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Secret Legacy

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The hero is in dire straits, on the ropes from the Giant Mook's relentless attack, when who should come and save him but... his mom?

Heroes are a lonely lot. Whether a superhero, psychic, the Last of His Kind, or an Ignored Expert fighting uphill for the sake of the ungrateful masses, heroing is a solitary and unpopular path that separates one from all other Muggles and even loved ones. His own family can come to reject the hero, denying their approval or outright scorning him as a freak; it's not like their career choice is following the ancient family legacy. Or is it?

Despite growing up with an otherwise mundane childhood with nary an inkling of the extraordinary, our hero jumps into the thick of things and becomes a hero, or is a Weirdness Magnet and thrust into adventures he can barely fathom. A ways through the series, they'll find out that they're actually heirs to a Secret Legacy of heroism. Maybe it's an old ally of their parents, the parents themselves (though a lot of the time, the legacy is from the father's side), or discovering a hidden cache of artifacts and weapons that belonged to his parents. In any case, characters who have a Secret Legacy are heirs to a family tradition of unusual and heroic proportions. Crime fighting, archaeological adventure, and super heroing are just some examples. Maybe it's "Genetic" or Heroic Lineage, but more often than not it's adventure that finds them, or simple common nature with the parents that leads to the hero picking up his birthright.

For whatever reasons, the hero's real or Muggle Foster Parents chose not to tell him of their real job or former adventuring and keep him Locked Out of the Loop. Some reasons could be to forget the past, to protect him from their enemies, to raise him in a "normal" environment, to prevent his repeating the folly of dead relatives, or because they died. Whatever the specifics, from the point they reveal their Secret Legacy onwards they'll serve as mentors and occasional backup. A Secret Legacy can be used to add depth to a character's background, for cheap laughs, or to give them a support network capable of helping fight bigger threats. Occasionally, both sides will be in a double blind situation where neither knows what the other is up to.

Note, this can happen with the Villain's kids too. This can result in a Living with the Villain situation if the kids get recruited to the other side before the parents tell the kid what's going on. Occasionally the parents won't know about their child's real job outside the Burger Fool thanks to a Secret Identity, so you have a double blind situation which at least justifies why they made him struggle alone with his powers and adventures, forcing him to figure it out himself.

Compare Rags to Royalty and Really Royalty Reveal, when the legacy is monarchy. May be passed on as an Unexpected Inheritance. See also Hidden Backup Prince.

May include spoilers.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach:
    • Urahara reveals during the Shattered Shaft training that Ichigo has hereditary Shinigami power. Early in the Arrancar Arc, his father is confirmed to be the Shinigami parent. Later on, Ichigo finds out he has Fullbring power, implying his mother must have been attacked by a hollow before Ichigo was born. Masaki was a Quincy victim of Aizen's Hollowfication experiments, passing on both Hollow and Quincy power to Ichigo. Her partial Hollowfication lead to her death at the hands of the Quincy Emperor, the Final Arc's Big Bad.
    • Uryuu's always known about his Quincy heritage, but his family hides even deeper secrets than the Kurosakis. Uryuu had no idea his father Ryuuken still possessed active Quincy power until Ryuuken chose to reveal it. Ryuuken is implied to be protecting Uryuu's life by limiting his exposure to Quincy lore. Uryuu's mother was killed by The Emperor in the same attack that killed Masaki, who was also Ryuuken's cousin. Uryuu would have also died in that same purge, if not for a mysterious power that he doesn't know he possesses. While the Emperor takes a personal interest in Uryuu's power, what neither of them know is that the death of Uryuu's mother, combined with Uryuu's power, is the key to the Emperor's defeat — a secret Ryuuken keeps until the last possible moment to ensure the Emperor cannot discover the truth.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Hinokami Kagura is a ceremonial dance passed down the Kamado family for four hundred years prior the begining of the story, used by the patriarch of each generation as a religious practice to ward off evil, keeping the Kamado family safe in the mountains where they have lived for centuries; despite it being preserved as a religious ceremony Hinokami Kagura functions like a martial art, the same foundation as Breathing Styles, the main discipline the Demon Slayers utilize to kill demons in the setting. Eventually the similarities are revealed to be not coincidental after all, Hinokami Kagura actually is Sun Breathing, the foundation of all Breathing Styles created by the legendary slayer Yoriichi Tsugikuni, passed down to the Kamado family by pure coincidence as Yoriichi made friends with their ancestor Sumiyoshi who learned Sun Breathing by just observing Yoriichi humoring Suiyako, his wife, whenever she asked Yoriichi to show his beautiful swordsmanship, as the years went by Muzan Kibutsuji and Kokushibo went on a fit of paranoid induced manhunt to exterminate all Sun Breathing users Yoriichi formally taught, however, the Kamado lineage were informal inheritors who preserved the art in reclusion and for purposes other than actual demon slaying so they escaped the hunt for centuries straight, that is, until current events in the story had Muzan kill Tanjiro's family on a random whim to see if useful demons could be born, ironically setting the last Sun Breathing user, Tanjiro Kamado, to reignite Muzan's greatest fear once again, the prospect of a Sun Breathing user seeking his death.
  • In Gate Keepers, Shun eventually learns that the reason his supposedly neglectful father was hardly ever home was because he was a Gate Keeper, too.
  • The manga Initial D. A character is left in the dust of an old Corolla, something he is understandably annoyed about, as he is riding an RX-7. He rides to a nearby gas station the next day to see if they know about the rust bucket, where the manager of said station implies that the only car fitting that description belongs to the main character's father, a local racing legend back in the day. The main character, however, couldn't care less about this bit of information (or about anything else at the beginning of the series.)
  • Magic Kaito is about the main character finding out about his father's secret identity and taking up the mantle. In aversion of the normal plot, the reason this was kept from him isn't any of the usual reasons, it's that the identity is that of a gentleman-thief, and so everyone keeps it a secret. His mother even knows, and is completely accepting of him taking up his father's mantle, even though it eventually got his father killed. He even has the rest of his father's support network working with him and some of them don't even know it's a different person now. Further complicating it, his best friend and love interest hate his secret identity, and her father is the police chief in charge of catching him.
  • Naruto:
    • The titular character is eventually revealed to be, on his father's side, a part of a line of people linked both by blood and mentor ship who have been the leaders of the village since its foundation.
    • On his mother's side we have all the jinchuuriki of the Kyuubi. His mother's side is also distantly related to the first two Hokages and the first Kyuubi jinchuuriki, as she is an Uzumaki who married the First Hokage, AND on his mother's side, he's descended from the Rikudou Sennin.
    • To top it off, Naruto is the latest in a long line of reincarnations of the Rikudou Sennin's younger son — the reincarnation of the older son of his generation being Sasuke. As if that weren't enough, it turns that their previous incarnations were Hashirama Senju and Madara Uchiha respectively, meaning that Naruto is technically the reincarnation of the First Hokage. Though reincarnation works somewhat differently in the Naruto-verse, as it's the chakra pattern rather than the actual soul that gets reincarnated. Hence (temporarily) resurrected versions of Hashirama and Madara being able to interact with Naruto and Sasuke.
    • Hinata, and the Hyuuga clan as a whole are descended from the Rikudou Sennin's younger brother, Hamura. Hinata herself is the "Byakugan Princess", whose birth was foretold to be pivotal to the future of Hamura's descendants, which is central to the main conflict of The Last: Naruto the Movie.
  • One Piece: The main character's name is Monkey D. Luffy. For the first hundred chapters or so, this is just a quirky part of his name, but as the series goes on, it's gradually revealed that there's a lot more to it. The people with "D." in their name are said to have "The Will of D." They all seem to share similar characteristics (being Big Eaters, having principles they stick to no matter who or what is in their way...) and their actions tend to have far-reaching consequences (Luffy's being most apparent in his various adventures), but others such as Jaguar D. Saul saving Nico Robin who is now the only person who can read poneglyphs and seeks to discover the mystery of the Lost One Hundred Years have cropped up, not to mention Gol D. Roger, the Pirate King, who turned the world upside-down with his legendary feat of reaching the end of the Grand Line and his proceeding actions that led to the start of the Golden Age of Piracy.
    • This legacy is so secret that not even those who carry it know what it means. Luffy and Saul don't even get the reference when asked about the D. This makes Roger notable as the only D. (thus far) who actually knew what it meant. Law is a special case in that all he knew is that he had to keep his full name a secret. While it can be assumed that he doesn't know what the initial means, he does know that those who have it are sure to cause trouble wherever they go. The World Government, however, does know that the D. are dangerous — it's speculated that the main reason why Roger was called "Gold Roger" instead of his real name was to hide the fact that he was a D. and keep people from trying to find out more about the initial. This is later confirmed to be the truth after Luffy officially becomes one of the Four Emperors, and the Five Elder Stars try to remove the initial from his name on his bounty poster.
    • According to Donquixote Rocinante, Doflamingo's younger brother and a former World Noble, the people of his home country consider those who bear the initial D "God's natural enemy," and go so far as to tell their children boogeyman stories about how the "D." will eat them up. They even have a saying about how D will always call up a storm whenever someone with the initial starts making a name for themselves (which has thus far been completely correct). That's right, the freaking World Nobles see the "D. clan" as demons. But not even they know exactly what it means. Nonetheless, the D. have been known to chafe against them and the World Government for decades, if not centuries. Trafalgar Law's conflict with Donquixote Doflamingo, a former World Noble, is just one of the many conflicts between the D and those who bear the blood of the "creators" of the world, and nothing else can be said of Luffy's actions over the course of the series, or those committed by the rest of his family.
    • Portgas D. Ace, the son of Pirate King Gol D. Roger, was indirectly responsible for the greatest conflict in the story so far which ended up with both his death and the death of Whitebeard, the "Strongest Man in the World", who, with his last words, would start a second age of piracy.
      • The D. are so infamous that one of them Monkey D. Dragon is the "Most Wanted Man in the World" and the father of the protagonist and son of Monkey D. Garp, a legendary Marine.
    • The only exception to this legacy is Marshall D. Teach, who, while certainly infamous and powerful in his own right, is shown to beg for his life if it is in any real danger. This leads Whitebeard to conclude that "the man Roger is waiting for" is not him, insinuating that despite having the initial, Teach is not a true inheritor of the Will of D.
    • Adding to that is Rocks, or rather Rocks D. Xebec, a pirate so dangerous and infamous that all the information about him was wiped from history. At his peak, he led a crew that included Whitebeard, Kaido, Big Mom, and Shiki, three of whom would become part of the Four Emperors. It took the combined efforts of Monkey D. Garp and Gol D. Roger to take him down, and the island where this final battle took place was wiped from the map. Among those that carry the will, Rocks was definitely one of the most dangerous.
    • Chapter 1085 reveals that the Nefertari family, rulers of Alabasta and one of the twenty clans that originally formed the World Government, are members of the D Clan. This means Nefertari Vivi, who traveled with the Straw Hats in the Alabasta Saga and was an honorary member of the crew, is actually Nefertari D. Vivi.
  • Rooster Fighter: Keiji turns out to be a descendant of the Goshikidori family, chicken specifically trained in Supernatural Martial Arts.
  • YuYu Hakusho: At the end of the Chapter Black Saga, we find out that Yusuke is a descendant of Raizen, one of the three rulers of the demon world and the strongest demon who ever lived. 44 generations ago he sired a child with a human, and his demon lineage lay dormant until Yusuke amassed significant spiritual power and died, causing his demonic powers to awaken and revive him.

  • In Fause Foodrage, Wise William breaks the news to the boy he's raising when the boy is seventeen: points out a castle and tells him he's the rightful heir, because the man in possession killed his father and is keeping his mother a prisoner.

    Comic Books 
  • I Hunt Monsters: William Warlock finds out about his just as the monsters he's supposed to keep sealed break out from their prison.
  • Invincible: Played with. Mark Grayson knew all his life that his father was an alien superhero and Mark would probably inherit his powers. However, Mark didn't find out until he began his own superhero career that his father was a scout for a race of conquering alien Nazis.
  • Jacob and Miller find out that their mother was the world's greatest supervillain in Necessary Evil.
  • Spider-Man: Peter Parker's real parents were actually special operatives, which is why his camera was automated.
  • Superman:
    • In the earliest version of the story, Clark knew that the Kents had found him in a rocket ship, but had no idea where the ship came from, nor any inkling of the heroic legacy of his father, the original Jor-El, until he investigated the secret behind a fraudulent swami's "hexing" powers in the 1949 story, Superman Returns to Krypton.
    • During the Silver Age and the Bronze Age, Kal-El came to Earth as a toddler and had total recall of his days on Krypton.
    • The Krypton Chronicles is about Superman and Supergirl learning about the long and storied legacy of the House of El. Rulers, prophets, scientists, explorers, leaders of La Resistance, soldiers, buldiers, lawmakers... the Els got things done over the course of one hundred centuries until their planet exploded.
    • Supergirl: Being Super subverts Supergirl's usual origin stories in what Kara does not know where she came from, or anything about her heroic parents Zor-El and Allura, until she is sixteen.
    • In the Christopher Reeve movies, the Timm/Dini animated series, Smallville, and the Post-Crisis Ret Cons, Superman didn't even know about the space ship until his powers developed to the point where his adopted parents couldn't just dismiss them any more.
  • In Wanted, Wesley's father was The Killer, a member of the Fraternity, a worldwide group of Supervillains. As expected Wesley has no idea about this, since his father left him and his mother while he was still young. It is revealed to him after his father is killed that his father left everything he has to him, on the condition that he takes up the mantle of The Killer.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm has this a fair bit:
    • The first book combines this with a Really Royalty Reveal - Thor was, apparently, incarnated as James Potter as a first run at the whole "humility" thing. It worked fantastically right up until it didn't (being murdered did not do his sanity any favours). Cue a mind-wipe, another decade, another attempt, the formation of the Avengers, and Harry finding out at 13 that his father is both alive and Thor, God of Thunder, Crown Prince of Asgard. He also later discovers that his mother was related to the Grey family, and ascended to become the White Phoenix of the Crown in exchange for his protection.
    • Carol discovers at the end of the first book that her suddenly manifesting powers are, in fact, a sign that she's descended from Steve Rogers by Peggy Carter. He's as surprised about this as anyone else is.
    • Hermione turns out to be the daughter of Wanda Maximoff and John Constantine, also being the granddaughter of Magneto. This turns out to be the source of her developing chaos magic and later, her X-Gene. Unusually, most of the viewpoint characters realise it long before she does, mostly because until the sequel she doesn't look that much like her biological mother (until the sequel, when the resemblance starts becoming very noticeable), and it was never indicated to her that she was adopted. Until chapter 66 of the sequel when she finds out that she's an Omega Class mutant. That tipped her off. To say that she is not happy is a colossal Understatement.
  • Miraculous Alliance: Unbeknownst to Marinette, her late maternal aunt Bridgette was the previous Ladybug. In addition, her parents Sabine and Tom were picked by Bridgette as the Mouse and Dog hero respectively during their youth.
  • In Rise of Mariposa, it is revealed that Adrien's mother and father were Miraculous wielders as well, being the Ladybug and Peacock respectively. This trope is apparently a recurring trend among Miraculous users.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Turning Red, Mei discovers her red panda form is hereditary and every one of her female relatives who decend from Mei's ancestor Sun Yee gain one upon coming of age including her mother who never mentioned it to her before Mei gained hers.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Boy Who Cried Werewolf: Unbeknownst to them, Jordan and Hunter's mom's family have werewolves among them. Hunter eventually turns out to have inherited the werewolf gene, turning into one upon reaching puberty.
  • In Crossworlds, Joe eventually discovers that his father was a member of La RĂ©sistance from another dimension, who was killed at the start of the film by the Evil Sorcerer Ferris. The crystal pendant he has been carrying on his neck for much of his life is part of a dismantled Reality Warper.
  • In The Mummy Trilogy, Evelyn is a quiet librarian who claims her mother was an Egyptian. She mostly plays the role of a damsel in the first movie. In the sequel, she gets upgraded to an Action Girl, which is revealed to be due to her being the reincarnation of an Ancient Egyptian princess. Given her heritage, it can be assumed she is descended from the princess. Also, her husband is actually descended from a Medjai tribe.
  • The second two Ocean's Eleven movies use this with Linus Caldwell's parents. In Ocean's Twelve, his mother appears as a police officer, takes over the investigation of his crime, breaks him in the interrogation room, and we are treated to a stunning reveal in the cars on the way out of the station. In Ocean's Thirteen, his father turns up and pulls a very similar stunt. In both cases, the twist works only because we don't know who these police officers are and they are introduced as if their credentials are valid.
    • In the second film, Isabel's father was a thief who taught her everything he knew. She later becomes a cop and starts using that knowledge to catch thieves, including the famous Gaspar LeMarque. In the end, she finds out that LeMarque is her father.
    • A blink-and-you'll miss it moment in Thirteen gives away Linus's father's identity. As Linus is being arrested by him in his day job as an FBI agent, Abigail calls him "Agent Caldwell". Before that, they take great pains not to mention his name, even when he picks up his office phone.
  • Zigzagged with Rey in the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy. She grew up alone in the desert planet of Jakku with no clue who her parents was, but her unusual ability with the Force, and her strong connection with the Skywalker lightsaber and Ben Solo might hint that she is related to the Skywalkers. This is Subverted in The Last Jedi when Kylo Ren tells her that her parents were "nobodies". But The Rise of Skywalker turns this around again by revealing that while her parents chose to be "nobodies" to protect her, her grandfather is special, and confirms Rey as Palpatine's granddaughter.
  • Estelly Getty's eponymous character in Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, as if the cover wasn't clear indication.
  • In Wanted, the protagonist Wesley is told that his father (who left his mother the first week after his birth) was actually an assassin and was killed by an evil man named Cross. Wesley endures harsh training to kill Cross, but Cross unexpectedly saves his life. That doesn't stop Wesley from shooting him, and the dying Cross explains that he is actually Wesley's father, and the assassins he's been mingling with are the real bad guys, and they ordered Wesley to kill Cross only because they knew Cross would never shoot his own son. Being the hero sucks!

  • In the Army of the Sun trilogy, the main character is an orphan whose mother told him that he was born from a one-night stand with a crewman on a spaceship. In the third novel, he finds out that he is the direct descendent of the last human emperor, thus being the only human with the genetic key to the Solar System.
  • Bequin: Beta learns, late in Pariah, that she is not quite a clone of another Alizabeta Bequin — making her name a Meaningful Name.
  • In the Cassandra Palmer novel Hunt the Moon, Cassandra finds out that the reason the power of the Pythia transferred to her after the reigning Pythia died is because her mother is Artemis, the goddess of death, and the other candidates, despite being well-trained (and under the mages' control — while Cassie had no training whatsoever) stood no chance because of that.
  • In Chronicles of Chaos, the children are kept ignorant of their own legacy with systemic Laser-Guided Amnesia and Restraining Bolts. They learn in due course that they are being held hostage.
  • In Codex Alera, Tavi has the dubious distinction of being the one and only normal guy in a world where everyone has Elemental Powers. He proceeds to save the world repeatedly anyway through a combination of badassitude, intelligence, and leadership skills. It turns out that in this last especially, he, Gaius Octavian takes after his dad, Gaius Septimus. The reason Tavi is a Badass Normal is that his mother, masquerading as his aunt, stunted his growth and magic to hide him, knowing that as the heir to the throne he'd be a huge target to the same people who went after his father. And eventually he starts to display the other traits he inherited... In a bit of a Rewatch Bonus, this is hinted at several times by other people who are Locked Out of the Loop, only to get a "Eureka!" Moment after interacting with Tavi for a while and realise how much he's acting exactly as Septimus would in the same situation, a fact furthered by Tavi's growing resemblance to Septimus in his younger years as he grows older.
  • Dead City: When she becomes a zombie hunter, Molly learns that her late mother was also one.
  • Dungeon Crawler Carl: Carl is just another random guy who wandered into the Dungeon and now has to survive. That is, until he chooses a book from a prize carousel. It appears to be a Booby Prize about goblin recipes. It is not. The Dungeon Anarchist's Cookbook is the latest in a long line of seemingly worthless items that have appeared in various crawls since the beginning. Each one appears innocuous except when read by the person it was meant for, and will disappear if that person talks about it, dies, or tries to share it. Crawlers can leave notes to each other from crawl to crawl, mostly recipes for important potions and explosives, but also monster information and—most importantly—secrets about how to circumvent system protections and eventually bring the entire system down. The exact criteria for the Cookbook are not explained, but each owner is essentially the same person, dedicated to vengeance for their destroyed world and passing everything they can to the next generation.
    Hello, Crawler. As you're about to find, this is a very special book. If you're reading these words, it means this book has found its way into your hands for one purpose and one purpose only.
    Together, we will burn it all to the ground.
  • In book three of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, the king of the Enchanted Forest is trapped in a magical prison, and the only person capable of wielding the sword that can free him would be his son, Daystar — who's nine months old at the time. To make matters worse, the Wizards can track any bearer of the sword who knows what he's carrying, meaning when Daystar does take up the weapon, he will have to be kept Locked Out of the Loop . So Daystar's mother, the badass Queen of The Enchanted Forest, brings him up outside the forest, ignorant of his heritage. The fourth book's plot follows a seventeen-year-old Daystar as he takes the sword into the forest, saves his father, and discovers what's In the Blood of the magic-commanding, kingdom-ruling family he's part of.
  • In Vasiliy Golovachov's novel The Envoy, the protagonist, an ordinary Russian dancer, discovers that his ancestors included great warriors. However, the reason he becomes the Envoy appears to be simply a case of "right place, right time" (he is present when the previous Envoy is killed, who passes on his duty to the protagonist). The tattoo that the previous Envoy leaves on the protagonist's shoulder occasionally allows him to tap into his Genetic Memory, temporarily getting his ancestors' combat skills (having a dancer's flexibility and balance helps too). He also discovers that his best friend knows a lot more than he lets on.
  • In Greystone Valley, Sarah's ability to read Kay's spellbook and wield magic of her own is eventually explained as something she got from her mom, who is the original Emerald Enchantress.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: The entire Royal line of Valdemar is secretly descended from Vanyel, the Last Herald-Mage, through a bargain struck to preserve the continuity of the Monarchy during a time of major political upheaval. This is crucial to the plot, as his descendant, Princess Elspeth, takes up the mantle of being Valdemar's first new Herald-Mage six hundred years later. She subsequently meets up with yet another descendant of Vanyel, Firesong K'Treva of the Tayledras — in fact, he's the one who tells her, as the Hawkbrothers were the only ones Vanyel entrusted with the knowledge outside of the inner Royal circle.
  • Hive Mind (2016): Amber and her brother Gregas are great-grandchildren of Claire, one of the Hive's most loyal and beloved telepaths, and Wilder, considered the greatest Strike Team leader ever.
  • Princess Ozma in the Land of Oz series doubles down on the 'secret' part: she didn't even know she was a girl until The Reveal, as the witch that took her in transformed her into a boy, let alone that she was the lost princess of Oz.
  • In the backstory of The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn is raised in Rivendell as 'Estel' and not told of his lineage and destiny until he is twenty-one. This is to protect him from his allies and allow him a normal childhood (as normal as a Man raised by Elves can have).
  • In The Lunar Chronicles, Linh Cinder is revealed to be the long lost princess of Luna (the Moon) who was believed to have died in a fire as a child.
  • Subverted in John Barnes's One for the Morning Glory. Calliope learned, very young, that she was the only daughter of a king to be smuggled to safety after her father's throne was usurped. Not that that doesn't lead to complications on its own.
  • Proven Guilty: Charity Carpenter doesn't tell her oldest daughter Molly that she once had potential to be a wizard but chose not to use it even after Molly is almost executed for misuse of her power. When she finds out, Molly even cites the parable of the talents, a story from the Bible whose Aesop is "make the best use of what you're given." As Harry figured out, to be eligible to be a Knight of the Cross, one has to be the descendant of royalty. Since most people don't know whether they are partially royalty, Knights of the Cross are this.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire, where should we start? Gendry, Arya's companion in early books is King Robert's bastard.
    • Young Griff doesn't have a Tyroshi mother and blue hair as well, he dyes his hair to hide his natural silver-blond hair beacause he's Aegon VI Targaryen...or maybe not.
    • Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen are not of royal blood, they are Lannister from both parents' side as a product of Twincest between the queen and her brother.
    • In the "Bael the Bard" song, the Lord Stark grandson of Brandon the Daughterless had no idea that Bael the Bard was his father and kills him.
    • If certain fan theories are correct, there's also Jon Snow, Lyanna Stark's son with Rhaegar Targaryen.
  • In Time Out of Time, the role of Filidh is passed down through the O'Daly family. O'Daly is Timothy's mom's maiden name.
  • In Wen Spencer's Tinker, Tinker and her cousin Oilcan learn a secret about their ancestry.
  • The Marin family in Tranquilium is somehow connected to the metaphysical management of the titular Alternate Dimension. The main character of the book is one Gleb Marin, who didn't know.
  • In The Well of Moments, Jasmine is shocked to discover her father was once in the exact same profession she is: finding and brokering the sale of ultra-rare art, which often includes paranormal artifacts.
  • In "A Witch Shall Be Born", Salome learned that she was born to the royal family and her sister was queen.
    "He had told me who I was, of the curse and my heritage. I have returned to take that to which I have as much right as you. Now it is mine by right of possession."
  • Wonder Woman: Warbringer: Alia is the Warbringer, destined to start a world war, like all the other Warbringers before her, going back to Helen of Troy. Her brother Jason's unnatural strength is also implied to be due to the family's secret history.
  • In Wrong Time for Dragons, Victor is an ordinary man from our world ends up in the Middle World, which is located between the world of magic (Trueborn World) and our non-magical world (Outworld). He is destined to become the next Dragonslayer, tasked with defending the Middle World from invasion of the Winged Lords of the Trueborn World (i.e., dragons). He is being hunted by the previous Dragonslayer who now believes that it is necessary for a Dragon to survive. In the end, Victor has a vision that reveals that his strange grandmother is actually from the Middle World and was banished by the Dragonslayer after being raped by him (It Makes Sense in Context), making him the guy's grandson.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sydney Bristow on Alias, like, whoa. First it's the discovery that her mild-mannered father didn't sell airplane parts, but was rather one of the scariest double-agents in CIA and SD-6. And then it's the discovery that her mother was a double- no, triple- no, make that quadruple — okay, at this point, we have no idea WHO Irina was working for — agent up to her eyeballs in Rambaldi.
    • Never mind her sister, Nadia, as well as the other two Derevko sisters. Man, JJ was really shooting for Lamarck Was Right with these ladies, wasn't he?
      • Not to mention that Sydney's daughter solved the Project Christmas puzzle in the series finale, strongly implying she was destined for the family business.
  • In Born to Spy, Yu Na and Min discover that their parents (and their grandmother!) are spies, and have been secretly training them to be spies as well.
  • In Chuck, Papa Bartowski turns out to be the mysterious Orion, the creator of the Intersect that got his son into the spy business in the first place. And it looks like Mama Bartowski is in the espionage business as well.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Gendry is apparently an unacknowledged illegitimate son working as an apprentice blacksmith, but is actually the hidden illegitimate son of King Robert Baratheon, kept secret by Jon Arryn to protect him. He had no idea who his father was until Season 3.
    • In Season 7, it is revealed that Jon Snow is the hidden trueborn son of Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark and is the heir to the Iron Throne.note  Shortly before her death, Lyanna passes her newborn son (Jon) into her brother Ned's care in order to save him from the new king Robert Baratheon, who wants to kill any Targaryens he can find. Ned promises to save his sister's son and claims his nephew Jon as his own illegitimate child to protect him, raising him as his own son alongside his children in Winterfell and taking the truth to his grave to keep Jon safe. Jon has no idea of his true origins.
  • In the pilot of Grimm Nick learns from his aunt Marie that he is descended from a long line of monster hunters. Even with stage 4 cancer Aunt Marie is still a badass. In a later season Nick's thought-to-be-dead mother Kelly turns up and she's also a badass monster hunter.
  • In the first episode of Heroes, Angela Petrelli is introduced as a bored society matron shoplifting socks as a cry for attention/attempt to liven up her day. She's since been revealed to be a super-powered human who gave her son his first power; is one of the founders of The Company; and an all round Magnificent Bitch.
  • Eddie in Mockingbird Lane gets as far as his preteen years without ever knowing he's a werewolf. His parents go to rather extreme lengths to hide his own bloodthirsty full-moon rampages from him.
  • In Power Rangers Mystic Force, Red Ranger Nick knows prior to season start that he's adopted, but doesn't learn until Episode 23 of 32 that his biological mother is his team's White Ranger and mentor, and his father was the leader of the previous group of warriors 20 years ago, who fell to enemy forces and was brainwashed. This is obviously a slight change to the formula, as he knew the two were super-powered beforehand. He just didn't know he was related to them.
  • In Supernatural, Sam and Dean are raised to be hunters by their father but there's no indication that the three are anything more than a family of ordinary people thrust into the lifestyle by bad circumstances. Later we learn that their mother was descended from a line of hunters and was a hunter herself. Much later we learn that their paternal grandfather was a hereditary member of a secret society of supernatural information brokers.
  • In Tracker (2001), Mel spends most of the series thinking she's an ordinary human who just happened to run into the alien Cole after he landed, only to find out near the end that she's part of an ancient hybrid bloodline devoted to guarding a Doomsday Device from the bad guys.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney example: Both Apollo's bracelet and lie-detecting abilities were handed down to him from his mother Thalassa Gramarye, a talented (stage) magician. However, while the viewer finds this out at the end of the game Phoenix and Thalassa decide they will tell him when he's ready and we never see his reaction to this rather important piece of news.
  • In Dark Chronicle, main hero Max's mother turns out be from the future. Her mission was to protect the holder of the Red Atlamillia in the past.
  • In the Dragon Age II DLC "Legacy", Hawke and (possibly) their siblings discover their father Malcolm's Secret Legacy. Turns out Malcolm was a very powerful mage, who helped the Grey Wardens reinforce the seals of a prison containing a particularly powerful, Ancient Darkspawn.
  • In Dragon Quest V, any of the three wife heroines the protagonist marries will turn out to be a descendant of the Zenithian, winged humans who once lived in the sky, and is destined to give a birth to the legendary hero. Note that this only happens to the girl you marry with. Bianca (DS) once lampshades as a joke that her life wouldn't be have been so suck if she didn't marry The Hero.
  • While not an adventuring hero at first, Brother Martin of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion did noble work as a priest and healer, raised to such all his life after being left at a monastery as a baby, until one day somebody who WAS an adventurer came along and revealed to him he was-all along-secretly the son of an Emperor.
  • Fable
    • In Fable, the player characters mother — Scarlet Rose, was a powerful hero, who was an Arena Champion and a Balvarine Hunter. When we finally meet her however...she's not.
    • In Fable II, the main character starts off as an orphaned pauper, before learning he/she is the descendant of the protagonist from the first game. This leads to their rise to power and founding of their own monarchy.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • As it turns out, most of Final Fantasy V's player party can claim this. We know Lenna is a princess from the start. Then we learn that Faris is her sister, making her a princess. When Galuf gets his memory back he's a King, and his granddaughter's a princess. And Bartz, Ridiculously Average Guy who got involved in this completely by chance, is actually the son of one of the original heroes who sealed Exdeath in the first place.
    • In Final Fantasy X, protagonist Tidus knows he's following on his father's footsteps as a star Blitzball player. What he doesn't know, not until he's thrown into Yuna's service as a volunteer Guardian, is that Jecht was the Guardian of Braska, Yuna's father.
    • Or that the Jecht is the Final Aeon.
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy, the Warrior of Light is an amnesiac who who was created by Cid of the Lufaine, a talented Lufenian scientist. However, while the viewer can learn this through reading the Chaos and Cosmos reports. The Warrior himself never discovers any of this for himself.
  • In Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy, Nancy finds out that her mother was not just a reporter but also a spy, and that's what got her killed.
  • In the fan game Pokemon Zeta/Omicron, the hero's mother turns out to be the Champion.
  • In Psychonauts, Raz is saved before the very final boss by his father. Despite Raz's belief that his father was prejudiced against psychics, his father was in fact a psychic himself, and had actually been trying to help Raz control his powers more effectively all along. He even gives Raz the psychic boost he needs to defeat the final boss.
    • He discovers a much more disturbing secret legacy in Psychonauts 2—his great aunt was Maligula, an infamous hydrokinetic war criminal responsible for drowning thousands, including her own sister (Raz's paternal grandmother). However, the real horror isn't the blood relation, but rather the discovery that she's not only still alive, but has been living with Raz as his grandmother his whole life—and now she's starting to remember who she used to be...
  • Third Super Robot Wars Z: Tengoku-hen reveals that Banjo Haran (through his father, who was a Chrono reformationist), the Marcenas, Clyne and Soreil families (the latter two are descendants of the reformationists) are a part of Chrono.

    Web Comics 
  • In Dragon Mango, two stories are told of the missing princess: that she was smuggled away, and that she was kidnapped.
    • It's Cherry. They smuggled princess-hyperactive-impulsive Cherry to be raised by centaurs when she was still an egg. Ironically, her new bodyguard unknowingly has the best claim to the Dragon Slayer throne, as the daughter of an actual Badass Normal dragon slayer when the whole kingdom has secretly bred and raised dragons to throw matches for centuries. That would be Mango.
  • Drow Tales has Ariel being the daughter of Mel'arnach and the Aware, Zhor, not Quain'tana, who is really her grandmother, which explains her high sorcery and wind affinity. Mel'arnach then uses her high sorcery to rescue Ariel and teaches her a few new tricks, including how to change the color of her hair. Until Chapter 32 she did know her true heritage, and even when she found out she refused to accept it.
  • In El Goonish Shive, neither Nanase nor Tedd knew that Tedd's mother, also Nanase's aunt, was "A legendary monster hunter with a long family history of fighting monsters and evil wizards," until Agent Wolf accidentally let it slip to Nanase. Nanase's mother is fully aware of both this, and Nanase's own magic abilities, but deliberately keeps it a secret for reasons of her own. Tedd's father has also kept this information from Tedd, and convinces Nanase to do the same. However, only half of Tedd's legacy is truly hidden, as is father is a high-ranking member of the FBI's paranormal division, and doesn't keep this from his son at all. It's a bit complicated, and the audience doesn't yet know the whole story.
  • Girl Genius is all this, with Agatha initially not knowing she's a child of an incredibly well-known hero and his less-well-known-as-the-ultimate-evil wife, or that her adoptive "parents" were also a well-known pair of heroes.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court inverts this somewhat: Antimony knew of (some of) her mum's powers all along; instead, it was her mum's position in the Court — and her relationships with the older members of Annie's circle — that surprised her. The full reveal of her mother's heritage (part fire-elemental) and its relevance to her death is also a surprise to her.
  • In Impure Blood, Dara's manifestly odd upbringing is nevertheless trumped by her legacy. She, like Roan, is part Ancient.
  • In Magick Chicks, witch-in-training Melissa Hellrune finds out that her parents were once a powerful Magical Girl and her arch-nemesis.note  She's told this after she's given a wand that lets her tap into her Magical Girl powers. Eventually, she gains the ability to use her witch and magical girl powers at the same time and separate herself into witch and magical girl halves.
  • Megatokyo has the Sonoda family. Meimi, the mother, has been shown to have been a Magical Girl many years ago, but has given up that life to raise a "normal" family. Her daughter Yuki starts manifesting abilities, culminating in disaster when she falls from a telephone pole. Embarrassed, Yuki only discusses actual events with the unfortunate victim. When her mother overhears, Yuki covers by saying they were discussing an anime. The next two strips feature Meimi wondering about the silliness of Magical Girl shows
    • Yuki's father is in on the secret, too; unfortunately, having an ex-Magical Girl and a Magical Girl-to-be in the family meant his Magical Girl Detector alarm kept on bugging him, which meant he had to keep it switched off, which meant that when Yuki's powers actually did manifest, Inspecter Sonoda was a little unprepared...
  • In Pacificators, we're introduced to Daryl Smithson, an aspiring Pacificator of Light. Oh, much later we find out that she's actually the granddaughter of a very famous Pacificator of Light, and that she've inherited her grandmother's staff. However, the trope still plays in that while Daryl's grandmother had taught Daryl a few tricks, she still kept many secrets from her granddaughter...

    Web Original 
  • In the Whateley Universe, up until Billie Wilson got her superpowers, she had no idea that her parents were superpowered mutants who work for the C.I.A. Or that her annoyingly-perfect older brother was a superpowered mutant with a low-level Paragon power. Or that her incredibly annoying kid inventor younger brother was also a mutant. Okay, her brothers were also clueless on this until she manifested and became Tennyo. (On the other hand, Jadis Diabolik has known about her father since she was old enough to keep a secret, because he is one of the most wanted supervillains on the planet.)

    Western Animation 
  • Ben 10: In the classic continuity, Ben Tennyson discovers long after receiving his Imported Alien Phlebotinum that his grandfather is a former Men in Black-esque alien hunter. As the various series go on, not only does he learn that the Omnitrix he wields was meant to go to his grandfather, but that some members of his extended family are aliens themselves (with his cousin Gwen learning that she's 1/4th alien and has her own alien form).
  • Dragons: The Nine Realms: In the third episode of Season 6, it is revealed to both the protagonist Tom Kullersen and the audience that he is, in fact, a descendant of Hiccup, the protagonist from the How to Train Your Dragon-movies and the Dragons: Riders of Berk-series.
  • Subverted in Filmation's Ghostbusters: Jake and Eddie were fully aware of their fathers' legacies. Messrs Kong and Spenser, Sr. were more than ready and willing to pass the torch (or, in this case, the Dematerializer).
  • In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983), Teela has this. She struggles to understand why she's called upon by Castle Greyskull to replace the Sorceress when the Sorceress goes missing. She has no idea that the reason is because she is the Sorceress's daughter and her future successor. In the 2000s remake, a village believes she's a sorceress who once saved them from danger come back to help them again. The villagers are remembering the Sorceress and Teela almost uncovers the truth about her relationship with the Sorceress as a result. On another occasion, she's badly wounded defending the castle from Skeletor's army and the Sorceress gives her a transfusion of her own blood. It makes Teela temporarily telepathic as a result of the dormant abilities she doesn't know she possesses precisely because she's the Sorceress's daughter.
  • The Series Fauxnale/Fully Absorbed Finale of Justice League reveals that Batman Beyond hero, Terry McGinnis is actually the genetic son of Bruce Wayne as part of a secret experiment by a government group to create a new Batman. Basically, they gave Warren McGinnis an injection that replaced his reproductive material (and thus DNA) with Bruce Wayne's. Then again, it's rather a subversion: the program was called off before the defining moment of Bruce's life could be recreated. Terry ended up becoming Batman all on his own, mostly through coincidence, wholly independent of his genetic heritage.
  • Kim Possible's Nana was resented by Kim, primarily for criticizing her clothes as too revealing and saying her world saving was just a phase, and that she'd grow out of it. What Kim's father never told her, but Dr. Drakken somehow knew, was that in The '60s Nana studied with the Shaolin monks, was a top-rated aviatrix, and was the first woman to pass the Navy's underwater demolitions training course. He then uses a mind-controlling hearing aid to force Nana to fight Kim, a fight Nana wins.
  • In Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero, Penn believed that his parents were insurance salespeople before he discovers that they were really part-time heroes. He inherits the job that same day, when they get stuck in the Most Dangerous Dimension Imaginable. On a meta-level, co-creator Jared Bush learned as a teenager that not only was his father a CIA field agent, but so was his grandfather and his older sister.
  • In the Season 1 finale of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, it turns out that Fred is the missing son of Brad Chiles and Judy Reeves, two members of the previous Mystery Incorporated. His supposed father, Mayor Fred Jones Sr., is his kidnapper. Roughly two decades before the present day, Jones blackmailed the original Mystery Inc. into leaving Crystal Cove, but when a married Brad and Judy later attempted to return to the town with their infant son, Jones kidnapped him as a hostage to get his point across. For the past eighteen years, Jones has been trying to steer Fred away from taking after his real parents, but to no avail.
  • The three main characters of Shaolin Wuzang are the reincarnations of the three Shaolin knights who defeated the Big Bad, Heihu, a thousand years ago, and they're considered the only hope for defeating him again. No one save the ancestral spirits and a few living souls know about this.
  • Steven Universe: Steven Quartz Universe went his entire life believing he was the son of Rose Quartz but the episode "A Single Pale Rose" it's revealed to him (and the audience) that Rose Quartz was actually Pink Diamond, one of the four rulers of the gem Homeworld who was originally going to colonize the earth. She grew to care for the planet's inhabitants and changed her appearance and eventually faked her death at Rose's hands (actually the disguised Pearl) in order to protect earth from Homeworld. Which also means earth technically belongs to Steven.