Deer, being wild animals, can easily be magical and mysterious while still being hard to reach for humans.
Marvelous deer are often the quarry in hunts. Catching them may be another matter, especially since the marvelous deer tends to be a lone animal; herds of marvelous deer are impractical for maintaining the marvelness. It can lead to Follow the White Rabbit
For the deer to be white -- or golden -- is common.
Anime & Manga
- In Nichijou Principal Shinonome battles a deer in hand-to-hoof combat, in a sequence which may be symbolic, mystic or just Yuuko's imagination. It's certainly a numinous moment.
- In The King Who Would Be Stronger Than Fate, he finds the hermit who tells him his daughter's fate while hunting.
In the course of the beat his dogs disturbed a beautiful snow-white stag, and directly he saw it the king determined that he would have it at any cost. So he put the spurs to his horse, and followed it as hard as he could gallop.
- In Brother and Sister, Brother is transformed to a white stag, and the king discovers that he can talk and lives with his (still human) sister in the woods.
- In The Brother Grimms' The Two Brothers, one brother, having rescued a princess from the dragon and married her, goes hunting and is lured into danger by a deer.
Mythology & Legend
- In C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, they are hunting a stag that grants wishes when they stumble back out of the wardrobe.
- In Kate Seredy's The White Stag, it leads them onward at various times.
- Harry Potter's patronous is a stag, to symbolism his father's animal form and that he's still watching over him. The seventh book also prominently features a mysterious silver doe that leads Harry to the Sword of Gryffindor. Its actually Snape's patronous, and represents Lily, the woman he loved.
- James Thurber's The White Deer. Its nature is central to the story.
- In the Dragonlance novel Dragons of Autumn Twilight, the Forestmaster is a sentient, majestic deer that charges the Heroes of the Lance to travel to Xak Tsaroth to retrieve the Disks of Mishakal, an ancient artifact that could help bring back Krynn's gods.
- In P.N.Elrod's 'His Father's Son', a mystical boy character who entered a dreamworld-like setting and communicated with a white stag as a spirit guide.
- In the Magic Tree House, Merlin is able to turn into a stag.
- One of the Twelve Labors of Heracles was that he had to capture- alive and unharmed- the Golden Hind sacred to the goddess Artemis.
- According to a tale, legendary Japanese warrior Tadakatsu Honda managed to escape his enemies and safely cross a river thanks to a deer. Since that day, he put antlers on his helmet as a sign of respect for all deers.
- Saint Patrick and his clerics were going to a hostile king's court, and prayed for protection. The ambushers saw them all as deer. (Which is why the prayer is known as "The Deer's Cry.")
- This trope applies to Santa's reindeer, at least in those versions of holiday folklore that attribute their flight to their own innate abilities (as opposed to Santa's magic, to eating magic grain, etc). Any child who's stayed awake on Christmas Eve listening for their arrival can testify that they're both mysterious and elusive.
- Dungeons & Dragons module IM3 The Best of Intentions. During the Olympic Trials, the Immortal PCs compete in an event called "The Wild Hunt". They must chase and kill a great white hart twice as large as a normal deer. The hart is actually another Immortal in deer form.
- Shadowrun. Shasta deer live on the slopes of Mount Shasta in California. They have some connection with local nature spirits and appear to have latent magical abilities similar to those of spirits.
- Warhammer's Wood Elves are essentially The Fair Folk, and their leaders have the option of riding Great Stags, which they see as being Nature Spirits in animal form.
- The King of Dragon Pass has a recurring event where a hunter from another clan has tracked a white stag to your lands and wants your permission to hunt it.
- Deerling and Sawsbuck from Pokémon Black and White seem to be based off this concept, being the only Pokemon that change forms with the seasons. Sawsbucks antlers particularly are marvelous as they're tree branches with leaves that grow and die throughout the year.
- There's also Stantler, from Gen II. It's said to be able to hypnotize and psychologically affect people and Pokemon with its antlers,which give the illusion of two large eyes in the center of each side.
- Hircine, the god of hunting in the Elder Scrolls universe, has a white stag as one of his avatars in Skyrim. Hunting the stag is necessary if the Dovahkiin wants to earn Hircine's favor.
- In Neverwinter Nights expansion pack Shadows of Undrentide, one of the side-quests involves hunting the Shadow Hart, a magical deer with teleportation powers.
- In Assassin's Creed III, Connor can accept a quest to hunt a unique deer. According to the huntmaster, several hunters have tried and failed to bring it down before, and they all swear it's got some mysterious power that makes it Immune to Bullets.
- In Mabinogi, the deer of Corrib Valley are a minor example. They give you herbs (including the exceedingly rare White Herbs) in exchange for mushrooms.
- In Tales of the Questor, Quentyn is urged to be true to himself by a white stag, and receives a mark of favor.