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Hob Gadling learned the trick early.
Willow: Wow! Like father like son.
Oz: How 'bout exact same guy like exact same guy.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Enemies"
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You're immortal, or just extremely long lived, and you want to stay in one place for a long time without people noticing that you don't age. So what do you do? You reintroduce yourself as your own son, then grandson, etc. This handily gets around the problem of having to explain how you could have served in WWII and still only be 25 years old. This can also be used as a way to hang on to your property, by having the new identity "inherit" it from the old one.

Bonus points if you keep the same name - so John Smith becomes John Smith Jr, becomes John Smith III, etc. Bonus idiocy-points if you've ever allowed someone to paint your portrait or take your photograph while pursuing this strategy, as it will be discovered and expose your deception in future decades.

A special case of Identical Grandson where they are actually the same character. Not to be confused with My Own Grampa, where a character is literally their own biological ancestor.

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The inversion (a character claiming to be immortal is actually an identity passed down from mentor to student) is Legacy Immortality.

Compare Julius Beethoven da Vinci (an immortal character takes on new identities without any family ties).


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Baccano!: Subverted — as part of the original 1711 contract, all immortals are rendered incapable of establishing long-term false identities, which means all of them will eventually have to give that awkward explanation as to why their passport claims they're six or seven times older than they look. According to Ronnie in the prologue of The Rolling Bootlegs, there's a mental block against setting false IDs:
    "If it's just giving a temporary introduction to ordinary people, then there is no problem. But you will use your real name when conversing with fellow immortals, and your body will reject establishing a false identity in this world"
  • Dance in the Vampire Bund: The ex-geisha Mamekishi managed to reside in the same Tokyo neighborhood for centuries using this trick. As she did not venture out in the daylight it was by her account easy to feign aging for a few decades with acting and minimal cosmetics before she 'died' and 'her granddaughter' moved in.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Pride has pretended to be the adopted son of an important government official as Selim Bradley ever since the founding of Amestris. What better way to innocuously keep tabs on what the government is doing?
  • Mnemosyne: Rin uses this during a visit to an old acquaintance from WWII when the latter recognizes her.
  • Neo Angelique has Nyx, who reveals to an old friend that he is in fact in old friend instead of the grandson of his friend.
  • Pandora Hearts: Played With. The immortal Jack Vessalius ages in a cycle, growing to adulthood and becoming a child again about every hundred years. His body ended up being taken over by part of Oz' soul, so while Oz believed Jack to be his anscestor the body was actually Jack's all along.
  • Superbook: This is how our time-traveling protagonists explain still looking like children when they meet Rebecca again, in an adventure set at least forty years after they last saw her.

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU:
    • Lex Luthor, dying from radiation poisoning ('cause it turned out kryptonite was just like any other radioactive substance to humans), faked his death by plane crash then had his brain transferred to a clone body, introducing himself to the world as his own son. After the reveal (which involved clone degeneration and him levelling Metropolis), he pulled a Karma Houdini by selling his soul for a cure and then blaming everything on an insane clone that faked his death and took his place.
    • Hawkman started doing this after the Golden Age Hawkman from the 1940s was retconned into being the same character as the currently active Hawkman.
  • The Sandman:
    • Hob Gadling/Sir Robert Gadling/Bobby Gadling mentions he has done this several times. (He also mentions that it gets more difficult after the invention of photography.) He has to conceal old family photographs to make sure nobody notices that he looks EXACTLY like his uncle or grandfather did fifty years ago. Although he also talks authoritatively about the past when confronted with The Theme Park Version, no one ever seems to notice that he's talking about it firsthand.
    • The "Hob's Leviathan" chapter implies that this is a fairly common practice among immortals in the Sandman mythos.
  • Also inverted in the DC/Marvel All Access crossover series. That old drifter who started helping Axel with his powers? Not so much.
  • Icon: The title character started off as "Augustus Freeman" in Civil-War-Era America and made a habit of this sort of identity change. By the time the comic started in the late 20th century, he was Augustus Freeman IV.
  • Supreme:
    • The title character, aka Ethan Crane, due to his powers, ages very slowly, and, despite being born in 1920, looks to be in his early-to-mid thirties. When he met the universe's now elderly Expy of Lana Lang inhabited by the spirit of the Lex Luthor Expy, in the late 90s, she briefly recognises him as her old friend Ethan Crane, but then assumes he must be Ethan Crane's son since Ethan couldn't possibly look the same as he did decades ago. For the rest of the series he goes by the name "Ethan Crane Jr.", posing as his own son. It's helped by the fact that Supreme, and therefore "Ethan Crane Sr." disappeared into space in the late 60s, and only returned over twenty years later. Although we later learn he never bothered to make up a name for his mother.
    • His adopted sister Suprema, aka Sally Crane, who looks all of nineteen despite being a schoolgirl at the outbreak of World War 2, is currently using the identity of Sally Crane II, Ethan Sr's daughter and her own niece.
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Mina Harker and Allan Quartermain drink from the Fountain of Youth, restoring both to their late-20s selves. Mina lives on as herself and is noted to be "remarkably well-preserved," while Allan invokes this trope and poses as "Allan Quartermain Jr."
  • ClanDestine: Many of the Destines have done this. In the first volume, Kay has to establish her new host body as the daughter of the same name as her old one — somewhat complicated by the fact that she hadn't planned on the switch and therefore never mentioned having a daughter. The sequel miniseries establishes that Walter has also been repeatedly posing as his own son (under the same name), and a villain discovers that the family has a suspicious pattern of births and deaths in out of the way locales with conveniently poor documentation.
  • The Phantom: One issue is about a queen who had achieved eternal youth (with the caveat that she never fall in love). She would regularly marry (strict convenience, no love), then have a 'daughter' during the honeymoon who would be raised and schooled abroad. A few decades down the line (before she got old enough that her lack of aging would make people suspicious), she'd go on a journey abroad, 'die' mysteriously, and her identical 'daughter' would return to claim the throne.
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    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Haunted Mansion has Master Gracey who poses as his own grandson.
  • The Man from Earth: John claims that he has passed himself off as his own son multiple times.
  • In Dracula 2000, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing uses Dracula's blood to keep himself immortal, in order to continue research on how to kill the vampire king for good. In the modern day, he passes himself as his grandson, "Matthew Van Helsing". This has the side effect of allowing Dracula to track down his daughter, who has some of his blood within her.
  • Dark Shadows: Angelique has been pulling this trick for at least 200 years to be able to continue running her fishery.
  • Highlander: Connor faked his own death, left his estate to fake sons and took their identities repeatedly so he could cover up being immortal.
  • Countess Dracula: Elisabeth passes her youthful self off as her own daughter. Some people do acknowledge that they remembered Ilona differently.

    Literature 

Authors:

  • Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's immortal vampire Saint-Germain would leave an area for a time (decades, usually, though he does this more quickly in The Palace), and then return under a new identity as the nephew of his previous identity to claim his "inheritance". He might not use the exact same name, but would re-shuffle his usual ones (justifiable, as noble families often have traditional names that get re-used).

Works:

  • In Anno Dracula: Ten Thousand Monsters, Geneviève's backstory mentions that in the days when vampires hid their true natures, they would sometimes do this, generally if they were the sort who wanted to retain an aristocratic title. (Geneviève herself simply moved around a lot and tried to avoid being someone people would remember.) Eventually, someone would notice that the gallery of identical all-male ancestors who chose to have their portrait painted at exactly the same age was a bit suspicious and the trouble would start.
  • In the short story "Bargain with the Wind" by Sharon Shinn, narrator and Old Retainer Nettie is revealed at the end to be an earth spirit whose job is to serve the masters of the house. When a new family moves in and offers to let her retire, she suggest as her replacement her "niece", Norah, and then changes her form to that of a young girl so she can continue to serve the new owners.
  • In The Belgariad, many Tolnedrans don't believe in Belgarath and Polgara's immortality (or at least, act like they don't on principle — their God, Nedra, is peculiarly secular), and think it's actually a dynasty of sorts, with Polgara observing in her prequel that there's apparently a major sub-section of the History faculty at the University of Tol Honeth in Tolnedra dedicated to their exploits and sorting out which 'member' of this 'dynasty' did what and where. She theorises that they're now probably up to 'Polgara the 113th'.
  • Blindfold: Done by the Big Bad, who uses a cryopod to become a Human Popsicle for a few years before re-emerging to see how things are progressing. Naturally, he uses this trick to fool everybody else, especially since the frequent freezings have rendered him sterile. It's also revealed that he is actually one of the original command crew of the first colony ship on Atlas.
  • In Bridge of Birds, by Barry Hughart, the current Duke is revealed to be the same man as his alleged "ancestor" who became emperor many centuries ago.
  • H. P. Lovecraft: A minor but long-lived villain in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, a sorcerer named Simon, writes a letter to the main villain, explaining a Chekhov's Gun detail (Simon's disappearance) that's dropped fairly early on: "In this Community a Man may not live too long, and you knowe my Plan by which I came back as my Son."
  • Chakona Space: Contributing author Allen Fessler gives us the Tales of the Folly series. The Folly's captain, Neil Foster is somewhere north of 200 and due to his teleporters having been Touched by Vorlons, he gets occasional "fountain of youth" makeovers and is able to pull off this trope convincingly. Other characters assume that the older version of foster they knew / see pictures of and the one they now see are grandfather and grandson respectively. At least one non-human character is convinced it's the same man.
  • Deverry: Nevyn was a close adviser to the first King in Cerrmorr and the last King in Cerrrmor over the course of a century long civil war. When his second King's wife remarks on the coincidence of his name (Nevyn is not a common name, as it means No One), Nevyn claims that the Nevyn who served as adviser to Glyn I was his grandfather. Of course, Neyvn made a point of spending the decades between the death of Glyn I and the crowning of Maryn I a long way away from Cerrmor, to keep people from realizing that he didn't age.
  • Discworld: The all-mighty High Priest Dios in Pyramids is an interesting case of this: not only has he been the high priest and chief adviser to the pharaohs of Djelibeybi for over seven thousand years by abusing a pyramid's age-reversing effects, he has always been that way (or at least for untold tens of thousands of years) as a result of being brought back to the moment of Djelibeybi's founding with all of his religious knowledge but no memory of his past, leading him to repeat the experience over and over. As far as we know, he never actually pretends to be his own descendant — people just assume, and the Djelibeybian tradition of feeding boat-rockers to crocodiles also discourages extensive inquiries into his genealogy.
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe: The Doctor is occasionally referenced as doing this so he can continually visit places he likes. Of course, he has the advantage that he doesn't look the same every time.
  • The Ganymede Club: In the backstory, a spaceship crew ran into something that apparently made them immortal. They cover this up by occasionally faking their deaths and starting over with new identities (this is made easier by a massively destructive Earth-Belt war between the incident and the time of the story).
  • Jem Carstairs explains in The Infernal Devices that many vampires use this trick to keep their lands and possessions when they are very rich. They just move on for a while, and come back after a few decades, posing as their nephew/niece. The mundanes does not notice that a certain person lives unusually long.
  • The Instrumentalities Of The Night: Ferris Renfrow takes the form of the "old" Ferris Renfrow's son over and over, though nobody remembers him being young.
  • In Locked In Time, by Lois Duncan, the character of Lisette Berge occasionally explains that the reason older people seem to know her is that she looks exactly like her mother, who was also named Lisette Berge. Lisette's stepdaughter Nora, however, realizes that this can't be the case because "Berge" was supposed to have been Lisette's name from her first marriage, so her mother would have had a different one.
  • In Medusa's Web, people who use the "black geometry" can extend their lifespans potentially indefinitely. One of the characters reinvents herself after a while as her own daughter. It's not all smooth sailing; she has to deal with a blackmail attempt from someone who finds an old photograph of her and then digs out the evidence that her current identity is faked.
  • The Misenchanted Sword by Lawrence Watt-Evans gives the main character immortality. Once he solves the problems with it, he does just this by telling all his friends he's leaving his business to a long lost relative. Then he gets himself youthened and comes back as the relative.
  • Faethor Ferency from Necroscope was a very territorial vampire who always lived on the outskirts of a certain village. Just before the people realized he was not getting older, he went traveling for a while. After a while, the villagers were informed that he had died during his journey, and that his son would move into his estate, and Faethor returned. The villagers had never seen a woman with him, but the family resemblance was so great that they believed he had to be his son.
  • The Pendragon Adventure: In the third book, Bobby claims to be his own grandson when he meets the surviving gangster from First Earth, who returns his Traveler ring.
  • Rivers of London: It's mentioned that DCI Nightingale, who suffers from Merlin Sickness, has posed as his own son to attend some funerals of people he used to know.
  • Saturns Race: The main character undergoes a top secret rejuvenation process, and ends up assuming the identity of a grandson.
  • The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel: Some of the immortals are mentioned as doing this at least once in their immortal lives.
  • Shadow of the Conqueror: Daylen accidentally makes himself about six decades younger via magic, and so constructs a false identity as Daylen Namaran Jr.
  • Star Wars Legends: Seti Ashgad presents himself as Seti Ashgad Jr. in Planet of Twilight.
  • In Tam Lin, by Pamela Dean, there are a couple of references that indicate that Professor Medeous, aka the Queen of Faerie, has done this at least once.
  • Thursday Next: Inverted in The Eyre Affair. Thursday meets a member of the Chronoguard, the time-traveling police, who introduces himself as the grandfather of an ex-boyfriend of hers. However, after the man dies, Thursday learns that the man actually was her ex-boyfriend, who due to an accident in the timestream had been aged over sixty years. Not bearing that Thursday should meet him like that, he took on a false identity.
  • Time Enough for Love: Lazarus Long mentions doing this. Since he effectively doesn't age, he uses makeup to make himself slowly look older over time. After he's been in an area for long enough, he comes back without the makeup as his "son".
  • The Vampire Files: Bloodlist has a short-term variant when Jack Fleming rises as a vampire looking a decade younger than his real age, so he poses as his own near-identical younger brother while pursuing the gangsters who murdered him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Alias episode "Time Will Tell" features an unnaturally long-lived Renaissance clockmaker who, in the present day, pretends to be his own distant descendant.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Mayor Richard Wilkins III, aka Mayor Richard Wilkins and Mayor Richard Wilkins Jr.
  • Charmed (1998): In "Saving Private Leo", Leo Wyatt poses as his own grandson to attend a 60th-anniversary reunion of World War II veterans.
  • Dark Shadows: In the original series, Barnabas Collins did this when he was first released, and during his travels through time.
  • Good Omens (2019): It’s implied that Crowley pulled this with Shadwell to disguise his immortality over the 50 years of their acquaintance — in a throwaway line in Episode 3, Shadwell inquires after Crowley’s “father”, and says “you resemble him very much, you know”.
  • Heroes: In one of the graphic novels, Adam Monroe, an immortal man who's nearly 400 years old, states that during one of his innumerable marriages, he and his wife, to hide the fact that he's staying the same age and she's aging normally, first introduce him as her husband, then eventually their son, then grandson.
  • Highlander: The Series:
    • Duncan MacLeod sometimes has to resort to doing this when mortals from his past think they recognize him — naturally, they tend to suggest this themselves once they get over the stunning likeness.
      • In one instance, he pretended to be his own lookalike son when meeting the aged leader of a French Resistance cell he worked with in WWII.
      • In the 18th century, he befriended a samurai in Japan who was forced to take his own life for honor. Duncan vowed that the man's family would always know that, if any of them ever needs help, they can come to Duncan MacLeod. Two hundred years later, the samurai's female descendant comes to Duncan and is surprised he knows of "the family legend". She doesn't expect him to honor a promise made by his "ancestor" but, of course, Duncan insists on helping.
    • MacLeod, at one point, also claims to be his own grandson to access a bank account he'd set up in the previous century. Naturally, he had collected quite a bit of interest over the years.
    • Katya states that as her adoptive daughter grew, Katya went from the girl's mother to her older sister to her younger sister. The original movie has what could be the page quote: "So what we're dealing with here is a guy who's been around since at least the year 1585, pretending to kick it every once in a while, then leaving all his money to some kid who's been a corpse for decades and taking their identity."
  • Moonlight: Mick St. John tries this trick in an episode, although he is actually pretty young by vampire standards (only 90). The only reason he does this is because a criminal he helped put away decades before (and revealed his Game Face to) has been released on parole and is out for revenge (having brushed up on his vampire lore in prison). When Beth mentions that Mick's name came up in relation to the criminal, Mick claims it was his late father, Mick St. John, Sr. Later on, Beth interviews a retired blind cop who personally knew Mick back in the day (and still does, as Mick still visits him) and mentions Mick's "late father". The cop is confused, as the Mick he knows is alive and well... and never had children. By next episode, though, this is no longer necessary, as Beth knows the truth.
  • NOS4A2: When Manx gets recognized as similar to his younger self at a road stop he's frequented, he says that's his grandson.
  • Star Trek:
  • Supernatural: Subverted in "Everybody Loves a Clown": Dean and Sam think the circus leader may be a Rakshasa because he looks just like a picture of his father. As it turns out, it wasn't him.
  • Torchwood: Captain Jack Harkness twice claims a historical photograph of himself as his own ancestor, in the episodes "Small Worlds" and "The New World".
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "Queen of the Nile", Pamela Morris did this and claimed that the old woman living with her was her elderly mother when it was really her daughter. As it turns out, she was actually Cleopatra and had discovered an ancient Egyptian magic that enabled her to stay immortal by sucking the youth out of people using scarabs.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Red Snow", the Communist Party secretary Ivan Povin tries to convince KGB Colonel Ilyanov that Valentina Orlova, who appears to be in her 30s, is the daughter of the woman of the same name who was exiled to the Siberian gulag in 1936. However, Ilyanov does not believe him as they are absolutely identical. He discovers that she is a vampire when he finds her feeding on a wolf in the forest that night.
  • Ultraviolet: A variant is used where the death of a real grandson allows a code 5 to re-enter society using the deceased's identity.
  • The Vampire Diaries: Stefan and Damon Salvatore pretend to be descendants of "the original Salvatore brothers" from Mystic Falls' founding families. However, when Elena discovers that both Stefan Salvatores are identical, she realizes the truth.

    Theatre 
  • Played with in Sunday in the Park with George: although late 20th-century artist George is actually a different person from late 19th-century artist Georges Seurat, the final scene has him effectively turn into the famous painter, as he reconciles with his estranged mistress, Dot (who is actually his great-grandmother) from beyond the grave.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dark Matter: Itohiro Nakami setting of Alternity / d20 Modern. He pretends to be his own son to transfer the leadership position of Hoffman Institute without becoming suspicious, being a Grey / Fraal and all that who uses illusions to appear as a human.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Eberron: King Kaius III is really his great-grandfather (and secret vampire) King Kaius I. Kaius II (and the real Kaius III) were really themselves, and it's strongly hinted that the latter has been locked up somewhere.
    • Forgotten Realms: Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun the Elder took on the identity of his actual grandson Khelben "Ravencloak" Arunsun the Younger.
    • Ravenloft: Strahd von Zarovich, the setting's most infamous vampire, has been pulling off this gambit for the past eleven generations, feigning his own death and leaving rulership of Barovia to his identical "son".
    • A stock tactic for players in 3, 3.5 and Pathfinder when epic levels are reached. Somewhere between level 12 and level 25 it goes from being possible to become immortal to being essentially inevitable, whether you just took full levels in Monk or Druid or whether you did something alignment-intensive like becoming undead, a ghost, etc. Disguising oneself as a close relative ("minor details") grants a substantial bonus to disguise and bluff checks to stay in character, so this deception can make piercing your clever disguise essentially impossible for any character that isn't substantially more powerful than you.
  • In Freedom City, Daniel Daedalus, a Gadgeteer Genius who is a member of the modern day Freedom League under the name Daedalus, allows people to believe he's the son of the Daedalus who was a member of the Silver Age Freedom League. It's simpler than explaining he's actually Daedalus.
  • GURPS 4e has this in Baron Janos Telkozep, an iconic vampire character.
  • Pathfinder: Gold dragons often take on humanoid guises to blend into other species' societies; however, since most dragons will outlive even the most long-lived elves by millennia, they generally need to at least put on a pretense of aging. While golds will generally fake their own deaths once their "lifetimes" are up, ones particularly attached to their guises will pose as their own children, grandchildren and so on. While this tends to work fine at first, their neighbors tend to catch wise to there being something fishy going on after a few generations of single people suddenly producing grown children out of nowhere.
  • Unknown Armies: Sebastiao dos Prazeres is a variant. His body actually is that of his grandson Joao, whose identity he is using, thanks to a permanent Grand Theft Me.

    Video Games 

    Webcomics 
  • Magellan has the case of elderly superhero Gola Beh pulling this after being exposed to a forced Fountain of Youth. She pretends to be a grand-niece named Olga Beh.
  • Vampire Cheerleaders: The bakertown cheerleaders. Since they're the eternally-young type, with each readmission to the school they pass themselves off as the "previous generation's daughters", claiming that they're from a long line of expert cheerleaders when in fact they've had over fifty years of cheerleading experience. It shows.
  • xkcd: Implied by the Alt Text of this Implied by the Alt Text of this strip, which claims that "Jimmy Hoffa currently heads the Teamsters Union — he just started going by 'James'." (Jimmy Hoffa's son James P. Hoffa is the actual current head of the Teamsters Union.)
  • In Restored Generation Rena claims to be her daughter "Becky" when she meets the other characters from the prequel comic Stolen Generation for the first time in 17 years and looks no different. And what's more, she introduced her son, Seth, as her brother.

    Western Animation 
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003): Utrom Shredder pretends to be his own descendants, all named Oroku Saki.
  • Justice League: Vandal Savage, as in the comics. The League first encounter him after getting sent back in time to World War II; when he shows Martian Manhunter a video of himself from the future, J'onn can only remark how gracefully he aged — Savage remarks, "You have no idea." In another episode, they run into him in the present, and it's mentioned that his "grandfather" was a Nazi war criminal, before his immortality is explained.
  • Chris Colorado: Herb Forsythe III, pretending to be the son of Herb Foresythe II, son of Herb Foresythe I, always head of a political party. Bonus point for being slow aging and not immortal, and retiring from social life each time, so that everyone forgot his face and he still doesn't look exactly the same.
  • Count Duckula: Many of Duckula's "ancestors" were actually his own prior incarnations, with subtle differences cropping up every time his servants resurrected him (even before they got the blood and ketchup mixed up).
  • Batman Beyond: A variant. After Talia invites Bruce to use the Lazarus Pit, it is revealed that she is actually Ra's Al Ghul, who had transferred his mind into her body. He plans to take over Bruce's body and pass himself off as the previously unknown son of Bruce and Talia, claiming both the al-Ghul and Wayne fortunes.
  • Gargoyles: While it was never shown on-screen (as he was still a baby when the show ended), Alexander Xanatos will apparently be pulling this in the future to hide his immortality, as a plot 200 years into the future shows him disguised as Alexander Xanatos the fourth.

    Real Life 

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