Rite of Passage
Lots of cultures have a special ceremony that marks the transition from teen to adult. It's both a celebration of a major life landmark and an acknowledgment that the celebrant is a part of the mystical society of grownups. In cultures without such a ceremony, other major life landmarks are celebrated instead. May include a Meaningful Rename
Sex as Rite-of-Passage
is a subtrope. For other kinds of rites and rituals that earns you membership into a group of people, see Initiation Ceremony
and is various subtropes such as the Gang Initiation Fight
Anime and Manga
- The decision of gender in Simoun.
- Ash's Butterfree in Pokémon mark several that helped develop Ash into the Pokemon Trainer we know — his first catch, first evolution, first trade (and trade back)...and the first teammate he released.
- Flash Gordon (1980). A young Arborean man is initiated into adulthood through the "test of manhood", which involves sticking your arm into a stump and hoping you don't get stung by the monster inside.
- Star Wars gives us a glimpse of what an Apprentice needs to go through in order to become a Jedi: in the Empire Strikes Back, Luke makes a journey into a cave and strikes down Darth Vader, but is surprised to find that the face beneath the Dark Lord's mask is his own. The Expanded Universe explores this in detail.
- In The Phantom Menace Amidala has to prove her capability as queen and even wears a debutante ball-gown like dress for the parade scene.
- The Warriors has a gang whose members must first get punched out without flinching or screaming.
- The Na'vi of Avatar climb to the top of the floating mountains where the banshees live, and subdue and bond one of them, to become hunters and adults.
- Star Trek: Generations features a ritual where the Enterprise-D crew impersonate 19th century British Naval officers aboard a holodeck simulation of a wooden ship, charging Worf in a staged court martial with "performing above and beyond the call of duty on countless occasions," and "having earned the admiration and respect of the entire crew," before Picard "sentences" him with promotion to Lieutenant-Commander. Worf then had to jump from a plank to grab an officer's hat on a rope above his head. Riker comments to Picard that no one else had succeeded in doing so before. When Worf succeeds, Picard answers, "If there's one thing I've learned, Number One, is never underestimate a Klingon."
- 300: The young king Leonidas has to kill a wolf with his bare hands and bring back its fur. Indeed, all Spartans must pass for hard training in their short childhood.
- In Big Game, in Oskari's family, every male member must hunt down a big animal (deer, moose, bear) the night they turn thirteen, proving that they are now not boys, but men.
- Alexei Panshin's SF novel Rite of Passage. 14-year-old children on a starship must go through a Trial before being considered adults: surviving on a hostile colony planet for 30 days with minimal equipment.
- In The Giver, getting assigned a job is an important rite that determines the rest of a person's life; being assigned the unusual job of Receiver is what marks Jonas as special in the community.
- In Valhalla by Ari Bach, the action begins shortly after the protagonist, Violet, passes her "Adulthood Test."
- In the Farseers trilogy, mention is made of a ceremony.
- In Dune, Fremen must be able to steer a sandworm before they are considered adults.
- In the Deryni works, as in Real Life, people experience a number of these at different ages:
- The Deryni Naming ritual is usually done when a child reaches the age of reason and can distinguish right and wrong (usually at around seven or eight, just when Catholic children first go to confession and take Communion). Morgan and Duncan are actually only four when they are Named in Childe Morgan, but they demonstrate the requisite knowledge of right and wrong already.
- Brion's fourteenth birthday in Childe Morgan. Donal pierces his son's ear the night before and uses the blood to prime the Eye of Rom; at court on the day itself, Brion is presented to major vassals as the recognized heir to the throne and oaths of fealty are taken.
- The knightly accolade when given in peacetime to squires who've completed their training. Morgan hangs this lampshade when Kelson asks about the urgency of learning to cope with ''merasha'':
"Because you aren't a child any more, my prince," Morgan said a little sharply. "Because in three days' time, you'll be knighted. For those who never wear a crown, that's the official seal of manhood. It makes you fair game for those who might have spared you before because of your youth—especially as your talents become more widely known. When you go on progress, and especially when you meet the Torenthi legates in Cardosa, you'll be particularly at risk."
- In the Liveship Traders books, girls aged thirteen or fourteen "come out" (no, still not like that) at the summer ball, which is pretty much a debutante ball. After this, they are expected to act (and allowed to dress) like adult women.
- In The Namesake, Bengali infants participate in a ritual called the annaprasan. Their parents or elders hand them a plate filled with a pen, money, or dirt, which represents a writer, businessman, or agriculturalist, respectively. Depending on what the infant reaches toward, they are said to follow that path. However, the protagonist Gogol cries during his annaprasan, while his sister laughs and plays with all the items. This foreshadows their roles as adults.
- In A Wizard of Earthsea, the mage Ogion the Silent gives Duny his True Name of "Ged" in a coming of age ceremony.
- In the Women Of The Otherworld series, witches much undergo a special ceremony after their first period, but before their second to unlock their full power. Failure to do so leaves the witch with the same power levels she had as a child. Unfortunately for Paige, in Dime Store Magic, she learns that the rites she was taught was actually a nerfed version of the real thing. The clear implication was that, somewhere along the way, the witch elders intentionally altered the ceremony to ensure none of their number could grow too powerful, hence bringing unwanted attention on the rest. She uses the real thing on her ward, Savannah.
- In the novel Nation by Terry Pratchett when a boy comes of age he is left on an island and must construct a canoe and get back to his village as a rite of passage, to receive his adult soul so the tribe believes. Mau is on his way home when the tsunami hits, which is why he's the only survivor.
- Nation has a notable twist to this trope; while many similar 'rites of manhood' stress self-reliance, Mau's rite stresses community; when he is left alone on the island, he discovers that the tribe left behind tools to complete his task, along with a large stone bearing the inscription, "Men help other men."
- Quite a few in Warrior Cats. Becoming an apprentice marks the end of childhood; getting a warrior name is a recognition of adulthood and the clan's trust. Becoming a mentor is also an awaited event, showing the clan's trust in the wisdom and responsibility of a warrior, and allowing a cat to become a deputy.
- Young centaurs in The Echorium Sequence must travel to a specific canyon and extract a herdstone (magical, invisibility-granting green stone) from the rock to officially join the herd.
- Ian Fleming's James Bond novels (and later the movies) establish that in order to become a double-0 agent, a spy must first complete two assigned kills. The books and films are ambiguous as to whether these must be the person's first two kills ever (Casino Royale (2006) indicates these to be Bond's first kills).
- In the Legend of Jig Dragonslayer trilogy, all potential heirs to the throne of Adenkar must complete a quest of some sort to prove their worth to the previous ruler. Since it's generally believed that the more impressive the quest, the more likely the quester will be named the heir, they all tend to be insanely dangerous. As a result of this, only four of the King's eight children returned from their quests alive, and two of them returned insane, resulting in their later deaths. The Goblin rite is simpler: young Goblins are taken some distance away from their home cave and abandoned. If they make it back, they have proven that they have learned enough about surviving and navigating the tunnels to not be a liability to the tribe, and thus are made full members of it. If they don't, then the liability has removed itself without endangering the tribe.
- Warrior Scarlet: After each fifteen-year-old initiate kills a wolf single-handed, the Feast of New Spears involves the Men’s Side dressing up in animal masks (and only animal masks), going out behind the old grave mound, getting a bunch of tattoos, and seeing the face of god.
- Star Trek: Klingons who reach the Age of Ascension must walk through a gauntlet of warriors who jab him with pain sticks.
- Example from Community, according to Pierce, being punched in the face is one for men.
- The third season of Lost Girl gives us the Dawning. It's a biological thing as much as a bar mitzvah. Pass, and you move on. Fail, and you devolve into a monster.
- Forgotten Realms as a highly developed setting have such cultural details:
- Drow has The Blooding. Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Rashemen has dajemma or darjemma — the quest or wandering a year or more long that young Rashemaar people take in early adulthood. It's not an absolute requirement: e.g. it's cancelled in the times of war. Obviously some end up dead or lost, but those who return has a valuable out-land experience.
- In the Mystara setting's nation of Karameikos, the Shearing is a custom in which teenagers leave their parents' home for a year to prove themselves capable of independence. As it's not intended to be a difficult challenge, this may just mean moving in with a relative or neighbor and working at an entry-level job that the Sheared teen's parents covertly arranged to have available for them. The name "Shearing" refers to how the bottom hem of such a teen's cloak is ceremonially cut short to symbolize their new status.
- The Vortixx race in BIONICLE must climb "The Mountain", one pair at a time. Said large rock is actually a sentient but immobile animal who eats one of the climbers, allowing the other to finish. Roodaka even went through the passage twice, just to prove how much of a Badass she is (not that she really needed to).
- Mass Effect has several:
- The turians undergo a period of compulsory military service to earn citizenship starting at 15, assuming they are of able mind and body. Once completed, they can choose to remain in the military or become a civil servant.
- The quarians have the Pilgrimage, in which a quarian who is of age leaves the Flotilla and strikes out on their own across the galaxy. They are only allowed to return once they have discovered something of value they can bring back that will enrich the fleet and the lives of those on it. What they bring back varies enormously: Tali'Zorah brings back information on the geth found during her time with Shepard, which is of vital military importance to the quarians, but other minor quarian characters are mentioned as bringing something as mundane as a ship model for their prospective captain.
- And the sequel introduces the krogan rite to establish themselves as a true warrior. It can be completed solo, or the young krogan may convince one or two already established warriors to help them (called a "krantt"). Said rite (or at least the Clan Urdnot variant) is as follows: activate a totem that summons predators, kill them. Activate it again, kill the next wave. Activate it again, which causes it to set off the Thresher Maw Hammer, and then survive for five minutes while the most dangerous predator in the galaxy tries to kill you. If you get out alive, you're in. If you kill the Thresher Maw, this is also acceptable, and is considered a mark of enormous skill (the only Urdnot to manage this in the past thousand years or so is Wrex).
- Dragon Age also has two: city elves are considered children until they get married (which is considered a joyous occasion in the alienage, when everyone can put down their work, forget their worries, and just party for a day), and Dalish elves are considered children until they receive their vallaslin, ritualized face tattoos of the symbol of one of their gods.
- In Dragon Quest VI, the heroes must help Prince Holse complete his Rite of Passage by acting as his bodyguards. While he starts out a Dirty Coward, the heroes' courage really effects and inspires him, enabling the rite to bring out the best in him and prove his ability to succeed his father as future ruler.
- Dragon Quest VIII, on the other hand, has Prince Charmles, who also needs help to complete his rite: obtaining the heart of an Argon Lizard. Unlike Holse, Charmles quickly proves himself to be a complete and utter Jerkass, as well as an Entitled Bastard who learns nothing from the rite. Although he appears to get away with this at first, his disrespect for the ritual comes back to haunt him in the long run, as it eventually costs him his right to the throne and to marry Princess Medea.
- Saga Frontier 2: For future rulers of the Finney Kingdom, there's the Firebrand ceremony, where the child holds a special sword which will glow to indicate the presence of magic. (In fact, Gustave XIII's failure to induce magical glowing is what kicks off the plot to his entire character arc.)
- In Fallout: New Vegas, the Great Khans are required to take a beating from the other members of the tribe before becoming a full fledged raider, and the New Canaanites (What Mormons became in the Fallout 'verse) learn how to shoot with a .45 Auto Pistol.
- The Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "Yesteryear" introduced the kahs-wan, an ordeal in which Vulcan children must survive in the desert for 10 days by themselves with no supplies to prove their courage and strength. For young Spock, it becomes even more when his companion sehlat, I-Chaya, who had followed him against his wishes, was mortally wounded and the attending vet could only give Spock two choices, an extended life in agony or putting him out of his misery; Spock made the mature and logical choice to put him down.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender has "ice-dodging," where young Water Tribe members have to navigate a boat through a field of icebergs. Sokka, Katara, and Aang perform the task through a field of rocks, being too far north for icebergs.
- Every Lord of the ThunderCats (1985) has to endure a series of trials before they can be crowned. For Lion-O this meant five different trials spread over five episodes.
- For the wolves in Rocko's Modern Life, the rite of passage is to bring an elk home for dinner. Heffer, being an adopted steer, misinterprets this and brings over a living, female elk home as a date.
- Taz-Mania: Francis X. Bushlad's tribe has three options, equally valid: either the ancestral strategy of slaying a mighty and dangerous beast, or the slightly more contemporary options of buying out a major corporation in a hostile takeover, or amassing a stock portfolio worth $500,000.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars features the "Gathering" during which Jedi younglings find and harvest their first lightsaber-crystals in the Temple-cavern on Illum. To find their crystals, each must face and come over their flaws and short-comings, such as selfishness, fear, lack of self-confidence, or lack of faith.
Anime and Manga
- The "red beans and rice" meal is referenced in Kodomo no Omocha when Sana reassures an adult that she's old enough to know shame.
- In the Ai Yori Aoshi manga, after Aoi and Kaoru go through Their First Time, Miyabi hands Aoi a "red beans and rice" box.
- During Dan Slott's brief run on The Thing, Ben Grimm chose to re-affirm his Jewish heritage. His rabbi allowed him to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah on the thirteenth anniversary of the rocket flight that first turned him into the Thing. No word on whether or not this involved a circumcision.
- Sixteen Candles is all about a girl's really... wacky sixteenth birthday. Her parents have forgotten the date since her older sister's getting married (though they apologize when they do remember), she tries to deal with it, a very weird younger student attaches 'self to her, and Hilarity Ensues.
- In Jezebel, Bette Davis scandalizes everyone at the debutante ball by showing up in a red dress instead of virginal white.
- The new Starsky & Hutch movie has the heroes pretending to be a performer at a Bar Mitzvah in order to infiltrate a suspect's home.
- In Keeping The Faith, the preparation leading up to a Bar Mitzvah is shown as well as the Mitvah itself.
- In Memoirs of a Geisha, a young apprentice would have to sell her 'Mizuage' as a rite of passage.
- The Royal Diaries has Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba presented at a coming-of-age dance to show her eligibility to marry and Anacaona: Golden Flower has a hair cutting ceremony to show that she has become a woman.
- A debutante ball happened on Gilmore Girls.
- Spike TV's Manswers once did a "what rite of adulthood is most likely to kill you?" segment focusing on these kinds of ceremonies. (Answer: strapping a bamboo tube filled with fireworks to your crotch and hoping you don't lose a limb or worse.)
- For Kunta Kinte's tribe in Roots, there is a series of rituals that include wrestling, hunting, and at the end, genital mutilation.
- In Kim Possible, Ron was upset when he discovered that his rabbi forgot to sign off on his Bar Mitzvah certificate, fearing that it meant he wasn't really a man. Hilarity (along with an Aesop) ensues.
- An episode of King of the Hill had one of Hank's co-workers planning a Quinceañera for his daughter. Bobby complained that he doesn't get a rite of passage like that, so he comes up with the idea of a "Sweet Fourteeno".
- An episode of Hey Arnold! deals with one of Arnold's friends, Harold, going through his Bar Mitzvah.
- Japan has the Coming of Age Day for reaching twenty and the eating of Red Beans And Rice for a girl's first menarche.
- America (and other parts of the western world) has the Sweet Sixteen; less formally, getting your first car (representing freedom and responsibility), turning the age of consent, losing your virginity, turning 21 (or being old enough to legally drink), and graduating from high school and/or college are also seen as major steps towards adulthood.
- Patton Oswalt has joked that the proper ceremony for turning 18, being the year one gains the ability to vote and/or buy a gun, should be to shoot a bullet through a ballot.
- First job leading to the first major purchase with one's own money (these days, almost invariably a smartphone) also counts.
- In Finland, serving in the Army.
- Women of high society mark their first formal debut in high society with debutante balls. The Pimped-Out Dress is an important part of this. Also called a coming-out party.
- Latin American girls get the Fifteen Years ("Quinceañera" in the USA, "XV Años" elsewhere) and the Catholic rituals (see below).
- Cultural and Ethnic Jews have the Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah at the age of 13, to symbolize that the celebrant is old enough to understand the Torah (the Books of the Law). Being roped in as a performer at a Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah is seen as one of those jobs you have to do to make ends meet, but not a dignified gig, just barely above being a birthday party clown.
- It varies. Bat mitzvah ceremonies can happen at 12. (A bat mitzvah is for a girl, a bar mitzvah is for a boy.)
- Catholics have Confirmation, to, well, confirm that the baptism they were given as infants has led to becoming a full member of the church. Unlike some of the others, it isn't tied to a specific birthday; it usually happens somewhere between eighth and twelfth grade depending on when the bishop can come. Other Christian denominations have similar rites.
- Confirmation is a subversion actually. While it is the last of the Sacraments of Initiation, it is not a coming of age ceremony. Confirmation is validly administered on infants and a priest will do so if the child is in imminent danger of death. It is also administered to adult converts of any age.
- Stone Age societies (real or fictional) are presented as having ridiculously frightening rites of passage involving stinging insects, piercing of nether regions, psychosomatic drugs, and so on and so forth.
- For many Western teenagers, a first job is a rite of passage. The job is often babysitting (usually exclusively female), life-guarding, waiting tables, or other menial service-type jobs.
- Many military institutions have this as a welcome-of-sorts. Even if they dont have it, most of the "last tests" that must be passed in order to be accepted look like this. Also, most of the time, they're not pretty.
- A good example of the latter is the British SAS acceptance tests. The last one? You have to resist interrogation for 36 hours straight.
- Many navies have a ceremony for sailors crossing the Equator for the first time. note
- The US service academiesnote all have their own versions of "Recognition," days-long physical and mental gauntlets that must be completed for freshmen to be considered full members of the academy's cadet corps.
- An almost universal rite is when you get your first own set of keys, showing that your parents trust you both to be home alone, and to assume partial responsibility for the safety of your home.
- Some people consider being bullied at school as something you have to deal with and learn how to defend yourself instead of always running to an adult for help and by standing up for yourself, you grow up and learn to be independent when being threatened. This may have been fine decades ago, but with the rise of social networking and the aggression in children and teenagers rising, adults can't brush off bullying as a rite of passage anymore.
- The first solo flight is a major milestone for pilots. In the military flight community, the tradition extends to include being thrown in a dunk tank after landing.
- In the world of academia, having one's work published for the first time is something of a professional Rite of Passage, as is receiving a degree of whatever level.