Created By: crazysamaritan on February 12, 2014 Last Edited By: crazysamaritan on June 18, 2014
Troped

Divinely Appearing Demons

An inhabitant of Hell is superficially similar to an inhabitant of Heaven.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
When creators want to emphasize the similarity of traits between the forces of the divine and the forces of the infernal, several strategies are used. This trope is about the strategy of similar appearance. Mortal characters encountering both the divine person and the infernal person must rely on subtle clues instead of obvious markers.

In many works of fiction, angels and demons are depicted with obvious markers. Like the two are distinct "races", and often polar opposites. Divine creatures (including good gods) are often Winged Humanoids that glow with Angelic Beauty, while Infernal creatures (and evil gods) are Big Red Devils with horns, cloven feet, and nasty big pointy teeth. You'd never mistake one for the other, or even think they have much in common. But this trope is for when you can confuse them. When the two are very similar, and easily mistaken for each other.

If there are any distinctions in appearance at all, they are likely to be subtle. Perhaps Good Wings, Evil Wings are involved, with the two groups looking otherwise identical. Or differences in costume while Acting for Two, where the same actor is used to portray both a Christian God/angel and Satan/demon. That specific technique is most likely codified by George Burns in Oh, God! You Devil. The similarity of appearance is Older Than Feudalism: The story of the Old Testament is that Lucifer (Satan) himself was the most powerful of the Heavenly Host, before deciding to turn away from his God. He can still appear as an angel of light because he is one, not because he's disguised.

This trope can be used to complement other similarities. The creator may be trying to show the two groups are Not So Different or God Is Evil. It can also be used to explain why a normally good person is willing to make a Deal with the Devil, instead of turning it down out of principle.

Beware Beauty Equals Goodness: just because an infernal creature can choose to have Angelic Beauty doesn't mean they are angelic. Compare Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon, where a person with an evil mind has a beautiful and innocent face. Compare Fallen Angel. Contrast Ascended Demon. See also Our Demons Are Different and Our Angels Are Different.

Examples

Comic Book
  • Lucifer. In this series (a spinoff of The Sandman), Lucifer is depicted as a handsome man with golden wings, consistent with his description in The Bible.
  • An Inverted Trope in the New-52 version of Resurrection Man, where the angels that Mitch runs into sometimes look (and act) a hell of a lot like demons.
  • The Sandman has Lucifer, Be'elzebub, and Azazel, the Demon Lords and Archdevils of Hell. Each of them are depicted with a different appearance, making this trope played straight and averted. Lucifer looks like his angelic biblical appearance, while Azazel appears made of shadows, eyes, and teeth, and Be'elzebub is a giant bug.

Film - Live Action

Literature
  • In Cosmic Christmas, Satan assumes his angelic (Lucifer) form in an attempt to fool Archangel Gabriel into thinking he never rebelled and the whole uprising was just a test by him and God to test Gabriel's faith. It's implied only he can do this, as a previous demon Gabriel encounters who pretends to be trying to return to the angels remains in a demonic form.
  • Good Omens. Crowley notes that there's "not that much difference" in appearance between angels and demons. One of the running themes of the book is that angels and demons are Not So Different.
  • Paradise Lost: Lucifer's depiction in this book is as his angelic self, and the work presents him as a tragic Anti-Villain rather than Made of Evil.

Live-Action TV
  • The series Brimstone follows Detective Ezekiel Stone, as he is sent on a mission to hunt down 113 damned souls that escaped from Hell. Satan visits at least Once an Episode, played by John Glover and wearing a good-looking business suit. When an angel appears later on, John Glover is dressed in a very worn-out shirt and pants outfit. Ezekiel first mistakes him for Satan, wondering why the new outfit.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Penumbra" the Pah-Wraiths (Prophets exiled from their home in the Wormhole) appear to Kai Winn Adami in a vision, claiming to be the Prophets.
  • An example of Acting for Two was found in an episode of Touched by an Angel, where an evil twin of Monica (one of the regular angels "touching" human lives) showed up.

Music
  • Kamelot. In the song "Descent of the Archangel", Mephisto (named for a demon in The Bible) appears to Ariel in his full angelic glory, offering Ariel a bargain for his soul.

Tabletop Games
  • In Demon: The Fallen, the low-Torment demons are virtually indistinguishable from non-Fallen angels, allowing the former to pass for the latter to the mortals.


Indexes: Tropes of the Divine, Infernal Tropes (Characters), Our Demons Are Different (What do they look like?)
Community Feedback Replies: 34
  • February 13, 2014
    DAN004
  • February 13, 2014
    randomsurfer
    In Oh God You Devil George Burns plays both God and the Devil. They look the same, although the Devil prefers to dress all in red.
  • February 28, 2014
    BOFH
    Film
  • March 4, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    ^ We don't see any other angels to compare him to, do we?
  • March 4, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    • Inverted in the New-52 version of Resurrection Man, where the angels that Mitch runs into sometimes look (and act) a hell of a lot like demons.
  • March 4, 2014
    dspeyer
    • The Lucifer appearance is copied from Sandman (of which it is a spinoff), only there Lucifer’s angelic appearance is emphasized by the contrast with Beelzebub and Azazel.
    • When fallen angel Lasciel first appears to Harry Dresden:
      I heard the sound of movement, and a woman stepped into sight from behind a rock formation. She was a little taller than average and had hair that fell in a sheet of golden silk to her shoulders. She was dressed in a silken tunic belted with soft rope, both pure white. The outfit neither displayed any impropriety nor allowed anyone looking to ignore the beauty of the body it clothed. Her eyes were of a deep, deep blue, like a sunny October sky, and her skin glowed with wholesome appeal. She was, quite simply, a stunning creature.
      "You, uh," I said, "you don't look much like a demon."
      "Keep in mind, please, that I was not always a resident of Hell. I relocated there." She looked at herself. "Shall I add the wings? A harp? A golden halo?"

  • March 5, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    In the Dresden 'verse, is a Big Red Devil different from Fallen Angel? Some works do differentiate.
  • March 6, 2014
    Arivne
    Angelic Appearing Demons, to make it clearer?
  • March 6, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Eh, I prefer Divinely so it doesn't strictly have to be angels.
  • March 18, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    Should I start asking for hats? (btw: I agree with Dan)
  • May 23, 2014
    Statzkeen
    The Bible - "Satan himself masquerades as an Angel of Light."
  • June 1, 2014
    Tuckerscreator
    • In the book Cosmic Christmas, Satan assumes his angelic Lucifer form in an attempt to fool Gabriel into thinking he never rebelled and the whole uprising was just a test by him and God to test Gabriel's faith. It's implied only he can do this, as a previous demon Gabriel encounters who pretends to be trying to return to the angels remains in his demon form.
  • June 3, 2014
    hbi2k
    Literature
    • In the backstory to The Lord Of The Rings, Sauron is a shapechanger who takes different forms depending on his goals: an imposing form (often a werewolf) when he wants to intimidate, and an aesthetically pleasing form befitting his status as a former Maia (minor angel) when he wants to get in good with his enemies and destroy them from within. He loses this ability after the fall of Numenor.
  • June 3, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    Not An Example: He would apply on Fallen Angel, and Divinely Disguised Demon (another YKTTW), but this trope is about demons (or ex-angels) whose appearance is their "un-fallen" countenance.
  • June 3, 2014
    hbi2k
    ^ Well, that's sort of the point, innit? That he can appear in his "un-fallen" form when it suits him? (Until the trope is averted and he gets mode-locked, of course.)
  • June 11, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    aesthetically pleasing form befitting his status as a former Maia

    The other Maia (Gandalf, Sauruman) aren't always "aesthetically pleasing", so the work doesn't seem to suggest that Maia must mean "aesthetically pleasing". If you can clarify that, it should work. As it stands, your example looks like "he can disguise himself as a Bifauxnen". That would mean the Maia also disguise themselves, not that Sauron naturally looked like that prior to Numenor.
  • June 11, 2014
    Someoneman
    Video Games:
    • In many Shin Megami Tensei games, Lucifer appears as a man with six feathered wings, draped in a white cloth. His only feature that marks him as being with the demons of Chaos rather than the angels of Law is a pair of horns.
  • June 12, 2014
    hbi2k
    Had a chance to look up the Divinely Disguised Demon YKTTW. As things stand, I'd tend to agree that Sauron would belong more under that trope than this one; however I'm not sure that the two prospective tropes are sufficiently disambiguated from one another. There are enough edge cases between "a fallen angel that still looks the same as when he was un-fallen" and "a fallen angel that can disguise himself as un-fallen" that I think it makes more sense to roll them into one trope than have two.

    In Sauron's case, for example, Maia do not have a "natural" physical form, but when they take physical form, they nearly always choose one that reflects their essential nature. Good Maia take on pleasing forms, fallen Maia take on intimidating forms, etc. Sauron's "pleasing" form is a "disguise" insofar as it does not reflect his essential nature, but it's no more "unnatural" a form for him to take on as any other: he is a being of pure spirit, and any physical form he takes is explicitly likened to a set of clothes to us.

    TL;DR version: I think this trope works better if it encompasses both demons that "naturally" appear angelic as well as those who appear angelic due to a "disguise".
  • June 12, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    Not all demons are Fallen Angels. See The Sandman as an example. Only one character counts. Sauron's shapshifting shows treacheryand trickery. Lucifer shows his connection to his past, emphasizing his nature as a Fallen Angel.
  • June 12, 2014
    hbi2k
    But shapeshifting (and thus, the ability to appear angelic) is still an ability that Sauron has by virtue of being a Maia. All Maiar have it, it's just that most don't use it the way he does.

    Are you intending to limit this trope only to demons that are Fallen Angels and appear angelic for that reason? If so, the description does not make that clear.
  • June 12, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    How do the first two sentences fail to make it clear?
  • June 12, 2014
    hbi2k
    I think it's kind of backwards. You talk about fallen angels that appear un-fallen first, then go on to talk about demons that do not appear angelic in such a way that it takes a close reading to parse that the second paragraph is no longer talking about this trope, but about examples that DON'T fit this trope.

    In any case, the more I think about it, the more I think that Sauron fits the trope. Angels and demons are not different species or orders of being in Tolkien's cosmology: they're both Maiar. There's no physical transformation when a Maia goes from serving good to serving evil.

    Sauron is not "disguising" himself in the sense that he's not pretending to be a different order of being than what he is. He still looks just like every other Maia does: however he chooses to. He's just pretending to be reformed when he's really The Mole.
  • June 12, 2014
    hbi2k
    Also, it might be worth listing The Bible and early Christian tradition as an inversion. The way they're described (see Our Angels Are Different for specifics), many of them sound more like Eldritch Abominations than the traditional Winged Humanoids. It's not for nothing that the first words out of their mouths when they contact humans tends to be, "Be not afraid!"
  • June 12, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    It takes a close reading to notice " In the other stories, "???
  • June 12, 2014
    hbi2k
    It takes a close reading to notice that you're talking about examples that DON'T fit the trope, and not going on to describe another subtype or Internal Subtrope of the trope you're describing.
  • June 14, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    Okay, I've re-written the draft. What is your opinion now?
  • June 14, 2014
    SquirrelGuy
    Live-action TV: An example of Acting for Two was found in an episode of Touched by an Angel, where an evil twin of Monica showed up.
  • June 16, 2014
    hbi2k
    I'd leave out the bit about Big Red Devils versus Angelic Beauty. This trope is about settings in which there are subtle, if any physical distinctions between angels and demons, right? If so, you need to emphasize the similarities, not the differences. If you must reference those tropes, do so at the end of the description with a sentence like "Contrast Angelic Beauty and Big Red Devils."

    Also, minor typo: in the third paragraph, I think you meant "complement" as opposed to "compliment".
  • June 16, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ ye mean Big Red Devil
  • June 16, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    The vast majority of works treat the two "races" as very different. I'm thinking it is a good idea to remind the audience what doesn't apply, to prevent this from getting covered with "both divine and infernal creatures in the work". Do you think I should move it from the definition to the Playing With Tropes page? Because those tropes are not a "see also", they're a part of the definition. Things are defined by what they are not almost as much as what they are.

    Thanks for catching the typo! :)
  • June 17, 2014
    hbi2k
    Okay, but in that case you need to make it very clear when you're talking about THIS trope versus when you're contrasting with OTHER tropes. Maybe something like:

    "In many works of fiction, angels and demons are depicted as two distinct 'races' or 'species', often polar opposites. Angels are Winged Humanoids that glow— sometimes literally— with Angelic Beauty, while demons are Big Red Devils with horns and cloven feet and nasty big pointy teeth. You'd never mistake one for the other, or even think they have much in common.

    That's not the case with this trope. This trope is about settings in which angels and demons have only superficial differences, or may even be physically identical...."

    Then go into the rest of the trope description.
  • June 17, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    No, you never open with what the trope is not. But I can incorporate that suggestion.
  • June 17, 2014
    hbi2k
    The order isn't important, as long as there's a clear distinction between when you're talking about what the trope IS and when you're contrasting it with what it's NOT.

    I like the new version better, but I would suggest rewording the sentence, "This trope is about using subtle clues to distinguish between them." This disagrees with the trope name, the laconic, and the first paragraph, which state that the trope is about the simililarities, not the distinctions (if there are any).

    Maybe something like, "If there are any distinctions in appearance at all, they are likely to be subtle. For example..." and so on.
  • June 18, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    Done.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=rjgk517udocaq0y0rilo2z0u&trope=DivinelyAppearingDemons