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"But my dad had no grandparents. Not a single cousin. I've never met another Wayne in Gotham ever. Are we dealing with generations of only childs marrying other only childs, with grandparent suicide pacts?"

For a lot of people, their grandparents are a fairly prominent feature in their lives, at least when they're young. With medical science advancing and more elderly people overcoming previous aversions to doctors and medication, grandparents being around well into people's adulthoods is fairly common these days.

So where are they in most works of fiction?

Sure, a fair number of sitcoms will have them pop up at least from time to time, especially when their grandchildren are youngsters (either the main characters or sons and daughters of the main characters). But in more dramatic TV series and movies, especially action, you can expect grandparents to not only be utterly absent, but the very concept never even mentioned.

This is especially telling in a shared universe setting where parental death is a common part of the backstory for the characters. They may wind up being raised by aunts, uncles, butlers, random rich people or wolves, or wind up in an orphanage. Which, hey, some people's grandparents just didn't live long enough to be a factor in this... but when you've got over 20 or so heroes with this in their backstory, and not one of them had one out of four grandparents live, it starts to become obvious as a World of No Grandparents.

The only conclusion one can draw from this is that apparently that particular generation gave birth to the hero's parents and, their purpose fulfilled, promptly croaked.

This trope is often just the most obvious symptom of a world where the main character apparently has absolutely no relatives other than his or her parents, sort of the exact opposite of a Tangled Family Tree. While it's possible that the hero might not have had aunts, uncles, cousins and so on, his or her parents had to come from somewhere. But these are not only never seen, but they're never mentioned; if ancestors beyond their parents are brought up, it's usually either ancient ones or at least a great-grandparent. This can also be a side effect of the Competence Zone, grandparents are seen has providing little of interest for the main characters.

This will often be seen in older franchises. The difference isn't just lower life expectancy in previous centuries, though; the frequency and means of immigration in the pre-jet era meant that many children born before 1940 never had the chance to meet their grandparents. When such franchises are updated and rebooted, the lack of family is much more out of place.

For the one-less-generation removed version of this trope, see Parental Abandonment. Compare Only Child Syndrome. A World Of No Parents is a Teenage Wasteland.

Examples of World of No Grandparents include:

Anime and Manga

  • After both of Naruto's parents die on the day of his birth, no one steps up to raise him, including members of either parent's family. Not only is neither family ever mentioned, but Jiraiya doesn't recall that he is Naruto's godfather until the moments before his death! There are minor characters Raised by Grandparents, even when it is illogical or unconvenient, but this seems to be because of Only Child Syndrome. Strange. You'd think a group of quasi-Spartan villages would be more reproductive.
    • ...well, given that the Spartans died out because they weren't that good at 'offspring living long enough to have offspring,' what with things like tossing any imperfectly-formed infants and rather letting foxes eat a hole into a boy's stomach than let them admit they had stolen the fox to eat...
      • Considering that the example in question involves a giant demon fox attacking, that Spartan reference is made all the more disturbing in context. Speaking of which, the lack more distant relations and even siblings in some cases can be explained by the fact that in the last two decades, Konoha has endured two major wars, a giant demon attacking it, two invasions, and several minor conflicts, including the genocide of an entire clan. Mass casualty events seem common enough that they put a major dent into the population. It's suggested that one reason nigh everybody in the village treated Naruto as though he were the Nine Tailed Fox was that everybody in the village knew someone who was killed in the attack.
    • Kushina's village was destroyed, so it's highly unlikely her family was around.
  • Yusuke and Kurama on Yu Yu Hakusho both have just their mothers. Atsuko had Yusuke at fourteen and there's every chance she was either already an orphan or disowned on the spot; his father is consicuously absent. Shiori seems to have had her son late in life, but although her husband is dead it's still surprising that neither her parents nor his appear when she's dying. Kuwabara's parents seem to be just straight-up neglectful, and Hiei's case is justified.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, the only people who are grandparents in the series are the characters who become grandparents when their children have children of their own during the course of the story (such as the Takamachis and Lindy). Teana lives with her brother after her parents die, and then lives alone after her brother dies.

Comic Books

  • The DCU is particularly bad about this, considering the sheer number of heroes who can include "orphaned at an early age" as part of their origin.
    • Bruce Wayne, orphaned at age 8. Despite being the heir of one of the oldest and most prominent families in Gotham (and possibly America), he is raised by his butler.
      • Possibly justified by the fact that Alfred was more or less considered family. But still, the complete lack of a mention of other relatives does feel odd.
        • In Golden and Silver Age comics, Bruce was raised by a relative, his uncle Philip Wayne; Alfred only raised him in modern comics.
        • Lampshaded in Shortpacked (see above quote).
        • Some other Waynes have appeared over the years including, believe it or not, BRUCE's OLDER BROTHER! Where has he been all these years? In a coma, apparently. The ghost hero Deadman actually took over his body for a while. He doesn't seem to exist Post-Crisis, however.
        • Also, Owlman, Batman's Evil Counterpart from a parallel universe, was Bruce's older brother rather him.
    • Ditto Oliver Queen. (Though he was always sort of Batman... WITH ARROWS! in his early days anyway.) Parents died in an animal attack on safari. Apparently raised by a business associate of his father.
    • Practically every Robin ever.
      • Dick Grayson's parents (and sometimes a sibling, depending on the version) fall to their death. The person that takes him in? A millionaire he'd never met before. This trope is recognized to such an extent in-universe that when someone did show up claiming to be one of Dick's relatives, everyone immediately disbelieved him outright.
      • A real uncle did turn up and successfully sue for custody fairly early in the comics' run--that is, in the forties. Of course, he was actually hoping to get Bruce to pay him a million dollars to get Dick back, and wound up trying to murder Batman and getting sent to jail. Unlike supervillains, he never appeared again, nor did his wife.
      • This troper has always preferred to believe Dick has relatives through his mother who, when they eventually found out she'd died in an accident halfway across the country and little Dickie-boy had been adopted by a millionaire, resolved to keep quiet so the law didn't turn around and deprive the kid of such a fantastic opportunity.
        • He does have an uncle in the comic based on Young Justice. The problem is that he's paralyzed due to the "accident" that killed Dick's parents, aunt, and cousin, and can't take care of him. Dick mentions in the same flashback that both of his grandfathers died before he was born.
        • On The Adventures of Superman, Bruce is taking care of Robin on Robin's father's request. Moreover, it's revealed that Robin has an estranged grandfather.
        • For a time in the Pre Crisis days, Dick had his Aunt Harriet Cooper. She was later used in the TV show.
      • Jason Todd's father died, and again Bruce Wayne takes in some random orphan he'd never met before. (Oh well, if Fate can get away with it...)
      • When Tim Drake's father died... well, you can see the pattern here. Since the Drakes were apparently almost as well known a family as the Waynes, this adds an extra notch of "Huh?" to the whole thing.
      • Tim's case is a little different: For one, he sought out Bruce and Dick after figuring out who they really were, and just about forced his way into becoming Robin, reasoning that Bruce needed it to keep him from going too dark. His father was still alive for quite awhile while he was Robin, and his cover was that he was working for Wayne. It was only after Bruce and Tim had been associated for quite awhile that Jack Drake was killed, and Tim was formally adopted by Bruce.
        • Note the trope title and summary, though: it still doesn't explain what happened to Tim's grandparents or other relatives.
    • Though Superman's parents were rebooted back to life after the Golden/Silver age, their parents are never really mentioned. This trope was (possibly unintentionally) lampshaded when, in Smallville, Clark responded to mention of Martha's father with a startled look and saying "My grandfather?" in a tone that clearly said, "I have one?!"
      • This makes sense with versions of Superman that were adopted by already aging Kents.
  • Marvel Comics is pretty bad about this, too, though since it's a slightly less common origin there (slightly), it's not quite as glaring.
    • Peter Parker's parents died in a plane crash, and he's raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, without much mention of any other family. (Though oddly, in the comic his aunt and uncle look more like his grandparents, the Fridge Logic of which has become more obvious to people in recent years.)
      • Peter's father was born when Ben was already an adult, so one can assume Peter's paternal grandparents would be too old. But no explination for Peter's mother's side.
    • Since many X-Men origin stories revolve around parents abandoning their mutant children, its assumed that the no one else in the kid's family would want a fish-boy/spiked/avalanche-making teenager...
    • In the Daredevil movie, Matt Murdock's father dies, and he's immediately bundled off to an orphanage. No mention of his father's or mother's parents. (The comic doesn't have them either, but Matt is over eighteen at the time, so it's a less obvious omission.)
      • It's implied in the Battlin' Jack Murdock mini that his mother's father didn't approve of her relationship with Jack Murdock, so she abandoned Matt and left to become a nun. Matt's maternal family may not even know he exists, and if they do, they may not care.
    • Averted (eventually) by the X-Men. After Cyclops' parents are apparently killed (but actually kidnapped by aliens) he spends years convinced he's an orphan. Eventually it's revealed that his father's parents are still alive (so is his father, but he's busy having a mid-life crisis being a Space Pirate), and they become a significant part of his life.

 Cyclops: I have grandparents?!?

Corsair: Most everyone does.



  • Harry Potter was born when his parents were 20 and shortly afterwards was left with only one surviving family member. Apparently all four of his grandparents had died. This is especially odd when you consider that James' parents were wizards, and wizards live longer than Muggles but still seem to generally have kids in their 20s and 30s. Not only should Harry's grandparents still be alive, so should his great-grandparents.
    • There is the Mirror of Erised scene in Book 1, but who knows if that's his real family or just what he imagines his family would have been like? Note that there's no mention at all of Petunia or Dudley being in the reflection.
    • Word of God was that Harry's grandparents all died of natural causes, and that James' parents specifically were quite old when they had him. About a hundred or so? J. K. Rowling's aversion to math is well-known.
      • Harry's grandparents all get (very) brief mention, as Sirius mentions James' parents taking him in when he ran away, and we get about a sentence mention of Lily's parents reaction to Platform Nine and Three Quarters. So they are there, but blink and you'll miss them.
    • Neville Longbottom is the only character known to have a living grandparent. Then again, wizards do live pretty dangerous lifestyles and there has been a very destructive war in the recent past.
      • Not quite. Teddy Lupin's maternal grandmother raised him after Remus and Tonks were killed in Battle of Hogwarts. Since there is no mention in the epilogue of Arthur or Molly dying, we can probably assume that most of the Next Gen kids have at least two living grandparents.
      • It's also implied that Draco's paternal grandfather had recently died in Half-Blood Prince, meaning he was probably still alive during the first few books, though we never see him to get any confirmation of that.
  • In A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Baudelaire orphans are raised by absurdly distant relatives (on the order of "fourth cousin three times removed") and later by people who aren't relatives at all, as if their grandparents or other relatively close relatives are simply not present. (Though in the book, Mr. Poe says that the children will be raised by whoever is most "convenient", and Count Olaf is simply the only "relative" of the children in the city, while in the movie, he explains that the children will stay with their "closest living relative", which he takes far more literally than probably intended, as Klaus starts to protest.) The movie gives this a Lampshade Hanging, in which Klaus observes that "none of our relatives are related to us".
    • As the series progresses it becomes apparent that all the guardians (or at least the first few) were part of VFD, and it's implied that the orphans' parents specifically intended for the children to stay with members of the group. Unfortunately, they didn't count on the schism.
  • Especially bad in Artemis Fowl, where fairies live for hundreds of years (usually over 1000) and Holly Short is stated in the first book to be somewhere in her eighties. So not only should her grandparents be alive, but her great-grandparents, her great-great-grandparents, and possibly her great-great-great-grandparents.
    • Of course, Holly states she lost her father when she is barely 60. It's not said why. Maybe he was hundreds of years old already at her birth, or died in an accident. Her mother died not long after she graduated from the academy from an occupational hazard.
    • We find out in the last book that the Fairies suffered a devastating magical disease recently in their history. That may explain why, although the natural lifespan of fairies is long, there are few very old ones named. Also, despite their long lifespans fairies reproduce at a slower rate than humans do, so it's likely that there are only three or four living generations at a time anyway.
  • The Giver uses this quite literally.
  • Stationery Voyagers is definitely this, if not bordering on Teenage Wasteland at times.
    • Pextel's parents and sister are all that's mentioned of his family. And they die of brain diseases. Cybomec likewise. (Both of them.)
    • Rhodney and Oceanoe don't even have their parents mentioned. It's only implied that Rhodney has any family at all. Oceanoe's only mentioned family is his brother. Likewise with Liquidon. As far as Viola's origins are concerned, her hometown pretty much is a Teenage Wasteland.
    • Neone, for all intents and purposes until she learns who her real parents are, would have thought herself lucky to have a mother, let alone grandparents.
    • Pinkella's lineage at least has enough decency to give her paternal grandfather a name: Gorrochius. But he's long dead.

Live Action TV

  • As to be expected with their Kill'Em All fetish, Supernatural has left the boys with no family whatsoever. It's been revealed that, somehow, all of their mother's family and friends were killed. Time Travel lets the boys' mother's parents show up, and we learn about their personalities and lives. However, we also get to see them die.
    • The sixth season reveals that some of their more distant relatives are still alive and their maternal grandfather has been resurrected. What happened to John's side of the family is less clear.
  • Averted in Stargate SG-1 by Col. Cameron Mitchell. He was raised (in part if not in whole) by his Bible-thumping grandmother, whom he often quotes.
    • There's also Daniel's "insane" (his words) maternal grandfather Nicholas Ballard in the episode "Crystal Skull".
  • On The Vampire Diaries, despite the fact that Elena's parents are all dead and Matt has been abandoned by his mother, we never see their grandparents. The only grandparent that has been shown is Bonnie's grandmother, who dies.
  • Massively averted in Charmed, where we start with the Charmed Ones' grandmother dying and end up with them teaching their own grandkids magic.

Tabletop Games

  • Completely averted with halflings in Dungeons and Dragons, who are mentioned to, when meeting another of their species, trace their respective family trees back as far as they can remember, hoping to see if they're related.
    • Taken almost to the point of parody by kender in the Dragonlance setting. The setting's resident halflings, a common kender greeting ritual when meeting one another is to walk back their own ancestry back to Uncle Trapspringer, a kender mythical figure. Thus, by kender logic, all kender are extremely distantly related and thus treat one another like long-lost brothers.
    • This is most likely based on Hobbits from Lord of the Rings who put huge emphasis on family and will often refer to each other by how they are related. Most famously, Bilbo and Frodo's are first and second cousin, once removed either way.

Video Games

  • Apparently Trucy Wright-nee-Gramarye has no known relatives on either side of her family, which allows her to be taken in by a disbarred bachelor.
    • Same for Miles Edgeworth, which allows him to be taken in by an Amoral Attorney from Germany.
    • Subverted with Kay Faraday, who goes to live with her mother's family after her father is killed.
  • Final Fantasy X. All but one of the main party members is an orphan (Rikku is the only one with a parent still alive, and she's still missing a mother) and none of them mention any grandparents. A Justified Trope with Sin kicking around.
    • All but two of the party members, that is.
    • But do you count as an orphan if you are * also* dead?

Web Comics

  • Justified in Tales of the Questor. In spite of the fact that Word of God (and extra material published in the archival CDs) indicate that Racconans have an average lifespan of 250 years, we never see Quentyn's grandparents, great grandparents, etc. However it has been revealed that a rather lethal plague had swept through Antillia about 100 years ago, killing off many of the very young and very old, as well as savagely pruning the otherwise large family trees one would expect from such a long-lived species.

Western Animation

  • Darkwing Duck: Gosalyn's grandfather was murdered shortly after her parents died, getting her sent to an orphanage until the Diabolical Mastermind who ordered the hit on said grandfather came looking for her. Hence how she ended up adopted by The Hero.
  • All the parents of the cast of Danny Phantom are present and accounted for, but only one grandparent has ever shown in the series: Sam's grandma. Danny did mention his "Grandpa Fenton" in one episode.
  • Averted in The Land Before Time. After Littlefoot's mother dies, his grandparents raise him from that point onwards. Although there is no mention of his paternal grandparents, or the grandparents of any of his friends.
    • Littlefoot's father is shown to be part of a migratory herd of Longnecks (Apatosaur/Brontosaur) so it's not impossible that the rest of his father's family is also constantly on the move.
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