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Single Line of Descent

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Curious phenomenon where there's only one true descendant of some legendary hero/villain or chosen one. Usually it's only that one person who can save the day or bring about The End of the World as We Know It. Because Destiny Says So, of course. And often it has to be the male line, or whichever keeps the last name (and even that can be problematic, as family names evolve over time, or even change completely). The fact that there's multiple branching into different last names doesn't count genetically for some bizarre reason.

This is curious in itself. Most family trees branch quite a bit due to multiple children having multiple children (and families of important lineage in particular tend to make a point of having a "spare" heir around to avert any potential Succession Crisis). In fact, if you look far enough into the past, you reach a point where every human being alive then is either the ancestor of everybody or nobody who is currently alive. Here apparently only one child was born per generation. In older legends, it was explicitly stated that only the firstborn "counts", but the socioeconomic systems that fostered that kind of thinking withered away, leaving only this trope.

Similarly, the sole true descendant is generally treated as essentially equivalent to their ancestor, having the same powers, personality, ethnicity, and so on. Never mind that, if the legendary hero lived twenty generations ago, he had roughly a million contemporaries who are just as closely related to the modern-day version as he.

Note that, in the present generation, if there is another sibling, he or she tends to be recruited by the Big Bad as the Evil Counterpart.

Occasionally it will be explained away that the Big Bad found and eliminated the rest, and the Supporting Leader happened to get to the last one in time.

Possibly related to the Identical Grandson. Only one in a generation can take the "legacy."

See also Only Child Syndrome. The last offspring of a Single Line of Descent is by definition the Last of His Kind. Also see Royal Inbreeding.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In the anime Blue Seed there was only one (well, two) people left of a bloodline whose lifeforce could destroy the Demonic Invaders.
  • Raideen: Akira Hibiki is a descendant of the ancient people of Mu and he must help Raideen save the Earth. With Akira, the line of descent doesn't extend very far. His mother is the queen of Mu.
  • Naruto:
    • Averted with the Sage of the Six Paths, who spawned the Uchiha, Senju, and Uzumaki clans. In the case of the Uzumaki and Uchiha clans, Naruto and Sasuke being the only descendants is justified because they are also the only survivors of the clans being annihilated, though it turns out with the Uzumaki that Karin is another descendant to survive through the end of the original series, though her exact relationship to Naruto isn't clarified.
    • In addition, the Hyuga clan is split between a small head family and several branch families; if the Hyuga head has multiple children, then only one inherits a position in the head house, with the rest relegated to forming their own branch houses. The Moon Otsutsuki also had a similar arrangement; perhaps not coincidentally, both them and the Hyuga are descended from the Sage's twin brother.
    • In a more straight example, it's later revealed that the Sage's two rival sons continually reincarnate as their descendants, with Sasuke and Naruto being the latest iteration in a chain that also include Hidden Leaf founders Madara Uchiha and Hashirama Senju.
  • The Nakatsukasas in Soul Eater. The eldest child is expected to inherit the Morph Weapon ability, and Masamune took issue with the fact he did not. Odd, in that the Demon Weapons are the result of experimentation and that Tsubaki's family is quite clearly not the only example. In fact, the others have branched out into more modern and outlandish interpretations of the word 'weapon'.
  • Enforced in the Nasuverse, where magi generally only pass on magic to a single heir because doing otherwise would divide the family's source of magic between them. Defied in the case of Tohsaka Tokiomi, who upon siring two talented daughters, made Rin his heir and gave Sakura to be the heir to the heir-less Matou house. The only problem is the Matou family treated Sakura horribly.
  • The Raregroove family in Rave Master doesn't boast any cases of multiple children. Understandably, since they are a bloodline of Cosmic Playthings who apparently tend to lose anyone they cherish in very brutal ways. Because of this, Lucia ends up being the sole descendant of Acelia, the last human not to be created by Star Memory.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure starts off this way, but beginning around the Stardust Crusaders arc there are multiple JoJos running around at once. And then the concept of who's descended from whom starts to get tricky... Also, while the given name would change, but retain a "Jo" syllable to continue being JoJo, the family name was Joestar for awhile, before going the route of the given name and changing, while retaining a "Jo" syllable.
  • Subverted in Senyuu. When the king calls for descendants of an ancient hero who lived a thousand years ago, he discovers that a guy who lived a thousand years ago can have a lot of descendants.
  • Consciously averted in Cool-Kyou Shinsha's work Fukumaden, where the hero is given a massive harem to ensure that his bloodline survives until the demon lord's eventual resurrection.
  • Used in Attack on Titan, doubled with Last of His Kind and There Is Another. There's Historia, who becomes queen of the walls after learning that she's the last remaining member of the Reiss family and that the current royal family are puppets. Then you have Zeke Yeager, the last living Fritz, at least outside the walls. He's a direct descendant of Ymir Fritz, the supposed creator of the Titans, through his mother Dina. Of course, the two families are one in the same: the Reiss family are the side of the Fritz family that are within the walls, and the Fritz are the side of the family that stayed on the continent until they were mostly wiped out.
    • Also applies to noble families, such as the Tybur family, who are the true rulers of the Kingdom of Marley and the family that possesses the Warhammer Titan.
  • Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle has a justified example in the Arcadia family, whose only survivors are Lux, Airi and Fugil (all children from the same father) because Fugil killed everyone else. The light novels later reveal that this trope is subverted altogether, as the modern Arcadia family is a branch of the main line. The branch family led a rebellion against and massacred most of the main family. The survivors went into stasis to hide but were found by the branch family who then attempted to finish the job. Fugil (who turns out to not be part of the family at all) stopped them, leaving only three sisters (Listelka, Aeril and Hayes) as the last survivors of the main family.

  • The DCU: Both used and averted with the immortal Vandal Savage, who has multiple descendants apparently including Arsenal whom he harvests for organs, and a person he specifically identifies from among them as his daughter Scandal, leader of the Secret Six. According to Scandal, her legitimacy is down to the fact Vandal married her mother.
  • Star Wars: Legacy seems to hint that this happened. It's been a hundred fifty years, and the only Skywalkers alive are Cade and his immediate relatives. It's hinted that the Organa Solo line got absorbed into the Antilles Fel line, whose descendant is the Emperor. An upcoming comic series will cover the fate of the Solo-Djo line.
  • In the newspaper comic The Phantom, natives and pirates are led to believe that the masked crime fighter is the same man living for hundreds of years. He is, in fact, the son of the last guy. Multiple Phantoms have had more than one child, but once an inheritor is chosen, his siblings usually disappear from history and are never mentioned again. This is most notable with the 13th Phantom, who was the youngest of 4 sons, none of whom are ever seen or mentioned again outside his origin story. There was also the twin sister of the 17th Phantom who occasionally filled in for him, but is not known to have had any children of her own.
  • Deconstructed in Preacher; in order to keep the bloodline of Jesus Christ pure, his children and their offspring were only allowed to mate with each other. The end result, after generations upon generations of this... is a gibbering, deformed freak who barely has a clue what's going on around him.
    Herr Star: Son of God or son of man, you can't fuck your sister for a thousand years and expect anything good to come out of it.
  • Scrooge McDuck is often lauded as the last of the once great Clan McDuck, who's lineage contains knights, merchants, magnates, Templars, and all manner of greatness. This despite the fact that he is only the last MALE member of the Clan, and his two sisters apparently not counting, one of whom had children and grandchildren of her own, these of course being his nephew Donald Duck and his nephews.

  • In A Great And Powerful Legacy, Trixie is revealed to be the sole living descendant of Starswirl The Bearded. However, it's established that the line tended toward having only one or two children each generation, and with only one continuing the line.

  • A character in Dogma is the only member of Jesus's brother's bloodline (through a sibling of the "ancestor" instead of the "ancestor" himself).
  • In Underworld. The Lycans are searching for a human descendant of the progenitor of both werewolves and vampires, but they need one with a specific gene and a wall filled with crossed over photographs tell us that there has been a lot of failures before the events of the movie. But that's because all they have to go on to find that one descendant is his last name, Corvin, which isn't exactly rare or unique. Depending on how long they've been looking for this guy, and killing the ones who don't meet their specifications, the Lycans may be the reason there's only a Single Line of Descent.
    • It's not clear if they look anywhere else besides Hungary. The novelization mentions that Michael's grandfather emigrated from Hungary to the US and Anglicized his name from Corvinus to Corvin. Michael only decided to go back to the Old Country after his wife died. It may have been sheer luck that the Lycans have found the right person.
    • It's never actually said that Michael is the only descendent, the lycan's are specifically looking for a descendent who is a "pure enough source of the bloodline", ie. he's just more closely related to a specific common ancestor than the other people they've tested so far. He's not even necessarily special in any way, there could be plenty of others as close or even more closely related, he just happened to be the first one they found who was suitable for the experiment.
  • The Shadow, the Big Bad is the last descendant of Genghis Khan. And now compare this to what is written in the Real Life section.
  • Explained in The Covenant that only the firstborn males in each generation receive powers. There may well be many descendants of the original (male) witches of Salem, but only five males with the Power per generation (there are five families).
  • In the movie of The Da Vinci Code, there is only one surviving member of Jesus's bloodline. (In the book, though, the corresponding character has a sibling, and it's stated that they aren't the only line of descent, just the most reinforced and "qualified". That apparently wasn't dramatic enough for the movie, though.) This can be handwaved by the Opus Dei hunting down and eliminating all the other descendants.

  • Averted in A Brother's Price, or played straight, depending on how you look at it: All sisters in a family usually marry one husband. All their children are considered children to all of the mothers. Which means that all the princesses have an equal claim to the throne—and will rule together. However, it is possible to split the family, with the younger sisters marrying a different husband. This was once done by the royal family, and resulted in a civil war over the question whose group of sisters' offspring were to inherit the throne. The protagonist, Jerin, is descended from a prince who might have been killed in said civil war, and has no claim to the throne—but it does look nice on his birth certificate, and makes him an elegible candidate for marrying the princesses... as well as a potential kidnapping victim, as marrying him could give a woman some claim to the throne if all other potential heirs were dead. Very unlikely with ten living heirs, but the villains intend to find a way...
  • Not so in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, where multiple lines and descendants exist. An example are the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor, respectively founded by Elendil and his sons, who are descended from a sideline branch of the Númenórean royal family: in both cases there are various people (both properly royal and more mundane ones) appearing and mentioned as descending from the same ancestor as the "main descendant(s)" of that line. Gondor even eventually endured a civil war over the question of inheritance, had problems with multiple potential claimants, and eventually no viable successor could be found who would have pleased everyone, resulting in the Stewards taking over. When the Gondorians first had trouble finding a royal successor, the Arnorian line and kingdom was still fully intact, and the Arnorian king tried to take over (on account of both dynasties being descended from Elendil and being married to the last Gondorian king's daughter) but was rejected. His descendant Aragorn would later succeed where he had failed.
    • By which point, however, Aragorn basically was the last direct descendent of Elendil, thus re-invoking the trope. However, his claim was still tenuous enough that he only got the job because he had just saved the city and fulfilled a prophesy.
  • In Harry Potter, Voldemort is the last descendant of Salazar Slytherin, one of the four founders of Hogwarts. It is Justified by explaining that Slytherin's descendants became so obsessed with keeping the line "pure" that they repeatedly married within the family. Ironically, Voldemort's father turns out to be a Muggle his mother ensnared with a Love Potion, so the many and varied ways he ended up being fucked up in the head don't actually include inbreeding.
  • Deltora Quest establishes that by tradition, the ruler of Deltora has only one child, meaning during the time of Deltora Shadowlands, Adin (the first king) has only one heir. If that heir dies childless, the power of the Belt will be lost forever. This was enforced by the Shadow Lord to cause the loss of the power of the belt. It's eventually subverted, as Adin had multiple children who also did.
  • The Belgariad book series featured the bloodline of the Rivan king, which only had one child per generation for centuries. This is justified due to prophecy keeping the family small so as to be easier to hide from numerous enemies. Seeing as almost the entire family was killed when they were secure on a small island surrounded by guards, this may be a good idea. Interesting in that the subject matter of one of the prequel books covers how the family was hidden/protected.
    • Except in Polgara the Sorceress, wherein Cherek wives of the descendants of the Rivan kings always had lots of babies. Either they all died, or Garion has bunches of n-th cousins running around... (He does meet a first cousin at one point, but she's explicitly from the maternal, non-royal, side of his family.)
  • The House of Usher is a classic example, as Poe describes them as having produced no side-branches and declined to a point where only two siblings remained.
    • M.P. Shiel's "House of Sounds" used the same idea, with a family that had once numbered in the millions dwindling down to three. A partial subversion, in that the declining bloodline is traced through both sexes, with the Last of His Kind descendent being born to parents deriving from two distant branches of the family.
  • In the Hollow Kingdom Trilogy, both the Elf and Goblin Kings only ever have one son apiece. None of those messy succession debates here, no sirree!
  • Lampshaded in Prelude to Foundation, where a noblewoman claims she should be the Empress because her family descends from an ancient ruling house. A nearby historian remarks that with said dynasty ruling 5,000 years ago, half of the galaxy is their descendants.
  • In Legends of Dune, Camie Boro claims to be the only descendant of the last emperor of the Old Imperium. Given that the Old Imperium fell over 1000 years before, this is not very likely.
    • Averted with Vorian Atreides. During the Jihad days, he had so many lovers on so many planets, that he frankly lost track of all his descendants. This means that House Atreides in the main series (taking place over ten thousand years later) is far from the only source of Atreides blood. In fact, the founder of the Bene Gesserit school is actually Vorian's granddaughter, but that line does not last beyond 2 more generations.
    • For that matter, the Atreides themselves claim to be descended from the King Agamemnon of Ancient Greece. Good luck proving that.
  • Played with in the Mithgar series with the "Lastborn Firstborns". A pair of mortal lovers become involved in a quest, but after a point, they're going to have to wait centuries to carry out the next step. They get married and pass their lore and quest items down the generations, hers to her firstborn daughter and then her firstborn daughter and so on, his to his firstborn son and so on. When the destined time finally rolls around, we end up with two characters who each look very similar to the ancestor whose lines of descent they've been following, but are no longer closely related. So they meet up, fall in love, and continue the quest, just like their ancestors. Then one of them dies, breaking the line of firstborns.
  • In Simon Hawke's The Wizard of novels, Billy Slade is the one and only descendent of Merlin Ambrosius.
  • Averted in Mikhail Akhmanov's Arrivals from the Dark and Trevelyan's Mission with the bloodline of Paul Richard Corcoran. Corcoran himself has two daughters, and each of his descendants has at least two children. However, the farther "down" the line we go, the less his Faata genes manifest themselves. The most common form is unnatural longevity coupled with sterility until 40. A few individuals do get his Psychic Powers as well. Sergey Valdez, Corcoran's great-grandson is notable for having these powers and passing them to both of his children. The last book of the Trevelyan's Mission series reveals that the protagonist Ivar Trevelyan is a 1000-year removed descendant of Corcoran with latent abilities.
  • In Tales of the Branion Realm, the DeMarian royal family rarely has more than a dozen members while other noble families may have hundreds, but has nonetheless managed to survive for 900 years.
  • Played Straight and Averted in A Song of Ice and Fire: The Starks, Arryns, Tullys and Baratheons are all confined to half a dozen or so members at the most, and the inheritances of their various regions are threatened because of it, while the former ruling Targaryen family is down to one (confirmed) member. Meanwhile, the Lannisters, Martells and Tyrells are all bursting with wide and diverse family trees, with mentions of separate family branches being established. Thicket or stalk, you can still find screwed-up in the Houses, though.
    • In the Starks' case it may be partially justified as all of Lord Eddard Stark's siblings were killed or took the Black before having children, though there are a distantly related branch, the Karstarks. Even without sudden narrowing, Northern Houses as a whole do tend to be streamlined when compared to Southern ones... for good reason. The harsher the environment (the Eyrie certainly counts, too), the greater the chance you'll not find many cousins and cousins of cousins by blood. As, Winter is harsh: the superfluous, weak or useless get regularly trimmed so the core may live through it. One way or another.
    • We do hear of the possibility in one book of a member of one noble House taking the name of another to prevent that House going extinct, so this may be why they are so few other branches.
    • Actually the Arryns are mentioned to have many branches throughout the Vale, but a lot of them are quite poor.
    • The Targaryens tried keeping it in the family too much, and there do seem to be female line descendants, such as the Martells, Plumms and Penroses, and apparently the Longwaters are illegitimate descendants.
  • Carrot Ironfounderson is apparently the last living descendant of the Discworld's ancient Kings of Ankh. This has been supported by evidence uncovered by Edward d'Eath in Men at Arms, and by Dragon King of Arms' inability to find a better alternate successor than Nobby Nobbs in Feet of Clay. In Carrot's case, the lack of other heirs is at least implied to have been engineered, as he was the Sole Survivor of an attack on a caravan in which the long-lost royal sword had been carefully hidden.
  • Averted in Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles, where Maharet has been keeping track of the descendants of her human daughter since she became a vampire back in Ancient Egypt. The Great Family now has branches all over the world. However, for practical reasons and due to ancient traditions, Maharet only keeps track of her matrilineal descendants. Why? Because she can't be sure that her male descendants' children are really theirs. It's not clear whether she will change her methods with the introduction of reliable paternity tests.
  • Shea Ohmsford from the first Shannara was the last descendant of the great elven king Jerle Shannara. This was engineered—as Jerle had lived 500 years before and had three kids (Plus two adoptive heirs), there were originally quite a few descendants of the Shannara line, but the Warlock Lord, knowing that they were the only people capable of wielding the only weapon that could kill him, made a point of hunting down and killing as many of them as he could find.
  • In The Lost Prince, this is apparently the case for the Lost Prince's secret line of descendents; at the time of the novel, there are two living descendents, father and son, who are apparently descended in an unbroken line and both bear a striking resemblance to the surviving portrait of their revered ancestor.
  • In the Old Kingdom series at the time of Sabriel there is only one remaining member of the Abhorsen bloodline (the titular character) and one remaining living royal (Touchstone) which is a big problem as both bloodlines are needed to respectively keep the dead from coming back to life and maintain the magical wards that protect the kingdom. The latter is justified by the fact that all the royals were killed specifically to break the wards as royal blood is needed to do so, and said survivor is actually a bastard child of the Queen who was magically sealed away to protect them. The prequel Clariel shows that in the past this wasn't the case and that the Royals, Abhorsens and Clayr once intermarried frequently, with the title character possessing the first two in her bloodline. The Clayr are also hundreds strong and completely avert this, and Lirael shows that the Abhorsens aren't quite as singular as first thought, the title character being the daughter of the previous Abhorsen herself and mothered by a Clayr.

    Live Action TV 
  • A rare female example in Charmed. The Charmed Ones are three sisters who are the last descendents of 17th century witch Melinda Warren. Apparently, up until the birth of the protagonists, there never was more than one daughter per generation.
    • Kind of subverted in season 4 when we find out about Paige. But of course nobody had thought of her yet in season 1 when the trope was established.
      • Unless you accept that there is no limit to the number of siblings as long as there is at least three sisters. Otherwise providence would have to wait until the mother reached menopause to grant the powers to the sisters, because more siblings might still be born. Besides we find out in That 70's Episode in season 2 that the sisters had their powers from birth—presumably because they were always going to be witches, it's just the Charmed gimmick that wasn't (and couldn't be) established until Phoebe's birth.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Played straight by many houses whose patriarchs seem to lack siblings. The Stark children have no cousins except Robin Arryn, since Ned's siblings all died or took the black before having children, though they are very distantly related to the Karstarks.
    • Averted by the Lannisters in earlier seasons; Lord Tywin is assisted by his brother Kevan and Kevan's son Lancel is squire to King Robert.
    • Justified with the Targaryens whose tradition of incest limited the branching of the family tree, leaving them very vulnerable to a Succession Crisis.
    • As of the end of Season 6, this also happens to the Tyrells and Martells. Since several of their family members had been Adapted Out while the rest received Death by Adaptation, both houses are legally extinct which leaves Olenna Tyrell (nee Redwayne) and the Sand Snakes (Oberyn's eight bastard daughters) to rule the Reach and Dorne respectively. By the next season they're all dead as well, leaving both regions leaderless.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Sub Rosa", we learn that a "ghost" named Ronin has been bedding Dr. Crusher's female ancestors for centuries, moving from mother to daughter, and is now moving onto Crusher following the death of her grandmother Felisa Howard. The logical flaws start with the fact that all her female ancestors were apparently named "Howard", indicating that Crusher is the first woman in her family to lose her maiden name, despite her living in the twenty-fourth century and the ancestor this started with living in the seventeenth century.note  Not to mention what would happen if a Howard woman failed to produce a daughter. (Would Ronin have to move onto Wesley after Dr. Crusher died?)
  • In The Secret Circle, The coven are all descendants of six witch families (twelve in the books). How six families managed to intermarry for 300 years without inbreeding is a hefty bit of Fridge Logic. It's later explained that there are other witches and circles within Chance Harbor, allowing for new blood to enter the coven, and while the Circle is made of six witch families, the previous Circle contained twelve witches (a member from each of the families and their spouse).

    Religion and Mythology 
  • Subverted trope in The Bible, in that Jesus needs both father and mother to be both descendants of the entire Davidic dynasty. Through his mother he gets biological descent, and through his adoptive father who has direct male descent he becomes legal heir. Not to mention that Jesus has several brothers (and there's a possibility that his cousins on his mothers side may also have the same descent).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Averted in Legend of the Five Rings where the direct descendents of the two dozen or so gods and heroes that founded Rokugan number in the tens of thousands. And that's not counting the two million or so samurai that carry those gods' and heroes' names through fealty. It does appear in the first Imperial line, but only because when a new Emperor takes the throne, all of the other candidates must renounce their family name and be adopted into one of the secondary Imperial families. Interestly, this does lead to the logical conclusion of the Imperial family being wiped out in the first story arc. An heir turns up Moses in the Bulrushes-style in the third arc... but he's the new Big Bad.
  • Warhammer's Tyrion and Teclis have always been the only direct descendants of the first High Elf Phoenix King—Aenarion the Defender—from his first marriage to Astarielle over seven thousand years ago, and hence the direct inheritors of his bloodline and destiny. However, this trope was averted in the 7th edition High Elf army book (and the Tyrion and Teclis trilogy written afterwards) when it became clear that they're only the last surviving descendants, and the rest of Aenarion's heirs were systematically murdered by a Greater Daemon out for revenge against the bloodline of the elf who slew it. Given the extreme longevity and slow reproduction of elves, it helps that there have only been a handful of successive generations born during that time.
    • The elves also maintain the tradition of the Everchild, an intentional attempt to preserve the female branch of the same bloodline. Unknown to pretty much everyone, the current one is also Tyrion's illegitimate daughter.

    Video Games 
  • Averted in the Assassin's Creed series, where Ezio and Altair are from different parts of Desmond's family tree, and Ezio is known to have at least one descendant Clay Kaczmarek, aka Subject 16 who is from an illegitimate child. And then there's Connor Kenway (AKA Ratonhnhaké:ton), who is half-Mohawk, another ancestor unrelated to the other two. Word of God also explains that they were intentionally averting this trope.
  • In the Castlevania series, only the Belmont family has the power to vanquish Dracula when he rises every 100 years (though there have been many exceptions). Each time he rises, there are only one or two Belmonts around to do the job.
    • The Morrises, a family that stepped up to the plate to battle Dracula when the Belmonts went missing, are said to be related to the Belmonts. The relation isn't pure, however, and they aren't able to effectively wield the Vampire Killer whip without significant cost to themselves.
    • Exception: The plot of the cell phone game Castlevania: Order of Shadows involves three Belmont siblings, two of them women. But only the guy gets to take on Dracula, and the game isn't considered canon anyway.
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the realm is protected from the land of the Big Bad by Dragonfires, product of an ancient pact. At the time of the game, the last Septim to be Emperor is assassinated, laying the realm open to invasion by the Daedric forces. The main plotline of the game involves finding the hidden son of the last Septim and getting him the Phlebotinum he needs to start the Dragonfires again. Or, at the very least, to stop the invasion... Though it's an aversion as well: the murdered Emperor had other sons, three of them, in fact, all of whom were taken out in similarly nefarious assassinations shortly before the game begins (making the Cyrodiilian Secret Service the worst bodyguards in history). Martin survived because, as the bastard son of the Emperor, his existence was kept so secret that even he didn't know who he was. It does not address, however, the fact Uriels sons where in their 50s and would have their own heirs who could well have some of their own as well. Or Uriel's siblings and nephews. Or any female Septims.
    • The backstory, however, averts this. The main Septim line already had had various winnowing events or outright going extinct. Mostly it just led to another branch becoming the main Septim line with the Elder Council's blessing and continuing the overall Septim line of Emperors (in one case, for example, a cousin supposed to be more closely related to Tiber Septim took over).
  • Done in Chrono Trigger, where only the Royal Family of Guardia is said to be descended from Ayla and Kino, ancestors some 65 million years back. Then again, over the course of 65 million years, pretty much everyone can trace their lineage to them at some point.
  • In The Lost Crown, William Ager was a villainous example. Unusual in that he died of tuberculosis with no heir to pass on the family secrets to, hence let down both Destiny and centuries of bloodthirsty tradition.
  • Fire Emblem's Jugdral timeline has holy blood passed down from the Crusaders. Word of God explains that whether the child of someone with "major" blood (and is able to use the Crusader's Ancestral Weapon) gets "minor" (just some stats bonus) or "major" blood is completely random (birth order and sex play no part) and that the blood can be determined by a birthmark, this doesn't explain why only nobility seems to have even minor blood.
    • It's mentioned in the backstory that all of the crusaders that were given both power and the Holy Weapons of the gods started most of Jugdral's current nations. The few non-royals to have holy blood have gone astray in some fashion: Briggid, who is the princess Adean's twin sister, was kidnapped by pirates as a child (major Ulir blood), the dancer Sylvia was orphaned at a young age (minor Blaggi blood, and a relative of the priest/ruler of Edda/possessor of major Blaggi blood, Claud, according to Word of God), and at least one of the royal families lacks holy blood completely (Prince Jamke of Verdane). There is also the cursed Loptyr bloodline—the descendants of Maira, a traitor to the Loptyr Empire and possessor of Loptyr's blood, all live their lives in the hidden Spirit Forest in order to avoid both being ostracized and the possibility of the Loptyr Empire's revival. The fact that Deidre and Arvis both have minor Loptyr blood because their mother left the forest drives the crux of Geneaology of the Holy War's plot.
    • Seemingly averted in Fire Emblem Awakening, as the descendants of Ylisse's first Exalt (who in turn was descended from Marth) all bear the Brand of the Exalt, and those with the Brand can both wield the Falchion and perform the Awakening Ritual. Chrom's younger sister Lissa does not have the Brand, having her fear that she was a bastard child, but the fact that her Kid from the Future Owain has it, while proving Lissa is really a member of the royal family, raises questions about why hers never surfaced. Also, in Lucina's Support conversations with whomever her sibling is, it is covertly revealed that they can wield Falchion as well, but they never can do it in-game due to Gameplay and Story Segregation.
      • Note that Owain is in Fire Emblem Fates as Odin, and passes on the Brand to his daughter Ophelia, and Shigure or Kana if he fathers either of them.
  • Averted all over the place in Blaze Union. Medoute, the descendant of Gill the legendary dragonslayer, mentions repeatedly that she's from the secondary line. Characters also discuss that due to the Imperial bloodline being so diluted and spread throughout the people, it's not unusual for children qualifying as Brongaa's descendants to be born in all walks of life; the interesting thing about Gulcasa is that he's the first pureblood to be born in centuries.
  • Also averted in Tales of Symphonia, where the family of the Chosen is huge, has many branches, and is scattered all over the world so that if something happens to one branch, the bloodline will still exist.
  • In Dragon Quest VIII, the Big Bad is tracking down the descendants of the Seven Sages who originally sealed him away, as their deaths are the only way to release his original body. The game establishes that only one descendant in each most recent generation is the heir (as Jessica's brother Alistair held the bloodline whereas Jessica just received magical strength), with an odd exception in the case of Marta; while she had a son, he decided to practice medicine in a nearby town, figuring his skills would be put to better use there, and forfeited his status as an heir in the process (which managed to throw the Big Bad off for a bit).
  • Inverted in Fable III, only the youngest of the Hero of Bowerstone's two children gets any Hero powers.
  • In Mark of Kri, the marks are passed down through the first born descendants of six separate families, one mark per family, with at least two of the families having willingly died out to prevent their marks from being passed down any further. In an interesting turn of events, however, it is The Hero's younger sister who bears the mark, even though he is the first born, though the second game hints that they may not actually be related.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, Link is a descendant of ancient heroes. Made more explicit in Twilight Princess, where that game's Link is directly descended from The Hero of Time.
  • One of the conversations in Poker Night 2 reveals that Brock Samson of The Venture Bros. is one of only two descendants of Ash Williams's one-night stand with Sheila back in the 13th century. Of course, it could be just GLaDOS messing with them.

    Web Comics 
  • Subverted in Girl Genius. Part of the plan of Zola (the fake Heterodyne) is to ally with and marry a direct descendent of Andronicus Valois, the Storm King. When Gilgamesh skeptically points out that, if the legends are true, half of Europe is descended from the Storm King, she angrily specifies that it's a descendent who the Fifty Noble Families of Europe will recognize.
    • Later, when she explains more of the plan to him, she specifies why this one's confirmed, and it has something to do with the Mongfish family being specially gifted in the biological sciences.
  • Subverted in Digger. The ghost of Helix, a wombat who's been dead for a thousand years, give or take, immediately pegs Digger as a descendant. He had nine sons a thousand years ago, so it's more likely than not.
  • Parodied in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, where a demon can only be slain by one of "pure Belstein blood". There is only one left, who's deformed and in a wheelchair due to generations of inbreeding.

    Real Life 
  • Enforced in China by the government's one-child policy, to keep the already humongous population from completely exploding. It's been estimated that without this policy, there would be 400 million more Chinese people.
  • This trope is seriously averted with Genghis Khan: about 0.5% of the male population of Earth descends directly from Genghis Khan or his male relatives. Douglas Adams spoofs this in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
    • Not a spoof at the time, as the true scope of Genghis's genetic legacy didn't come to light until after Adams passed away. He was just making a funny contrast between Prosser and the Great Khan. That makes this Hilarious in Hindsight.
    • Also, the book specifies that he was a "direct male-line descendant" of Genghis Khan, apparently meaning the more improbable lineage in which the long chain from Prosser to Genghis Khan consists only of men.
    • Actually, the above-mentioned study was of Y-chromosomes. 1 in 200 people in the world are descended in direct male-line descent from the same man in Asia some 1000 years ago or less, and the rather strong conjecture is that it was Genghis Khan, as his descendants conquered (and raped) much of the continent.
    • Some 30% of Europeans have Charlemagne, or Charles the Great, as their ancestor. Charles was not a first-class fornicator; he had five wives (two marriages were annulled, three wives predeceased him) and five concubines, but he never had more than one wife and one concubine at a time, and he doesn't seem to have done much outside those relationships. However, he had eighteen children, of whom all but two or three survived childhood, and most in turn had children—many of whom were illigitimate and therefore ended up having descendants marrying into the lower nobility or the ranks of the commoners sooner rather than later.
  • This is averted with pretty much anyone who had descendants, if you go surprisingly not far back in history. A paper in Nature demonstrated that if a person has four or five grandchildren, either their line tends to die out within a few generations, or the number of descendants begins to increase exponentially. Someone living two or three thousand years ago will either have no descendants at all alive today, or be an ancestor to a lot of people.
  • Averted with Sophia of Hanover who has over 5000 legitimate descendants. Out of these, all who are not Catholics or married to Catholics (still over 1000) are in line to the British throne.
    • Because the members of European royal families tended to marry members of other European royal families, just about every royal in Europe is descended from her.
    • Because her descendants were mostly royalty, and that royal men tend to have at least one mistress, there are even more illegitimate descendants. William IV of the UK alone had ten illegitimate children by his mistress, the actress Dorothea Jordan (he would have married her, but there would have been an uproar; remember Edward VIII? Now put that a hundred years earlier). Among those illegitimate descendants is David Cameron.
  • When it comes to European royalty, the grand champion of averting this trope might well be Edward I of England (the legendary "Edward Longshanks" of Braveheart fame), who lived between 1239 and 1307 and fathered sixteen children, nearly all of whom survived into adulthood and had children themselves. According to genealogists who have studied his family line, the man now has close to four million living descendants around the world (most of them are in the United States, Canada, and Brazil of all places...)
  • Sometimes intentionally attempted by dynasties to limit the number of people vying for the throne, land or fortune. Different cultures handled this in different ways:
    • In Europe, this often came in the form of sending surplus sons off to monasteries and various church jobs, ensuring no legitimate children. Alternately, younger sons would be sent to the army, where they would fight (and in many cases hopefully die on the battlefield); this, incidentally, is where we get the term "cadet" for a trainee officer ("cadet branch"=junior line of a noble house). If the line were about to expire, a monk or priest in such a position might be permitted to leave the Church and marry. That's where Münchhausen's last name comes from, BTW.
    • In Ancient Mesopotamia, aristocratic sons could end up as castrated but high-ranking officials at court. The Chinese sometimes did much the same thing.
    • In the Ottoman Empire, the successor was entitled to have all his brothers and half-brothers strangled upon being chosen.
    • Royal relatives in Ethiopia used to live in Gilded Cage prisons on top of high buttes in the wilderness, to ensure their genetic lines remained strictly under the reigning monarch's control.
    • One reason why royal entourages in Ancient Egypt were so enormous was that a ruling Pharaoh needed to keep all of his female relations on a tight leash, because the divine grace of rulership was passed down through the female line. Thus, every Pharaoh's court was awash with his own and his Great Wife's sisters, aunts, female cousins, daughters of his predecessors' junior wives, etc, none of whom could be allowed to marry without rock-solid guarantees of their would-be spouse's loyalty.
    • The Hapsburgs of Austria and Spain tried keeping it in the family. The last member of the Spanish line, Charles II, ended up being saddled with a truly depressing array of physical and mental disabilities and was probably sterile to boot, so it's safe to assume they didn't exactly find the winning formula, either; his death led to the War of the Spanish Succession that ultimately led to Spain passing out of Habsburg hands and into those of their rivals, the Bourbons.
    • In Japan, the 1947 revision of the Imperial House Law made all the collateral lines of the Imperial family into commoners — if you're not a direct-line descendant of Emperor Hirohito or one of his brothers, you aren't a possible candidate for the Chrysanthemum Throne. Female children in the Imperial family are also required to become commoners once they marry, so none of their children are candidates. Oh, and that revision also banned adoption of an heir into the Imperial family (one way the main Imperial family used to tap the manpower pool of the collateral lines). Which means as of 2018, the Japanese dynasty is now resting on the shoulders of a 11-year old boy, as the only possible heir young enough to produce more heirs.