open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- The backstory of Neon Genesis Evangelion involves a "first ancestral race" that left humanity an instruction manual and a weapon for dealing with Angels. Humans Being Bastards, a cabal got its hands on these and reserved them for its own catastrophic ends.
- The people of the Silver Millennium in Sailor Moon were ruled by Queen Serenity, a wise and benevolent monarch who ruled over an age of peace and prosperity. Their stronghold was the Moon Kingdom, situated in the Mare Serenitatis. In addition, they were responsible for the Ginzuishou (a crystal of enormous power) and took on the duty of watching over Earth and its people, making sure that life evolved naturally and was kept safe from harm. Unfortunately, that all ended when the Dark Kingdom attacked.
- All of Earth's pre-Crisis superheroes to the current DC Universe, especially the Monitor. They fought and defeated the Anti-Monitor and sealed a single universe inside the essence of the Monitor. Then the universe was restarted twice with big bangs. None of the Post-Crisis stories would have happened without the pre-Crisis heroes. Infinite Crisis then turns this into a strange case of the Benevolent Precursors (specifically, two of them in particular, though one of the others gets tricked/convinced into believing that what they're doing is a Good Thing) becoming the Sealed Evil in a Can.
- Urk's alternate universe in Paperinik New Adventures has the local counterpart of the Evrons teach medicine and science to the inhabitants of the Americas, leading to a confederation of hi-tech Indian tribes living in accord with nature while still capable of kicking the ass of the Viking invaders (whose technology is similar to the one of our 21st century Earth).
- The Guardians of the Universe can be this when they care to be. It's probably most fair to say that they're trying to ... they don't call themselves the "Guardians of the Universe" ironically. They're just not as good at it as they think they are. They created the Green Lantern Corps after all, which boasts perhaps the largest collection of valiant heroes in all of DC comics. Most of the time, however, they swing wildly back and forth between this, Neglectful Precursors and Abusive Precursors. The fact that they're supremely arrogant in believing that they know what's best for everyone, and slightly less than perfect in predicting the consequences of their actions (and in recognizing and admitting they made a mistake soon enough for it to require less than literally superheroic effort to fix it) tends to be what keeps them from ultimately actually being this.
- There is a separate group of Guardians that still followed the White Light. Having spent the last billions of years in isolation guarding the prison of the First Lantern, they were not present for the failures and events that led to the Guardian Council's decision to create the Third Army and attempted to stop the Council when they arrived to free the First.
- Humanity takes on this role in Diaries of a Madman, after having created the species that populate Equestria and the rest of the world.
- The race who made the tomb in The Writing On The Wall took every effort to discourage explorers from entering it, from intimidating design to... well, the writing on the wall. Sadly, Daring Do and company disregard the warnings as mere superstition, and disaster ensues. The entire story is based on the real-world quandary of how to warn future civilizations away from nuclear waste disposal sites.
- The Pony POV Series has several examples:
- The Moochick from G1 is revealed to be as old as Lord Tirek and was the Big Good for the G1 characters.
- The Paradise Ponies were from the Age of Myths, but continued to act as protectors during the Age of Wonders that followed them, due to being immortal thanks to the Rainbow of Light.
- The Age of Wonders created the G3 world as a utopia and had every intent of doing so. After the Apocalypse, many tried their best to preserve what was left of their civilization's technology, medicine, and such for the civilizations to come after. Several of them are still known as Saints to this day.
- The Bridge also has several:
- The ancient civilizations on Terra were fully aware the Bagan would break free of his imprisonment 100,000 years into their future. So rather than squander the last magic left on Terra in preserving themselves or trying to flee the planet, they used it all up creating the "Guardian Beasts" and sealed them away on a timer so the moment Bagan returned, there would be an army of super charged Kaiju ready to go up against him.
- Each successive Mothra passes on her memories to her daughter so each generation of the line basically has an instruction manual on how their powers and magic work, and how to confront evil.
- For Equestria, Harmony knowingly separated chunks of her power to create the Elements of Harmony and the Rainbow Power, and Celestia and Luna so the mortals would have tools to fight against evil without having to rely on her should she ever abuse her power.
- The Mondoshawans ("Monduchivans" in the language originally spoken by Leeloo) from The Fifth Element. They set up a secret order on Earth to safeguard the elements needed to fight the Ultimate Evil. They came back to remove the elements to a safer place when World War I threatened them, and they were in the process of returning them when they were shot down by Mangalore warriors flying illegal starfighters supplied by Mr. Zorg. But even then, they had been clever enough to anticipate it, and hid four out of five of the Elements somewhere else instead.
- Zi Yuan from The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. She is a sorceress who seals the Big Bad sorcerer-emperor Han and his Bad Ass Army, then gains Immortality, creates a weapon to kill the Big Bad if he is ever unsealed, makes friends with Yeti to protect the one place Immortality can be gained, and is still around to summon her own army conveniently sealed near Han's own. If this doesn't sound impressive, then compare it to the ancient Egyptians in the first two movies whose sealing of Imhotep gives him powers and Immortality despite being perfectly capable of killing him normally.
- The "Firstborn" featured in Sir Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey and Time Odyssey books are pretty much Ur examples for both this trope and Abusive Precursors respectively. In Space Odyssey they are super-advanced aliens that made it their purpose to promote the development of intelligent life throughout the Galaxy. After they moved on, they left their Monoliths to continue their work in their stead.
- In L.E. Modesitt's Forever Hero series, the last survivors of civilization sealed away their nuclear and biological weapons as the Earth was dying, with a warning to not try to open the vault.
- Lensman has the Arisians, who effectively countered the Eddorian meddling with pre-spaceflight Earth, provided the predecessor of the Galactic Patrol with a better FTL drive, created the Lens, which provided the Patrol with the means to effectively fight the Boskone drug-dealers, instituted a secret breeding program which eventually culminated with the Children of the Lens. And they did all this in the full knowledge that the Children would surpass them in mental power.
- Inheritance Cycle has the Grey Folk, a vanished race of magicians that lived in Alagaesia before the Elves arrived. They were powerful magicians but couldn't fully control sorcery because it was entirely nonspoken—a stray thought could cause a disaster. After a magical cataclysm that they had caused devastated Alagaesia, they sacrificed nearly all of their power to create the Ancient Language. According to Paolini, there are no pure Grey Folk left, but it would seem likely that Angela and Tenga are Half-Human Hybrids descended from them due to their longevity and propensity for unspoken magic.
- In the novelization of the film Alien, Science Officer Ash explicitly states that the Space Jockey aliens (in whose ship the alien eggs are first found) set up the transmission the Nostromo received as a warning to other ships to stay away (a fact that Ripley discovered only too late to avoid disaster), and calls them "a noble people" for leaving said warning. Given what we have seen of those bastards in Prometheus, it is safe to say that he was dead wrong.
- Xeelee Sequence: The Xeelee, despite being the ostensible bad guys are actually quite nice, leaving humanity and other lower races alone while busy fighting a universe-spanning war against their rivals the Photino Birds. When humanity has conquered every other race in the galaxy, they finally get it in their heads to attack the Xeelee themselves, who do fight back, but only half-heartedly, and eventually decide to let mankind have the Milky Way. This isn't good enough for them, however, and they decide to spread out and attack the Xeelee in other galaxies, including launching a few assaults on their Ring megastructure. Eventually, a million years later, the Xeelee finally decide to deal with humanity, not by wiping them out, but by constructing a nice little environment for them and sealing them inside it, allowing them to continue their lives, at least until the universe starts to become uninhabitable due to the actions of the Photino Birds. At which point, the Xeelee provide the remaining humans with one of their own ships to escape the universe through the Ring, and even create a new planet with an environment tailored specifically for them to thrive in the new universe.
- In David Brin's Uplift series Galactic dogmas rarely agree, but all oxygen-breathers concur that the Progenitors were awesome, they invented Uplift and true civilization, they obviously had a supernatural origin of some kind, and everyone should revere them. For millions of years, the Great Library has taught this version of history.
- Humanity, horrified by the standard Galactic treatment of client races, has a desire to be this for its own clients. They give chimps and dolphins an almost unheard-of level of autonomy and involve them in the world government, refuse to impose any kind of indentured servitude on them, and begin seeking alien clients with an eye to protecting them from more hostile species.
- The Elder Gods in the Titus Crow series by Brian Lumley are the Good Counterpart to the Cthulhu Mythos' Great Old Ones. They influence lesser species to become better while also arming them with weapons against their evil kin. Their leader Kthanid, is actually Cthulhu's brother (!!).
Live Action TV
- In the Doctor Who two-parter "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit", the Monster of the Week—heavily implied to be Satan—is chained far, far underground on a planet orbiting a black hole. Should he ever be released, the planet will go spiraling into the black hole, killing The Beast. All we know about the people who defeated him is that they were called "Disciples of the Light".
- The Time Lords themselves swing between this and Neglectful Precursors. They generally do not interfere with other races due to things going badly in the past and the moral complexities of time travel. However, they generally prevented abuses of time travel, fixed messes caused by abuses and would sometimes intervene to stop a dire threat or right a particularly terrible wrong. This is a more enlightened state compared to their ancient history where they were Abusive Precursors who abused their time travel capabilities.
- Farscape: As seen in the Peacekeeper Wars post-series finale, the Sealed Good in a Can Eidolons. They can lull any other species into a receptive state, and read their minds, to construct good arguments, and help factions co-exist. Besides being basically super-diplomats, they are the ones that transplanted and genetically engineered early hominids, thus creating The Peacekeepers. They came back to the galaxy thanks to a reversal of their Critical Existence Failure.
- Star Trek:
- The unnamed ancient humanoids from "The Chase" who seeded planets with their DNA, thus being responsible for all humanoid life. They also encoded a map in this DNA that led not to a superweapon, or a species of Omnicidal Maniacs, but to a recorded message expressing the hope that their "descendants" would cooperate with each other to discover the message. Leads to a rather epic guilt trip for Picard and (apparently) the Romulan commander.
- The Preservers, who transported endangered cultures to pristine worlds.
- In Star Trek Online, the Preservers are the same, and after the Breen/Deferi story arc, back out and mingling with their descendants.
- The Ancients in the Stargate-verse are the poster boys for Neglectful Precursors, but season nine of Stargate SG-1 reveals they've been active on their own plane of existence hiding the humans of the Milky Way and Pegasus galaxies from their evil counterparts the Ori. At least until the SGC goes and screws that up.
- Meanwhile the Asgard, while unable to wipe out the Goa'uld due to their Forever War with the Replicators, place a couple dozen planets in the Milky Way under military protection, and soon ally with the Tau'ri and gradually introduce their technology to them. Also, unlike the Ancients, they always cleaned up their own mess, or made sure not to cause a mess in the first place. The Ancients are responsible for creating two races (well, one of them are machines) that pose a galactic threat, and left their technology lying around just about everywhere waiting to be used (or abused) by anyone who could. The Asgard were very cautious in giving out their technology, but not because of arrogance about not sharing with primitive people, like the Tollans were, but out of genuine caution for the safety of both parties involved. Despite this they provided Earth with their extremely powerful shielding technology and eventually shared all their knowledge with them... Before committing mass-suicide to make sure their left-over technology would not fall into the wrong hands.
- Samuel Colt in Supernatural was a hunter who forged a gun capable of killing demons in 1835 and built a massive powerful Demon's Trap to protect the Hell Gate in southern Wyoming.
- The Jjaro of Pathways into Darkness and Marathon. After the Jjaro's disappearance, they either returned from hiding to help, or left an automated system to help the player defeat an Eldritch Abomination and save the universe.
- The Forerunners from Halo. Yes, they did use the titular superweapons to destroy all life in the galaxy in order to stop the Flood, but they really did try everything else first (getting to the point where obliterating Flood-infested worlds from orbit was a first resort, and their tactics got progressively more destructive from there); the Flood was just too much for them. After they fired the Halo Array, they even repopulated the galaxy with all the lifeforms they had indexed so that the galaxy wouldn't be devoid of sentient life. They also left AI custodians, technological relics, and warnings (particularly about the Halos and the Flood) for their successors—it's just that said AIs tended to go nuts, while the Covenant gladly gathered the relics but ignored the warnings.
- The Halo 3 terminals deconstruct aspects of this trope by noting that Forerunner rule made their client species far too weak and dependent on their masters, which left them easy prey for the Flood.
- The Forerunner Saga makes it clear that while the Lifeworkers (the Forerunner caste specifically tasked with caring for living things) were mostly genuinely benevolent, the Forerunner Ecumene as a whole could be downright abusive; relocating entire client species from their homeworlds to gain new territory and resources, completely destroying ancient humanity's own empire and forcibly devolving the survivors while stripping them of all their technology, quarantining the San'Shyuum to two planets and nearly driving them to extinction, etc.
- In Mass Effect:
- The Protheans attempt to leave behind warnings about the Reapers to future organic races. The Reapers destroy most of them, but a few survive. Those survivors also subverted the Reapers' primary way to activate the Citadel relay, forcing Sovereign to use a plan the current races have a chance to stop. It is also implied their actions spared several fledgling species from being wiped out with them (humanity being among them), when they destroyed records of certain locations. When you meet one in 3, it turns out that they were considerably less nice to their contemporaries than their successors.
- If you choose the Refusal option, then your cycle can become one. Sadly, it requires the only man who could make the decision to doom his own cycle.
- The Sosiqui created the Legacy of Time in The Journeyman Project 3 did their best to educate their chosen successors, humanity, in how to care for their gift. Even with the interference of other aliens, humanity managed to keep their legacy to the universe intact until a time would come when all races could utilize it in harmony.
- The Precursors in Star Control II, with some things. That bomb of theirs is labeled clearly enough for both the Utwig and the human scientists to figure out what it is. Their starship factory is user-friendly, and a certain other artifact is well-shielded.
- The Taalo leave behind a device that prevents evil alien mind control. This is instrumental in saving the galaxy.
- Most of the upgrades in Metroid Samus Aran finds during her adventures have been left there by the Chozo, who foresaw that she would be needing them in the future. With Samus's relationship with the Chozo taken into account, this could almost count as an inversion of Abusive Parents.
- The Masari count towards this in Universe at War, guiding humanity's development and watching over them. When Earth is attacked by the game's Big Bad several alarms are tripped and the Masari begin coming out of hibernation The results were predictable.
- In Final Fantasy VII, when some cosmic force gave the Cetra the Black Materia, a magical stone capable of destroying the entire Planet, they transmuted it into a form in which it could not be used: a giant pyramid-shaped temple. (Just go with it.) The temple cannot be entered without a Keystone, which was supposedly hidden after the temple was finished. The temple itself is populated with bloodthirsty monsters and avatars of the Cetra to deal with trespassers. The room containing the device for un-transforming the temple has a sequential mural depicting the shit that's gonna go down if it gets used. As a last resort, if the Temple is changed back into the Black Materia, it crushes anybody inside, including the person that activates the device.
- The Orions in Master of Orion. They sealed away the Antarans in a pocket dimension and left their own homeworld protected by the Guardian, in order to keep away races that weren't ready to handle their super-powerful technology.
- Those Who Came Before in the Assassin's Creed series started out pretty abusive what with creating and enslaving humanity with their Pieces of Eden. The combination of a slave revolt and a solar flare that nearly destroyed all life on Earth changed that. Before dying off, Those Who Came Before worked together with humanity to rebuild the world, and they left behind tools and knowledge (in the form of the Pieces of Eden) to give humanity a fighting chance when the next solar flare hits Earth.
- However, come Assassin´s Creed III, this is put to severe questioning. There's at least one precursor alive, Juno, and she has apparently passively manipulated the war between Templars and Assassins so she could be freed by Desmond Miles and rule anew after saving the world (Not to mention she made him kill Lucy, and sends some really offensive emails during the game). Minerva appears and tries convincing Desmond to let the disaster happen, which would lead to another eternal cycle of humanity destroying itself over legends, myths and dogmas. It's unclear whether Juno is the last precursor alive, but if there are more and on her side, they most likely rate under Abusive Precursors.
- Played with in the X-Universe. The Ancients theoretically do have good goals, such as preventing the heat death of the universe, and they consider the Portal Network they built a gift to the younger races. Unfortunately they have a tendency to think of the younger races as a single group (not true), making them frighteningly willing to toy with other species (see Abusive Precursors).
- The Eldan of WildStar were responsible for the creation, rise, and maintenance of The Dominion, through the aid of the Mechari and their half-Eldan emperors, the Luminai. Their exact motivations for it remain a mystery.
- The Ancients in Freespace were pretty darn abusive in their day (their reaction to meeting other advanced life was to crush it or subdue it), but being exterminated seems to have done wonders for their morality, considering the log they left behind was easily translated and included scientific and tactical information vital to fighting the Shivans. It apparently wasn't very hard to find the log once someone took a closer look at the planet it was on, either.
- Before becoming the Metal Gods, the Titans in Brutal Legend's backstory left behind instructions so that all others that come after them would be able to learn their ways and use the power of Metal themselves.
- The Encyclopod from the Futurama movie Into The Wild Green Yonder. It has preserved the DNA of countless endangered and extinct species, whose descendants live in a colossal dome on its back.
- Truth in Television: Us, hopefully, with regard to our own Sealed Evil in a Can, nuclear waste. The US Department of Energy has been researching how exactly one could build a clear "Do Not Open" monument that would last for thousands of years and still be understood.
However, even if post-apocalyptic scavengers do decode the message and learn the hard way that it's telling the truth, they might stubbornly take the lethal radiation for a curse we placed to guard fabulous riches, and all indications to the contrary as deception. Hence the opposing argument for burying waste in out-of-the-way locations with no warnings.