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Cradle-to-Grave Character

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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 all the way from their infancy to their elderly years, sometimes even all the way from birth unto death. This doesn't even always occur intentionally. Sometimes the initial work depicting a character only intends to show them in one present adventure, but the demands for new angles in prequels and sequels end up painting these parts of their lives as well.

As this is a death trope, it is Spoilered Rotten and there are unmarked spoilers below.


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  • A televised ad for the Xbox from 2002 has a woman in labor push out her baby boy with such force that the infant goes flying out the window and over the countryside at supersonic speed, aging rapidly as he goes. Within thirty seconds, he's an old man, at which he plummets to Earth (with a Stuka Scream) to slam into a grave in a cemetery. XBox's moral of the ad? "Life is short. Play more." Can be watched on YouTube here.

    Anime & Manga 

    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.
  • Laika: The story follows Kudryavka as a puppy living in two different homes, as an adult dog roaming the streets of Moscow, as a space dog being prepared for the launch of Sputnik 2, and the last few hours of her life in which she experiences space flight.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • Empath from Empath: The Luckiest Smurf. His infancy starts in the novel, though told in a flashback story. And in a flash-forward story "Days Of Future Smurfed", Empath as a very old Smurf spends his last hours telling his great-grandson what he must do.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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 looking like an infant.
  • Edward Bloom, in Big Fish is seen as senior who spends his final days talking to his son about his life as characteristically preposterous Tall Tales, including his own eccentric birth in which he slid across the floor of the hospital corridor after jetting out of his mother's womb.
  • Caesar's birth is shown in the beginning of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and depicts his childhood and growth. It and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes shows him growing into the leader of the uplifted ape society and War for the Planet of the Apes ends with his death from a fatal wound after leading his fellow apes to a new promised land and future.
  • Michael Corleone in The Godfather series, albeit in Anachronic Order; 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.
  • James T. Kirk: although not all appearing in the same time stream, we see Kirk born at the beginning of Star Trek (2009), 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.
  • Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa: over the course of the Star Wars Saga, we see (though not told in chronological order) the twins being born near the end of Revenge of the Sith, and they both appear throughout the rest of the films until their deaths in, respectively, The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker.
  • Marley, the dog in Marley & 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.
  • Mr. Nobody follows Nemo Nobody from the birth to the end of his life. Several times, since it is a Multiple-Choice Future.
  • The 1955 Napoléon duology by Sacha Guitry follows Napoléon Bonaparte from his birth in Corsica in 1769 to his death in Saint Helena in 1821. While there's been absolutely no shortage of biopics / epic movies about Napoleon since the dawn of cinema, it's the most notable (if not the only one) to do this.
  • 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.

  • At Her Majesty's Request is about the short, but very eventful life of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, from when she was saved from execution by King Gezo at the age of five and raised by Queen Victoria, to her death from tuberculosis on 15 August 1880.
  • 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.
  • Emperor Claudius, title character of I, Claudius and Claudius the God; the novels' premise is that the two books were an English translation of Claudius' long-lost autobiography, with the early chapters covering the events before his birth and the last chapter being finished shortly before his death. The second book has an epilogue discussing the circumstances of his death and the subsequent reign of Emperor Nero.
  • The picture book Island Boy by Barbara Cooney follows the title character Matthias from his early childhood, through his adulthood and the births of his children and grandchildren, to his death in a boating accident as an old man.
  • Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's 1878 novel The New Job tells the life story of an eastern Galician peasant from birth through old age. Some reviewers at the time were under the impression it was a biography rather than a novel.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Ballad of Big Al begins with the titular Allosaurus hatching, and ends with his death from dehydration.
  • The 1975 ITV serial Edward the Seventh covers the entire life of the titular monarch. It begins with his mother, Queen Victoria, discovering that she is pregnant with him on May 24, 1841, her 22nd birthday, and ends with his funeral on May 20, 1910.
  • Lost: John Locke is a non-linear version thanks to the series' trademark use of Flashbacks. "Cabin Fever" in season four opens with a flashback showing his mother going into premature labor with him and also shows him as a child and teenager. The next episode ends with a flash-forward reveal of his dead body, with the actual death occuring partway through season five.
  • In Roots, we meet Kunta Kinte soon after he's born, in the village of Juffre, Gambia, in the middle of the 18th century. In his late teens, we see him getting captured and sold to slave traders that transport him across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa, and is then auctioned off to John Reynolds, who intends to put him to work in his tobacco plantation. After being forced to acknowledge his name is now "Toby", and after several failed escape attempts, Kunta realizes he'll never go home and that he'll be a slave for the rest of his life. After being sold to Reynolds' brother William, he marries a female slave named Bell, and they have a daughter named Kizzy, who in her a teenage years brings the wrath of their owner. A middle-aged Kunta and Bell helplessly see her sold off to another plantation. Years later, while being courted by a slave named Sam Bennett, Kizzy goes back to the Reynolds' plantation, where she learns her mother was sold off to another plantation, and her father was buried under a wooden grave marker. She uses a rock to scratch out "Toby" and write "Kunta Kinte" underneath, before returning to her own plantation.
  • In the Roots remake, after Kunta accepts the grim reality he'll live the rest of his life as a slave, he marries a slave woman named Belle, and they have a daughter named Kizzy. After Kizzy learns to read and write, she forges some "freedom papers" for another slave, which results in his death when fugitive slave hunters try to recapture him. Enraged at this development, her master sells her to another plantation as Kunta and Belle cry out for her. On the night of her arrival, she's raped by her new master, which results in the birth of her son "Chicken" George Lea. They stay together for several decades in the same plantation, even when a freedman tried to court her, and even after George got married and started a family of his own. Kizzy and George part ways when his master/father loses him on a high stakes cock fight, and George is taken against his will to England. When his English master frees him twenty years later, George goes back to the Lea plantation, where he discovers that Kizzy, his mother, died years before, and after paying his respects to her grave, he goes to confront his former master.

  • "The Three Bells (Les Trois Cloches)," a № 1 country and pop smash hit by The Browns (siblings Jim Ed, Maxine and Bonnie) in 1959. The song tracks the life of a man named Jimmy Brown and the church bells that ring to signify significant milestones in his life: his birth (in the first verse), his wedding day (second verse) and his funeral (third verse).
  • "In The Ghetto", most famously sung by Elvis Presley, follows a boy born in the Chicago ghetto from his birth to his death as a young man.
  • The old song "My Grandfather's Clock" tells the story of the narrator's grandfather, who was born on the same day that the family bought the clock. It continued to work throughout his life, and stopped forever on the day that he died.
  • AFI's "The Spoken Word" is a poem read by a child, a young man, and an old man, all implied to be the same person.

    Myths & Religion 
  • 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 birth, death, and everything in-between for 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 Book Of Leviticus and Book of 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 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 Four Gospels: 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Mythic includes mechanics for passing time and aging characters between adventures intended for this effect. It demonstrates this in its rulebook with a character named Rolf the Barbarian. Rolf is created as being in his twenties, and his stats and abilities rise and fall through injury, triumph in war, sudden illness, retraining to get back some of his former glory, retiring as an Old Master, before finally rapidly deteriorating in his seventies and eighties.

    Video Games 
  • Ezio Auditore of Assassin's Creed. Assassin's Creed II includes a brief section where you control him as a newborn, and at the end of Assassin's Creed: Embers he dies a peaceful death from old age.
  • The Flash game And Everything Started to Fall focuses on the life of a man, starting with him as a baby boy and ending with him as a senior climbing a ladder to his gravesite.
  • Deus ex Machina and its sequel starts with The Defect's conception and ends with his death from natural causes, progressing by dividing his life into seven stages as defined by its inspiration, the "All The World's a Stage" soliloquy from As You Like It.
  • Fallout:
    • Fallout 3: The game opens with the Player Character's birth, and then after a few Time Skips, the bulk of the game is spent with them as an adult. In the core game before the Broken Steel DLC, the game has to end with their death.
    • Fallout 4: The game begins with Shaun as a baby, the game proper has him as an old man leading the Institute, and one way or another he will die by the end of the game, either from the player's actions or from his terminal cancer.
  • Repton. The instalment The Life of Repton focuses on different stages of Repton's life, from babyhood to old age.
  • Naturally, The Sims 2 onwards, in which the second game of the series is the game that introduces aging and Sims that are played from infancy to adulthood tend to develop better skills than those that were made as an adult.
  • E-102 Gamma's story in Sonic Adventure starts with his activation and a test run in Dr. Eggman's base in the Mystic Ruins and ends with his and "big brother" E-101 Beta's mutual destruction of one another.
  • In Crusader Kings, this can happen if your previous ruler dies early and the only valid heir is still a baby or child.

    Western Animation 
  • Most of Adventure Time is set over a couple years of Finn's life, but we eventually see both his birth (via flashback in Islands) and his adventures in the afterlife shortly after dying (in Distant Lands: Together Again).
  • Emrick the Petalar from Thunder Cats 2011 goes from birth to death of old age over the course of a single day/episode. His race doesn't live long.