"However, the giants of the Sul’at League studied the Gyrderi and found a way to counter the druids—the giants enacted a terrible curse that forever bound them in the wild shapes they were wearing, trapping them and their descendants in the forms of animals."
, "Secrets of Xen'drik, Chapter 3"
A Hereditary Curse is particular type of supernatural curse
, that is passed from parent to offspring, usually until the entire family line(s) die out (and the curse with it) or unless they find some way to break the curse
Usually, it was specifically placed upon the family by someone else, but sometimes it can be the result of Karma
received or Black Magic
performed by an originating family member. In some cases, it can even be the price paid for making a particular vow.
The existence of a Hereditary Curse
usually makes breaking the curse one of the primary motivators for a character carrying that curse. Sometimes the way to break the curse is already known; other times the character must discover it for themselves. Often the character that appears in a work of fiction with the curse is the last surviving member of their family, and therefore the only one that has any hope of breaking the curse. This need not always be the case, however.
Not to be confused with In the Blood
, which is when there is a fear that having evil ancestors might make you evil; It Runs in the Family
, which describes a family of eccentric and sometimes crazy relatives; and Sins of Our Fathers
, which involves any example of a character or group taking revenge on a long dead person's descendants.
. If a curse turns one into a monster, then the first ancestor to suffer it is the Monster Progenitor
. If the curse causes one to die early, it can be a case of Your Days Are Numbered
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Anime and Manga
- The Niwa and Hikari families in D.N.Angel each have a hereditary curse created by what essentially amounts to an magical accident. The Hikari seems to have gotten the worst of it, as their curse creates a Superpowered Evil Side who tends to act without much regard to his "host", causing members of the Hikari family to all die young.
- Fruits Basket has the Sohma family, which is under a curse that changes some members of the family into animals of the Eastern Zodiac when they are hugged by someone of the opposite sex that is not also subject to the curse. It's later revealed that there's another part to the curse: each cursed member finds it impossible to act in any way that isn't subservient to the family member cursed to be the reincarnation of the God of the Zodiac when in their presence.
- In InuYasha, Miroku's family was cursed by Naraku with the Wind Tunnel: a black hole in the palm of the right hand that's passed down through each generation. The Wind Tunnel absorbs everything in front of it unless sealed by enchanted prayer beads, and it's constantly expanding which culminates in it being strong enough to break the seal and consume its bearer and all that surrounds him, just like it has already done with Miroku's father and grandfather. The only way for Miroku to free himself and his descendants from this fate is to kill Naraku.
- Subverted in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, where the fate of Joestar men was to die young to protect the world from evil. Such fates befell both Jonathan Joestar and his father, who died at the hands of Dio Brando, and Joseph's father, who was killed by a vampire. Joseph subverts the curse when he appears to die in an erupting volcano, but managed to survive and recuperated in Italy while everyone thought he was dead. He would go on to live into his 90s. Jotaro Kujo lived to his forties before dying at the hands of Enrico Pucci, along with daughter Jolyne, when Pucci hit the universal Reset Button.
- Penelope has the titular Penelope receive a hundred plus year old curse on her family that their first born daughter would be ugly until she were accepted by "one of her own." This is why her parents went about trying to get her married, but it turns out the curse can be interpreted as "when she accepts herself." As soon as she becomes okay with the idea that she's going to be ugly forever, and it's not a cause for angst, does the curse lift.
- In Practical Magic, all the witches in the family are cursed in that any man they fall in love with is doomed to die an untimely death.
- Teen Wolf's werewolfism is passed down from parent to child. It totally freaks him out because he had no idea; his father didn't tell him because sometimes it skips a generation.
- The curse of the Haddocks in The Adventures of Tintin. Red Rackham curses Sir Francis Haddock with his last breaths, vowing to meet him again in another life. The following generations of the Haddock family are plagued with bad luck until Haddock and Rackham's descendants - Captain Haddock and the villain of the movie - fight it out.
- In Van Helsing the Valerious family is bound by a curse that keeps them from entering into Heaven until Dracula is killed. This is the result of a vow taken by a distant ancestor.
- The titular house of Hurog is cursed. While the curse mentions something from hell, things haven't been running smoothly for the family for quite some time, and the protagonist suspects the curse is already in effect, while his uncle thinks the horse that killed the protagonist's father will bring the curse about. When Ward talks to the person who wrote the curse on the wall of the main hall, it turns out it is more of a prophecy, and has nothing to do with the horse. (Which is given a cutesy name by Ward, and turns out to be a Cool Horse, which was only so wild because it was mistreated by Ward's father.)
- The Dresden Files
- Harley MacFinn in Fool Moon. Allegedly, St. Patrick himself cursed the entire family line to become Loup-Garou (super-werewolves) during the full moon.
- In the side story "Curses", King Gwynn (a Welsh Fey) confirmed that this is the type of curse he personally placed on the Chicago Cubs. He was annoyed that they removed him (in his goat form) from the 1945 World Series for smelling bad, but kept the curse going as part of the tradition of the game. See the Cub's entry below for more.
- The Avatar Trilogy has Kelemvor Lyonsbane, last scion of a family of cursed mercenaries. The curse began when his ancestor betrayed a powerful sorceress and was cursed to never again act purely for profit, or transform into a murderous panther. However, with the birth of his son, the curse reacted to the boy's innocence and reversed itself. From then on, Lyonsbanes could ONLY act on another's behalf out of thoughts of profit.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Lupin is overcome with guilt when his wife becomes pregnant because he's worried that his lyncanthropy might be this.
- HP Lovecraft's The Alchemist has the Charles Le Sorcier utter a curse against his father's murderer, with each person in the bloodline being killed at the age of 32. It is caused by someone living that long and manually ensuring their deaths. The last of the line, Antoine, breaks the curse after careful study about the terms, and exploring the castle that he inherited.
- The plot of Holes is driven by a bad luck curse on Stanley Yelnats' family due to an ancestor cheating a gypsy by accident. Stanley winds up breaking the curse, also by accident, after getting sent to a juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit and saving the life of a friend who turns out to be the Gypsy's descendant.
- In Labyrinths of Echo, the descendants of the Moon Bulls clan are cursed to turn into Extreme Doormats during full moon.
- In Tales of the Frog Princess: Once Upon a Curse, Princess Emma goes back in time in a desperate attempt to break the curse that haunts the females in her family: After they turn sixteen, if they come into contact with a flower, they turn into disagreeable, argumentative, unlovable hags.
- In the titular short story in 'The Bone Key', it's revealed that Booth's mother's family, the Murchisons, have a family curse that will cause their spouses to die young. Any relative affected by the curse, like Booth, will develop white hair by the age of 25. The only way around it is to marry another Murchison, and the family is now dying out due to inbreeding. In a later story, "To Die for Moonlight", one of Booth's relatives tries to arrange a marriage for him with a woman whose family is also cursed, in hopes that the curses might somehow cancel each other out.
- The Thorburn family in Pact has inherited a horrific karmic balance due to the last seven generations of the family practicing diabolism, which serves to tilt the odds against them and subtly influences other people to dislike them on sight.
Live Action TV
- In Jack and The Beanstalk: The Real Story, Jack's family suffers from a curse that kills the sons after exactly 40 years, which is ultimately the result of the original Jack's mother killing the giant, and being cursed to forever watch her descendants die young.
- In the Venezuelan soap Valgame Dios a woman cursed her love rival into choosing the rival's other option, and since then, all the women in the Lopez family are cursed to ever be between a Nice Guy and a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing and inevitably choosing the later. To make the things worse, all the Lopez women are aware of the curse, but that only makes them to hold the Idiot Ball like their newborn baby and muddle their choices and reasonings even more.
- Parodied and subverted in the Colombian soap Cartas de Amor. Cupido's mother convinced her at a short age that all the women in the family are cursed to be inevitably abandoned by any male related to them; and in so guilt-trips the poor kid into crossdressing, presenting herself as male and actively avoiding deep friendship and love relationships. When Cupido becomes a professional love letter writer, her mom doesn't shut up about how both of them are cursed, that Cupido's efforts are in vain, and Cupido will be inevitably dumped if she manages to get a boyfriend at all. Turns out, there is no family curse, just that toxic obsessive neediness is her mother's family hat and men are just the ones who do get out, something that is discovered when Cupido finally manages to track back her Disappeared Dad and he reveals the degree of Evil Matriarchy, Manipulative Bastardry and Wounded Gazelle Gambits he saw and suffered back when he was still tied to his ex-wife.
Religion and Mythology
- Greek Mythology:
- Tantalus prepared his own son Pelops as food for the gods. Not only was he himself punished for this gruesome act (but this is another story...) but also a curse was laid upon the next four generations of his house. How did this curse manifest itself? Let's just say that the House of Atreus (named after Tantalus' grandkid) took being a Dysfunctional Family Up to Eleven.
- The royal House of Thebes was cursed from the very start, due to Hephaestus gifting Harmonia with a cursed necklace during her wedding. Most of her descendants were driven insane, killed in horrible ways, or both.
- Several examples from The Bible, all the way back to the original sin of Adam.
- Mage: The Awakening has the Proximi, magical legacies who have the somewhat limited ability to learn Awakened magic. The downside to this is that each line has its own curse, such as poverty, death at 45, etc. And don't even think about pursuing a Curse Escape Clause - if the curse is broken, then it just rewrites itself into a stricter format.
- In Eberron this happened to the entire race of Gyrderi, who were trapped in their wild shapes when they helped their enslaved kin fight for freedom.
- Some of the noble families in the Ravenloft setting are saddled with these, such as the propensity to madness displayed by the Hiregaard clan in Legacies of the Blood. One of the most powerful spells introduced as part of the setting allows the caster to inflict this trope upon an enemy and their descendents.
- The premise of Ruddigore is based around this trope. One of the baronets of Ruddigore, having persecuted a number of witches, is finally cursed by one. All the heirs of the title are required by the curse to commit one heinous crime per day or die in agony. Apparently, though, the curse doesn't know how to seek out the legitimate heir when he fakes his own death.
- In The King of Fighters, thanks to a blood pact with Orochi, the Yagami clan (formerly the Yasakani) gained more powerful flames—but not without a price. Each heir dies young, while the mother dies during childbirth. In addition, since the clan now has Orochi's blood, this makes them all susceptible to the Riot of the Blood. Iori (the current heir) actually has no care in the world for his family's stigma, although there are hints that Iori is the one destined to finally break the curse.
- In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion's expansion pack Knights of the Nine, there is a man named Kellen in the Chapel of Stendarr who was cursed by something stupid his ancestor did. He's bedridden and can hardly stand from the fatigue caused by the curse. The player is supposed to cure him.
- In the Interactive Fiction game Curses!, the protagonist is trying to find a Tourist Map of Paris in his ancestral home's attic. After reading a few biographies of previous members of the family, it becomes apparent that everyone in the family is cursed to undertake a task and never finish it. Previous tasks include finding a five-leaf clover, finishing the biographies of the family, or finding a legendary river. Your quest? Getting that map.
- In Order of the Stick Eugene Greenhilt makes a Blood Oath to kill Xykon, who had murdered his master. One of the downsides amounts to this, as neither he nor his descendants can get into the afterlife until the oath is fulfilled. Turns out he misunderstood the conditions — when Roy dies, he's allowed in in because, unlike Eugene, he died trying to fulfill the oath to the best of his ability.
- In Achewood, both Pat and his father magically became homosexual due to the curse of Gladdington castle, wherein an ancestor of theirs was cursed such that all of his sons and their sons thereafter would become homosexual at the age of 26.
- His family’s curse, brought down by his great-grandfather, is the MacGuffin that motivates Tiberius Skärva the Fourth throughout The Fourth.
- In The Silver Eye, Melete Dolan, a Nedarian, grants a curse to Bhatair Hollingsworth for saving her from a painful imprisonment. He lets his father, Walter, choose the curse instead. Unfortunately, the curse backlashed and brought their family more trouble. Little is known about it, except that it is most definitely hereditary.
- Techwolf of the Whateley Universe. An amiable gadgeteer genius who, due to a witch's curse on one of his ancestors, looks like a seven foot tall werewolf all the time.
- The Chicago Cubs are supposedly the victims of the "Curse of the Billy Goat." The story goes that in 1945, when the owner of the local Billy Goat Tavern was asked to leave a game because his goat mascot was bothering other patrons, he declared, "Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more." Since then, to this day, the team has not won a National League pennant, and has not won a World Series since 1908. Make of that what you like. Interestingly, many of the Cubs' better players have won (or gone on to win) World Series games with other teams...