Earning Horns and Halos YKTTW Discussion

Earning Horns and Halos
Physical manifestation of moral character
(permanent link) added: 2011-08-10 20:52:45 sponsor: Maklodes edited by: Arivne (last reply: 2013-08-20 04:46:41)

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(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.


  • 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.

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