Created By: Maklodes on August 10, 2011 Last Edited By: Arivne on August 20, 2013

Earning Horns and Halos

Physical manifestation of moral character

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
(Is this the same as Red Right Hand? UPDATE: Or maybe it's Evil Makes You Monstrous)

Why would anyone want to be Obviously Evil? Well, maybe they can't help it. Ill-advised fashion choices such as an ominous black cloak or shoulder pauldrons with a skull motif can be avoided, of course, but if you find yourself literally growing horns, there's not much to be done about that besides getting a Nice Hat.

Note that this is not about Always Chaotic Evil or Always Lawful Good "races" which have distinctive physical features: i.e., angels and demons. If horns are part of a species' anatomy (as with bighorned sheep, antelopes, and other ungulates, along with demons), but moral conduct does not have any impact on those horns, that's just anatomy, whether the species is particularly evil or not.

Rather, this is a case where conduct alters physical appearance. Alternatively, it is not morality per se which alters physical appearance, but certain supernatural effects with moral aspect. In this case, a murderer who simply kills an innocent little girl with an axe would not show any physical manifestations of evil, whereas someone who ritually sacrifices the girl on an altar to Satan using dark magic would. It is even possible that simply being in the same room as the Satanic altar would be corrupting -- even if you're a hero rushing in to stop the sacrifice and save the girl, which adds additional peril to the hero's job.

Outward manifestations of goodness are rarer than outward manifestations of evil. Often, goodness just means retaining the form you were born with. However, it is possible that good characters could gain outward signs -- halos, wings, a nimbus of gentle light -- of their good nature. As with evil, there is the question of whether one must merely be good (feed the hungry) or good in some manner linked to the supernatural (undertake a quest to feed the hungry on behalf of God). To the best of my knowledge, there are no cases in which simply being near a "good place" can cause physical manifestations of goodness to appear in the same sense that being near an "evil place" can cause physical manifestations of evil to appear.


Examples

Literature
  • The Twilight forms of the Others in the Night Watch series can be either human-like (for youngest Others), angelic (Light Others), or demonic (Dark Others).
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians featured Percy's guardian finally sprouting his horns only after completing his guardian duties at the end of the film.
  • In The Adventures of Pinocchio, the titular puppet famously grew a longer nose when he lied -- at least temporarily.

Tabletop Games

Video Games
  • Black & White has this effect for Gods and their creatures.
  • Fable has this for the PC, along two axes. Purity/Corruption and Good/Evil.
  • In Mass Effect 2, after Shepard is brought back to life, he/she has facial scarring which gets worse if the player chooses Renegade options and heals if the player chooses Paragon options.
  • The Suffering
    • The protagonist Torque is a good example. He starts out as neutral (can also start as good or evil in the sequel) and looks like a dirty death row inmate. The more positive karma he gets, the cleaner he is. The lower his karma meter drops, the more dirty and disease-ridden his appearance gets.
    • In Ties That Bind this extends to his Rage Monster appearance. Hero Monster Torque looks almost human, glows with blue light, his distance attack uses machineguns and he's generally more "Hulk" than "Monster". Neutral Monster Torque is almost the same as in Prison Is Hell. Villain Monster Torque looks demonic, glows with red light, has poison-spitting appendages on his back and burns his enemies with hellfire.

Community Feedback Replies: 23
  • August 11, 2011
    Ghilz
    Black And White has this for creatures and the gods.
  • August 11, 2011
    Koveras
    The Twilight forms of the Others in the Night Watch series can be either human-like (for youngest Others), angelic (Light Others), or demonic (Dark Others).
  • August 11, 2011
    Bruxist
    The "Twilight Form rule" is what Anton says in the Night Watch, being still quite inexperienced. In one of the later books he says that he will not be fooled by the leader of the Day Watch, because he knows Zavulon's true nature (evidenced by the Twilight Form). Zavulon's response is: "I've seen yours, Anton, and believe me - you're no Angel with a flaming sword yourself...". Could be either a mindfuck attempt, a trope subversion or playing it painfully straight (since Anton is a Light Other, but a very independent and doubting one), depending on what you believe. Mind you, Anton himself states that while the Light often uses lies and trickery as its tools, the main weapon of Darkness is usually painful truth.

    Also, I think this trope fits as a subtrope to Game Face or One Winged Angel.
  • August 11, 2011
    KamenZero
    I wonder how we've never had this. Would this count if the physical manifestation is some sort of temporary gag (such as in one cartoon, a dog has a particularly evil thought and grows devillish horns for a few seconds).

    Also Does This Count: In Mass Effect 2, after Shepard is brought back to life, he/she has facial scarring which gets worse if the player chooses Renegade options and heals if the player chooses Paragon options.
  • August 11, 2011
    Stratadrake
    Should mention related tropes, like Good Wings Evil Wings.
  • August 11, 2011
    Bruxist
    • Torque, the protagonist of The Suffering games, is a good example. He starts out as neutral (can also start as good or evil in the sequel) and looks like a dirty death row inmate. The more positive karma he gets, the cleaner he is. The lower his karma meter drops, the more dirty and disease-ridden his appearance gets.
      • In Ties That Bind this extends to his Rage Monster appearance. Hero Monster Torque looks almost human, glows with blue light, his distance attack uses machineguns and he's generally more "Hulk" than "Monster". Neutral Monster Torque is almost the same as in Prison Is Hell. Villain Monster Torque looks demonic, glows with red light, has poison-spitting appendages on his back and burns his enemies with hellfire.
  • August 11, 2011
    Maklodes
    Higurashiblood98, first of all, if you're going to edit this YKTTW, and you have an Anime and Manga contribution, you should put it under an Anime and Manga section. Second, I have a tough time understanding what you're saying. I was confused for a while about whether you were referring to a single Anime, Higurashi, or another one before you talked about that when referring to the protagonist. I think a rewrite would be good. Third, are the horns in any way affected by her conduct?
  • August 12, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    Evil Makes You Monstrous awaits at the end of the line
  • August 18, 2011
    Maklodes
    Thanks, Mozgwsloiku. Maybe it's Evil Makes You Monstrous and Evil Makes You Ugly that is actually the already-existing version of this trope, and I should just edit Black And White, Fable, etc to include links to those tropes.
  • August 18, 2011
    jaytee
    ^I think this is distinct from Evil Makes You Monstrous. This trope deals with very specific kinds of appearance--angelic (halos) and demonic (horns)--and we already have several examples which fit those very specific appearances exactly, which indicates to me that this is a separate, if closely related, trope.
  • August 25, 2011
    Maklodes
    [[quoteblock]]This trope deals with very specific kinds of appearance--angelic (halos) and demonic (horns)[[/quoteblock]]

    For what it's worth, I just wrote "Earning Horns and Halos" as a title because it seemed to be a decent approximation. I intended for it to capture all physical manifestations of moral character, even if it's clean and healthy/dirty and sick, as in The Suffering as mentioned by Bruxist.
  • August 26, 2011
    terrafox
  • August 26, 2011
    somerandomdude
    Would Pinocchio's nose be an example? It doesn't appear to be permanent.
  • October 17, 2011
    CharacterInWhite
    Not sure if this is quite what you're looking for, but: in Veronica Mars, a cop who is exploited by the titular character gets a visiting sketchbook artist to do her picture. When Veronica sees it, she says "I don't have horns!", though the cop's cheeky grin implies that he disagrees.
  • October 17, 2011
    GreenMachine
    Sonic Adventure 2: The Chao can be influenced to become Hero Chao and Dark Chao. The Hero Chao fit this trope literally, as the ball floating above their heads become a halo. The Dark Chao...not so much. The balls above their heads get all spiky. Also, I think their skin color changes as they get closer to the light/dark side, but I'm not sure about that one.
  • October 17, 2011
    surgoshan
    • In Star Wars, this is explicitly the case for Jedi. Light Side Jedi end up radiating an aura of goodness and peace. Dark Jedi end up radiating hate and anger. Also, they're really damn ugly.
  • August 18, 2013
    Dragonmouth
    The film Its A Wonderful Life might be the Trope Codifier. In the film, Clarence Odbody is assigned as George Bailey's guardian angel. He earns his wings when he saves George from committing suicide.
  • August 18, 2013
    Koveras
    • The Elohim's Apocalyptic Forms in Demon The Fallen are a manifestation of their divine natures and depend on their Torment score: high-torment Forms are very demonic and instill primal dread in mortals, while the low-torment Forms are more angelic in nature (in the original Biblical sense of "angelic")--they don't scare mortals shitless but are still terrifying in an awe-inspiring way.
  • August 19, 2013
    Arivne
    Namespaced and italicized work titles and corrected an improper Example Indentation.

    The Mass Effect 2 example violates Handling Spoilers because it's virtually useless unless you read the spoilered text.
  • August 19, 2013
    Earnest
    Compare Angel Face Demon Face.

    Here's a possible pic. The cute furball is Pip from Chrono Cross, he can become an Arch Angel, Arch Devil or Color Fairy depending on what magic he uses. Light elements make him angelic, dark ones demonic looking.

    Raw Code: [[quoteright:346:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/piptransformschronocross_1712.jpg]] [[caption-width-right:346:some caption text]]


  • August 19, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    What about "actions shape appearance" as the definition?

    The Percy Jackson example is not contingent on moral or immoral behavior; the satyr's horn didn't grow until he succeeded in helping a scion complete their first Quest.
  • August 20, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons
      • In the Ravenloft setting, a person who acted in an evil manner was required to make a Powers check. Failing a Powers check caused the person to become increasingly corrupted, on a 13 point scale. As the person passed through higher levels of corruption they started suffered minor changes (at level 4), moderate changes (at level 7) and major physical changes (at level 10) that made their embrace of evil visible to everyone.
  • August 20, 2013
    AgProv
    Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion series uses this trope. In The Elric Saga, degenerate human beings in the service of Chaos physically transform into man-beasts, becoming humanoid pigs, wolves, dogs, et c. In the ''Hawkmoon' books, the warriors of Gran Bretan do this symbolically by putting on animal masks and helmets according to whgether they belong to the Order of The Boar, Dog, Horse, Wolf, et c.
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