Like a Fish Takes to Water

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A character, usually a somewhat unassuming one, is inserted into an unusual situation or world. But rather than having difficulty adjusting, the character possesses knowledge, a personality type or physical prowess that allows him to leap up the social ladder to a far higher station than the one he had back home.

See also The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. Can also be a Mighty Whitey (if a European does this in a non-European society) or a case of Villains Blend in Better (if a villain does this when a hero becomes a Fish Out of Water). Compare Never Accepted in His Hometown. Contrast Fish Out of Water.

Examples of Like a Fish Takes to Water include:

Comic Books

  • Both Travis Morgan and later Mariah make the changing to living in the Lost World of Skataris very easily in The Warlord. Mariah's easy adjustment catches Morgan by surprise as he did not suspect that the archaeologist was also a champion sabre fencer.


  • Evil Dead's Ashley J Williams is an aversion. He could have been a king, but he decides to go back and become a clerk at S-Mart again.
  • In The Incredible Mr Limpet, Mr. Limpet [a human played by Don Knotts] is fascinated by fish, and at one point says, "I wish, I wish I was a fish." He gets his wish, and acclimates very quickly.
  • Why hello there, Avatar.
  • in RED, the love interest has this role when thrust into the life of espionage, combined with Unfazed Everyman. . Sarah is kidnapped, drugged, shot at, almost blown up, and kidnapped again. She is surrounded by old and young spies, assassins and government agents who are fighting over her life all the time. What does she say when she is confronted with the death sentence or life in prison if she is caught? "Awesome." And when she finally is? That her boyfriend will kick the interrogators ass. The movie is full of lines like this from her.
  • Several of the historical personalities in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. In particular, Ludwig van Beethoven immediately masters the use of synthesizers at a music store.


  • H. Beam Piper's Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen. He quickly goes from State Trooper to Great King.
  • John Carter of Mars gains superstrength on Mars, thanks to Earth's higher gravity. When he arrives on Mars he's an ordinary warrior (albeit with exceptional fighting skills). By the end of the third book, he's Jeddak of Jeddaks, Warlord of Barsoom, and in charge of the Twin Cities of Helium and Lesser Helium. In later books he conquers even more cities/civilizations.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Night Watch, Carcer goes from a wanted criminal to an important member of the secret police when sent back in time. The police officer chasing him, Vimes, probably doesn't count: while he does quickly pick up a position in the watch as sergeant and largely organizes the people against the city forces, he's not necessarily in a better or worse position than he started.
    • Not to mention Carrot. Raised by dwarves, knew the city like the back of his hand within weeks of his arrival.
    • Vimes has the advantage that he already lived through the events once and knows what is going to happen and who the important players are.
  • Lampshaded in Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Cao Cao is referred to by a man known for evaluating people thus: "You would be a capable minister in peaceful times and an unscrupulous hero in chaotic times." Cao Cao bears it out: before the Yellow Turban Rebellion, he's a loyal, if minor, magistrate. As the land descends to chaos, he comes out on top of the feudal lords of central and northern China. His line would eventually supplant the Han.
    • This is fairly common in the book. The civil war offered opportunity to minor nobility to go far farther than they would have normally, assuming they had the talent to survive the turmoil. Of the other two emperors of the titular Three Kingdoms, one was the son of a merchant. The other was distantly related to the emperor, and starts the novel selling shoes and weaving straw mats.
  • In Dune, one of the signs of Paul's Messiahdom is that he is able to, among other things, perfectly utilize a stillsuit without instructions.
    • The full awesomeness of the Dune Prophecy is "He will know your ways as if born to them."
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court has the title character replace Merlin as court mage, eventually gaining much power and even an army.
  • World War Z mentions people like this, mostly paranoid survivalists or gangs of thugs who managed to carve out an area for them to 'rule' when civilization collapsed.
  • In Abarat, everyone notices how quickly outsider Candy gets used to Abarat. Most outsiders take weeks to fully adjust to its quirks. Foreshadowing, of course, since Candy was an Abarattian princess in a former lifetime.
  • Leviathan: Deryn never fit in as a typical Edwardian young lady, but when she sneaks into the Air Service, she not only fits in with the other middies but is shown to be the best of them all.
  • In the Guardians of the Flame series, a group of college students is transported into a fantasy world and end up using their modern knowledge to establish a kingdom dedicated to liberty and equality - and defended with gunpowder and machinery.

Live Action TV

Jeff: Annie took to deception like Abed took to Cougar Town.

Video Games

  • In Brutal Legend, Eddie has no problem getting used to his new surroundings, and even picks up battle-axe usage oddly quickly. It's foreshadowing, of course. Both his mother and father were from that world; his dad was a human hero, while his mother was the queen of demons.
  • Olimar becomes a Pikmin-chucking badass pretty quickly for a humble space freighter.
  • The Player Character in Knights of the Old Republic takes quite well to Jedi training for a junior Republic Navy crewman. Of course, the Tomato Surprise arguably subverts this.

Western Animation

  • Fry from Futurama makes several comments throughout the series about how he fits in better in the future. While he's still a delivery boy, he is much happier with his life. Leela thinks this is because he didn't fit in during his own time. He eventually is the most important person in the universe. For more than one reason.