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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 hurt/comfort, 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. Also, in the tenth season a witch casts a spell that de-ages Dean to a teenage boy.
- 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.
- At the beginning of Teen Wolf's season 4, Derek Hale is turned into a teenager, with no recollection of what happened after he met Kate Argent. De-aged Derek was played by the same actor who portrayed him in flashbacks.
- Childhood of Rebellion by BeesKnees. Thor is de-aged.(Gen)
- 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.
- Lockdown, Standdown, Shutdown by shieldivarius. Natasha Romanov is de-aged.
- Of Course You Realize, This Means War by icarus_chained. Nick Fury looked at the six terrified ten-year olds, and recognised the Avengers.
- You’ll Find The Bright Places by BlackEyedGirl. Phil Coulson 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.
- Youth In Revolt by RebeccaOTool. Loki turns the Avengers into toddlers. Woe unto Loki. (Gen)
- lil avengers by hallpen, fanart of de-aged Avengers team in school.
- Amateur Theatrics by galaxysoup. Loki gets mentally and physically de-aged, Clint Barton as caretaker.
- Childish Things by Elgrey. (Angel/Buffy, Buffy/Gunn, Tara/Willow)
- New All Over by elgrey. (Angel/Buffy, Oz/Willow)
- Reboot by zombiequentin.
- Spikes’s Very Bad Day by elgrey. (Gen)
- Young and reckless by silverynight. Newt is de-aged back to his fifteen-year-old self, and Theseus and Percival struggle to keep him in check.
- Puppy Love by Anonymous, Felix is hit with a spell that regresses him to his pre-Duscur personality
- Dog Days Are Over by foxxcub. Arthur and Eames are de-aged back to their teenage selves thanks to an overdose of experimental Somnacin. (Arthur/Eames)
- Rock the Cradle by ItsClydeBitches. De-aged Balem Abrasax, Jupiter Jones as caretaker.
- 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. (Gen)
- Morning Shows The Day (or, Iruka and Kakashi's Excellent Adventure) by AvocadoLove (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. (KakaIru)
- "Oh To Be Young Again...!!" -- a February 1969 fic by Louise Stange in the last issue of The Crewman's Log -- this is probably the very earliest story in media fandom that uses this trope
- The Child Within Us - an early example of the genre in any fandom (1981)
- Dvel A'ri by TeaOli
- Hello, Goodbye by zekkass (Gen)
- 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. (Gen)
- Miracle Anti-Aging Cream by vikki.
- 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.
- Where Clouds Roll By by ohanotherday, de-aged Derek.
- time turner by grimm, de-aged Stiles
- kids these days don't respect their elders by HalfFizzbin, de-aged Isaac
- We Got Claws by Onlymystory, de-aged Peter, Isaac, and Scott.
- The Welfare of A Child by oddegg, Charles Xavier gets de-aged and Sean Cassidy tries to figure him out. (Gen)
- i'm a fan of the temporary deaging trope...even more if it means bishonen yakov - Fanart by @quelmdn
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.