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Our Ancestors Are Superheroes
"I fell 8,000 feet and landed on some jagged rocks. Of course, people were a lot tougher in those days. I was jitterbuggin' that very night!"

This trope refers to those plots where it is shown that an ancestor, some ancestors of a certain folk or a whole ancient culture possessed superhuman abilities. These abilities may be exaggerated beyond the point of religious belief and break the wall into the superhero genre.

If priests are shown to sport not only rare knowledge in martial arts but also pyrokinesis or the ability to fly, if Richard the Lionhearted suddenly sports Wolverine Claws, or if Hammurabi starts smothering the forces of evil with buzzing laserbeams and the help of his water-controlling sidekick, then congratulations: Your ancestors have just become superheroes.

There are some varieties to this trope:
  1. The Legend becomes more legendary: A single, famous person like a king, general or folk hero is shown with non-historical, superhuman abilities which may or may not be based on the religion at that time. It is important to notice that these superhuman abilities are not the usual wonders as in The Bible, but show a more personal and anachronistic profile.
  2. Some people beyond our time had superpowers and met in secret societies or similar. However, for some reason, those went extinct or went under the radar, so that today their offspring don't know about their heritage or abilities until they realize they've got superpowers. At this point the often meet Mr. Exposition, who shows them their way of handling the powers inside and explain the goals of their ancestors which the offspring is usually intended to pursue.
  3. The other ancestors Precursors not only sported highly advanced technology but also had superpowers which we didn't inherit only because our own ancestors were too busy killing them off. Somehow. Compare Rock Beats Laser.

Compare with: Precursors.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

     Anime / Manga  

  • The superhumanly powerful Headdmasters from Mamoru Nagano's The Five Star Stories are the last remnants of the ancient precursor civilization known as the Farus Di Kanon, or the Super Empire.

     Comics  

  • In DC Comics' title The Great Ten, Thundermind is a character that resembles a kind of Bodhisattva, an enlightened Buddhist with superhuman powers (siddhis) like invisibility, bilocation, super strength, super speed, telekinesis and telepathy. He is the powerhouse of the team. However, although it absolutely contrasts the understanding of an enlightened Buddhist, these powers can be knocked on or off. In reality, Thundermind is a high school teacher who is in love with his colleague Ms. Wu; however, love is something an enlightened Buddhist wouldn't feel, because it's a passion. He also uses a Dixie toilet to change into Thundermind la Clark Kent by a magical incantation.

     Film  

  • The Curse of King Tut's Tomb (2006) shows Tutanchamun sporting golden wings, flighty abilities and some kind of energy powers while fighting against abominable demon-like creatures and a disfigured Seth.
  • Wanted: Wesley is unknowingly descended from a secret society of assassins dating back centuries with innate superhuman powers. An example of type 2 above.

     Live Action TV  

  • Stargate Atlantis not only has Ancient Astronauts, but they also sport non-technological superpowers, like telepathy.
    • Teyla is revealed to be descended from humans who were experimented on by the Wraith, which gave them (and her, and others like her) the ability to sense the presence of Wraith.
      • This ability also allows her to tap into the Wraith psychic network and even temporarily possess a Wraith. Of course, it works both ways.
  • Sanctuary pegs Nikola Tesla as a vampire with electric, and later magnetic, powers, Doctor Watson as a super-human genius, and Jack the Ripper as a teleporting bloodthirsty maniac.
    • Also, humans used to be slaves to an ancient society of vampires before we rebelled and killed them all (Tesla is not a true vampire).
    • And there is, apparently, an entire advanced civilization living in sprawling cities deep underground. The D'ni, perhaps.
  • The Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode The Final Sacrifice has the ancient Xiox civilization, which the cultists are descended from (and which Rowsdower is only a halfbreed descendant of.) Before being cursed by their gods, the Xiox had the power to make floating cities and, if Sartorus is any indication, at least some of them had psychic powers as well.

     Literature  

  • In one of the later My Teacher Is an Alien books, the protagonists learn that all humans were once telepaths. People eventually suppressed this ability because of the growing population - contact with so many other minds would have driven them insane otherwise. This is used to explain, in part, why Humans Are Bastards sometimes, as they evolved to coexist using a means of communication and understanding which they no longer possessed.
  • In Vasiliy Golovachov's The Envoy, the protagonist accidentally becomes a new Envoy after witnessing the assassination of the last one. He occasionally gets glimpses of his ancestors via Genetic Memory, who were ancient Russian knights with nigh-superhuman abilities.

     Myth and Legend 
  • In The Bible the first humans are depicted as living for anywhere from 300 to 900 years, even the ones who didn't have god-given superpowers. Justified in other cases like Samson, or the miracles of the prophets like Moses, Elijah and Jesus. There is implication that humans were originally created immortal with natural abilities that could be considered superhuman but greatly diminished after the Fall and have been further declining over time, healthcare and technology notwithstanding.
  • The idea is not specific to any particular religion. In Dharmic religions (mainly Hinduism and Buddhism), humanity is steadily declining due to loss of virtues. The most noticable decline is the decline of lifespan— what started as hundreds of years long will eventually be as short as a couple years. On the other hand, the decline will eventually be reversed, allowing our distant descendants to be superheroes.
  • Most heroes in epic poetry: Gilgamesh, Achilles, Hercules.
  • Odysseus is actually an aversion; he has no special powers beyond being a really devious and clever man (and knowing how to string a recurve bow; which, again, relies on a trick and not on brute force).
  • Tall Tales from the American oral tradition like Paul Bunyan and John Henry are built on this idea (with a wink and a nod).

     Video Games  

  • While Desmond Miles knows he grew up in an assassin compound, he is shocked to discover the truth about his ancestors. Both Altair and Ezio, for example, have the Eagle Vision ability, which allows them to distinguish friend from foe and even see things that are hidden. Due to the "bleeding effect" of the Animus, he gains that ability as well. The assassins were also master engineers, as they had technology centuries ahead of the rest of humanity. Not to mention the whole First Civilization plotline, which is pure Ancient Astronauts.
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn makes a recurring plot point out of the ancestral Adepts known as Jenei, whereas earlier games in the series pretty much hand-waved Adept-hood as the result of Psynergy Stones. How this affects the Adepts who emerged from non-Adept communities in said previous games isn't shown.
  • In Final Fantasy VII there was the Cetra or later called the Ancients. They were gifted with powerful magic and a high affinity toward the planet and the lifesteam allowing them insights such as if someone has died and rejoined the lifesteam. Sephiroth states that human are decendants of the Cetra, who forsook the migratory ways (and lost the magic powers) of the Cetra and hid in fear (thus surviving) when Jenova was busy wiping out the Cetra who tried to protect the planet from her/it.

     Web Original  

  • He had a pocket full of horses/Fucked the shit out of bears/Threw a knife into heaven/And could kill with a stare/He made love like an eagle/Falling out of the sky/Killed his sensei in a duel/And he never said why!/Oh, Washington! Washington!/Twelve stories high, made of radiation/The present beware, the future beware/He's coming, he's coming, he's coming!


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