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The Wonder Children from Princess Belle-Etoile, with stars on their foreheads
are nothing new.
The childless older woman or older couple has been a staple of folklore and Fairy Tales
. Typically, one's first introduction to such a character will be the phrase, "Character X had always wanted a child." Which, of course, guarantees infertility.
However, in the realm of fairy tales, this is never the end of the story. Through The Power of Love
, Moses in the Bullrushes
, or some other supernaturally-empowered
device, a child will come into the life or lives of the poor, childless person or couple. However, due to the unusual circumstances of his or her birth, the child given to the couple is a little bit... unusual. They have amazing magical powers, or they have a strange appearance, or something similar. This is the Wonder Child
While a Wonder Child
often appears from some supernatural source or is conceived in some magical circumstances
, they are, occasionally, merely adoptees
whose real parents were significantly less mundane, resulting in Muggle Foster Parents
. Regardless of their origins, they frequently have some sort of quest
or goal to fulfill by the story's end. Compare Changeling Fantasy
, though the two can overlap.
If their appearance is unusual, they often feature as the Shapeshifting Lover
; either the wedding transforms them or inaugurates a time when they can switch back and forth.
The term comes from folklorists; strictly speaking the wished-for child is the Wish Child, and the marvelous child is the Wonder Child, but they have always
had substantial overlap.
- Although younger than most of the above examples, Isamu and Ai Amami wished on a falling star for a child. The "star" turned out to be a giant mechanical lion, who delivered their wish directly. Interestingly, when Galeon shows up again as part of Gao Gai Gar, they start worrying that it will come to take their son Mamoru back.
- Goku of Dragon Ball was adopted by Grampa Gohan (who he eventually named his son after) after he fell to Earth in his pod as an infant. Even as a baby he exhibited superhuman strength.
- Although altogether average kids, the Katsura sisters fall into this category for Hayate the Combat Butler. There's nothing inherently special about them, but their adopted parents were unable to have children of their own, so when Yukiji was looking for foster parents and chose her former teacher and his wife, they were probably thought of as this.
- Guts from Berserk serves as a much darker example of this trope. Sys, a young woman who had recently miscarried her own child, is grieving her loss and is on the verge of going insane. But when all hope is lost, what does she pass by? Why, a baby! ... that was just born from its mother's dead and hanged corpse! ... Yay!
- More fun: the group of mercenaries she was in thought the baby was dead, too. So when she cradled it, their leader knocked it out of her hands... and when it hit a puddle, it cried. And that's how main character Guts managed to survive infancy. Yes, his life sucked from birth.
- The fairy tale "Hans-my-Hedgehog" involved a couple who wanted a child, but who had difficulty having one—until the woman says, "I wouldn't care if he were ugly as a hedgehog!" She then, naturally, has a baby who looks like a hedgehog. This was later adapted into a well-loved episode of Jim Henson's The Storyteller.
- "Thumbelina" is, of course, about an older woman who plants a magic barley seed. The eponymous girl appears from the flower that grows from the seed. As her name would suggest, she's only a few inches tall.
- "Tom Thumb" is similar to Thumbelina, but with a male hero.
- "Momotaro" is a Japanese fairy tale similar to "Thumbelina", only instead of a flower, the tiny titular character appears inside of of a peach found floating down the river. Or, in the earliest version of the story, the peach makes the old couple young again, so they can have a second chance to have a baby.
- This is used as the Cyclops alternate's backstory in an X-Men Elseworlds story. The twist is that the pit from the peach is in Cyclops' eye socket, and he can use his laser-vision in that eye by removing it.
- "The Gingerbread Man", though unfortunately for the couple, the speedy youngster soon dies.
- The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter/The Tale of Princess Kaguya: A bamboo cutter finds a tiny thumb-sized, glowing baby inside a bamboo stem. He takes her home to his wife and they name her Kaguya-hime—she grows up to a normal-sized, unearthly beauty who many men, including the Emperor, fall in love with. She ends up returning to whence she came—the moon. This space alien subtext is stronger depending on the variation you read.
- This one is retold in a side quest in Ōkami. She leaves in a spaceship.
- This fairytale is also referenced in RahXephon.
- Likewise, this is part of the backstory for the Touhou game Imperishable Night.
- There's a Japanese folk tale in which a farmer and his wife raise a baby rabbit as a human; in return, when a tanuki kills the wife (and feeds it to the farmer), the grown-up rabbit hunts down and kills it out of filial piety. (Almost like Usagi Yojimbo.)
- Issun-boshi ("One Inch Boy"): The wife of a childless couple prays to have a child, even if he's only one-inch tall. Said one-inch child comes into being and is raised by the couple. Issun then ventures into the city and becomes a bodyguard for a princess, despite being small and ridiculed for it. He and the princess are attacked by a demon one day, and said demon swallows Issun whole, but spits him out because Issun kept poking the demon from the inside with a pin. The demon flees, leaving behind a "Lucky Mallet", which is used to make Issun grow to normal size.
- This one is also referenced in Okami with the character Issun and the Ryoshima part of the story. The Lucky Mallet in this case is used to make the protagonist smaller. And leads into the version of the one mentioned above.
- And the Final Fantasy series, where the Mallet (or some similarly-named item) inflicts and removes the Mini status.
- In "The Pig King", the child is born a pig. Unusually, the queen had not made a rash wish about any child, even a pig; this was the caprice of three fairies.
- In "The Myrtle", the child is born as a sprig of myrtle, after her mother expressed a rash wish for a child, even a sprig of myrtle.
- In " The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird", the heroine says that if the king marries her, she will bear "two sons with apples in their hands, and a daughter with a star on her brow". Earnestly desiring such children, the king marries her, and she does. (Complications arise when her sisters try to murder them.)
- "Stan Bolovan", a fairy tale where a couple wish for children, the more the better, can't have too many... aaand suddenly there are a hundred kids in the house and the husband has to go out to get money.
- The Chinese-Tibetan fairy tale "Qing Wa Qi Shou" (The Rider in Green Clothes), which is one of the most important folk interpretations of the political relationship between those two historical states, has a very old couple who always wanted a child. The elderly woman finally goes pregnant for four months and bears a FROG. Late it is shown that in an rare occurence, after he gets his wife, the frog is able to turn into a handsome, skilled rider for a certain festival. But the wife stays at home and accidentally burns his frog skin. Therefore, the young frog man must die, if she hadn't done that he would have been that saviour of the tibetan people, turned the unhospital lands into fertile ground and China would have been a tribute state to Tibet instead the other way round. See?
- Lynne Reid Banks's The Fairy Rebel is about something like this. A childless couple saves the life of a fairy, who decides she owes them one and agrees to give them the child they long for. The child is mostly normal, but she has a streak of blue hair which has magical properties.
- In The Adventures of Pinocchio, the blue fairy brings the titular puppet to life because his creator, Gepetto, wanted a son.
- In the medieval Chivalric Romance of Robert the Devil and all its variants, the parents wish for a child -- whether from God or the Devil. The son is therefore born possessed by evil. (Fortunately for him, in due time, he repents and does pentience for his evil. This results in either marrying the princess or becoming a saint.)
- Tanith Lee does a takeoff on this in one of her Flat Earth books. The lady who wants a child has a date with an angel. They kiss, and she is told she'll conceive the next time she and her husband are together; she does, and thereby hangs the tale.
- Naturally, this occurs in The Bible, with Sarah giving birth to Isaac. Sarah was 90 years old too old to bear a child, presumably past menopause. But if Yahweh makes a plan that involves the son of Abraham (who is 100) and Sarah founding the Jewish nation, then Sarah will miraculously give birth even though she's past menopause.
- Also in the Bible, Hannah, who vows that she will give her child back to the service of God if she is blessed to have one.
- There's also a couple of times in the Old Testament where God makes a woman, or the women of a nation, infertile for a period of time, and then makes them fertile later on. Usually after some prayer and atonement has occurred.
- In the N.T. we have John the Baptist, and in the NT Apocrypha, the Virgin Mary.
- There's a story in one of the Cricket magazines that features something like this. The man and wife don't have any kids. However, one day the man is doing his job as a woodcutter, and he finds a golden coccoon. He takes it home, and they put it by the fire. The next day there is a baby girl with purple eyes wrapped in a golden cloak. It turns into a Tear Jerker moment when Her parents tell her not to touch the plant that they found her cocoon on, but one day she has to, as it will heal her father from an illness. She gathers up as much of the plant as she can, and after she gets home- she turns back into a butterfly.
- In Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth's Back Story, the old king had two sons, but regretted having no daughters, when he found two golden-haired girl babies in his garden: the Princesses Rhyme and Reason.
- In the Laurel Series, Laurel was left on the doorstep of her parents, and later learns she is a fairy.
- In Victoria Forester's The Girl Who Could Fly, Piper is a surprisingly late birth to a childless couple, and she can (surprise!) fly. It subverts the rest, as her parents were shocking and ashamed to have a child so late — it's just not the way things are done — and her mother's first reaction is that such results are to be expected what things aren't done the way they're supposed to be done.
- In the last season of Lois and Clark, Clark finds out that he is unable to impregnate Lois due to being an alien, even though they both want children. The last episode ends with them mysteriously finding a child in their living room with no explanation. The story probably would have been something like this trope, except it was cancelled.
- A similar plot was used in the comics, where it was revealed that the kid was actually the son of Superman's nemesis General Zod and his wife.
- Superman himself is, of course, an example of this trope.
- Baby William of The X-Files is this. By all accounts, he shouldn't exist and how he came to be when his mother apparently had no ova was never established. And because he is a Wonder Child and "more human than human", all the bad guys want him.
- "Hijo de la Luna", by the Spaniard group Mecano, tells the story of a Romany woman who prayed to the moon for a husband. She got it, but in return, she had to give the moon her first child. He turned out to be an albino; the man thought she cheated on him because he was white instead of dark-skinned, killed her, and abandoned the kid in the mountains. Since that day, the moon becomes full whenever the kid is happy, and wanes to become a rocker whenever the kid is sad.
- A modern version: In the Game Boy Advance RPG Robopon 2, an alien crash-lands near the house of an old couple and disguises herself as a human little girl. The old couple takes her in. When her ship gets repaired and it comes time for her to leave, the couple tells her that they've come to think of her as their own child. Awww. To thank them for their kindness, she both promises to visit them from the moon as often as she can, and uses her alien powers to give them back their youth.
- The origin story of the little girl in Princess Maker 2 follows this: She is a "pure soul" sent by the gods to live with a human hero so that she can learn about the world.
- The origin for Cute Knight Kingdom is somewhat similar except with aliens, but not the first game in the series, which is more a case of Swapped At Birth.
- In Loom, the protagonist Bobbin is given birth when the childless Lady Cygna weaves a magical thread into the Great Pattern, after which she is banished by being turned into a swan.
- In the Disney version of Hercules, Hercules' adoptive parents have been praying to the gods for a child. When they find the baby Hercules, with the symbol of the gods on a medal around his neck, they naturally assume the gods sent him to them. (He is, of course, actually a god made near-mortal in this version, dissimilar to the original myth as it is.)
- The Flintstones. Betty and Barney tried for a child shortly after Pebbles' birth, and had no luck. Then they wished on a falling star, and Bamm-Bamm turned up on their doorstep shortly thereafter. He had super-strength and could walk even as an infant. The super strength stayed with him all the way to adulthood.
- Naturally, Thumbelina.
- The movie Joseph King Of Dreams had a song titled Miracle Child
- Yugo from Wakfu, who's a Doorstop Baby who grew up having the power create mystical space-bending portals.
- In Tarzan, Kala and Kerchak lose their son to Sabor. Tarzan loses his parents to Sabor. Kala and Tarzan both fill the void in each others' lives. It takes Kerchak much longer to accept Tarzan as his son, but he eventually does right before he dies.
- Otto Rank's book The Myth of the Birth of the Hero points out that, in fact everyone is a Wonder Child, having gone a tremendous transformation from a foetus living in the mother's womb into an air-breating, independently living person.