures including most U.S. Presidents and world leaders. The last time she was shipwrecked was "April, 1912." The opening theme has shown photographs of her with Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart and Gandhi. She and a couple of school chums were directly responsible for the success of the D-Day invasion at Normandy - and the school chums in question were Nikola Tesla and James Watson (Sherlock Holmes himself). Oh, and her fiance was Jack the Ripper.
    Helen: There is such a thing as before my time!
    Will: *skeptical look* Really?
    Helen: Cheeky monkey!
  • According to Jack-of-All-Trades, there was no Louisiana Purchase. Napoleon lost all the territory in a card game with the Daring Dragoon.
    • Also, the Daring Dragoon prevented Napoleon from using a certain statue he planned to give to the US as a Trojan Horse, while distracting the French with a friendly game of American football... which wasn't invented until over 80 years later.
      • This didn't prevent Jack from claiming that it was an American tradition to play football during Thanksgiving. Given that there were no TVs then, he couldn't very well say "watch football", but still...
  • In Once Upon a Time, Rumpelstiltskin is present throughout most of the different fairy tales, even replacing the role of the Fairy Godmother in "Cinderella"note  and the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast".
  • According to the Russian mini-series Wolf Messing: Seeing through time, the Real Life psychic Wolf Messing was responsible for the peaceful resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis. When Khrushchev asked Messing if there will be a war as the result of this, Messing explains that he doesn't see one... as long as Khrushchev backs down and takes the missiles out of Cuba. When indignant Khrushchev claims that the great Soviet Union cannot back down, Messing assures him that the Americans will reciprocate by removing their missiles from Turkey.
    • Additionally, Messing supposedly accurately predicted the month and the year of the Soviet victory at Stalingrad and of the surrender of Germany. He also has a vision of Stalin's younger son's death in a plane crash. However, Stalin only chooses to save his son, deciding to test the prediction. When Messing finds out about the plane crash, he has a Heroic BSOD.
  • Sophia Petrillo from The Golden Girls is a case combined with Unreliable Narrator, thanks to a combination of a slight stroke, general old lady nuttiness, and a tendency to stretch the truth in her stories if she's trying to make a point. One should take her stories with a grain of salt. However, she claims to have had romantic trysts with Pablo Picasso, Sigmund Freud, and Winston Churchill, opened a pizzeria with the woman who would later become Mama Celeste, was friends with Golda Meir, and she and Sal had a flat tire at the same building as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre (although in a later episode she claimed "I was at the movies that day. All day.")
  • A non-immortal or Time Travel example in Warehouse 13 with Hugo Miller, whose brain was split in half between him and a computer many decades ago and, thus, he missed out on all those decades, spending them in a mental institution. After being reintegrated, he asks Artie if that boy Bill Gates, whom he advised, ever got his little project off the ground. He's also supposedly set Steve Jobs on a different path, as a joke.
  • In the Supernatural episode "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here" (S09, Ep01), an angel who recently fell to earth says she wants to visit the Grand Canyon she last built when on earth.
  • Subverted in Blackadder, in which what they're showing us is the real history, while the histroy that we know was rewritten by Henry Tudor, the fakeQueen Elizebeth I, and the fakePrince George. [[Played Straight]] when the reason they were able to re-write history was because of the character's actions.
    • If Series Six was made, it would've shown that Baldrick accidentally killed J.F.K while fiddling around with a gun in Dallas.
      • He also caused the extinction of the dinosaurs with his underpants in Blackadder: Back And Forth.
  • In Mystery Science Theater 3000 it was shown that The Great Fire of Rome was caused when they were sent back in time to Ancient Rome and Bobo knocked over a candle while he was stealing a cheese wheel.

    Music 

  • In Australian singer-songwriter Iain Campbell-Smith's song, Century Girl, the narrator (possibly the "Spirit of the 20th Century", see Jenny Sparks above) describes his life of having participated in every important moment of the 20th century, from fighting in Gallipoli to being a hippie. My ass got burned when Saigon fell, re-education was another kind of hell, uh huh!
  • The music video of Wir sind Wir. The photographer is there during the reconstruction post WW2, was at a famous soccer game, and the fall of the Berlin wall (he even took pictures of it going up).
  • Sympathy For The Devil includes the narrator being involved, or at least present, in the life and death of Jesus, the Russian revolution, the Blitzkrieg, the Hundred Years War, and the assassination of both John and Robert Kennedy.

     Newspaper Comics 
  • Doonesbury's Uncle Duke. Lampshaded in a '90s strip in which his son (after learning about the time in the '80s when he was simultaneously dealing junk bonds with Michael Milken, skimming HUD money, and working for John Gotti) refers to him as "Forrest Gump's Evil Twin."

     Standup Comedy 
  • Tim Wilson's Uncle BS bits are this. Each segment asks Uncle BS "Where were you on (insert)." Each of these are significant historical dates that place Uncle BS in places such as Kitty hawk and Little Big Horn, or as a fertilizer salesman in Hiroshima, Japan, often with a humorous story surrounding historical events with Uncle BS heavily involved. The latter suggest BS believes his fertilizer was responsible for the nuclear blast.

     Tabletop RPG  

  • In Vampire: The Masquerade, vampires are usually behind the scenes in most of the biggest scenes in recorded history, right down to the first of all vampires being Cain(e)'s curse after slaying Abel. Although sometimes it is hard to tell what's truth and what's a lie; for instance, no fewer than three of the clans proudly claim to have Rasputin among their numbers.
    • The clanbooks usually implied the Storyteller was free to decide which, if any, claims were actually true.
    • It gets even better when you add the other Old World of Darkness games into the mix and it's revealed that among the Cherusci of Arminius were not only Brujah vampires but also Get of Fenris werewolves, Verbena mages and probably a half dozen other supernatural creatures - that never met each other. In more modern times, you can have a mayor in any given city that is ghouled by the vampires, bribed by the werewolf Big Bad Pentex, mindcontrolled by the Technocracy and puppeteered by the wraiths...
    • It was Lucifer, of all people, who -handedly started the Scientific Revolution.
    • A review of Vampire The Dark Ages criticized it for creating the impression that, in the World of Darkness, humans had almost no part in human history.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse is also fond of this trope.
    • The Silver Fangs married into many of Europe's royal families and shaped history as royal leaders.
    • The Wendigo initiated the migration of humans from northern Asia to North America. Closer to the present era, Wendigo Garou were among Tecumseh's followers.
    • According to Rage Across New York, the Black Furies protected the early American suffragettes. Black Fury kinfolk encouraged leaders of the early women's movement to take refuge near New York's Finger Lakes (a Black Fury stronghold), which lead to the 1848 Seneca Falls convention.
    • Rage Across New York also states that the Children of Gaia contributed followers and protection to historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Susan B. Anthony.
    • The Seventh Generation was responsible for several historical calamities. When Socrates discovered Seventh Generation activity in Athens, the cult arranged for his trial and execution. When Freud discovered that several of his patients experienced childhood abuse, the Seventh Generation forced him to revise his theories. According to Chronicles of the Black Labyrinth, Charles Manson and Gilles de Rais were Seventh Generation devotees, and their crimes were in the service of the Wyrm.
    • According to Rage Across Australia, Black Spiral kinfolk were behind the creation of Australia's Aboriginal Protection Board in the 19th century, as part of a strategy to destroy the Bunyip's human kinfolk.
  • The New World of Darkness has taken a few steps away from this, for the most part. For the most part. Requiem for Rome implies that Rome's vampires were pulling a lot of strings during the Roman Empire's heights. And the first one was Remus.
    • Promethean: The Created hints that a Promethean was "the Person from Porlock" who prevented Coleridge from finishing "Kubla Khan", and that a Qashmallim inspired it in the first place.
    • All in all, the Supernatural generally moves along with human developments rather then setting them off...which makes a good deal of sense when you think about it, there are more mortals then Supernaturals, and most Supers are too busy handling their own stuff to really mess around with human society too much. Throw in the Masquerade, Veil, and the general "Do NOT let the normals know what's REALLY going on" approach the varying splats take, minor influence and the occasional nudge is about all the Supernatural does to influence the wider world...Of course, there are exceptions, such as Tunguska being caused by SOMETHING involving the Quasmalilim, and Dracula having been a very powerful Kindred, but these are exceptions rather then the general rule of thumb.
  • Time and Temp lets the time-traveling PCs do this if they do a good enough job.
  • Witch Girls Adventures has a lot of it. Most gods, mythical heroes, legendary monsters and the like are somewhat distorted accounts of witches and otherkin; witches were major players in the Underground Railroad and were responsible for starting the American civil war; open Witch and Otherkin influence was pivotal in the flourishing of science and the arts in the late 19th and early 20th century and Allied victory in World War II — but was later erased from records and memory by the witches; the Flower Power movement was the result of a large-scale spell cast by the counselor and several students at Coventry school for girls... it goes on like this for a bit.
  • Warhammer 40K: The (not yet) God Emperor of Mankind was born some 8,000 years BC, and has secretly (or not so secretly) influenced human history since. Older editions occasionally implied he was Jesus, while he is still all but explicitly stated to have been Saint George.
  • In Dark•Matter, aliens and other oddities are responsible for much of Earth's inventions, such as the printing press, and demons are partly responsible for World War II. Some inventions (the printing press, advanced photographic technology) were disclosed in the Expanded Universe novels.

    Video Games 
  • Sly Cooper's ancestors have had some pull in history, as revealed in Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time
    • Sly's ninja ancestor, Rioichi, was not only a renowned sushi chef, but was also its inventor.
    • Furthermore, his Arabian ancestor, Salim Al-Kupar, was a member of the 40 Thieves.
  • Aldo Trapani, the main character from The Godfather: The Game, serves as the Corleone Family's personal Gump. He is responsible for helping Rocco in removing Khartoum's head and placing it in Woltz's bed, beating the two kids who raped the Bonasera's daughter, assassinating both Paulie Gatto and Salvatore Tessio for betraying the Family, hiding the pistol Michael would use to kill Solozzo and McCluskey, and participating in the assassination of the heads of the Five Families.
  • A City of Villains character can run missions that set up events for heroes at the equivalent level. For example, a heroic storyarc starts off when a gang get their hands on a powerful spellbook and accidentally summon a major demon. A villainous contact at the same level range offers a mission to steal a spellbook and plant it for members of a minor gang to find...
    • As City of Villains launched over two years later than City Of Heroes, chances are by the time your villain plants the book, your various hero characters will already have stopped the demon several times. Gameplay and Story Segregation at its finest...
      • For another example, one villainous badge mission involves spreading some drug called Outbreak around Paragon City. That is the drug that caused the contaminated infestation of the heroes' tutorial zone.
    • With the introduction of Ouroboros time travel arcs, villains can assist the rise of the Big Bad and heroes and villains can become key figures in the Council overthrow of the 5th Column.
  • Similar to the City of Villains example above, DC Universe Online often has parallel missions between Heroes and Villains. Usually the Villain mission would logically occur before the hero missions (for example: a villain mission about stealing weapons from the military and distributing them to local thugs will lead to a hero mission to stop thugs armed with military grade weaponry).
  • The Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is the United States' Queen of this trope. By the very end it is revealed that she participated in major Nuclear Bomb testing, became the first human in space before Yuri Gagarin, and participated in the Normandy landing, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, and Project Mercury.
    • Sigint also counts, due to being a member of ARPA/DARPA and one of the founders of the Internet. (Hideo did his research; the MGS timeline syncs up with the same year and organization that started the Internet in Real Life.)
    • In-universe, Johnny Sasaki lives and breathes this trope. By sheer coincidence, he winds up getting involved as a minor mook in all of Snake's missions note , and his grandfather (also named Johnny) personally met Big Boss while serving as a guard at Grosnyj Grad in Metal Gear Solid 3. Despite his stupidity and general bumbling nature, he's one of the few recurring characters to actually survive all that insanity — which Snake happily lampshades.
    "How the hell did you survive ten years?"
    • Furthermore, in an optional Codec conversion during MGS3, it's revealed that Naked Snake/Big Boss, Sigint, and Major Zero actually gave the Hind D its name. In-game, he also created the infamous "hide in a cardboard box" trick used by Solid Snake and Raiden.
  • Galen "Starkiller" Marek, the Villain Protagonist of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. If it is to be believed, he is the one responsible for bringing together the various Rebel faction leaders in order to form the Alliance. To top it all off, the design of his family's crest is posthumously adopted as the symbol for the new Alliance.
    • It was really Kota who did most of the important work. He was the one who located and contacted all of the Rebel leaders, and Galen never would have gotten as far as he did without his guidance. The future Rebel senators were not only already familiar with each other, but that their plans for an Alliance went back as far as before the Empire was declared. The only reason Galen got all the credit is probably because he did most of the fighting, along with his Heroic Sacrifice aboard the Death Star I. It would be more accurate to say that Galen, Kota, and the rest of the Rogue Shadow crew were collectively this trope.
    • A lesser example would be the star of a manga, Vader's second and younger secret apprentice, Tao. Tao, apparently, was responsible for re-awakening remorse in the Dark Lord.
    • There are actually a lot of these in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Any time someone makes a game and they want to set it during the movies, if they don't stick with the movie characters, they will make important new ones. There are a whole mess of people responsible for getting the Death Star plans to Leia, for example, like Bria Tharen and Kyle Katarn.
      • Shadows of the Empire 's story starts around the same time as The Empire Strikes Back. As such, the protagonist Dash Rendar took part in the Battle of Hoth; this was only mentioned in the novel, but an actual level in the game. Notably, it was the first time a Star Wars game allowed the player to take part in a movie battle like it (excluding the Death Star trench run from A New Hope), and nearly every classic-trilogy Star Wars game since has had a Hoth level if the developers could find an excuse to add one. One problem, however, is that the second level starts with Dash witnessing the Millenium Falcon's escape from the base just before snowtroopers pour in - and yet Dash somehow manages to completely miss encountering Darth Vader, who also saw the Falcon fly off.
  • In Assassins Creed, Altaďr Ibn La'Ahad becomes one at the Battle of Arsuf, encouraging King Richard to open negotiations with Saladin. Richard did open negotiations after Arsuf, but they failed to end the conflict. He also kills Robert de Sable there in the game's continuity.
    • Ditto with Ezio Auditore da Firenze in Assassin's Creed II, with the most notable example being a friendship with Leonardo da Vinci and Machiavelli, as well as an involvement with the infamous "Bonfire of the Vanities." If it happened during the Renaissance, Ezio probably had something to do with it.
      • An attempt at a comprehensive list: he personally defended Lorenzo de' Medici from the assassination attempt at Florence's cathedral and escorted him to safety, killed Francesco de' Pazzi and hung his body from the Palazzo della Signoria, personally hunted down and assassinated his co-conspirators, then was involved with no less than three consecutive doges of Venice — Giovanni Mocenigo (failed to protect and framed for the killing), Marco Barbarigo (assassinated by Ezio), and Agostino Barbarigo (succeeded Marco) — before assisting Cristoforo Colombo in sailing to "the New World," then fought in both the conflict following the death of the lord of Forli and Imola, and in the Bonfire of the Vanities (mercy-killing the "mad monk" Girolamo Savanarola — for which Rodrigo Borgia's papacy would take credit). Afterward, Ezio personally assaulted The Pope right after Christmas (ahistorical), undermined the Borgia papacy for three years, caused the Pope's death (albeit having been on his way to kill him), directly caused Cesare Borgia's downfall and arrest, and then was the man who threw Cesare from a wall to his death in 1507. Whew! *takes a breath*
    • Oh, and he dated Amerigo Vespucci's cousin.
    • A subtler version occurs in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, where it's implied that Ezio gives Niccolň Machiavelli the idea of virtů.
      • According to the lead writer for Brotherhood, when Machiavelli mentioned that he intended to write a book about Ezio one day, that book would ironically be The Prince.
      • The novelization of the game has Machiavelli taking notes during Ezio's speeches.
    • Connor of Assassin's Creed III does this as well, as he works with George Washington, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and Israel Putnam during this game.
      • An attempt at a comprehensive list: He attempts to stop the Boston Massacre and is initially framed for starting it, participates in the Boston Tea Party, accompanies Paul Revere on his midnight ride, is present at the battles of Concord (where he personally commands the Colonists at the battle of the Old North Bridge), Lexington, and Bunker Hill (he assassinates the British commander, John Pitcairn), stops the Templars from killing George Washington, causes the death of the Admiral of the Continental Navy, causes the shelling of New York, and kills Charles Lee; in the PS3/PC-exclusive Benedict Arnold missions he's also the man responsible for uncovering the plot to sell out West Point, then personally turns back an attempted British invasion of West Point.
    • Connor's Grandpa Edward was quite busy himself, having a front row seat to most of the events of the Golden Age of Piracy, including the sinking of the Spanish Treasure Fleet, the Fall of Nassau, the escape of Charles Vane via Fireship, the death of Blackbeard, Jack Rackham's mutiny, the death of Benjamin Hornigold, Bartholomew Roberts being nominated Captain and his later death, Mary Read and Anne Bonny pleading their bellies and so on.
  • Before Crisis and Crisis Core are undisputedly lord and master of this trope, as it turns out Zack was responsible for Yuffie's Materia obession, the bar where Tifa works being named Seventh Heaven, Aerith wearing pink and is now the only reason Cloud took up the persona of a SOLDIER First Class due to "passing on his memories" to Cloud. The Turks meanwhile turn out to have been present for Cid's failed rocket launch, the burning of Barret's hometown, the burning of Cloud and Tifa's hometown, Cloud's first fight with Sephiroth, they are responsible for Azul ending up in Deepground, Red XIII being able to procreate and are the reason for why when you visit the Midgar model in the Shinra building, one part of Midgar is unlike the rest. Finally Genesis has become one of the primary reasons why Sephiroth went crazy, while Angeal has his place in the story as the origin of the Buster Sword.
  • Alex Mason, the protagonist from Call of Duty: Black Ops, fights in Havana during the Bay of Pigs invasion and assassinates Castro (actually a body double). Once captured, he is sent to the infamous Vorkuta gulag. Upon his release, he receives his orders from Robert McNamara and JFK themselves. He almost single-handedly saves Khe Sanh in the precursor to the Tet offensive. And it is later revealed that he was the second shooter who killed JFK.
    • An in-universe example from Modern Warfare 3: after it is exposed that Makarov knows Yuri, Yuri tells Price about his involvement in various affairs earlier in the series - he and Makarov were in the jeep that got Zakhaev safely away after Price shot his arm off in Pripyat, they were there to personally detonate Al-Asad's nuke, and Yuri was meant to be a sixth shooter in the massacre, though he was shot in the gut after having second thoughts and ended up trying to stop the massacre only to fall unconscious from blood loss.
  • In the good ending of Saints Row IV, the Saints discover that the Zin have time traveling technology and use it to have wacky misadventures throughout history, ranging from participating in famous battles, inspiring famous works of art or just generally messing with historical figures.
  • Ulysses from Fallout: New Vegas has a connection to each of the game's official DLC. Aside from Lonesome Road, where he's the main antagonist, he led the White Legs during the sacking of New Canaan (the white Legs would later become the major antagonists of Honest Hearts), he met with the Think Tank (from Old World Blues) and almost set them loose from their imprisonment in Big MT, and he set the events of Dead Money in motion by telling Elijah the location of the Sierra Madre. He was also the Legion scout who discovered Hoover Dam.
  • MACV Cpt. Daniel Boone and his team in Vietcong 2 participated in and single-handedly help the Americans/South Vietnamese win the Battle of Hue.
  • In Final Fantasy VIII, Laguna was such a badass that he overthrew the tyrannical sorceress who ruled Esthar and was appointed President in her place. However, his badass abilities were actually those of the protagonists from his future; most of the time, he was just an ordinary soldier.
  • The protagonist of Call of Juarez: Gunslinger claims to have fought pretty much every single legendary outlaw in The Wild West. He even claims to have have had a gun fight with Jesse James (once someone brings up Bob Ford, he immediately claims to have "wounded him" even if you managed to make him shoot James in the head) and another one with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (who, whaddya know, really DID escape the Bolivian Army)...at the same time. Naturally, it's heavily implied he's making A LOT of this up.
  • A factor in both Dark Souls and its sequel.
    • The DLC to the first game has you return to the last days of Oolacile and rescue Princess Dusk from Manus. These tasks had, by the time of the game proper, been attributed to Knight Artorias, who you Mercy Kill on the way.
    • Towards the end of Dark Souls II, you travel back to the Giant's Invasion of Drangleic via the Ashen Mist Heart and the memories of the fallen giants. Turns out the reason the Giants never made it past what is now called the Forest Of Fallen Giants was that you killed their leader.

    Web Original 
  • In the SPECWEAPS story series, a lot of events throughout history and the modern day have apparently been caused by weaponization of and warfare between Eldritch Abominations. Specifically, the originals.
  • The collective story of the AH.com Eternals strays into this. The immortal named Gregorios has so far served as an ambassador for the Emperor Anastasius, been a trader on the Silk Road, lived as a farmer (and charged as a witch) in Anglo-Saxon England, been "executed" by the Sassanids, fought in the Battle of Septimania, inspired the writing of Beowulf, worked as a merchant in Tang China, lived as a Yakut nomad, served in the Byzantine navy, defended Paris against a Viking invasion, circumnavigated medieval Ireland, fought in the Welsh armies against the invading Anglo-Saxons, went with Leif Ericsson to discover Vinland, became a tribal chief in the Miqmaq nation, served as an interpreter in the Crusader States, became Balian of Ibelin, was sold as a slave after the Venetians sacked Constantinople, served as interpreter and guide for Marco Polo, inspired the image of The Grim Reaper, fathered the Romanov dynasty, fought at the final Fall of Constantinople, sailed with Christopher Columbus to the New World, got painted into "The Last Judgement Day," fought with the Catholic League during the French Wars of Religion, took part in the first production of Romeo and Juliet, became one of the founding members of the Plymouth Colony, served as a professor or languages at Harvard, rode circuit as a doctor in colonial Virginia, dumped tea at the Boston Tea Party, and fought in both the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.]] And he's only told his story up to 1827.
  • The "Sarkozy Was There" meme does this to French President Nicholas Sarkozy. This was done in reaction to having falsely claimed a photo of him taking a hammer to the Berlin Wall was taken on the day that it fell, when it was actually taken a full week later.
  • Although the write-ups usually try to hint rather than state things outright (it's more fun that way), several SCPs are implied to have been involved with or caused various historical events, including what we thought was the atomic bomb.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic My Little Mission: Sneaking is Magic, among other things, Snake's visit to Equestria is why he starts off Metal Gear Solid 2 with a tranq pistol.
  • Jitter, the protagonist of the SPQR game series, is definitely this; among other things, she's a major Unwitting Pawn in the assassination of Julius Caesar. (More specifically, she was used to distract General Antonius so he wouldn't be there to defend Caesar.)
  • The Phantom is a recurring character in the Hardly Working original videos. He's an all-around Comedic Sociopath and implied immortal, which gives rise to a number of claims.
    Phantom: You'd best watch yourself or I'll do to you what I did to Amelia Earhart.
    Dan: Amelia Earhart?
    Phantom: Flying is a man's game!

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • The reason why the Sphinx of Giza has no nose varies depending on which work it appears in.
  • The 1953 Disney cartoon Ben And Me was about a mouse who was responsible for most of Benjamin Franklin's greatest achievements, and had an indirect role in the writing of the Declaration of Independence.
    • It was based on a book by the same name. There was also "Mr. Revere and I", by the same author, though that's less of a case of this, and more just an onlooker at many of the events, since it's narrated by Paul Revere's horse.
  • A variation occurs in The Lion King 1 ˝, where main characters Timon and Pumbaa cause events of the original film without knowing; the entire thing was an excuse to spoof Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
  • Episode "Infinite Realms" in Danny Phantom had Danny and his friends traveling through time via natural ghost portals in pursuit of Vlad, triggering both the Great Fires of Rome and the landing of the Wright Brothers' plane in Kitty Hawk during their chase.
  • The classic "Roswell that Ends Well" episode of Futurama features the stars traveling back in time and arriving in Roswell, New Mexico. Zoidberg is captured by the army, along with Bender's shattered body, making them the alien and "spacecraft remains" secretly held inside Area 51.
    Bender: That's no flying saucer. That's my ass!
    • Futurama did it a second time in the direct-to-DVD Bender's Big Score. The story involves Bender being sent back in time to the year 2000 to kill Fry. Unable to find him, he tracks down every Philip J. Fry in the country. One of them happens to be in Florida, counting ballots from the recent election. Bender enters and begins firing a laser gun, and one of the stray blasts destroys a large stack of ballots labeled "Gore".
    • In-universe (er) example: When Bender goes back in time to steal the Nobel Peace Prize, in his escape, it is revealed he is the cause of the first destruction of New York City, an event seen briefly through a window in the pilot episode.
  • Done in Pinky and the Brain. When Pinky runs for President, his small third party (the "Pink Party") only has one guy on the staff: "Sweaty Pete", who takes credit for many major failures of US Presidents and their campaigns. He claims to have suggested Nixon's nervousness on camera, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, and the infamously dorky shot of Dukakis poking his head out of a tank. He is seemingly oblivious to how badly all of these things backfired.
  • Family Guy is practically made of these. Every episode the viewers are nearly guaranteed a reference to when any of the Griffins or their ancestors did something that altered history in some way.
  • The Animaniacs. Due to their ability to exist in several time periods, have had run ins with several historical figures and had a big influence over their achievements. They've inspired Albert Einstein to write E=MC, helped Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel, and inspired Picasso and Beethoven.
  • Similarly, Histeria! had a group of kids what would appear in every era, interact with several historical figures, and somehow inspiring them. They've given Benjamin Franklin several of his famous proverbs, invented the Franklin Stove, and helped him discover electricity in lightning. They also inspired Rosa Parks not to move to the back of the bus, inspire Thomas Edison to invent the lightbulb, among other things.
  • In a "what if" episode of The Boondocks (in which Martin Luther King, Jr. awakens from a coma), it is revealed that Robert "Grandad" Freeman was originally part of Rosa Parks' bus sit-in, but was completely ignored. Ever since then, Grandad felt that Parks "stole his thunder" and left her harassing phone calls right up until her death. Oh, and he never did get his five dollars from Malcolm X.
    • And he was supposed to be one of the protesters Bull Connor turned firehoses on, but he went home to get a raincoat and missed the march. Robert gets a lot of these related to the civil rights movement.
  • Liberty's Kids has the titular kids who manage to meet every important revolutionary war figure and be at every important event from 1773 to 1789 (without aging). Justified in that the kids are portrayed as workers for Benjamin Franklin's newspaper, which kind of gave them an in.
  • Two animated shorts starring Scrat were actually about him accidentally causing the continents to break up and move to their current positions while attempting to bury an acorn. And for some reason, the Earth's continents move to their current locations twice.
  • One Code Monkeys episode had Dave give the phrase "jam on" to Michael Jackson, while working on what would be Moonwalker. He also offers up several that he's said over the years, such as "talk to the hand", "my bad" and "this is TOTALLY rape". By the end of the episode, the staff at Gameavision is responsible for everything wrong with Michael that wasn't the fault of his father or various gold diggers.
  • Time Squad invokes this trope by going back in time and helping major historical figures do what they're supposed to do.
  • American Dragon Jake Long invokes this trope in at least two episodes.
    • "Fu and Tell": While fighting for an artifact belonging to Fu's family, Fu Dog and Yan Yan got involved in several historical moments.
    • "Hero of the Hourglass": Fu Dog made Atlantis sink.
  • The Fairly OddParents: Cosmo sunk Atlantis nine times, caused the volcanic eruption that destroyed Pompeii and George Washington used his head as a cannon ball to win a battle.
  • The cold open for the Arthur episode "Arthur Wrecks a Computer" shows Arthur in different time periods accidentally smashing off the Sphinx's nose, breaking of Venus de Milo's arms, and cracking the Liberty Bell.
  • According to DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp, Merlock was actually responsible for the destruction of both Atlantis and Pompeii.
    Genie: Mount Vesuvius would never have blown its top if Merlock hadn't blown his!
  • The Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, France has two pillars on its balcony missing, one of its gargoyles broken off, and the doorknob smashed off one of its doors. According to the climax of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo broke off those two pillars which Frollo chained him to to save Esmeralda from being burned at the stake, during the final battle Frollo smashes off the doorknob on one of the cathedral doors to enter the cathedral, and the damaged gargoyle was the one that dispatched Frollo in the end.
  • In the episode of Xiaolin Showdown where Dojo turns into an evil, two-headed monster, the reason why Dojo had to be locked in a cage whenever he becomes this form (in which Omi accidentally freed) is because, according to Master Fung, the last time Dojo became evil he actually sunk Atlantis.
  • The title robot in BURN-E, a Pixar short derived from WALL•E, is sort of an inversion; each of the major events in the film turn out to have impacted his comparatively trivial problems.
  • In the I Am Weasel episode "Time Weasel", Baboon goes back in time to change history and become king, only to trigger the extinction of the dinosaurs and the invention of onion rings. As a result, Weasel sees this as Baboon's destiny to correct history and praises him as a hero.
  • The Simpsons: Grandpa Simpson's increasingly bizarre backstory seems to indicate that he was somehow involved in every negative chapter of US history.
    • The same seems to be true of Mr. Burns. Being impossibly old, his influence extends to all negative chapters of world history.
    Mr. Burns: ...And that's how you win an Opium War.
    • In a related example to Mr. Burns, his teddy bear Bobo (it's origin story being a reference to Citizen Kane) was also involved in inspiring Charles Lindberg to cross the Atlantic Ocean in his plane, and upon arriving in France, he threw the bear at the crowd cheering him, where it was picked up by Hitler inspiring to do all the stuff he did (and Hitler blamed it for everything going wrong during his final minutes at his bunker) and was also stuck in the periscope of the US submarine which first reached the North Pole underwater, where it got frozen and was recovered by an expedition sent there to collect ice bags for Apu to sell.
  • An episode of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters has the Gromble giving a lesson on how monsters have shaped human history, like Krumm's dad Horvak losing one of his eyes when it was used to fire the Shot Heard 'Round the World, and monsters inspiring the Boston Tea Party and FDR's famous line "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
    • In another episode, an elderly monster recounts a story how he scared a brunette Albert Einstein while he's trying to figure out the theory of relativity, giving him his famous hair.
  • In Mr. Peabody & Sherman, not only have the titular characters visited virtually every major historical event, but Mr. Peabody is shown to have invented many of the most popular things we have today including but not limited to planking, the fist bump (aka the brofist), the backwards ollie, and Zumba.

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