• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


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

She's not just playing possum; she really thinks she is one.

He'd heard about children being reared by wolves. He wondered whether the leader of the pack ever had to sort out something tricky like this. Perhaps he'd have to take him into a quiet clearing somewhere and say, Look, son, you might have wondered why you're not as hairy as everyone else...
Terry Pratchett (on interspecies adoption), Guards! Guards!

Baby is orphaned. Loving parents find baby. Parents raise baby as their own. This is a standard set-up in stories. But sometimes, as the baby grows up, he or she finds out that they're a little... different from the rest of their family. Really different. Sometimes they notice this, and start angsting.

And sometimes, they don't notice anything at all, and are perfectly content with living their lives with their families, no matter how obvious it is that said family isn't their "real" family. This is taken to extreme measures in Funny Animal cartoons, where the species is very different but the adoptee doesn't notice.

Usually played for laughs rather than straight these days, due to the dying out of the Changeling myth and parents these days avoiding keeping adoption a secret from their kids. For the "humans raised by animals" version, see Raised by Wolves. See also No Social Skills, the inevitable behavioral problems that come with such an adoption, and Happily Adopted, which is what they tend to be. Compare/contrast Chocolate Baby, which generally involves something other than adoption.

Examples of Oblivious Adoption include:


  • A commercial for Newcastle Brown Ale has a light-skinned redhead learning "[he] wasn't born a Kapur."

 Friend 1: I'm sorry, Sanjay.

Friend 2: ... Is that why your curry is so bad?


Anime & Manga

  • Played painfully straight in season 5 of Digimon, in which a boy, Ikuto, is raised by Digimon. He completely fails to notice a lack of digivolving, the whole "gradual growth" thing he has going, the lack of special abilities, the fact that his name doesn't end in "-mon", and the fact that he bleeds. Also, somehow, he talks like Tarzan despite most Digimon being quite well-spoken. The fact that he was raised by a living snowman from quite an early age and really should have frozen to death upon being rocked to sleep one too many times is never even addressed.
    • Given the bleedin' obvious differences between the two types of lifeform, one would think that he'd have figured it out minutes after being lied to, or at least when he came into contact with other humans and noticed, hey, they look much much more like him than other digimon!
      • Then again most digimon look radically different, even between forms. He could have just thought he was Humanmon!
        • Given that all digimon digivolve rather than grow, and come with knowledge (including knowledge of names) built in, the fact that he grew at an imperceptible rate with no sudden jumps and needed to be taught everything should have been a clue. As would the fact that, when cut, he bleeds this odd metalic-tasting red stuff rather than a stream of 0s and 1s like all normal digimon.
      • To be fair, if you were Ikuto, would you really want to believe that you were the same kind of being that permanently killed your adoptive mother right in front of you?
    • In Digimon Adventure, Izzy was this before the series started, and his parents intended to keep him this way until he'd grown up enough to handle the truth. Unfortunately, Izzy overheard them talking about it one night, which caused him a lot of angst until they were able to sort things out.
      • Trying to keep a secret from any series's Smart Guy doesn't usually work.
  • In the manga Hikkatsu! Strike a Blow to Vivify, Momoko was raised by pigeons, a fact she casually mentions (to justify her knowledge of pigeon-style kung fu) but never explains despite repeated requests by other characters.


  • One series of Garfield comics involved him being stuck up a tree and encountering a cat who was adopted by squirrels.
    • A week of strips in 1982 involved a baby chick thinking Garfield was its "mommy" (and later "daddy" when it was corrected). The last strip has Garfield finally getting the chick to go away. The chick forlornly says "Goodbye, daddy." In the last panel, Garfield sheds a tear.
  • The Dog from Footrot Flats was raised in a cats home, by a cat obsessed old lady, and fr many years thought he himself was a cat. He got over it. Similarly, Horse originally thought he was a baby coat.
  • In John Byrne's retelling of Superman's origin, Martha Kent, who had suffered two miscarriages and a stillbirth, was horrified that anyone would shoot off a rocket with a little baby in it. She claimed to have given birth to Clark, and she and Jonathan preserved the secret throughout his childhood -- which, naturally, meant keeping it from Clark. Only when Clark's powers started to emerge did Jonathan confess.
  • Played rather straight in the French comic book Les 5 Mondes de Sylfeline. The human heroine, Sylfeline, is reared by Douniais (basically pudgy gnomes) and believes to be one of them until told the truth on her sixteenth birthday... despite being twice as tall as her adoptive parents (and five-fingered unlike the four-fingered Douniais).
  • One gag in the German comic Nicht Lustig had a penguin mother tell her adopted giraffe son the harch, yet so very obvious, truth. In the background, a naked human man can be seen thinking "Wow, poor guy".

Fairy Tales

  • The Ugly Duckling. Though cygnets do resemble ducklings, but with a dull pearly gray color.

Films -- Animation

  • Thank goodness for Ice Age 2. The directors had a grand old time with their subplot about a woolly mammoth who had been raised by opossums -- and who played dead and clambered up trees. Somehow. She spends most of the movie trying to sort out her species identity crisis with fellow mammoth Manny's help. The situation is awkward because Manny had, up til then, believed he was the Last of His Kind, and his motives for helping the only female mammoth he knows come to terms with her species aren't exactly altruistic. Made still more awkward when one re-watches the original Ice Age film and realizes that Manny is so conflicted about the whole thing because his wife and son were murdered quite recently. It does explain his extreme over-protectiveness in Dawn of the Dinosaurs, though.
    • Speaking of the third movie, this trope gets played surprisingly straight with Sid and the baby dinos, since he's the first thing they see when they're hatched.
  • Hilariously dealt with, and lampshaded, in Kung Fu Panda. Quite obviously, there is no way Po the panda could be the biological son of Mr. Ping the goose, but the issue is never addressed. However, just after the valley is evacuated, and Mr. Ping again impresses on Po that he is meant to be a noodle-maker, this exchange occurs:

 Po: I don't know, Dad. Honestly, sometimes I can't believe I'm actually your son.

Mr. Ping: Po, I think it's time I told you something I should have told you a long time ago...

Po: Okay.

(a long pause)

Mr. Ping: The secret ingredient in my Secret Ingredient Soup!


 Tarzan: Why didn't you tell me there were others like me?

    • In the original book, he comes across the jungle hut his shipwrecked parents built for themselves before dying, and from the picture books inside figures out that he's not an ape. He also teaches himself to read.
  • Disney's Hercules has this trope in full force, with the accidentally-exiled baby god being taken in by childless mortals, only to grow up feeling weird and ostracized because of his excessive strength.

Films -- Live-Action

  • Elf: "Of course you're not an elf, Buddy. You're six-foot-three and had a beard since you were fifteen."
  • In The Jerk (1979), the title character (who is white) is raised the son of poor black sharecroppers. When his adoptive parents reveal "You're not our natural-born child.", he responds with "I'm not? You mean I'm gonna STAY this color?" Later in the film, the character is shown to STILL consider himself black. When one of his business advisers uses a racial slur in passing while discussing keeping "negroes" away from the business, he responds "You, sir, happen to be talking to a NEGRO!" He then proceeds to kick the guy's ass with some previously unseen martial arts expertise.
  • Barry in The Country Bears movie was raised by humans since he was a cub, though his human brother seems to be the only one that finds having a bear in the family ridiculous.
    • Also invoked by this exchange:

 Barry: Mom, am I adopted?

Mom: No, of course not, honey.

  • Inverted in Changeling, where it's the mother who finds out the child is different.
    • In this case though, the mother knew immediately the kid wasn't hers. And its revealed pretty much everyone else, including the boy, involved knew as well, the corrupt police department just wanted to say that the case of the boy's disappearance had been solved.
  • The film version of Stuart Little plays it kinda straight in the start, but the cute little mouse gets over it quite quickly. His human brother, on other hand...
  • Splitting Heirs plays this for laughs with its protagonist Tommy Patel, who was adopted by an Indian family living in London as an infant and grows up to be blond, blue-eyed Eric Idle; he's stunned when his family breaks the news to him.

 Tommy: Y-you mean I'm not really Asian?

  • Disney's The Ugly Dachshund concerns a Great Dane who was adopted into a family of dachshunds. The Great Dane grows up thinking he is a dachshund. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Reversed in Murder By Death, it apparently took Lionel Twain more than a decade to realize that his adopted son Sydney Wang was Asian.
  • Inverted in Easy A; the son is fully aware that he is adopted, while the father is (jokingly) shocked when he nonchalantly mentions it, and demands to know who told him.


  • Discworld:
    • Captain Carrot fails to realize he's not actually a dwarf, despite being over six feet tall. In later books, he says that being a dwarf is more about culture and mindset than actually, you know, being a dwarf. He isn't wrong, either. On the Discworld, being a dwarf is a great deal more than mere species. Most dwarfs accept (if not always happily) that Carrot is a very, very, very tall dwarf.
    • There are also people who are biologically dwarfs, but have done away with the cultural trappings, and probably wouldn't be considered dwarfs even by Carrot -- people such as Count Casanuda or Hwel.
    • Going Postal features the eccentric young postal assistant Stanley Howler, who was raised by peas. Not on peas. By peas. The mechanics are left to the reader's imagination.
    • I Shall Wear Midnight reveals, not too surprisingly, that Wee Mad Arthur is a Nac Mac Feegle raised by gnomes.
  • In the Wheel of Time series, Rand al'Thor is eighteen years old before he discovers that farmers Tam and Kari al'Thor are not his birth parents. This revelation doesn't change the fact that Rand still loves them just the same and resolutely refers to them as his real parents, even after uncovering the identities of his royal biological parents.
  • In a Dragonlance short story, an ogre loses his memory in the Catacylsm...and is adopted by a clan of Gully Dwarves. An adult, 9-foot-tall ogre, adopted by a bunch of creatures under 4 feet that can't count to 3. Hilarity Ensues. Later he gets his memory back and gets angry...but simply can't bring himself to hurt the little creatures that treated him like family.
  • In the Dragaera series by Steven Brust, the Dragaeran Morrolan never questions why he's about a foot and a half taller than his adoptive human village, nor why he's still young at more than 100 years of age. It takes another Dragaeran to seek him out and explain things.
  • From The Halfblood Chronicles, Lashana was raised by shapeshifting dragons and was convinced that she was one who had somehow got stuck in human form - her adoptive dragon brother thought so too! It helps that neither knew that humans and elves existed except as forms for dragons to shift into, being raised in the middle of a desert.
  • The Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures have a strange inversion. The Doctor adopts a young girl named Miranda who nonetheless has a very Strong Family Resemblance to him, except for the fact she's blond. They're even the same height once she's fully grown. And apparently neither ever wonders whether they're blood relatives. People who've met both of them tend to be surprised to find out that she's adopted, but not to the point of, say, dope slapping him for telling what must seem to be one of the most Blatant Lies in the world. Since he has Laser-Guided Amnesia at the time and doesn't know about time travel, it doesn't occur to him that she's obviously his Kid From the Future.

  If he hadn’t known she was adopted, he’d never have guessed. She looked just like her stepfather[.]

  • In The Chronicles of Narnia novel A Horse and His Boy, Shasta, a boy raised in Calormen, learns he was adopted when he eavesdrops on his "father" talking to a nobleman spending the night at their house. The nobleman was quick to realize this because Shasta has the pale skin of the northern nations while Calormenes are noticeably darker. As his "father" is willing to sell Shasta to the nobleman, he chooses to run away and find his real family, and turns out to be the long-lost prince of Archenland.
  • In Funhouse by Diane Hoh, the narrative shifts from third-person to first-person accounts from the villain, who is recalling how he found a diary hidden in his family's attic, revealing that he was adopted, or rather, sold, after his birth parents were financially ruined by an unscrupulous group of businessmen who wanted control of the boardwalk containing the titular funhouse. The diary belonged to the villain's mother, who felt she had no choice but to give her son up because she didn't have the strength to raise him. The villain goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge aimed at the teenage children of the owners of the boardwalk, killing one and crippling two in roller coaster accident. It turns out the villain is in fact the main character's brother.

Live-Action TV

  • In one episode of News Radio, Matthew doesn't figure out that he's adopted until his "identical twin" brother points it out to him. This despite the fact that the two look absolutely nothing alike; Matthew is played by gangly, blond Andy Dick, while his twin brother is played by Jon Stewart.
    • Turns out at the end of the episode that Matthew knew he and his brother weren't really twins, but kept pretending he did so that his brother wouldn't catch that HE was the adopted one (an unseen photo of their parents confirms Matthew is their biological child by nature of a startling resemblance).
      • One wonders why their parents didn't tell them they were fraternal twins. There's also a line suggesting they're not the same age, making it unclear why they were called twins at all. Then again, Matthew's parents could be as crazy as he is.
  • In Arrested Development, Lindsey Bluth was adopted, and her parents claimed she was Michael's twin sister... in spite of her being three years older than him. Lucille hand waved her going through puberty by simply claiming she was becoming fat.
  • Greg's father from Yes, Dear spent much of his life without knowing he was adopted.
  • Justified on The George Lopez Show--George's family is Hispanic, but since his sister's adoptive parents are Italian the racial issue wasn't glaring enough to clue her into the truth. Apparently she had to "correct" people who thought she was Latina fairly often before finding out it was true, though.
  • One episode of Thirty Rock had the characters' mothers appearing on the show. Danny (who is white) reveals he has an Asian mother, which someone comments on and thus him realizing he was adopted.
  • Inverted in a frightening way in the Doctor Who story "Night Terrors". The Doctor visits a little boy that's scared of everything with a mysterious cupboard giving him off-the-scale readings on his Sonic Screwdriver. When asked about his birth, the father reveals his wife can't have kids. The Doctor reveals the kid is an alien and is using a perception filter to make it seem like they always had him.
    • To be fair, the kid doesn't know it, either - the events of the episode are the result of his alien powers manifesting beyond his control. He's terrified by "the monster," and his fear only makes "it" stronger.
  • Claire, from Heroes, didn't know she was adopted until she was in her teens. However, there aren't any glaring racial differences, and her parents told her she was adopted. But all in all, she was Happily Adopted.

Video Games

  • In Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, Mallow is first encountered as an oblivious adoptee (he is a Cloudy/Marshmallow being and his family are frogs). His reason for joining the party thus ends up being to search for his birth family. The game does play his obliviousness (and most of the other tadpole's) for laughs.
  • Star Ocean the Second Story is kinda silly about this, as her pointed ears make it kinda obvious Rena is not only adopted, but a different species from the rest of her village. The Town Elder doesn't want to bring it up.
  • Similarly, it's generally assumed that in Disgaea 2, under that big mop of hair, Adell has pointed demon ears. It's perfectly in character for it to never occur to him to ask about it. He is entirely aware that he's adopted. What he doesn't know is that his blood parents aren't human.
    • Actually Adell is smart. He just doesn't show it. Also who could he have for comparison? Everyone else is a demon. He just passes as a human.
    • Word of God says he actually has a birth defect that makes his ears human-shaped. So... whatever.
  • In the reboot of the Spyro the Dragon series, the title dragon was adopted by dragonflies. While they do tell him that he's not their biological son, they reassure him that they will always be his "real" family nonetheless.
    • The Oblivious comes from the fact he never figured out he wasn't a dragonfly despite the fact he's many times their size, can't fly (yet), and has legs. To be fair, though, he'd never seen a dragon before in his entire life and the dragonflies hadn't ether, so there's no way he could've know what he really was.
  • The Flut Flut in the first Jak and Daxter game very briefly adopts Daxter as its mother, despite being approximately 50 times the little orange rodent's size (they milk one joke out of this, and then it turns into a steed -- but never again chirps "Mama" in Daxter's direction).
  • Ocarina of Time. Hey, Link, guess what? You're not a Kokiri!
    • Seen to a lesser extent in Twilight Princess, where Link is an orphan living among the Ordon villagers. His long ears give away his Hylian descent (despite Shad insisting he's not from "Hyrule proper"), but the rest of the villagers have human ear shapes, which might imply they come from a different ethnic/racial background in Hyrule. Given how popular and well-liked he is, though, it's clearly a superficial issue at most.

Web Comics

  • Parodied in this storyline in Sluggy Freelance. Torg snaps under the stress of his life and becomes "Torgo of the Jungle" (again), and is adopted by a family of centipedes infesting his filing room.

 Narrator: Living in peace behind pieces of furniture, scurrying under old paperwork, Torgo deals with the fact that somehow, he is different.

Torg: Pa? Why don't I have poison glands and two pairs of maxillae?

Pa: 'Cause you're a freak. Now put Comedy Central on, it's time for The Daily Show.

  • Ozy from Ozy and Millie, a fox, knows he's adopted but still sees the Llewellyns (dragons) as his 'real' family. However, he does seem to have odd ideas about what normal family activities actually are, given his loopy relatives.
    • And the Llewellyn family curse seems to regard him as one of the family; in fact, he's the only family member it has any noticeable effect on since he's the only "dragon" with fur.
    • Ozy did meet the person who was quite probably his biological father once. Upon learning this, Ozy decided to spend the day with the father who raised him, rather than the father he had never met before (and as far as we know, never saw again).
  • Carolina was somewhat taken aback to discover that she was a toon. It's not established whether they deliberately didn't tell her because they thought the inevitable conversation would be awkward, or if they assumed she'd take a look in a mirror now and again and figure it out.

Western Animation

  • Rocko's Modern Life has Heffer being surprised he's adopted after Rocko brings it up at a dinner visit to his family. Rocko, at least, found it obvious, as Heffer is a steer and his family are wolves. Who originally raised Heffer so that they could eat him, incidentally. They came to love him and changed their plans, of course.
  • Lambert the Sheepish Lion
  • On SpongeBob SquarePants, Mr. Krabs, a crab, is the proud father of Pearl, a whale. The show treats this as an Elephant in the Living Room/Unusually Uninteresting Sight.
  • Done in The Angry Beavers with the (mostly) inanimate character Stump, in the episode "Stump Looks for His Roots". After showing off slides of his family, Norbert points out that Stump must be adopted (or a "transplant", as he puts it), since Stump is an oak, and his parents are elms.
  • Ike on South Park is an interesting example: while Ike himself is just a baby, his older brother Kyle was apparently unaware that Ike was really adopted from Canada, though Canadians on South Park are animated differently than Americans. Subverted somewhat in that the viewer couldn't be sure of this, either; this episode is basically what established that rule, though Canadians had been shown animated differently before (on a Show Within a Show, which could have been another explanation for the style difference).
  • It's rather obvious that Creepie knows that she's adopted, since her parents are bugs, although she never talk about it, since she's happy with them.
  • An episode of Tom and Jerry had a duckling imprint on Tom and remain oblivious to Tom's attempts to eat him (despite Jerry repeatedly saving him and trying to illustrate the difference between cats and ducks). When the duckling finally figures things out, he decides to let Tom eat him anyway, though of course Tom can't bring himself to do it.
  • Buddy from Dinosaur Train is a young Tyrannosaurus Rex raised by Pterodactyls.
  • Ugly Americans: Lionel, Leonard's apprentice, 'son' and heir to the title of Wizard of Social Services (also a Harry Potter Expy, second in the series), was abandoned at a Chinese restaurant. He speaks English with a British accent, despite being raised by Chinese immigrants. He's also 50 years old despite being a child, physically.

Real Life

  • Truth in Television for people. Feral children who are raised by animals take up the habits and behaviors of the animals they're raised by, including that animal's attitude towards humans, be it fear or indifference.
  • An unusually irritating version. A woman wrote into an advice column, telling about the time when she commented on an Asian baby's adoption by white parents and the parents blew up that she had "given it away."
  • Also Truth in Television with animals.
    • Dogs have been known to protect fawns, and in one case an orphaned squirrel was adopted by a mother dog and raised among her litter.
      • Most dogs will adopt a kitten into their homes quite easily, which can often lead to odd behavior later in the cat's life.
    • Some domestic cats have adopted baby squirrels and possibly even guinea pigs.
    • To say nothing of the tortoise and the baby hippo it adopted.
    • A female tiger in a Chinese zoo adopted a litter of piglets.
    • Similarly, it's actually not rare for a lioness whose babies have died to adopt a baby antelope... which usually gets killed by the other lions in her pride, unfortunately.
    • One informative children's book says that cats before a certain age will not kill things like squirrels. The picture accompanying that statement was so saccharine as to give one diabetes.
    • There's even one story from a couple years back of a lioness rescuing an African girl from a group of men who were trying to force her into marriage with one of them, since her cries sounded like those of a lion cub. They found her later being cared for by lions.
    • There's an equally Tastes Like Diabetes video on YouTube of a cat adopting a baby rabbit. I suppose that if you have that many kids, you feed anything that meeps.
    • Although not precisely adoption, there was a case when a human toddler fell into an animal enclosure at a zoo and was picked up and carried to the exit by a female gorilla.
  • Let's not forget imprinting, most easily observed in chickens and waterfowl. The article mentions a group of goslings believing that a pair of wading boots was their mother.
  • This Cracked article, Tastes Like Diabetes abound.