Created By: SharleeD on April 30, 2013 Last Edited By: SharleeD on January 14, 2014
Troped

Monster-Shaped Mountain

A mountain or other geological feature physically resembles a gigantic living creature

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Trope
When a rocky topographic feature — a mountain, hill, giant boulder, or even an outcrop at sea — plays an important role in a work of fiction, writers are prone to making its appearance unique and memorable. As few writers or viewers are geologists, saying it's made of such-and-such a type of stone can contribute little to the work, either descriptively or dramatically. Making it look like a creature, however, is sure to strike a chord with the audience.

This trope typically comes in two variants:

  • The geological feature looks like a tremendous creature, or part of one. Whether carved out by natural erosion or shaped by some long-ago civilization's sculptors, its resemblance sets the mood for the locale: a mountain shaped like a tiger evokes a different ambiance than one shaped like a gigantic fist, for example. Its distinctive appearance may be utilized in-story as a landmark for navigation ("Walk two miles towards the peak shaped like a horse's head..."). If it resembles a creature that is held to be sacred by the local culture, expect the terrain-feature to be considered holy as well.

  • The Monster Shaped Mountain actually is a tremendous creature, one that was either made of stone to begin with or Taken for Granite. If it's dead or merely inert, it may be overgrown with vegetation; locals might even have built homes on its surface, making the possibility that it might wake up and start moving a serious concern. In cases when the creature is openly known to be alive, it will often fulfill some benign protective role for nearby inhabitants. If the Mountain is intelligent as well as living, it's a type of Genius Loci.

Both variants are often combined with Cave Mouth. Mountaineers may find themselves engaged in a Colossus Climb.

Contrast That's No Moon!, in which a geographic feature may seem nondescript at first, but later reveal itself to be something else as a surprise. May overlap with It Kind of Looks Like a Face.


Examples:

General / Multiple Media
  • Skull Rock in the various versions of Peter Pan, where Captain Hook takes the kidnapped Princess Tiger Lily.
  • In Naruto, the Land of Iron's signature landmark is the Three Wolves, a mountain that is shaped like 3 wolves' heads.

Comics
  • In The Incredible Hulk #261 Hulk battles the Absorbing Man on Easter Island. The Absorbing Man absorbs the Earth itself, but then Hulk bashes him into the sea, where he becomes a small, man-shaped island.
  • In some Marvel stories featuring The Mole and Monster Island, the mountain that leads to his underground lair resembles a monstrous face (complete with Cave Mouth).

Film - Animated
  • In The Land Before Time, "the rock that looks like a Longneck" is one of the landmarks that Littlefoot's mother teaches him to look for on the way to the Great Valley.

Film - Live Action
  • King Kong:
    • Several fictional homages to the original King Kong have taken Skull Island's name literally, depicting either its central mountain peak or the actual shoreline as skull-shaped.
    • In the Peter Jackson King Kong, numerous rock outcroppings surrounding Skull Island are carved to resemble snarling ape-faces.
  • In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, after being rescued by the Eagles, the dwarves' party is set down on a mountaintop resembling the head of a bear.
    • Gargantuan carvings of kings, both human and dwarf, appear in other Peter Jackson LotR films.
  • In George of the Jungle, Ape Mountain is a mountain shaped like a gorilla head.
  • In Conan the Barbarian (2011), the villains stage a necromantic ceremony inside a rock formation that's shaped like a screaming skull.

Literature
  • Discworld:
    • One of the worlds that the sea troll from The Colour of Magic observed while drifting through space was actually a continent-sized sleeping dragon, its mountain-sized spinal ridges capped with snow.
    • In The Light Fantastic, several trolls which Rincewind meets transform into vaguely-humanoid boulders when the sun comes up.
    • The Paps of Scilla, a mountain on the caravan-route from Zemphis to Ankh-Morpork, has stirred a lot of speculation about the lady in question, because it has eight peaks.
    • On a similar note, in Small Gods, Om directs Brutha to head towards a tall, erosion-shaped rock that looks... very unexpected, really. Apparently the wind god has a rather crude sense of humor.
    • In a small-scale example from Carpe Jugulum, a limestone formation in the shape of a witch sits near the entrance to a cave beyond the gnarly ground.
    • In Wintersmith, the titular elemental creates icebergs that look like Tiffany Aching.
  • Dzur Mountain is one of the major locations in the Dragaera series, and is shaped like the ferocious feline it's named for.
    • Adrilankha's name, according to Paarfi, was derived from how the cliffs on either side of the city's harbor resembled a bird's outspread wings. Subverted when one of the "wings" collapsed into the sea during Adron's Disaster.
  • In The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, Carter learns what the gods look like by viewing a gigantic face carved into the side of the mountain Ngranek.
  • The Prydain Chronicles novel The High King. Mount Dragon was so named because its peak was in the rough shape of a monstrous, crested dragon's head with gaping jaws, and on either side the lower slopes spread like outflung wings.
  • In Andre Norton's Storm Over Warlock, Shann Lantee first dreams of, and then sees, a mountain like an enormous skull. Winged creatures fly into and out of its eyeholes.

Live-Action Television
  • When Sesame Street visited Hawaii, Big Bird spent a lot of time looking for Mount Snuffleupagus; a mountain shaped like, well, a Snuffleupagus.
  • In the 1998 miniseries Merlin, the Rock of Ages is a sentient mountain resembling a man lying half-buried in the ground. Merlin asks it to hold Excalibur until a worthy wielder appears.

Tabletop Games
  • The card Hamletback Goliath from Magic: The Gathering is given to be this. The card art depicts a couple of goblins living on the Goliath's back, and plant growth that makes it look like a mountain.
  • In the Ravenloft D&D adventure "Neither Man Nor Beast", the beach where the player characters become marooned on Markovia is covered with giant stone figures buried waist-deep in the sand or just offshore.
  • A short adventure from Dungeon magazine was located at the site where a huge dragon and the flying ship it'd attacked had crashed into a pool of lava. Several of the caverns in the resulting dungeon were shaped like dragon-parts, as the lava had congealed around its skull, limbs, ribcage and tail.
  • Graben Island, in the Ravenloft setting, is shaped like a three-clawed monstrous hand.
  • The entrance to the infamous Tomb of Horrors D&D adventure is through one of the openings in a skull-shaped cliff.
  • The Dragonlance game-setting has Skullcap, cranium-shaped site of a long-ago evil wizard's stronghold, and the cover of the module Dragons of Light features a huge dragon statue carved out of a mountaintop.

Video Game
  • In the casual game Drawn: Trail of Shadows, one of the painted worlds is home to a mountain-sized stone giant with huts built on its shoulders. Events in-game have saddened it, so a slender waterfall of tears streams from its gargantuan eye.
  • In Icewind Dale, the dungeon of Dragon's Eye is much in the shape of a dragon's head, hence the name.
  • In the fourth Azada casual game, a path leads up a hill shaped like a giant canine.
  • In The Lost Crown, Saxton folklore holds that the jagged rocks along the shoreline are spines on the back of Grindle, a dragon from local legend.

Web Original
  • SCP-1588, "The Cliff Face"... literally, a giant face which is part of a cliff.

Western Animation
  • In an episode of The Magic School Bus about erosion, the class's trip along a mountainside triggered a series of rockfalls and stream-diversions that re-shaped the terrain to resemble a human figure.
  • The Adventure Time episode "Memories of Boom Boom Mountain", in which the titular mountain is living, has a face, and cries boulders. A female mountain, also with a living face at its peak, appears as well.
  • Snake Mountain in the He-Man franchise; in the 2002 series, it was eventually revealed to actually be a giant snake frozen in place when King Hiss and the Snake Men take over.

Real Life
  • Several actual terrain features, such as Mount Carmel in Connecticut or the mesas at Sibley Peninsula in Ontario, are nicknamed "Sleeping Giant" for their resemblance to a prone human figure.
  • The "Old Man of the Mountain" was a granite feature in the White Mountains of New Hampshire which, until the formation collapsed in 2003, resembled a human profile.
  • A photo from the Viking probe which went to Mars in the 1970s showed a feature in the Cydonia region which looked eerily like a human face, and was the object of a lot of Ancient Astronauts speculation, including a popular book on the subject. More recent photography of the area by probes showed a more mundane geological image, and that the face seen in the original was probably a coincidence caused by shadows.

Community Feedback Replies: 62
  • May 1, 2013
    Larkmarn
    You should make a note comparing the second type to Thats No Moon.
  • May 1, 2013
    StarSword
    Part B is already covered by Genius Loci as I said in the Lost And Found.
  • May 1, 2013
    McKathlin
    Film - Animated
    • In The Land Before Time, "the rock that looks like a Longneck" is one of the landmarks that Littlefoot's mother teaches him to look for on the way to the Great Valley.
  • May 1, 2013
    SharleeD
    ^^ True, type B does overlap sometimes. However, not all Genius Loci are stone, or look alive at all, and not all Monstrous Mountains will be sentient, so I think this one's workable as a trope of its own.
  • May 1, 2013
    KZN02
    BIONICLE: The Mountain on Xia was originally a small sentient rock that Mutran accidentally left behind on the island. It grew into its mountainous size and absorbed whatever it could.
  • May 1, 2013
    Stratadrake
    File this one under Film.

    • In Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Hobbit, after being rescued by the Eagles, the dwarves' party is set down on a mountaintop resembling the head of a Warg.
  • May 1, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    A really, really old episode of Dora The Explorer used this. Dora wanted to see the Big Red Hill where the Big Red Hen lived. Turns out that once she got there, she found out that the Big Red Hen WAS the Big Red Hill.
  • May 1, 2013
    TonyG
    Skull Rock in the various versions of Peter Pan, where Captain Hook takes the kidnapped Princess Tiger Lily.
  • May 1, 2013
    StarSword
    @Sharlee D: Ok, I'll buy that.

    Anime and Manga:
    • Gakusanjin in Inu Yasha is a literal example, a demon in the shape of a mountain who hides using demon-aura-negating crystals.
  • May 1, 2013
    foxley
    When Sesame Street visited Hawaii, Big Bird spent a lot of time looking for Mount Snuffleupagus; a mountain shaped like, well, a Snuffleupagus.
  • Live-Action TV
  • May 1, 2013
    SharleeD
    Anyone know if the mountain from BIONICLE actually looks like an animal, person, or some fictional race from that Verse? KZN 02's post didn't specify, and if it doesn't physically resemble a creature, it's not an appropriate example for this trope.
  • May 2, 2013
    KZN02
    Well, it's a living mountain, but we in BioSector01 classify it as both a location and a Rahi (creature).
  • May 2, 2013
    Arivne

  • May 2, 2013
    Korodzik
    Type B:

    Web Original
    • SCP-1588, "The Cliff Face"... literally, a giant face which is part of a cliff.
  • May 2, 2013
    Stratadrake
    Rather than calling things type "A" and "B" (there are certain issues with that), I would say make B the primary definition, with A being the justified form.
  • May 2, 2013
    randomsurfer
    I'm fairly certain there's a Ricochet Rabbit cartoon telling the origin story of a certain mountain which looks like a giant lying on its back (Ricochet was amidst a Jack And The Beanstalk plot and the mountain is the giant who fell off the beanstalk), but I can't find it now. Possibly it was another Hanna Barbera tv cartoon of similar vintage.
  • May 2, 2013
    SharleeD
    ^^ I wasn't going to have them called A and B in the examples, just the description. But if that's a problem too, I can just bullet the two variations.
  • May 2, 2013
    Koveras
    The current title makes me think of mountains that are Eldritch Locations... Maybe Animal Like Mountain or Monster Shaped Mountain would be clearer?
  • May 2, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Real Life

    • The "Old Man of the Mountain" was a granite feature in the White Mountains of New Hampshire which, until the formation collapsed in 2003, resembled a human profile.
    • A photo from the Viking probe which went to Mars in the 1970s showed a feature in the Cydonia region which looked eerily like a human face, and was an object of a lot of Ancient Astronauts speculation, including a popular book on the subject. More recent photography of the area by probes showed a more mundane geological image, and that the face seen in the original was probably a coincidence caused by shadows.
  • May 2, 2013
    StarSword
    Western Animation:
  • May 2, 2013
    Stratadrake
    @Sharlee: I don't see a need to split it into variations in the first place. Me, I would say that while in real-life such resemblances tend to be vague or metaphorical, in fiction they tend to be explicit and literal, and cases where it really is a monster are not a "type" per se but only a Justified example.
  • May 3, 2013
    CardsOfWar
    The card Hamletback Goliath from Magic The Gathering is given to be this. The card art depicts a couple of goblins living on its back, and plant growth that makes it look like a mountain.
  • May 3, 2013
    SharleeD
    ^^ Granted, the second type could often be considered as Justifying the first (or the first as a subversion of the second, for that matter). The really-a-creature versions tend to have very different in-story implications from the only-looks-like-one examples, however, and their connections to other tropes have almost no overlap. I do think both options merit a mention in the description, else people will be left wondering if it's specific to one or the other.
  • May 8, 2013
    SharleeD
    Any more?
  • May 8, 2013
    MrRuano
    Bionicle reveals during the final arcs that not only is the island of Mata Nui on top of something living, but that the island itself is a part of a titanic robot body that was left dormant for eons.
  • May 8, 2013
    Stratadrake
    Not an example.
  • May 9, 2013
    sgamer82
    • Great Furies in the Codex Alera tend to be this way. Two in particular are Garados, an enormous earth fury near Tavi's home of Bernardholdt, and Kalare, a volcanic fury residing in the land bearing the same name. They tend to be dormant enough that most do, indeed, just take them for geological features if they don't know better. Rouse them, however, and things get ugly fast.
  • May 10, 2013
    Stratadrake
    Not an example either. Do the geological features resemble them (possibly also being named after them) ? That is the definition we're working with.
  • May 10, 2013
    TrueShadow1
    The second type looks awfully like Thats No Moon. I think it's better to just include the first type, and then link Thats No Moon somewhere
  • May 10, 2013
    SharleeD
    ^ Thats No Moon is specifically for cases when the feature isn't recognized as a living thing at first, and some examples of this (e.g. the stone giant from Drawn; the dragon-world from The Colour of Magic) don't actually conceal themselves. Plus, Thats No Moon already lists Turtle Island as a common variation, and this as another: if Turtle Island rates a subtrope, this should too.
  • May 10, 2013
    StarSword
    Cleaned up the draft (namespaces, Example Indentation, formatting).
  • May 10, 2013
    Stratadrake
    ^^ A proper subtrope, by definition, is always an example of its parent trope's definition. No exceptions. Otherwise they are just two tropes that can overlap. For example, any given Turtle Island may or may not be a case of Thats No Moon, depending on whether or not it's known from the outset that the island in question is really one giant turtle.

    I still think this should be limited to natural features that visibly (usually meaning: deliberately by the artist) resemble something living. Whether or not it actually IS something living is irrelevant, and possibly even distracts from what makes it an example. E.g. the Bionicle and Codex Alera suggestions (as posted) don't give any mention about whether said terrestrial features visually resemble something living. They don't shoulder the proof of what actually makes them an example.

    Another quick example: Turtle Islands generally don't count as examples with regard to this definition because it's not a visibly turtle-shaped island.

    Perhaps we need a new name and laconic....

  • May 10, 2013
    StarSword
  • May 10, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In The Incredible Hulk #261 Hulk battles The Absorbing Man on Easter Island. The Absorbing Man absorbs the Earth itself, but then Hulk bashes him into the sea, where he becomes a small, man-shaped island.
  • May 11, 2013
    Olaf_Merchant
    Video Games example from Icewind Dale, namely the dungeon of Dragon's Eye, which is much in the shape of a dragon's head, hence the name.
  • June 10, 2013
    acrobox
    The Legend Of Zelda: Has Biggoron who is a Goron the size of a small mountain. Gorons are already rock shaped humanoids as is so at his size he's essentially a mountain.

    Shadow Of The Collosus: Many of the Collosi appear like moss covered mountain/animal hybrids. The game makes you scale them like mountains to find their weakspot, typically on their foreheads. Along the climb you can even see some man made looking structures as body parts also.
  • June 10, 2013
    Stratadrake
    ^ Not examples. And if I have to keep saying this, we really need a better name.
  • June 11, 2013
    acrobox
    i read through the comments, so you want just rock formations that look like creatures period?

    For example this is a mountain that looks like a dragon, but this doesnt include dragons that appear to be mountains at first glance.

    you should probably cut out your type B section. thats the confusion.

    But then it starts to sound like the same but more generalized of cave mouth.
  • June 11, 2013
    Arivne
    Literature
    • The Prydain Chronicles novel The High King. Mount Dragon was so named because its peak was in the rough shape of a monstrous, crested dragon's head with gaping jaws, and on either side the lower slopes spread like outflung wings.
  • June 11, 2013
    Chernoskill
    Comics

    In some Marvel stories featuring The Mole and Monster Island, the mountain that leads to his underground lair resembles a monstrous face (overlaps with Cave Mouth).
  • June 11, 2013
    Stratadrake
    ^^ I know I seem to be the only one making the distinction, but there is such a thing as a Missing Supertrope....
  • June 11, 2013
    DracMonster
    • Probably the most well-known example of this is in Fantasia, during the Night On Bald Mountain segment, when the mountain transforms into the demon Chernebog.

    Incidentally, that would probably make the best page image, you'd probably need to make it two or three images glued together showing the transformation.

    While these are two separate tropes, I think they could co-exist on the same page. A mountain looking like a monster or other creature is definitely tropeable.
  • June 11, 2013
    Chernoskill
    A variation might also occur in The Hoobit: An Unexpected Journey when the party climbs the mountain range and when a thunderstorm starts, it's revelaed that the rocks they were climbing are actually gargantuan rock giants who throw large rocks at each other, causing the thunder.
  • June 11, 2013
    Stratadrake
    ^ Also Not An Example if my interpretation is the one we're going with. Falls under Thats No Moon.

    @Cherno: The thing about Cave Mouth is the implication that by going inside you're getting "swallowed". So yes, they can overlap, but they are still quite distinct.
  • June 12, 2013
    Nocturna
    I would agree with Stratadrake that "Type B" seems too close to Thats No Moon as written. I think this is viable, but only if it focuses on landmasses, mountains, etc., which resemble a living creature. It can be mere resemblance or it can be an actual living creature, but I think "looks like a living creature" is the important bit. If it doesn't look like a living creature but actually is, then it belongs on Thats No Moon.
  • June 12, 2013
    kjnoren
    The trope name is horribly misleading. Monstrous to me means giant, mis-shapen, or both. This trope is about a mountain or other geological formation shaped like an animal or human, either wholly or in part.
  • June 12, 2013
    SharleeD
    Changed the name and clarified the description. Also removed the Dora the Explorer example, which is Thats No Moon.

    Wasn't sure about the Inuyasha example. Does this demon normally look like an ordinary mountain, or does it have visibly-demonic features that it needs additional magic to conceal? If it's the former, it's a Thats No Moon, but if it's the latter then it's a Type B Monster-Shaped Mountain that's subverting this trope with magic.

    @Acrobox: Do any of the colossi in Shadow of the Colossus appear to have been staying put in one place for a long, long time? If they're moving around often, they probably only qualify as Rock Monsters rather than geological features, but if they sit there for years until something disturbs them then they might rate as this trope.

    @Drac Monster: I viewed the Fantasia sequence on youtube a few times, and I'm afraid I can't see any visible signs that Chernebog is a creature and not a rock until after he starts unfolding his wings. Technically, he's a Thats No Moon (albeit one spoilered by the opening narration and It Was His Sled) instead of this. Wish we could use him for the page image. :-(
  • June 12, 2013
    Stratadrake
    ^ Half the time the colossus isn't visible from a distance, and the other half of the time you can tell it's not just part of the scenery fairly easily. I would say it doesn't count at all.
  • July 14, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^^ About the Inuyasha example: Gakusanjin only needs to conceal his aura, otherwise he's pretty much indistinguishable from a mountain when lying still. Here's a picture of him.
  • July 14, 2013
    DAN004
    • In Naruto, the Land of Iron's signature landmark is the Three Wolves, a mountain that is shaped like 3 wolves' heads.
  • July 14, 2013
    lilliterra
    Does a mountain shaped like a skull count? Because that's in Peter Pan and several other kids' movies, I think.
  • July 18, 2013
    SharleeD
    ^^^ In that case, he's a Thats No Moon, not this trope. Thanks!

    ^ Certainly skull-shaped mountains count; in fact, they may be the most common example of this trope. Peter Pan is already listed under General/Multiple Media.
  • July 18, 2013
    grapesandmilk
    The example from The Hobbit should say that it resembles a bear's head (foreshadowing for the next film).
  • July 25, 2013
    SharleeD
    ^ Fixed!
  • August 17, 2013
    IAmATropist
    • Subverted in the Adventure Time episode "Memories of Boom Boom Mountain", in which the titular mountain is living, has a face, and cries boulders.
  • August 17, 2013
    SharleeD
    • Snake Mountain in the He-Man franchise; in the 2002 series, it was eventually revealed to actually be a giant snake frozen in place when King Hiss and the Snake Men take over.
  • January 13, 2014
    Boston
    Related to Turtle Island, I'm sure.
  • January 13, 2014
    DennisDunjinman
  • January 13, 2014
    Goldfritha
    Is monsterous required?

    • In Andre Norton's Storm Over Warlock, Shann Lantee first dreams of, and then sees, a mountain like an enormous skull. Winged creatures fly into and out of its eyeholes.
  • January 13, 2014
    DAN004
    Launch?
  • January 14, 2014
    SharleeD
    ^^ "Monster" encompasses giants, including giant versions of otherwise-normal creatures, so a giant human or animal part does qualify.

    ^^^ Usually Turtle Island is Thats No Moon, not this. I suppose if the Turtle looks like one at first glance, rather than being mistaken for a normal island, it could overlap.
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