Created By: fzzr_miller on October 11, 2009
Nuked

Army of the Dead

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Page Type:
Trope
Do you have any idea how long we've been waiting to kick ass?
The Evil Army is about to overrun our stronghold! Hold the Line tactics worked just fine until The Dragon showed up and smashed a bloody great hole in our defenses. It looks like the enemy has won... but wait! The wizard has finished that spell he was working on! There's a horn sounding over the horizon. Wait... why are all our fallen comrades in the courtyard stirring? Is that army coming over the hills... green? Man, I sure am glad the Army of the Dead is on our side. They're tearing The Evil Army right up. I sure hope we can keep these guys around! What do you mean "good for one battle only"? Oh well. They pulled our asses out of the fire when we needed it most. The rest is up to us.

The essence of this trope is: Fallen allies, usually having died either in the very battle at hand or in a previous battle with the same enemy, rise temporarily from the dead en masse and contribute to the ongoing battle in some critical way. The undead in question are more likely to be spectral than physical, but both are possible. The important part is that the loyalty of the fallen is preserved. Also, the Army of the Dead can help win the (usually climactic or highly significant) battle, but they can't then join the standing army - they tend, for one reson or another, only to last until the immediate threat is vanquished.

The Trope Namer and possibly also modern Trope Codifier is the Army of the Dead from Lord of the Rings. However, its Older Than They Think.

See Also: The Cavalry, Big Damn Heroes, Desperation Attack. Contrast Animate Dead, where the original loyalty of the raw materials isn't relevant.

ENDING TROPE! Unmarked Spoilers ahead.

Examples:

  • Lord of the Rings, as noted above, has the Army of the Dead, led by Aragorn, sweep in and save the day.
  • In Age of Mythology, when you lose normal army units while playing as the Greeks worshiping Hades, you will receive weak "shade" units at your temple. They're weak and vulnerable, but they don't count toward your Arbitrary Headcount Limit, making them great for a Zerg Rush or as last-ditch Cannon Fodder.
    • Um, there's an entire God Power, Ancestors, related to this trope. It summons a bunch of zombies to fight your enemies, but only for about a minute.
  • Order Of The Stick does this during The Siege of Azure City here. Due to various circumstances, it doesn't end well.
  • Spellforce 2 Paladins, on their deaths, turn into killable ghost warriors who fade over time. They're only slightly weaker than the original unit, so they're useful for pressing an attack or covering a retreat.
  • In the climax of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the shades of the last several people Voldemort murdered come out of his wand and swarm him, giving Harry just enough time to escape.
  • In the last book of His Dark Materials, Lyra and Will have to travel through the land of the dead and dead characters from the last several books decide to come along with them to help Lord Asriel's side in the fight against The Authority's angels.
  • In Deathstalker and the Warriors From Hell, Deathstalker is able to beat the evil overlord Troxartes with the help of an army of undead warriors.
  • At the end of The Princess and the Bear, the animal magic brings all the dead soldiers on the protagonists' side back to fight.
  • The Legion of the Damned from Warhammer 40,000 fluff: They're remnants of a Space Marine chapter that got lost in the Warp and were changed into ghostly beings. They still keep fighting for the Imperium, appearing from the Warp in where they are needed the most and vanishing without a trace after the battle.

This is an updated redux of Even In Death I Still Serve.
Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • October 8, 2009
    Chabal 2
    Title needs to indicate that this is a one-time deal.

    Can we put Bedknobs And Broomsticks' final scene with this? From the viewopint of the Germans, it probably looked like a ghost army, and it only got used once. Oh, and the attack of the castle in Harry Potter, the ghosts played some part in it.
  • October 8, 2009
    fzzr_miller
    The Trope Namer is famous enough that I think the idea is communicated there. As for that, I'm not familiar with it. This trope is all but a sub-trope of The Cavalry, basically this is when its made of ghosts/undead of fallen members of that faction and only works once. So if that applies, say so and I'll add it.
  • October 8, 2009
    Chabal 2
    Well, said like that... No, those two don't count. But here's the scene I'm talking about anyway.

    • There's a series called La Complainte des Landes Perdues that uses this at the climax of the story, but I don't think it's sufficiently well-known to be used.
  • October 8, 2009
    fzzr_miller
    There Is No Such Thing As Notability. Give a description and I'll add it, or add it yourself. The Bedknobs And Broomsticks example is really just The Cavalry. (I added it as an example there.) I'll look into the Harry Potter one, unless someone cares to clarify it for me.
  • October 8, 2009
    Lee M
    Cool caption? Um... "We've been dying to meet you and now it's your turn?"
  • October 8, 2009
    Chabal 2
    "Do you have any idea how long we've been waiting to kick ass?"
  • October 8, 2009
    Earnest
    "The Cavalry is 'late'."

  • October 8, 2009
    Elle
    • In the last book of His Dark Materials, Lyra and Will have to travel through the land of the dead and dead characters from the last several books decide to come along with them to help Lord Asriel's side in the fight against The Authority's angels.

    I really seriously doubt Lord Of The Rings is the trope codifier though. Many, many, many more armies of the dead/undead are on the villain's side too, and "army of the dead" is too generic to give credit to Lot R as the Trope Namer..
  • October 8, 2009
    fzzr_miller
    If its Older Than They Think, please give me an older example. Also another example of something explicitly called "Army of the Dead".
  • October 8, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    •In Age Of Mythology, when you lose normal army units while playing as the Greeks worshiping Hades, you will receive weak "shade" units at your temple. They're weak and vulnerable, but they don't count toward your Arbitrary Headcount Limit, making them great for a Zerg Rush or as last-ditch Cannon Fodder.

    • Um, there's an entire God Power, Ancestors, related to this trope. It summons a bunch of zombies to fight your enemies, but only for about a minute.
  • October 8, 2009
    Known Unknown
    We don't have this? Really? Holy crap.

    This is Older Than They Think, it appears in mythology... somewhere in either Greek or Egyptian, I think, but I can't remember exactly where.
  • October 9, 2009
    fzzr_miller
    Can anyone give me a definite example that makes this Older Than Dirt? Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Chinese, Norse, or Judeo-Christian mythology?
  • October 9, 2009
    Chabal 2
    Norse Mythology: Those who die in battle are taken to Valhalla, and when Ragnarok comes around, will partake in the final battle.
  • October 9, 2009
    fzzr_miller
    put in a Pothole to Norse Mythology
  • October 9, 2009
    Anthony Alexander
    According to Judaic legend, isn't there some graveyard in Israel where the folks buried there are supposed to come out eventually and help the Messiah?

    Bah, total brain fart. No names or references come to mind.

    Anyway, the Paladins in War Craft 3 can bring a chunk of their fallen comrades back from the dead to fight.
  • October 9, 2009
    Oonerspism

    By the way, we don't have a page for Deathstalker? For shame!
  • October 9, 2009
    fzzr_miller
    The Paladin power is more Back From The Dead because it revives the fallen completely intact, rather than as temporary undead.
  • October 10, 2009
    batfan
    Does it have to be on the side of the good guys? For instance, the titular Black Cauldron in the second book of the Prydain Chronicles turned corpses into unstoppable undead soldiers. For that matter, the Inferi from Harry Potter are pretty much the same thing, just using a spell instead of a magical artifact
  • October 11, 2009
    fzzr_miller
    that doesn't apply because the allegiance of the subjects is changed by the cauldron. same with the inferi. those are both Animate Dead
  • October 11, 2009
    bluepenguin
    At the end of The Princess and the Bear, the animal magic brings all the dead soldiers on the protagonists' side back to fight. (Which is kind of a spoiler, I guess, but it doesn't do much good to white it out when just listing the name of the book under this trope would spoil about as much.)
  • October 11, 2009
    Nomic
    The Legion of the Damned from Warhammer40000 might count. They're remnants of a Space Marine chapter that got lost in the Warp and were changed into ghostly beings. They still keep fighting for the Imperium, appearing from the Warp in where they are needed the most and vanishing without a trace after the battle.
  • October 11, 2009
    Thinks Too Much
    Excellent trope if we don't have it already (and I sure didn't see it, although I'm a newer troper) but it needs one of those "Unmarked Spoilers Ahead" warnings.
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