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Flying Dutchman
aka: Wandering Jew

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Many lands and peoples have legends of a man who is Barred from the Afterlife and cursed to go Walking the Earth (or sailing or flying or...) forever. Most versions of this fall into one of two types: the Flying Dutchman, cursed to sail the seas, and the Wandering Jew, forced to wander the earth.

The Wandering Jew story can be traced to medieval Christianity — in particular, a reference to Matthew 16:28, wherein Jesus states that some of the people listening to him speak would not die prior to Jesus "coming in his kingdom", which some believe to be a reference to the Second Coming. Since many ordinary lifespans had passed between Jesus' speech and the time of its progenitors, the myth arose that at least one of those ancient audience members had been for some reason sentenced to immortality.

The Flying Dutchman variant first popped up in the seventeenth century, and was said to be an old sailing superstition. Sources differ on whether "Flying Dutchman" was the name of the ship or a nickname for her captain, who is usually named "Hendrick van der Decken" or something close to that. The most common form of this story is that the ship was trying to get around the Cape of Good Hope, a notoriously stormy and risky crossing for sailing vessels, and was caught in a gale; at this point, Captain van der Decken cursed God and vowed that he would round of the Cape even if it took him until Judgement Day, earning himself the curse that he shall do precisely that. The ship is then said to be stuck eternally trying to make the trip, sometimes appearing to other vessels to either run them down, try to leave messages to people long dead, or just generally portend doom.

A political variant has the victims unable to ever stop wandering due to lack of a passport, being an exile, or other bureaucratic bungle that leaves them without the paperwork to settle. The counterpart to the political variant sees the character, instead of wandering, stuck in an airport (like The Terminal) or otherwise transitional area, which moves it far from the original trope.

When people wander by choice, this becomes Walking the Earth. Compare Limited Destination Time, where it's external circumstances that prevent someone from staying long in one place. When a ship is being followed, it's a Stern Chase instead; a vehicle of any kind that takes dead souls to another world is an Afterlife Express. There may also be some overlap with Noble Fugitive. The cursed character can sometimes be co-opted as The Drifter, or if they're specifically out to do good, a Knight Errant. And if it's nobody's fault, they may just have No Sense of Direction. It's a possible destiny of those who are Barred from the Afterlife.

Not to be confused with Wandering Dutchmen such as the traveling theologian and humanist Desiderius Erasmus.


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Flying Dutchmen

    Anime & Manga 
  • One Piece: The Flying Dutchman appears with a reversal of the legend: Instead of being unable to set foot on land again, the captain (who is a fishman) can never swim again due to eating a Devil Fruit. Said captain is actually a descendant of the original captain from the legend, who apparently wasn't quite as immortal as the legend would say.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Universe: Captain Fate betrayed his captain Maura Hawke, selling her to a satyr in exchange for untold riches. Maura was furious to learn that her crew had truly left her, and she cursed them all to never reach port, never enjoy their new found wealth, and to sail on forever, beyond time, beyond death. The Serpent's Crown lifted off the water into the sky, sailing the space winds for eternity it seemed. Fate and his crew became Space Pirates, occasionally returning to Earth to act as Sky Pirates.
  • The Silver Surfer actually battled the Flying Dutchman's ghostly captain in one Silver Age story, and the captain has since appeared once or twice to bedevil The Avengers among others.
  • Supergirl story Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot: After her death and her universe's reboot, Supergirl's spirit became stuck into the new Earth, existing as an aimless wandering ghost.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
    • A Romano Scarpa Uncle Scrooge story tells us about the Flying Scotsman, an ancestor of Scrooge's, a former vicious pirate who is kept alive by an oath to atone for the crimes he did against poor villagers. His ship literally flies because it's so old it's completely dried out.
    • Carl Barks used the actual Flying Dutchman in a Scrooge story a couple of years later; in this version it turns out that the ship itself has been frozen inside an iceberg for centuries; its "ghost" image was a mirage caused by the unusual properties of the ice in that region.
  • A The Mighty Thor story has him fighting a ship full of authentic Vikings that were cursed to sail the seas for 1,000 years... until they reached America.
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe: In one of Doctor Who Magazine's strips, Kroton, the Cyberman with a soul, once ended up on the spacefaring "Flying Dutchman II."

    Fan Works 
  • Star Wars: Galactic Folklore and Mythology: The Frozians, a race famous for their heavy use of airships and zeppelins, have an aerial version of this in the form of the Black Rolyat, a ghostly dirigible that made a Deal with the Devil for safe passage through a storm in exchange for the soul of their person to go down the ship's gangplank; the captain fulfilled this deal by throwing the ship's jonzi (a catlike animal) across the gangplank on arrival, and the furious Devil cursed the ship and its crew sail the skies for all eternity. Frozian sailors say that the ship can be seen flying during terrible storms, and that such a glimpse carries very bad luck.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge is a rare variation on the Flying Dutchman version of this trope, whereby genuine repentance allows the mariner to escape his fate, with the only requirement that he tell his story to other people to warn them off his path — although he still has to move like night from land to land. Repentance just gets him off the ship; it doesn't completely uncurse him. In a slight subversion, although he is forced to retell his story to other people, he still has a normal lifetime. His curse occurs in his youth and by the time he tells his story, in the poem, he has aged severely.
  • Slayers: Try has an episode about a ghost ship that is cursed to wander the seas because the captain neglected his duties in favor of his hobby: collecting vases.
  • The Dune universe has the in-universe legend of Ampoliros: a starship whose crew experiences group psychosis and believes the human race has been wiped out by aliens. They elect to wander the galaxy, taking as many of the aliens with them as they can. The time dilation effect of near light speed travel makes them effectively immortal, every planet is hostile by definition, and any ship is a legitimate target. To make things worse, the men are sick of, and fatigued by, their endless voyage ("forever prepared, forever unready")... but in their minds at least, to stop would spell the end of the human race. If you are of the point of view that the various abilities shown in Dune's timeline are the results of aliens having either genetically engineered humans over the millenia or interbred/assimilated them , there is always the nightmarish possibility that they're right...
  • The Nautical Ballad of Ben Bo Bohns introduces the Will o' the Wisp, which seems to be a phantom ship by choice. In the poem, it forms a Power Trio with the Flying Dutchman and the ship of the Ancient Mariner.
  • Robert Bloch published a story in a 1940s pulp magazine in which the captain of the original Flying Dutchman vessel now hijacks a modern subway train, evicting all the passengers except one elderly man and woman. The story consists of a diary kept by the elderly man: he and the woman, captives on the runaway subway train, continue to grow younger as the ancient Dutch sea captain pilots it backwards in time to a rendezvous with his ship.
  • Brian Jacques (of Redwall fame) wrote a trilogy called Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, which feature not only the original Dutchman but a boy and dog who were allowed to leave the ship because they were pure of heart. An angel grants them immortality and a psychic link with each other, but they end up Walking the Earth and leaving behind everyone they ever love so no one will notice that they never age. The one time the boy tells their secret, it leads to disaster. (Though, really, it seems as if everyone they meet can sense that he's extraordinary just by looking into his eyes.) They're also constantly haunted by nightmares about the Flying Dutchman. Add in that the boy is forever stuck at age 14, and this is a definite case of Blessed with Suck.
  • Diana Wynne Jones's The Homeward Bounders: The eponymous characters, one of whom is the actual Wandering Jew (and another is the actual Flying Dutchman).
  • Daniel Pinkwater's book Yobgorgle: Mystery Monster of Lake Ontario is about a modern cursed Dutchman named Captain Van Straaten who sails Lake Ontario in a self sufficient submarine shaped like a giant pig. The curse is eventually broken not with The Power of Love, but with the use of hydroplaning and a corned-beef sandwich.
  • The short story Peter Rugg, the Missing Man, on which a The Real Ghostbusters episode was based, featured a man who swore that, if his carriage could not reach his Boston home one night, in spite of a gathering storm, he might never return...
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Ghost Ship has the crew of a present day Russian naval vessel trapped as disembodied intelligences in a giant space going creature.
  • Dragonlance has the Green Gemstone Man, condemned to wander the earth. He had a green gem from a column embedded in his chest; the gem prevented the gods from returning to the world of Dragonlance because the column was incomplete. He could be killed, but would be reincarnated.
  • Swallows and Amazons: The legend of the Flying Dutchman is mentioned, in which it's noted that Peter Duck (a seaman who loves the sea so much he considers going in to port for supplies to be an unwelcome necessary evil) would be a perfect choice to captain it.
  • Sargasso of Space: It's mentioned that the Solar Queen's Cargo Master collects space folklore and is very good at re-telling the stories, especially the story of a ship called the New Hope, which lifted off full of refugees, never landed anywhere, and now is only sighted by ships which are themselves in dire trouble.
  • Warhammer 40,000: In "Legion of the Damned", the titular Legion's only surviving spaceship (a "Star Fort") appears out of nowhere at the last minute to destroy the Keeler Comet and obliterate the Chaos armada while the Legionnaires wipe out the planetside Chaos crusaders right on the verge of their victory.
  • Small Gods: The Fin of God seems to be the Discworld version of the Dutchman, only in this case the physical ship sank and the crew drowned. The eternal wanderer is its ghost, since the crew can't enter the afterlife because they killed a dolphin. Of course, because this is Discworld, the crew is only barred from the afterlife for as long as they believe this to be so. And since at the end of the scene they're discussing looking for a different afterlife, there may be hope for them yet.
  • Stark (and the short TV series based upon it) features the "Leper Ships", which carry highly toxic waste endlessly travel between ports, forbidden to unload. The Big Bad of the TV series intends to sink a few to bring about The End of the World as We Know It in a class-5 Apocalypse How. In the book, it's observed that such an event is inevitable, given the poor state of repair the Lepers are in. All it would take is one bad storm, and the world ends up poisoned...
  • In the Norwegian children's book Ruffen and the Flying Dutchman, the eponymous little sea serpent encounters the undead sailor and learns that he was cursed by the Queen of the Sea for his hubris.
  • Fate/Requiem so far has three cursed wanderers.
    • Hendrick van der Decken, the Captain of the Flying Dutchman, is summoned as a Rider Servant. His Noble Phantasm is his ship the Flying Dutchman, which is manned by his ghostly crew. His ship is only allowed to come on land once every seven years, and he cannot dock at the same place twice unless it has been so long that the place's name has changed and no one living there remembers him. However, when he does come on land, nothing can stop him, not even magical barriers. The curse can be broken if he can find a wife, so he regularly looks for one when on land, though Kundry is too crazy for him to stand.
    • Hendrick's Master is Ahasuerus, the Wandering Jew himself. Since he is immortal, he cannot be a Servant (you have to die to become a Heroic Spirit and enter the Throne of Heroes). His long life has made him very kooky and boisterous.
    • Kundry is a Stray Rider Servant. She is cursed with Resurrective Immortality and to wander and serve men of strength in every life, only to be used as a tool and cast aside, until she can find her true love. She has gone insane and murderous, endlessly chasing Hendrick and Ahasuerus because she has become a Stalker with a Crush to Hendrick, thinking he is her true love, while killing anyone in her way.
  • The Marvellous Land of Snergs: Before the beginning of the proper story, Vanderdecken -said to be the Flying Dutchman himself- and his crew disembark on the island completely by accident, and since they had been wandering the seas since they sailed from Holland in the seventeenth century, they don't really mind. Usually the strong sea winds and ocean currents keep all unwanted visitors out of the island, but because Vanderdecken had vowed to round the Cape of Good Hope even if he had to sail till the Judgment Day, his ship couldn't be stopped or diverted from its route.
  • The Wandering Jew puts in appearances in all three parts of A Canticle for Leibowitz. When not a plot device, as in the first section, he is a sardonic outside observer of human nature throughout the millennia, and of its inability to change.
  • Matthew Lawe, the protagonist of Nicholas Monsarrat's The Master Mariner, is an English sailor condemned to immortality for his cowardice against the Spanish Armada.
  • The Map to Everywhere has Coll, captain of the Enterprising Kraken, cursed to eternally sail the Pirate Stream. In this variation he can put in to port...just not for too long, on pain of the Power Tattoo that allows him to navigate the stream crawling off his skin and strangling him slowly to death.
  • One story in the Thieves' World anthologies has an especially horrific variant: a man who is cursed not only to wander the earth forever, but also to never eat twice from the same plate nor sleep twice in the same bed. And the one who cursed him? Was himself.
  • In the Richard Matheson short story "Death Ship", the crew of a small spaceship discover an exact replica of their vessel crashed on an isolated planet, and further investigation leads to the crew discovering their own corpses. After much speculation about what's going on, a crewman realizes the truth: they were killed in a crash-landing, and now they're doomed to wander the cosmos as a ghost ship. As the man grimly proclaims, they're "the Flying Dutchman gone cosmic."

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Andromeda episode "The Mathematics of Tears" is heavily based on the legend of the Flying Dutchman, although the Pax Magellanic's crew are androids controlled by a rogue AI, not cursed humans. The Pax Magellanic draws the parallel herself, and plays the opera music frequently, considering it her theme song.
  • The Doctor Who story "Mawdryn Undead" involves a band of alien scientists mutated into horrible pain-wracked forms and unable to die. The scientists sabotage the TARDIS, leaving it stuck in orbit around the Earth and unable to travel forward or backward in time without killing Nyssa and Tegan, unless the Doctor agrees to sacrifice his life energy to help them end their wretched existence, at the cost of his ability to regenerate. Luckily, there are two Brigadiers wandering around, one from the past and one from the (then) present (it's a long story), and when they meet, they touch hands, causing a discharge of temporal energy at precisely the right instant, which ends the scientists' immortality and allows the Doctor to remain a Time Lord.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: In "Lost Mariner", Gabrielle gets stuck on the ship of the legendary Cecrops (played by Tony Todd), who is cursed to sail the sea by Poseidon "until love redeems him." The curse began 300 years earlier when Cecrops ruled that Athena had beaten Poseidon in the contest for Athens. The reason Cecrops has been alive ever since is because of Athena; she sympathized with his situation, so she granted him immortality and gave him the clue to how to break the curse. Of course, being left sailing for 300 years has left him quite bitter and resigned to it all. His crew isn't so lucky; they're stuck on the ship until they grow old and die, and they'll be struck dead if they attempt to abandon ship. Cecrops hunts down pirate ships and press-gangs their crews to replenish his own. Xena gets involved, and manages to figure out how to break his curse and get them all off the ship. Cecrops breaks the curse by attempting to sacrifice himself to save his crew, proving he loved them. When it's all over, viewers see the curse has been passed on to a Villain of the Week that had been pursuing Xena.
  • Night Gallery had a slight inversion of this in the episode "Lone Survivor". It involved a ship rescuing a man in a "Titanic" lifeboat, several years after the disaster. The rescuing ship turned out to be the Lusitania. The real curse was for any ship that would try to rescue him. He was cursed because he cowardly disguised himself as a woman to get on the lifeboat, but when he jumped in, the lifeboat came loose and fell into the water, then everybody else fell out and died.
  • The River gives us the Exodus, which also turns its crew into...something.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World: The episodes "Into the Fire" and "Out of the Blue" had Captain Mark Askwith, who was cursed to stay on a zeppelin that crashes and explodes every day, only for him and the zeppelin to reappear good as new the next day (due to having shot and thrown his own crew overboard in an attempt to save his own skin). He is able to leave it for short periods, but is inevitably forced to return, and is immortal, preventing escape by suicide. Askwith managed to trick the heroes into taking his place, but after a day they then tricked him into taking it back. The heroes determined that Askwith was irredeemably evil and deserved to be cursed.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: The Doctor once refers to Voyager as "The Voyage of the Damned". The episode "Night" implies that life on Voyager is beginning to feel like this trope for Captain Janeway, as well.
  • Babylon 5: At the end of "Babylon Squared", Sinclair compares to the situation (a previous station, Babylon 4, has begun drifting back and forth through time) to the Flying Dutchman.
    Sinclair: It's a legend. An ancient sailing vessel that vanished while trying to sail the Cape of Good Hope. According to the story, it's reappeared again and again over the centuries trying to find a way home.
    Susan Ivanova: Did the Flying Dutchman ever make it home?
    Sinclair: No.
  • In Sinbad, Sinbad is cursed so he will die if he stays on land for more than 24 hours at a time, so he's always on the move.
  • The Ghost Busters plays it for laughs with the ghosts of the Dutchman's oddly small crew, consisting of Capt. Aloysius Beane and his first mate.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • In the final scene of "The Odyssey of Flight 33", it appears that Flight 33 is destined to become a time traveling Flying Dutchman as it is uncertain whether its next attempt to return to 1961 will be successful, especially since its fuel is running low.
    • In "The Arrival", Flight 107 mysteriously disappeared in a thick fog in the early 1940s. In his closing narration, Rod Serling describes it as an airborne Flying Dutchman.
    • In the closing narration of "Death Ship", Rod Serling refers to the spaceship E-89, whose crew is destined to relive the same few hours over and over again, as a latter-day Flying Dutchman.
  • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir: In "The Great Power Failure", the cursed ghost ship Sea Vulture drifts into the area of Schooner Bay and while it remains there, the captain loses most of his powers, so he can do nothing about the women's PTA meeting held at the cottage.

  • Invoked in the Jethro Tull song of the same name, which compares Vietnamese refugees and the homeless to the Dutchman.
  • The Filk Song Dawson's Christian is about this trope Recycled In Space.
  • Iron Maiden's "Ghost of the Navigator."
  • Insomnium's "The Wanderer."
  • The M.T.A. Song, in which "poor old Charlie" is doomed to ride the Boston subway forever because the fares changed after he boarded the train and he does not have the nickel required to exit.
    • Fridge logic: The song says that "every day at a quarter past two" Charlie's wife hands him a sandwich through an open window. If it is too difficult to hand him a nickel on its own, she could put it in the sandwich! Not to mention the much simpler solution that another rider could take pity on Charlie and give or lend him a nickel.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Used a few times in the Ravenloft setting, most notably with Captain Pieter van Reise, the darklord of the Sea of Sorrows (a Dutchman Expy) and the cursed Captain Garvin from the Ship of Horror adventure.
  • Rifts has dozens of Flying Dutchmen in the form of ghost ships, ghost planes, ghost cars, even ghost tanks that run the gamut from unambiguously good to pure evil. Some of the most notable, although there are many more:
    • The old dreadnought battleship USS Texas was energized with magic when the rifts came. She initially served as a shelter for people fleeing the rift storms, and not only carried them through, but actively protected them with a will of her own. She is a benevolent protector whose magically-augmented guns and armor can stand toe-to-toe against cruise missiles and lasers.
    • USS Constitution and HMS Victory often appear out of a sudden fog to save people from pirates, demons, sea monsters, and any of several not-so-nice governments. Both ships are manned by heroic apparitions of their former crews.
    • HIMS Yamato will appear out of nowhere to come to the aid of Japanese ships in need. It's believed that she would probably attack any American or British vessel.
    • USS Arizona sometimes appears in ghostly form when ships (usually American, but not always) are in danger in the Pacific. She appears to be crewed by the ghosts of the sailors and marines who died aboard the battleship on December 7th, 1941, and the ghost of Rear Admiral Isaac Kidd frequently walks around the flag bridge looking for his Annapolis class ring. Though the ship and crew are benevolent, they are marked by the trauma of their death, and any living soul who boards Arizona will have vivid nightmares and eventually go insane if they stay too long.
    • A haunted F-4 Phantom will carry its pilot and RIO through any dogfight, with the voices of men who flew it in the Vietnam War giving advice in emergencies. The catch is that the pilot and RIO will occasionally have vivid nightmares about air combat in Vietnam.
    • A ghostly 1974 Plymouth Fury police cruiser patrols the western USA, often teaming up with lawmen. It will occasionally chase a ghostly red 1965 Ford Mustang that also haunts the highways. The two ghost cars will join forces to protect people from a malevolent 1969 Cadillac hearse that feeds on the blood of its victims.
    • A phantom Soviet November-class submarine with a severe radiation leak will attack any vessel it encounters.
    • U-2666 was a German Type-XXI U-boat launched in April, 1945. The boat was given to the Waffen-SS, commanded by a fanatical Nazi with occult hobbies and his hand-picked crew, and disappeared after Hitler ate his pistol. The U-boat has reappeared since the Rifts came, and is quite possibly the most evil force in the world. It glows a sickly green, it leaks blood when damaged, it smells like rotting flesh, the crew are intelligent zombies, and it's best not to think about what happens to the handful of unlucky bastards who've been dragged inside while still alive. Every navy on Earth, including the Coalition, have standing orders to shoot on sight.
  • Warhammer: Wulfrik the Wanderer sails the world in his flying longship, killing mortal champions, hideous monsters and enormous beasts. He'd boasted that he was the best warrior in the world and was cursed by the gods to prove it and die trying. He eventually realized that he'd been Cursed with Awesome (fame, purpose, wealth, immortality), and in trying to escape his curse he only lost things that he'd never have been able to enjoy anyway.
  • In the Traveller universe there is a Mythopoeia in-verse myth about the starship Robert-the-Bruce. At the founding of the Sword Worlds the ship had disappeared on a return trip to invite further settlers. According to Sword Worlds legend it wanders the stars forever and wherever it goes disaster follows behind.

  • The Flying Dutchman: In Richard Wagner's opera adapting the legend, the title character can be saved by The Power of Love coming from the local weird girl. Wagner lifted the plot from Heinrich Heine's Aus den Memoiren des Herrn von Schnabelewopski (From the memoirs of Mr. Schnabelewopski, 1838), where there is an at the time entirely fictional play the protagonist sees in Amsterdam. He helpfully ends up the summary: "The moral of the play for women is to watch out not to marry a Flying Dutchman; and we men see from this play that women in the best case cause us to perish."

    Video Games 
  • Suikoden IV takes place in an archipelago, so naturally, there's an optional encounter with a particularly creepy-looking Flying Dutchman.
  • The ghost ship in the third expansion of Final Fantasy XI, known as both The Black Coffin by the populace, and the Ashuu Talif by its crew and those who know the truth, is manned by a crew who had been killed when their nation was absorbed by the expansion's eponymous empire. Captain Luzaf's plot for revenge against the Empire is central to the expansion's plot.
  • In Silent Hill 2, a magazine tells the story of a ship that disappeared on Toluca Lake, leaving the ghosts of the crew to reach up to boats that pass overhead. In Silent Hill 3, the Sinister Subway is haunted by the wandering ghost of a train suicide, which pushes unsuspecting people onto the tracks.
  • In Alone in the Dark 2, the antagonists are gangsters who actually are the undead crew of the Flying Dutchman.
  • In Faery: Legends of Avalon, one of the realms that players are sent to is the ship on which the human legends of the Flying Dutchman are based. The ship is currently immobile for reasons that players have to sort out. (They involve a mutiny, a sea monster, and mermaids).
  • The Saint Louvia from Legend of Dragoon. While transporting Princess Louvia of Mille Seseau, it was attacked by the Black Monster, who slaughtered everybody on board, including the infant princess. The ship is now a cursed wreck haunted by the ghosts of the former crew.
  • The Fonferrus is this in Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire. Its captain was a Paladin of Old Vaillia who refused to break her oath to uphold the old nation when it fell apart. Defeating her for good and stealing the ship is a possible resolution of the Watcher sides with the Principi sen Patrena (specifically, the new blood).
  • In Terraria, one appears as a miniboss in the Pirate Invasion event. Defeating it requires destroying the four cannons it uses to attack.


    Web Original 
  • Mariners around the Ravensblight area tell of such a vessel. In the early 18th century, the family of a man who had sought and found his fortune in the New World sailed to join him, but were all lost to pirates. Edmund Filch then dedicated his company's efforts towards building a tall ship, the Dark Promise, while he changed considerably in manner and appearance, learned fencing, allegedly dabbled in dark arts, and, well, plotted mass murder, for he had decided to go and slay all the pirates he could find. The weird thing is, reports claim he stopped in a port in Sweden to take on supplies — in the 21st century.

    Western Animation 
  • SpongeBob SquarePants's version of the Flying Dutchman is more a Peek A Bogey Man Ghost Pirate than anything else, but there is one episode that gives him a similar backstory: his body was used as a window display, and thus never got a proper burial, cursing his spirit to forever wander the seas. In another episode, aptly named "Shanghai'd!", SpongeBob and Patrick are pressed into joining him as "ghostly ghost pirates." He also seems to serve as the Grim Reaper of the seas, in the episode where Mr. Krabs's thriftiness goes overboard with the consumption of an extremely old Krabby Patty found on the kitchen floor, and he has had episodes that give him Deal with the Devil tendencies.

    Real Life 
  • A garbage barge from Long Island temporarily became a victim of this trope, when it couldn't find a port willing to grant it harbor and accept its load of refuse.
  • The sports teams at Hope College of Holland, Michigan, USA are known as the "Flying Dutchmen" or "Flying Dutch" (as both the nickname and the name of the town suggest, both were founded by people with roots in the Netherlands; the college is still linked with the Reformed Church in America, a.k.a. the Dutch Reformed Church).
  • The Mary Celeste was found adrift with its crew missing without a trace. A deserted yacht was found in an eerily similar situation in 2007.
  • Some sailing ships had their entire crew wiped out by disease outbreaks.
  • Legend has it that around the end of the Cold War, formerly Soviet airline Aeroflot split into different organizations so chaotically that one passenger flight was advised it would need to pay landing charges at its destination airport... during final approach to said airport. The stewardesses had to go down the aisles collecting money from the passengers to pay it.
  • In a sense this stellar cluster. It has been expelled from both its home galaxy and the cluster of galaxies where the latter is located and will roam forever across intergalactic space.
  • The Dutch airline KLM used as its slogan "The Flying Dutchman". It's also possible to see it printed on its planes.
  • The steamship Bannockburn vanished without a trace on Lake Superior in 1902, gaining a reputation as a ghost ship with the nickname "the Flying Dutchman of the Great Lakes".

Wandering Jews

    Anime & Manga 
  • CLAMP:
    • Male Tsubasa (a.k.a. Syaoran Jr.) of the eponymous Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- becomes this at the end of the story. As payment for continuing to exist after the paradox that is his parentage resolves itself, he may never remain for long in any one dimension, and will wander the multiverse until the payment is complete (whenever that is). He can, however, stop by in his girlfriend's dimension for a booty call any time he wants, as long as he doesn't stay too long.
    • His time-travel duplicate, Watanuki, has it worse, having inverted the trope hard. Rather than being cursed to wander, he's cursed to be trapped in a single Inn Between the Worlds-type mysterious shop for the rest of his life, although to be fair it is anchored in one place and dimension. He just can't leave. In the latest chapters, it appears he might be able to travel to certain places he's traveled to before, as a sort of dream travel/spirit/what have you. By the end after 100 years have passed, it's revealed that Watanuki's magic powers have grown strong enough for him to be capable of physically leaving the shop. That being said, he will still choose against leaving for now, because he'd also promised he'd wait for Yuuko.
  • The man himself shows up in Franken Fran, his body so far gone that masses of insects have replaced his organs. Because he's an immortal bug-man, Fran & Co. think he might be a Nosferatunote . They figure out who he is after he explains that his condition happened after he "mistreated a certain man" and Fran kindly restores his body and is excited at the fact that she can experiment as much as she likes on an apparent immortal; Veronica is less then thrilled, especially after the Wandering Jew says that he's "very tired and wants to rest". They both get their wish when, just as Fran gives him a clean bill of health, he sees a crucifix and a vision of Jesus and begs for forgiveness. Jesus says something along the lines of "There is always forgiveness." And he dies by liquefying. Veronica notes that he was very glad to see Jesus (he was staying as far from humans as possible and probably never seen a crucifix before) and finally rest. This is one of the few cases of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane that appear in the series.
  • Some people in Mushishi have a variation of this: they tend to unconsciously draw mushi to their location, and the only real way to keep it under control is to never stay in any one place for too long. For obvious reasons, most of them become travelling mushi masters. Apart from explaining why Ginko is Walking the Earth, it also serves as a major plot point in the eleventh episode.
  • Keel Lorenz, the head of the Government Conspiracy in Neon Genesis Evangelion, has several traits in common with the Wandering Jew; given the timbre of the series, this is pretty much par for the course.
    • Considering that the appendix to the manga version pretty much explicitly states that that's the case, Sadamoto clearly intended that, even if Anno didn't. (Anno wasn't involved in the manga version.)
  • Kurumi of Presents is cursed to wander the Earth without aging because she didn't receive any presents on her tenth birthday. Until she finally finds her present, she fills the time by giving other people the presents they deserve, or watching what ensues when they receive other presents.
  • The Ancient Magus' Bride has the Biblical Wandering Jew, usually referred to as Cartaphilus in-story (though he really doesn't like being called that and would prefer to be called Josef), who serves as the Big Bad for the initial stages of the story. His main goal is to create a body for himself that feels no pain, because he has a form of Age Without Youth that means his body is actively and eternally decomposing, and he doesn't care who or what has to pay the price to obtain it. Eventually, it is revealed that the current incarnation of Cartaphilus came to be when a young gravedigger named Josef fused with the original Cartaphilus.

    Comic Books 
  • In Midnight Nation, Lazarus, after being resurrected by Christ, found himself without purpose. Finally, Jesus tells Lazarus to await his return, then goes off to the Last Supper. Lazarus, now a wandering homeless man, is still waiting.
    David Grey: Jesus Christ!
    Lazarus: Where?
  • The DCU:
    • One of The Phantom Stranger's purported origins — he has four, and DC will never say which if any of them is the real one — is that he is the Wandering Jew. (The other three also involve him being some kind of Flying Dutchman, but not the Wandering Jew. Clear?)
    • The New 52 showed us "The Trinity of Sin", three figures who were cursed to be Wandering Jews: the Phantom Stranger (revealed to be Judas Iscariot himself) who was cursed to "walk the Earth as a stranger to man. As a witness of what greed can do"; the mythological Pandora; and The Question, cursed to "forever question [his] identity and forever search for answers [he will never find]".
  • The immortal Hob Gadling in The Sandman (1989) was once accused of being the Wandering Jew.
    Johanna Constantine: They tell a tale, in these parts of London, that the Devil and the Wandering Jew meet, once in every century, in a tavern. [...]
    Morpheus: I am no devil.
    Hob: And I'm not Jewish.
  • In Alan Moore's one-shot Majestic, set in the WildStorm Universe, Superman Substitute Mr. Majestic is one of the last surviving beings at the end of the universe along with the Wandering Jew himself, who's lived so long he's forgotten his name, his species, his planet of origin (he does remember he and Majestic both spent a while on it, though)...
  • Jack from Fables and Jack of Fables is apparently of the Jack O'Lantern variant, except his deal with the devil will eventually expire — so he needs to find a different version of the devil every few hundred years in order to make a deal for more time.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In Alexander Afanasyev's "The Soldier And Death" (link), a Russian folk tale told in the first episode of The Storyteller, ends with the eponymous soldier being unable to enter either heaven or hell, and thus condemned to walking the earth forever. To the story's credit, mentioning this doesn't actually give away anything that makes it interesting.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Angels of Dogma have been cast out of heaven and banished to Wisconsin for all of human existence.
  • In Dracula 2000, Dracula himself is one. He is Judas Iscariot, and only dies when the heroes discover who he is, and that the rope broke when he tried to kill himself. They hang him and he dies.
  • In The Green Mile, Tom Hanks' character faces this for his participation in executing the Magical Negro who is implied to be Jesus. This is a combination of Cursed with Awesome and Blessed with Suck, as while he retains youth beyond his age, he still ends up in a nursing home with all of his friends and loved ones long dead.
    • This one is probably a reference to some versions of the legend of Longinus.
    • Though it was suggested that he isn't actually immortal. He will die eventually, just at an unusually old age, and long after everyone he knows is gone.
    • At least he's not alone. Mister Jingles, a mouse who was also healed by the Magical Negro, is under the same effects.
  • The Demi Moore vehicle The Seventh Sign features a priest who turns out to be the legendary wandering Roman. He is forced to wander the earth until the second coming, and is thus trying to bring it about.
    • He's actually cursed to wander the Earth until the end of days, which will come when there are no more souls to be born. There's a way to replenish the supply of unborn souls, and that is what he wants to prevent. Christ is already back, and is trying to stop him.
  • The Man from Earth is about a man, John Oldman, who claims to be 14,000 years old. His Walking the Earth began when his home tribe of cavemen noticed that he didn't age, and believed that he was stealing their life force. The Wandering Jew epithet is particularly ironic, considering that he accidentally became Jesus while trying to spread the teachings of Buddha in Judea.

  • Older Than Feudalism: The Biblical Cain was cursed by God to Walk the Earth for killing his brother. The Mark Of Cain that goes with this immortal (although the Bible doesn't say anything about him being immortal) homelessness is supposed to show that he's under God's protection and any harm done to him will be avenged. The term "Wandering Jew" is sometimes used to refer to Cain himself.
  • In Homer's The Odyssey, Odysseus is cursed to never be able to go home (though the gods later relent). Apart from being stuck on one island for a long while, he spends most of his ten years on boats. Which keep sinking. Making him a hybrid Ahasuerus-Dutchman thing, though of course older than either.
  • In Chaucer's The Pardoner's Tale, the three rioters are approached by an old man doomed to wander the Earth — he is frustrated that Death has not come for him. One interpretation is that he was the Wandering Jew.
  • His autobiography: Paul Eldridge & George Sylvester Viereck wrote a trilogy from 1928 to 1932, My First Two Thousand Years: the Autobiography of the Wandering Jew, followed by Salome:the Wandering Jewess and The Invincible Adam.
  • Dan Simmons:
    • As Hyperion is pretty much The Canterbury Tales IN SPACE!!, there is a man called the Wandering Jew by many people. However, that man, Sol Weintraub, is not an actual example; while he does search for a cure to his daughter's temporal illness, his wandering comes to an abrupt end when he finally meets the Shrike.
    • Illium also features a character called the Wandering Jew: her name is Savi and she's the last human left after the rest of the race was either wiped out by a virus, transformed into godlike "post-humans", trapped in a beam of blue light, or engineered into placid "eloi" and left behind.
  • Baron Parok in David Eddings' The Tamuli is subjected to an interesting variant, where he is not only put into an alternative, eternal time-frame, where he will wander forever in an unchanging world, but also set on fire with a flame that will never go out.
  • In The Riftwar Cycle, it is suggested that the actual Wandering Jew, cursed to be immortal by Jesus, was the father of Macros the Black, a powerful sorcerer who inherited his immortality. The description of the condemned man who cursed his father does SOUND like Jesus, right down to the holy artifacts that sprung up after his death including a cup (The Holy Grail) and a cloak (The Shroud of Turin). Considering that it's revealed later that Macros was lying about his origins when he told Pug and Tomas that story, the truth may be stranger still.
    • For that matter, Macros himself is a Wandering Jew figure, as most of the origins he gives for himself and most of the evidence to back them up suggest divine influence upon his life and wanderings.
  • A variant seen on occasion has the Wandering Jew as Judas Iscariot, cut down after his hanging and resurrected by Christ with the promise of redemption once He returns. For an example of this, see Angels of Light and Darkness by Simon R. Green.
  • Each part of Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz (which take place hundreds of years apart) features a very similar old Jewish man, and it's hinted that he might have been the Beatus Leibowitz from 20 Minutes into the Future. He explicitly denies this, but there are other implications that there's more to him than meets the eye. And he does not deny having lived so long.
    • At one point he scrawls the Hebrew letters for (at least the beginning of) the name "Lazarus" into the ground, indicating that perhaps what Jesus raised up was hard to put down. He apparently will make it to the stars with the surviving remnant of Mankind.
  • In both Cryptonomicon (WWII to present) and The Baroque Cycle (Baroque period) by Neal Stephenson, a character named Enoch Root appears. This is a subversion, however, because he's actually a Jesuit. In The Baroque Cycle we learn that he was an alchemist before becoming a Jesuit, and there are hints that he may have found the Philosopher's Stone, which grants eternal life... then again, there are also hints that he was just that way all along. His name is a pun on the * NIX command "chroot" and the man Enoch in the Bible, who never died.
  • The death of the Wandering Jew is an incidental part of Eugene Sue's massive potboiler, Le Juif Errant (1844-45).
  • The Wandering Jew is the star of clergyman George Croly's Salathiel (1829).
  • Nathan Brazil, the immortal guardian of the universe in Jack Chalker's Well World series, is said (in-story) to be the likely inspiration for both the Flying Dutchman and wandering Jew legends since he is Jewish and his favorite occupation is ship captain.
  • The drifter Elijah in The Yiddish Policemen's Union is representative of all the Sitka Jews' imminent exile. He is even described as speaking his Yiddish with a slight Dutch accent.
  • In "A Terrible Vengeance", by Ukrainian author Nikolai Gogol, a Cossack named Petro murders his brother, Ivan, and Ivan's young son. When Petro finally dies, God summons the souls of both brothers together and commands Ivan to choose his brother's punishment. Ivan decides that Petro should be sealed under the mountains and forced to gnaw at his own bones; once he has been punished sufficiently, he will rise up from the earth for a climactic brother-to-brother throw down. God, displeased, decrees Ivan will not be allowed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven either until their final duel. Ivan — with his son tied behind him — is forced to wander eternally on horseback, waiting for Petro's punishment to be completed.
  • The Mike Resnick short story How I Wrote the New Testament, Ushered in the Renaissance, and Birdied the 17th Hole at Pebble Beach goes for a humorous take on the story.
  • The speaker of the Anglo-Saxon poem The Wanderer laments his roamings over the earth and sea as an exile, having lost his lord and his companions to war and fate. The images and devices of the poem invoke not only the Wandering Jew story, but also the lore of Wodan, suggesting archetypal similarities between the Germanic god and this trope. The similarity is not unprecedented: German philologist Karl Blind discusses the correlation in his paper, "Wodan, the Wild Huntsman, and the Wandering Jew."
  • In the Simon Ark series, Simon claims to be over 2000 years old and says that he was cursed by God for refusing to allow Jesus to rest while he was carrying the Cross. Another story suggests Ark was instead the author of a fraudulent gospel so pious that God was unable to punish him with hell or reward him with heaven, and so left him on the Earth instead. Whether any of this is true, a delusion, or an elaborate deception on Simon's part is left as an exercise for the reader.
  • He appears as the main character of the short story titled "King of the Planet" by Wilson Tucker.
  • The title character of the Indigo series, on account of having let the sealed evil out of its can. Of course, it ends up being more complicated than that.
  • Casca: The Eternal Mercenary, a series by Barry Sadler, centers on Casca Rufio Longinus, the Roman legionary who thrust his spear into Jesus' side on the cross. He's cursed by Jesus to not only walk the earth til the Last Judgement, but to always be a soldier as well. While he can't be killed, he still feels pain when injured.
    Jesus: "Soldier, you are content with what you are. Then that you shall remain until we meet again. As I go now to my Father, you must one day come to me."
  • In Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the dead businessman Jacob Marley is punished for his selfishness by being forced to spend eternity as a ghost walking the Earth, burdened with heavy chains.
    • And he has a lot of company, whom Scrooge is briefly enabled to see. All of them are also cursed with greater than human empathy, so they are eternally tormented by their inability to lessen the suffering of others.
  • The legend of the Wandering Londoner in The Caves of Steel: a murderer who got lost trying to escape through the abandoned emergency highways of the cities. After he made the mistake of saying that "the Trinity and all the saints" wouldn't stop him from reaching his hideout, his fate was sealed; visitors in the tunnels are said to see his ghostly figure in the distance, disappearing before it can reach them or any exit.
  • In George R. R. Martin's s-f novella "The Way of Cross and Dragon," a controversial faith of the distant future identified the Wandering Jew as a repentant Judas.
  • Played for laughs in The Little Golden Calf with Ostap telling a humorous story about the Wandering Jew's final death. He was shot by Red October era Ukrainian nationalists, who were hugely antisemitic and hugely ignorant about Christian folklore, so when the Jew complained and tried to tell them he was immortal, they didn't listen and shot him anyway.
  • In the Doctor Who Past Doctor Adventures novel "Matrix", the Seventh Doctor crosses paths with a man called Joseph Liebermann, who's heavily implied to be the Wandering Jew.
  • In Time Enough for Love Lazarus Long claims to have met the Wandering Jew, and that all immortals know one another at some point. Of course, his descendants consider him to be something of an Unreliable Narrator. Lazarus himself almost counts, what with his tendency to wander off somewhere else at least once per century, though not cursed per say, unless one counts a family of millions who won't let him die whenever he's feeling suicidal.
  • The Wandering gives us the Wandering Space Traveling Jew, as Neshi is made to fly through the universe in search of a world where he could settle down, only to find worlds that were either (supposedly) destroyed by the Natasians or corrupted by their influence.
  • Parodied in two separate Michael Moorcock works. In one of the stories collected in Fabulous Harbours, a angsty later-created immortal hunts down the Wandering Jew and is disgusted to discover that he's now a rich, cultured man living on a private island in the Med and utterly untormented by immortality angst. It also turns out that the "refused to give water to Christ" thing was a misunderstanding. Another story, "The Sedentary Jew", depicts the Wandering Jew's opposite, who was cursed with immortality and the inability ever to leave London after shagging Joseph of Arimathea's wife. Being a proud Londoner, he's equally happy.
  • "The Wandering Christian" by Kim Newman and Eugene Byrne is a short story set in an Alternate History where Constantine failed to conquer by the sign of the cross, and Christianity has been all but forgotten, except by the cursed wanderer.
  • In the Malazan Book of the Fallen K'rul, Draconus and the Sister of Cold Nights cursed Kallor to live forever, but never ascent to godhood or become the leader of an empire. Kallor is forced to seek out magic candles that keep him somewhat young and functional and wander the earth, knowing that his dearest wish is unreachable for him.
  • In The Silmarillion, Maglor, the last remaining son of Fëanor. He is the only noldo elf barred from returning to Valinor and cursed to wander the shores of Middle-Earth, singing laments from agony and regret due to the evil deeds arosen from the Oath of Fëanor. It is assumed he is still around somewhere.
  • In The Jeremiah School, Wesley Ronell hints that Jeremiah Xavier, the founder of the school, may really be John the apostle, according to what Jesus said about some standing among Him during His first coming that won't taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: Rory Williams in "The Pandorica Opens". After he volunteers to guard the eponymous Pandorica containing his girlfriend until it could be opened again, it takes almost 2000 years of him wandering the Earth with the box. Although he was technically an Auton copy at the time, the memories of his life as the Last Centurion were somehow "merged" back in the original after the reboot of the universe, as revealed in a conversation in "Day of the Moon":
    Doctor: Do you ever remember it? Two thousand years, waiting for Amy? The Last Centurion.
    Rory: No.
    Doctor: You're lying.
    Rory: Of course I'm lying.
    Doctor: Of course you are. Not the sort of thing anyone forgets.
    Rory: But I don't remember it all the time. It's like this door in my head. I can keep it shut.
  • In The Incredible Hulk (1977), Doctor David Banner is forced to Walk the Earth because he is wanted by the federal government and military, whereas, in the comic, most of the wandering was done by his alter ego leaping from one location to another.
  • Dr. Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap. A botched time-travel experiment is the "curse" here. In the last episode, he decides to keep wandering for the rest of his life.
  • The Big Bad of the mid-90s adventure show Roar was Longinus, the Roman Centurion who stabbed Jesus with The Spear of Destiny, and who was therefore condemned to remain alive until he could be stabbed by the Spear again.
  • Thomas Veil in Nowhere Man. A documentary photographer has his entire life erased by...we don't know, after he takes an incriminating photo, and must evade capture while trying to find out who is responsible. Veil (subtle, that) meets many different people whom he petitions for help, though he's never sure who he can trust, as he tries to stay one step ahead of whoever is pursuing him.
  • Merlin (2008):
    • Merlin himself. After Arthur dies, Merlin is told that when Albion's need is greatest, he (Arthur) will one day rise again. This, combined with the fact that Merlin is immortal, are what literally force him to Walk the Earth alone for over a millennium. Merlin's situation is a strange combination of Flying Dutchman and Purpose-Driven Immortality, since there is an end purpose, but it's very ambiguous as he isn't told when, why, or how it will happen. All he can do till then is wait.
    • Lancelot also Walks The Earth earlier in the show after telling the truth about his faked seal of nobility, and being exiled from Camelot because of it. He also could fit under the Knight Errant category.
  • The Storyteller: At the end of "The Soldier and Death", the soldier has been Barred from the Afterlife: Death refuses to claim him, Heaven will not take him because of his sins, and Hell will not admit him for fear he will take over. After he attempts to trick his way into Heaven and fails, the soldier is left to walk the earth for all eternity.
  • Fargo: In season 3, Paul Murrane is implied to be the Wandering Jew. He mysteriously appears in numerous times and locations, displays uncanny knowledge of various characters, and speaks about judgment and the afterlife. He bears the name given to the Wandering Jew in the fictional series Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy.

  • Lupe Fiasco's character Michael Young History. After being killed, he was denied entry into Heaven for how he lived his life. Since he didn't want to go to Hell, he came back as The Cool, who haunts The Streets.
  • The country song "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky", covered by Johnny Cash among others, concerns a cowboy who sees a group of men on horseback chasing a herd of demonic cattle across the horizon. Apparently, cowboys who sin in life are condemned to ride after the Devil's herd unto eternity. This song was updated by the Blue Öyster Cult in their track "Feel The Thunder". In this take, a group of impious Hell's Angels tank up on beer and cocaine and go for a fatal ride on the night of October 31st. Satan judges their souls and condemns them to haunt the California Coast road in perpetuity.
  • Played for laughs with Phil Harris's novelty song "The Thing", featuring a man who discovers a mysterious object on the beach which he tries to take to a pawnshop, only to be chased out, with the owner threatening to call the cops. He later tries to give it to his wife, who kicks him out, and not even a hobo would take the thing. When he dies and meets St. Peter at the gates of Heaven, Peter tells him to take his thing and go, sending him "down below".
  • The folk song "M.T.A.", (the best known version is by The Kingston Trio) tells the story of Charlie, who boarded a Boston M.T.A. subway and couldn't get off at his stop due to not having the money to pay the exit fare.note 
    When he got there the conductor told him,
    "One more nickel."
    Charlie could not get off that train.
    Did he ever return,
    No he never returned
    And his fate is still unlearn'd
    He may ride forever
    'neath the streets of Boston
    He's the man who never returned.
    • Of course, given that the last verse explains that his wife comes to the station and passes him a bag lunch through the window every day so he doesn't starve, one has to wonder why she doesn't pass him a nickel so he can go home. When the MBTA adapted smart cards for fare payment in 2006 to replace tokens, they named it the "CharlieCard" in honor of the song's Charlie.
    • Again, this has older ancestry — it's based on an 1830 song "The Ship that Never Returned" which, in some versions, has the ship unable to return because it can't pay the docking fees.
    • The Irish punk band Dropkick Murphys play an adaptation that replaces Charlie with "Skinhead On The MBTA" — When the conductor asks the skinhead to pay the exit fare, he responds by knocking the conductor out and stealing the train. A variation of this can be found in They Might Be Giants' Shoehorn with Teeth: "He toured the world, with a heavy metal band/But they run out of gas/The plane can never land" which also owes a lot to Chico's speech as an Italian aviator, ending with and that's how we flew to America in A Night at the Opera.
  • Saxon's "Midas Touch" (from the album Power & the Glory) is about a man who has to fight against evil until the time of armageddon.
  • Rush's "Xanadu" (from A Farewell to Kings) is inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "Kubla Khan"; the protagonist achieves immortality and, well, lives to regret it.

    Myths & Religion 
  • One common iteration of the legend has it that The Wandering Jew (sometimes instead a Roman), usually named Ahasuerus, mocked Jesus on the way to the cross and is forced to wander the earth until the second coming.
    • Other versions have it as some random guy who was present when Jesus said the second coming would be in the lifetime of at least one of his audience.
    • It's also implied that the Wandering Jew's Ur-Example is the Book of Genesis's Cain, with the book of Genesis noting that after murdering Abel, Cain says to God "Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face I shall be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass that every one that findeth me shall slay me" (Gen. 4:14). Afterwards, Cain settled in the now-lost land of Nod, whose name means "wandering exile" in Hebrew. Cain's roaming the earth could also be possibly interpreted as living a nomadic life.
    • In the Mormon tradition, they believe that there are three disciples of Jesus Christ, otherwise known as "The Three Nephites", who were chosen to wander the Earth until his second coming. However, their purpose is benevolent, as there have been folklore about their appearances, helping dozens of people along their journey.
  • In medieval legend, King Herla and his court visited The Fair Folk. He was given many gifts, including a dog, with just one condition — he couldn't touch the earth again until the dog died. Naturally, that never happened. Herla and his court were doomed to spend the rest of eternity on horseback, eternally wandering as The Wild Hunt.
  • There is a myth of a man in the southern USA who tricks the devil multiple times so the man doesn't die when he is supposed to. The man thinks that all he has to do is become religious in the extra time, and the devil won't be able to take him anyway. Unfortunately the man blows it each time he tricks the devil and gains more time (he spends all the extra time drinking). When he finally dies, Heaven refuses to let him in. Then Hell refuses to let him in because the devil doesn't want to put up with him after all the tricks. The man begs a lantern from the devil to let him see his way back to the land of the living, which is supposedly all you can see of him now.
    • That's basically the old Irish tale of Jack o'Lantern, or Stingy Jack, whom the cute little Halloween pumpkins (originally turnips) were named for — after the devil kicked him out, he contemptuously threw a coal from Hell at him to light his way with, which Jack keeps in a hollowed-out gourd. The tale was used to explain why there are these floating fires in swamps.
    • This is similar to the old one-liner, "Heaven won't have him, and Hell is afraid he'd take over."
  • Count Saint Germain allegedly discovered the alchemical formula for immortality, and still walks the Earth today. This is presented as a blessing rather than a curse.
  • Classical Mythology: Dionysus, for a bit. Hera curses him with insanity after the death of his lover Ampelus, and he wanders through Egypt and Asia Minor for a bit. Then he gets better, but he keeps wandering around, presumably just for kicks.
  • In the folklore of Mecklenburg, Frau Gauden was a woman who loved hunting more than life itself, and foolishly declared it was better than Heaven. For this blasphemy, she was cursed to ride around the world in a chariot pulled by her hounds, eternally hunting until judgment day.
  • Italian folklore has a figure called the Befana, who is an unusual example in that she's this largely of her own volition. According to legend, the Befana let the Three Wise Men stay in her house on their way to meet the infant Jesus, but declined their offer to come along. She later had a change of heart and set out to visit Him, packing a bag of sweets for the infant Savior and a broom to help the new mother clean, but found herself unable to actually find her way to Bethlehem. As such, she continues searching to this day, visiting every house in hope to finally meet the baby Jesus at Christmastime, but is always a little too late to do this (her visits fall during the Epiphany, a minor religious holiday about a week after Christmas), and instead gives her offering of sweets to the other children she meets along the way before resuming her search the next year.

  • The eponymous character of the BBC radio show Pilgrim, named William Palmer, is cursed by the Faerie King for not believing in the 'other world' to forever wander Britain sometime when The Fair Folk were still talked about by the common people. The show itself is set in the modern day, but the King has yet to lift the curse despite the favours Palmer keeps doing for him and despite Palmer's own desperate wish to die.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ravenloft: The Vistani, a gypsy-like folk, are unable to reside in one place for more than a few nights without losing their supernatural powers. Averted in the case of the Zarovan tribe, darklings (outcast Vistani), and occasional exceptions like Hyskosa.
  • Warhammer: Richter Kreugar was cursed to never be able to die by a necromancer he betrayed. He's doomed to wander the land until the end of days, and seeks out battle in the hope that one day he'll find some foe powerful enough to make death stick.
  • The World of Darkness:
    • Changeling: The Lost: Grim Fears: Night Horrors has Jack of the Lantern, who is pretty much a straight retelling of the folk figure of the same name.
    • Promethean: The Created: It's difficult to play a character who isn't a Wandering Jew on account of a curse that all Prometheans share that gradually spoils the land and turns the locals against them.
    • Vampire: The Masquerade has Caine, who was cursed with vampirism for slaying Abel. He wandered the earth and eventually settled a city of his people... and then God sent the Flood.
      • Vampires of the Ravnos Clan, in 5th edition, have gained this as their new Clan Curse: after the events with their Antediluvian at the end of the previous edition, all (remaining) Ravnos are forced to be on the move; after they spend a day sleeping somewhere, they physically can't sleep within a mile of that spot the for at least a week, or they start burning from the inside out, forcing them to constantly migrate from one place to the next to keep ahead of the curse. That said, many players naturally figured out ways around this, such as owning seven different shelters strategically placed around a city that they can alternate between each day, which somewhat lessens the effect.
    • Vampire: The Requiem has the Lancea Sanctum, who revere Longinus as Vampire Jesus. The story goes that Longinus was turned into a vampire when he stabbed Christ's side and the savior's blood dripped onto his lips; after that, he wandered for years until God revealed the purpose of vampires — to harrow humanity back into righteousness.

  • Underneath the Lintel features one character — the Librarian — who receives a book that is 113 years overdue, laying a path through a series of clues and items that eventually lead the audience to believe the mysterious man he has been pursuing is the Wandering Jew of legend.
  • Besides the Flying Dutchman, another Wagner character based on the Wandering Jew is Kundry in Parsifal, who like Ahasuerus, mocked Jesus as he was being crucified and was cursed with immortality. In the end, her curse is lifted and she is finally allowed to die after she helps Parsifal get the Holy Grail.

    Video Games 
  • Pokemon Xand Y: The mysterious Pokémon Trainer AZ. He was once the king of Kalos from 3000 years ago. His immortally was caused by using the ultimate weapon to bring his Floette back to life and to end the war that killed his Floette in the first place, killing thousands in the process. When it found out what its trainer had done, it left him. He had been wandering Kalos searching for it ever since.
  • Lost Odyssey: While there are a number of immortals, the best example is Kaim Argonar. For a thousand years, he has wandered the earth with nowhere to go and nowhere to return to. Many of the short stories in the game's "One Thousand Years of Dreams" go into just how tragic this can be. It gets better for him in the end, when he reunites with and is ultimately able to settle down with his (also immortal) wife, Sarah.
  • At the end of Tales of Destiny 2, when time is being reset, Judas hypothesizes that he might become one, wandering throughout all of time without a time or place to call home since he'd been revived by one who'd just been retconned out of time. No official word on whether this happened or whether he was erased from time completely, though the game implies he did somehow survive.
  • Assassin's Creed: The Sage is a human being reincarnated throughout history, always picking up Past-Life Memories all the way back to prehuman times when he reaches a certain age (and manifesting heterochromia). He's strongly implied to be the origin of the Wandering Jew story, and one of his incarnations is the Real Life Count of St. Germain, who claimed to be this trope. His purpose seems to be to bring back the extinct Abusive Precursors, since he himself used to be one of them.
  • At the end of the sixth singularity of Fate/Grand Order, it is revealed that Bedivere isn't a Servant but actually a human that has been wandering for centuries after refraining from returning Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake, preventing Altria from dying. Bedivere has been made to wander for centuries thanks to holding onto Excalibur while trying to find his king, and in the 13th century he ends up in Avalon. There, Merlin sends him to the sixth singularity in Jerusalem, and Bedivere is able to return Excalibur to the Goddess Rhongomyniad, the distorted version of Altria after holding onto the sacred Lance for too long, returning her to her senses while his body breaks apart from age.
  • In Gabriel Knight 3, Emilio Baza is revealed in the end to be the Wandering Jew.

    Web Comics 
  • Girl Genius: Embi swore an oath to his gods when he was young to see the world before he died. He's now 130, at the least. This is mostly played for laughs, though.
    Embi: When I was young and rash, I made a sacred vow to see the world before I died. Frankly, I didn't know how big it was at the time.
    Agatha Clay: ...But what has that got to do with your long life?
    Embi: One of the problems with people here is that they do not take sacred vows at all seriously!
  • In Zebra Girl, Jack curses vampiric mage Harold DuVase to become a Wandering Jew with a twist. This is more of an And I Must Scream, since DuVase is teleported to a series of increasingly worse hells and doesn't actually do much wandering.
    Jack: He'll move around. Wherever he doesn't want to be... that's always where he'll go.
  • Dresden Codak: Somewhere Niels Bohr walks among us unobserved and immortal.
  • In Never Never, the Black Knight's back story is a Roman version of the Wandering Jew.
  • Lancelot meets the Wandering Jew in the space arc of Arthur, King of Time and Space. He's based on Mel Brooks' 2,000 year old man, and is cursed to walk the Earth for slightly over a thousand years. (The space arc of AKOTAS isn't set in the "future", exactly, but the 5th century AD in a history where space travel has existed since time immemorial).
  • In Sluggy Freelance, in "Mohkadun", the King Of Gods of Mohkadun curses the traitorous god Symachus to lose his powers and become blind and feeble and live either forever or at least a long time. This backfires when Symachus uses all his time to Take a Level in Badass and become an immortal lich who manipulates the entire course of history to get revenge — which is also why it's hard to say whether he was cursed with immortality or long age in the first place, because maybe he's just continuing in undeath.

    Web Original 
  • In the Whateley Universe, a character named Arturo Mucro Cursor shows up in Merry's stories, and carries with him a business card saying, 'AKA: The Guy Who Nailed Christ To A Tree; Rank: I don’t need no stinkin’ rank... I was there.' Sure enough, he's the Wandering Jew.
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-1440 apparently beat Death and his brothers at cards, winning immortality in the process; unfortunately, Death and his brothers hold grudges. SCP-1440 suffers under at least two curses, one that causes increasingly destructive events to happen to humans, or anything connected to them, if he spends long enough around them, and one that forces him to wander the Earth in a complex pattern that inevitably brings him into contact with human populations.
  • Puffin Forest: Gouda of the "Curse of Strahd" module struck a deal with a Death Tyrant so that she would always be "the hero". This granted her Resurrective Immortality by way of gaining a new and different body each time she died but she was also cursed to constantly by distracted and sidetracked by new "adventures", preventing her from returning home. As a result she was destined to spend eternity wandering the Demiplanes of Dread spreading chaos in her wake.

    Western Animation 
  • In Ewoks, the Traveling Jindas are a culture of Humanoid Aliens cursed by an erratic Force-user known as the Rock Wizard to forever roam Endor; if they stay in one place for too long, boulders propelled by the Rock Wizard's curse animate and begin physically attacking the Jindas, their belongings, and anyone unfortunate enough to be nearby, until the Jindas are compelled to move on. When the Ewoks find the Rock Wizard's missing tooth, he breaks the curse and invites the Jindas to return to their homeland on the plains around his castle again.

Men Without a Country

    Anime & Manga 
  • Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- and ×××HOLiC: Syaoran Li and his "progeny" Watanuki are men without/outside the time-space continuum due to a magician creating clones of Li and his girlfriend Sakura that eventually became Li's own parents. When Li left his "home" dimension (where his parents lived) his absence created Watanuki, who subconsciously knew he shouldn't be alive. Eventually they defeated the magician but that didn't resolve the fact that Li and Watanuki shouldn't even exist. In the end, they paid a price to be able to live: Li would dimension-hop until he found a world where he, Sakura, and the clones could live while Watanuki would remain in a small but interdimensional space until Yuuko returned — unlike most of the examples their fates are presented as choices rather then punishments or unfortunate side-effects. At least they'll be able to visit each other/have visitors often, respectively.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Laurel and Hardy made their last movie in France, with a supporting cast of French actors. The movie has been distributed in English under several titles, including Utopia and Atoll K. One of the characters in the movie is a stateless refugee without a passport, whom no country will accept. When Stan and Ollie start their own nation on an obscure island, they are forced to accept this man as an immigrant because they lack the resources to deport him and there's no country they can deport him to. As the movie ends, he gets eaten by a lion: the fade-out gag in the very last Laurel & Hardy film.
  • The Terminal is a Tom Hanks film about a man being detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport because while he was in flight his home country fell to a civil war and effectively ceased to exist. He can't leave the airport to go to New York, and he can't fly home, since his country technically doesn't exist anymore. So he starts living in the airport terminal, making friends with various workers, and developing feelings for a flight attendant named Amelia. Very Loosely Based on a True Story about a guy who was stuck in a French airport for 18 years (see the Real Life section).
  • The Voyage of the Damned, a 1976 film based on the 1974 novel of the same name, documents the German M.S. St. Louis ocean liner attempting to transport Jewish refugees from Germany in 1939 several months prior to the Nazi Germans' September 1939 invasion of Poland and World War II, only to have the Cuban government refuse them, and to make matters worse, the U.S.A. won't accept them either. Belgium, France, the U.K. and the Netherlands each agree to accept a number of refugees; unfortunately Belgium, France, and the Netherlands would eventually be invaded by Nazi Germany, and roughly one-fourth of them would die in concentration camps. This would also double as a literal Wandering Jew case, due to the Jewish refugees involved.

  • "The Ship that Never Returned" (because it couldn't pay the docking fees) (1830) straddles the line between this variant and the Flying Dutchman one.
  • Edward Everett Hale's short story "The Man Without a Country" (1863) is probably the earliest unambiguous version of the modern variant of the trope. In it, a man is exiled from America due to his expressed hatred of it, and is forced to live on U.S. Navy ships for the rest of his life, without ever hearing about his home country. At least, not directly. There is one point where, upon receiving some news from another ship, the Captain tells the man "You may now remove Texas from your atlas."
  • In Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Captain Nemo claims the sea (and a tiny, uncharted island or two) as his only country.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Doctor Who revival, the Doctor has become one of these: his home planet has been destroyed, and, although he tries to be upbeat about it, he's weary of traveling. In fact, given that in a Romani variant, the Wandering Jew is the blacksmith who forged the nails that crucified Christ, and wanders in expiation for his sin, the Doctor fits the trope even better in his later incarnations. Slightly subverted in that he was recently able to saves his planet with a Tricked Out Time gambit. However, it is in another Universe and if it returned it would restart the Time War, which could destroy the Universe. But, as he said, he now feels like the Doctor again.

    Video Games 
  • Mega Man Zero: Dr. Weil was locked into a biomechanical suit that made him immortal for his crimme of starting the Elf Wars. He also had his memories converted into data so that he would never forget his crimes. He was then exiled to the wastelands. This backfired spectacularly a hundred years later.
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain: Big Boss learned the horrible truth about his country, and never recovered from it (or the execution he carried out on his mentor for said country, which wasn't for peace or even World Domination, but the victorious enslavement of the masses for the benefit of a few). As a result, he spent five years wallowing in regret, found hope in his charisma as a military leader, then spent another five years training an army of professional mercenaries, and even built a nation-state made out of oil rigs and loose parts. Only to lose these a few months later. He rebuilds yet again only to flee to Zanzibar when his successor blows it all to hell. In the end, Outer Haven is just a really good base, but Big Boss is a soldier through and through: Go somewhere, do a job, leave. Nothing else matters, home is the battlefield itself.

    Real Life 
  • Iranian Mehran Karimi Nasseri was stuck in Charles de Gaulle Airport for 18 years after a mugger took the papers proving his refugee status.
  • American whistleblower Edward Snowden had his passport revoked, forcing him to wait in the airport in Moscow. His status was in limbo until Russia granted him an asylum.



  • In the published (by Christopher Tolkien, a son of J.R.R. Tolkien) version of The Silmarillion, Maglor, one of the sons of Feanor, threw the Silmaril he has stolen into the sea and possibly wanders till today singing. In the latest version by J.R.R., Maglor jumped into the sea together with the Silmaril.
  • Parodied in Terry Pratchett's The Unadulterated Cat, in reference to the "Travelling Cat" so beloved of local newspapers (as in "this unlucky cat was rescued from a car's engine compartment, having accidentally hitched a lift..."). The book alleges that St. Eric, 4th century Bishop of Smyrna, may have unintentionally cursed a small black-and-white tomcat to an eternity of wandering when he yelled for it to go away after he'd tripped over it.

    Web Original 
  • This tends to happen to victims of the Slender Man, usually with said victims becoming Runners, people who were forced to leave their home and, well, run from the Slender Man.note  It's so common it's an entire category of slenderblogs.
  • In Malê Rising, Andras Weisz and his men were captured by the Ottomans during the Great War and sent to the Upper Nile. However, they escaped and for three years traversed across war-torn Africa to find a way back home to Hungary. Along the way, the met the Lost Hungarians of Nubia, fought for native kings, and gathered a following of locals before finally reaching to Luanda and discover that Austria-Hungary had collapsed in the interim.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Wandering Jew


Origin of the Flying Dutchman

SpongeBob SquarePants's version of the Flying Dutchman is more a Peek-a-Bogeyman Ghost Pirate than anything else, but there is one episode that gives him a similar backstory: his body was used as a window display, and thus never got a proper burial, cursing his spirit to forever wander the seas.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / FlyingDutchman

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