Stories where the main character influences a real person -- Early examples

In an early episode of Quantum Leap Sam meets a young Michael Jackson and teaches him to moonwalk. Does anyone know of any earlier examples, not necessarily involving time travel, where the main character meets a real person and influences their life in some way?

This is the essential premise of Forrest Gump. He walks around influencing events of the latter half of the 20th Century.



L. Sprague de Camp’s classic time travel novel* Lest Darkness Fall has his time traveler, Martin Padway, interacting with several real historical figures to try to prevent the Fall of the Roman Empire.

His short story Aristotle and the Gun has a different time traveler trying to change Aristotle’s mind about progress – with dire results.

But Mark Twain did it earlier in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (if you’ll allow that Arthur and his companions actually existed). That’s the earliest case I know of.

*I was inspired by this book when I wrote my own Time Traveler stuck in the past novel The Traveler

I can’t believe I missed the most obvious example.

And then of course there is Back to the Future, where Marty gets up on stage at the high school dance in 1955, plays some Chuck Berry, and Chuck Berry’s brother (cousin?) calls him up and says “you gotta hear this, man!” holding the receiver up; thus creating a classic time travel feedback loop.

ETA: rereading the OP, Marty and Chuck Berry didn’t actually meet, so I don’t know if my example applies.

That was the plot of every episode of Peabody’s Improbable Histories.

It’s much later than Twain or de Camp, but Gore Vidal wrote a novel – Creation (1981) in which his hero, the Persian Cyrus Spitama, the grandson of Zoroaster, is a schoolmate of Zerxes, is appointed an ambassador by Darius I to India, where he meets Gautama Siddhartha (the Buddha), then goes on to China where he meets Confucius. Later he returns to Persia and meets Artaxerxes before going to Greece where he meets Pericles, Democritus, and the writings of Herodotus.

It’s been a long time since I read it, but I don’t recall Cyrus influencing people much (he seems, like Forrest Gump in the main, to be a witness rather than a participant). And you have to be pretty liberal in your willing suspension of disbelief to make the timing work out.

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles series was pretty much a “Indy meets a famous person every week and they have an adventure together” show. The level of “influence” likely varied by episode.

IIRC the only famous real person in the films was Hitler, where Indy accidentally gets his autograph.

Should have given him gold chalice. “Have a drink with my compliments!”


It’s been a long time since I’ve read it, so I don’t recall specific instances of “influence,” but given the supporting cast of historical characters, I’m sure Dahl managed to slip some such references into this otherwise one-joke novel.

Ben And Me- A talking mouse is responsible for the wording of the Declaration Of Independence and all of Ben Franklin’s inventions.

And of course Mark Twain himself was influenced by Lucas McCain.

You’ll have to be explaining that. “Lucas McCain” was the name of Chuck Connors’ character on The Rifleman. There is an episode where they meet (“The Shattered Idol”), which I’ve never seen, but from what I can find on the internet, it;'s got nothing to do with “Connecticut Yankee”

Of course, that episode itself fits the description of things for this thread, if that’s what you mean…

In The Man in the Iron Mask (the last installment of The Vicomte de Bragelonne), Alexandre Dumas claims that Moliere was inspired to write Le Bourgeois gentilhomme after d’Artagnan introduced him to Porthos.

I didn’t say anything about ACYiJAC. I said Mark Twain.

Hard to avoid the inference from proximity. And how was Mark Twain influenced by Lucas? As i said, I haven’t seen the episode.

Another example that comes to mind is the Swedish novel The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson; the protagonist bails on his 100th birthday party and goes on a series of comic adventures involving various 20th-century historical figures (yes, I know it sounds like a Forrest Gump ripoff, but it isn’t).

It was made into a film (which I haven’t seen) and Jonasson later wrote a sequel (which I haven’t read).

The article I linked is very comprehensive, but I’ll indulge you. Twain is bitter and broken over the death of his son (who was the inspiration for Huckleberry Finn) and has stopped writing new serialized chapters. McCain convinces him to suck it up and get over himself.

Sam also interacts with a young Stephen King in one episode, and makes an offhand comment about a car “having a mind of its own,” which is essentially the plot of Christine.

On Bewitched, Serena made singers Boyce and Hart unpopular. Samantha convinced Julius Caesar to return to Rome, rescued Paul Revere after Esmerelda’s screwup, refused to marry Henry VIII, and helped George Washington when he got arrested,