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"Yeah, sir, you might want to send a maintenance man over to that office across the way. The lights are off, and they must be looking for a fuse box, 'cause them flashlights, they keep me awake."

Creating an original character is hard work. First you have to come up with a decent Backstory and personality. Then you have to go and put them in these really tedious plots and situations where they have to, you know, interact with people and do things. More of a hassle than it's worth, really. So many people are doing the same thing all the time. How do you make a character really stand out?

What if it turns out that the character was responsible for a major well-known incident?

Enter The Gump. While in many cases an original and often very well-written character in their own right, this character simply cannot get around the fact that a good chunk of his screen time is being the driving force behind major events that have already been written or described by others. In effect, he is made more interesting by association due to having "guest starred" in a suitably major event. Just like anything else, it depends on the strength of the writing. If done well, The Gump can be a brilliant twist on an old historical event or previous plot. If not, then he can be a leech who drains strength of character for himself at the expense of the host event.

Not to be confused with flying furniture of the same name from The Marvelous Land of Oz and Return to Oz, nor the elf in Legend.

Almost always the source of a Historical In-Joke. See Seemingly-Profound Fool, Mistaken for Special Guest. When done poorly or overbearingly, can be a sign of a Canon Sue. Contrast Beethoven Was an Alien Spy where they simply use the real person.

Examples of The Gump include:


Anime and Manga

  • Millennium Actress. During an interview, the eponymous actress leads a film crew through all the various historical epics she starred in over the years, covering 600 years of Japanese history, where they turn up as characters.


Comic Books

  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen features Orlando, a gender-changing Immortal who fights in every major war from Troy to World War II, as well as causing the rift between Romulus and Remus and posing for the Mona Lisa. Also, he started the Renaissance.
  • The Sandman occasionally features Morpheus becoming involved with or perpetuating some of history's biggest legends. Throughout the Fables and Reflections trade paperback, he is the catalyst behind the City of Glass myth, as well as giving Joshua Norton the dream to become the Emperor of the United States on a bet with his siblings. He also made an arrangement with Shakespeare, giving him the stories and the immortality he wanted in return for two plays: A Midsummer Night's Dream as a gift to Oberon and Titania, and The Tempest for himself.
    • The Greek poet Orpheus was also suitably retconned into becoming Morpheus' son, with many of the Endless helping to perpetuate his famous descent into the Underworld to retrieve his dead wife. For that matter, many of Apollo's deeds are explained as Morpheus' doing, with him explaining that Apollo was a god of storytellers and legends; aspects which fall under Dream's purview and confuse casual listeners.
    • All explainable by the fact that it's Dream's job to inspire people to greatness. So most people with lasting fame have interacted with him in some level.
  • Atomic Robo alternately averts this trope and plays it straight. Robo participates in World War II in a story where Robo is off on a side mission while real-life soldiers are fighting real-life battles; goes along for the ride for the first Mars probe mission but does not contribute anything to the actual accomplishments of NASA; and he declares himself neutral during the Cold War. He has, however, been to the moon, but probably well after humans had already made it. Essentially, Atomic Robo is The Gump in that he's around for all sorts of historical events, but he's an aversion because he never takes away from what was done by historical human beings.
    • It's the stated intention of the producers not to reduce the significance of any historical figures' effort or sacrifice.
  • In Marvel Comics, Rick Jones even recognized in his autobiography he was "Gumping" the Marvel Universe.
  • Don Rosa likes to do this too. In The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, Scrooge is shown to be the reason Theodore Roosevelt went back into politics (and the origin of some of Roosevelt's famous quotes). Scrooge also gave Buffalo Bill the idea to do Wild West shows, and was a major influence on Jack London's The Call of the Wild. He also meets Wyatt Earp, sails on the Cutty Sark and witnesses the eruption of Krakatoa, nearly became the owner of the real world Anaconda Copper Mine, causes the sinking of Titanic, etc. etc. etc.
    • What makes this even more impressive is that Rosa definitely did the research with regard to where these people were and how they acted at the time Scrooge met them.
      • Well, except Geronimo, who is far more laid back than his real world counterpart, and in place he couldn't possibly be at the time (in Buffalo Bill's circus instead of being confined in a reservation), but he makes it a Running Gag of how nobody recognizes him until the end - not even the reader if he's only familiar with his Spanish name.
  • Being "The Spirit of the 20th Century", Jenny Sparks from the Wildstorm Universe was a part of every major event from 1900 to 2000, including the Titanic and "Shagging the three main players in World War Two". The most outrageous of these was when she was living in Vienna and told a local struggling artist to give up, because his paintings were no good. But he was a good public speaker, so maybe he should consider going into politics. But first he'd have to change his name, because nobody was going to vote for somebody named Adolf Schicklegruber.
  • In Tag And Bink Are Dead, the title characters are inept padawans turned rebels who are responsible for several things in the Star Wars series, such as helping a young Anakin Skywalker romance Padme.
    • Tag and Bink have actually had a number of comics. Somehow they find themselves involved in almost every major event of the movies, and any gaffes or plot holes from the series are usually credited to the pair.
  • In Sandman: Endless Nights, a cocktail party of the gods, at the dawn of time, ends up Gumping the origins of both Superman and the Green Lantern Corps.
    • Similarly, in James Robinson's Starman, Jack Knight becomes a Gump to Jor-El, father of Superman, by giving him hints of where to find Earth.
  • Several times, Mortadelo Y Filemon have become the Gumps of several important historical events. For example, in El Quinto Centenario, drawn to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America, they get accidentally sent to the past and become part of the crew that discovers America, next to Cristobal Colón (who resembles Felipe González, Spanish President in 1992) and Fray Requemado Sinsilla (who is drawn to be like Alfonso Guerra, Spain's vicepresident in 1992), Pepe Gotera, Otilio and Rompetechos (all of them Ibáñez's characters). For example, Mortadelo and Filemón cause the sinking of the Pinta in the Americas.
    • Siglo XX, ¡qué progreso! has Mortadelo, Filemón, Ofelia and Bacterio travel to the start of the twentieth century, and become part of history: they cause the Russian-Japanese War, World War I and II, Ofelia becomes Mata-Hari and kills Rasputin, they meet the Wright brothers, Mortadelo and Filemón are nearly executed during the Spanish Civil War, they become acquainted with many small and great inventions...
  • Why does the Sphinx have no nose? Answer: Obelix broke it.

Film

  • The Trope Namer, Forrest Gump, was based around this concept. Throughout the movie (and source novel) that shared his name, he was responsible for any number of historical events: exposing the Watergate break-ins, teaching Elvis how to dance, was involved in a famous anti-Vietnam rally, and founded the real world corporation BubbaGump shrimp (although the restaurant chain was created in response to the movie). Among other things.
  • The Trope Maker, Zelig. While he doesn't actually discover anything, the earlier and influential Woody Allen film is a Mockumentary detailing the title character's celebrity and includes old photos of him posed with famous people as well as interviews from real academics about him. The movie does a good job of justifying why its audience would never have heard of Zelig by treating him as one of many fads of the 1920s and 1930s, forgotten when the public discovered something new of interest.
  • The Life of Brian shows Brian interacting with Jesus, being mistaken for Jesus, and being involved in numerous other Bible shenanigans.
    • "He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy!"
  • The second National Treasure movie featured a minor character, Nicholas Cage's character's great-grandfather, burning a vital clue to a hidden treasure given to him by John Wilkes Booth minutes before the assassination of President Lincoln, thus preventing the Confederates from recovering the treasure and having the funding to start a second Civil War.
  • Jackie Chan's and Owen Wilson's characters from Shanghai Knights have on their record, among other things, creating the names of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, getting Doyle interested in writing, and getting Charlie Chaplin interested in acting.
    • Ignoring the errors that they present (Chaplin was born in 1889, two years after the movie is set), there was also Jackie Chan's sister getting attacked by Jack the Ripper.
  • In The Man From Earth, John Oldman reveals that's he's probably the man that would later be known as Jesus.
    • And he was buddies with Van Gogh.
    • And he studied under the Buddha.
    • The Man From Earth plays this straight and also averts it: John barely remembers a lot of the historical events he took part in, because at the time he took part in them, they were not important historical events, just things that he happened to do that day. It was only later, upon reading history books, that he realized his probable involvement.
  • Inspired by the success of Forrest Gump, a Hong Kong movie called The Umbrella Story has three generations of umbrella makers being visited by assorted classic Hong Kong film stars from as early as the '50s.
  • In the 1999 film Dick, the Watergate break-in is unwittingly exposed by two ditzy teenage girls.
    • Who are also responsible for the 18 minute gap in Nixon's tapes.
  • The fictional Czech genius Jára Cimrman has been involved in just as many historical events as Forrest Gump; for instance, in the movie Jára Cimrman lying, sleeping, his biography, he - among other things - aids Eiffel with the design of his tower, advises Anton Chekhov to write Three Sisters rather than two, and inspires Marconi to invent a wireless telegraph after accidentally breaking down his telegraph poles. Oh yes, and he also invented the light bulb, dynamite, etc. (but arrived at the patent office a minute after Edison and Nobel, respectively).
  • Space Jam posits that Michael Jordan was persuaded to unretire from basketball by the Looney Tunes and evil cartoon aliens. One suspects they were not involved in real life.
  • Parodied to hell and back by Walk Hard - Dewey frequently meets famous musicians, from Elvis to the Beatles, but they are all deliberately horribly miscast (Jack Black as Paul McCartney?) and Dewey always refers to all of them by their full names. The scene with The Beatles takes it the furthest - they all deliberately state that there is a rift between the four of them, George Harrison complains that they never let him write songs, and they all really obviously drop the names of songs that hadn't been written yet.
    • Also, Dewey apparently invents punk.
  • According to Ridley Scott, Robin Hood (2010 film) is responsible for the Magna Carta.
  • Titanic implies that its heroes inadvertently doomed the ship--the watchmen didn't see the iceberg soon enough because they were distracted by Jack and Rose kissing on the deck. These two also manage to visit pretty much every area of the ship as it sinks and one moment or another, and are even on the stern when the ship goes down. Between Jack, Rose, and a few other main characters, we see pretty much every major episode of the sinking.
  • In Back to The Future, we see that Marty is responsible for the skateboard, the frisbee, rock and roll, inspiring a black janitor to become mayor, and his own name.
    • Only in the alternate timeline created by his actions, though. It's not a Stable Time Loop.
  • Company Man, a 2000 comedy movie, had a whole cast of these that set the stage for the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
  • According to an interview by a Bill and Ted fansite, Bill and Ted was originally going to be one of these movies. With these two idiots causing the Titanic and the Holocaust as they travelled through time, but this was considered "too dark".
  • A blink-and-miss moment in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows implies that Moriarty arranged the murder of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria as part of a carefully elaborate plan to spark a world war in 1891.
  • In Batman Begins, Ra's Al Ghul claims that the League of Shadows took part in the sacking of the Roman Empire, filled trade ships with plague rats contributing to the Black Death, and burned London to the ground. Plus, their last attempt to destroy Gotham using economics turned it into the Wretched Hive it is at the time the movie takes place.


Literature

  • Nick "Ace" Geraci, from The Godfather sequels, is a rare case where The Gump turns out to be the canon explanation for events as the licensed continuation of the franchise. He is responsible for beating the two college kids who assaulted Bonasera's daughter. He executed Tessio in the first chapter of The Godfather Returns as a test of loyalty to the Family. Later on, he manipulates Fredo into unwittingly betraying Michael by offering him help with a plan that would show his worth to Michael. Finally, he kidnaps and executes Tom Hagen by strapping him into a car and driving him into the Florida Everglades.
  • The Flashman series often moves in this direction, having him not only indirectly responsible for important events in British history, but also having him as the inspiration for The Prisoner of Zenda and Uncle Tom's Cabin (!). One novella, Flashman and the Tiger, has him getting the Sherlock Scan from lawyer friendly cameos of Sherlock Holmes and Watson and isn't as well done since the series (outside of the characters of Tom Browns Schooldays) doesn't have literary characters as real people, only as the inspirations for them.
    • Fictional uncertainties aside, Flashman certainly serves as a splendid Gump, as his career spans virtually every notable conflict in the world from the First Afghan War to the Boxer Rebellion (though sadly his author died before recounting some of Flashman's highest-profile adventures, e.g. the American Civil War and (most) of the Zulu War).
  • Sharpe is a similar example - if he'd been killed in India, Britain would probably have lost the Napoleonic Wars. Some things Sharpe is responsible for: saving the Duke of Wellington's life; the explosion at Almeida; leading the Forlorn Hope at Ciudad Rodrigo; shooting the Prince of Orange at the Battle of Waterloo; helping the Chilean Revolution to succeed.
    • Similarly, the character of Uhtred from the Saxon Stories series is involved in most of Alfred the Great's campaigns against the Danes. His absence from historical records is explained in-universe as the result of a dislike for the pagan Uhtred on the part of the Christian monks who wrote them. In both cases, the series began as attempts to depict the careers of famous historical figures- the Duke of Wellington and Alfred the Great, respectively- from a different, more earthy perspective than usual.
  • The Brazilian novel O Homem Que Matou Getulio Vargas (released in English as Twelve Fingers: Biography of an Anarchist) has an interesting inversion - he main character, a Serbian assassin, would be responsible for several historical events, like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the transport of french troops to the Marne and the bribery of the Jury who put Al Capone in jail, if he didn't always screw up. He does however "suicide" the titular Brazilian president (who is distantly related to him).
  • Another Brazilian book, O Vampiro Que Descobriu O Brasil has a Portuguese vampire coming after the body snatching one that bit him, leading both to Brazil. They stumble on every possible historical fact, of course.
  • The Others from the Night Watch 'verse. Name a war, a cause, a philosophy, an artist - it was either them or they were The Man Behind the Man.
    • Notably they've had a few big experiments tried to fix the world they helped bring about. Including the communist revolution, capitalism, and democracy. Oh and Christianity...
  • My Nine Lives By Clio is a children's picture book about a Gump who happens to be a cat. She's the inspiration for the invention of constellations, the alphabet, sundials, forks, and parachutes, among other things. Oh, and she's the reason for the Mona Lisa's smile.
  • The Science of Discworld novels posit our world being a sort of novelty science experiment on the Discworld, where the wizards' meddling is not only responsible for life in general, but more specifically Shakespeare's and Darwin's successes.
  • Inverted in the Horatio Hornblower series, where the author deliberately keeps Horatio out of the way of most of the major historical events of the time. One would imagine this gets harder as Hornblower progresses up the ranks, eventually ending up as a Admiral.
    • Commodore Hornblower, set in 1812, specifically places Hornblower in the Baltic dealing with Russia. This was to avoid any mention of the War of 1812 between the British and the USA. The stories themselves were written 1937 to 1967, and avoiding any hint of conflict between the RN and the USA was a priority.
  • Similarly inverted in Gustave Flaubert's Sentimental Education which, despite being set around the tumultuous events of the 1848 French Revolution, makes sure its hero is absent for the most dramatic events, (such as going on 'honeymoon' with his love interest).
  • In the Earth's Children series, the protagonist Ayla was solely responsible (with a little help from Jondalar) for many of the most important technological discoveries of her prehistoric era, including domestication of horses and dogs, sewing needles, starting fires using flint, the travois, and the atlatl.
  • The Thursday Next novels start out set in a clearly alternate reality, but via the actions of the books (and healthy doses of Time Travel) the setting gets closer and closer to our world as the series progresses.
  • Captain Alatriste from the Spanish series of adventure books meets several historical figures and takes part in several historical events.
  • Randall Flagg from The Stand deserves an honourable mention. He remembers being involved in many of the most horrifying events in recent American History, everything from The Mason Family to handing Lee harvey Oswald pamphlets, meetind Donald Defreeze (and suggesting the name Cinque in the first place), went to school with Carles Starkweather, and plenty else. All the more horrifying in that he has absolutely no investment in any of this, any misguided cause, or even desire to profit. He just likes to be part of the hate.
  • Both main characters in Robert Merle's Fortune de France series. They interact with an lot of historical figures, and are parts of important events during XVI and XVIIth centuries.
  • The Chee from Animorphs are very long lived androids who helped build the pyramids and use advanced holographic projections to masquerade as humans, appearing to age normally and eventually faking theirs deaths and assuming new identities when they decide they're getting too old. Some of the people they refer to are Moses (Erek's "father" was his law professor), Catherine the Great (Erek used to cut her hair) and Roosevelt (Erek "was the White House butler when he suggested the phrase "New Deal". Of course, it was during a poker game."). One Chee is also said to have been a famous actress in a previous life-cycle.
    • Averted, too: For example, Eric mentions he worked on the pyramids--as a slave hauling blocks.
  • In Good Omens, Crowley owns the original sketch of the Mona Lisa. A footnote then re-constructs a conversation between Crowley and da Vinci in which the artist blows off the lower quality of the painting, because "who's going to see it?" He goes on to ask Crowley about an invention, which apparently he later takes credit for.
  • Ender's Shadow retells Ender's Game from the perspective of Bean, who is revealed to have been responsible for a lot of Ender's successes, making him this trope in a fictional setting. (And provoking some people to consider him a Canon Sue.)
  • John Jakes' Kent Family Chronicles could own this trope. Starting with The Bastard, it takes its young French hero through young manhood - where his best friend is the Marquis de Lafayette - sends him to England in search of his true parentage, then fleeing to the Colonies when framed by unscrupulous relatives, and arriving in Philadelphia just in time to meet and take advice from Benjamin Franklin (he even becomes a successful printer!). This continues through several novels and even more generations, as he and his descendants frolic through an all-star reading of history.
  • Elias Vaughn in the Star Trek Novel Verse. Introduced in the Star Trek Deep Space Nine relaunch, he was an elderly Starfleet officer with a long history in Starfleet Special Operations. He went on to make apperances in novels fleshing out many established events in the Federation's history; the Tomed Incident, the Betreka Nebula Incident, the fight to liberate Betazed from the Dominion, among others. That well-known but as-yet-unexplored historical event? Vaughn will probably have been involved. Some readers certainly feel this trope got over-used with Vaughn.
  • In Time Cat the protagonist, Jason, travels through time via magic and ends up being a part of many historical events and meeting and influencing various famous figures from the past.
  • In Uller Uprising, the heroes get much-needed information from a porn novel whose author is a stickler for historical detail mixed in with the pornography. The main character of the novel is a very HOT Gump.

 "The heroine is a sort of super-Mata-Hari, who is, alternately and sometimes simultaneously, in the pay of the Nazis, the Soviets, the Vatican, Chiang Kai-Shek, the Japanese Emperor, and the Jewish International Bankers, and she sleeps with everybody but Joe Stalin and Mao Tse-tung, and of course, she is in on every step of the A-bomb project. She even manages to stow away on the Enola Gay, with the help of a general she's spent fifty incandescent pages seducing."

  • In Jin Yong novel The Deer and the Cauldron, Wei Xiaobao blunders his way into several historical events, including the signing of the first equal treaty between China and a foreign power and being the first to step foot on an island that later fell into dispute between China and Japan.
    • Jin Yong novels in general pretty much fall under Historical Fiction, with the characters influencing or being a part of historical events.
  • The entire point of half the novel Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann (The Hundred-year-old who stepped out through the window and disappeared), which devotes every other chapter to the long and exciting life of its protagonist.
  • The Amelia Peabody novels center around a family of Egyptologists working in Egypt in the 1880's-1920's (so far). Since they have to make discoveries periodically, the author has them make all the discoveries of Flinders Petrie, a real-life Egyptologist who worked in the same era. In order to avoid awkwardness due to actually meeting him, the author gave the main character's husband an uncontrollable dislike of him.


Live Action TV

  • The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Befriending T.E. Lawrence and helping him take Jerusalem, drinking with Picasso, losing his virginity to Mata Hari, inspiring the Red Baron to paint his plane red, killing Dracula himself, and hunting Al Capone is just some of the less extreme contrivances in young Henry Jones Junior's life. If he or she's famous in the 20th century, Indy has probably met, befriended, fought, fallen in love with, killed or slept with that person.
    • The book series added a bit more. For example, Indy was discussing the origins and bases of the character of Sherlock Holmes with Arthur Conan Doyle shortly before returning to the United States. Aboard the Titanic.
    • And in a reversal, Jenny Sparks from The Authority is said to have known Indiana Jones and convinced an Austrian painter named Adolf to take up politics.
      • Somewhat justified there, in that Jenny is literally the "spirit of the 20th century" -- being The Gump is pretty much part of the job description.
  • In Just Shoot Me, Nina Van Horn's A&E Biography had her responsible for busting Studio 54, breaking up the Music/Eagles, and a historic answer to Wheel of Fortune, among other things.
  • Like Forrest Gump, the Cigarette Smoking Man from The X Files has been responsible for the JFK assassination, rigged the Oscars, sabotaged the Soviet Union's goalie to allow for the US comeback in the 1980 Olympics, arranged a change of venue for the officers involved in the Rodney King beating, and has vowed that the Buffalo Bills will never win a Super Bowl and has taken steps to make that happen.
    • Lampshaded when CSM delivers a long, cynical speech that begins with "Life is like a box of chocolates..."
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: A flashback in the Anya-centric "Selfless" episode shows the ex-vengeance demon and her friend Halfrek dining in a room full of massacred victims in St. Petersburg in the year 1905. Halfrek praises her for granting a wish which seemingly sparked the Russian Revolution.

 Halfrek: There’s a revolution going on outside that you are somewhat responsible for. Aren’t you the teeniest bit interested?

Anyanka: Well, what is there to be interested in? The worked will overthrow absolutism and lead the proletariat to a victorious revolution, resulting in socio-economic paradise on Earth. It’s common sense, really.

    • Anya's past Marxism is a comical allusion to her later Patriotic Fervor which sees her fall deeply in love with capitalism.
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Doctor, the Doctor. So far, not counting offhand references, which would fill a page all on their own, he's:
  • An episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine takes a slightly different track. During an episode where much of the main cast was transported to the time period of the original series, they were responsible for many offscreen events which took place during "The Trouble With Tribbles" episode. Thus, it is an example of DS9 playing The Gump to another fictional series.
    • Particularly notable because the technology used to insert Forrest Gump in historical footage is exactly the one used to create this episode. The very episode was inspired by a technician showing off some quick'n'dirty insertion in an original Star Trek episode. (It helped that the TOS masters were surprisingly well preserved.)
  • Immortals in Highlander:The Series live for centuries, so they have plenty of opportunity to mix with some pivotal events. Given their potential lifespan, if a character doesn't actively seek out an historic event, it's likely that one will just happen while their around.
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and to a greater extent Xena: Warrior Princess each had the titular characters delving into full-on Gumpdom.
    • Hercules embedded Excalibur itself in stone, found himself caught up in the Norse gods' Rag Na Rok, invented the Olympics (with Salmoneus providing the name), saved King Midas from his gold curse and was present at the destruction of Atlantis. Iolaus, meanwhile, was implied to be one of the Three Wise Men and helped claim the Golden Fleece.
    • Xena was responsible for Lucifer's fall from grace. She also gave a donkey to a certain pregnant couple on their way to Nazareth. By way of Greece. She took the Sword out of the Stone and then put it back in. She aided Boadicea's army and was the pirate captain that captured Julius Caesar. Yes. Xena is the master chef of the Anachronism Stew. She puts a bit of herself into each delicious bowl.
  • Drew Carey's mother in The Drew Carey Show was apparently responsible for a number of famous things, including inventing the term "Rock and Roll". Drew refers to her as "Florence Gump".
  • Brazilian miniseries Copas de Mel had the titular character and her husband helping Brazil conquer most of its FIFA World Cups.
  • Vorenus and Pullo on Rome have been described as the Forrest Gumps (Sylvanus Gumpae) of Ancient Rome. They are the direct cause of, or at least heavily involved in, several key events during the late republican years through the rise of Augustus. A few examples include: Pullo actually fathering Caesarion (Caesar's son by Cleopatra), the results of one of Pullo's barfights leading to Caesar crossing the Rubicon, saving Octavius from captivity, finding Cleopatra, Vorenus helping Marc Antony committ suicide, Vorenus' departure from the senate house making it possible for Brutus and company to murder Caesar, Pullo killing Cicero... And that's just a few examples.
    • Lampshaded in that one of the aforementioned episodes is even called "How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic."
    • In another they have a chance to capture Pompey after the Battle of Pharsalus but let him go. Caesar is not amused but concludes they must have "powerful gods on their side" considering how much unlikely shit they've gone through and decides not to punish them.
  • Quantum Leap often had Sam Beckett being responsible for a great many things while in the guise of various people. Creator Donald Bellisario referred to these as "kisses with history," giving Sam a chance to slyly affect the world more than just what the main plot required. Among the many things that Sam is responsible for are teaching The Twist to Chubby Checker, performing the Heimlich Maneuver on Dr. Heimlich, giving a young Stephen King ideas for some scary stories, encouraging Buddy Holly to continue with music (even helping him write "Peggy Sue" by trying to catch a pig), and teaching the Moon Walk to a young Michael Jackson.
    • By the last season, these became less subtle. Sam leapt into Marilyn Monroe's personal bodyguard (keeping her alive long enough to make The Misfits), Lee Harvey Oswald (where it turns out that Jackie Onassis Kennedy died in the original history) and Elvis Presley (having to ensure the King of Rock and Roll would get his big break).
  • In the flashbacks of Lost's fifth season finale, the infamous Jacob appears repeatedly in other peoples' flashbacks, always being responsible for something important in those characters' lives: he buys Kate the lunchbox she uses for her time capsule, gives Sawyer a pen with which to write his letter to the real Sawyer, preventing Sayid from being hit by the car that kills Nadia, saying hello to Sun and Jin at their wedding, asking Ilana for help with an unspecified task, speaking to--and possibly reviving--Locke after he is thrown out a window, giving Jack a candy bar after his first surgery, and convincing Hurley to return to the island.
    • In a simply "stumbling through history" case, Nikki and Paulo's episode shows them discovering the Beechcraft and the Pearl station before the other castaways, and seeing major events of the show (the plane crash, the "live together, die alone" speech, and in a deleted scene, the discharge).
  • A episode of Blossom spoofed the trope namer in a dream sequence. Blossom had the Gump role and was responsible for inadvertently giving Michael Jackson the inspiration for the moonwalk. The parody is spoiled because the writers Did Not Do the Research -- they meet after the Pepsi commercial shoot which left him injured, which was in 1984. He first performed the moonwalk the previous year.
  • In an episode of Red Dwarf, Lister ends up playing a part in the JFK assassination, thanks to time travel abuse. (Of course, he doesn't actually pull the trigger, he merely convinces JFK to go back in time and assassinate himself.)
  • Dr. Helen Magnus from Sanctuary is 160 years old, has lived through the entire 20th century (give or take a few decades in Victorian London), and has had various run-ins with various historical figures including most U.S. Presidents and world leaders. The last time she was shipwrecked was "April, 1912." The opening theme has shown photographs of her with Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart and Gandhi. She and a couple of school chums were directly responsible for the success of the D-Day invasion at Normandy - and the school chums in question were Nikola Tesla and James Watson (Sherlock Holmes himself). Oh, and her fiance was Jack the Ripper.

 Helen: There is such a thing as before my time!

Will: *skeptical look* Really?

Helen: Cheeky monkey!

  • According to Jack of All Trades, there was no Louisiana Purchase. Napoleon lost all the territory in a card game with the Daring Dragoon.
    • Also, the Daring Dragoon prevented Napoleon from using a certain statue he planned to give to the US as a Trojan Horse, while distracting the French with a friendly game of American football... which wasn't invented until over 80 years later.
  • In Once Upon a Time, Rumpelstiltskin is present throughout most of the different fairy tales, even replacing the role of the Fairy Godmother in "Cinderella" and the Beast in "Beauty and The Beast".

Music

  • In Australian singer-songwriter Iain Campbell-Smith's song, Century Girl, the narrator (possibly the "Spirit of the 20th Century", see Jenny Sparks above) describes his life of having participated in every important moment of the 20th century, from fighting in Gallipoli to being a hippie. My ass got burned when Saigon fell, re-education was another kind of hell, uh huh!
  • The music video of Wir sind Wir. The photographer is there during the reconstruction post WW 2, was at a famous soccer game, and the fall of the Berlin wall (he even took pictures of it going up).
  • Sympathy For The Devil includes the narrator being involved, or at least present, in the life and death of Jesus, the Russian revolution, the Blitzkrieg, the Hundred Years War, and the assassination of both John and Robert Kennedy.
  • The Trope Namer, of course, also inspired a "Weird Al" Yankovic song.

Tabletop RPG

  • In Vampire: The Masquerade, vampires are usually behind the scenes in most of the biggest scenes in recorded history, right down to the first of all vampires being Cain(e)'s curse after slaying Abel. Although sometimes it is hard to tell what's truth and what's a lie; for instance, no fewer than three of the clans proudly claim to have Rasputin among their numbers.
    • The clanbooks usually implied the Storyteller was free to decide which, if any, claims were actually true.
    • It gets even better when you add the other Old World of Darkness games into the mix and it's revealed that among the Cherusci of Arminius were not only Brujah vampires but also Get of Fenris werewolves, Verbena mages and probably a half dozen other supernatural creatures - that never met each other. In more modern times, you can have a mayor in any given city that is ghouled by the vampires, bribed by the werewolf Big Bad Pentex, mindcontrolled by the Technocracy and puppeteered by the wraiths...
    • A running joke in our gaming group was that only four humans have nothing to do with the myriad supernaturals (and their human hangers on) in the oWoD, and three of them are Elvis.
      • One can then deduce that the fourth was Hitler, who was repeatedly stated not to have been a member or pawn of any supernatural faction, even as sourcebooks kept on attributing greater and greater control of history to various shadowy conspiracies. Apparently, even a game with rules about how hard rape and mass murder ding your Karma Meter can't have even its genocidal villains associated with the Nazis...
    • It was Lucifer, of all people, who single-handedly started the Scientific Revolution.
  • The New World of Darkness has taken a few steps away from this, for the most part. For the most part. Requiem for Rome implies that Rome's vampires were pulling a lot of strings during the Roman Empire's heights. And the first one was Remus.
    • Promethean: The Created hints that a Promethean was "the Person from Porlock" who prevented Coleridge from finishing "Kubla Khan", and that a Qashmallim inspired it in the first place.
  • Time and Temp lets the time-traveling PCs do this if they do a good enough job.
  • Witch Girls Adventures has a lot of it. Most gods, mythical heroes, legendary monsters and the like are somewhat distorted accounts of witches and otherkin; witches were major players in the Underground Railroad and were responsible for starting the American civil war; open Witch and Otherkin influence was pivotal in the flourishing of science and the arts in the late 19th and early 20th century and Allied victory in World War II -- but was later erased from records and memory by the witches; the Flower Power movement was the result of a large-scale spell cast by the counselor and several students at Coventry school for girls... it goes on like this for a bit.


Video Games

  • Aldo Trapani, the main character from The Godfather: The Game, serves as the Corleone Family's personal Gump. He is responsible for helping Rocco in removing Khartoum's head and placing it in Woltz's bed, beating the two kids who raped the Bonasera's daughter, assassinating both Paulie Gatto and Salvatore Tessio for betraying the Family, hiding the pistol Michael would use to kill Solozzo and McCluskey, and participating in the assassination of the heads of the Five Families.
  • A City of Villains character can run missions that set up events for heroes at the equivalent level. For example, a heroic storyarc starts off when a gang get their hands on a powerful spellbook and accidentally summon a major demon. A villainous contact at the same level range offers a mission to steal a spellbook and plant it for members of a minor gang to find...
    • Of course, as City of Villains launched over two years later than City Of Heroes, chances are by the time your villain plants the book, your various hero characters will already have stopped the demon several times. Gameplay and Story Segregation at its finest...
      • For another example, one villainous badge mission involves spreading some drug called Outbreak around Paragon City. That is the drug that caused the contaminated infestation of the heroes' tutorial zone.
    • With the introduction of Ouroboros time travel arcs, villains can assist the rise of the Big Bad and heroes and villains can become key figures in the Council overthrow of the 5th Column.
  • Similar to the City of Villains example above, DC Universe Online often has parallel missions between Heroes and Villains. Usually the Villain mission would logically occur before the hero missions (for example: a villain mission about stealing weapons from the military and distributing them to local thugs will lead to a hero mission to stop thugs armed with military grade weaponry).
  • The Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater is the United States' Queen of this trope. By the very end it is revealed that she participated in major Nuclear Bomb's testing, became the first human in space before Yuri Gagarin, participated in the Normandy landing, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, and Project Mercury.
    • Well, to be fair, the Metal Gear universe is very AU about these things. Like the fact that the Boss's unit single-handedly ended World War 2.
    • In-universe, Johnny Sasaki lives and breathes this trope. By sheer coincidence, he winds up getting involved as a minor Mook in all of Snake's missions [1], and his grandfather (also named Johnny) personally met Big Boss while serving as a guard at Grosnyj Grad in Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater. Despite his stupidity and general bumbling nature, he's one of the few recurring characters to actually survive all that insanity--which Snake happily lampshades.

 "How the hell did you survive ten years?"

  • Galen "Starkiller" Marek, the Villain Protagonist of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. If it is to be believed, he is the one responsible for bringing together the various Rebel faction leaders in order to form the Alliance. To top it all off, the design of his family's crest is posthumously adopted as the symbol for the new Alliance.
    • It was really Kota who did most of the important work. He was the one who located and contacted all of the Rebel leaders, and Galen never would have gotten as far as he did without his guidance. Not to mention the fact that the future Rebel senators were not only already familiar with each other, but that their plans for an Alliance went back as far as before the Empire was declared. The only reason Galen got all the credit is probably because he did most of the fighting, along with his Heroic Sacrifice aboard the Death Star I. It would be more accurate to say that Galen, Kota, and the rest of the Rogue Shadow crew were collectively The Gump.
    • A lesser Gump would be the star of a manga, Vader's second and very much younger secret apprentice, Tao. Tao, apparently, was responsible for re-awakening remorse in the Dark Lord.
    • There are actually a lot of Gumps in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Any time someone makes a game and they want to set it during the movies, if they don't stick with the movie characters, they will make important new ones. There are a whole mess of people responsible for getting the Death Star plans to Leia, for example, like Bria Tharen and Kyle Katarn.
      • Not quite a mess. The recovery of the Death Star plans first appeared in a four player Table Top Game. The four player characters were later identified as four named characters, including the above two.
      • Shadows of the Empire's story starts around the same time as The Empire Strikes Back. As such, the protagonist Dash Rendar took part in the Battle of Hoth; this was only mentioned in the novel, but an actual level in the game. Notably, it was the first time a Star Wars game allowed the player to take part in a movie battle like it (excluding the Death Star trench run from A New Hope), and nearly every classic-trilogy Star Wars game since has had a Hoth level if the developers could find an excuse to add one.
  • In Assassin's Creed I, Altaïr Ibn La'Ahad becomes one at the Battle of Arsuf, encouraging King Richard to open negotiations with Saladin. Richard did open negotiations after Arsuf, but they failed to end the conflict. He also kills Robert de Sable there in the game's continuity.
    • Ditto with Ezio Auditore da Firenze in Assassin's Creed II, with the most notable example being a friendship with Leonardo da Vinci and Machiavelli, as well as an involvement with the infamous "Bonfire of the Vanities." If it happened during the Renaissance, Ezio probably had something to do with it.
      • An attempt at a comprehensive list: he personally defended Lorenzo de' Medici from the assassination attempt at Florence's cathedral and escorted him to safety, killed Francesco de' Pazzi and hung his body from the Palazzo della Signoria, personally hunted down and assassinated his co-conspirators, then was involved with no less than three consecutive doges of Venice -- Giovanni Mocenigo (failed to protect and framed for the killing), Marco Barbarigo (assassinated by Ezio), and Agostino Barbarigo (succeeded Marco) -- before assisting Cristoforo Colombo in sailing to "the New World," then fought in both the conflict following the death of the lord of Forli and Imola, and in the Bonfire of the Vanities (mercy-killing the "mad monk" Girolamo Savanarola -- for which Rodrigo Borgia's papacy would take credit). Afterward, Ezio personally assaulted The Pope right after Christmas (ahistorical), undermined the Borgia papacy for three years, caused the Pope's death (albeit having been on his way to kill him), directly caused Cesare Borgia's downfall and arrest, and then was the man who threw Cesare from a wall to his death in 1507. Whew! *takes a breath*
    • Oh, and he dated Amerigo Vespucci's cousin.
    • A subtler version occurs in Brotherhood, where it's implied that Ezio gives Niccolò Machiavelli the idea of virtù.
      • According to the lead writer for Brotherhood, when Machiavelli mentioned that he intended to write a book about Ezio one day, that book would ironically be The Prince.
      • The novelization of the game has Machiavelli taking notes during Ezio's speeches.
    • Not to mention Suleiman (later Suleiman the Magnificent) in Revelations.
    • Connor of Assassin's Creed III looks to become one too, as he will work with George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Charles Lee during this game.
  • Before Crisis and Crisis Core are undisputedly lord and master of this trope, as it turns out Zack was responsible for Yuffie's Materia obession, the bar where Tifa works being named Seventh Heaven, Aerith wearing pink and is now the only reason Cloud took up the persona of a SOLDIER First Class due to "passing on his memories" to Cloud. The Turks meanwhile turn out to have been present for Cid's failed rocket launch, the burning of Barret's hometown, the burning of Cloud and Tifa's hometown, Cloud's first fight with Sephiroth, they are responsible for Azul ending up in Deepground, Red XIII being able to procreate and are the reason for why when you visit the Midgar model in the Shinra building, one part of Midgar is unlike the rest. Finally Genesis has become one of the primary reasons why Sephiroth went crazy, while Angeal has his place in the story as the origin of the Buster Sword.
  • In Evil Genius, criminal mastermind Lord Kane is thought to have had a hand in every major crime of the 20th Century, from the assassination of Franz Ferdinand to the fire that destroyed the Hindenburg. To this day he insists that his greatest act of villainy was simply the result of one of his minions mishearing his instruction "A bit of light panic, I think, eh?" as "That ship, the Titanic, sink her."
    • Lord Kane nothing. You are responsible for the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  • Alex Mason, the protagonist from Call of Duty Black Ops, fights in Havana during the Bay of Pigs invasion and assassinates Castro (actually a body double). Once captured, he is sent to the infamous Vorkuta gulag. Upon his release, he receives his orders from Robert McNamara and JFK themselves. He almost single-handedly saves Khe Sanh in the precursor to the Tet offensive. And it is later revealed that he was the second shooter who killed JFK.
    • An in-universe example from Modern Warfare 3: after it is exposed that Makarov knows Yuri, Yuri tells Price about his involvement in various affairs earlier in the series - he and Makarov were in the jeep that got Zakhaev safely away after Price shot his arm off in Pripyat, they were there to personally detonate Al-Asad's nuke, and Yuri was meant to be a sixth shooter in the airport massacre, though he was shot in the gut after having second thoughts and ended up trying to stop the massacre only to fall unconscious from blood loss.


Web Original

  • In the SPECWEAPS story series, a lot of events throughout history and the modern day have apparently been caused by weaponization of and warfare between Eldritch Abominations. Specifically, the originals.
  • The collective story of the AH.com Eternals strays into this. The immortal named Gregorios has so far served as an ambassador for the Emperor Anastasius, been a trader on the Silk Road, lived as a farmer (and charged as a witch) in Anglo-Saxon England, been "executed" by the Sassanids, fought in the Battle of Septimania, inspired the writing of Beowulf, worked as a merchant in Tang China, lived as a Yakut nomad, served in the Byzantine navy, defended Paris against a Viking invasion, circumnavigated medieval Ireland, fought in the Welsh armies against the invading Anglo-Saxons, went with Leif Ericsson to discover Vinland, became a tribal chief in the Miqmaq nation, served as an interpreter in the Crusader States, became Balian of Ibelin, was sold as a slave after the Venetians sacked Constantinople, served as interpreter and guide for Marco Polo, inspired the image of The Grim Reaper, fathered the Romanov dynasty, fought at the final Fall of Constantinople, sailed with Christopher Columbus to the New World, got painted into "The Last Judgement Day," fought with the Catholic League during the French Wars of Religion, took part in the first production of Romeo and Juliet, became one of the founding members of the Plymouth Colony, served as a professor or languages at Harvard, rode circuit as a doctor in colonial Virginia, dumped tea at the Boston Tea Party, and fought in both the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.]] And he's only told his story up to 1827.
  • The "Sarkozy Was There" meme does this to French President Nicholas Sarkozy. This was done in reaction to having falsely claimed a photo of him taking a hammer to the Berlin Wall was taken on the day that it fell, when it was actually taken a full week later.
  • Although the write-ups usually try to hint rather than state things outright (it's more fun that way), several SCPs are implied to have been involved or caused various historical events, including what we thought was the atomic bomb.


Web Comics


Western Animation

  • The reason why the Sphinx of Giza has no nose varies depending on which work it appears in.
  • The 1953 Disney cartoon Ben And Me was about a mouse who was responsible for most of Benjamin Franklin's greatest achievements, and even had an indirect role in the writing of the Declaration of Independence.
    • It was based on a book by the same name. There was also "Mr. Revere and I", by the same author, though that's less of a case of the Gump, and more just an onlooker at many of the events, since it's narrated by Paul Revere's horse.
  • Variation occurs in The Lion King 1 1/2, where main characters Timon and Pumbaa cause events of the original film without knowing; the entire thing was an excuse to spoof Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
  • Episode "Infinite Realms" in Danny Phantom had Danny and his friends traveling through time via natural ghost portals in pursuit of Vlad, triggering both the Great Fires of Rome and the landing of the Wright Brothers' plane in Kitty Hawk during their chase.
  • The classic Roswell that Ends Well episode of Futurama features the stars traveling back in time and arriving in Roswell, New Mexico. Zoidberg is captured by the army, along with Bender's shattered body, making them the alien and "spacecraft remains" secretly held inside Area 51.

 Bender: That's no flying saucer. That's my ass!

    • Futurama did it a second time in the direct-to-DVD Bender's Big Score. The story involves Bender being sent back in time to the year 2000 to kill Fry. Unable to find him, he tracks down every Philip J. Fry in the country. One of them happens to be in Florida, counting ballots from the recent election. Bender enters and begins firing a laser gun, and one of the stray blasts destroys a large stack of ballots labeled "Gore".
    • In-universe (er) example: When Bender goes back in time to steal the Nobel Peace Prize, in his escape, it is revealed he is the cause of the first destruction of New York City, an event seen briefly through a window in the pilot episode.
  • Done hilariously in Pinky and The Brain. When Pinky runs for President, his small third party (the "Pink Party") only has one guy on the staff: "Sweaty Pete", who takes credit for many major failures of US Presidents and their campaigns. He claims to have suggested Nixon's nervousness on camera, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, and the infamously dorky shot of Dukakis poking his head out of a tank. He is seemingly oblivious to how badly all of these things backfired.
  • Family Guy is practically made of these. Every episode the viewers are nearly guaranteed a reference to when any of the Griffins or their ancestors did something that altered history in some way.
  • The Animaniacs, of course. Due to their ability to exist in several time periods, have had run ins with several historical figures and had a big influence over their achievements. They've inspired Albert Einstein to write E=MC^2, helped Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel, and inspired Picasso.
  • Similarly, Histeria! had a group of kids what would appear in every era, interact with several historical figures, and somehow inspiring them. They've given Benjamin Franklin several of his famous proverbs, invented the Franklin Stove, and helped him discover electricity in lightning. They also inspired Rosa Parks not to move to the back of the bus, inspire Thomas Edison to invent the lightbulb, among other things.
  • In a "what if" episode of The Boondocks (in which Martin Luther King, Jr. awakens from a coma), it is revealed that Robert "Grandad" Freeman was originally part of Rosa Parks' bus sit-in, but was completely ignored. Ever since then, Grandad felt that Parks "stole his thunder" and left her harassing phone calls right up until her death. Oh, and he never did get his five dollars from Malcolm X.
    • And he was supposed to be one of the protesters Bull Connor turned firehoses on, but he went home to get a raincoat and missed the march. Robert gets a lot of these related to the civil rights movement.
  • Liberty's Kids has the titular kids who manage to meet every important revolutionary war figure and be at every important event from 1773 to 1789 (without aging). Justified in that the kids are portrayed as workers for Benjamin Franklin's newspaper, which kind of gave them an in.
  • Two animated shorts starring Scrat were actually about him accidentally causing the continents to break up and move to their current positions while attempting to bury an acorn. And for some reason, the Earth's continents move to their current locations twice.
  • One Code Monkeys episode had Dave give the phrase "jam on" to Michael Jackson, while working on what would be Moonwalker. He also offers up several that he's said over the years, such as "talk to the hand", "my bad" and "this is TOTALLY rape". By the end of the episode, the staff at Gameavision is responsible for everything wrong with Michael that wasn't the fault of his father or various gold diggers.
  • Time Squad invokes this trope by going back in time and helping major historical figures do what they're supposed to do.
  • American Dragon Jake Long invokes this trope in at least two episodes.
    • "Fu and Tell": While fighting for an artifact belonging to Fu's family, Fu Dog and Yan Yan got involved in several historical moments.
    • "Hero of the Hourglass": Fu Dog made Atlantis sink.
  • The Fairly Odd Parents: Cosmo sunk Atlantis nine times, caused the volcanic eruption that destroyed Pompeii and George Washington used his head as a cannon ball to win a battle.
  • The cold open for the Arthur episode "Arthur Wrecks a Computer" shows Arthur in different time periods accidentally smashing off the Sphinx's nose, breaking of Venus de Milo's arms, and cracking the Liberty Bell.
  • According to DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp, Merlock was actually responsible for the destruction of Atlantis.
  • The Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, France has two pillars on its balcony missing, one of its gargoyles broken off, and the doorknob smashed off one of its doors. According to the climax of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo broke off those two pillars which Frollo chained him to to save Esmeralda from being burned at the stake, during the final battle Frollo smashes off the doorknob on one of the cathedral doors to enter the cathedral, and the damaged gargoyle was the one the dispatched Frollo in the end.
  • In the episode of Xiaolin Showdown where Dojo turns into an evil, two-headed monster, the reason why Dojo had to be locked in a cage whenever he becomes this form (in which Omi accidentally freed) is because, according to Master Fung, the last time Dojo became evil he actually sunk Atlantis.
  • The titular robot in BURN-E, a Pixar short derived from WALL-E, is sort of an inversion; each of the major events in the film turn out to have impacted his comparatively trivial problems.

Notes

  1. As a member of the Genome Soldiers in Metal Gear Solid, as one of the Gurlukovich mercenaries in Metal Gear Solid 2 Sons of Liberty, and as a member of Rat Patrol 01 in Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots
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