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Hereditary Curse

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"However, the giants of the Sul’at League studied the Gyrderi and found a way to counter the druids—the giants enacted a terrible curse that forever bound them in the wild shapes they were wearing, trapping them and their descendants in the forms of animals."
Eberron, "Secrets of Xen'drik, Chapter 3"

A Hereditary Curse is a particular type of supernatural curse, that is passed from parent to offspring, usually until the entire family line(s) die out (and the curse with it) or unless they find some way to break the curse.


Usually, it was specifically placed upon the family by someone else, but sometimes it can be the result of Karma received or Black Magic performed by an originating family member. In some cases, it can even be the price paid for making a particular vow.

The existence of a Hereditary Curse usually makes breaking it one of the primary motivators for a character carrying that curse. Sometimes the way to break the curse is already known; other times the character must discover it for themselves. Often the character who appears in a work of fiction with the curse is the last surviving member of their family, and therefore the only one who has any hope of breaking the curse. This need not always be the case, however.

Not to be confused with In the Blood, which is when there is a fear that having evil ancestors might make you evil; It Runs in the Family, which describes a family of eccentric and sometimes crazy relatives; and Sins of Our Fathers, which involves any example of a character or group taking revenge on a long dead person's descendants.


A Sub-Trope of Curse. If a curse turns one into a monster, then the first ancestor to suffer it is the Monster Progenitor. If the curse causes one to die early, it can be a case of Your Days Are Numbered. Also compare Curse Relay, when a curse is passed on from one person to another in other ways.


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     Anime and Manga 
  • The Niwa and Hikari families in D.N.Angel each have a hereditary curse created by what essentially amounts to an magical accident. The Hikari seems to have gotten the worst of it, as their curse creates a Superpowered Evil Side who tends to act without much regard to his "host", causing members of the Hikari family to all die young.
  • Fruits Basket has the Sohma family, which is under a curse that changes thirteen members of the family into animals of the Eastern Zodiac (plus the Cat, an animal that would have been part of the Zodiac had the Rat not tricked it) when they are either hugged by someone of the opposite sex who isn't cursed themselves, or when their bodies are under a lot of physical stress. The curse has been affecting the family for generations, with the Zodiac spirits being reborn in new family members after whoever they previously possessed dies. It's later revealed that there's another part to the curse: each cursed member finds it impossible to act in any way that isn't subservient to the family member cursed to be the reincarnation of the God of the Zodiac when in their presence.
  • In Inuyasha, Miroku's family was cursed by Naraku with the Wind Tunnel: a black hole in the palm of the right hand that's passed down through each generation. The Wind Tunnel absorbs everything in front of it unless sealed by enchanted prayer beads, and it's constantly expanding which culminates in it being strong enough to break the seal and consume its bearer and all that surrounds him, just like it has already done with Miroku's father and grandfather. The only way for Miroku to free himself and his descendants from this fate is to kill Naraku.
  • Subverted in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, where the fate of Joestar men was to die young to protect the world from evil. Such fates befell both Jonathan Joestar and his father, who died at the hands of Dio Brando, and Joseph's father, who was killed by a vampire. Joseph subverts the curse when he appears to die in an erupting volcano, but managed to survive and recuperated in Italy while everyone thought he was dead. He would go on to live into his 90s. Jotaro Kujo lived to his forties before dying at the hands of Enrico Pucci, along with daughter Jolyne, when Pucci hit the universal Reset Button.

  • In The Dresden Files comic Ghoul Goblin the Talbot family is cursed to always be the priority target of any hostile supernatural creature to cross their path, and has been since WWI when Major Archibald Talbot decided that being white allowed him to evict a supernatural creature from a cafe so that he could be served. After two Talbots die in suspicious circumstances in rapid succession, Harry Dresden is hired to find out what's going on and stop the curse.
  • Clive Barker's The Harrowers: In the "Raiders of the Abyss" series, the Johnsons were a family who were cursed by the cenobites from the Hellraiser franchise. In 1620, the Johnson patriarch tried to save his son by cheating the cenobites and failed. Since then every Johnson descendant is claimed by the cenobites when they turn age 25, where they are tortured with bee stings for eternity. Eventually, one of the harrowers, Vera Wyshak, rescues the Johnson clan from their cenobite hell in a story named "Death where is thy sting".
  • Jack Russell a.k.a. Werewolf by Night inherited his werewolf curse from his father, who in turn got it from one of his ancestors who was bitten by a werewolf. However, because said ancestor was bitten after he had already fathered his children the curse remained dormant for a long time: though it was passed along none of his descendants actually became werewolves. This changed when Jack's father read the Darkhold, a Tome of Eldritch Lore, which triggered the curse to become active.
  • In Invincible, the Blood Knight nature of Thokk, aka Battle Beast, is revealed to be a hereditary curse in the final issue. When Battle Beast died, his curse was passed on to his daughter. She is seen vowing to fight Viltrumites like her father did, since it was a Viltrumite who killed (and thus freed) him.

     Fan Works 
  • In Return of the Thornwood Family a vampire cursed the Thornwoods to seek out the unknown. While this might seem like a more benign curse than most at first, when you factor in things which are better left unknown...
  • In The Bond of Love all Greengrass daughters are cursed to die an untimely death.
  • In A Time of My Choosing the Greengrasses are subject to a blood curse which sometimes skips generations. Those who contract it die early.
  • In Who'd Believe It Anyway all male Greengrasses are cursed to lose their connection to magic by the time they reach their majority.

     Films — Animated 
  • The curse of the Haddocks in The Adventures of Tintin. Red Rackham curses Sir Francis Haddock with his last breath, vowing to meet him again in another life. The following generations of the Haddock family are plagued with bad luck until Haddock and Rackham's descendants - Captain Haddock and the villain of the movie - fight it out.

     Films — Live-Action 
  • Penelope (2006) has the titular Penelope receive a hundred plus year old curse on her family that their first born daughter would be ugly until she was accepted by "one of her own." This is why her parents went about trying to get her married, but it turns out the curse can be interpreted as "when she accepts herself." As soon as she becomes okay with the idea she's going to be ugly forever, and it's not a cause for angst, the curse lifts.
  • In Practical Magic, all the witches in the family are cursed in that any man they fall in love with is doomed to die an untimely death.
  • Teen Wolf's werewolfism is passed down from parent to child. It totally freaks him out because he had no idea; his father didn't tell him because sometimes it skips a generation.
  • A rather sweet one from I Know Where I'm Going! to any MacNeil who dares enter Moy Castle: This is the curse of Catriona MacLaine of Erraig: My curse on MacNeil of Kiloran and every MacNeil after him, if he shall ever cross the threshold of Moy, he’ll never leave a free man. He shall be chained to a woman to the end of his days and shall die in his chains.”
  • In Van Helsing the Valerious family is bound by a curse that keeps them from entering into Heaven until Dracula is killed. This is the result of a vow taken by a distant ancestor.
  • Wolfman: The eldest son of the Glasgow family is cursed to become a werewolf.

  • "The Lambton Worm" is the story of how the Blue Blood Lambton family acquire a curse which means that none of them will die in their beds, for nine generations. (The Lambtons were a real family, who suffered their share of deaths by accident or in battle — but not nine consecutive generations' worth.)

  • The titular house of Hurog is cursed. While the curse mentions something from hell, things haven't been running smoothly for the family for quite some time, and the protagonist suspects the curse is already in effect, while his uncle thinks the horse that killed the protagonist's father will bring the curse about. When Ward talks to the person who wrote the curse on the wall of the main hall, it turns out it is more of a prophecy, and has nothing to do with the horse. (Which is given a cutesy name by Ward, and turns out to be a Cool Horse, which was only so wild because it was mistreated by Ward's father.)
  • The Dresden Files
    • Harley MacFinn in Fool Moon. Allegedly, St. Patrick himself cursed the entire family line to become Loup-Garou (super-werewolves) during the full moon. The curse also manipulates fate to make sure the family line never goes extinct (there's always at least one of them who reproduces at least once before their death).
    • In the side story "Curses", King Gwynn (a Welsh Fey) confirmed that this is the type of curse he personally placed on the Chicago Cubs. He was annoyed that they removed him (in his goat form) from the 1945 World Series for smelling bad, but kept the curse going as part of the tradition of the game. See the Cub's entry below for more.
  • The Avatar Trilogy has Kelemvor Lyonsbane, last scion of a family of cursed mercenaries. The curse began when his ancestor betrayed a powerful sorceress and was cursed to never again act purely for profit, or transform into a murderous panther. However, with the birth of his son, the curse reacted to the boy's innocence and reversed itself. From then on, Lyonsbanes could ONLY act on another's behalf out of thoughts of profit.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Lupin is overcome with guilt when his wife becomes pregnant because he's worried that his lycanthropy might be this. Fortunately, the kid takes after his mother instead.
  • H. P. Lovecraft's The Alchemist has the Charles Le Sorcier utter a curse against his father's murderer, with each person in the bloodline being killed at the age of 32. It is caused by someone living that long and manually ensuring their deaths. The last of the line, Antoine, breaks the curse after careful study about the terms, and exploring the castle that he inherited.
  • The plot of Holes is driven by a bad luck curse on Stanley Yelnats' family due to an ancestor cheating a Gypsy by accident. After getting sent to a juvenile detention camp for a crime that he didn't commit, Stanley winds up unintentionally breaking the curse after he befriends, and then saves the life of, the Gypsy's descendant.
  • In Labyrinths of Echo, the descendants of the Moon Bulls clan are cursed to turn into Extreme Doormats during full moon.
  • In Tales of the Frog Princess: Once Upon a Curse, Princess Emma goes back in time in a desperate attempt to break the curse that haunts the females in her family: After they turn sixteen, if they come into contact with a flower, they turn into disagreeable, argumentative, unlovable hags.
  • In the titular short story in 'The Bone Key', it's revealed that Booth's mother's family, the Murchisons, have a family curse that will cause their spouses to die young. Any relative affected by the curse, like Booth, will develop white hair by the age of 25. The only way around it is to marry another Murchison, and the family is now dying out due to inbreeding. In a later story, "To Die for Moonlight", one of Booth's relatives tries to arrange a marriage for him with a woman whose family is also cursed, in hopes that the curses might somehow cancel each other out.
  • The Thorburn family in Pact has inherited a horrific karmic balance due to the last seven generations of the family practicing diabolism, which serves to tilt the odds against them and subtly influences other people to dislike them on sight.
  • In ''The Entail", Theodore wonders if the original Baron R brought all the misery of Castle R down upon them in the first place with the things he was rumored to have done in his astronomy tower.
  • In InCryptid, James Smith's family has been under a curse for hundreds of years, though he doesn't know it at first. It turns out that his ancestor made a deal with the Crossroads to ensure that his sorcerer genes would breed true (sorcery often skips a generation or two), to ensure the safety of New Gravesend. The Crossroads interpreted that to mean there must always be a sorcerer of this family line in New Gravesend. Therefore, they can never leave the town limits. There also only needs to be one sorcerer at a time, so as soon as a child's powers manifest, their sorcerer parent dies.

     Live Action TV 
  • In Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story, Jack's family suffers from a curse that kills the sons after exactly 40 years, which is ultimately the result of the original Jack's mother killing the giant, and being cursed to forever watch her descendants die young.
  • In the Venezuelan soap Valgame Dios a woman cursed her love rival into choosing the rival's other option, and since then, all the women in the Lopez family are cursed to ever be between a Nice Guy and a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing and inevitably choosing the later. To make the things worse, all the Lopez women are aware of the curse, but that only makes them to hold the Idiot Ball like their newborn baby and muddle their choices and reasonings even more.
  • Parodied and subverted in the Colombian soap Cartas de Amor. Cupido's mother convinced her at a short age that all the women in the family are cursed to be inevitably abandoned by any male related to them; and in so guilt-trips the poor kid into crossdressing, presenting herself as male and actively avoiding deep friendship and love relationships. When Cupido becomes a professional love letter writer, her mom doesn't shut up about how both of them are cursed, that Cupido's efforts are in vain, and Cupido will be inevitably dumped if she manages to get a boyfriend at all. Turns out, there is no family curse, just that toxic obsessive neediness is her mother's family hat and men are just the ones who do get out, something that is discovered when Cupido finally manages to track back her Disappeared Dad and he reveals the degree of Evil Matriarchy, Manipulative Bastardry and Wounded Gazelle Gambits he saw and suffered back when he was still tied to his ex-wife.
  • In Wynonna Earp the Earp family is the subject of a demonic curse. Everyone slain by Wyatt Earp is returned from Hell as demonic revenants, and are trapped within the region known as the Black River Triangle. When the heir of the family comes of age they must attempt to end the curse by killing all the revenants with the magical Peacemaker gun. Any revenants the heir manages to slay return to Hell until the heir dies, becoming more unstable and demonic each time.

     Religion and Mythology 
  • Greek Mythology:
    • Tantalus prepared his own son Pelops as food for the gods. Not only was he himself punished for this gruesome act (but this is another story...) but also a curse was laid upon the next four generations of his house. How did this curse manifest itself? Let's just say that the House of Atreus (named after Tantalus' grandkid) took being a Dysfunctional Family Up to Eleven.
    • The royal House of Thebes was cursed from the very start, due to Hephaestus gifting Harmonia with a cursed necklace during her wedding. (Harmonia was born from an affair that Hephaestus' wife had with his brother.) Most of her descendants were driven insane, killed in horrible ways, or both.
  • Several examples from The Bible, all the way back to the original sin of Adam (in Christian doctrine) or somewhat later (in Judaism).

     Tabletop Game 
  • Mage: The Awakening has the Proximi, magical legacies who have the somewhat limited ability to learn Awakened magic. The downside to this is that each line has its own curse, such as poverty, death at 45, etc. And don't even think about pursuing a Curse Escape Clause - if the curse is broken, then it just rewrites itself into a stricter format.
  • In Eberron this happened to the entire race of Gyrderi, who were trapped in their wild shapes when they helped their enslaved kin fight for freedom.
  • Some of the noble families in the Ravenloft setting are saddled with these, such as the propensity to madness displayed by the Hiregaard clan in Legacies of the Blood. One of the most powerful spells introduced as part of the setting allows the caster to inflict this trope upon an enemy and their descendents.
  • Psychic Powers are very much a case of Blessed with Suck in Warhammer 40,000, as it involves your mind being under constant assault by daemons. The Navigators are a special breed of psyker (literally- the only way to manifest the gene is through inbreeding) who are blind, but have a third eye that can see into the Warp (and kills anybody who looks into it), and pass this "gift" to their children so that they can become Navigators as well. The main reason for their existence is that without Navigators, no Imperial ship can navigate the Warp, the only way they can achieve FTL travel.
  • In Fourth Edition Champions, this trope was part of Jaguar's backstory. The Villagatos family had been cursed centuries ago by a rival, the eldest member of the family would turn into a ferocious jaguar under stress. As time passed the curse weakened enough that the current curse-bearer had control of the jaguar's actions, if not the transformation itself. When Santiago Villagatos, a New York City private investigator, found himself the eldest member of the family he was able to use the transformation to become the superhero Jaguar.

  • The premise of Ruddigore is based around this trope. One of the baronets of Ruddigore, having persecuted a number of witches, is finally cursed by one. All the heirs of the title are required by the curse to commit one heinous crime per day or die in agony. Apparently, though, the curse doesn't know how to seek out the legitimate heir when he fakes his own death.
    • And before that, the curse is Logic Bombed by one of the heirs refusing to commit a crime. Doing this is attempted suicide, which is a crime.

     Video Games 
  • In The King of Fighters, thanks to a blood pact with Orochi, the Yagami clan (formerly the Yasakani) gained more powerful flamesbut not without a price. Each heir dies young, while the mother dies during childbirth. In addition, since the clan now has Orochi's blood, this makes them all susceptible to the Riot of the Blood. Iori (the current heir) actually has no care in the world for his family's stigma, although there are hints that Iori is the one destined to finally break the curse.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Ultimately played straight, though in a roundabout way, with one means to cure Lycanthropy in the series' lore. The means is to infect someone who has a dormant, hereditary version of the disease. Passing it on to such a person removes the disease completely from the original Lycanthrope.
    • In Oblivion's Knights of the Nine expansion, there is a man named Kellen in the Chapel of Stendarr who was cursed by something stupid his ancestor did. He's bedridden and can hardly stand from the fatigue caused by the curse. Naturally, the Player Character has to lift the curse and cure him.
  • In the Interactive Fiction game Curses, the protagonist is trying to find a Tourist Map of Paris in his ancestral home's attic. After reading a few biographies of previous members of the family, it becomes apparent that everyone in the family is cursed to undertake a task and never finish it. Previous tasks include finding a five-leaf clover, finishing the biographies of the family, or finding a legendary river. Your quest? Getting that map.
  • One of the curses available to Kingdom of Loathing's Ed the Undying, when you're playing as him in a challenge path. Only since Ed has anger-management issues, he doesn't stop at the target's family, but their entire phylum.
  • The gipsy curse that was once cast upon Raz in Psychonauts, which makes Raz not only unable to swim, but also to enter a body of water at all (even when the water is made out of cardboard). This is a unusual use of the trope, as Raz is never "uncursed", and it does not drive the main plot at all except a small portion revolving Linda the lungfish.
  • From The Legend of Zelda franchise, a hereditary curse has a name: Ganon. After being defeated by the very first Link and Zelda in Skyward Sword, the Demon King Demise places a Dying Curse on them, such that their descendants will forever be forced to do battle with a living incarnation of his hatred.
  • What Remains of Edith Finch: The Finch family suffer from a curse that causes them to drop like flies, or at least they think they do. The family maintains a Single Line of Descent despite every generation having multiple siblings because only one of those siblings ever survives to breed the next generation. It's never confirmed whether the curse is actually real, or whether the knowledge that they are "cursed" and could be snuffed out at any moment causes the Finches to live Like You Were Dying and thus get themselves killed through their own recklessness and Too Dumb to Live behaviour. Though some of the deaths such as Sam setting his camera timer to take a picture of him and his daughter with the deer they just shot, only for it to turn out to be Not Quite Dead and throw him off a cliff the exact moment the camera went off, immortalizing the moment in a photo; or Walter managing to stay alive until old age by living in an underground bunker doing absolutely nothing for 30 years, until one day the boredom became too much for him and he smashed open the back wall with a sledgehammer so he could leave, only to exit directly onto train tracks just as a train was coming makes things lean more towards the "curse is real and also an asshole" side of things.

     Web Comics 
  • In The Order of the Stick, Eugene Greenhilt makes a Blood Oath to kill Xykon, who had murdered his master. One of the downsides amounts to this, as neither he nor his descendants can get into the afterlife until the oath is fulfilled. Turns out he misunderstood the conditions — when Roy temporarily dies, he's allowed in in because, unlike Eugene who simply gave up, Roy died trying to fulfill the oath to the best of his ability.
  • In Achewood, both Pat and his father magically became homosexual due to the curse of Gladdington castle, wherein an ancestor of theirs was cursed such that all of his sons and their sons thereafter would become homosexual at the age of 26.
  • His family’s curse, brought down by his great-grandfather, is the MacGuffin that motivates Tiberius Skärva the Fourth throughout The Fourth.
  • In The Silver Eye, Melete Dolan, a Nedarian, grants a curse to Bhatair Hollingsworth for saving her from a painful imprisonment. He lets his father, Walter, choose the curse instead. Unfortunately, the curse backlashed and brought their family more trouble. Little is known about it, except that it is most definitely hereditary.
  • In Sluggy Freelance, the corrupt God of Justice released the god of destruction in a bid to assassinate Krohnus and become the new Top God. While the plot ultimately failed, it did manage to kill off Krohnus's wife and son. Enraged, Krohnus placed the former God of Justice under a curse of blindness that would afflict him and his descendants for all time. In the modern day, the curse has been diluted to the point that his current descendants can see, their eyes are just overly sensitive, to the point that they wear Sunglasses at Night.
  • Llewellyn of Ozy and Millie has a curse upon his family, that they'll all lose their hair every year. Llewellyn and his family are dragons. It didn't come up much until he adopted Ozy, a fox.

     Web Original 
  • Techwolf of the Whateley Universe. An amiable gadgeteer genius who, due to a witch's curse on one of his ancestors, looks like a seven foot tall werewolf all the time.
  • In Graven Hunter Files novel Death by Demon, Andvari Nagelfar curses Kyrie and all of her ancestors for killing his son. Protagonist Sye receives the curse and has to convince Andvari to drop the curse so that Andvari can pass on to the afterlife.

     Western Animation 

  • The Chicago Cubs were, for more than a century, supposedly the victims of the "Curse of the Billy Goat." The story goes that in 1945, when the owner of the local Billy Goat Tavern was asked to leave a game because his goat mascot was bothering other patrons, he declared, "Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more." The Cubs never won a single National Pennant again following that year, and their last World Series win was, at that point, in 1908 (They lost against the Detroit Tigers in the 1945 World Series). During that long drought, many of the Cubs' better players had won (or gone on to win) World Series games with other competing teams. It would not be until 2016 when the Cubs pulled off a historic World Series win against the Cleveland Indians, who had led the series 3-1 until the fifth game.

Alternative Title(s): Family Curse


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