The Flying Dutchman
(named after the legend popularized by Richard Wagner
in an opera of the same name
) is Barred from the Afterlife
and cursed to go Walking the Earth
(or sailing or flying or...) forever
. Most versions of this fall into one of two types: the Flying Dutchman
, cursed to sail the seas, and the Wandering Jew, forced to wander the earth.
The Wandering Jew story can be traced to medieval Christianity — in particular, a reference to Matthew 16:28
, wherein Jesus states that some of the people listening to him speak would not die prior to Jesus "coming in his kingdom", which some believe to be a reference to the Second Coming. Since many ordinary lifespans had passed between Jesus' speech and the time of its progenitors, the myth arose
that at least one of those ancient audience members had been for some reason sentenced to immortality.
The Flying Dutchman
variant (sources differ on whether Flying Dutchman
was the name of the ship or a nickname for her captain) first popped up in the seventeenth century, and was said to be an old sailing superstition.
A more modern variant (though still quite old: Edward Everett Hale's short story The Man Without a Country
dates to 1863) has the victims unable to ever stop wandering not because of being cursed by God, but due to lack of a passport, being an exile, or other bureaucratic bungle
they just don't have the paperwork to stop. However, this also has variants where the character, instead of wandering, ends up stuck in an airport or the like, which moves it rather far from the original trope.
When people wander by choice, this becomes Walking the Earth
. When a ship is being followed, it's a Stern Chase
instead; a vehicle of any kind that takes dead souls to another world is an Afterlife Express
. There may also be some overlap with Noble Fugitive
. The cursed character can sometimes be co-opted as The Drifter
, or if they're specifically out to do good, a Knight Errant
. And if it's nobody's fault, they may just have No Sense of Direction
. It's a possible destiny of those who are Barred from the Afterlife
Not to be confused with Wandering Dutchmen such as the traveling theologian and humanist Desiderius Erasmus.
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Anime / Manga
- Male Tsubasa (aka, Syaoran Jr.) of the eponymous Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle becomes this at the end of the story. As payment for continuing to exist after the paradox that is his parentage resolves itself, he may never remain for long in any one dimension, and will forever wander the multiverse. He can, however, stop by in his girlfriend's dimension for a booty call any time he wants, as long as he doesn't stay too long.
- His time-travel duplicate, Watanuki, has it worse, having inverted the trope hard. Rather than being cursed to wander, he's cursed to be trapped in a single Inn Between the Worlds-type mysterious shop for the rest of his life, although to be fair it is anchored in one place and dimension. He just can't leave.
- In the latest chapters, it appears he might be able to travel to certain places he's traveled to before, as a sort of dream travel/spirit/what have you.
- By the end after 100 years have passed, it's revealed that Watanuki's magic powers have grown strong enough for him to be capable of physically leaving the shop. That being said, he will still choose against leaving for now, because he'd also promised he'd wait for Yuuko.
- Slayers TRY has an episode about a ghost ship that is cursed to wander the seas because the captain neglected his duties in favor of his hobby: collecting vases.
- The Flying Dutchman appears in One Piece with a reversal of the legend: Instead of being unable to set foot on land again, the captain (who is a fishman) can never swim again due to eating a Devil Fruit.
- Said captain is actually a descendent of the original captain from the legend, who apparently wasn't quite as immortal as the legend would say.
- Captain Fate in the Marvel Universe. Fate betrayed his captain Maura Hawke, selling her to a satyr in exchange for untold riches. Maura was furious to learn that her crew had truly left her, and she cursed them all to never reach port, never enjoy their new found wealth, and to sail on forever, beyond time, beyond death. The Serpent's Crown lifted off the water into the sky, sailing the space winds for eternity it seemed. Fate and his crew became Space Pirates, occasionally returning to Earth to act as Sky Pirates.
- The Silver Surfer actually battled the Flying Dutchman's ghostly captain in one Silver Age story, and the captain has since appeared once or twice to bedevil The Avengers among others.
- A Romano Scarpa Uncle Scrooge story tells us about the Flying Scotsman, an ancestor of Scrooge's, a former vicious pirate who is kept alive by an oath to atone for the crimes he did against poor villagers. His ship literally flies because it's so old it's completely dried out.
- Carl Barks used the actual Flying Dutchman in a Scrooge story a couple of years later; in this version it turns out that the ship itself has been frozen inside an iceberg for centuries; its “ghost” image was a mirage caused by the unusual properties of the ice in that region.
- A The Mighty Thor story has him fighting a ship full of authentic Vikings that were cursed to sail the seas for 1,000 years... until they reached America.
- Pirates of the Caribbean:
- Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest pilots a ship called the Flying Dutchman. His original purpose was to ferry souls across the sea at World's End. If his love was waiting after ten years, he would go on land again for a single day with her before returning to his duty for another ten years (and so on for eternity). His love was not waiting, so he abandoned his duties and became a badass roaming pirate. His crew turned into half-men half-sea-creatures.
- By the end of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Will Turner becomes the new captain of the Flying Dutchman. His love waited the ten years, and bore him a child, to boot.
- Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, a 1951 movie where the Flying Dutchman (James Mason) goes ashore in the 1930's and meets singer Pandora Reynolds (Ava Gardner).
- While we don't see the character-type, we do see a wrestler with this name in the first Spider-Man movie.
- The Flying Dutchman himself cursed God while trying to sail through the Cape of Good Hope, vowing that he would succeed even if it took him until Judgment Day. He did. And then was forced to sail the seas forever.
- Wonderfully subverted in Tom Holt's Flying Dutch, where the Flying Dutchman and his crew had accidentally drunk some elixir which gave them immortality, but also the most outrageous body odor for all but one month in every 7 years. In the book, Wagner is said to have been given direct inspiration from the captain of the crew...as well as a weird little psychological hang-up causing him to laugh maniacally upon hearing the name "Philip II of Spain."
- The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge is a rare variation on the Flying Dutchman version of this trope, whereby genuine repentance allows the mariner to escape his fate, with the only requirement that he tell his story to other people to warn them off his path.
- Well, he also still has to move like night from land to land. Repentance just gets him off the ship; it doesn't completely uncurse him.
- So he's also a Wandering Jew.
- Actually, he's a slight subversion. Though he is forced to retell his story to other people, he still has a normal lifetime. His curse occurs in his youth and by the time he tells his story, in the poem, he has aged severely.
- The Dune universe has the in-universe legend of Ampoliros: a starship whose crew experiences group psychosis and believes the human race has been wiped out by aliens. They elect to wander the galaxy, taking as many of the aliens with them as they can. The time dilation effect of near light speed travel makes them effectively immortal, every planet is hostile by definition, and any ship is a legitimate target. To make things worse, the men are sick of, and fatigued by, their endless voyage ("forever prepared, forever unready")... but in their minds at least, to stop would spell the end of the human race.
- Robert Bloch published a story in a 1940s pulp magazine in which the captain of the original Flying Dutchman vessel now hijacks a modern subway train, evicting all the passengers except one elderly man and woman. The story consists of a diary kept by the elderly man: he and the woman, captives on the runaway subway train, continue to grow younger as the ancient Dutch sea captain pilots it backwards in time to a rendezvous with his ship.
- Brian Jacques (of Redwall fame) wrote a book called Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, as well as a couple of sequels, which feature not only the original Dutchman but a boy and dog who were allowed to leave the ship because they were pure of heart. An angel grants them immortality and a psychic link with each other, but they end up Walking the Earth and leaving behind everyone they ever love so no one will notice that they never age. The one time the boy tells their secret, it leads to disaster. (Though, really, it seems as if everyone they meet can sense that he's extraordinary just by looking into his eyes.) They're also constantly haunted by nightmares about the Flying Dutchman. Add in that the boy is forever stuck at age 14, and this is a definite case of Blessed with Suck.
- Well, there was a prophecy that said that they shouldn't leave until the "Dark Angel" falls. It's obvious that Serafina, a black girl who Ben rescues from slavery is not going to survive the rest of the book, because of how she fits with the prophecy. But it's implied that Ben gets a Spirit Advisor, so it's not all bad.
- The eponymous characters of the Diana Wynne Jones novel The Homeward Bounders, one of whom is the actual Wandering Jew (and another is the actual Flying Dutchman).
- Daniel Pinkwater's book Yobgorgle: Mystery Monster of Lake Ontario is about a modern cursed Dutchman named Captain Van Straaten who sails Lake Ontario in a self sufficient submarine shaped like a giant pig. The curse is eventually broken not with The Power of Love, but with the use of hydroplaning and a corned-beef sandwich.
- The short story Peter Rugg, the Missing Man, on which a The Real Ghostbusters episode was based, featured a man who swore that if his carriage could not reach his Boston home one night, in spite of a gathering storm, that he might never return...
- The Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Ghost Ship has the crew of a present day Russian naval vessel trapped as disembodied intelligences in a giant space going creature.
- Dragon Lance has the Green Gemstone Man, condemned to wander the earth. He had a green gem from a column embedded in his chest; the gem prevented the gods from returning to the world of Dragonlance because the column was incomplete. He could be killed, but would be reincarnated.
- The legend of the Flying Dutchman is mentioned in Swallows and Amazons, in which it's noted that Peter Duck (a seaman who loves the sea so much he considers going in to port for supplies to be an unwelcome necessary evil) would be a perfect choice to captain it.
- In Andre Norton's Sargasso of Space, it's mentioned that the Solar Queen's Cargo Master collects space folklore and is very good at re-telling the stories, especially the story of a ship called the New Hope, which lifted off full of refugees, never landed anywhere, and now is only sighted by ships which are themselves in dire trouble.
- In the Warhammer 40,000 novel "Legion of the Damned", the titular Legion's only surviving spaceship (a "Star Fort") appears out of nowhere at the last minute to destroy the Keeler Comet and obliterate the Chaos armada while the Legionnaires wipe out the planetside Chaos crusaders right on the verge of their victory.
- The Fin of God in Small Gods seems to be the Discworld version of the Dutchman, only in this case the physical ship sank and the crew drowned. The eternal wanderer is its ghost, since the crew can't enter the afterlife because they killed a dolphin.
- Of course, because this is Discworld, the crew is only barred from the afterlife for as long as they believe this to be so. And since at the end of the scene they're discussing looking for a different afterlife, there may be hope for them yet.
- Andromeda episode The Mathematics of Tears is heavily based on The Flying Dutchman, although the Pax Magellanic's crew are androids controlled by a rogue AI, not cursed humans. The Pax Magellanic draws the parallel herself, and plays the opera music frequently, considering it her theme song.
- The Peter Davison Doctor Who storyline Mawdryn Undead involved a band of alien scientists mutated into horrible pain-wracked forms and unable to die. The scientists sabotaged the TARDIS, leaving it stuck in orbit around the Earth and unable to travel forward or backward in time without killing Nyssa and Tegan, unless the Doctor agreed to sacrifice his life energy to help them end their wretched existence, at the cost of his ability to regenerate. Luckily, there are two Brigadiers wandering around, one from the past and one from the (then) present (it's a long story), and when they meet, they touch hands, causing a discharge of temporal energy at precisely the right instant, which ends the scientists' immortality, and allows the Doctor to remain a Time Lord.
- On an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle gets stuck on the ship of the legendary Cecrops (played by Tony Todd), who is cursed to sail the sea for eternity by Poseidon "until love redeems him." His crew isn't so lucky...they're stuck on the ship until they grow old and die. Cecrops hunts down pirate ships and press-gangs their crews to replenish his own. Xena gets involved, and manages to figure out how to break his curse and get them all off the ship.
- Night Gallery had a slight inversion of this. It involved a ship rescuing a man in a "Titanic" lifeboat, several years after the disaster. The rescuing ship turned out to be the Lusitania. The real curse was for any ship that would try to rescue him.
- The River gives us the Exodus, which also turns its crew into...something.
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyles The Lost World had an episode where a man was cursed to stay on a zeppelin that crashes and explodes every day, only for him and the zeppelin to reappear good as new the next day (due to having shot and thrown his own crew overboard in an attempt to save his own skin). He is able to leave it for short periods, but is inevitably forced to return, and is immortal, preventing escape by suicide. The man managed to trick the heroes into taking his place, but after a day they then tricked him into taking it back. The heroes determined that the man was irredeemably evil and deserved to be cursed.
- Babylon 5: At the end of "Babylon Squared", Sinclair compares to the situation (a previous station, Babylon 4, has begun drifting back and forth through time) to the Flying Dutchman.
Sinclair: It's a legend. An ancient sailing vessel that vanished while trying to sail the Cape of Good Hope. According to the story, it's reappeared again and again over the centuries trying to find a way home.
Susan Ivanova: Did the Flying Dutchman ever make it home?
- In Sinbad, Sinbad is cursed so he will die if he stays on land for more than 24 hours at a time, so he's always on the move.
- In Richard Wagner's adaptation of the legend, the opera Der fliegende Holländer, the title character can be saved by The Power of Love coming from the local weird girl.
- Wagner lifted the plot from Heinrich Heine's Aus den Memoiren des Herrn von Schnabelewopski (From the memoirs of Mr. Schnabelewopski, 1838), where there is an at the time entirely fictional play the protagonist sees in Amsterdam. He helpfully ends up the summary: "The moral of the play for women is to watch out not to marry a Flying Dutchman; and we men see from this play that women in the best case cause us to perish."
- Charlie in the folksong Charlie on the M.T.A. is doomed to forever ride the subways under Boston because he has insufficient change to pay the exit fare. He may be the victim of an insidious plan, though: according to the song, his wife hands a sandwich to him every day through the car window — but she never gives him the nickel he needs for some reason. When the MBTA adapted smart cards for fare payment in 2006 to replace tokens, they named it the "CharlieCard" in honor of the song's Charlie.
- Again, this has older ancestry — it's based on an 1830 song "The Ship that Never Returned" which, in some versions, has the ship unable to return because it can't pay the docking fees.
- Irish punk band Dropkick Murphys play an adaptation that replaces Charlie with "Skinhead On The MTBA" — When the conductor asks the skinhead to pay the exit fare, he responds by knocking the conductor out and stealing the train.
- A variation of this can be found in They Might Be Giants' Shoehorn with Teeth: "He toured the world, with a heavy metal band/But they run out of gas/The plane can never land" which also owes a lot to Chico's speech as an Italian aviator, ending with and that's how we flew to America in A Night at the Opera.
- Invoked in the Jethro Tull song of the same name, which compares Vietnamese refugees and the homeless to the Dutchman.
- Used a few times in the Ravenloft setting, most notably with Captain Pieter van Reise, the darklord of the Sea of Sorrows (a Dutchman Expy) and the cursed Captain Garvin from the Ship of Horror adventure.
- Given a fantasy twist in the Dragon magazine #89 story "Dunkle Zee" by Troy Denning.
- Wulfrik the wanderer in Warhammer Fantasy Battles sails the world in his flying longship. He said that he was the best warrior in the world and was cursed by the gods to try to prove it.
- In the Traveller universe there is a Mythopoeia in-verse myth about the starship Robert-the-Bruce. At the founding of the Sword Worlds the ship had disappeared on a return trip to invite further settlers. According to Sword Worlds legend it wanders the stars forever and wherever it goes disaster follows behind.
- Suikoden IV takes place in an archipelago, so naturally, there's an optional encounter with a particularly creepy-looking Flying Dutchman.
- The ghost ship in the third expansion of Final Fantasy XI, known as both The Black Coffin by the populace, and the Ashuu Talif by its crew and those who know the truth, is manned by a crew who had been killed when their nation was absorbed by the expansion's eponymous empire. Captain Luzaf's plot for revenge against the Empire is central to the expansion's plot.
- In Silent Hill 2, a magazine tells the story of a ship that disappeared on Toluca Lake, leaving the ghosts of the crew to reach up to boats that pass overhead. In Silent Hill 3, the Sinister Subway is haunted by the wandering ghost of a train suicide, which pushes unsuspecting people onto the tracks.
- In Alone In The Dark 2, the antagonists are gangsters who actually are the undead crew of the Flying Dutchman.
- The Flying Dutchman in Sponge Bob Square Pants is more a Peek A Bogey Man than anything else, but there is one episode that gives him a similar back story: his body was used as a window display, and thus never got a proper burial, cursing his spirit to forever wander the seas.
- In another episode, aptly named "Shanghai'd!" Spongebob and Patrick are pressed into joining him as "ghostly ghost pirates."
- He also seems to serve as the Grim Reaper of the seas, in the episode where Mr. Krabs's thriftiness goes overboard with the consumption of an extremely old Krabby Patty found on the kitchen floor.
- A garbage barge from Long Island temporarily became a victim of this trope, when it couldn't find a port willing to grant it harbor and accept its load of refuse.
- Possibly the inspiration for Ben Elton's book Stark (and the short TV series based upon it). "Leper Ships," carrying highly toxic waste endlessly travel between ports, forbidden to unload. The Big Bad of the TV series intends to sink a few bringing about The End of the World as We Know It in a class-5 Apocalypse How. In the book, it's observed that such an event is inevitable, given the poor state of repair the Lepers are in. All it would take is one bad storm, and the world ends up poisoned...
- The sports teams at Hope College of Holland, Michigan, USA are known as the "Flying Dutchmen" or "Flying Dutch."
- The Mary Celeste was found adrift with its crew missing without a trace. A deserted yacht was found in an eerily similar situation in 2007.
- Some sailing ships had their entire crew wiped out by disease outbreaks.
- Legend has it that around the time of The Great Politics Messup, formerly Soviet airline Aeroflot split into different organizations so chaotically that one passenger flight was advised it would need to pay landing charges at its destination airport... during final approach to said airport. The stewardesses had to go down the aisles collecting money from the passengers to pay it.
- In a sense this stellar cluster. It has been expelled from both its home galaxy and the cluster of galaxies where the latter is located and will roam forever across intergalactic space.
Anime and Manga
- The man himself shows up in Franken Fran, his body so far gone that masses of insects have replaced his organs. Because he's an immortal bug-man, Fran & Co. think he might be a Nosferatunote . They figure out who he is after he explains that his condition happened after he "mistreated a certain man" and Fran kindly restores his body and is excited at the fact that she can experiment as much as she likes on an apparent immortal; Veronica is less then thrilled, especially after the Wandering Jew says that he's "very tired and wants to rest". They both get their wish when, just as Fran gives him a clean bill of health, he sees a crucifix and a vision of Jesus and begs for forgiveness. Jesus says something along the lines of "There is always forgiveness." And he dies by 'liquefying''. Veronica notes that he was very glad to see Jesus (he was staying as far from humans as possible and probably never seen a crucifix before) and finally rest. This is one of the few cases of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane that appear in the series.
- Some people in Mushishi have a variation of this: they tend to unconsciously draw mushi to their location, and the only real way to keep it under control is to never stay in any one place for too long. For obvious reasons, most of them become travelling mushi masters. Apart from explaining why Ginko is Walking the Earth, it also serves as a major plot point in the eleventh episode.
- Keel Lorenz, the head of the Government Conspiracy in Neon Genesis Evangelion, has several traits in common with the Wandering Jew; given the timbre of the series, this is pretty much par for the course.
- Considering that the appendix to the manga version pretty much explicitly states that that's the case, Sadamoto clearly intended that, even if Anno didn't. (Anno wasn't involved in the manga version.)
- Kurumi of Presents is cursed to wander the Earth without aging because she didn't receive any presents on her tenth birthday. Until she finally finds her present, she fills the time by giving other people the presents they deserve, or watching what ensues when they receive other presents.
- In J. Michael Straczynski's Midnight Nation comic book, Lazarus, after being resurrected by Christ, found himself without purpose. Finally, Jesus tells Lazarus to await his return, then goes off to the Last Supper. Lazarus, now a wandering homeless man, is still waiting.
David Grey: Jesus Christ!
- In The DCU, one of The Phantom Stranger's purported origins—he has four, and DC will never say which if any of them is the real one—is that he is the Wandering Jew. (The other three also involve him being some kind of Flying Dutchman, but not the Wandering Jew. Clear?)
- The New 52 showed us "The Trinity of Sin", three figures who were cursed to be Wandering Jews: the Phantom Stranger (revealed to be Judas Iscariot himself) who was cursed to "walk the Earth as a stranger to man. As a witness of what greed can do"; the mythological Pandora; and The Question, cursed to "forever question [his] identity and forever search for answers [he will never find]".
- The immortal Hob Gadling in The Sandman was once accused of being the Wandering Jew.
Johanna Constantine: They tell a tale, in these parts of London, that the Devil and the Wandering Jew meet, once in every century, in a tavern. [...]
Morpheus: I am no devil.
Hob: And I'm not Jewish.
- In Alan Moore's one-shot Majestic, set in the Wildstorm Universe, Superman counterpart Mr. Majestic is one of the last surviving beings at the end of the universe along with the Wandering Jew himself, who's lived so long he's forgotten his name, his species, his planet of origin (he DOES remember he and Majestic both spent a while on it, though)...
- Jack from Fables and Jack Of Fables is apparently of the Jack O'Lantern variant, except his deal with the devil will eventually expire—so he needs to find a different version of the devil every few hundred years in order to make a deal for more time.
- The Angels of Dogma have been cast out of heaven and banished to Wisconsin for all of human existence.
- In Dracula 2000, Dracula himself is one. He is Judas Iscariot, and only dies when the heroes discover who he is, and that the rope broke when he tried to kill himself. They hang him and he dies.
- In The Green Mile, Tom Hanks' character faces this for his participation in executing the Magical Negro who is implied to be Jesus. This is a combination of Cursed with Awesome and Blessed with Suck, as while he retains youth beyond his age, he still ends up in a nursing home with all of his friends and loved ones long dead.
- This one is probably a reference to some versions of the legend of Longinus.
- Though it was suggested that he isn't actually immortal. He will die eventually, just at an unusually old age, and long after everyone he knows is gone.
- The Demi Moore vehicle The Seventh Sign features a priest who turns out to be the legendary wandering Roman. He is forced to wander the earth until the second coming, and is thus trying to bring it about.
- He's actually cursed to wander the Earth until the end of days, which will come when there are no more souls to be born. There's a way to replenish the supply of unborn souls, and that is what he wants to prevent. Christ is already back, and is trying to stop him.
- The Man from Earth is about a man, John Oldman, who claims to be 14,000 years old. His Walking the Earth began when his home tribe of cavemen noticed that he didn't age, and believed that he was stealing their life force. The Wandering Jew epithet is particularly ironic, considering that he accidentally became Jesus while trying to spread the teachings of Buddha in Palestine.
- Rory Williams in the Doctor Who 5th series' finale. After he voluntereed to guard the eponymus box containing his girlfriend until it could be opened again, it took almost 2000 years of him wandering the Earth with the box. Although he was technically an Auton copy at the time, the memories of his life as the Last Centurion were somehow "merged" back in the original after the reboot of the universe.
Doctor: Do you ever remember it? Two thousand years, waiting for Amy? The Last Centurion.
Doctor: You're lying.
Rory: Of course I'm lying.
Doctor: Of course you are. Not the sort of thing anyone forgets.
: But I don't remember it all the time. It's like this door in my head. I can keep it shut.
- In The Incredible Hulk, Doctor David Banner is forced to Walk the Earth because he is wanted by the federal government and military, whereas, in the comic, most of the wandering was done by his alter ego leaping from one location to another.
- Dr. Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap. A botched time-travel experiment is the "curse" here. In the last episode, he decides to keep wandering for the rest of his life.
- The Big Bad of the mid-90s adventure show Roar was Longinus, the Roman Centurion who stabbed Jesus with the Spear of Destiny, and who was therefore condemned to remain alive until he could be stabbed by the Spear again.
- Thomas Veil in Nowhere Man. A documentary photographer has his entire life erased by...we don't know, after he takes an incriminating photo, and must evade capture while trying to find out who is responsible. Veil (subtle, that) meets many different people whom he petitions for help, though he's never sure who he can trust, as he tries to stay one step ahead of whoever is pursuing him.
- Lupe Fiasco's character Michael Young History. After being killed, he was denied entry into Heaven for how he lived his life. Since he didn't want to go to Hell, he came back as The Cool, who haunts The Streets.
- The country song "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky," covered by Johnny Cash among others, concerns a cowboy who sees a group of men on horseback chasing a herd of demonic cattle across the horizon. Apparently, cowboys who sin in life are condemned to ride after the Devil's herd unto eternity.
- This song was updated by the Blue Öyster Cult in their track Feel The Thunder. In which a group of impious hell's angels tank up on beer and cocaine and go for a fatal ride on the night of October 31st. Satan judges their souls and condemns them to haunt the California Coast road in perpetuity.
- The folk song M.T.A., (the best known version is by The Kingston Trio) tells the story of Charlie, who boarded a Boston MTA subway and couldn't get off at his stop due to not having the money to pay the exit fare.note
When he got there the conductor told him,
"One more nickel."
Charlie could not get off that train.
Did he ever return,
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearn'd
He may ride forever
'neath the streets of Boston
He's the man who never returned.
- Of course, given that the last verse explains that his wife comes to the station and passes him a bag lunch through the window every day so he doesn't starve, one has to wonder why she doesn't pass him a nickel so he can go home.
- Saxon's "Midas Touch" (from the album Power & the Glory) is about a man who has to fight against evil until the time of armageddon.
- Rush' "Xanadu" (from "A Farewell to Kings") is inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "Kubla Khan"; the protagonist achieves immortality and, well, lives to regret it.
- The Wandering Jew (sometimes instead a Roman) mocked Jesus on the way to the cross and is forced to wander the earth until the second coming.
- Other versions have it as some random guy who was present when Jesus said the second coming would be in the lifetime of at least one of his audience.
- It's also implied that the Wandering Jew is Cain himself.
- In the Mormon tradition, they believe that there are three disciples of Jesus Christ, otherwise known as "The Three Nephites", who were chosen to wander the Earth until his second coming. However, their purpose is benevolent, as there have been folklore about their appearances, helping dozens of people along their journey.
- The Soldier and Death, a Russian folk tale told in the first episode of The Storyteller, ends with the eponymous soldier being unable to enter either heaven or hell, and thus condemned to walking the earth forever. To the story's credit, mentioning this doesn't actually give away anything that makes it interesting.
- In medieval legend, King Herla and his court visited The Fair Folk. He was given many gifts, including a dog, with just one condition — he couldn't touch the earth again until the dog died. Naturally, that never happened. Herla and his court were doomed to spend the rest of eternity on horseback, eternally wandering as The Wild Hunt.
- There is a myth of a man in the southern USA who tricks the devil multiple times so the man doesn't die when he is supposed to. The man thinks that all he has to do is become religious in the extra time, and the devil won't be able to take him anyway. Unfortunately the man blows it each time he tricks the devil and gains more time (he spends all the extra time drinking). When he finally dies, heaven refuses to let him in. Then hell refuses to let him in because the devil doesn't want to put up with him after all the tricks. The man begs a lantern from the devil to let him see his way back to the land of the living, which is supposedly all you can see of him now.
- That's basically the old Irish tale of Jack O'Lantern, whom the cute little Halloween pumpkins (originally turnips) were named for. The tale was used to explain why there are these floating fires in swamps.
- This is similar to the old one-liner, "Heaven won't have him, and Hell is afraid he'd take over."
- Count Saint Germain allegedly discovered the alchemical formula for immortality, and still walks the Earth today. This is presented as a blessing rather than a curse.
- Dionysus, for a bit. Hera curses him with insanity after the death of his lover Ampelus, and he wanders through Egypt and Asia Minor for a bit. Then he gets better, but he keeps wandering around, presumably just for kicks.
- Vampire: The Requiem has the Lancea Sanctum, who revere Longinus as Vampire Jesus. The story goes that Longinus was turned into a vampire when he stabbed Christ's side and the savior's blood dripped onto his lips; after that, he wandered for years until God revealed the purpose of vampires — to harrow humanity back into righteousness.
- And on that note, Vampire: The Masquerade has Caine, who was cursed with vampirism for slaying Abel. He wandered the earth and eventually settled a city of his people... and then God sent the Flood.
- The Changeling: The Lost book Grim Fears: Night Horrors has Jack of the Lantern, who is pretty much a straight retelling of the folk figure of the same name.
- In Promethean: The Created, it is difficult to play a character who isn't a Wandering Jew on account of a curse that all Prometheans share that gradually spoils the land and turns the locals against them.
- The Vistani, a gypsy-like folk from the Ravenloft setting, are unable to reside in one place for more than a few nights without losing their supernatural powers. Averted in the case of the Zarovan tribe, darklings (outcast Vistani), and occasional exceptions like Hyskosa.
- Underneath the Lintel features one character — the Librarian — who receives a book that is 113 years overdue, laying a path through a series of clues and items that eventually lead the audience to believe the mysterious man he has been pursuing is the Wandering Jew of legend.
- Besides the Flying Dutchman, another Wagner character based on the Wandering Jew is Kundry in Parsifal.
- The mysterious Pokémon Trainer AZ. He was once the king of Kalos from 3000 years ago. His immortally was caused by using the ultimate weapon to bring his Floette back to life and to end the war that killed his Floette in the first place, killing thousands in the process. When it found out what its trainer had done, it left him. He had been wandering Kalos searching for it ever since.
- While there are a number of immortals in Lost Odyssey the one who most embodies this trope is Kaim Argonar. For a thousand years, he has wandered the earth with nowhere to go and nowhere to return to. Many of the short stories in the game's "One Thousand Years of Dreams" go into just how tragic this can be. It gets better for him in the end, when he reunites with and is ultimately able to settle down with his (also immortal) wife, Sarah.
- At the end of Tales of Destiny 2, when time is being reset, Judas hypothesizes that he might become one, wandering throughout all of time without a time or place to call home since he'd been revived by the Bigger Bad who'd just been retconned out of time. No official word on whether this happened or whether he was erased from time completely, though the game implies he did somehow survive.
- Embi, a minor character in Girl Genius, swore an oath to his gods when he was young to see the world before he died.
Embi: When I was young and rash, I made a sacred vow to see the world before I died. Frankly, I didn't know how big it was at the time.
- In Zebra Girl, Jack curses vampiric mage Harold DuVase to become a Wandering Jew with a twist:
Jack: He'll move around. Wherever he doesn't want to be... that's always where he'll go.
- This was more of an And I Must Scream, since DuVase is teleported to a series of increasingly worse hells and doesn't actually do much wandering.
- Dresden Codak: Somewhere Niels Bohr walks among us unobserved and immortal.
- In Never Never, the Black Knight's back story is a Roman version of the Wandering Jew.
- In the Whateley Universe, a character named Arturo Mucro Cursor shows up in Merry's stories, and carries with him a business card saying, 'AKA: The Guy Who Nailed Christ To A Tree; Rank: I don’t need no stinkin’ rank... I was there.' Sure enough, he's the Wandering Jew.
- SCP Foundation: SCP-1440 apparently beat Death and his brothers at cards, winning immortality in the process; unfortunately, Death and his brothers hold grudges. SCP-1440 suffers under at least two curses, one that causes increasingly destructive events to happen to humans, or anything connected to them, if he spends long enough around them, and one that forces him to wander the Earth in a complex pattern that inevitably brings him into contact with human populations.
Men Without a Country
Anime and Manga
- Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle and XXX Holic: Syaoran Li and his "progeny" Watanuki are men without/outside the time-space continuum due to a magician creating clones of Li and his girlfriend Sakura that eventually became Li's own parents. When Li left his "home" dimension (where his parents lived) his absence created Watanuki, who subconsciously knew he shouldn't be alive. Eventually they defeated the magician but that didn't resolve the fact that Li and Watanuki shouldn't even exist. In the end, they paid a price to be able to live: Li would dimension-hop until he found a world where he, Sakura, and the clones could live while Watanuki would remain in The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday until Yuuko returned — unlike most of the examples their fates are presented as choices rather then punishments or unfortunate side-effects. At least they'll be able to visit each other/have visitors often, respectively (unlike some interdimentional lovebirds).
- Laurel and Hardy made their last movie in France, with a supporting cast of French actors. The movie has been distributed in English under several titles, including Utopia and Atoll K. One of the characters in the movie is a stateless refugee without a passport, whom no country will accept. When Stan and Ollie start their own nation on an obscure island, they are forced to accept this man as an immigrant because they lack the resources to deport him and there's no country they can deport him too. As the movie ends, he gets eaten by a lion: the fade-out gag in the very last Laurel & Hardy film.
- The Terminal is a Tom Hanks film about a man being detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport because while he was in flight his home country fell to a civil war and effectively ceased to exist. He can't leave the airport to go to New York, and he can't fly home, since his country technically doesn't exist anymore. So he starts living in the airport terminal, making friends with various workers, and developing feelings for a flight attendant named Amelia. Very Loosely Based on a True Story about a guy who was stuck in a French airport for 18 years.
- Edward Everett Hale's short story The Man Without a Country (1863) is probably the earliest version of the modern variant of the trope. In it, a man is exiled from America due to his expressed hatred of it, and is forced to live on U.S. Navy ships for the rest of his life, without ever hearing about his home country.
- At least, not directly. There is one point where, upon receiving some news from another ship, the Captain tells the man "You may now remove Texas from your atlas."
- That said, "The Ship that Never Returned" (because it couldn't pay the docking fees) (1830) straddles the line between this variant and the Flying Dutchman one.
- Later inspired the song "Charlie on the M.T.A"—see below.
- In Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Captain Nemo claims the sea (and a tiny, uncharted island or two) as his only country.
- In the Doctor Who revival, the Doctor has become one of these: his home planet has been destroyed, and, although he tries to be upbeat about it, he's weary of traveling. In fact, given that in a Romani variant, the Wandering Jew is the blacksmith who forged the nails that crucified Christ, and wanders in expiation for his sin, the Doctor fits the trope even better in his later incarnations.
- Slightly subverted in that he was recently able to saves his planet with a Tricked Out Time gambit. However it is in another Universe and if it returned it would restart the Time War, which could destroy the Universe. But, as he said, he now feels like the Doctor again.
- For his crime of starting the Elf Wars, Dr. Weil was locked into a biomechanical suit that made him immortal. He also had his memories converted into data so that he would never forget his crimes. He was then exiled to the wastelands. This turned out to backfire spectacularly.
- Big Boss learned the horrible truth about his country, and never recovered from it (or the execution he carried out on his mentor for said country, which wasn't for peace or even World Domination, but the victorious enslavement of the masses for the benefit of a few). As a result, he spent five years wallowing in regret, found hope in his charisma as a military leader, then spent another five years training an army of professional mercenaries, and even built a nation-state made out of oil rigs and loose parts. Only to lose these a few months later. He rebuilds yet again only to flee to Zanzibar when his successor blows it all to hell. In the end, Outer Haven is just a really good base, but Big Boss is a soldier through and through: Go somewhere, do a job, leave. Nothing else matters, home is the battlefield itself.
- The story that inspired The Terminal, as seen above: Iranian Merhan Karimi Nasseri was stuck in Charles de Gaulle Airport for 18 years after a mugger took the papers proving his refugee status.
- American whistleblower Edward Snowden had his passport revoked, forcing him to wait in the airport in Moscow. His status was in limbo until Russia granted him an asylum.
- This tends to happen to victims of the Slender Man, usually with said victims becoming Runners, people who were forced to leave their home and, well, run from the Slender Man.note It's so common it's an entire category of slenderblogs.
- Parodied in Terry Pratchett's The Unadulterated Cat, in reference to the "Travelling Cat" so beloved of local newspapers (as in "this unlucky cat was rescued from a car's engine compartment, having accidentally hitched a lift...". The book alleges that St. Eric, 4th century Bishop of Smyrna, may have unintentionally cursed a small black-and-white tomcat to an eternity of wandering when he yelled for it to go away after he'd tripped over it.