Passing the Torch

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The Hero wishes to leave the heroing business. Perhaps the thrill is gone. Perhaps he wants to marry more than he wants to adventure. Perhaps he knows that age or injury has slowed him down too much; he can not do the job anymore.

But the job has to be done.

The Hero, therefore, formally hands the work over to someone else who can do the job. Perhaps a sidekick promotion. A Legacy Character may involve this.

Usually, the immediate problem is gone, and the hero is leaving on a high note, but both he and his successor are aware that the problem or that type of problem will happen again; he has not fixed the world, but is Passing the Torch to someone who can. This may be physically embodied in an object that the retiring hero gives the new one.

This differs from Take Up My Sword in that the hero is still around, and may even be upgraded to the role of Old Master; it can also overlap with Take Up My Sword if the hero dies very quickly afterward. However, Take Up My Sword usually happens in the beginning or middle of a story; Passing the Torch is usually an Ending Trope.

If the hero wants to leave, this can form a Happy Ending. The less he wants it, the more a Bittersweet Ending it is.

Opposite of Ten-Minute Retirement and He's Back.

Sister Trope to Changing of the Guard, where the role of main character changes. A story can describe Passing the Torch between two characters, neither of whom is in series, and the main character can change without any handing on of the role. But overlap is extensive.

As an Ending Trope, Spoilers ahead may be unmarked. Beware.

Examples of Passing the Torch include:

Anime and Manga

  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Simon gives his Core Drill to Gimmy in the final episode.
    • And before that, Kamina to Simon the moment of the former's death.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX starts with this happening; the series' finale suggests there may be a Stable Time Loop involved.
  • Layla passes on her starring role at Kaleido Stage to Sora at the end of the first season of Kaleido Star (even though Sora remains the main character), having to drop out of the Stage after a shoulder injury sustained during intensive training for their Legendary Great Maneuver required surgery and made her unable to perform.
  • Fujiwara no Sai in Hikaru no Go disappears a baffling fifteen episodes before the end of the series, appearing only once more, in Hikaru's dream in the last episode. From inner monologues in previous episodes, we can assume that he's letting Hikaru take his place in the search for the Divine Move. He never does speak, but, in a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, he hands Hikaru his fan.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure could be the best manga example of this trope, having featured no less than five starring heroes. Sometimes the previous one retires himself, but it's more frequent that they just give up the lead and turn into the Lancer, or so. Kujo Jotaro has done this twice before dying. Poor cool boy.
  • In Naruto: Shippuden, there is (was) an entire theme that the world had to be passed on to the younger generation. At least, until several older ninja showed up with uber-ninja-techniques.
  • According to bonus material included with the DVDs of GaoGaiGar FINAL Grand Glorious Gathering, this would have happened after GaoGaiGar FINAL had the sequel series ("Project Z") not been canceled. With Guy and 3G apparently dead, Mamoru and Kaidou would've taken up the roles as lead heroes and Super Robot pilots at the helm of a new Earth-made robot called GaoGaiGo. While what exactly they were supposed to be piloting it against isn't clear, promotional pictures hint at an odd twist to the trope, namely one image that shows Genesic GaoGaiGar coming out of the sun, with an added implication that it may have been the villain of the series.
  • In Strike Witches, Mio reveals that this is her ultimate goal in regards to Yoshika.
    • Which bombs when both Mio and Yoshika appear to lose their powers by the end of the second season.
  • Son Goku passes the torch to his son Gohan in the Cell-arc of Dragonball Z. However, due to fan demand, Goku was brought back into the spotlight. Also, earlier in Dragon Ball, Master Roshi (Or rather, Jackie Chun) passed the torch onto the younger generation, including Goku and Tenshinhan.
    • He also states the intention of doing it to Uub in the very end of the manga. The anime-only sequel mostly ignored it.
  • After their high school graduation, the four original girls of the Light Music Club in K-On! pass the torch to Azusa and her new band members, Ui and Jun, by running away laughing while the three new girls play "Fuwa Fuwa Time" in the background. The original four likely face a happy future since they have been accepted at the same prestigious women's university, but it still feels slightly Bittersweet Ending.
  • Eyeshield 21. Hiruma, Kurita, and the other second-years graduate. Hiruma, as team captain, passes leadership onto Sena, who leads the team a successful season the next year.
  • In the finale of Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin who is now married to Kaoru with a child and is unable to perform Hiten Mitsurugi Ryuu, passes his sakabato onto an older and wiser Yahiko.
  • Bleach displays an interesting take on this trope. Ichigo is the main character set up from the start to take out Aizen. Simple enough, except it turns out that some characters have a very different view of how the story should be (or is) unfolding. It's only at the end of Gin's life that we ever see the situation with Aizen from his point-of-view, and it turns out his interpretation of the story was a little different to everyone else's. He believed he was the only one who was capable or even allowed to defeat Aizen and spent over a century plotting it. When he realised just how successfully Aizen had broken Ichigo's self-belief and resolve, he was even more convinced only he could defeat Aizen. Unfortunately for him, his revenge was part of Aizen's plan, and so he fails. As Aizen leaves him for dead, he spots the newly arrived and powered-up Ichigo. Upon seeing the strength in Ichigo's eyes, he realizes that he is finally free to pass the torch (for defeating Aizen) onto Ichigo and dies. Gin was never the hero of 'Bleach', or even a good guy, but apparently inside his own head he was, and Ichigo was his successor.
  • In Pokémon, Ash's former Lapras becomes the leader of its herd in the episode where Ash reunites with it.
  • The final episode of F-Zero GP Legend has Bart Lemming explain that the title of Captain Falcon is given to those that are deemed worthy of the honor. Knowing his fate was sealed thanks to Black Shadow, Lemming gives the role of Captain Falcon to Ryu Suzaku (Rick Wheeler) before departing.

Comic Books

  • In Astro City, the hero Jack-in-the-Box learns that his wife is pregnant, and various possible sons appear from the future. His death as a superhero had harmed them all. He passes the torch to another young man, without his familial responsibilities.
  • In Justice Society of America, Hourman's son took up the mantle after his father's death. When time-travel allows the father to be saved, the son offers to hand back the role; the father refuses it, because he wishes to retire and make his wife happy.
  • In Watchmen, the first Nite Owl handed off the heroship to a fan of vigilantes and nocturnal fowl, and retires to be a mechanic and neighborhood old guy. Until his head is bashed in by a mob of punks for being vaguely related to the controversial Badass Normal and Well-Intentioned Extremist Rorschach, that is.
  • Variation in Batman: Jason became Robin because Batman willed it so, without it having anything to do with Nightwing (Robin I), but in some versions Jason's place was confirmed when Dick gave Jason his old Robin uniform, recognizing him as Robin.
    • According to Marv Wolfman, around the time Jason Todd was introduced, one of the Batman writers wanted to de-age Dick Grayson and return him to being Batman's sidekick. As writer on Teen Titans, DC's hottest property at the time, Wolfman wielded a lot of power, and suggested that instead, Dick Grayson could move on to a new identity and a new Robin could be introduced as a publicity stunt (since that sort of thing had never really happened before).
    • Dick also does this with Tim, although the gift comes years after Tim became Robin and Dick started thinking of him as his little brother. Tim is nevertheless quite moved by the gesture.
    • It actually happened a lot sooner. After Jason's death (which SERIOUSLY messed up Bruce's head) Tim even tried to convice Dick to come back to the role in an effort to keep Batman from becomming too dark and possibly crossing the line. Dick refused and basically told him "Why don't you do it?"
    • When Cassandra Cain becomes Batgirl, Barbara Gordon/Oracle, who was the original Batgirl, is the one to give her the costume, though Cass doesn't wear it.
      • The passing of the torch between Barbara and Cass serves as a contrast with the previous time a new Batgirl had appeared, a few months earlier; Barbara discovered there'd been a new Batgirl and Batman had not so much told her about it.

Barbara [to Batman]: How could you do this to me! There's a woman out there with my legs, my identity, my job!

      • Babs also gives a new Batgirl costume based on hers to Stephanie Brown.
  • Donna Troy, the first Wonder Girl, gave her costume to Cassie Sandsmark, who at the time was fighting crime in a Wonder Woman T-shirt and denims. However, Cassie was so overwhelmed she never wore it in case it got damaged.
  • Doctor Strange inherited the title of Sorcerer Supreme from the Ancient One, and he in turn passed it on to Brother Voodoo.

Fan Works

  • The Legend of Spyro fanfic Passing The Torch has this as it's basic plot. An elderly Spyro meets with the next Purple Dragon, Asuka, when she turns twelve years old. He then informs her of what she really is and what is expected of her, helping her accept the responsibility that comes with it. It turns out waiting to do this was the only thing keeping him alive, and he finally lets his body give out and die now that he's passed his role on.


  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, at the beginning, Quartermain is able to shoot one of their enemies; at the end, he must instead coach Sawyer through it. He explicitly acknowledges that he is passing the torch.
  • In The Dark Knight, Batman wishes for this; he explicitly tells Alfred he really likes Harvey Dent because of how much better of a hero he'd be.
  • Subverted Trope in the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In the film's final scene, Mutt Williams (AKA Henry Jones III) picks up Indy's hat and goes to put it on, only for Indy to snatch it back and put it on himself.
  • At the end of The Princess Bride, it's implied that Westley will pass on the role of 'Dread Pirate Roberts' to Inigo Montoya.
  • Captain Kirk's final log entry in Star Trek VI the Undiscovered Country states that with this last mission, the Enterprises history and posterity will be passed on to a new generation, also correcting himself when giving the famous intro speech, talking about where no man - where no one - has gone before.
    • This happens at the end of the new Star Trek when Pike formally hands over command to Kirk.
    • A variation occurs in Star Trek Generations when Picard watches Kirk die. Fans described this as the passing of the torch to the Next Generation.
  • At the end of Hook, Peter chooses one of the Lost Boys to be the new leader.
  • At the end of Men in Black, Agent Kay gives Agent Jay the neuralyzer to use on him because he wants to retire from the MIB. Earlier, he told Jay he would let him have it "When he grew up."
  • Toy Story 3 ends with Andy giving all of his toys to the young Bonnie, daughter to a friend of his mom's, before he goes off to college.
  • Twice in The Godfather trilogy, a new Don raises when the aged one steps down as head of the family and delegates the power while still councils around. Not an actual hero succession though, but a Villain Protagonist one.
  • An alternate ending to The Legend of Zorro takes place a number of years later, when Alejandro and Eléna's son Joaquin is grown up. The gray-haired parents watch with pride as Joaquin puts on the Zorro costume and rides off into the sunset. According to Word of God, this was changed to Zorro himself putting on the costume in order to allow for more sequels with the same actors.
    • The whole point of The Mask of Zorro, of which The Legend of Zorro is a sequel, is the training of Alejandro by Eléna's father Diego to be the next Zorro.
  • In the Ghost Rider film there's a passing of the torch moment between Ghost Rider and his wild-west era predecessor, the Phantom Rider.
  • In Galaxy of Terror, the Master of the Pyramid allows himself to be killed by the protagonist, so he can succeed him.
  • In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Wonka gives the chocolate factory to Charlie at the end and makes him the new owner (since Wonka could not go on forever, and he really did not want to try).
  • The 1957 Lon Chaney Biopic Man of a Thousand Faces ends with Chaney on his deathbed, handing his personalized makeup case to his son Creighton and using a stick of greasepaint to write "Jr." at the end of his name on it. Creighton leaves with the box, about to start on his own career as Lon Chaney Jr.

Live-Action TV

  • Before Power Rangers began replacing the entire cast wholesale every season like its source material, it tended to do this with a few people at a time every so often as cast members got tired of the strict filming schedules, low pay, and career pigeonholing. In fact, the episodes in season 5 where this happened were actually named "Passing the Torch" pt. 1 and 2.
  • Super Sentai (the source material for Power Rangers) started this tradition with 2004's Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger; after each Series Finale we get a brief scene of the outgoing Red Ranger shaking hands with, saluting, or otherwise acknowledging his successor before walking off into the metaphorical sunset.
  • The whole "Island protector" thing on Lost - first Jacob (preceded by his "mother"), then Jack and Hurley.
    • For extra Fridge Brilliance watch the scene between Jack and Jacob in "What They Died For" and the scene in "Everybody Loves Hugo" which is accompanied by the Passing the Torch soundtrack piece. And pay attention to who is holding the torches - both scenes take place at night.
  • Almost a Real Life example (perhaps even meta): In an episode of Smallville, the great Christopher Reeve guest stars as a scholar helping the young Man of Steel (Tom Welling) learn his destiny.
  • Meta example: Dirk Benedict, who played Starbuck in the original Battlestar Galactica passed the cigar to Katee Sackhoff, who played Starbuck in the reboot. Said passing was done while the two Starbucks were each having a Starbuck's at Starbuck's.
  • In the last episode of Spartacus Gods of the Arena, Gannicus earns his freedom from being a gladiator. Before he leaves, he gives Crixus his necklace and declares him the new Champion of Capua.
  • In the Sesame Street episode "So Long, Mr. Hooper", David told Big Bird that Mr. Hooper had given his job to David.


  • Older Than Feudalism: In The Bible, Elijah passed on his powers to his understudy Elisha by literally passing the mantle to him after being taken up into the sky by flaming horses sent by God.
    • Similarly, Jesus passes the torch to his disciples after raising from the dead, but before ascending into Heaven. The disciples, who have up to this point been mostly incompetent, pull it together and kick-start the early church in a powerful way.
  • Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince, big time, with Dumbledore explaining to Harry about Voldemort's Horcruxes, and including him in the mission to find and destroy them. After Dumbledore's death, Harry and his friends take up the task. Later, in Deathly Hallows, Harry clues in Neville to take his place as he goes off to die.
  • Used to a heartbreaking effect in the end of The Road.
  • In Deltora Quest Lief's father has a crippled leg from a tree falling on him so he isn't able to go look for the gems in the Belt of Deltora. He passes the Belt-and the duty-to Lief and Barda the "beggar" who lives outside the forge and spies on the Grey Guards talking about the plans of the Shadow Lord.
  • Halfway through the Warrior Cats Expanded Universe novel Bluestar's Prophecy, Pinestar, leader of ThunderClan runs off to be a housecat and passes the torch to Sunfall.
    • Also, at the end of Sunrise Leafpool is forced to give up being medicine cat and Jayfeather becomes medicine cat instead.
  • The Codex Alera has a rather enforced variant of this. 80% of the previous generation of leadership has died at the end of the Vord War, including Gaius Sextus.
  • Eventually going to (and in the process of) happen in the Star Wars Expanded Universe as the movie hero's die from old age; though the number of people to pass the torch too is running low after several novel series of killing or writing off the new generation.


Tabletop Games


  • In Bionicle, Turaga are created when Toa do this. This serves a number of simultaneous purposes: a new generation of Toa can appear, the wisdom and guidance of the prior generation of Toa is preserved and passed down, and it also allows the Toa to use a Game Breaker like giving up their powers to save all of the known Matoran from Makuta's sleep spell.

Video Games

  • In Kira Kira Curtain Call, Shikanosuke's sister, Yuko, becomes the bassist of d2b after Shikanosuke graduates, even donning a similar stage costume.
  • Subverted in the ending of King's Quest III (and beginning of King's Quest IV). Graham, swept up in the joy of being reunited with both his children, takes off his trusty adventurer's cap and tosses it at them, with the idea that the one who catches it will take up adventuring. He ends up having a heart attack as it's in mid-air. The cap falls to the floor, and neither child picks it up. It does, however, lead into Rosella setting off to save her dad, and putting the hat back on him on her triumphant return, saying her dad's still got a few more adventures in him. She turns out to be right.
  • In Left 4 Dead 2, after Bill dies, the original survivors stop trying to get to the military and are now heading to the island, resulting in them sort of passing the torch to the new survivors. There's even achievement saying it after to beat the Passing.
  • In the evil ending of Infamous 2, The Beast felt guilty and tired of killing people and decided to transfer his powers to Cole to carry out the plan he started.

The Beast: "I can't do this anymore."
Cole: "WHAT!?"

  • Assassin's Creed: Embers ends with Ezio having well and truly left the Assassin life behind him, but with a younger Assassin heading off with enemies of her own to take down.
  • In the very beginning of Dark Souls, you meet Almost-Dead Guy Oscar, knight of Astoria, who asks you to ring the Bells of Awakening in his stead.
  • The ending to Thief 3 strongly hints towards this, although anything definite is purely in the realm of fan speculation.

Western Animation

  • In the future episode of The Batman, Nightwing assists an older, Dark Knight Returns-esque Batman in battle against Mr. Freeze. When it becomes clear that Batman isn't as efficient as he used to be; Nightwing suggests maybe it's time to pass the torch. Batman however, being the stubborn bastard he is, replies that he would pass the torch when "the mission" (i.e. to ensure Gotham's protection) is over, to which Nightwing dryly notes will never happen.
  • In The Venture Brothers episode "Every Which Way But Zeus", Desmond, Captain Sunshine's butler is revealed to have been the original Captain Sunshine, and the modern one was his Wonderboy. Dragoon states that he arched him back in the 1960's in his heyday. Of course he has retained all his powers but is still a weak old man.
  • Nebula of Winx Club has become the new Queen of Tir Nan Og.
  • One episode of Batman the Brave And The Bold has a vision of a future where an older Batman get married and starts a family. He then passed the mantle of Batman to Nightwing, and it gets passed down the line.
  • An elderly Katara does this in The Legend of Korra:

Katara: "Aang's time has passed. My brother and many of my friends are gone. It's time for you and your generation to take on the responsibility of keeping peace and balance in the world. But I think you're going to be a great Avatar. Goodbye, Korra.

  • In the pilot of The Mighty Ducks, Canard, the original captain of the team passes on his mask to Wildwing before sacrificing himself to save the team.

Real Life

  • As a star ages, if it had planets, the habitable zone (an imaginary boundary where liquid water can exist) will gradually move outwards (once every 2 billion years or so), ending life on the planet that was originally inside the habitable zone, but at the same time allows planets further away to support life. When life first began on Earth, life was no longer possible on Venus. And when life is no longer possible on Earth, life will become a possibility on Mars, and later Titan (Saturn's largest moon).
    • Furthermore, when the star itself finally dies, its material will eventually be used to make new stars that will take its place.