Children of superparents get superpowers
"It happened sometimes, though rarely, that a True Being never developed a special gift."
— Children of Magic
... except when they don't
If you're a protagonist, this is no problem, you'll usually become a Badass Normal
or at least an Unfazed Everyman
. But if you're a Mauve Shirt
... you'll probably become this.
This trope is a character who's in on The Masquerade
, and was born into their world. Unfortunately for him, he's normal. No, not Badass Normal
, totally, completely and 100% normal
. He's just as ineffectual in adventuring as any other muggle
, maybe even more, which is why he usually has some grunt-work position in the world of the masquerade, such as a janitor, secretary, or The Igor
. He may be nice-if-pathetic
or mean-spirited, but whatever the case, his bitterness and regret
over not being a super
is a major character trait.
It may ultimately turn out that this person is actually a Power Nullifier
, though this might not be noticed immediately. If this is common in the setting, it may be that characters are completely Randomly Gifted
, so powers aren't always inherited and may spontaneously manifest to children of Muggle
This trope is somewhat Newer Than You Think
, since magic-users traditionally learned/sold their soul for their powers, meaning that a child born of a mage would normally be human.
Contrast Almighty Janitor
, Badass Normal
. Compare Un-Sorcerer
and Unfazed Everyman
. A subversion
of Lamarck Was Right
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Anime and Manga
- Takamichi T. Takahata of Mahou Sensei Negima! was born unable to cast spells, but, as a member of Ala Rubra, is still one of the most powerful fighters of the magic world, in part because he can use the powerful kanka technique.
- Shinji Matou from Fate/stay night. Shinji doesn't have even magic circuits, and is the end result of generations of the Matou family gradually losing their magic abilities with no one quite sure why. And he became a villain because of his envy towards his adopted sister, Sakura, abusing and raping her, just because she is a magus.
- Sairaorg Baal in High School D×D did not inherit any of his parents powers when he was born. So instead, he underwent Training from Hell, something high-class devils do not do, and became so strong he doesn't even need the power of destruction.
- Meiling of Cardcaptor Sakura. It's implied everyone in the Li family has magical powers but her.
- Rock Lee from Naruto was born without the ability to use ninjutsu or genjutsu, the magic of the ninja world. He makes up for it with Training from Hell that makes his taijutsu, physical combat, so powerful he can compete with the most powerful of ninjas.
- In PS238, Tyler Marlocke is the son of two of the world's strongest superheroes, but doesn't have any sort of powers himself. Of course, he's obviously going to develop them any day now, so his parents still enroll him in the titular Superhero School, advising the instructors to put him in lots of difficult and/or dangerous situations to help bring his abilities to the surface. Fortunately, the staff are a bit more Genre Savvy, and arrange for him to have private lessons with the Revenant, a Batman Expy, in the hopes of him becoming a Badass Normal.
- X-Men: Mutant supervillains Mystique and Victor Creed/Sabertooth had a child together, Graydon Creed, who turned out to be a normal human (for those two, must be karma), which is rare for two mutants. He went on to become an anti-mutant extremist out of jealousy and his parents' rejection.
- This can technically happen with any mutant couple, since the probability of passing mutant genes seems to be 50%
- There was Quicksilver and Crystal's child, Luna, who was an Inhuman rather than a mutant. Apparently the mutant gene and the Inhuman genetics canceled each other out and Luna was effectively a normal human until her crazy father exposed her to a rather high amount of Terrigen Mist to empower her — this was extremely risky since Terrigen Mist exposure can have unpleasant effects on anyone who isn't a pure Inhuman (and many who are still end up Blessed with Suck as a result).
- One of the consequences of M-day was that no new mutants would be born, meaning any child born to a mutant couple would be this.
- Joel Kent in the Generations series was exposed to Gold Kryptonite in the womb making him the muggle son of Superman. It doesn't help that his younger sister Kara got to keep her powers. Eventually, Lex Luthor uses his jealousy and an unstable repowering formula as part of a revenge plot against the Man of Steel.
- Wally West's son. He had powers till The Flash Rebirth storyline but was sharing an unstable link with his sister. When it stabilized, it all ended up in her.
- Known as Squibs in Harry Potter. However, unlike Muggle-born wizards who are 100% wizards, Squibs aren't quite 100% Muggle. They seem to share a strange affinity to cats, and Argus Filch works at Hogwarts, which Muggles evidently see as an old ruin with a sign warning of dangernote . So squibs seem to have some inherent magical affinity even if they aren't wizards at all.
- Argus Filch, the Hogwarts Crusty Caretaker (essentially a janitor), is the mean-spirited version of this trope.
- Also Mrs. Figg, who's much more friendly, if still batty and weird. Her job was to keep an eye on Harry.
- Hermione (along with various other characters) is an inversion: a mage born of muggles. Several characters state that this is much more common; once magic emerges in a bloodline, it tends to stick. It's suggested that muggle-born wizards are actually descendants of squibs who married muggles.
- Neville Longbottom isn't a Squib, but his magic took so long to manifest that his relatives feared he was one, so they put him in increasingly scary and dangerous situations hoping to make it manifest. This culminated in his Great-uncle Algie "accidentally" dropping him out of a second-story window. Fortunately, Neville bounced back to safety.
- A large part of the reason Aunt Petunia is so cruel and neglectful towards Harry is because she's jealous over the fact that she was born a muggle, while Lily wasn't, and takes it out on him.
- Of course, Lily and Petunia's parents were both Muggles as well. It somewhat fits this trope, as they always favored Lily according to Aunt Petunia and this was actually increased by the revelation of her magical potential.
- Ron's whole family is magic, except one uncle who's an accountant. They don't talk about him much.
- Quinn Gaither from the Gone series is one of a large number of characters without super powers and shows subtle signs of both hatred and jealousy towards his empowered peers.
- Kyja of Farworld lives in a world where even the cows have magic. Not only does she have none, magic doesn't even work on her. Later on it's revealed that she was born on Earth from ordinary parents and was switched at birth with a boy from Farworld who actually does have magic.
- In World Weavers, Thea is the seventh child of two seventh children...and she doesn't have any of the normal magics. (She gets a cool power later, but it's not magic.) At one point, it says that children around the country send her mail — when she's just days old — about how powerful she is... sucks to be her.
- Granta Omega from the Star Wars Expanded Universe is the normal son of Xanatos, a former Jedi. However, while he isn't Force-sensitive, he does have the ability to slip past any being's senses, even a Jedi's.
- Emperor Palpatine has a powerless, illegitimate son. While Palpatine was disappointed, he decided to let him live because his son has night terrors in which he screams out horrifying things. The descriptions are used as inspirations for The Empire's war machines and torture devices, meaning that Palpatine literally figured out how to weaponize terror.
- The fundamental problem of Tavi in Codex Alera. He lives in a world where every human has access to elemental spirits known as "furies" that give them various powers. Tavi, however, is the only human who doesn't have these abilities, and they cause him extensive problems, forcing him to think and adapt rather than use magic. To give you some idea of how much of a handicap this is, Tavi effectively can't even turn on the lights on his own. Eventually, he learns the cause of his condition: his biological mother stunted his growth to hide his true age and thus his true lineage, and as a result he did not gain access to his furies at the same age as other humans. Once he does, however, things change.
- In Once a Witch, Tamsin was born to witches but has no powers. Subverted because it turns out her power is that she can take others' powers and stop them from using it against them. Double subverted in the sequel Always a Witch because she loses her powers.
- Joram, protagonist of The Darksword Trilogy, was born "Dead," without Magic in a world where Magic is Life. While "Dead" people crop up occasionally in each generation, they all have a small amount of magical ability. Joram is the only person in the world with none at all.
- This is the norm for the Others in the Watch books by Sergey Lukyanenko. It's extremely rare for a child of two Others to be an Other (about the same chances as an Other being born to Muggle parents), which is why many Other couples avoid having children, so as not to have to watch them grow old and die. The exceptions are the vampires and the werewolves, who usually turn their children at a young age. Kostya Saushkin is notable as being a vampire who resents his father for turning him. One of the novels has a story arc dealing with a plot by Geser and Olga to turn their Muggle son into an Other. Anton and Svetlana are exceptions in that they were foreseen to have a child who was an extremely-powerful Other (Svetlana is already a very powerful Light sorceress; Anton reaches Svetlana's level thanks to the Fuaran text).
- Bink, protagonist of A Spell for Chameleon, the first book in the Xanth series, is thought to be this when he shows no magic talent in a land where everyone must have a magic talent by law; he is set to be exiled. Subverted - it turns out that he did have a magic talent all along, and a Magician-caliber one at that: he cannot be harmed by magic. And in Xanth, most of everything is magic.
- Played with in The Raven Cycle. Blue is the only non-psychic in her large household, but does have the ability to amplify others' own power with her presence. She has psychic energy, just not the powers.
- Carrie Vaughn's book After The Golden Age features Celia West, the daughter of two famous superheroes, who has no superpowers at all. This is also brought up at the end when Celia and Arthur Mentis, a telepath, have a baby and Celia is wondering if the baby will have powers or not and hopes it does not.
- This is something very common in the world of Skulduggery Pleasant. Most of the main character, Stephanie/Valkyrie's family are normal humans despite (unknowingly) being descendants of a powerful line of mages. This trope also comes to its ultimate conclusion in the third book, The Faceless Ones, where The Big Bad is revealed to be a farmer who was the only Muggle in a family of mages, and grew to resent all mages for looking down on him.
- Very common in The Sword of Truth series (there was a major magic disruption a few thousand years ago). Commonly called "skips"; whether Rowling's later use of a similar term is accidental is unknown.
- In The Lost Years of Merlin, it's mentioned that magic generally skips a generation; Merlin's grandfather, Tuatha, was a wizard, but his father only had powers when he wielded magical items and made a Deal with the Devil. In the Sequel Series, The Great Tree Of Avalon, Merlin's own son was powerless but his grandson has magic. As another odd quirk, non-magical generations still benefit from centuries-long life spans.
- Gaithim of The Quest of the Unaligned is this, and was abused, denigrated, and locked away for it. However, he was also extremely intelligent, and ended up learning how to turn himself into a mage, something believed to be as impossible in that world as in ours. Unfortunately, the process he used turned him into a hoshek, an Ax-Crazy but very powerful mage of pure darkess.]]
- In the Lunar Chronicles, "shells" are Lunars born without the ability to manipulate bioelectricity, essentially making them human but immune to Lunar glamour and mind tricks. This means high-ranking Lunars don't want them around and want them reported and killed immediately.
- Subverted in the Gentleman Bastard series. The Bondsmagi of Karthain are a society of sorcerers who have been around for ages, but as we learn in the third book, there have only been about five children of Bondsmagi in the past three centuries or so who actually had magic. (The main character asks what happened to the non-magical children, and is indignantly told that they're raised with love, not sacrificed for power or anything like that.)
- The Gates of Sleep: Arachne Chamberten was born without Elemental magic, to parents who were both Elemental mages (and implied to be from long lines of mages). Unfortunately for her parents and mage-born brother, she found out that you don't need inborn mage-talents to use Black Magic.
Live Action TV
- Nathan Petrelli from Heroes is the only member of his immediate family who was born without powers. His parents injected him with Super Serum to make up for this "deficiency".
- Arguably Teen Wolf. It's mentioned that some of the members of Derek's family who died in the fire were human, despite the Hales primarily being a family of werewolves. Most fans have taken this to mean that not every child with werewolf parents inherit the werewolf gene, even though Derek and his sisters did.
- Of course, there's also the possibly of other relatives' marriage with non-werewolves if the residents extended beyond the nuclear family. Or rented rooms, since it is a VERY large house.
- Confirmed to be this trope as of 4x06 "Orphaned."
- In True Blood, Jason Stackhouse did not inherit any powers from his faerie ancestors like the rest of his family did. He can't even use portals that people with faerie blood can activate. He goes into I Just Want to Be Special moments at times.
- Henry Mills from Once Upon a Time. His mother Emma is "The Saviour" who is meant to break the curse (and eventually develops some magical powers of her own). His adoptive mother/step-great-grandmother Regina is one of the most powerful magic users of the series. His father, Neal, is seen to be able to use magic in season 3, but doesn't like it. And then there's Snow and Charming, his grandparents, who might not have magical powers but are still Badass Normal.
- And that's not even getting into his paternal grandfather.
- He doesn't seem to mind his lack of powers, but that's probably because he's still eleven years old.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Inverted by Tara: she's a witch from a family of pure muggles who despise for her practice of magics (and for being a female, in the case of her father and brother).
- Wood's mother was a Slayer. Although he has no powers himself, he's still a damn good fighter.
- In Lost Girl, only people with two Fae parents get Fae powers. Those who are half-human and half-Fae are indistinguishable from normal humans.
- Lon Suder, the murderous crew member of Star Trek: Voyager, was a Betazoid born without telepathic and empathic powers.
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Kinfolk are humans or wolves with werewolf blood, immunity to the Delirium, at least loose connections to werewolf society, and nothing else. No shapeshifting and only low-level Gifts for you, sorry! Also, you're a huge disappointment to your werewolf relatives— useful only as breeding stock and the driver of the getaway car.
- The New World of Darkness's Werewolf: The Forsaken has the functionally wolf-blooded who get at least a little more respect than their spiritual ancestors. One of the splatbooks gave them their own share of abilities.
- Forsaken-style werewolves are a mix of a spirit and a human from birth, with the spirit heritage reproducing in a spirit-fashion separate from the human genetics. Two werewolves cannot produce viable offspring because there's too much of the spirit side of the inheritance, and the children of a werewolf and a human don't have any greater chance of going wolf than a muggle. Wolf-blooded are actually the greatest treasure of the werewolves, because they're the only people in the setting with a measurably greater probability of producing viable werewolf offspring.
- Mage: The Awakening has Proximi, who are dynastic hereditary Sleepwalkers: Sleepers who do not have the supernal power of mages, but can witness it without the threat of Paradox. A Proximus, unlike a normal Sleepwalker, is born into an established family of mages and other Proximi, and can use limited supernal magic. Mages also believe Proximi are more likely to Awaken than other Sleepers.
- In the Exalted setting, only the Terrestrial Exalted's powers are hereditary; the children of other Exalted are plain mortals unless their Exalted parent has a high Essence rating, then they can be Half Caste. During the Golden Age (when the Solars ruled) the offspring of Solars were called "Golden Children"; born into status, wealth and privilege, but with none of the powers their parents wielded.
- This also happens to the aforementioned Terrestrials; Dragon-Blooded breeding is, in general, not what it used to be. It is common enough for children of Terrestrial parents to fail to Exalt, which typically brings down a good degree of shame and disapproval on their heads. However, such a mortal STILL carries the blood of the Dragons in him, unexpressed though it may be, and thus there is a chance—increased if he himself ends up with a Terrestrial spouse—that HIS children may yet Exalt.
- Florian Greenheart in Overlord II was the only Elf who couldn't use magic. The disaster that sparked Fantastic Racism against all magical beings was triggered by his first attempt to fix this, and the magic hating Glorious Empire he founded is his second attempt.
- In the Dragon Age series:
- The Dalish Warden in Dragon Age: Origins has no magical talents, but their father was the Keeper of the Sabrae Clan before Marethari.
- Carver Hawke from Dragon Age II, one of Hawke's two siblings who become mutually exclusive early on depending on player class. He only lives past the opening if Hawke is a mage, in which case both his elder sibling and his twin sister were born with magic. This meant the family had to move frequently to avoid the Templars and father had to spend more time with his siblings to teach them to control their powers. His resulting insecurities are a big part of his story arc. Depending on your choices, he may even end up joining Kirkwall's Templar Order out of a mix of resentment and a desire to be "more than just your brother." The tragic irony is that Malcolm Hawke wanted all of his children to be one of these.
- The Amell family could be considered this, since the line seems to blur between whether they're a family that produces an unlikely amount of Mages, or just a family of Mages with quite a few non-magic children. It's mentioned that despite their best efforts to breed magic out of their family line to retain their noble high standing in Kirkwall, it always managed to find its way back in.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, Jedi Grandmaster Satele Shan's son Theron is not Force-sensitive. Virtually all Sith Purebloods are Force-sensitive because those who are not are traditionally slain as infants.
- This doesn't mean that Theron is in any way less of a Bad Ass than his mom... or his dad (Jace Malcolm, the Supreme Commander of the Republic forces).
- The main character in Black Sigil seems to fall under this initially.
- In Golden Sun: The Lost Age, being a non-Adept in a family full of Mars Adepts doesn't seem to bother Briggs a bit. He is a Badass Normal, but he's also not above just getting his Adept relatives to do things for him. In Dark Dawn, he's also shown to have a better awareness of Psynergy than most non-Adepts, and is one of the few who recognizes it in action, giving him a certain degree of Genre Savvy in dealing with Adepts.
- The main character in the Awakening series, Princess Sophia, was the only human born without magic. She eventually managed to defeat the villain because of this limitation rather than despite it.
- In The Sims 3 Supernatural expansion, Joe is this in the MacDuff family. Only he and his mother are not witches. However this is not possible if both parents are supernatural creatures.
- In The Sims 2, supernatural sims who can breed will produce normal sim offspring, making this trope the norm. The exceptions are aliens, who have a set of genetics that will hybridize with normal sim genes, and plant-sims who use the "pollinate" option to asexually produce plant-sim toddlers (plant-sims that "woo-hoo" will have normal sim offspring).
- The Dark Knight in Harry Potter Comics is a squib and can't use wands or magic on his own. But he's highly practiced as a magical artificer, welding magic into everyday objects, including his own battle armor (kevlar-lined full plate) that makes him highly resistant to bullets, swords, AND magic attacks.
- Battlefield Babysitter features Kat, whose parents and brothers all have superpowers. She has... pink hair. She also has experience in ballet, gymnastics and karate from when her parents tried to prepare her for potential powers. She also has the experience of being around other heroes so that she is uniquely qualified to babysit for other heroes superpowered kids.
- Atomic Laundromat owner David is actually an aversion. He may be the son of an alien empress and Earth's greatest super hero and the only one of his siblings without powers, but he firmly believes that one doesn't need powers to make a difference in the world so he's not the least bit bitter about it. Nor is he pathetic. If anything, he's frustrated that most people seem to expect him to be bitter or pathetic.
- El Goonish Shive: Although he states he can't really complain considering what he does have access to, Tedd is one of these. Although in the setting, nearly everyone is born without magical ability and has to earn it or be empowered by an immortal, some people - like Tedd - are "magically impaired", and can never get their own spells.
- Zoophobia: Despite Sahara's unrelenting interest in magic, she hopelessly lacks her family's magical ability. Of course, this leads to many undesired mishaps.
- On Sabrina: The Animated Series, Tim the Witch-Smeller was one of these — worse, he was apparently unique, so he grew up mocked and tormented by his empowered peers. The result — a psychopathic hunter with a grudge against witches.
- In American Dragon Jake Long, the dragon powers "skipped" Jake's mother's generation. Her father, son, and daughter can all transform into dragons, but she can't.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Both parents of swordmaster Piandao were firebenders. When they found out he has no bending powers they gave him to the orphanage. Katara herself is an inversion, being the waterbending offspring of two muggle parents.
- From sequel series The Legend of Korra, Aang and Katara had one non-bending offspring, Bumi. He has a major chip on his shoulder, particularly toward his younger brother. Until season three when he, and many other Muggles, spontaneously develops Airbending due to the Harmonic Convergence.