Martha Kent: Then where did he come from?
Jonathan: I don't know. But he must have parents.
Martha: Well, if he does they’re definitely not from Kansas.
Jonathan: Sweetheart, we can't keep him. What are we gonna tell people, we found him out in a field?
Martha: We didn't find him. He found us.
Biological clocks are nothing new. The childless older woman or older couple has been a staple of folklore and Fairy Tales. Typically, one's first introduction to such a character will be the phrase, "Character X had always wanted a child." Which, of course, guarantees infertility.
However, in the realm of fairy tales, this is never the end of the story. Through The Power of Love, wishing, Moses in the Bulrushes, or some other supernaturally-empowered device, a child will come into the life or lives of the poor, childless person or couple. However, due to the unusual circumstances of his or her birth, the child given to the couple is a little bit... unusual. They have amazing magical powers, or they have a strange appearance, or something similar. This is the Wonder Child.
While a Wonder Child often appears from some supernatural source or is conceived in some magical circumstances, they are, occasionally, merely adoptees whose real parents were significantly less mundane, resulting in Muggle Foster Parents. Regardless of their origins, they frequently have some sort of quest or goal to fulfill by the story's end. Compare Changeling Fantasy, though the two can overlap.
If their appearance is unusual, they often feature as the Shapeshifting Lover; either the wedding transforms them or inaugurates a time when they can switch back and forth.
The term comes from folklorists; strictly speaking the wished-for child is the Wish Child, and the marvelous child is the Wonder Child, but they have always had substantial overlap.
Sub-trope of Our Phlebotinum Child, which covers all types of unusual ways to have a child.
- Berserk: Guts serves as a much darker example of this trope. Shisu, a young woman who had recently miscarried her own child, is grieving her loss and is on the verge of going insane. But when all hope is lost, what does she pass by? Why, a baby! ... that was just born from its mother's dead and hanged corpse! ... Yay! More fun: the group of mercenaries she was in thought the baby was dead, too. So when she cradled it, their leader knocked it out of her hands... and when it hit a puddle, it cried. And that's how main character Guts managed to survive infancy. Yes, his life sucked from birth.
- Dragon Ball: Goku was adopted by Grampa Gohan (who Goku eventually named his son after) after he fell to Earth in his pod as an infant. Even as a baby he exhibited superhuman strength.
- GaoGaiGar: Although younger than most of the above examples, Isamu and Ai Amami wished on a falling star for a child. The "star" turned out to be a giant mechanical lion, who delivered their wish directly. Interestingly, when Galeon shows up again as part of Gao Gai Gar, they start worrying that it will come to take their son Mamoru back.
- Hayate the Combat Butler: Although altogether average kids, the Katsura sisters fall into this category. There's nothing inherently special about them, but their adopted parents were unable to have children of their own, so when Yukiji was looking for foster parents and chose her former teacher and his wife, they were probably thought of as this.
- Superman: An elderly, childless farm couple wish that they had a child. They find a baby in a rocket, who has Powers And Abilities Far Beyond Those Of Mortal Men.
- A queen wanted a child badly, but lived in a land with no men. So she made a clay statue of a baby, and Aphrodite/a cohort of Olympians, in reward for her faithfulness, turned it into a real girl.
- Deconstructed in Irredeemable, where the flashbacks show that the Plutonian's (an expy of the aforementioned Big Blue Boy Scout) many different Muggle Foster Parents were utterly afraid of (or at least had no idea how to handle) the wonder child's powers, causing him to be bounced around several different homes. This lack of stability and love leads to Plutonian becoming a desperately Love Hungry person who Can't Take Criticism of any kind.
- One issue of Hellboy tells an old Scandinavian folktale, where a woman goes to a witch and asks her for help having a child. She's given two flowers, one beautiful and one wilted, and told that she should only eat the beautiful one. She does, and has a beautiful daughter. However, she decides she wants to give her husband a son, and eats the wilted flower... only to have another daughter, this one as ugly as a troll. The two sisters care dearly for each other despite their mismatched appearances, which leads to a rather darker ending than the folktale originally had.
- The Brothers Grimm's "Hans the Hedgehog" involved a couple who wanted a child, but who had difficulty having one—until the woman says, "I wouldn't care if he were ugly as a hedgehog!" She then, naturally, has a baby who looks like a hedgehog. This was later adapted into a well-loved episode of Jim Henson's The Storyteller.
- "Thumbelina" is, of course, about an older woman who plants a magic barley seed. The eponymous girl appears from the flower that grows from the seed. As her name would suggest, she's only a few inches tall.
- "Tom Thumb" is similar to Thumbelina, but with a male hero.
- "Momotarō" is a Japanese fairy tale similar to "Thumbelina", only instead of a flower, the tiny titular character appears inside of of a peach found floating down the river. Or, in the earliest version of the story, the peach makes the old couple young again, so they can have a second chance to have a baby.
- This is used as the Cyclops alternate's backstory in an X-Men Elseworlds story. The twist is that the pit from the peach is in Cyclops' eye socket, and he can use his laser-vision in that eye by removing it.
- "The Gingerbread Man", though unfortunately for the couple, the speedy youngster soon dies.
- The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter: A bamboo cutter finds a tiny thumb-sized, glowing baby inside a bamboo stem. He takes her home to his wife and they name her Kaguya-hime—she grows up to a normal-sized, unearthly beauty whom many men, including the Emperor, fall in love with. She ends up returning to whence she came—the moon. This space alien subtext is stronger depending on the variation you read.
- One variant of the story has her weeping in farewell as she ascends, and her tears become fireflies.
- This one is retold in a side quest in Ōkami. She leaves in a spaceship.
- This fairytale is also referenced in RahXephon.
- Likewise, this is part of the backstory for the Touhou game Imperishable Night. Kaguya Houraisan turns out to be a Lunarian princess exiled to Earth for drinking the Hourai Elixir.
- This one is also a major plot point in Big Bird in Japan.
- In Russia, this is "The Snow Maiden", who melts at the end of winter, but returns with the first frost.
- There's a Japanese folk tale called "Kachi-kachi Yama/ Fire-Crackle Mountain" in which a farmer and his wife raise a baby rabbit as a human/ are good friends with a local rabbit; in return, when a tanuki kills the wife (and feeds it to the farmer), the grown-up rabbit hunts down and kills it out of filial piety. (Almost like Usagi Yojimbo.) The name comes from one of the torments the rabbit inflicts on the tanuki: while the tanuki caries tinder on his back, rabbit lights it and explains that the sound is coming from the mountain of the story's name. While Tanuki isn't killed he's badly hurt, just as Rabbit planned.
- Issun-boshi ("One Inch Boy"): The wife of a childless couple prays to have a child, even if he's only one-inch tall. Said one-inch child comes into being and is raised by the couple. Issun then ventures into the city and becomes a bodyguard for a princess, despite being small and ridiculed for it. He and the princess are attacked by a demon one day, and said demon swallows Issun whole, but spits him out because Issun kept poking the demon from the inside with a pin. The demon flees, leaving behind a "Lucky Mallet", which is used to make Issun grow to normal size.
- This one is also referenced in Ōkami with the character Issun and the Ryoshima part of the story. The Lucky Mallet in this case is used to make the protagonist smaller. And leads into the version of the one mentioned above.
- Also referenced in the Final Fantasy series and Secret of Mana, where the Mallet (or some similarly-named item) inflicts and removes the Mini status.
- The Touhou game Double-Dealing Character introduced Shinmyoumaru Sukuna, a decendent of Issun-Boshi. Like the rest of her lineage she's normally very, very small, but with the ancestral Miracle Mallet, she can grow to become... the shortest character in the series.
- In "The Pig King", the child is born a pig. Unusually, the queen had not made a rash wish about any child, even a pig; this was the caprice of three fairies.
- In "The Myrtle", the child is born as a sprig of myrtle, after her mother expressed a rash wish for a child, even a sprig of myrtle.
- In " The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird", the heroine says that if the king marries her, she will bear "two sons with apples in their hands, and a daughter with a star on her brow". Earnestly desiring such children, the king marries her, and she does. (Complications arise when her sisters try to murder them.)
- "Stan Bolovan", a fairy tale where a couple wish for children, the more the better, can't have too many... aaand suddenly there are a hundred kids in the house and the husband has to go out to get money.
- The Chinese-Tibetan fairy tale "Qing Wa Qi Shou" (The Rider in Green Clothes), which is one of the most important folk interpretations of the political relationship between those two historical states, has a very old couple who always wanted a child. The elderly woman finally gets pregnant for four months and bears a FROG. Later it is shown that in a rare occurrence, after he gets his wife, the frog is able to turn into a handsome, skilled rider for a certain festival. But the wife stays at home and accidentally burns his frog skin. Therefore, the young frog man must die; if she hadn't done that he would have been the saviour of the Tibetan people, turned the inhospitable lands into fertile ground, and China would have been a tribute state to Tibet instead of the other way round. See?
- A Hebrew wonder-child tale features a girl named Kohava (star), who is born with a shining stone in her hand. The stone contains her soul, so if she ever loses it, she falls asleep until someone gives it back. She has a Sleeping Beauty -ish story arc when a princess jealous of her beauty takes her soul away, but of course a prince finds her and gives the shining stone back.
- In "Little Otik", one childless couple have been wishing for children for a long while. One day, the husband brings home a baby-looking wooden log which he found in the woods. Subverted in what the "wonder child" is a monster who ends up eating his adoptive parents.
- In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Izuku Midoriya is the Kryptonian Wonder Child of his adoptive parents, Inko and Hisashi Midoriya.
- In Fusion Impression, Priyanka says that they tried to have more children, but they were lucky enough to have had Connie.
- In Growing Daylight, Claire discovers that she is pregnant. While she and Jim were not using protection, they assumed that they could not conceive considering she is a human woman and he is a half-human, half-troll hybrid transformed by magic.
- The Home We Built Together: Ingrid Hofferson has been pregnant four times and the only time she didn't miscarry was with Astrid.
- In the Disney version of Hercules, Hercules' adoptive parents have been praying to the gods for a child. When they find the baby Hercules, with the symbol of the gods on a medal around his neck, they naturally assume the gods sent him to them. (He is, of course, actually a god made near-mortal in this version, dissimilar to the original myth as it is.)
- The movie Joseph: King of Dreams had a song titled Miracle Child. As per the source material, he was born to Rachel, who was believed to be barren (though his father, Jacob, already had ten older sons).
- In Pinocchio, Pinocchio is brought to life by the Blue Fairy, to make Geppetto a father.
- In Tarzan, Kala and Kerchak lose their son to Sabor. Tarzan loses his parents to Sabor. Kala and Tarzan both fill the void in each others' lives. It takes Kerchak much longer to accept Tarzan as his son, but he eventually does right before he dies.
- Thumbelina: Thumbelina is first seen emerging from a flower given to her lonely, elderly adoptive mother by a good witch.
- Miracle in Milan: Toto is found as a baby by the elderly, childless Lolotta in a cabbage patch. Nothing is ever said of his biological parents, and despite being orphaned at a young age, he grows up into a young man with an implausible saintly personality and possible magical powers who betters the life of an entire community of homeless people.
- The Odd Life of Timothy Green starts with a young infertile couple burying their written-down ideas of the perfect child after finding out why they haven't conceived yet. The next day, a boy named Timothy appears in their backyard where they buried the box. He's more or less explicitly magic, having leaves growing from his ankles. He only has until all of his leaves fall off to stay with them.
- The Adventures of Pinocchio: Geppetto carved Pinocchio from a living log.
- Amaranthine Saga: Legend has it that anyone who swallows a golden seed will give birth to a child who is born with another seed in his/her hand. If that seed is planted, it will grow into an Amarathine tree, which will share his or her lifespan with his or her "twin." It is eventually confirmed that the legends are true, and do, in fact, work for male swallowers although details are kept off page.
- There's a story in one of the Cricket magazines that features something like this. The man and wife don't have any kids. However, one day the man is doing his job as a woodcutter, and he finds an enormous gold and purple butterfly cocoon. He takes it home, and they put it by the fire. The next day there is a baby girl with purple eyes wrapped in a golden cloak. Her parents insist that she avoid the forest where she came from, but it turns into a Tear Jerker when she searches the forest for healing herbs to save her mother, and touches the bush where the purple butterflies swarm. She brings back the plants and saves her mother, but the next day, she turns back into a butterfly.
- There was another Cricket story about a child born of a magic potato vine. The man who sold the magic potatoes to the couple was also childless and wanted the baby for himself, but they persuaded him to accept one of the new potatoes they'd grown instead.
- Earth's Children: Durc is seen as such by his mother and most of the clan (though his origins aren't truly mystical). Because Ayla's totem (a cave lion) is so strong, no one believed it would ever be overcome by any of the men's, meaning she would never have a child (as this is how the Clan think babies are conceived). Ayla is thrilled when she learns she's going to have a baby after all, and she and Iza do everything in their power to keep Durc alive and healthy during and after the pregnancy. Due to being a Cro-Magnon/Neanderthal hybrid, Durc is seen as rather unusual for his appearance and ability to vocalize, and Creb comes to believe he is Ayla's "gift" to the Clan as he will ensure that they live on in some form even after Neanderthals go extinct. Of course, in reality Ayla was always capable of conceiving and carrying a child, although Durc's birth is still unusual given that Ayla was only eleven when she had him.
- Lynne Reid Banks's The Fairy Rebel is about something like this. A childless couple saves the life of a fairy, who decides she owes them one and agrees to give them the child they long for. The child is mostly normal, but she has a streak of blue hair which has magical properties. The fairy queen did not give her approval to the business, so the child is also effectively cursed with a nasty enemy...
- In Victoria Forester's The Girl Who Could Fly, Piper is a surprisingly late birth to a childless couple, and she can (surprise!) fly. It subverts the rest, as her parents were shocked and ashamed to have a child so late — it's just not the way things are done — and her mother's first reaction is that such results are to be expected when things aren't done the way they're supposed to be done.
- In The Grim Reaper's Apprentice, the Devil himself had to help with the conception of Jax, who is the child of the Grim Reaper and a human.
- In Harry Potter, the title character's father James was a mild example. Word of God says that part of the reason that he was such a Jerkass as a teenager was because he was an only child born when his parents were already getting old even by wizarding standards, leading him to be a bit spoiled.
- In Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth's Back Story, the old king had two sons, but regretted having no daughters. Then he found two golden-haired girl babies in his garden: the Princesses Rhyme and Reason.
- In the medieval Chivalric Romance of Robert The Devil and all its variants, the parents wish for a child -- whether from God or the Devil. The son is therefore born possessed by evil. (Fortunately for him, in due time, he repents and does penance for his evil. This results in either marrying the princess or becoming a saint.)
- A dark version is Nadine in Stephen King's The Stand: according her back story she was an orphan of unknown origin selected by her adapted parents who then died in a car accident, leaving her a foundling twice over. Evidently she was created by somebody specifically to be Randell Flagg's bride and mother of his child. (Evidently she had the choice to turn aside from this path, though the consequences would likely have been dire.)
- Tanith Lee does a takeoff on this in one of her Tales from the Flat Earth books. The lady who wants a child has a date with an angel. They kiss, and she is told she'll conceive the next time she and her husband are together; she does, and thereby hangs the tale.
- In the Laurel Series, Laurel was left on the doorstep of her parents, and later learns she is a fairy.
- The Thora book The Incredible Crystals has Bruce and Adelaide Ferguson, who put off having a child until Bruce's cricket career was over, only to find that they'd waited too long. Madame Pong let them use her crystal-studded tubs to de-age themselves long enough to have a daughter named Felicity, who is six at the start of the book.
- In the last season of Lois & Clark, Clark finds out that he is unable to impregnate Lois due to being an alien, even though they both want children. The last episode ends with them mysteriously finding a child in their living room with no explanation. The story probably would have been something like this trope, except it was cancelled.
- A similar plot was used in the comics, where it was revealed that the kid was actually the son of Superman's nemesis General Zod and his wife.
- Superman himself is, of course, an example of this trope.
- Baby William of The X-Files is this. By all accounts, he shouldn't exist, and how he came to be when his mother apparently had no ova was never established. And because he is a Wonder Child and "more human than human," all the bad guys want him.
- In The Originals and Legacies, Hope Mikaelson was fathered by a werewolf-vampire hybrid, Klaus Mikaelson, despite his undead nature.
- In Legacies, Landon Kirby is the result of his father's desperate millennia long quest of creating a lawless, immortal and fertile heir to continue his legacy. His father, Malivore, was a golem that was created with black magic to combat and devour the monsters roaming around the world. Over time and after countless failures, he managed to craft Landon using the DNA of beings he has absorbed.
- "Hijo de la Luna", by the Spaniard group Mecano, tells the story of a Romany woman who prayed to the moon for a husband. She got it, but in return, she had to give the moon her first child. He turned out to be an albino; the man thought she cheated on him because he was white instead of dark-skinned, killed her, and abandoned the kid in the mountains. Since that day, the moon becomes full whenever the kid is happy, and wanes to become a rocker whenever the kid is sad.
- The Bible:
- The birth of Isaac, later referred to in the New Testament as "the child of promise". His mother Sarah was 90 years old—too old to bear a child, presumably past menopause. But if Yahweh makes a plan that involves the son of Abraham (who is 100) and Sarah founding the Jewish nation, then Sarah will miraculously give birth even though she's past menopause.
- This also happened with Isaac's own wife, Rebecca, who dealt with infertility before God blessed her with Jacob and Esau, twenty years after their marriage. While Rebecca is conceiving, God prophecied that her children will become two great nations.
- Then Jacob also had this with his favorite wife, Rachel, who eventually gave birth to Joseph and Benjamin. Though Jacob had ten older sons and one daughter, the Bible specifically says that Rachel's kids were his favorite because they were born later in his life.
- The Book of Judges has Samson, arguably the most (in)famous of Israel's judge. His mother was barren, but an angel prophecied about his birth and his future role as Israel's redeemer. He was meant to live under the Nazirite vow for life, and Samson grew up to have unique, superhuman strength.
- Obviously, Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, who is born to a virgin. His cousin and predecessor, John the Baptist, was also born to a barren woman past her childbearing age.
- A modern version: In the Game Boy Advance RPG Robopon 2, an alien crash-lands near the house of an old couple and disguises herself as a human little girl. The old couple takes her in. When her ship gets repaired and it comes time for her to leave, the couple tells her that they've come to think of her as their own child. To thank them for their kindness, she both promises to visit them from the moon as often as she can, and uses her alien powers to give them back their youth.
- The origin story of the little girl in Princess Maker 2 follows this: She is a "pure soul" sent by the gods to live with a human hero so that she can learn about the world.
- The origin for Cute Knight Kingdom is somewhat similar except with aliens, but not the first game in the series, which is more a case of Swapped At Birth.
- In Loom, the protagonist Bobbin is given birth when the childless Lady Cygna weaves a magical thread into the Great Pattern, after which she is banished by being turned into a swan.
- The origin of the protagonist in Little Goody Two Shoes.
- In World Neverland, there is a magical item known as a Birth Egg that magically grants children to childless older couples. If one or both members of the couple is Elderly, and if they have to other children, it will allow them one miraculous pregnancy.
- Elie, the "ice gift" girl from the Gifts of Wandering Ice. She had been frozen inside an ancient machine for hundreds of years and came to life when found. She experiences painful "reminiscences" about distant past almost every time she sees any other "ice gift". Also, the ancient machine she'd been found in recognizes her "psi profile" (whatever it is) and responds to it. Elie is being raised by adoptive parents who are normal people.
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, Bob and Jean were brought together by their shared status as "parents" of Molly the Monster, a fuzzy pink lab accident whose spontaneous generation they were responsible for. Apart from being pink and fuzzy with "claws, fangs, and a tail," Molly is also a super-intelligent Gadgeteer Genius, and incredibly naïve.
- The Flintstones. Betty and Barney tried for a child shortly after Pebbles' birth, and had no luck. Then they wished on a falling star, and Bamm-Bamm turned up on their doorstep shortly thereafter. He had super-strength and could walk even as an infant. The super strength stayed with him all the way to adulthood.
- Yugo from Wakfu, who's a Doorstop Baby who grew up having the power to create mystical space-bending portals.
- Otto Rank's book The Myth of the Birth of the Hero points out that, in fact everyone is a Wonder Child, having gone a tremendous transformation from a baby living in the mother's womb into an air-breathing, independently living child.