|Trope · Genre|
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De-Aging is a story trope where adult characters are turned back into children or younger adults. The transformation can be fully physical and mental. It can also be a physical transformation that leaves the adult mind in a younger body; or the opposite, where the mind is reverted to a child-like state, but the body remains as is.
It is a popular genre in fandoms that allow for magic such as Harry Potter or have wacky science fiction technology that writers can use in lieu of a magic wand. De-aging can be written as humor, even crackfic, or as h/c, forcing characters to take care of each other. The story can also be a serious examination of changed power dynamics in the character's relationships.
In some fandoms, de-aging of certain characters to a younger adult or teenager is used to explore the sexual dynamics of a pairing where a perceived age gap now exists. It can also be used as a way to write underage stories that aren't "really" underage. In SGA fandom, photos and film clips from David Hewlett's days as an attractive younger actor contributed to the popularity of de-aged Rodney McKay stories.
In stories where only the character's mind is affected, the trope can come perilously close to AU stories that depict real mental disability with all the risks of ableism that comes with that territory. (See Disability fic for more details.)
De-aging is the opposite of aging characters up.
De-aging in Canon
- In the fifth season Supernatural episode "Meat Swap," Sam Winchester was bodyswapped with a young teenage boy. Sam had to interact with the boy's family as a teenager in a teenage body, and the boy pretended to be Sam in an example of aging up.
- In the seventh season Stargate SG-1 episode "Fragile Balance," the Asgard clone Jack O'Neill and create a teenage Jack with all the adult Jack's knowledge and memories. The character has gone on to star in many, many fanworks.
- In the fifth season SGA episode "The Shrine," Rodney McKay experiences a Pegasus disease called Second Childhood. The resulting mental deterioration to a child-like state seemed intended to resemble real conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.
- In several episodes of Quantum Leap, Dr. Sam Beckett "leaps" into the body of a child, and must discover and fix whatever the problem is while facing a child's lack of attention and respect from the people around him.
- In the Young Justice comic series #51, Anita Fite's parents are de-aged to infancy and she takes custody of them.
- In the sixth season Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Rascals," Captain Picard, Ensign Ro, Guinan, and Keiko O'Brien are turned into 12-year-olds by a transporter accident.
- (Angel: The Series, Buffy): Childish Things by Elgrey Angel Investigations is sent a mysterious pendant and amulet, which turns Angel’s associates into children. Now responsible for an eight year-old Wesley, six year-old Cordelia, and four year-old Gunn, Angel seeks the assistance of Buffy, Giles, and the Scoobies in Sunnydale. Words: Words: 91,268. Pairing: Angel/Buffy, Buffy/Gunn, Tara/Willow.
- (Angel: The Series, Buffy): New All Over by elgrey. When Wesley intercepts an amulet sent to Giles, he is changed from an annoying adult Watcher into an eight-year-old boy. Set post ‘Consequences’ in S3 of Buffy. Words: 119, 425. Pairing: Angel/Buffy, Oz/Willow
- (Angel: The Series, Buffy): Reboot by zombiequentin. Angel survives the final battle to find Gunn and Wesley de-aged.
- (Angel: The Series): Spikes’s Very Bad Day by elgrey. After an accident with an amulet, Spike ends up having to take care of a four year old Fred, Gunn, and Wesley. Lots of people die. Words: 30,358. Gen.
- (The Avengers Movieverse): Childhood of Rebellion by BeesKnees. After Thor tries to introduce Jane to Odin and Frigga as his future wife, he is banished, stripped of his powers, and de-aged as punishment. At the same time, Frigga is pregnant with Baldr, leaving Thor with little chance to return. Loki comes looking for his brother. Words: 3548. Gen.
- (The Avengers Movieverse): The Evil Men Do by otherhawk. Steve gets a morality question from an unexpected source. Oh, and three of the team are turned into children. Words: 2269.
- (The Avengers Movieverse): Lockdown, Standdown, Shutdown by shieldivarius. It would probably be hilarious to see any other Avenger’s age cut in half. Natasha was different. Words: 9175.
- (The Avengers Movieverse): Of Course You Realize, This Means War by [[icarus_chained]. Nick looked at the six terrified ten-year olds, and recognised the Avengers. Words: 1218
- (The Avengers Movieverse): You’ll Find The Bright Places by BlackEyedGirl. Fury temples his fingers together. “Tell me how this started?” Phil tries to give a reasonable report of today's incident. As he spent most of his day trying to keep grade-school aged versions of his team away from a team of gunmen, he has only limited success. Words: 5654.
- (The Avengers Movieverse): Youth In Revolt by RebeccaOTool. Loki turns the Avengers into toddlers. Woe unto Loki. Words: 12,801. Gen.
- (Dong Bang Shin Ki): Snips 'n' Snails series
- (Harry Potter) : A Nick In Time by Tira Nog -- perhaps the best known of the huge number of Harry Potter examples
- (Hawaii 5-0): Morning finds you still warm and breathing by sirona
- (Magnificent 7): Something Wicked by Mary K. (ATF universe)
- (Merlin): The Foundling by Kiva Taliana. Merlin has a rather odd accident; Gaius and Arthur are stretched to breaking point, while Merlin sees the world in a whole new light. Words: 47,054. Gen.
- (Naruto, KakaIru): Morning Shows The Day (or, Iruka and Kakashi's Excellent Adventure) by AvocadoLove
- (Naruto, Kakairu): Responsibilities (the “You’ve Got to be Kidding Me” remix) by tucuxi. A fic remix of fanart by jofelly, written for the KakaIru Fest.
- (Starsky & Hutch): Return to Innocence by Mona Pulsipher: In it, Starsky's mind reverts to that of a five-year old.
- (Star Trek:TOS): The Child Within Us - one of the earliest examples of the genre in any fandom (1981) (also listed below under Fanzines)
- (Star Trek (2009)) : Dvel A'ri by TeaOli
- (Supernatural): Hello, Goodbye by zekkass There's something strange about the two kids Bobby's taken in, and Dean means to find out everything he can about them. Words: 2,153. Gen.
- (Supernatural): The Littlest Hunter by bluebells. As punishment for disobeying, Castiel is sent back in time in the form of a young child - only to be unofficially adopted by John Winchester. Words: 24,568. Gen.
- (Supernatural): Miracle Anti-Aging Cream by vikki. "Dean, it's Castiel," the child said. "I believe the witch's spell has had an effect after all."
- (Supernatural): Ponies, Sharks and Froot Loops by geek6. It was over; the Apocalypse had been averted. Sam/Lucifer had jumped into the hole with Adam/Michael. Castiel and Bobby weren’t dead, and neither was Dean, despite the fact that without Sam he wanted to be. Then Castiel had upped and left him.
- (X-Men: First Class): The Welfare of A Child by oddegg Written for the 1stclass-kink meme prompt: Charles gets turned into a kid/baby. While the team scrabble to work out how to put him right they try to look after him. Turns out, Charles doesn't need much looking after. If he's a baby, he never cries. If he's a little kid, he's really self-sufficient. Everyone's charmed/amused by this except one person (Sean) who is really unnerved by this. All babies cry. Kids that age are not that independent - they're just not. Unless they're used to nothing happening when they cry/used to fending for themselves. Words: 2116. Gen.
- there's a lot in Sentinel, mostly Jim Ellison de-aged -- we need an example
Thematic lists for de-aging fic
- De-aged Harry (Harry Potter)
- De-aged Severus (Harry Potter)
- HP De-Aging stories (Harry Potter)
- SGA De-aging stories (Stargate Atlantis)
- De-aged Jack O'Neill (Stargate SG-1)
- De-aged Starsky and Hutch (Starsky & Hutch)
- Age Regression tag on Archive of Our Own.
Zines focused on De-Aging
- Little Daniel (SG-1)
- Little Stargate (SG-1)
- Wayward Son (SG-1)
- The Child Within Us (Star Trek: TOS) (1981)
- Healing (Sentinel)