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Original Man

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A Characterization Trope distinguishing a character who is the first human being or one of the first human beings.

The hominid tribe is about 6 million years old, and modern man is just the last sliver of it, definitely not the original. The original hominid would not be recognized as any species living today. That is if anything could be called the original hominid; rather than a single such species having ever existed, today's paleotologists reconstruct a gradual transition with no clear break. But there has been much speculation, study and effort to find the original man, probably some outlandish fiction too. In fact, this is one of the oldest tropes in the book. Can overlap with Advanced Ancient Humans, depending on how complex original man's society was. Also compare with Frazetta Man and All Cavemen Were Neanderthals.


A variation of the trope is an older species of man that was wiped out before ours began or is biologically independent of the homo sapiens species in some other way. In these cases human familiarity is a must, otherwise they belong under precursors.


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    Comic Books 
  • In Marvel Comics's Earth X/Universe X/Paradise X trilogy, the original humans were a feral, beastlike race before the Celestials came to our planet and began fiddling with our genetics. The Celestials use young planets as "incubators" for their kind, and Superhumans were created to act as "antibodies" to protect the planet from invasion—particularly from Galactus, their sworn enemy. It turns out that Wolverine is not a mutant, but actually the last "pure" human left alive.
  • In Marvel comics, Adam K'ad-mon is a Man-Thing lookalike who is believed by some to be the original human being and protects the Primal Matrix, which is the focal point of the multiverse.
  • According to Marville Wolverine was the first human. He evolved from an otter. Please reread the last sentence if you didn't believe it. It's that kind of series.

  • In Mission to Mars, the then famous face was theorized to have been carved by original man. (Then famous because when we actually saw it in real life it turned out not to be a face.)

  • In Symposium, Plato makes a fictional Aristophanes present a "Just So" Story on the origin of love. According to this tale, humans as originally created by the titans were not like we are today: We had two heads, four legs, four arms and both sets of reproductive organs. The later gods changed us to be more like them (which is better than what they considered doing). The idea was to make us wish for the parts we no longer had and supposed to teach us love.
  • One early Discworld novel reveals that the First Men of the Disc created by the gods were immensely powerful beings, which took one look at their situation including their sucky gods and lost their tempers. After the resulting mayhem, men were re-created a good deal smaller.
  • References here and there in the Verse of Simon R. Green (Nightside, Secret Histories, Ghost Finders etc) suggest that humankind was originally intended/planned/expected to be much more powerful, perceptive, and glorious than we actually are. Just who/what came up with that intention/plan/expectation, and whether it was an injustice or a mercy that we didn't turn out that way, is left unsaid.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Stargate's Alterans, an ancient human subspecies predating Cro-Magnon. They are indistinguishable from homo sapiens outwardly, technically have much greater genetic diversity on account of longer existence and wider distribution but so few are left in the visible universe that it is almost a moot point, and most of them Ascended thousands of years ago. The Stargate builders among them left behind a lot of technology that only works when used by people with their genes though.
  • Before The Reveal, the First People of Fringe were believed to be this. Much was made of them being an ancient civilization of human beings-the first humans-that supposedly predated Adam, Eve and the dinosaurs. This was a bizarre claim even for a show where computer viruses can infect the human brain. Later, it turns out the "First People" are actually the future-versions of the main characters who designed the technology attributed to this ancient civilization and sent it back in time through a wormhole to the distant past.
  • The people of Kobol whose ancestors became the 12 Colonies of Battlestar Galactica (2003) were this, although the primitive humans of Earth (2) appear to be a separate "creation" of that series' God.

    Mythology, Oral Tales, and Religion 
  • The Book of Genesis describes the creation of humans beings twice.
    • In Genesis 1:1-2:3, male and female are created in God's image, before being told to take care of the Earth and multiply across it by God.
    • In Genesis 2:4-25, the first human is formed from the dirt and receives life from God's breath. After experiencing loneliness and naming the animals God creates, the human's rib is removed and from it is formed woman, who the first man praises. The first humans here know not death, labor-pains, toil, or shame before violating the law of the Garden.
  • In the Zohar and other Kabbalah texts, original man, Adam Kadmon, is not so much a physical being as it is a spiritual realm from which every human body gets its soul.
  • Thanks to syncretism, the original woman is often equated to Lilith (originally an animal in The Bible or a demon in Mesopotamian Mythology), which would make her very different from modern woman.
  • In Manichean religion, original man was a creation of God given to the world of light to help them fight off the invading forces of The Antigod from the world of darkness. Modern man was a mistake caused by not properly following God's instruction.
  • In a lot of Gnostic discourses, modern man is said to be an illusion and inferior imitation of the original man.
  • Adam and Eve are described as having been giants (about 60 cubits tall, or 90 feet) in Islamic tradition, with each successive generation of descendants gradually decreasing in proportions to the size modern humans have been for the last few thousand years. Also, humans originally did not age but started doing so many thousands of years later (partially in response to Abraham asking God for a sign that his life is nearing its end).
  • In some Chinese creation stories, original man Pan Gu was a giant and modern man were as fleas living on his flesh. When Pan Gu died his remains became many of the Earth's features. In fact there would not even be a planet if Pan Gu had not shaped it while he was alive.
  • The original man, Kali (or Kaliyan) was born from a fragment of evil in Ayyavazhi mythology and he and his later created wife are distinct from swyambhuvana manu, the naturally evolved man of wider Hindu religion (and is not to be confused with the righteous goddess Kali either).
  • In Mayan Mythology, the gods tried to destroy original man with a great flood but a few people managed to survive. For this act of defiance they were turned into the monkeys which populate the American jungles to this day.
  • Aztec Mythology, told that the original human race was devoured by ocelots. Not so cute anymore is it?
  • Creek Indians had taught that sky people predated the human race and that fire was stolen from them for us.
  • Izanagi and Izanami of Shinto are often interpreted as a god couple by modern readers but the classical texts suggest something more along the lines of original human beings, the vast differences between us and them simply popping up over time.
  • The oral history of the Hadza people of Tanzania mention their oldest ancestors as hairy giants who lived more like animals. These were replaced by a race just as tall but used fire, medicine, domesticated dogs and lived in caves.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Demon: The Fallen actually depicts Adam and Eve as Ultimate Lifeforms. Their antediluvian descendants are also described as exceptionally powerful, if only because they had infinite faith (in God and the angels)—something that their modern descendants severely lack, much to the dismay of the returning Fallen.

    Video Games 
  • In the Nasuverse, copies are always inferior to the original, and since children are considered copies of their parents, the first humans (i.e. human archetypes) have been immensely more powerful than their modern descendants.
  • In the Assassin's Creed franchise, humans are lifeforms created by members of an ancient and powerful race to be used as a Servant Race via Mind Manipulation. They look like us in pretty much every significant way, but with six senses instead of five. Adam and Eve were not the first humans, but the first Half Human Hybrids that were immune to their mind control. Millennia later, in the present, the ancient race is extinct and what was left of their genes has become severely diluted in the modern human race. As a result, we are all once again susceptible to Mind Manipulation.
  • In the Xenogears canon, the humans that live on the planet the game is set on are descendants of the creations of "Deus", the supercomputer that acts as the overarching central antagonist. As such, all humans are "pieces" of Deus itself that it one day plans to absorb as part of a millennia-long self-repair program. The "original" humans were part of the spaceship which Deus took over and destroyed.
  • Halo's original man was a collection of different hominid species who used to hold one of the strongest interstellar empires in the galaxy. Then, tens of thousands of years ago, the Forerunners defeated them, erased all traces of their empire, stripped them of all their technology, forcibly devolved them into a more primitive state, and quarantined the vast majority of them on their home planet of Erde-Tyrene.

    Real life 
  • "The" Original Man is suspect, as we cannot be sure a new fossil won't be discovered that's a better candidate than the currently-known hominids. Plus, where do you draw the line between Original Man and common ancestor of humans and other apes?
    • Well, in the case of Homo sapiens, there is Homo sapiens idaltu which lived in Ethiopia about 160,000 years ago. In fact, the translated name actually means "First born/Elder Wise Man" in Afari (an Ethiopian language) and Latin.
      • However, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens heidelbergensis are also accepted terms, which would put Homo sapiens at around 600,000 years ago.
  • Homo erectus was apparently able to speak, built rafts or simple boats, used fire and probably wore animal skins, and the first known fossil of Homo erectus dates to 1.8 million years ago.
  • Arguably the first member in the Homo genus belongs to Homo habilis, though some would say they were Australiopiths and not human beings, and an intermediate form dates back to 2.6 million years ago. Speaking of Australiopiths, some people lump hold they're also human beings, making Original Man arise about 6 million years ago.


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