Do you have any idea how long we've been waiting to kick ass?
...there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them,[...] and breath entered them, and they came to life and stood up on their feet - a vast army.
The Evil Army
is about to overrun our stronghold
! Hold the Line
tactics worked just fine until The Dragon
showed up and smashed a bloody great hole in our defenses. It looks like the enemy has won
... but wait! The wizard
that spell he was working on! There's a horn
sounding over the horizon.
Wait... why are all our fallen comrades in the courtyard stirring? Is that army coming over the hills... translucent
Man, I sure am glad the Army of the Dead is on our
side. They're tearing The Evil Army
right up. I sure hope we can keep these guys around! ...What do you mean, "good for one battle only?"
The essence of this trope is: Fallen allies, usually having died either in the battle at hand or in a previous battle with the same enemy, rise temporarily from the dead en masse
and contribute to the ongoing battle in some critical way. The undead in question are more likely to be spectral than physical, but both are possible. The important part is that the loyalty of the fallen is preserved. Also, the Army of the Dead can help win the (usually climactic or highly significant) battle, but they can't then join the standing army. They tend only to last until the immediate threat is vanquished.
The Trope Namer
and possibly also modern Trope Codifier
is the Army of the Dead from Lord of the Rings
, it's Older Than They Think
See Also: The Cavalry
, Big Damn Heroes
, Desperation Attack
. Contrast Animate Dead
and Night of the Living Mooks
, where the original loyalty of the raw materials isn't relevant.
ENDING TROPE! Unmarked Spoilers ahead.
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Anime and Manga
- In Saint Seiya, Hades brings back to life fallen Gold Saints of Athena, granting them 12 hours to bring him her head. If they do so, he may bring them back to life for real. It turns out that they remained loyal to their Goddess nonetheless and only accepted Hades' deal to warn her about the upcoming Holy War while killing some members of Hades' army in the process. Once the 12 hours delay expired, they disappeared to return to the Underworld (where they join again to fire a super Combined Energy Attack).
- In Fate/Zero, among the Noble Phantasms owned by Servant Rider, Alexander the Great, is his Reality Marble: Ionioi Hetairoi, "Army of the King". After the boundary field is set, his entire army from life slowly appear, each and every one so ferociously loyal to Alexander that death itself can not keep them from aiding their king. 100 of the greatest assassins in history? Meet the army that conquered the world.
- Back in The Invincible Iron Man 150, Iron Man and Dr. Doom were time displaced to Camelot, and met King Arthur. But Dr. Doom was not interested in him, but in King Arthur's sister: Morgan Le Fey. Doom wanted Le Fey to train him into the black magic, and Le Fey requested in exchange that Doom led an army against King Arthur (a spell prevented her from leaving the castle herself). She had a piece of the Excalibur sword, which allowed her to raise an army composed of all those who died by that sword and wanted vengeance against its wielder.
- In the The Dresden Files book Grave Peril, Harry Dresden raised an army of ghosts against Bianca, assisted by her tearing of the veil.
- Happens again in Ghost Story, when self-styled "Ectomancer" (ghost therapist) Mortimer is suspended in a pit full of shades, and naturally gets control of them.
- In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the Dead of Dunharrow, who over three thousand years ago betrayed Isildur by running away and not coming to his aid against Sauron, are called upon by his descendant Aragorn to fulfill their oath so that they are allowed to pass peacefully into death afterwards. They are released after defeating the fleet of Umbar coming up the river Anduin. This stops Sauron getting reinforcements at the Battle of Minas Tirith, frees the now unoccupied South Gondorian soldiers, and conveniently provides transport to get them up the river to Minas Tirith to once again turn the tide of the battle.
- Subverted in The Zombie Survival Guide. The Japanese and Soviets attempt to create armies of undead to unleash upon their enemies. It doesn't work.
- At the end of The Princess and the Bear, the animal magic brings all the dead soldiers on the protagonists' side back to fight.
- In Micah E. F. Martin's The Canticle, any Necromancer or High Dead worth his salt has a legion of starving ghouls at their beck and call.
- In the climax of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the shades of the last several people Voldemort murdered come out of his wand and swarm him, giving Harry just enough time to escape.
- In the last book of His Dark Materials, Lyra and Will have to travel through the land of the dead, and dead characters from the last several books decide to come along with them to help Lord Asriel's side in the fight against The Authority's angels.
- In The Bible, Ezekiel, with God's help, raised his own army of the dead.
- In Warrior Cats, all the villains who die go to the Dark Forest, which is essentially cat hell. An important Myth Arc is that the Dark Forest is rising because of the birth of the Three, and will soon become a villainous variation of this. In the series Grand Finale, The Last Hope, the Dark Forest invades, but the two Heaven equivalents, StarClan and the Tribe of Endless Hunting, fight alongside the Clans to even the odds. This also allows the characters to reunite with their fallen comrades.
- The Wheel of Time has the Heroes of the Horn, legendary heroes who have become bound to the Wheel of Time by their famous deeds; they're meant to be summoned by the Horn of Valere at the Last Battle. There are only about a hundred of them, but the psychological effect of a glorious band of fearful warriors wreathed in mist is enough to bolster the morale of the armies of the Light and give pause to their enemies.
- In Age of Mythology, when you lose normal army units while playing as the Greeks worshiping Hades, you will receive weak "shade" units at your temple. They're weak and vulnerable, but they don't count toward your Arbitrary Headcount Limit, making them great for a Zerg Rush or as last-ditch Cannon Fodder.
- There's also a God Power, Ancestors. It summons a bunch of zombies to fight your enemies, but only for about a minute.
- Also, there's the Einherjar, if you're Nordic.
- In Phantom Brave, Marona's power is to communicate with spirits, and give them corporeal form, basically making an army once you make enough player characters.
- Spellforce 2 Paladins, on their deaths, turn into killable ghost warriors who fade over time. They're only slightly weaker than the original unit, so they're useful for pressing an attack or covering a retreat.
- In Warcraft III, Paladins and their evil counterparts, the Death Knights, both have the ability to resurrect dead units en masse. The main difference is that the Paladin fully restores 6 units to life permanently, but only friendly units, while the Death Knight summons up shades of the most powerful allied or enemy units for 40 seconds, and those shades are indestructible during that time.
- In World of Warcraft, the ability is actually called "Army of the Dead"! However, the way it works changed significantly, most likely due to the Genre Shift from a RTS to a MMORPG. The World Of Warcraft version of the ability simply summons 10 ghouls from the ground to fight for the Death Knight for a limited time. It doesn't require nearby corpses, and the ghouls mindlessly swarm the area and don't have any special abilities, but the spell can still be a very effective "panic button" in some situations.
- In The Battle for Middle-Earth, with units and powers based on the Peter Jackson films, one of the Tier 4 Ring Powers for Men is Army of the Dead, which... summons an army of the dead. Aragorn gets a smaller version of this as his Level 10 ability.
- Used by both sides in the Olympics plot of DC Nation. To be fair, they were fighting Hades. Jerkass God he is, he killed off Nightwing and Arsenal, then sends an army of undead rogues, skeletons, and victims. Just when it looks like the heroes are up a creek, here comes Hawkman, flanked by the two fallen Titans and bringing in fallen allies for one Climactic Battle Resurrection.