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Cradle-to-Grave Character

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A character who we see, over the course of in-universe media, going from infancy to old age and death.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Quatic on May 22nd 2018 at 7:30:58 AM
Last Edited By:
Pichu-kun on May 31st 2018 at 4:33:21 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Spoilered Rotten!! (We know everybody dies in this one.)

Most characters seen in any sort of media are seen in one swath of their life, usually in a firmly established adulthood. But, rarely, a single character will be depicted in their in-universe media all the way from their infancy to their elderly years, sometimes even all the way from birth unto death.


Examples:

Advertising

  • A televised ad for the XBox from 2002 has a woman in labor push out her baby with such force that the infant goes flying out the window and over the countryside, aging rapidly as he goes. Within thirty seconds, he's at retirement age, at which he plummets to Earth to slam into a cemetery grave. XBox's moral of the ad: Life is short; play more. Viewable on YouTube here: [1].

Comic Books

  • All-Star Superman begins with a brief summary of Superman's birth and childhood before jumping into the main story: how Superman spent the last days before his death.

Film

  • Benjamin Button, in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — almost an inversion, as this could be called Gradle-to-the-Crave, Button starts being born as an elderly "baby" and ages backwards for some 80 years, until he dies as an infant.
  • Luke Skywalker: over the course of the Star Wars Universe, we see (though not told in chronological order) Luke Skywalker being born near the end of Revenge of the Sith, and revisited in the rest of the films until we see his death at the end of The Last Jedi. Princess Leia (born at the same time) is close to being another character in this category, being shown from birth to old age (and having outlived the actress who played the character).
  • James T. Kirk: although not all appearing in the same time stream, we see Kirk born at the beginning of the 2009 Star Trek film, revisit him at various points in his youth and throughout most of his adult life, and then see him die (in action, but elderly in years) at the end of Star Trek: Generations.
  • Michael Corleone: In The Godfather series, Michael is shown as an infant in the early flashback sequences of The Godfather Part II, and in old age and death in The Godfather Part III. His brother Fredo Corleone is similarly shown as an infant — but doesn't exactly live to die of old age.
  • Predestination begins when the main character is an adult and then follows that character through flashbacks and Time Travel to their birth and to when they're killed by the Bartender.
  • In-universe, this is what the titular program from The Truman Show was intended to be for its unwitting protagonist Truman.
    • Network Executive: For God's sake, Chris! The whole world is watching. We can't let him die in front of a live audience!
    • Christof: He was BORN in front of a live audience.
  • Mr. Nobody follows Neo Nobody from the birth to the end of his life. Several times, since it is a Multiple-Choice Future.
  • Marley, the dog in Marley and Me, is introduced as a puppy, and is shown over the course of his life until he is elderly (for a dog) and must be put to sleep.

Literature

  • The Bible:
    • The Book of Genesis follows a bloodline from father to son from the beginning of humanity to Israel's arrival in Egypt, meaning the reader is privy to life, death, and everything in-between characters including Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and finally Joseph, whose death closes the book in its fiftieth chapter.
    • Moses' conception, birth, and adulthood are described in the second chapter of the Book of Exodus before he's tasked with leading the Hebrews out of Egypt at age eighty. The books of Leviticus and Numbers detail the forty years he spends leading Israel while Deuteronomy records the final speech before Moses dies in the book's 34th chapter.
    • Books of Samuel begin with Hannah praying to bear a son, a prayer that is answered as the prophet is Samuel is conceived and born to her. The first book then follows Samuel's tutelage under Eli, his reign as a Judge, and his relationship with the first kings of Israel. As David starts to step up as a hero, Samuel dies of old age, only to reappear from beyond the grave thanks to the intercession of a medium.
    • The Gospels according to Matthew and Luke begin with the conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit, continue to his birth in Bethlehem, describe his ministry in detail, describe his death on a cross, and end by going past the grave to describe his Resurrection from the dead. But the character is generally not depicted as achieving old age and a natural death, except in certain apocryphal writings.
  • This happens with a lot of characters in Warrior Cats, due to the long timespan of the series; the most notable examples are Tallstar, Bluestar, Crookedstar, and Yellowfang, who have super editions that feature them born as a kit (an infant) while they die in the main books, with Bluestar and Tallstar having their death included in the super edition itself.
  • The first Wicked book begins just before Elphaba's birth and ends just after her Foregone Conclusion Accidental Murder by Dorothy.
  • A Dog's Purpose stars a dog from birth to death... then birth and death again... and again... He goes through several reincarnations over the book and its sequel.

Video Games

Western Animation

Feedback: 39 replies

May 22nd 2018 at 7:43:12 AM

May 22nd 2018 at 7:50:53 AM

For the Star Wars example, saying "Odds are good that Princess Leia (born at the same time) will become another character in this category." is Speculative Troping. If she doesn't already qualify for this trope, then don't add her until she does.

May 22nd 2018 at 10:05:17 AM

  • All Star Superman begins with a brief summary of Superman's birth and childhood before jumping into the main story: how Superman spent the last days before his death.
  • The Bible:
    • The Book Of Genesis follows a bloodline from father to son from the beginning of humanity to Israel's arrival in Egypt, meaning the reader is privy to life, death, and everything in-between of Adam, Abel (the only one of these not to live to old age), Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and finally Joseph, whose death closes the book in its fiftieth chapter.
    • Moses' conception, birth, and adulthood are described in the second chapter of the Book Of Exodus before he's tasked with leading the Hebrews out of Egypt at age eighty. The books of Leviticus and Numbers detail the forty years he spends leading Israel while Deuteronomy records the final speech before Moses dies in the book's 34th chapter.
    • Books Of Samuel begin with Hannah praying to bear a son, a prayer that is answered as the prophet is Samuel is conceived and born to her. The first book then follows Samuel's tutelage under Eli, his reign as a Judge, and his relationship with the first kings of Israel. As David starts to step up as a hero, Samuel dies of old age, only to reappear from beyond the grave thanks to the intercession of a medium.
    • The Gospels according to Matthew and Luke begin with the conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit, continue to his birth in Bethlehem, describe his ministry in detail, describe his death on a cross, and end by going past the grave to describe his Resurrection from the dead.

May 22nd 2018 at 10:09:19 AM

Bio Pic films are prone to stretch from birth to death of the main character.

May 22nd 2018 at 10:38:59 AM

Does this count?

  • This happens with a lot of characters in Warrior Cats, due to the long timespan of the series; the most notable examples are Tallstar, Bluestar, Crookedstar, and Yellowfang, who have super editions that feature them as a kit while they die in the main books, with Bluestar and Tallstar having their death included in the super edition itself.

May 22nd 2018 at 11:28:43 AM

@erook, actually most biopic films begin at least in the young adulthood of the main character. It's a very rare biopic which shows that character's infancy.

May 22nd 2018 at 11:29:28 AM

@War Jay 77 I don't know enough about that media to have a sense of it.

May 22nd 2018 at 11:31:48 AM

Maybe put spoiler tags around things or a no spoiler tags warning, because Star Wars

May 22nd 2018 at 11:33:04 AM

^ Basically the series has so many books and arcs that there are a lot of characters who get born in one book and die several arcs later. The super edition characters are major characters with their own book detailing their lives, where they always start as a kit, and if they aren't dead at the end of their book they're dead by the time the book was released anyway.

May 22nd 2018 at 11:35:08 AM

Iā€™m referring to The Last Jedi.

May 22nd 2018 at 12:23:04 PM

If anybody wants to add spoiler tags where they think appropriate, I won't complain of it, but I don't see much point. Who at this point is spoiled by the end of Last Jedi?

May 22nd 2018 at 1:06:59 PM

May 22nd 2018 at 2:22:41 PM

Does it count if a character is Born As An Adult?

May 22nd 2018 at 3:24:38 PM

@lakingsif — I would propose that anybody who doesn't know that spoiler by this point is probably not enough of a fan of the medium to actually have it spoiled for them.

@Prime 32Born As An Adult inherently requires that there is no "cradle," no infancy. Otherwise we could include characters like The Vision in the MCU, or Frankenstein's Monster. There's no process of aging apparent with them, so I wouldn't go down that route. Maybe a character 'born as an adult' who goes through a clearly infantile period, and clearly ages normally unto death thereafter.

May 22nd 2018 at 3:30:37 PM

I do think that this should be a Spoilers Off trope, since a character has to die to qualify.

May 22nd 2018 at 3:47:23 PM

^^^ By that metric, Adam from Genisis should be removed. (Related note; The Bible receives no emphasis, but each book/gospel/letter, such as Book Of Genesis should be in italics.)

May 22nd 2018 at 5:57:52 PM

^ yes this is true, Adam removed as never being in the cradle.

May 22nd 2018 at 7:01:15 PM

I don't think All Star Superman counts: it's about how Superman prepares for his death, yes, but it turns out to be Prophecy Twist situation and he's still alive at the end.

May 22nd 2018 at 8:32:19 PM

Emrick the Petalar from Thunder Cats 2011 has it over the course of a single day/episode. His race doesn't live long.

May 22nd 2018 at 9:10:06 PM

@Paul A — I'm not actually familiar with the particular media.... but if we go just by the movies, we've seen Superman born, grow up, and die (but not of old age). Has Superman died of old age in any Superman media?

May 22nd 2018 at 9:12:21 PM

Do'h, noticed two mistakes in my example suggestion. Here's a rewrite to replace it:

May 23rd 2018 at 12:09:32 AM

^^Superman tends to be very long lived to immortal in most continuities.

May 23rd 2018 at 3:00:11 AM

This is not Spoilers Off. That's a list of works where "Enough time has gone by in enough markets that only one or two humans are left who haven't seen/read it."

Because this is a Death Trope of sorts, I would agree with an "unmarked spoilers ahead" warning at the end of the Description.

May 23rd 2018 at 3:53:51 PM

Okay, changed it to Spoilered Rotten .... any more examples? Are more needed at this point?

May 23rd 2018 at 4:06:41 PM

May 23rd 2018 at 8:57:57 PM

Goku in the Dragon Ball Series. It's starts when he's 12, we eventually get flashbacks of him being sent to earth as a baby, and we follow him the rest of his life. GT ends when he's in his 50s and achieves some level of immortality.

May 24th 2018 at 8:27:45 PM

  • Suzuka ends with the titular character and Yamato having a daughter, Fuuka. In Kimi No Iru Machi (by the same author), Fuuka shows up as a young child. As a teenager, she finally becomes a main character in her own series, Fuuka...and dies in an accident less than a quarter of the way through. This trope is not present in the anime, where she is Spared By The Adaptation.

May 27th 2018 at 10:04:09 AM

  • In-universe, this is what the titular program from The Truman Show was intended to be for its unwitting protagonist Truman.
Network Executive: For God's sake, Chris! The whole world is watching. We can't let him die in front of a live audience! Christof: He was BORN in front of a live audience.

May 27th 2018 at 3:14:53 PM

May 27th 2018 at 7:32:35 PM

If the "cradle" part is shown in the middle (in a flashback, usually), does that still count?

May 27th 2018 at 10:44:08 PM

^Yes, that's fine — the trope is defined solely by the fact of the same character at some point being shown in all three stages of life — infancy, adulthood (or whatever their age in the prime of the story), and old age and death.

May 28th 2018 at 1:02:14 AM

Advertising

  • A televised ad for the XBox from 2002 has a woman in labor push out her baby with such force that the infant goes flying out the window and over the countryside, aging rapidly as he goes. Within thirty seconds, he's at retirement age, at which he plummets to Earth to slam into a cemetery grave. XBox's moral of the ad: Life is short; play more. Viewable on You Tube here: [1].

May 28th 2018 at 6:41:57 AM

Current name is pretty good, just offering Womb To Tomb as a possible alternative.

May 29th 2018 at 5:23:44 AM

^ sounds pretty good to me

May 31st 2018 at 4:33:21 PM

Five hats — launching!!

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