About around the time of the Portal 2 Announcement ARG, to the best of my knowledge it had become well established that Cave Johnson was Chell's father (with the latter being abducted by GLaDOS on Bring your Daughter to Work Day).

However, many months later, with the release of Portal 2, all such references seem to have disappeared, and I can no longer find any proof of (what I thought) was well-established fact. Can anyone provide any canonical evidence that Chell is Cave Johnson's Daughter?

Specifically, I am wondering if, during the course of the two pre-release ARGs for Portal 2 (one for the announcement, the other just before launch) Cave was officially credited anywhere with specifically being Chell's father.

P.S. Please do not bring discussions of Caroline into this question, as I am chiefly concerned with information from the ARGs, and not Portal 2.

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    These comments are slowly getting out of hand, I'd suggest continuing the discussion in chat.
    – juan
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 2:02
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    I think it is worth noting that the character of Cave Johnson did not exist until Portal 2. There is no reference to parents in Portal 1 aside from the casual implication that Chell might be in the center as part of "Take Your Daughter to Work Day". Any further development happened as part of the Portal 2 ARG and Portal 2 itself.
    – Shaun
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 2:29
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    @Shaun The character of Cave Johnson did exist before Portal 2. In the Ratmann dens in the original Portal, Cave's login details to aperturescience.com were written down, where some details regarding his role at the company are provided. He wasn't a detailed character, but he definitely existed.
    – user56
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 10:54
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    @tzenes There is no “list of tags you don’t see”, that I’m aware of. Ignored tags are grayed out, not hidden. How does this policy work? I’m unable to find a pertinent FAQ, and I don’t see how I can hide spoilers in titles. Commented May 4, 2011 at 11:01
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    @KonradRudolph There is a setting on your user page, under the prefs tab, where you can choose to hide ignored tags, right where you define them.
    – user56
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 11:11

7 Answers 7



This could be considered too localized. At this point, there's no official 'canon' answer.

Short Answer

As of Portal 2, speculation tends to lean in the direction of Cave being Chell's father.

Long Answer

From the Combine OverWiki article on Chell:

Players exploring the Aperture facility in Portal 2 can discover a presentation from the Bring Your Daughter to Work Day science fair signed with the name Chell. Several girls seem to have made potato batteries; none of them have rotted over the years, but Chell's potato has actually grown out of control, sprouting through the ceiling. One of the steps described in her experimental procedure is using a "special ingredient from Daddy's work." This strongly implies that Chell was the daughter of a male Aperture employee, was trapped in the facility during GLaDOS' takeover on Bring Your Daughter to Work Day, and spent her entire adolescence as one of GLaDOS' prisoners.

Virtually no other reliable direct evidence about Chell's background appears in the games, although players have speculated based on vague hints. In the Lab Rat comic, Chell's surname is redacted on the list of test subjects, while no other information is missing; this may indicate some sort of secret concerning her family background. However, the possibility that there is no in-story explanation for the missing name and Valve simply did not want to give Chell a canonical surname yet cannot be dismissed.

GLaDOS often drops hints about Chell's background, but since her comments are obviously intended to manipulate Chell or damage her self-esteem, they may not have any basis in fact. In the first game, GLaDOS said that she possessed a backup of Chell's brain, which she later claimed to have deleted in a fit of rage. Although the comment may have been a complete fabrication, some players speculated that Chell might be a clone (although the game's writers have now confirmed that this theory was not intended) or an android. GLaDOS also asserts once in the first game and repeatedly in the second that Chell was abandoned by her birth parents and subsequently adopted. In context, GLaDOS' intent is clearly for Chell to find this information upsetting - even when fighting on Chell's side, she not only repeats the allegation but adds, "and that's horrible."

If we ignore the Caroline-based evidence, we must rely on the following:

  • Chell got help from "daddy" with her science project on "Take Your Daughter To Work Day" at Aperture Science.
  • Cave Johnson not only worked for Aperture Science, but owned it.

Outside of the above, most of the speculation on Chell's father comes from this series of connections (which, despite your initial request, require us to mention Caroline):

  • The song the turrets sing at the end of Portal 2 implies a familial connection between GLaDOS and Chell.
  • Portal 2 establishes very clearly that GLaDOS, at a minimum, has Caroline as part of her personality/intelligence.
  • Several voice-overs and a hidden portrait imply a familial connection between Caroline and Cave.

Adding all of these items together and you get the basis of the speculation about Chell's father.

  • Which voice-overs are you referring to? Un-used ones?
    – user56
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 10:47
  • The Lab-rat comic also contains a fact sheet of Chell with human annotations, which would imply that she was already a test subject before GLaDOS’ take-over. Either this is an inconsistency or it shows that Chell was not in fact abducted on BYDTWD. Or I’m daft. Commented May 4, 2011 at 11:04
  • @ArdaXi: I mean some of the clips you hear as you are going through Chapters 6 and 7. Many people see the banter and the fact that Cave decrees that Caroline should be the one to take over Aperture Science and be uploaded into the AI as further evidence of their familial relationship.
    – Shaun
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 15:40
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    @Shaun It might be a tipping point if you already think so, but it could also just be because she's a very good assistant, or she might even be running the entire facility already (Cave doesn't seem very competent)
    – user56
    Commented May 4, 2011 at 16:34
  • So the short answer is, despite widespread speculation at the time, there was no information given during the ARGs that hinted at the relationship between Chell and Cave Johnson. Commented May 4, 2011 at 22:22

Despite widespread speculation at the time, there was no concrete information given during the ARGs that formally established a relationship between Chell and Cave Johnson.

For speculation post-Portal 2, see Shaun's answer.


A very big issue I have with Cave being Chell's father and Caroline being her Mother is that they are white: Chell is of mixed Asian descent.

From what I got from playing Portal 2, I believe Valve is trying to link together Portal and the inevitable Half-Life 3. I remember GLaDOS saying, "your father won a Nobel Prize... but I can't remember what for."

Gordon Freeman was a Nobel Prize winning physicist, and I believe Alex is of mixed African and Asian descent. I could see Chell being Gordon and Alex's child.

Additionally, in Chapter 3, GLaDOS remarks how she's going to go outside for a minute because she wants to see a deer outside. When she gets back, she says something like, "there was no deer. I saw some humans, but don't worry about that: continue testing."

Perhaps there was a time portal that links the two games together


With conclusive evidence from Portal + Portal 2, many people have come to a conclusion that consists roughly of the following:

  • Cave Johnson was married to Caroline, and had imbued GLaDOS with her spirit to keep her alive and to remember her.
  • Cave Johnson was Chell's father, and Caroline, her mother (if you translate the turret song at the end of the game, and consider what GLaDOS said about Caroline, it shows that GLaDOS still had a little of Caroline inside her, before Caroline's deletion).

It can be further proven that Caroline (or her spirit, at least) actually cared for Chell in a motherly sort of way, shown from how GLaDOS reacts when Chell wakes up at the end (Oh, thank God you're alright, blah blah blah, etc.), which shows that Caroline very well COULD have been Chell's mother, and if she was married to Cave, then that would make Cave Chell's father, or in a rare twist of fate, perhaps her stepfather.

When GLaDOS took over Aperture Laboratories, Cave decided to come and see what was going on, and to his horror, the computer running his facility was terrorizing everybody. He himself perished, Chell was put into stasis by an unknown entity, and awakes to find herself orange-clad, with pieces of metal attached to her ankles and a creepy, woman-like voice going through what sounded like a standard test protocol.

Do remember, however, that the Portal story runs alongside the Half Life story, and if you look at it from a certain angle, they both connect with TF2 as well, in the kinds of maps that there are. The entire matter will be forever open to interpretation, but for now, this is the big idea that many believe.

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    "Conclusive evidence"? None of this really sounds all that conclusive at all.
    – GnomeSlice
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 20:03
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    I agree with @Gnomeslice. Additionally, I don't think the final song implies any familial connection between Carolina/GLaDOS. Maternal overtones? Yes, but nothing more than suggestions. Commented May 31, 2011 at 21:15
  • How does TF2 relate to Portal or Half Life? Besides the fact that they were made by the same company. Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 15:26

I heard that Cave Johnson & Caroline are Chell's parents but with their love of science, didn't have time to raise a child so chell ended up being adopted by employee Doug Rattman so that Cave & Caroline could still keep her close by! (Although there is slight credit to the possibility that she may be Gordon & Alex's biological child as she does seem to have some ethnic colour to her which is more fitting to Alex than Cave or Caroline).

It has however been said that GLaDOS' AI was completed and the untested AI was activated during the company's first ever bring-your-daughter-to-work day in May 2000. Immediately after activation, the facility was flooded with deadly neurotoxin by the AI. Events of the first Half-Life game occur shortly thereafter, presumably leaving the facility forgotten by the outside world due to apocalyptic happenings.

Wolpaw, in describing the ending of Portal 2, affirmed that the Combine invasion from Half-Life 2 occurred during Portal's events so it ‘seems’ unlikely that Chell is Gordon's & Alex's child without some kind of ‘timeplay’ occuring. (Possible HL3 spoiler?). Aperture Science does exist in the Half-Life universe, with the events of Portal occurring sometime between the story of Half-Life and Half-Life 2. According to The Final Hours of Portal 2, the year is established to be "somewhere in 2010" — ten years after its abandonment.

Aperture Science Inc. is also mentioned during Half-Life 2: Episode Two, in which Aperture's icebreaker ship Borealis is said to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances, along with the crew and part of its drydock. During its development, Half-Life 2 featured a chapter set on the Borealis, but this was abandoned and removed before release.

Gordon does however get to travel through time by G Man (he was held in stasis outside of time by him at the end of Half Life until needed for the events of Half Life 2. (Whether or not G Man can make Gordon go back through time as G Man seems to be able to do has yet to be seen).

Anyway, Cave contracts mercury poisoning during early (whilst in the 1st of a later 3 additional tiers of Aperture building complexes) experiments and eventually dies before his wish of having his consciousness implanted into AI (you can hear him talk about the disease in one of the office speakers in the old Aperture complex) although Caroline's eventually was!

After the hostile takeover by GLaDOS where all the employees are killed ,exept for Rattman who soon becomes schitzophrenic after hiding from GLaDOS, GLaDOS places Chell - who is unconscious - into a relaxation vault and after some time, Chell awakes to hear GLaDOS' voice telling her she is now a test subject. Cue the first Portal game.

After defeating GLaDOS, there is a huge explosion due to GLaDOS' destroyed generators creating a vortex. You then see Chell outside the facility lying face down unconscious. A patch was released prior to Portal 2 showing Chell being dragged away by an unseen robot which says “Thank you for assuming the party escort submission position” (which GLaDOS previously pleaded Chell to do in order to be taken to get a ‘reward’ when Chell escaped the incinerator ‘test’).

Doug Rattman witnesses the apparent destruction of GLaDOS, and later, after escaping from the facility himself, witnesses the recapturing of Chell by the Party Escort Robot. Following the robot, he finds that Chell has been placed into an Extended Relaxation Vault. So he heads back in and attempts to rescue her. However, as a result of the explosion at the conclusion of Portal, all of the relaxation vaults' life support systems are offline. Doug patches Chell's vault onto a reserve grid (as he was unable to open the vault), allowing Chell to survive the years prior to her reawakening in Portal 2.

At the end of Portal 2, GLaDOS saves Chell from space because of the compassion she has for her whilst still being partly Caroline, ie. Chell's mother. After GLaDOS deletes Caroline it still lets Chell live and leave knowing that she is just too dangerous to have around (and as she just can't seem to kill her). A part of me thinks that a part of Caroline still exists in GLaDOS or that she didn't really delete her but that's just an incomplete opinion (must do more testing;)

Maybe if there's a third Portal we'll find out, though I'm not expecting there to be a third part of the Portal story seeing as GLaDOS now has ATLAS & P-BODY, but who knows;)

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    This...needs some better formatting. And coherence. And preferably some sourcing.
    – Frank
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 23:28
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    definitely some sourcing. Wall of text hits you for 1337 (Critical Hit) and all that
    – kalina
    Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 10:22

Well, it may be true that king turret [Lepord turret ] that was there during the ending was cave in the turret because the turrets could have killed her there but the turrets could have been under orders by him AND Glados. also she says so little Caroline in the end song referring to her as the little version of her there fore she is the mother


Cave Johnson was Chell's father, but gave her to an unnamed Apeture employee. During Bring-Your-Daughter-To-Work-Day, Chell was kidnapped by GLaDoS and turned into a test subject.

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    Do you have any evidence supporting this theory?
    – Jupotter
    Commented Jun 6, 2012 at 7:15

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