WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

Maybe it's because Most Writers Are Male, or because a great deal of the time characters in the Heir Club for Men who insist on having a boy are men, that when a character has a legacy of royalty, villainy or heroics it comes from the father. Even for female characters! The implicit assumption is that if a character is going to inherit something of relevance from their bloodline, it's going to be from their father's side, never their mother's.

This is often paired with Single Line of Descent, creating a long line of fathers and sons. Likewise, the prevalence of this trope is what makes Human Mom, Nonhuman Dad have the supernatural be the father.

The prevalence of this trope is such that most examples will be subversions.

Examples of Lineage Comes From the Father include:

Anime and Manga

  • Code Geass: Emperor Charles Zi Britannia has fathered hundreds of children, all from a different wife. Every kid is a half brother or half sister to each other, and they all have only one father, and a bunch of them are line to take over as the ruler of Britannia. Most of them are backups, in case something happens to the first three or so "sets" of sons and daughters. Even Lelouch is nowhere near in position to inherit the throne (17th in line at the beginning).
  • The Dragon Ball series seems to zig-zag on this:
    • Played mostly straight with Goku and Chi-chi's children. Gohan has most of his father's looks but with his mother's skin tone while Goten plays it entirely straight as he's practically a carbon copy of Goku.
    • Inverted with Trunks and Bulla, however, who take more after Bulma than they do Vegeta.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima: Averted with Negi. The work focuses initially on his father, the Thousand Master, who he takes after and looks almost identical to comes up before then. But ultimately his character is much more similar to his mother, and his lineage from her is more important to the plot (although his lineage from his father is more important to him).
  • Naruto: Subverted. It becomes really clear, really early on that Naruto's father is the village hero, the Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze. It then turns out that the one who Naruto got all the important stuff from was his mother, Kushina Uzumaki, and Naruto's being her child is emphasized far more by the characters and the story itself.
  • Averted in Sailor Moon, especially in Chibi-Usa's case.
  • Inuyasha: Inuyasha's supernatural powers and Youkai inheritance comes from his father. Even his compassion for humans is stated to be from, thus making him like, his father (later reinforced by his full-Youkai brother's growing compassion also being stated as coming from, and making him like, their father). In fact, there are three half-breeds shown in this story and all three of them have a Human Mom, Nonhuman Dad, gain all their abilities from their father's side and had a father whose compassion towards humans essentially overshadows any contribution any of the mothers could have made even on this front.
  • Inverted in Cardcaptor Sakura with Syaoran Li, whose claim as Clow Reed's successor is is through his mother's family, the Li Clan.

Comic Books

  • Hulkling of the Young Avengers is a complicated case. He's the biological son of the deceased Kree superhero Captain Marvel and the (also deceased) Skrull Princess Anelle. Both sides of the Kree-Skrull war claim that the parent of their race is more important in determining Hulkling's role in life. Kl'rt the Super Skrull goes to desperate lengths to convince Hulkling to make a play at reuniting the Skrull Empire. A Kree officer also tries to conscript Hulkling into the Kree army by saying that because his father was Kree, he is Kree. Hulkling eventually rejects both roles since he understandably doesn't want to have any part in the insane genocidal conflict and already has a life on Earth. Power-wise, his parents are equally important: the combination of Super Strength from his father and Shapeshifting from his mother is what helps him look like a Hulk Legacy Hero even though he's not really a Gamma mutate.


  • Star Wars seems to play this straight, with the everpresent concern that Luke will end up like his father before him. But looking at the prequels and the Star Wars Expanded Universe, it becomes clear that in terms of personality, he's more like his mother. He has that same apparently unfounded belief in the goodness of Vader, and though he can certainly get dangerous when there's call for that, he tries diplomacy first. He handles things his own way, and that's almost never Anakin's way; late-set books actually voice the opinion that he's become passive and reactionary instead of proactive. How much of this can be attributed to genetics versus his upbringing is debatable, but he's more like his mother than he initially seems.
    • Leia, on the other hand, takes after Anakin, though she isn't happy about it. She is way more proactive and stubborn than her brother, and she isn't nearly as forgiving of Vader's sins. The Noghri call her "Lady Vader" for a reason.


  • In JRR Tolkien's Middle-earth works (The Silmarillion, etc) both exists. Familial traits are often followed through the male line, but that is partly a side-effect of following a patriarchal dynasty over generations. But characters are nonetheless described as having traits inherited or instilled by their mothers. Also, Human Mom, Nonhuman Dad is inverted in all cases of mixed-race couples, although that's a side effect of a different gender archetype.
    • It is notable that there are no half-elves with a male elf/female human pairing in their ancestry, quite different from the usual Nephilim-type race where the supernatural parent is inevitably male.
  • Tristran in Stardust inverts several of these tropes. He gets his royal and supernatural parentage from his mother, and is raised by his Muggle father, thinking that his stepmother is his biological mother. The fact that his sister is six months younger than him should have been a clue.
  • Played with in The Bible with Jesus's lineage. Jewish society played this trope straight, so how could God have Jesus be both biological descendant and legal heir of King David when he has no biological human father? Turns out, if you compare Joseph's geneology in Matthew and Mary's geneology in Luke,[1] you will find that they both have King David as a common ancestor before the lineages split, with Joseph's listing the royal line of Judah and Mary's being through another of David's sons (Nathan). But wait, why are Shealtiel and Zerubbabel in both Joseoph's and Mary's lineages? Turns out Shealtiel, son of the last King of Judah, married a descendant of King David through Nathan, the daughter of a man in Mary's lineage (this is the reason Shealtiel's father in Mary's lineage is different, it's his father-in-law). After Shealtiel's son Zerubbabel, the lineages split for the last time. But because of the lineages joining at Zerubbabel, both Joseph and Mary can claim to be descendants of the royal line of Judah, making Jesus both a biological descendant of the royal line via Mary and its legal heir via his adoptive father Joseph, who is a direct male descendant of the royal line.
  • Same for the Jewish Bible: a lot of lineages are (in painful detail and length) detailed - but usually only on the male line. Sometimes the mothers along the way are also mentioned, but they're never recursed onto like the men. Interestingly, despite naming lineages by the men, one's "Jewishness" was passed through the mother. Hence a Shiksa Goddess is considered to be a more serious temptation than a non-Jewish man: if a woman marries outside the faith, her children are still Jewish by birth, but if a man does it, the children are not.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: King Robert Baratheon has fathered lots of bastard children, all of whom have inherited his appearance and dark hair. The fact that his legitimate children lack this resemblance is a pretty big clue that they aren't actually his.
    • If fan theories about Jon Snow's parentage are correct he takes strongly after his mother, Lyanna Stark, but not much at all after his father Rhaegar Targaryen
    • Also played straight in Westerosi inheritance law, under which all legitimate male offspring must be dead before titles and property may be passed on to a daughter, and then only as caretaker for the rights of the male heirs she is assumed to be eager to pop out if she hasn't already (if she is found to be infertile or dies before giving birth to a son, everyone starts looking around for the nearest male cousin). Subverted in Dorne, where the eldest child inherits regardless of gender.
  • Inverted in the Trickster Books, the native Copper Islanders inherit through the maternal line.
  • Mostly averted in Shades of Grey, where legacies follow the stronger or more important colour whether that's paternal or maternal. In a twist of some sort, Eddie's strong red perception doesn't come from his mother, as he believes.
  • Kushiel's Legacy series: Played with; Terre d'Ange's monarchy passes patrilineally, but the king only has one daughter, who proceeds to have two daughters of her own. Meanwhile, in Alba, inheritance passes from uncle to nephew, although this is later revealed to be motivated by the male rulers not trusting that their wives' sons are actually theirs, and preserving the lineage through their sisters. Meanwhile Imriel's significant lineage comes from both sides of his family.
  • The Wicked Years: Averted. The throne of Oz appears to be passed by matrilineal succession, and Liir ends up picking up where his mother left off with his father barely a passing mention. It may be strong enough to be an outright inversion, especially considering that Melena's Thropp's daughters were not fathered by her husband, and her son Shell might have been, but no one cared. In fact, the social standing of Elphaba, Nessarose, and (later) Shell was primarily due to their mother's family. Their legal father was an always-broke itinerant preacher.
    • Even Baum's Oz has a tendency to run with this. Coo-Eh-Oh was descended from a line of "witches," and Ozma herself has the throne because she is the daughter (or matrilinial decendant) of Lurline, the first Fairy Queen of Oz.
  • In Babylon 5 Expanded Universe Psi Corps trilogy, it is revealed that telepaths (especially females) track their lineage through their mothers and keep their mother's last name. This is due to the discovery that telepathy is passed on only through mitochondrial DNA. The notable lineage in the books is the Alexander line, of which only women are shown. This, however, begs the question of why it is important for the father to be a strong telepath if his genes for thr ability aren't passed on to the offspring.
    • Recessive genes acting as an amplifier, probably.
  • In Anne Rice's Queen of the Damned, Maharet tracks the Great Family of her human daughter only through females based on an ancient tradition. This is implied to be due to women in those days being highly promiscuous, and, therefore, no man knew for sure that his wife's children were his. These days, of course, we have reliable paternity tests. It is also implied that only women of that line can have Psychic Powers.
  • Played straight in The Dresden Files. Pretty much all of the royal family of White Court vampires were born from human mothers and got the vampirism from Lord Raith. Inverted for the main character himself, whose mother has so far been more important to the story than his father. This is because magic is almost always passed along matrilineal lines (it has to do with exposure to magic prior to birth - a child whose father has a talent for magic might have the genes for it, but they'll probably be dormant).
    • Though since Harry's mother died in childbirth, his father Malcolm's kind and naive nature was a major influence on Harry's personality.
  • In Harry Potter people believe that Harry is the Heir of Slytherin through his pureblood father. He isn't. Voldemort is through his pureblood mother. His mother's maiden name was "Gaunt" instead of "Slytherin" so it probably passed through a daughter at least one other time.
    • Also, Deathly Hallows reveals that Harry is descended from Ignotus Peverell, who created the Invisibility Cloak. It comes from his father's side, but since the family is "extinct in the male line" he still follows the trope.
    • And of course, Dumbledore's protection spell only works because Harry has living family on his mother's side.
    • On the other hand, read anything at all about Harry's mother and you'll realize that he inherited a heck of a lot of her personality, for all that he looks like his dad.
  • Subverted in the Knight and Rogue Series. While it's still a male dominant society, magic can only be inherited from women.
  • Averted in Percy Jackson and The Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus. Two of the most important characters, Annabeth Chase and Piper Mclean, are descended from Athena and Aphrodite, respectively.
    • It is, however, played straight with the characters who inherit their Demigod status from their fathers.
    • First played straight, then subverted with Frank Zhang: while his father is a god, his mom had powers of her own (and could count several heroes and demigods among her ancestors), and Frank has definitely inherited some things from her side of the family. Such as the power to transform into animals.
  • Inverted in Septimus Heap, where the only relevant lineage for Princesses is the female one and the male line is not considered relevant.
  • In the Firebringer Trilogy, Valedweller unicorn foals tend to resemble their fathers more than their mothers. This leads to Tek's first inkling that she's not Teki's biological daughter...and note also that the tendency is less pronounced in the direct line of Halla.

Live Action TV

  • Jekyll: The BBC miniseries subverts this. It's part of a one two punch reveal. Everyone assumes that since Dr. Jekyll had no descendants, Jackman is a clone. When it's revealed that he is a descendant via Mr. Hyde sleeping around in 1800's Scotland, the connection is through his mom, not his dad.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Averted by the Watchers. Giles' father was a Watcher before him, but he inherited the job from his mother. While it's not a family, the Slayer title always passes from one woman to another.
  • Tin Man follows the Oz books in inverting the Trope, at least in regard to the royal family. The Queen holds the authority, and it's passed along to her daughters. Ahamo, the Queen's consort and girls' father, was a carny that lucked out and landed in Oz when his balloon went off course in a storm. It's unknown whether this extends to commoner families like the Cains.

Video Games

  • In Ace Attorney, spirit channeling abilities are passed down through the female line and only to women. Men are basically just mechanisms to make more babies, which explains the high divorce rate in Kurain. Not to mention Apollo's Perceive abilities, which come from his mother, who got it from her father. Trucy, Apollo's half sister, also has the ability from their mother, but hers is weaker and she had to train herself as she doesn't have one of the bracelets (only two exist and are owned by her brother and mother.
  • Played with in Blaze Union. Gulcasa and Emilia inherited their demon blood from their (dead and eternally offscreen) father, whose only other major contribution to anything was having been a terrible excuse for a human being. Gulcasa's inherent scythe skills and combat ability are implied to come from his mother. However, his gentle personality, sense of humanity, and all his other positive traits come from his childhood friend (and surrogate mama) Siskier.
  • Averted in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, where Tetra's Orphan's Plot Trinket comes from her mother.
  • Averted in Fable, where the Hero of Oakvale's mother is his claim to power. The hero of Bowerstone never knew his/her parents, and the hero of Brightwall is the former's child. If the hero of Bowerstone is a woman, there is no hero in the series stated to have inherited their powers from their father.
    • Also of note is sister Hannah, whose father most certainly is not a hero.
  • Played with in Mass Effect. The asari are a monogendered race, and though they can (and often do) reproduce with other species, the resulting child is always asari. However, many asari are also judged based on their father's species, with the lowest tier being those who were fathered by other asari. The game goes back and forth in general: Ashley Williams joined the military in part because of her grandfather's legacy though she also mentions a great-grandmother who was in the military; Commander Shepard, if the Spacer background is chosen, speaks with his/her mother, who is also a military officer; Miranda Lawson has no mother, being a genetically modified clone of her father with a few bits thrown in; and many krogan proudly claim descent from Shiagur, a female krogan warlord.
  • In Farmville, patterns on sheep and pigs are passed from father to offspring.
  • Numerous forms in Crusader Kings, depending on specific inheritance laws. For the purposes of continuing the game by bloodline, it's pure male-line. In vanilla, women cannot inherit but under Semisalic inheritance laws, the son of a king's first daughter will inherit over son of a younger son.


Web Comics

  • An aversion in Girl Genius, as Tarvek claims to be the Storm King's heir from his mother. Of course, "if the stories are true, half of Europa..." -- the catch is that he's a descendant with traceable genealogy whom other royals will recognize as such. And indirectly confirmed by having more Mad Scientist talent than his father who himself was "a major player" in this department.
  • The drow of Drowtales are a complete inversion as Drow society is both matriarchal and matrilineal, and while some fathers do still live with the children, including Zala'ess' mate Sabbror, it seems that most noble kids have no contact with their fathers, and it's more common for fathers to live with the family in lower-class families. Noble titles especially are exclusively passed through the mother, as are inheritance. There is one known exception: the Tions Sarghress line is carried from Rosof (a male) through his son Ein, to his granddaughter Nei'kalsa. That's two generations where the male line is actually important, but this is a special case and it's likely that the Tions line will now be carried on by Nei'kalsa and her daughters. It's likewise implied that the Illhar'dro clan still officially only cares about the mother's line, but that they'll teach children who their fathers are for political purposes, since that's how the Illhar'dro do business.
  • Played with quite a bit in the Ciem Webcomic Series. Candi's centipede heritage comes from Stan, but only because Stan's DNA was fused with that of a centipede. The centipede was female. However, it was Shalia's egg that contained the right mutation to switch on the Centhuen Prototype sequence by pure chance, allowing Candi to get the inheritance when none of her siblings got it. Her strong sexual appetite comes through her mother, who was a distant descendant of a serial rapist named Honeybee Samuel. And when it gets to Dana's tenure as Ciem? Only the cousins she has through her aunts really matter. Her uncle Reily and cousin Kirby really don't matter much to her story at all. Thrown another curve ball once one realizes that they could have been the Ligash family, and avoided being targeted by the Hebbleskin Gang for genocide, if only Alison Ligash hadn't agreed to marry Tobey Flippo. After all, Stan was biologically Steve McNolan's child, not Tobey's.
  • On Irregular Elis both parents are specials, but the powers of their sons come from Luk, the father.

Western Animation

  • Subverted in Avatar: The Last Airbender: Zuko's villainous traits are most likely from his father's side, but his more heroic traits, which crop up later on in the series, are from his mother's side (his maternal great-grandfather was none other than Avatar Roku himself). This revelation eventually leads to him finally making his long-awaited Heel Face Turn. Whereas his sister Azula takes after the villainous side.
    • Considering that Iroh is his father's brother, Zuko may have got the good traits from that lineage too.

Real Life

  • Surnames are usually inherited patrilineally (at least in Western countries). That fact, plus the prevalence of this trope and its relatives, may be why so many things about ancestry are counterintuitive — people think in terms of a Single Line of Descent.
  • Inverted in Judaism: If a man wishes to join Judaism and has a Jewish mother, he's in. If he only has a Jewish father, he has to complete a battery of tests only slightly less extreme than somebody with no Jewish blood joining. In other words, lineage comes from the mother.
    • Although a non-Jewish man with a Jewish Mother really doesn't need any barriers to converting as quickly as possible.
    • Historically played straight, however, by the Jewish priestly Tribe of Levi (or Levites) and the notable subset thereof, the Kohanim (the descendents of Aaron). Since the Hebrew tribes were reckoned patrilineally, one's status as a Levite or Kohen was/is determined patrilineally as well. This has been preserved quite well, and is backed up by some actual genetic evidence.
  • Preformationism, a defunct theory of reproductive science, held that one sex provided the child and the other only nurtured/triggered its development. Two rival preformationist schools of thought existed: one where Lineage Comes From the Father because men's sperm were actually miniature babies, and one where Lineage Comes From The Mother because women were born with miniature babies inside their uteri.
  • Mitochondrial genetic inheritance comes exclusively from females, whereas the Y chromosome of mammals is passed solely from father to son. This makes it extremely useful for tracking migrations of people over thousands of years: since the only way that the mitochondrial DNA or Y chromosome can change is through mutation, and mutations happen exactly once, men with the same mutation in the Y chromosome have a common male ancestor in direct paternal line (they share a father's father's father's father's...father), and people with the same mutation in the mitochondrial DNA have a common female ancestor in direct maternal line (they share a mother's mother's mother's...mother). By identifying major mutations, you identify groups of genetically related people, including where and when different groups split off from others. See The Other Wiki's articles on human Y-chromosome DNA and mitochondrial DNA haplogroups.
  • For the Ijaws of southern Nigeria, membership of a War Canoe House (and thus land inheritance) is matrilineal. Only if the groom's family sponsors a second (and traditionally expensive and religiously ominous) Second Wedding ceremony can the children claim to belong to their father's House (which is usually of course their father's mother's House). It was not uncommon in the old days for very rich men to perform Second Wedding ceremonies for women married to other men. The Big Shot gained no sexual rights, but hey, if there was a war, all her sons would fight under his House's banner.
  • Inverted in many West African cultures, which believed that all of a person's blood came from his or her mother.
  • Inverted by the Iroquois, who were matrilinear.
  • Partially inverted by the Aztecs. Hereditary leadership was passed on via the mother (who the father was could often be uncertain). Upon a leader's death, the title would pass on to his brother, and then on to his sister's sons.
  • Agnatic primogeniture, sometimes referred to as 'Salic Law' after the Salian Franks who codified it, excludes women from the line of succession and under the stricter interpretations prevents inheritance through a female relative. One example is that the British throne passed to the House of Hanover they also held the title of Elector and then King of Hanover which was governed by Salic Law. When the British Crown passed to Queen Victoria the two titles split since Salic law excluded Victoria and her subsequent descendants from the Hanoverian succession.
  • Subverted by the Egyptians, where descent was through the mother due to the potential for uncertainty about the father. However, unless there was no other option, only the sons (or the son of a second wife) would become pharaoh. This led to Brother-Sister Incest, since there was no other way to keep the throne in one family.
  1. This list also ends with Joseph, but the intended meaning that he is Heli's son-in-law. The same thing happens with Shealtiel below.