She's not just playing possum; she really thinks she is one.
He'd heard about children being reared by wolves. He wondered whether the leader of the pack ever had to sort out something tricky like this. Perhaps he'd have to take him into a quiet clearing somewhere and say, Look, son, you might have wondered why you're not as hairy as everyone else...
Baby is orphaned
. Loving parents find baby
. Parents raise baby as their own
. This is a standard set-up in stories. But sometimes, as the baby grows up, he or she finds out that they're a little... different
from the rest of their family. Really different. Sometimes they notice this, and start angsting
And sometimes, they don't notice anything at all, and are perfectly content with living their lives with their families, no matter how obvious it is that said family isn't their "real" family. This is taken to extreme measures in Funny Animal
cartoons, where the species is very different but the adoptee doesn't notice.
Usually played for laughs rather than straight these days, due to the dying out of the Changeling myth
and parents these days avoiding keeping adoption a secret from their kids. For the "humans raised by animals" version, see Raised by Wolves
. See also No Social Skills
, the inevitable behavioral problems that come with such an adoption, and Happily Adopted
, which is what they tend to be. Compare/contrast Chocolate Baby
, which generally involves something
other than adoption.
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Anime & Manga
- Played straight in season 5, Digimon Savers, in which a boy, Ikuto, is raised by Digimon. He completely fails to notice a lack of digivolving, the whole "gradual growth" thing he has going, the lack of special abilities, the fact that his name doesn't end in "-mon", and the fact that he bleeds. Also, somehow, he talks like Tarzan despite most Digimon being quite well-spoken. The fact that he was raised by a living snowman from quite an early age and really should have frozen to death upon being rocked to sleep one too many times is never even addressed.
- In Digimon Adventure, Izzy was this before the series started, and his parents intended to keep him this way until he'd grown up enough to handle the truth. Unfortunately, Izzy overheard them talking about it one night, which caused him a lot of angst until they were able to sort things out. Trying to keep a secret from any series's Smart Guy doesn't usually work.
- In the manga Hikkatsu! Strike a Blow to Vivify, Momoko was raised by pigeons, a fact she casually mentions (to justify her knowledge of pigeon-style kung fu) but never explains despite repeated requests by other characters.
- In Project ARMS, Ryo, Hayato, and Takeshi were all taken in at birth by agents of the Blue Men organization. Ryo and Hayato don't realize this until the Egrigori come after them. Takeshi accidentally finds out sooner, and goes on an angst-trip until he gets over it and saves his sister from danger. All of them pretty much continue to accept their parents as their own.
- In Rave Master Yuma reveals at the end of the Blue Guardian arc that the baby Hardner's wife was expecting when she died survived the crash that killed their mother. Yuma has been raising Nagisa ever since. He forbids anyone from mentioning this again, particularly to the adopted child.
- In Macross Frontier: Ranka is at first unaware that she's the adopted younger sister of Ozma Lee. When she eventually does find out, there's minimal denial or angst over it, as Ozma has always loved her as though she were his sister. The reasons why she was adopted, on the other hand...
- In John Byrne's retelling of Superman's origin, Martha Kent, who had suffered two miscarriages and a stillbirth, was horrified that anyone would shoot off a rocket with a little baby in it. She claimed to have given birth to Clark, and she and Jonathan preserved the secret throughout his childhood — which, naturally, meant keeping it from Clark. Only when Clark's powers started to emerge did Jonathan confess. In this version of the retelling, they were able to get away with it due to Smallville suffering a blizzard soon after they found Clark that kept them inside for weeks, and due to her previous miscarriages the neighbors bought that she wouldn't have shared news of her latest pregnancy until the kid was actually born.
- Played rather straight in the French comic book Les 5 Mondes de Sylfeline. The human heroine, Sylfeline, is reared by Douniais (basically pudgy gnomes) and believes to be one of them until told the truth on her sixteenth birthday... despite being twice as tall as her adoptive parents (and five-fingered unlike the four-fingered Douniais).
- The French comics Les Psys (The Shrinks) has a couple bring in their kid for help, because though they never told him he's adopted, he got that yelled at him by other kids on the playground and he's been asking himself if he is. Since the parents would rather wait until he's older to tell him, the shrink goes into the consult room and asks the kid why he thinks he's adopted (kid's black, parents are white).
- Similarly spoofed in a strip by French comic book artist Claire Bretécher. A couple tries to explain to their (young adult) children that they were adopted, being apologetic that they've waited so long to tell them. The parents are White; the son is Asian and the daughter is Black, yet both were oblivious. When finally clued in that they're Not Blood Siblings, however, they immediately and happily Get a Room!
- One series of comics involved Garfield being stuck up a tree and encountering a cat who was adopted by squirrels.
- A week of strips in 1982 involved a baby chick thinking Garfield was its "mommy" (and later "daddy" when it was corrected). The last strip has Garfield finally getting the chick to go away. The chick forlornly says "Goodbye, daddy." In the last panel, Garfield sheds a tear.
- The Dog from Footrot Flats was raised in a cats' home, by a cat obsessed old lady, and for many years thought he himself was a cat. He got over it. Similarly, Horse originally thought he was a baby coat.
- One gag in the German comic Nicht Lustig had a penguin mother tell her adopted giraffe son the harsh, yet so very obvious, truth. In the background, a naked human man can be seen thinking, "Wow, poor guy".
- The Ugly Duckling. Though cygnets do resemble ducklings, but with a dull pearly gray color.
- In Empath: The Luckiest Smurf, Empath among the Psyches during his early years, before he found out that he was really a Smurf. He and the other Psyches were led to believing that he was merely a "prototype Psyche".
- Later on in the Gensokyo 20XX series, we seem to have this with Marisa, who, according to Ren, doesn't seem to know or care that she was adopted by two Kitsune.
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- In one episode of NewsRadio, Matthew doesn't figure out that he's adopted until his "identical twin" brother points it out to him. This despite the fact that the two look absolutely nothing alike; Matthew is played by gangly, blond Andy Dick, while his twin brother is played by Jon Stewart. Turns out at the end of the episode that Matthew knew he and his brother weren't really twins, but kept pretending he did so that his brother wouldn't catch that HE was the adopted one (an unseen photo of their parents confirms Matthew is their biological child by nature of a startling resemblance). One wonders why their parents didn't tell them they were fraternal twins. There's also a line suggesting they're not the same age, making it unclear why they were called twins at all. Then again, Matthew's parents could be as strange as he is.
- In Arrested Development, Lindsey Bluth was adopted, and her parents claimed she was Michael's twin sister... in spite of her being three years older than him. Lucille hand waved her going through puberty by simply claiming she was becoming fat.
- Greg's father from Yes Dear spent much of his life without knowing he was adopted.
- Justified on The George Lopez Show — George's family is Hispanic, but since his sister's adoptive parents are Italian the racial issue wasn't glaring enough to clue her into the truth. Apparently she had to "correct" people who thought she was Latina fairly often before finding out it was true, though.
- One episode of 30 Rock had the characters' mothers appearing on the show. Danny (who is white) reveals he has an Asian mother, which someone comments on and thus him realizing he was adopted.
- Inverted in a frightening way in the Doctor Who story "Night Terrors". The Doctor visits a little boy that's scared of everything with a mysterious cupboard giving him off-the-scale readings on his Sonic Screwdriver. When asked about his birth, the father reveals his wife can't have kids. The Doctor reveals the kid is an alien and is using a perception filter to make it seem like they always had him.
- In the Made-for-TV Movie Knight Rider 2010 Jake, the lead character, was adopted at a very young age by a black man. As an adult, the man tells Jake he's not his real father. "I know... I have no sense of rhythm."
- Another Made-for-TV Movie, Based on an Untrue Story, features Morgan Fairchild, who never questions the fact that her parents are Asian and she's a tall blonde up until the minute the plot requires it.
- In NCIS, Abby discovered she had a biological brother named Kyle whom she never met after undergoing a blood-test in order to donate a kidney. She later compared her own DNA to that of a strand of her mother's hair she kept in a locket, and discovered that the two samples didn't match.
I can't imagine the wonderful loving parents that raised me and Luca ever giving up a child. But they would have adopted a child. And they did... me. I'm adopted, Gibbs
- Wizards of Waverly Place: plays with this. First we meet a kid who claims to be the runt of his giant family when he was about the same size as a normal human. Then later it turns out he's adopted. Which he knew, but he'd always assumed he'd been adopted from other giants Despite the fact he was a wizard.
- In Upper Middle Bogan, Margaret kept Bess's adoption from her for over thirty years, and there's no suggestion she would have told her if she hadn't suddenly found out their blood types were incompatible.
- One episode of the Israeli sitcom Shemesh shows Sasi’s parents, who turn out to be very wealthy, educated, and look nothing like him. He discusses with fellow Ditz ‘Ogen the possibility that he might be adopted, and when he finally goes to ask his mother, it turns out they’ve actually told him that he is, several times, only he never bothered to listen. (Of course, that’s just one explanation of Sasi’s origins.)
- In Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, Mallow is first encountered as an oblivious adoptee (he is a Cloudy/Marshmallow being and his family are frogs). His reason for joining the party thus ends up being to search for his birth family. The game does play his obliviousness (and most of the other tadpole's) for laughs.
- Star Ocean: The Second Story is kinda silly about this, as her pointed ears make it kinda obvious Rena is not only adopted, but a different species from the rest of her village. The Town Elder doesn't want to bring it up. The third game justified this in the in-game encyclopedia; because expellians are a hybrid race, they have a much wider variety of physical features than other humans. So while Rena's ears were a bit unusual even by their standards, they didn't actually stand out that much. Also, Rena isn't oblivious to adoption. Everyone only thinks she is. She was, but overheard her adoptive mother and the town elder talking about it after her adoptive dad died. (Mom wants to tell Rena she's adopted, the elder somehow talks her out of it.) By the time the game begins, she's known for a few years. Though she doesn't find out she's a different species until Disc 2.
- In the reboot of the Spyro the Dragon series, the title dragon was adopted by dragonflies. While they do tell him that he's not their biological son, they reassure him that they will always be his "real" family nonetheless. The Oblivious comes from the fact he never figured out he wasn't a dragonfly despite the fact he's many times their size, can't fly (yet), and has legs. He'd never seen a dragon before in his entire life and the dragonflies hadn't either, so there's no way he could've know what he really was, but those should have at least been a clue.
- The Flut Flut in the first Jak and Daxter game very briefly adopts Daxter as its mother, despite being approximately 50 times the little orange rodent's size (they milk one joke out of this, and then it turns into a steed — but never again chirps "Mama" in Daxter's direction).
- Ocarina of Time. Hey, Link, guess what? You're not a Kokiri! Seen to a lesser extent in Twilight Princess, where Link is an orphan living among the Ordon villagers. His long ears give away his Hylian descent (despite Shad insisting he's not from "Hyrule proper"), but the rest of the villagers have human ear shapes, which might imply they come from a different ethnic/racial background in Hyrule. Given how popular and well-liked he is, though, it's clearly a superficial issue at most.
- Parodied in a storyline in Sluggy Freelance. Torg snaps under the stress of his life and becomes "Torgo of the Jungle" (again), and is adopted by a family of centipedes infesting his filing room.
Living in peace behind pieces of furniture, scurrying under old paperwork, Torgo deals with the fact that somehow, he is different. Torg:
Pa? Why don't I have poison glands and two pairs of maxillae? Pa:
'Cause you're a freak. Now put Comedy Central on, it's time for The Daily Show
- Ozy from Ozy and Millie, a fox, knows he's adopted but still sees the Llewellyns (dragons) as his "real" family. However, he does seem to have odd ideas about what normal family activities actually are, given his loopy relatives. And the Llewellyn family curse seems to regard him as one of the family; in fact, he's the only family member it has any noticeable effect on since he's the only "dragon" with fur. Ozy did meet the person who was quite probably his biological father once. Upon learning this, Ozy decided to spend the day with the father who raised him, rather than the father he had never met before (and as far as we know, never saw again).
- Love Me Nice: Carolina was somewhat taken aback to discover that she was a toon. At first, it's not established whether they deliberately didn't tell her because they thought the inevitable conversation would be awkward, or if they assumed she'd take a look in a mirror now and again and figure it out. A later flashback shows Carolina's mother dodging the question of why she had weird ears, and apparently allowing her to believe she was deformed, which strongly suggests the former.
- Rocko's Modern Life has Heffer being surprised he's adopted after Rocko brings it up at a dinner visit to his family. Rocko, at least, found it obvious, as Heffer is a steer and his family are wolves. Who originally raised Heffer so that they could eat him, incidentally. They came to love him and changed their plans, of course.
- On Spongebob Squarepants, Mr. Krabs, a crab, is the proud father of Pearl, a whale. The show treats this as an Elephant in the Living Room/Unusually Uninteresting Sight.
- Done in The Angry Beavers with the (mostly) inanimate character Stump, in the episode "Stump Looks for His Roots". After showing off slides of his family, Norbert points out that Stump must be adopted (or a "transplant", as he puts it), since Stump is an oak, and his parents are elms.
- Ike on South Park is an interesting example: while Ike himself is just a baby, his older brother Kyle was apparently unaware that Ike was really adopted from Canada, though Canadians on South Park are animated differently than Americans. Subverted somewhat in that the viewer couldn't be sure of this, either; this episode is basically what established that rule, though Canadians had been shown animated differently before (on a Show Within a Show, which could have been another explanation for the style difference).
- Growing Up Creepie: It's rather obvious that Creepie knows that she's adopted, since her parents are bugs, although she never talk about it, since she's happy with them.
- An episode of Tom and Jerry had a duckling imprint on Tom and remain oblivious to Tom's attempts to eat him (despite Jerry repeatedly saving him and trying to illustrate the difference between cats and ducks). When the duckling finally figures things out, he decides to let Tom eat him anyway, though of course Tom can't bring himself to do it.
- Buddy from Dinosaur Train is a young Tyrannosaurus rex raised by Pterodactyls.
- Ugly Americans: Lionel, Leonard's apprentice, 'son' and heir to the title of Wizard of Social Services (also a Harry Potter Expy, second in the series), was abandoned at a Chinese restaurant. He speaks English with a British accent, despite being raised by Chinese immigrants. He's also 50 years old despite being a child, physically.
- A cut scene from the Adventure Time episode "The Lich" was going to reveal that Finn didn't realize he was adopted, despite being raised by talking dogs. This may have been cut for pure Fridge Logic: he does specifically know that he's human (it makes him soul-searchy) and "Memories of Boom-Boom Mountain" shows that he apparently remembers his adoptive parents finding him in the woods.
- Cuckoos. This picture◊ shows just how obvious it should be to the chick's new parents. Of course, if the parents catch on and shove the cuckoo chick out of the nest, they get their nest destroyed and their feathery asses kicked by the adult cuckoos of the neighborhood as a warning not to do it again - the "cuckoo mafia" theory.
- Truth in Television for people. Feral children who are raised by animals take up the habits and behaviors of the animals they're raised by, including that animal's attitude towards humans, be it fear or indifference.
- An unusually irritating version. A woman wrote into an advice column, telling about the time when she commented on an Asian baby's adoption by white parents and the parents blew up that she had "given it away."
- Also Truth in Television with animals.
- Dogs have been known to protect fawns, and in one case an orphaned squirrel was adopted by a mother dog and raised among her litter.
- Most dogs will adopt a kitten into their homes quite easily, which can often lead to odd behavior later in the cat's life.
- In one case in South Carolina, a lost dog who didn't even appear to have a litter was rescued as she was nursing a month-old kitten.
- Some domestic cats have adopted baby squirrels and possibly even guinea pigs.
- To say nothing of the tortoise and the baby hippo it adopted.
- A female tiger in a Chinese zoo adopted a litter of piglets.
- Similarly, it's actually not rare for a lioness whose babies have died to adopt a baby antelope... which usually gets killed by the other lions in her pride, unfortunately.
- One informative children's book says that cats before a certain age will not kill things like squirrels. The picture accompanying that statement was so saccharine as to give one diabetes.
- There's even one story from a couple years back of a lioness rescuing an African girl from a group of men who were trying to force her into marriage with one of them, since her cries sounded like those of a lion cub. They found her later being cared for by lions.
- This picture.
- There's an equally Tastes Like Diabetes video on YouTube of a cat adopting a baby rabbit. I suppose that if you have that many kids, you feed anything that meeps.
- Although not precisely adoption, there was a case when a human toddler fell into an animal enclosure at a zoo and was picked up and carried to the exit by a female gorilla.
- Let's not forget imprinting, most easily observed in chickens and waterfowl. The article mentions a group of goslings believing that a pair of wading boots was their mother.
- This Cracked article, Tastes Like Diabetes abound.
- Society finches have been domesticated for centuries and breed very well in captivity, while many other finches will abandon eggs easily in captivity. It's very common to have society finches raise eggs for other types of finch.