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Passing the Torch
"Take up our quarrel with the foe: The Hero
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high."
wishes to leave the business. Perhaps the thrill
is gone. Perhaps he wants to settle down and marry more
than he wants to adventure. Perhaps he knows that age or injury has slowed him down too much; he can not do the job anymore.
But the job has to be done. It's time to pick a new leader
, therefore, formally hands the work over to someone else who can do the job. Perhaps a sidekick promotion
or a former apprentice
. A Legacy Character
may involve this.
Usually, the immediate
problem is gone, and the hero is leaving on a high note, but both he and his successor are aware that the problem or that type of problem will happen again; he has not fixed the world.
If the hero wants to leave, this can form a Happy Ending
. The less he wants it, the more a Bitter Sweet Ending
Differs from Take Up My Sword
in that the hero is still around and may be up to the role of Old Master
. If the hero dies very quickly afterward, it can overlap with Take Up My Sword
. However, it usually happens in the beginning or middle of a story; Passing the Torch
is usually an Ending Trope
. The only time it can happen at the beginning is if he were the hero in the backstory and in the main story is already the Mentor Archetype
May be physically embodied in an object that the retiring hero gives the new one
Opposite of 10-Minute Retirement
and He's Back
to Changing of the Guard
, where the role of main character changes. A story can describe Passing the Torch
between two characters neither of whom is in series, and the main character can change without any handing on of the role. But overlap is extensive.
See also Spinoff Sendoff
, a way of "passing the baton" from one series to another.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Simon gives his Core Drill to Gimmy in the final episode.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX starts with this happening; the series' finale suggests there may be a Stable Time Loop involved.
- Layla passes on her starring role at Kaleido Stage to Sora at the end of the first season of Kaleido Star (even though Sora remains the main character), having to drop out of the Stage after a shoulder injury sustained during intensive training for their Legendary Great Maneuver required surgery and made her unable to perform.
- Fujiwara no Sai in Hikaru no Go disappears a baffling fifteen episodes before the end of the series, appearing only once more, in Hikaru's dream in the last episode. From inner monologues in previous episodes, we can assume that he's letting Hikaru take his place in the search for the Divine Move. He never does speak, but, in a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, he hands Hikaru his fan.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure could be the best manga example of this trope, having featured no less than five starring heroes. Sometimes the previous one retires himself, but it's more frequent that they just give up the lead and turn into the Lancer, or so. Kujo Jotaro has done this twice before dying. Poor cool boy.
- In Naruto: Shippuden, there is (was) an entire theme that the world had to be passed on to the younger generation. At least, until several older ninja showed up with uber-ninja-techniques.
- According to bonus material included with the DVDs of GaoGaiGar FINAL Grand Glorious Gathering, this would have happened after GaoGaiGar FINAL had the sequel series ("Project Z") not been canceled. With Guy and 3G apparently dead, Mamoru and Kaidou would've taken up the roles as lead heroes and Super Robot pilots at the helm of a new Earth-made robot called GaoGaiGo. While what exactly they were supposed to be piloting it against isn't clear, promotional pictures hint at an odd twist to the trope, namely one image that shows Genesic GaoGaiGar coming out of the sun, with an added implication that it may have been the villain of the series.
- In Strike Witches, Mio reveals that this is her ultimate goal in regards to Yoshika.
- Which bombs when both Mio and Yoshika appear to lose their powers by the end of the second season. But Yoshika's powers return in the Movie, so it might work out.
- Son Goku passes the torch to his son Gohan in the Cell-arc of Dragon Ball Z. However, due to fan demand, Goku was brought back into the spotlight. Also, earlier in Dragon Ball, Master Roshi (Or rather, Jackie Chun) passed the torch onto the younger generation, including Goku and Tenshinhan.
- He also states the intention of doing it to Uub in the very end of the manga. The anime-only sequel mostly ignored it.
- After their high school graduation, the four original girls of the Light Music Club in K-On! pass the torch to Azusa and her new band members, Ui and Jun, by running away laughing while the three new girls play "Fuwa Fuwa Time" in the background. The original four likely face a happy future since they have been accepted at the same prestigious women's university, but it still feels slightly bittersweet.
- Eye Shield 21. Hiruma, Kurita, and the other second-years graduate. Hiruma, as team captain, passes leadership onto Sena, who leads the team a successful season the next year.
- In the finale of Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin who is now married to Kaoru with a child and is unable to perform Hiten Mitsurugi Ryuu, passes his sakabato onto an older and wiser Yahiko.
- Bleach displays an interesting take on this trope. Ichigo is the main character set up from the start to take out Aizen. Simple enough, except it turns out that some characters have a very different view of how the story should be, or is, unfolding. It's only at the end of Gin's life that we ever see the situation with Aizen from his point-of-view and it turns out his interpretation of the story was a little different to everyone else's. He believed he was the only one who was capable or even allowed to defeat Aizen and spent over a century plotting it. When he realised just how successfully Aizen had broken Ichigo's self-belief and resolve, he was even more convinced only he could defeat Aizen. Unfortunately for him, his revenge was part of Aizen's plan so he fails. As Aizen leaves him for dead, he spots the newly arrived and powered-up Ichigo. Upon seeing the strength in Ichigo's eyes, he realises that he is finally free to pass the torch (for defeating Aizen) onto Ichigo and dies. Gin was never the hero of 'Bleach', or even a good guy, but apparently inside his own head he was, and Ichigo was his successor.
- While it doesn't happen to the main characters, in Pokémon Ash's former Lapras becomes leader of its herd in the episode where Ash reunites with it.
- Subverted in Fairy Tail — Makarov wants to pass on leadership of the guild to Gildarts after quite a bit of setup, but he decrees in a letter that Makarov is now the new master.
- Code Geass: Lelouch passes on Zero's helmet to Suzaku in the finale episode so that Suzaku can carry on as a 'knight of justice'
- This is the Central Theme in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S: even though the title character has no plans of retiring yet, she recognizes the need to train a new generation of worthy successors to herself and other Aces preemptively and devotes most of the season to just that (in-between fighting the new villains, adopting/saving her daughter, etc.). As later seasons show, she did a damn good job, too: her two star students go on to become celebrities in their own right, and her favorite even takes a student of her own (though it doesn't work out with her for unrelated reasons).
- In Astro City, the hero Jack-in-the-Box learns that his wife is pregnant, and various possible sons appear from the future. His death as a superhero had harmed them all. He passes the torch to another young man, without his familial responsibilities.
- In Justice Society of America, Hourman's son took up the mantle after his father's death. When time-travel allows the father to be saved, the son offers to hand back the role; the father refuses it, because he wishes to retire and make his wife happy.
- In Watchmen, the first Nite Owl handed off the heroship to a fan of vigilantes and nocturnal fowl, and retires to be a mechanic and neighborhood old guy. Until his head is bashed in by a mob of punks for being thought to be related to the controversial Badass Normal and Well-Intentioned Extremist Rorschach, that is.
- Variation in Batman: Jason became Robin because Batman willed it so, without it having anything to do with Nightwing (Robin I), but in some versions Jason's place was confirmed when Dick gave Jason his old Robin uniform, recognizing him as Robin.
- According to Marv Wolfman, around the time Jason Todd was introduced, one of the Batman writers wanted to de-age Dick Grayson and return him to being Batman's sidekick. As writer on Teen Titans, DC's hottest property at the time, Wolfman wielded a lot of power, and suggested that instead, Dick Grayson could move on to a new identity and a new Robin could be introduced as a publicity stunt (since that sort of thing had never really happened before).
- Dick also does this with Tim, although the gift comes years after Tim became Robin and Dick started thinking of him as his little brother. Tim is nevertheless quite moved by the gesture.
- It actually happened a lot sooner. After Jason's death (which SERIOUSLY messed up Bruce's head) Tim even tried to convice Dick to come back to the role in an effort to keep Batman from becomming too dark and possibly crossing the line. Dick refused and basically told him "Why don't you do it?"
- When Cassandra Cain becomes Batgirl, Barbara Gordon/Oracle, who was the original Batgirl, is the one to give her the costume, though Cass doesn't wear it.
- The passing of torch between Barbara and Cass serves as a contrast with the previous time a new Batgirl had appeared, a few months earlier; Barbara discovered there'd been a new Batgirl and Batman had not so much told her about it.
[to Batman]: How could you do this to me! There's a woman out there with my legs
, my identity, my job!
- Babs also gives a new Batgirl costume based on hers to Stephanie Brown.
- Donna Troy, the first Wonder Girl, gave her costume to Cassie Sandsmark, who at the time was fighting crime in a Wonder Woman T-shirt and denims. However, Cassie was so overwhelmed she never wore it in case it got damaged.
- Doctor Strange inherited the title of Sorcerer Supreme from the Ancient One, and he in turn passed it on to Brother Voodoo. After Voodoo was killed in a Heroic Sacrifice, the office sat vacant for a while before the Ancient One appeared to Strange and gave his title back to him.
- Captain America has done this (willingly) twice. The first was, after his return from seeming death after Civil War, he allowed Bucky Barnes to keep going as Captain America, which lasted until Fear Itself. The second one had him pass the title to Sam Wilson, the Falcon, after he loses his Super Soldier Serum, reverting him to an old man.
- A more somber version happens in Zero Hour. After Extant runs roughshod on the Justice Society, deaging and killing many, the active survivors retire, with the Alan Scott Green Lantern giving Kyle Rayner his ring (which is lost and destroyed an issue later) and Starman giving his Cosmic Rod to his eldest son. Superman realizes there that things aren't the same now...
- Ultimate Spider-Man did this a little more properly: When Peter Parker came Back from the Dead, he was not thrilled at Miles Morales being Spider-Man. However, after the two finally put an end to the menace of the Green Goblin, Peter decides to fully retire and gives Miles his blessing.
- The Legend of Spyro fanfic Passing The Torch has this as it's basic plot. An elderly Spyro meets with the next Purple Dragon, Asuka, when she turns twelve years old. He then informs her of what she really is and what is expected of her, helping her accept the responsibility that comes with it. It turns out waiting to do this was the only thing keeping him alive, and he finally lets his body give out and die now that he's passed his role on.
- The Superjail! fanfic Extended Stay ends with this. Now that the Warden and the Mistress have successfully conquered the world, they leave their twins Matilda and Ethan, who have come of age at twenty years old, with the responsibility of running Ultraprison and Superjail respectively. Meanwhile, the long-time married duo move into the White House with their other son Edward.
Film - Animated
- In Epic the life of the forest has to do this every hundred years. The film opens on the very day Queen Tara is to choose her heir.
- The end of Disney's Tarzan.
- Toy Story 3 ends with Andy giving all of his toys to the young Bonnie, daughter to a friend of his mom's, before he goes off to college.
- In An American Tail: Fievel Goest West, it's implied that law dog Wylie Burp trained Tiger to be his replacement. As he says at the end; "Just remember Fievel, one man's sunset is another man's dawn."
Film - Live Action
- In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, at the beginning, Quartermain is able to shoot one of their enemies; at the end, he must instead coach Sawyer through it. He explicitly acknowledges that he is passing the torch.
- In The Dark Knight, Batman wishes to retire and thinks he can pass the mantle of protecting Gotham to Harvey Dent. Bruce explicitly tells Alfred he really likes Dent because he's a much better hero.
- At the end of The Dark Knight Rises, Batman retires by faking his death, but leaves instructions for Officer Robin John Blake to find the Batcave, making him the new Batman.
- Subverted in the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In the film's final scene, Mutt Williams (AKA Henry Jones III) picks up Indy's hat and goes to put it on, only for Indy to snatch it back and put it on himself.
- At the end of The Princess Bride, it's implied that Westley will pass on the role of 'Dread Pirate Roberts' to Inigo Montoya.
- Captain Kirk's final log entry in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country states that with this last mission, the Enterprises history and posterity will be passed on to a new generation, also correcting himself when giving the famous intro speech, talking about where no man - where no one - has gone before.
- This happens at the end of the new Star Trek when Pike formally hands over command to Kirk.
- A variation occurs in Star Trek: Generations when Picard watches Kirk die. Fans described this as the passing of the torch to the Next Generation.
- At the end of Hook, Peter chooses one of the Lost Boys to be the new leader.
- At the end of Men In Black, Agent Kay gives Agent Jay the neuralyzer to use on him because he wants to retire from the MIB. Earlier, he told Jay he would let him have it "When he grew up."
- Twice in The Godfather trilogy, a new Don raises when the aged one steps down as head of the family and delegates the power while still councils around. Not an actual hero succession though, but a Villain Protagonist one.
- An alternate ending to The Legend Of Zorro takes place a number of years later, when Alejandro and Eléna's son Joaquin is grown up. The gray-haired parents watch with pride as Joaquin puts on the Zorro costume and rides off into the sunset. According to Word of God, this was changed to Zorro himself putting on the costume in order to allow for more sequels with the same actors.
- The whole point of The Mask of Zorro, of which The Legend of Zorro is a sequel, is the training of Alejandro by Eléna's father Diego to be the next Zorro.
- In the Ghost Rider film there's a passing of the torch moment between Ghost Rider and his wild-west era predecessor, the Phantom Rider.
- The "torch" in question is a shotgun.
- In Galaxy of Terror, the Master of the Pyramid allows himself to be killed by the protagonist, so he can succeed him.
- The film Starsky & Hutch ends with the original actors handing over their car to their rebooted versions.
- Before Power Rangers began replacing the entire cast wholesale every season like its source material, it tended to do this with a few people at a time every so often as cast members got tired of the strict filming schedules, low pay, and career pigeonholing. In fact, the episodes in season 5 where this happened were actually named "Passing the Torch" pt. 1 and 2.
- Super Sentai started this tradition with 2004's Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger; after each Series Finale we get a brief scene of the outgoing Red Ranger shaking hands with, saluting, or otherwise acknowledging his successor before walking off into the metaphorical sunset.
- The whole "Island protector" thing on LOST - first Jacob (preceded by his "mother"), then Jack and Hurley.
- For extra Fridge Brilliance watch the scene between Jack and Jacob in "What They Died For" and the scene in "Everybody Loves Hugo" which is accompanied by the Passing the Torch soundtrack piece. And pay attention to who is holding the torches - both scenes take place at night.
- Almost a Real Life example (perhaps even meta): In an episode of Smallville, the great Christopher Reeve guest stars as a scholar helping the young Man of Steel (Tom Welling) learn his destiny.
- Meta example: Dirk Benedict, who played Starbuck in the original Battlestar Galactica passed the cigar to Katee Sackhoff, who played Starbuck in the reboot. Said passing was done while the two Starbucks were each having a Starbuck's at Starbuck's.
- In the first episode of Knightrider, Michael Long is given the Knight Industries Two Thousand (better known as KITT) and a mission to protect innocent people from criminals "above the law" by the dying philanthropist Wilton Knight.
- In the last episode of Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, Gannicus earns his freedom from being a gladiator. Before he leaves, he gives Crixus his necklace and declares him the new Champion of Capua.
- In the 1971 TV movie "Dr. Cook's Garden" a young doctor returns to his hometown and slowly begins to realize that the older doctor (Bing Crosby) he idolizes is making the town perfect by killing his patients who are bad people. At the end the older doctor tries and fails to kill the younger doctor and succumbs to a heart attack. He begs for help, but the younger doctor holds back because he thinks it's better for the old man to die with his reputation intact rather than being charged as a serial killer. The old doctor's last words to the young man were "That's how it starts."
- In the sixth season finale of Psych, Shawn's dad retires from policing (again), disillusioned by the latest case, and hands Shawn his pocket knife.
- In the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special The Day of the Doctor, The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) meets the Curator of the National Gallery played by Tom Baker.
- Older Than Feudalism: In The Bible, Elijah passed on his powers to his understudy Elisha by literally passing the mantle to him after being taken up into the sky by flaming horses sent by God.
- Similarly, Jesus passes the torch to his disciples after raising from the dead, but before ascending into Heaven. The disciples, who have up to this point been mostly incompetent, pull it together and kick-start the early church in a powerful way.
- And even before either of those, Moses put Joshua in charge of leading the people of Israel when he was allowed to go no further.
- Harry Potter And The Halfblood Prince, BIG time, with Dumbledore explaining to Harry about Voldemort's Horcruxes, and including him in the mission to find and destroy them. After Dumbledore's death, Harry and his friends take up the task. Later, in Deathly Hallows, Harry clues in Neville to take his place as he goes off to die.
- Neville does this twice, taking over as leader of Dumbledore's Army and the general rebellion against the Death Eaters while Harry wanders around looking for souls to reave.
- Used to a heartbreaking effect in the end of The Road.
- In Deltora Quest Lief's father has a crippled leg from a tree falling on him so he isn't able to go look for the gems in the Belt of Deltora. He passes the Belt-and the duty-to Lief and Barda the "beggar" who lives outside the forge and spies on the Grey Guards talking about the plans of the Shadow Lord.
- Halfway through the Warrior Cats Expanded Universe novel Bluestar's Prophecy, Pinestar, leader of ThunderClan runs off to be a housecat and passes the torch to Sunfall.
- Also, at the end of Sunrise Leafpool is forced to give up being medicine cat and Jayfeather becomes medicine cat instead.
- Codex Alera has a rather enforced variant of this. 80% of the previous generation of leadership has died at the end of the Vord War, including Gaius Sextus.
- Eventually going to (and in the process of) happen in the Star Wars Expanded Universe as the movie heroes die from old age; though the number of people to pass the torch too is running low after several novel series of killing or writing off the new generation.
- In Dagger-Star by Elizabeth Vaughan, Red Gloves liberates the land of Palins from a tyrant, and is Offered the Crown, but she just wants to retire in peace and marry her beloved Josiah, plus politics is not her thing. She notes that hardly anyone has actually seen her in person, and that a girl named Gloriana is both knowledgeable in politics and fits the description of The Chosen One like her. Red passes her name and signature gloves to Gloriana, who becomes Queen with most of the people none the wiser. By the time of the book Destiny's Star, Gloriana has become a swordswoman roughly as skilled as Red Gloves.
- In The Elenium, one prime example is that of Kurik and his son, Khalad. Their family has served as squires to the Sparhawk family for several generations, so when Kurik is killed by Adus, Khalad takes on his father's duties. Another is Dolmant's rise to the rank of Archprelate upon the death of Cluvonius. This is not counting Ehlana and Avin, who become Queen of Elenia and King of Thalesia, respectively, upon the death of their respective fathers.
- Done between an elderly Bilbo Baggins and his younger cousin Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring, albeit with a little reluctance. Bilbo, who has retired to Rivendell, at first offers to take up the quest that Frodo ultimately accepts. But it's clear that the old Hobbit's adventuring days are past, and Bilbo passes on his Dwarvish armor and Elvish blade to his successor.
- In Parzival, the poem ends with Parzival becoming the new Grail King.
- It turns out that the tour of the Wonka Factory in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a Secret Test for Willy Wonka to find a good, honest child whom he can train as his successor and thus pass the torch of running his factory to, as he is Older Than They Look and has no family. Depending on the adaptation, the story ends either with Charlie simply becoming Mr. Wonka's protege (as in the book) or this trope taking effect immediately and making Charlie a Grade School CEO.
- An essential part of The Giver's relationship with the Receiver. Every Receiver accepts the job with the understanding that he/she will eventually become the next Giver, with the task of passing on the accumulated memories to the next Receiver.
- Happened symbolically during the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games. Seven British Olympians nominated seven young up-and-coming athletes to light the Olympic Flame in their stead, literally passing the torch to them in the process.
- In BIONICLE, Turaga are created when Toa do this. This serves a number of simultaneous purposes: a new generation of Toa can appear, the wisdom and guidance of the prior generation of Toa is preserved and passed down, and it also allows the Toa to use a Game Breaker like giving up their powers so as to save all of the known Matoran from Makuta's sleep spell.
- Eugene Greenhilt in The Order of the Stick, passes on the quest to kill Xykon to his son Roy when he gets too old to carry it out. He has an ulterior motive though; Eugene swore a Blood Oath to kill Xykon, so he can't move onto the afterlife until the lich is dead.
- It's subverted in that the prequel On The Origin of PCs shows Eugene doesn't think Roy can do it. He just told Roy about the oath so Roy can tell his little sister (Who took up wizardry) and have her do it. Bonus content in print collections show that even now he just hopes the best Roy can do is find some useful intel on Xykon.
- In Pacificators, it's very strongly implied to be the case between Daryl Smithson and her very famous grandmother Helen. Helen has given Daryl her special staff, and Daryl is strongly implied to have inherited her grandmother's talents.
- Magick Chicks: Faith abdicates her position as student council president to Melissa, near the end of chapter 15, after learning she'd been subconsciously effecting the rest of the student body. Then used her power to launch Melissa and Sandi outside the spell circle, entrusting Melissa to save Artemis in her stead.
- In Guilded Age, Harky passes on the magical gem that made him an avatar of his god to Penk in order to make him an avatar and a worthy Champion.
- As a star ages, if it had planets, the habitable zone (an imaginary boundary where liquid water can exist) will gradually move outwards (once every 2 billion years or so), ending life on the planet that was originally inside the habitable zone, but at the same time allows planets further away to support life. When life first began on Earth, life was no longer possible on Venus. And when life is no longer possible on Earth, life will become a possibility on Mars.
- Furthermore, when the star itself finally dies, its material will eventually be used to make new stars that will take its place. In addition, the material from dead stars is also what makes up the heavier elements of the periodic table and allows complex molecules to form, including the all of the organic chemistry that makes up life.
- The whole reason for a new creative team taking over Star Wars as of Episode VII. George Lucas was batting around the idea of a sequel trilogy for years but couldn't decide if he should go through with it or move on to other projects. When Disney approached him about making a sequel series he decided to pass on his creation to the next generation of filmmakers, thus keeping the universe he created alive while allowing him to retire from the franchise.