Sins of Our Fathers

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Peter: "They're responsible for this..."
Adam: "Parents sin, children suffer."

Peter Petrelli and Adam Monroe, Heroes, Episode 2-10 "Truth and Consequences"

The act of exacting Revenge (even when positioned as "just retribution") upon the descendants of the one who originally did the wrong in question, due to them being already dead or cannot be reached at the moment.

This one's really popular with immortal or Undead antagonists, such as vengeful ghosts, liches, vampires, dragons, and the like, as well as many a Sealed Evil in a Can, whose first order of business upon getting out of said can is often meting out some very nasty payback on the descendants of the people who put it in there to start with. As said descendants have typically (though not always) done nothing wrong other than be descended from the people who originally wronged the villain, the result is often a monstrous injustice that a hero will have to set to rights, usually by taking down the villain in question. Or a villain may Curse a family, with it descending to generation after generation of innocents. On the other hand, if the descendant in question is carrying on their ancestor's role in whatever annoyed the attacker in the first place (for example, fighting evil demons like their ancestor did), it makes a lot more sense.

Sometimes an Anti-Hero will do this to a villain's children, in hopes of drawing on their parental feelings and dragging said villain out of their fortress.

A variant is the "hereditary prison", when children of prisoners are born in prison and stay there for the rest of their lives, and so on.

The villain may justify it on the grounds that the children profited by the original crime. Particularly when they own something that belonged to the villain. Do not expect the villain to be deterred by questions such as how he came into possession of the item in the first place, whether the children knew or could have been reasonably expected to know of the provenance of the item, or if they might give it back if they knew. Not that a return might assuage a sufficiently off-his-rocker villain anyway. (On the other hand, the children, aware of the tainted source, may attempt to Buy Them Off but refuse to restore, which tends to move the situation out of the scope of this trope.)

Contrast Revenge by Proxy, where the target is the child or other associates in preference to the character who actually wronged them, in order to make that character suffer more. Revenge Through Corruption is when the method of revenge is trying to effect a Face Heel Turn upon the offspring of one's enemy. See also Generational Trauma, which might overlap if someone decides that the best way to resolve the family issues is to get vengeance on the descendants of the traumatiser, or the trauma could stem from the descendants of the Sinning Father getting shamed and stigmatised or outright physically harmed for said ancestor's legacy.

The trope name comes from a line from The Bible: "The sins of the fathers shall be visited upon their children."

Examples of Sins of Our Fathers include:

Anime and Manga

  • In the eighth Dragonball Z movie, Paragus and Broly lured Vegeta into an elaborate ruse in order to take revenge on him for his father's actions towards them. Fearful of Broly's power, he ordered the Saiyan child to be executed, then tried to kill Paragus for the crime of pleading for his son's life.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!!:
    • Aleister (Amelda in the original Japanese), with the subversion that he actually has a point. He hates Kaiba Corp because he believes Gozaburo Kaiba responsible for the death of his family (though it was actually Dartz, Aleister's boss), and objects to Seto and Mokuba Kaiba living comfortably off bloodstained riches. However, the Kaiba brothers weren't responsible for the wars that Gozaburo financed (and there were genuine ones), having gone to great lengths to convert KaibaCorp from a military contractor to an entertainment company and despite being a beneficiary, Kaiba freely admits his adoptive father was a snake and offers to make amends. (Possibly the closest Kaiba ever came to giving someone a genuine apology.) Refusing to accept such an offer and focus more on a mad desire for revenge doesn't exactly earn Aleister much sympathy.
    • Partial example in the manga with Ryuuji Otogi (known stateside as Duke Devlin). His father, Mr. Clown, lost a Shadow Game to Solomon Muto, and plots his revenge by manipulating his son into hating the Muto family and making seeking revenge on his behalf his son's life purpose.
    • Also played with in the anime, where Rebecca Hawkins wants to battle Yugi because her grandfather lost a game to Solomon.
    • Yami Bakura sought revenge on Pharoah Atem because he believed Atem's father (in reality, it was his father's brother Akunadin) was responsible for the slaughter of his village.
    • Yusei Fudo of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's has definitely born his share of suffering and guilt because of his father designing/discovering Momentum, which was responsible for Zero Reverse and all sorts of problems thereafter.
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, Yuya's dad is often regarded as a coward, and many of Yuya's early opponents expect the same from him. Thing is, not only was Yuya's dad not a coward by any means, Yuya often has the opposite problem.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima, Evangeline A. K. McDowell was spurned, has the bulk of her power sealed, and ended up trapped within a Japanese Elevator School by Nagi Springfield some fifteen years ago. When ten year old Negi Springfield showed up to teach in the class she was attending... she was not happy. Justified by the fact that she also wants Negi for his blood, as it mitigates his dad's curse.
    • Although she lightens up a bit when learns that Nagi is actually still alive. She even agrees to be Negi's magic trainer. And is now transferring her other feelings towards the father to the son.
    • Also, the supported theory that the Megalomesembrian Senate were responsible for launching the attack on Negi's village solely to kill Negi, because he is the son of their old foe Arika Entheofushia and Nagi Springfield.
  • Ranma ½: Ranma Saotome usually has to deal with the problems his dad created in the past. Of course this isn't because his father is dead, it's because he's a glutton, a big coward, and prone to making deals and running up bills in his son's name.
  • This is sort of what happens in Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru: Mizuho lives in the room that his late grandfather arranged for him, when in fact, the very same room belonged to his Missing Mom during her school days and it is also the very room where his mom's devoted kohai died of exhaustion while waiting for her to return. Things ain't that grim, however, as it turns out that said kohai survived as a (rather cheerful) ghost and it is Mizuho's task to make amends to her for his mom's untimely leave 22 years ago.
  • Ace in One Piece seems to suffer from this. He is the son of Pirate King Gold Roger and was hunted by the World Government even before he was born in an attempt to rid the world of the bloodline. One of his captain's men, Squardo, even turns on Whitebeard after this reveal as his crew was previously wiped out by the man. Whitebeard calms him down and states that it's hardly Ace's fault that his father had committed these deeds.
    • Luffy suffers from this as well, due to being the son of Revolutionary Monkey D. Dragon.
      • Though only Admiral Akainu seems to care. When the knowledge becomes public, Garp shrugs it off, saying Luffy's notoriety has gotten to the point it doesn't matter who he's related to.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam, Char plots the deaths of the Zabi family - including youngest son Garma, his best friend from military academy - because he's convinced their father, Sovereign Degwin, murdered his father. It starts out as Revenge by Proxy, with Char killing the Zabis to make Degwin suffer, but he continues on after Degwin's death (at the hands of eldest son, Gihren), pushing him into this territory.
    • Also, played with in G Gundam. Rain's father was one of the conspirators involved in the Government Conspiracy brewed by Ulube Ishikawa inside his Gambit Roulette, which more or less directly involved the destruction of the Kasshu family. This shames his daughter so much that, after learning of such things, she decides to leave her boyfriend and partner Domon Kasshu because of this... and it makes the poor girl the perfect Seitai unit for the Devil Gundam, which comes in possession of Ulube.
  • Inuyasha: Miroku bears an all-consuming wind tunnel on his hand that will eventually devour him and anyone around him and has been passed down from his father and his father. Like everything else, it's the work of Naraku.
  • Sailor Moon: The Black Moon clan embody both versions of this trope. They're descents of criminals Neo-Queen Serenity banished to Nemesis rather then killing (as she does not kill humans -- or human/humanoid aliens -- if she can avoid it.) They originally want to move to Earth peacefully but are manipulated by Wiseman to blame Serenity and seek revenge on her and all of earth.
  • A truly atrocious example in Rave Master. Lucia, who is all of six years old, is thrown in a maximum security prison as a precaution since his father was... er... not a very well liked person.
  • The source of much of the bile and bitterness between Daisuke and Clair in Heat Guy J. Clair's father killed Daisuke's father under orders from Daisuke's evil uncle.
  • Master of Martial Hearts takes this concept, and covers it with badly written villains.
  • In Mawaru Penguindrum, the Takakura parents turn out to be members of a terrorist organization that bombed the Tokyo Subway 16 years before the action took place. One of the victims was a little girl named Momoka Oginome... the childhood girlfriend of Shoma and Kanba's teacher, Keiju Tabuki, and the older sister of Shoma's friend/prospect Love Interest Ringo. Shoma actually spells out the trope while revealing to Ringo what he knows about said tragic incident as well as referring to his sister Himari's almost-definitive death that follows as "a curse befalling on the family... as punishment"; he then goes further via cutting off all contacts with Ringo, since he's so wrecked with guilt and self-hate that he simply can't believe that Ringo refuses to hate him and his family for Momoka's demise. It takes Ringo quite the effort to even try convincing him otherwise and let her hang out with him and Himari.
    • Invoked again when Tabuki himself snaps, kidnaps Himari and tries to stage a cruel Hostage Situation as revenge for what happened to Momoka.
  • In Hell Girl, Ai Enma tries to Mind Rape Tsugumi Shibata and make her send her father Hajime to Hell because he is either a descendant or the reincarnation of the Forgotten Childhood Friend that betrayed her.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist‍'‍s plot boils down to Edward and Alphonse cleaning up a mess that their father Hohenheim created. They have to stop an evil man who looks just like their father, Van Hohenheim. As it turns out, the man, Homunculus/"Father", was borne of Hohenheim's blood, and used his progenitor as an Unwitting Pawn in his gambit to become immortal, consuming Hohenheim's home country of Xerxes in the process; now, he intends to repeat the same act on the Elric brothers' home country of Amestris, a country he designed from scratch for this very purpose. Fortunately, Hohenheim is working to make amends for his mistakes, and joins his sons in their counterattack late in the game.
    • In the 2003 anime version, things are much different. They have to stop the machinations of Dante, a spurned lover of Hohenheim of Light's. The two were lovers a long time ago, but when one of the two fell deathly ill, the other successfully transferred the soul from the dying body to another living human's. Seeing the potential of this action, both proceeded to body-snatch and effectively live forever, but as the side effects of these actions - their bodies rejecting the souls and visibly rotting, mainly - started to kick in earlier and earlier, Hohenheim eventualy relented and settled with Trisha, while Dante manipulated the entire government to enable this scheme even further. This Hohenheim is also repentant, but isn't quite as effective - he makes an attempt to confront Dante over her plot, but is promptly banished beyond the gate, and spends the rest of his life on our Earth, unable to have an effect on Dante's plans any longer.
  • In Highschool of the Dead, Shido rigs Rei's grades because his father was being investigated by her father for political corruption.
  • During the Dressrosa Arc of One Piece, Luffy is confronted by a mighty gladiator named Chinjao who has a grudge against Luffy due to a fight he had years previous with Admiral Garp, Luffy's grandfather. It seems Chinjao used to have an skull so incredibly tough it could smash through ice, so he stored all his wealth in a cave in the Ice Continent and let it freeze over, as he was the only one who knew where it was and could break through it. But his skull was injured in a fight with Garp, sorely limiting this ability, causing him to lose his reputation and access to his belongings. After Luffy gives him the Get a Hold of Yourself, Man! routine (rightfully assuming Chinjao is doing little to cope by wallowing in self-pity and making a fool of himself), he - accidentally - heals the injury by belting him in the head, and the two part on friendly terms.

Comic Books

  • The backstory of the Batman foe Bane uses the 'hereditary prison' variant. The child of a foreigner who aided a failed revolution in a South American country, the as-yet unborn Bane was sentenced to life in prison for his father's crimes. He was born and raised in the unescapable prison.
  • The first arc of Runaways Volume 3 used this. A group of Majesdanians come looking for Karolina, hoping to prosecute her for her parents' role in starting a war between their species and the Skrulls that devastated both. The fact that Karolina had no control over any of that, and even went through with an Arranged Marriage to try and bring peace, doesn't stop them - their species is almost extinct, and they need someone to blame.
    • In Volume 1, Alex invokes this trope when threatening to hurt Karolina, due to her and Molly's parents planing on betraying the others at the ceremony the team interrupted.
  • General Zod is very clear that his thirst for revenge against Jor-El for thwarting and imprisoning him and his followers extends to his son as well, Kal-El aka Superman: "You will bow down before me, Jor-El! Both you and one day, your heirs!"
    • In fact, any time (in any media) a story with Superman as the protagonist involves a criminal escaping the Phantom Zone who was initially put there by Jor-El, that criminal is going to seek revenge on him for it, despite him having no involvement in their trial and sentencing. Even when he is the one who grants clemency by releasing them (as he did in the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Blast from the Past") they never show any gratitude.
    • In another example, Superman is put on trial by an alien tribunal chiefly due to the fact that one of his ancestors inadvertently caused the destruction of Krypton.
  • A Carl Barks story featured a man named Foola Zoola, who wanted revenge against Scrooge McDuck. Unable to reach the old miser, Foola Zoola decided to settle for Donald under the belief a wrongdoer's sins can be atoned by his next of kin.
  • While many of her fellow Teen Titans assure her otherwise. Raven has often had this problem herself. Though when your father is the devil, it's not so surprising if you think about that every now and then.
  • Mutant villain Professor Power once quoted the Trope Namer directly while explaining why he had such a mad-on for X-Factor , which at the time was composed of the original X-Men ; it was far more about his feud with Xavier than it was with them.


  • Freddy Krueger from the A Nightmare on Elm Street series originally went after the children of those who took the law into their own hands and burned him alive to stop his killing of their children. This is a variant of the trope in that the parents are not dead and that Freddy is just a sadistic bastard like that.
  • Averted in the remake because Freddy was after the kids because they played stool pigeon, which led to him being burned. Still, considering what he was doing to them in the first place, it's still pretty much Disproportionate Retribution.
  • This... sort of, almost, counts: In Pirates of the Caribbean, the blood of all who have stolen from the Cursed Aztec Chest must be spilled onto it in order for the curse to be lifted. Unfortunately, Bootstrap Bill Turner happened to piss off his crew mates by mailing of a piece of the cursed gold to his son, and was tied to a cannon and dumped into the ocean. Thus, Barbossa is forced to look for his descendant, who apparently would have both the MacGuffin and the required blood. Of course, a young Elizabeth (assuming that it was a pirate medallion, and not wanting young Will to be executed as one) steals said MacGuffin, and then later (assuming the pirates would kidnap her due to her being the governor's daughter) uses the one name that would ensure her kidnapping. (To be fair, she didn't know that.) Thus pretty much setting the plot of the trilogy in motion. The Sins of Our Fathers part comes in when the crew of the Black Pearl is willing to kill the Turner child after they're done with them. (Because honestly, do you really think they would have let Elizabeth go if her blood worked?)
    • Wouldn't have let her go, but wouldn't have killed her.... After all, Barbossa does say "Waste not!" with a rather hideously evil lecherous grin. (though Elizabeth probably would have preferred death to that fate....)
      • "Do you know what the first thing I'm going to do is?" [group laughter] "Eat a whole bushel of apples."
      • Naw, those aren't that kind of pirates. They're not whoring and raping around, they're just looking for pleasurable company!
      • The Black Pearl pirates definitely are that kind of pirates, especially in the first movie. Even in the second Ragetti and Pintell, the comic relief duo clearly have rape in mind when they come to a situation where they have weapons and Elizabeth doesn't. Since they are the comic relief duo, the situation quickly turns against them, however.
      • Not to mention later in the film, when the Black Pearl sinks the Interceptor and imprisons the survivors. It's pretty obvious what the crew's intentions were when Barbossa tells Elizabeth it's time she "returned the favor" of their "hospitality."
  • In the 1999 version of House on Haunted Hill, the vengeful ghosts arranged the guest list for the party specifically to include the descendants of five members of Vannacutt's staff who didn't die in the long-ago fire so they could kill the descendants of the staff who tortured them decades ago.
    • Subverted when the last survivor in the house reveals that he's adopted, so is therefore spared by the ghosts. Although why someone who was adopted by a descendent is any less eligible to become a proxy-victim than someone who's genetically related raises still more Fridge Logic issues about the injustice of this trope.
  • In Lindsay Lohan's version of Freaky Friday, Anna's teacher subjects her to unfair treatment - simply because, when the teacher was younger, Anna's mother turned him down for a date.
  • In Hook, the eponymous villain tries to get revenge against Peter Pan by corrupting his children into recognizing him as their father. In the climax, in order to goad Peter Pan into fighting him, Hook threatens to hound Peter's children and their children's children for eternity.
  • In Sharpe's Peril, Sharpe discovers that Barabbas is actually the son of the man that killed Sharpe's wife. Sharpe then tries to kill him for the sins of his father, but he is stopped by Harper. Later, Sharpe asks Barabbas for his forgiveness, which is given, and at the end Barabbas saves Sharpe's life.
  • Used in both versions of The Fog, and directly cited in the remake.
  • Superman II; General Zod and his two cohorts hold a grudge against Superman for being trapped in the Phantom Zone for two decades, having been imprisoned by the hero's long-dead father. Superman was an infant when it happened.
    • In fact, regardless of the genre, any time a Phantom Zone inmate appears as a villain, revenge on Superman will be the motive, despite him having nothing to do with their original conviction or sentencing. More often than not, their actions prove their punishment was well-deserved.


  • The title character of The Count of Monte Cristo plans to kill his enemy Fernand's son Albert as part of his revenge, Invoking the trope by name.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Both expressed and inverted by Severus Snape. He torments Harry as revent for bullying he suffered at the hands of Harry's father James Potter (and James' friends), and because James won the love of Lily Evans, whom Snape loved (and Harry is a living demonstration of it). He also torments Harry because he owes the long-dead James a debt for James saving his life, and he hates it.
    • Fenrir Greyback bit Lupin in retaliation for Lupin's father offending him.
  • Murtagh from Eragon is imprisoned by the Vardens due to the crimes his father did.
    • Also because he grew up under the eye of their ultimate enemy Galbatorix.
  • The two (separately) "cursed" families in Holes - "You and your children and your children's children..."
  • A particularly ironic variation happens in Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities where Dr. Manette was unjustly imprisoned by two twins after he flubbed to the police about them raping a peasant girl and killing her brother. He is unfortunately imprisoned in the brutal Bastille, which eats away at his sanity. He writes a journal describing how he got there, but due to amnesia, forgets all about it once freed. Later in the book, Charles Darnay, his son-in-law, is up for trial in the crazy revolutionary France. When Dr. Manette asked who testified against him, it turns out Darnay . . . is the son of one of the twins that imprisoned him, and they know all about it thanks to the recovery of Dr. Manette's journal. Ultimately, at the end of the journal, he condemns all the posterity of the twins that imprisoned him, saying "I, Alexandre Manette . . . denounce to the times when all these things shall be answered for. I denounce them to Heaven and to earth." As thus, he ultimately wound up testifying against his son-in-law because of this trope.
  • The Book of Lord Shang advises that, if one charged with maintaining the law is to break the law, then he should receive the death penalty, and his children and grandchildren also be punished.
    • Which would come back to bite Shang in a big way when he and his family received this very punishment, which was among the reforms that Shang himself made to Qin law, after he was convicted of treason against King Huiwen of Qin. Family execution in general was known as the "Nine Exterminations," referring to the nine groups the offender's relations were categorized into (parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings and siblings-in-law, uncles, and the criminal himself) and in Ancient China, it was reserved for rebellion and treason, the worst capital offenses of the period.
  • In Melinda Metz's Fingerprints, one villain's mother was murdered. The villain wants revenge; and, because the murderer has since died of unrelated causes, decides to kill her daughter instead.
  • In the Death Gate Cycle, the Sartan Alfred flatly states that he refuses to accept responsibility for the crimes his ancestors committed against the Patryns, saying that he has a hard enough time dealing with the consequences of his own sins.
  • In The Children of Húrin, Morgoth exacts his revenge on Hurin for defying him by cursing his children and forcing him to watch as he slowly destroys their lives.

Live-Action TV

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In an ep actually named "Sins of the Father." Here Worf's late father, Mogh, is accused of treason, but only to cover up the fact Duras' powerful clan was responsible to avoid civil war. The Klingon High Council figured that since the only relation they knew of to that Klingon is Worf, a United Federation of Planets citizen, then he would be safe from any punishment this judgement would bring. Unfortunately, they didn't know about Worf has a brother, Kurn, and that both would care about their family so much that they would risk everything to travel to the Klingon homeworld to challenge the judgement.
    • Played with in the case of Duras. Worf clearly wants revenge on Duras, for Duras' father framing Worf's father for treason. He does not directly challenge him, as with Duras dead, Worf would never have the proof to regain his honour. Then Duras kills Worf's mate (and Alexander's mother), K'ehleyr... And Worf promptly shoves a Bat'leth through his chest in single-combat.
    • Subverted in a later episode; when Gowron offers Wolf the oppurunity for Worf to execute Duras' son, when the House of Duras' treachery comes to light and Worf's family honour is finally restored. Worf declines, pointing out that unlike his grandfather, father and aunts, he has committed no crime.
    • It is also mentioned in a couple episodes that the dishonor for certain crimes in Klingon culture is passed down for a certain number of generations. Worf actually lies about the heritage of the children of Klingon POWs that he discovered because allowing oneself to be captured shames the family for three generations, meaning that said children, and any future children they might have, would be tainted in Klingon society for their parent's perceived sins.
  • In Lost: Ben intends to kill Penny Widmore because her father's hired psycho killed Ben's daughter Alex.
  • Merlin also had an episode named "Sins of the Father", where Uther's Backstory and Arthur's birth comes to light. It ain't pretty.
  • In Sharpe's Peril, Sharpe happens to run into the bastard son of his late nemesis Hakeswill, currently under arrest for a theft he didn't commit. Sharpe beats the poor guy up until Harper stops him, but in the end Hakeswill Jr. saves the day and Sharpe and Harper's lives.
  • CSI: A recent episode had the killer of the week hunting down and executing the grandsons of the men responsible for her grandparents' deaths.
  • The Centauri start out in Babylon 5 as the targets of this from the Narn. Later they start doing their own sins.
  • An episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit had a whole plot centered around this. A teenage girl is found dead and about two or three months pregnant. At first, the detectives suspect her music teacher...but then it turns out he never touched her, only let her and her boyfriend use his apartment to have sex. It's then revealed that the baby has 62% of its DNA from the mother, meaning that the father is related to her. It turns out that her boyfriend, who fathered the baby, is her half brother since her mom's boyfriend (and her biological father) is her boyfriend's father, married to another woman.
  • Happens in the Tales from the Crypt episode "Suprise Party", with a side of Laser-Guided Karma. A man murders his father so he can inherit a house, which hosts partygoers who are eventually revealed to be the vengeful spirits of people his father had burned to death several decades ago. They'd been wanting to return the favor, but since the father is dead, they settle for getting revenge on the son instead.
    • They even reenacted the night of their murder, just to confirm that he deserved to die for his father's crime. The son acted exactly like his father.
  • Hilariously averted in an episode of El Chapulin Colorado where the hero got involved in the Romeo and Juliet story. Romeo asked Juliet's father if there was anyway the two families could reconcile. The reply: "I can forget your grandfather killed mine. I can forget your great-grandfather killed mine. I can even forget your great-great-grandfather killed mine." What Juliet's father would never forget is that the two families root for different sport teams.
  • In 2 Broke Girls Caroline is hated by many people because her father run a Ponzi Scheme that cost thousands of people their life savings. While Caroline did not know about the fraud, her lavish lifestyle was funded by the stolen money.


  • The Christian doctrine of original sin. Thanks a lot, Adam and Eve.
  • In The Bible, the penalty of breaking the second of the Ten Commandments (worshiping an idol or a false god), is that God will descend his punishment unto you, and your descendants up until the fourth generation. However on the flip side, glorifying him in a manner God finds acceptable, means blessings for a thousand generations.
    • Once, Noah... overindulged a little on the wine made from the first grapes produced after the Deluge. He got naked...and passed out. His son, Ham, noticed and decided to point and laugh before informing his brothers (who covered him up averting their eyes all the while). When he woke up and found out, Noah blessed his two other sons...and cursed Ham's grandson, saying that those descended from him would be destined to serve those of Ham's brothers.
    • God did, though, prohibit the execution of the wrong generation for the sins of a member of one generation, decreeing that each is to die only for their own sins. King Amaziah of Judah lays down this law when dealing with the two men that murdered his father (who had in his later years morally degenerated, but still).
  • A common ancient Greek moral concept, as exhibited in several myths. Tantalus was a vile murderer and cannibal, but his cursed descendants included innocent people forced to suffer for their ancestors' crimes.
    • The story of Pandora's Box is even more this. Pandora was sent to punish all humanity, forever, because the generation alive at the time accepted fire from Prometheus. The gods introduced old age, disease, and a variety of other nasty curses to humans, which their innocent descendants would have to suffer. Hesiod includes among those curses the existence of females, and rants about why women are an unmitigated curse to men. Ancient Greeks weren't sexist at all!

Tabletop Games

  • Possibly subverted by the Necrons of Warhammer 40,000. Their original enemies, the Old Ones, are now more-or-less absent from the galaxy, but the Necrons don't seem to go out of their way to kill the creations of the Old Ones, and indeed seem to mostly ignore the Eldar and Orks except when they happen to run into each other.
    • It's not so much ignoring as equal-opportunity-slaughtering. The Imperium of Man is just a few thousand times bigger than the handful of Eldar craftworlds, and no one cares or likely even hears of it when they do it to the Orks.
      • It's not like the Orks to complain about an inexhaustible source of fresh battle, and they also avert this trope for the same reason, and more so: killing Orks makes them release a lot of spores, that might otherwise come out only much later, if ever. Don't expect them to thank you, though, except with More Dakka.
  • In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, players can choose a flaw for their characters that has them hunted for the misdeeds of an ancestor, either by one extremely longlived being (which are a dime a dozen in the WoD) or by a line of hunters passing down the hunt over the generations. It makes a little more sense in the WoD, as werewolves can channel their ancestors' spirits.
    • Werewolf: The Forsaken has the Pure doing this to the Uratha. According to their creation myths, six of Father Wolf's children took out their aged, weakened ancestor; three of them held back, and when everything went to pot, blamed the six for it. The Forsaken's tribes have the spirits that killed Father Wolf as their totem spirits, while the Pure have those that stayed out of it for theirs, and the Pure are very interested in holding that grudge.
  • Heavily used in the Ravenloft setting.[context?]

Video Games

  • Ganondorf from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time vows to exterminate the descendants of Link, Zelda and the Six Sages after getting sealed into the Evil Realm in the climax of the game.
    • The worst part of the Ocarina of Time thing? He does. He caused the world to be flooded in Wind Waker... right?
      • Maybe. In any case a fair amount of people would have had to survive that flood anyway, if there are still people around.
      • Also, Ganon didn't flood the the world. The Gods flooded the world to seal Ganon, sealing many others in the process.
      • Ganondorf's words may refer to the events of A Link to the Past on the SNES, since Ocarina of Time was a clear prequel to it.
    • Don't forget the Twilight Realm, which is populated by the descendants of people who tried and failed to get the Triforce before Ganon was born.
  • Ace Attorney, Manfred von Karma. Whoo boy. Gregory Edgeworth made him receive a penalty in court, the tiniest blot on his perfect record, and von Karma murdered him while he was trapped in an elevator. He then adopted Edgeworth's ten year old son Miles and raised him to be a ruthless prosecutor who cared only for finding defendents guilty, letting Miles believe that he was the one who'd accidentally shot Gregory Edgeworth. A few days before the statute of limitations ran out von Karma framed him for a related murder, waited until Miles was cleared, and then reaccused him of his own father's murder. And he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling defense attorneys.
  • Final Fantasy X. The main antagonist of the story is literally a gigantic Sin of the Father conglomerate monstrosity.
    • First, Sin was originally created after Zanarkand lost a War against Bevelle. The ensuing destruction brought by Sin caused Machina to be all but abolished, and caused the Descendants of everyone else to forever live in terror of Sin. This then starts the primary ruling order by the Yevon Clergy, which is basically around desperately trying to atone for their Sins of Machina so they don't all get obliterated by Giga-Gravitones ever again. This lasts for a total of 1000 Years, more or less.
    • Even worse, Sin couldn't care less about the peoples' attempts to atone. Sin's only purpose is to protect Dream Zanarkand's Fayth cluster and its summoner Yu Yevon (what's left of him). The frequent attacks on Spira's population centers are meant to stunt Spira's growth as a civilization to prevent anyone from endangering the Fayth cluster.
  • There's a quest in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, where you must prove that the father of two characters you helped in a previous quest was a thief and recover what he stole. Here's the quest on the UESP Wiki.
  • In Baldur's Gate 2, Firkraag torments you partially to take revenge upon your foster father, Gorion, who injured him in a battle many years previously: Gorion died in the beginning of the first game, so he's had to settle for the second best thing. He himself admits that it wouldn't really bring him any closure or anything, but he can do it and thus he did.
  • Call of Duty 4 plays with the concept and lampshades it: the Big Bad's only son is also The Dragon, so The Squad goes after him, hoping to lure his father out. They succeed... in a way.

Gaz: The sins of our fathers...
Griggs: Heh. Ain't it a bitch?

  • Dragon Quest VIII. Rhapthorne, through his various proxies, hunts down the descendants of the seven sages who sealed him in the sceptre, many of whom are quite surprised and know literally nothing about him. Admittedly this was also pragmatic, since he had to kill them all to release his full power.
  • In Devil May Cry 3, Beowulf lost one of his eyes in battle with Sparda at some time in the past. When Dante arrives, Beowulf recognizes him as Sparda's son by his scent and goes on a rampage. Dante takes out his other eye, and Beowulf vows revenge on him as well. Unfortunately for Beowulf, he doesn't know Sparda had two sons, and he gets killed by Vergil.
    • The anime series gives us a demon who was once Sparda's apprentice and whom Sparda abandoned before or after his Heel Face Turn. Naturally, he wants revenge on Dante since Sparda is long dead at that time.
  • Homeworld: The Taidan Empire also uses this trope to wipe out the Kushan's planet. They broke a 4,000-year-old treaty forbidding the development of hyperspace engines... a treaty said descendants knew nothing about.
  • Inverted in the third Myst game. Saavedro attempts to visit the sins of the sons upon the father, after Atrus' children nearly destroyed his home "Narayan" and then cruely imprisoned him for 10 years alone on another Age. Saavedro reasons that with all the Lesson Ages he wrote, Atrus should have taught his sons better... and now intends to put Atrus through his own class.
    • Then inverted again in "Revelation", when Atrus acknowledges his past failings with his sons, in time for his youngest daughter Yeesha, to be kidnapped by her elder brothers. They want revenge for being imprisoned by their father, for over 20 years in seperate Prison Ages, barely habitable, and completely alone.
    • Her other brother Achenar, however, actually reformed, and was trying to protect her from Sirrus, who if anything, has gone even more crazy during his incarceration.
  • In the first Gabriel Knight game, appropriately subtitled...Sins of the Fathers, the main antagonist wants to exact revenge on Gabriel because he comes from a family of "shadow hunters", that is, hunters of the supernatural, and one of his relatives had angered the local undead voodoo priestess.
  • In Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, the Isle of Despair is a prison colony that no one ever escapes from. Men and women are sent there, and the women who don't flee to the Women's Camp become property in the men's camp. As do their female children.
  • The Gravemind in Halo appears to blame the Forerunners for the almost-extinction of his species millenia ago. Humans are descended from the Forerunners, therefore....
    • "Child of my enemy, why have you come? I offer no forgiveness. The father's sins pass to his son."
    • Of course, it's not clear whether he actually goes out of his way to kill humans or just goes about his business devouring all life in the galaxy.
      • This time, It's Personal. It would please the Gravemind to no end to prove the Forerunners wrong about their trust in humanity filling their shoes.
      • The Forerunner Saga clears some stuff up. Apparently, humanity was once an interstellar superpower on par with the Forerunners. They encountered the Flood first, and came up with a way to defeat it and drive it away (although it resurged later). The Gravemind's belief that the Flood consuming the galaxy will bring unity ("no more sadness, no more anger, no more envy...") puts his "who is victim, who is foe?" comments into perspective: he thinks he's helping, and humanity and the Forerunners are evil for stopping him.
  • In Mass Effect, Ashley's military family is looked down upon by the higher-ups because her grandfather surrendered to the turians in the First Contact War, despite the fact that he had no other options besides letting his troops starve. (The surrender marked the first and only time human territory was surrendered to aliens, since first contact was only 26 years before the events of the game and humans have since gotten along well with aliens.)
    • And the quarians in general, who suffer from racism and are repeatedly treated worse than dirt by the Citadel Government for the whole Geth Uprising that occured 300 years earlier.
    • Tali references this trope after getting drunk, in response to Miranda killing her father. She had discovered her own father had gotten himself, and everyone else on a research vessel, killed trying to reprogram the geth, endangering the entire live fleet in the process, leading her to ask "When do we get to stop reacting to our parents and start living for ourselves?" when asked is she sees a bit of herself in Miranda's conflict with her father.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening, Nathaniel Howe is attempting to Atone for his father Arl Rendon Howe's sins. A disturbingly high amount of players opt to have him killed in retaliation for his father's crimes despite the fact that Nathaniel hasn't seen his father since he was a child.
    • Also comes into play in the "Nature Of The Beast" quest: The werewolves' ancestors were human barbarians who were responsible for raping and murdering Zathrian's children, so he set upon them a werewolf curse that continued down upon their descendants. One of the ways to convince Zathrian to break the curse is to show him how his actions are hurting victims innocent of the original crime.
    • Casteless dwarves are known as "criminals and the children of criminals" - in dwarven society, people can be stripped of their social rank and barred from all legitimate occupations for committing crimes, and their descendants will be likewise cast out of society.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic the player is sent to a Republic prison planet that is experiencing riots and uprisings among the prison population. One of the rebelling groups is composed of descendants of prisoners. They are very angry that they are imprisoned on the planet even though they are not guilty of any crimes themselves.
  • In World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, the black dragon Wrathion makes it clear that he will not be held accountable for the crimes of Deathwing and the black dragon flight.
  • Sins of a Solar Empire has the Trader Emergency Coalition being punished by the return of the Advent, whom their ancestors cast out in exile. Now the Advent are coming back for revenge.
  • It is implied in Mafia: Definitive Edition that Salieri had Frank's wife and daughter killed besides Frank himself for turning state's evidence. This is sadly Truth in Television as relatives of Mafia pentiti are routinely killed to scare off potential turncoats and as a form of terrorism.

Western Animation

  • Inverted in Gargoyles with a family of humans hunting down the immortal Demona (and unfortunately all her kind) for her sins.
  • In Spider-Man: The Animated Series, there is an entire large set of episodes named this.
    • To elaborate; that was the season that dealt with Mary Jane's father, Harry's father, Peter's parents, and Felicia's father. It might have even mentioned Alistair Smythe's father. Peter's parents were found out to be spies. At first, Peter thought they were Russian spies, but they turned out to be double agents working for Nick Fury. Harry was dealing with his dad being the Green Goblin, and he became the Green Goblin for a while. Felicia's father turned out to be a Classy Cat Burglar who had the super soldier serum memorized, and taught Felicia all he knew in being a burglar after giving her the serum.
      • And then there's Wilson Fisk (Kingpin) and his son, Richard. Kingpin's backstory involves him taking a prison sentence to avoid implicating his father in a robbery gone south, and taking his revenge later. Naturally, Richard ends up going to prison to save Kingpin, who's left wondering how long it will take for history to repeat.
  • The Simpsons:

Horis Hurlbut: You are banned from this historical society! And your children! And your children's children! ... For three months.

  • Static Shock: Richie Foley never had his friends visit him because his father was a racist. When Virgil's sister pointed out how often Richie visited them and that Virgil never visited him, Richie had no choice but schedule a visit and hope his father wasn't around. He wasn't so lucky. Fortunately Virgil didn't hold it against Richie and Mr. Foley eventually changed his mind.
  • The 2007 motion capture 3-D movie adaptation of Beowulf had this for the eponymous Broken Ace with his illicit affair with Grendel's mother leads to the birth of a half demon (dragon?), golden-skinned son. When the truce between him and the female demon is broken, she sends out their son, who attacks a village in its dragon form, sparing alive a horribly burned survivor so that he would relay these exact words to the now king Beowulf: The sins of the father are visited upon the sons.
  • In Winx Club the descendants of the Three Ancestral Witches are eternally banned from all three of the schools, the Trix having lied on their entrance scrolls in order to attend Cloud Tower. While this seems harsh, considering how rotten the Trix turned out, it may have been justified.
  • The episode of Extreme Ghostbusters, "The Luck of the Irish", the villain is a leprechaun who goes after the descendants of a group who stole his pot of gold and trapped him in a magical prison; none of the victims have any idea what he's talking about. What the leprechaun naturally doesn't mention is that he was imprisoned for terrorizing New York's Irish population by cursing them with bad luck simply for his sadistic amusement, and that the supposed thieves gave the gold to charity. As Egon states, "we are not dealing with a rational creature here".

Web Comics

  • There's a big ceremony in the offing in Lumia's Kingdom and Lumia needs a dress. So some brain genius goes and hires the best seamstress in all the land to make it for her. Unfortunately, this was an incredibly stupid idea because the best seamstress around is a psychotic cannibal who has a blood grudge against Lumia's mother and any descendants thereof (oh shit) because Lumia's mother is the only person to have ever survived a fight with her. As long as she doesn't know who Lumia is, she's safe. So naturally, no one bothers to take the time to explain why she shouldn't bring up her parentage, and Lumia accidentally lets the cat outta the bag.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: the children living in the protection of a spell bought by her suffering are fair game.

Web Original

  • Ilias has to deal with the possibility of this in Shadowhunter Peril. He is the bastard child of Oblivion (a Physical God Hero-Killer who killed Kyle's father and Puriel's friend, as well as torturing and severely wounding other characters before finally being killed), and Anahita, Nicholas's mother and Bezaliel's lover. Basically when Ilias arrives nearly everyone hates him on sight, and it doesn't help he looks exactly like his father. Then it turns out that Oblivion is Not Quite Dead after all, and wants to kill Ilias too. So he's basically alone because everyone he knows either hates his guts because of his father's crimes, or wants him dead. But most of them have both feelings.

Real Life

  • All too common in any society which places family first and all other considerations a distant second. Even in societies that don't, it is all too easy to carry on a societal grudge for things that happened generations ago, as generations of Hatfields and McCoys and other families around the world who carried down feuds through generations can attest.
  • The Slave Trade. Far too often, an apology is made which goes something along the lines of "I'm sorry that my great-grandfather enslaved your great-grandfather". This is somewhat more justified than most, considering the amount of influence the institution had (and still has) on American society among several others.
  • The punishment for high treason in Imperial China is referred to as the "nine exterminations", i.e. execution of the criminal along with all of his relatives down to the ninth degree (by Chinese reckoning).
  • Inverted by the city councils of Manchester and Salford in connection to the 2011 England riots, where parents whose children took part in the riots were threatened with eviction from council housing. This is a bit of a grey area, since good behaviour is a requirement for staying in council housing in the first place.
  • If Gaia's Vengeance becomes Truth in Television, you can bet that those most at fault will have long since passed on.
  • Even over 70 years after World War II ended, current German citizens still have to deal with their nation being mocked (and in some cases, hated) by other countries due to the actions of the Nazis. Hence the seemingly-draconian-yet-understandable laws enacted by German authorities to ban anything about Nazism unless they are mentioned or depicted in a historical or artistic light.
  • Meanwhile, Japan remains hated amongst many Chinese and South Koreans for what was done to their countries during World War II as well as the conquests earlier. Interestingly averted in Southeast Asia, though, where hatred of Japan is much rarer despite having suffered their own share of atrocities.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger faced the above Nazism accusations when details of his father, Gustav Schwarzenegger, were revealed. Gustav served the Nazi Party and the SS, but fortunately for Arnie, there was no concrete evidence that the elder Schwarzenegger had been involved in any atrocities, and even if he did Arnold had no control over it either.
  • Children and relatives of crime family members would bear the brunt of retribution once their fathers turn pentito, as mentioned in the Mafia example above, as it is sadly routine for the Cosa Nostra and other Mafia-like organizations to kill immediate and extended family members both as a form of mob terrorism and to send a message to those who might try to turn against them. One such example was when Tommaso Buscetta's sons, a son-in-law, his brother, and a nephew were all murdered as a result for Buscetta's betrayal.
  • Relatives of sex offenders also get ostracized for the perp's crimes as well, even if they had nothing to do (or wanted nothing to do) with their relatives' atrocities. In a study[1] critiquing the effectiveness of sex offender registries, it has been noted that those associated or related to sex offenders get ostracized and shamed to oblivion. Children of sex offenders have been bullied by their peers at school for their fathers' crimes, and families are faced with eviction or in extreme cases vigilante action such as arson, harassment and stoning aimed to drive affected families out of the vicinity. Sex crimes are indeed abhorrent and are seen with disgust by everyone, but the shame faced by families who have no control over their relatives' sexual deviancy is just as sad as the pervs' victims.
  • A common accusation made to the Democrat Party is that they opposed Emancipation before the American Civil War, founded the Ku Klux Klan immediately afterwards, and Jim Crow laws later - all events repeatedly condemned by members of the DNC who were born after the Civil Rights Movement, which as of 2021, is almost all of them.
  • Almost a millennium later, The Crusades continue to be used as an excuse to condemn Christians. The Spanish Inquisition and Salem Witch Trials don't help either.