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Powered by a Forsaken Child

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The heart of the vessel, so to speak.

Dr. Orpheus: Did you say an ORPHAN?!
Dr. Venture: Yeah, a little... orphan boy.
Dr. Orpheus: It's powered by a FORSAKEN CHILD!?
Dr. Venture: Might be, kind of — I mean, I didn't use the whole thing!

A piece of Applied Phlebotinum that doesn't work unless you pay a really ghastly price... or have someone else pay that price for you.

Can have The Dark Side effect, as in being willing to pay the price can make you more evil. May be the result of a Deal With The (Super-Powerful Alien) Devil. See also Black Magic and Utopia Justifies the Means. In those cases it is much of the time a justified example of a Moral Event Horizon since The Dark Arts frequently require leaving empathy behind to go on.

May be a form of Aesoptinum. Very common in Fantastic Aesop stories. May use Human Resources or a Captured Super-Entity as the Power Source. If done on a wide enough scale, it becomes Industrialized Evil.

Compare Artifact of Doom and May Contain Evil. Contrast Psycho Serum, for which the users themselves generally pay the price. See also Monster Organ Trafficking, Human Sacrifice, and Horror Hunger. This is a type of Living Battery. Hamster-Wheel Power plays it for laughs.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Films — Animation 
  • In Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus, Professor Membrane's plan is for children to hold hands around the world while wearing his invention, which will harness their "childergy" to bring world peace. Instead, Zim manipulates events so that he can use it for his Evil Plan.
  • In Monsters, Inc., the entire monster society is powered by the screams of children. Later on, we get introduced to the Scream Extractor, which fits this trope even better by sucking out the screams of a single kidnapped child in order to gain more power, unlike scaring which didn't physically harm children by near suffocation. Thankfully it never gets put into mass use, and in the end, the monsters find a better power source — popping out of closets and making kids laugh instead of scream.
  • There's a more mundane/clueless example in ParaNorman; the town of Blithe's Hollow depends on attracting tourists and selling them things based off of a witch-hanging done three hundred years ago. The witch is revealed to have been an eleven-year-old girl who was killed for being weird. It's only incidental that her ghost is sticking around, furious and unable to move on.
  • In Pinocchio, boys are turned into donkeys and sold to salt mines, or end up working in circuses, on farms, or are made to pull the wagon that brings more boys to Pleasure Island.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Arcade features a video arcade named "Dante's Inferno", where a new virtual reality arcade game called, boringly enough, "Arcade" is being tested. If you lose, you're trapped inside the game and die. Turns out the game is Powered by a Forsaken Child, who was abused and, eventually, killed by his mother. The game designers decide it's a good idea to take a few thousand brain cells from the body and use them in the game.
  • Cloud Atlas: Fabricants that serve out their time as workers are killed and recycled into Soap and food to feed fabricants and purebloods, respectively. Sonmi has the good fortune to watch this happen.
  • In Death Ship, the possessed Capt. Ashland reveals that the ship is controlled by the spirits of its long-dead crew and that it hunts down any other ship which is unfortunate enough to be in its path, luring the survivors onboard and killing them to feed on their blood.
  • In The Matrix, we're all Forsaken Children. Nearly all of humanity is trapped in a virtual reality world while their real bodies are locked in pods and their muscle contractions are used to generate power.
  • Minority Report has a pretty literal version: the Precrime department's method of predicting the future involves three psychics, kept in chemically-induced dream state 24-7 and hooked up to a computer so that the detectives can piece together visions of murders from their recorded dreams. Where does literal come into it? Well, it turns out that the Precogs are actually the abandoned, mutated offspring of drug addicts. Doubly frightening was the knowledge that one of the creators of the Precrime system was willing to kill the mother of one of the Precogs to ensure that they would stay Forsaken Children.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger's nightmare powers are fueled by the fear and souls of children.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the ritual for the Fountain of Youth. When Jack finds out that it requires a human sacrifice, he immediately finds his desire for the fountain "greatly lessened".
  • Snowpiercer: Parts of the eternal engine have been breaking down and they are replaced by children younger than 5 to do it manually.
  • In Thir13en Ghosts, the ghosts of the title are used to power some sort of demonic machine designed to open "the eye of hell".
  • In Warcraft (2016), fel magic is powered by life force of living creatures, so Gul'dan has thousands of prisoners drained from energy to keep the Portal open.
  • According to Warlock (1989), one of the ingredients of a flying potion is the rendered fat of an unbaptized child. While in modern times there are alternatives that are not fatal to the child, the character is from the 17th century, back when there were no alternatives (and he's also an evil bastard), and kills the child extracting it. The potion is based on a (supposed) actual witches recipe of the era ("fat of unbaptized brat" even gets a mention in Shakespeare). Likewise, the nail in the footprint has a real-world source.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men has the machine that turns ordinary people into mutants powered by Magneto, but using it weakens the power source (likely killing him if he uses it on full power), so he forcibly has the power-stealing mutant Rogue absorb him and uses her to power the machine.
    • In the original draft for the movie, Magneto actually wanted to use Wolverine instead as a sort-of living antenna to amplify his powers, apparently due to his Adamantium skeleton.
    • X2: X-Men United: Stryker's mind-control serum is derived from chemicals secreted by the brain of his own son, Jason. Although still alive and still capable of using his impressive powers of illusion, Jason's been given a lobotomy to make him more pliable and is confined to a wheelchair, complete with a shunt in the back of his head used for collecting the fluid.
    • X-Men: The Last Stand: The mutant cure is distilled from Leech's blood, although the scientists hope to eventually artificially synthesize it. Unlike other examples, Leech is treated rather well and seems fine with the arrangement.

  • The Vocaloid song Kagome, Kagome heavily implied this.
  • There is a (disputed) theory that the final verses of the children's song "London Bridge is Falling Down" relate to pagan use of human sacrifice during construction of important buildings.

  • In Big Finish Doctor Who "The Genocide Machine", it is revealed that in the Library of Kar-Charrat the Chief Librarion Elgin has captured many of a local aquatic life form and placed them in a wetworks facility so they can be used to download data, a process which destroys their minds.

    Web Animation 
  • According to The Dragon of Broken Saints, the Knight Templar he serves believes the only true way to peace is to create an empath, give her a life full of joy, and then unleash such misery unto her that her suffering overwhelms all of humanity into a state of empathy. The forsaken child in question is Shandalla, one of the series' main characters. And for extra thematic appropriateness, the big bad is her father.
  • Little Runmo: The purpose of the facility found under bottomless pits appears to be to process Runmo's lost lives (as in the actual item gained through his death) into a sludge that the Dring King uses for his martinis, as well as apparently keeping him healthy; soon as the flow's shut, he dies.
  • This quote, taken from Llamas with Hats: "I should probably mention I filled our luggage with orphan meat." "Wh...what?" "Well, I'm building a meat dragon, and not just ANY meat will do!"
  • Penny from RWBY is the first artificial being on Remnant to have a soul and thus capable of generating an Aura. Volume 7 reveals that her "father" Pietro Polendina accomplished this by donating a portion of his own Aura to grant her sentience. He has to repeat the process every time she is rebuilt, which leaves permanent holes in his Aura that do not regenerate.

  • 8-Bit Theater features a rather humorous example: Every time Black Mage launches a Hadoken, he siphons love from the Universe and twists it to highly destructive ends, making it create an explosion that consumes love (the divorce rate rises, for example). Not that he cares, but Red Mage seems to. The Hadoken was received by BM after sacrificing several orphans.
    Black Mage: It takes the happiness of others and turns it into pain and explosions. It's a win-win.
  • The Gamercat opted to interpret this way what happens to red fairies in The Legend of Zelda. Of course, in case you feel terrible too, there are also healing potions, but... do you know how those are made?
  • Geist Panik: Nob says that human blood acts as a magic grease that all runes and magic use to some extent. He also says that orphans' blood works best.
  • Goblins reveals this is the secret behind Kore's ability to remain a paladin despite his evil actions. Due to a curse, the soul of every creature he kills is trapped inside his body in a state of perpetual agony. Using the alignment of the captive souls allows him to act in any manner without violating his own alignment.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: One of the defences the Court made for itself is a bound ghost. Who is extremely unhappy about the situation for several very understandable reasons. The records were cleaned and those who meet this guardian in person are unlikely to survive, thus most of the current generation are blissfully unaware of this, except a team secretly searching for a way to remove this old shame.
  • Homestuck:
    • Her Imperious Condescension (the Troll Empress and the ancestor of Feferi) has a flagship that runs upon the immense psychic powers of The Ψiioniic, the Ancestor of Sollux — causing him excruciating agony. Also, trolls lower on the hemospectrum (like the Ψiioniic) live comparatively short lives, so the long-lived Condesce extended his lifespan with her magic. He's been her Helmsman for thousands of years until the Vast Glub happened, rendering the Condesce the only remaining troll in the galaxy (as tyrianbloods are immune to Gl'bgolyb's psychic scream and Feferi was in SGRUB's game world).
    • Vriska at one point theorizes that Sburb must be played only by adolescents.
    • Trolls each get a lusus (a sort of guardian) at "birth" that takes care of them until they reach adulthood. Eridan kills the lusi of other trolls and gives the corpses to Feferi for Feferi's lusus Gl'bgolyb to eat, making Gl'bgolyb powered by causing children to be forsaken. But it's for a good cause, really: if Gl'bgolyb doesn't eat, she'll start complaining, and then every troll in the world starts dying. Meanwhile, Vriska has a use for all those forsaken, guardianless children: she feeds them to her lusus, a giant spider. By the time the trolls reach the age corresponding to about 13 in human terms, they've been doing this for years.
    • Troll paints are made using the blood of wigglers — that is, larval trolls.
  • Kevin & Kell: In a World… that lives by Carnivore Confusion, this certainly doesn't seem out of place. Although it was meant as a jab at the then-current bio-diesel fad.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: The God Empress Mottom gets her eternal youth by eating the fruits of a special tree. The tree requires regular feeding with virgin blood. And the fruits aren't lasting as long as they used to.
  • Looking for Group:
    • Cale has to kill an innocent child to save the city of Kethenecia. One of the themes for that chapter was that "Innocence is the cost of justice." This leads us to believe that the aforementioned child must be killed to save the city of Kethenecia (the city of justice). After it is revealed that the child is the Archmage, he states that the innocence is not some nameless child, but the innocence of Calenon.
    • Richard's Nigh-Invulnerability is fueled by the ashes of innocent people he kills. As he starts moving from Token Evil Teammate to Necessarily Evil, he starts sacrificing animals instead. After a Phlebotinum Overload changes the nature of his powers, they are instead fuelled by protecting the innocent. Which is still a case of this since it results in Richard deliberately putting his adopted son in harm's way to do so.
  • In Narbonic, aside from Future Dave's time machine that uses up one parallel universe per trip, the hamsters' nefarious plan involves using geniuses in People Jars as an energy source.
  • Heavily implied to be the source of the Black Rocs power in Necessary Monsters. You can almost hear the heartbeat over the motor...
  • The Order of the Stick
  • In Sluggy Freelance, Torg's magical talking sword Chaz is powered by the blood of the innocent to gain Absurd Cutting Power and the ability to kill a Physical God. He's only able to make much use of its full power when in a Sugar Bowl dimension being invaded by sadistic demons so that there's plenty of such blood being spilled by others.
    • The chronologically earliest appearance of Chaz, as of the chapter "Mohkadun", seems to imply that it didn't need to be empowered with innocent blood when wielded by its earlier and perhaps original owner: Satan.
    • The Mohkadun arc also contains an irony with respect to the way the sword is empowered: King Farahn wants it to inflict "justice" on a Semi-Divine being — and his case for it being about justice isn't entirely unfounded, even though Farahn is a giant self-centered jerk and it's a case of Disproportionate Retribution — but since he doesn't know how it's empowered, the only way it will work for him is if the demigod he intends to kill is, himself, innocent and thus capable of empowering the sword when cut by it.
  • In Spacetrawler, the construction of the eponymous spacetrawlers is implied to involve horrific abuse of Eebs, and when the details are eventually revealed, they're every bit as bad as implied: an Eeb is trained to telekinetically gather space debris — by injecting them with a drug that causes debilitating pain if they ever stop gathering said debris. Then the Eeb's body is dissolved, while still conscious, and their Brain in a Jar is placed in the spacetrawler.
  • In Terinu, the title character's entire race was genetically engineered to serve as living power plants for the Varn Dominion. And they were wired to enjoy it.
  • In Unity, a society full of sentient/uplifted animals, you might not want to know where their food comes from.
  • Unsounded: The humans the First Silver Weapon was created from are still alive inside it, powering it like a beating heart. These unfortunates include several children due to Starfish's proclivities. Killing them weakens it, but doesn't destroy it.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: Linkara's Magic Gun is powered by the soul of a child sacrificed by his parents to their evil god. That's where it gets... weird. To be clear, he only found out when the viewers did and was as horrified as you'd expect. He almost shot himself with the gun, but the boy's soul talked him out of it.
  • Critical Role: Ludinus Da'leth, through an insanely complex Batman Gambit, manages to capture Vax'ildan, the Champion of the Matron of Ravens. He uses a focused beam of arcane energy to collapse Vax into a ball, then slots him into the Malleus Key, using him as a divine lens to channel a frankly insane amount of power into Ruidus, in an attempt to break through the forcefield keeping Predathos contained.
  • In the short miniseries, Freako Asylum, the two protagonists go to "The Twisted Machine of Science" to answer their questions on how to handle the situation. In its center is an infant hooked up to the machine. Unusually for this trope, the kid looks positively jolly and is dancing around in his/her seat.
  • In To Boldly Flee, Doug telling Critic that if he leaves the entire TGWTG world falls apart comes across as this trope, and post-comeback, word of former says Critic still knows it and uses it to evil advantage.
  • According to Bennett The Sage during a guest appearance on Ask That Guy with the Glasses, Santa Claus uses the power of aborted babies to deliver gifts to people who don't have a chimney.
    Ask That Guy: OH GOD!!!


Video Example(s):


The Venture Bros.

[Trope Namer] Dr. Orpheus is shocked upon learning that Dr. Venture used an orphan boy (his heart, in particular) to power his "Joy Can" machine.

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