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Take Up My Sword

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"Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields."
John McCrae, "In Flanders Field"

The Hero has been progressing in his quest against the Big Bad. Then he dies. Wait! What?! That's not supposed to happen!

Well, now what? Do we have a Downer Ending? No, no, we need a replacement Hero. Time to present The Lancer Ascendant: someone who will take up The Hero's sword (and other weapons) and go on to defeat the villain. This can be literal, invoking It Was a Gift, or metaphorical. When it's not only literal but the MacGuffin, see the subtrope I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin.

Most often used at the beginning of a show, to explain exactly how some callow youth loser got the job of defeating the Big Bad. In this case, it was a head fake that had you thinking The Mentor was actually The Hero. (Which makes the first guy a Decoy Protagonist.) Occasionally done with the original Hero as a ghost or shade, unable to rest until someone completes his aborted quest.

When it happens later in the season (or in later seasons) it can be a real shocker. May feature in Dying to Be Replaced.

Occasionally used at the ending, to slightly sweeten the tragedy by showing that someone will continue the fight.

When it happens to superheroes or supervillains, it is often the case of Legacy Characters.

In military situations, often combines with a Field Promotion by the dying hero.

This is likely to create a Mirror Character.

Subtrope of Changing of the Guard. (Specifically, if the position is vacant by death.) Good Counterpart to the Dragon Ascendant. Related to Her Heart Will Go On, Taking Up the Mantle, and Bequeathed Power. In its darker forms, leads to Feuding Families, or may be a genesis to, or simply another stage in, the Cycle of Revenge. See also, The Chooser of the One. Passing the Torch is when The Hero decides their succession... and is still alive for a while afterwards.

Naturally, this trope is prone to SPOILERS. When listing examples, remember that it has to be more than the literal "someone gives someone else a weapon" part to qualify.


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    Film — Animated 
  • In the Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series pilot movie, the leader of the new commando squad, named Canard, is shown to be the bravest and the coolest of the whole squad, even having a Cool Mask. However during their mission, Canard needs to pull off a Heroic Sacrifice to save his team, but before doing so, he gives his mask to his lancer, Wildwing.
    "Take it. You're team captain now."
  • In Starship Troopers: Invasion, Trig gets killed while separated from everyone else. Her rifle (and her running kill tally) is taken up by a mortally-wounded Bugspray, who dies within feet of his deceased love interest during his last stand.

    Film — Live Action 
  • 300: Leonidas and his 300 die (except for one survivor), but their deaths inspire the rest of Greece (led by the aforementioned survivor) to fight back and drive off the Persians.
  • In Braveheart, the honor goes to Robert the Bruce, but Wallace's best friend gets the literal sword, and throws it, in an act of defiant symbolism, to what can be considered the climax of the entire musical store.
  • In Highlander, Ramirez finds and trains Connor MacLeod so that somebody would have a chance of defeating the Kurgan. When the Kurgan takes the aged immortal's head, Connor takes Ramirez's sword and uses it as his own from that point on, later using it to behead the Kurgan and fulfill his mentor's wish.
  • Iron Man 2: In a movie that starts off with a speech about the importance of legacy, this is going to come up a lot.
    • Howard Stark reveals that he discovered a new element that would perfect the arc reactor and revolutionize energy. However, he lacks the technology to create it and leaves it up to Tony to solve the problem.
    • Rhodey is set up by the dying Tony to take over as an armored hero. As Fury points out, the only way Rhodey could have activated the Mk. II was if Tony had already given him clearance to do so.
    • Pepper takes over Stark Enterprises.
  • Kong: Skull Island: Hank Marlow planted Gunpei Ikari's sword as a Weapon Tombstone for him, but when Hank finally decides to escape the island, he pulls the sword out of the ground and wields it as his main weapon while promising to honor Gunpei's memory.
  • The Mask of Zorro: It isn't clear if the sword the new Zorro uses is in fact the same one as the one used by the original, but he received the mantle of Zorro in the end.
  • The Princess Bride. After Domingo Montoya's death, his son takes up the masterpiece of a sword that his father made for the Six-Fingered Man. The son later spent the rest of his life training to avenge his father's death. The rest, as they say, is Florinese history...
  • Purgatory: Wild Bill gives his badge to Sonny when Sonny declines to take the easy way to Heaven.
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home also deals with the importance of inheritance and legacy as Tony Stark died in Avengers: Endgame but not before leaving E.D.I.T.H. and thus control of Stark Industries' information gathering and weapons technology to be handed over to Peter Parker. Peter is also throughout the movie, pushed towards and ultimately assumes the mantle that Iron Man once held as the hero of the MCU.
  • Star Trek (2009):
    • Nero kills Lt. George Samuel Kirk as he tries to stop him, and 25 years later his son finishes the job.
    • Spock (and later Kirk) taking over from Pike.
  • Star Wars: After Qui-Gon is mortally wounded against Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, Obi-Wan is hinted to have continued to use his deceased Master's lightsaber for some time afterwards, having been shown using it to bisect Maul at the waist (his own had already been disposed of by Maul) just before Qui-Gon expires.
  • Played for Laughs in The Suicide Squad. Javelin dies while passing his javelin to Harley Quinn, who promptly starts arguing with his corpse, demanding to know what she was supposed to do with it.
  • Wonder Woman (2017): Diana's tiara—a throwing weapon—actually belongs to Antiope, her aunt and combat instructor who is killed protecting Diana during the beach battle. As she leaves the island, Hippolyta gives it to Diana to remind her of the greatest Amazon warrior who ever lived.
  • Zack Snyder's Justice League: In a Bad Future, after Aquaman was killed, his lover Mera wields his trident and joined what was left of the Justice League.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Classical Mythology: Hercules passing on his bow and arrows (tipped in the blood of the Hydra) to Philoktetes before he dies of Hydra venom.
  • The Bible: The Book of Joshua opens with God telling Joshua that his mentor, Moses, has died, and he must take over as leader of the Israelites.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Pendragon: Since the game is set on a quick timescale, any player character is expected to die in the course of a campaign. When that happens, it is assumed that his lands and titles will pass to his heir, who will become the player's new character.
  • World of Darkness: This is the big reason why the Vampires don't go out of their way to kill Hunters. Kill one, and you'd just get one or more to take their place.

  • West Side Story has an example that's tragic rather than heroic: after Bernardo kills Riff, Tony picks up Riff's switchblade knife and immediately uses it to kill Bernardo. In the 1961 film version, the dying Riff actually hands the knife to Tony just before he collapses, silently requesting this trope.
  • In Wicked, Elphaba hands the Grimmerie off to Glinda before "melting."

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In Investigations, Kay takes up the position of Yatagarasu from [[spoiler her father]].
    • In Investigations 2, in a climactic scene, Edgeworth and company take up the mission to expose the smuggling ring leader from the previous Yatagarasu.
    • Mia takes up what is hinted to be Diego Armando's position as the hot-headed, "never say die" defence attorney as well as the case against Dahlia Hawthorne after his poisoning.
    • Phoenix succeeds Mia who then entrusts him with the safety and happiness of her little sister and Phoenix later trains Apollo to be the kind of lawyer he was.
  • In the Demon Tsukuyomi case of Spirit Hunter: NG, a time-displaced Killer Peach passes her katana onto Akira, signaling her approval at him continuing the investigation into Sumii Group that she could not.
  • In the fifth arc of Umineko: When They Cry, Beatrice is killed by Erika Furudo. As a result, Battler becomes the Endless Sorcerer. It's an unusual example, considering that he's taking up the role of the woman who has acted as an antagonist until now.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY:
    • In the Volume Three finale, "End of the Beginning", Professor Ozpin is missing/presumed dead. Qrow Branwen takes over as the Big Good and carries Ozpin's cane. At the end of Volume 4, he later gives it to Oscar, whom Ozpin has selected as his successor. Volume 5 later reveals that Oscar is actually Ozpin's latest reincarnation, so it's more of a case of "Take Up My Own Sword".
    • At the beginning of Volume Four, Jaune's gear is upgraded with metal left from Pyrrha's armor.
    • Neo takes up Roman's hat after he dies while fighting Ruby, and seeks to kill Ruby to avenge him.

  • Spinnerette: Tiger inherits his powers this way. He found the former Tiger dying from a gunshot wound and received the Spirit of the Tiger from him as the man's final act. He was already a cop on the beat, so he didn't inherit the purpose but rather traded "policeman" for "superhero".

    Web Video 
  • In this Real Trailer, Fake Movie for a live-action Cells at Work! film, White Blood Cell U-1146 and Natural Killer Cell are defeated by Cancer Cell, causing Red Blood Cell AE3803 to pick up NK Cell's sword to defend them from Cancer Cell.

    Western Animation 
  • Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series: When their ship is about to be swallowed by the electromagnetic worm, Canard decides to sacrifice himself so the others can escape. He leaves the mask on Wildwing's hands with the words "Take it, you're team captain now".
  • ReBoot:
    • Bob gives Enzo a copy of his Guardian Code & uniform just in case something happens to him during the Web invasion. Sure enough, Bob is betrayed by Megabyte and exiled to the Web and it's up to Enzo to take Bob's place as guardian of Mainframe. Enzo even gets to use Bob's (broken) Glitch for a while.
    • They tried to do this with Matrix's backup clone, little Enzo. Fortunately for everyone, Little Enzo refused.
  • Samurai Jack: In Season 5, Aku kills the Scotsman and breaks his sword in half. In the final episode, the Scotsman's daughter Flora wields the half with the hilt in battle.
  • Transformers:
    • In Transformers: The Movie, Optimus Prime gives the Matrix of Leadership to Ultra Magnus but Hot Rod ends up with it by the end.
    • Defied in Transformers: Prime, since Smokescreen made the wisest decision of his young life and used the Forge to revive Optimus, thus eliminating the need for Smokescreen receiving the Matrix of Leadership.

    Real Life 
  • One of the strangest examples of this trope involves the Console Wars. When Sony released its PlayStation 2 console, it absolutely creamed the Sega Dreamcast, and Sega knew that combined with the heavily-bungled release of its Saturn console years earlier it meant the writing was all but on the wall for the company's console division. Sega handed the reins to its slot in the competition over to Microsoft, even going as far as to assist in development of the original Xbox hardware and release some exclusive titles for the platform. The rest, as they say, is history.