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Living Shadow

"I have gone through the most terrible affair that could possibly happen; only imagine, my shadow has gone mad; I suppose such a poor, shallow brain, could not bear much; he fancies that he has become a real man, and that I am his shadow."

You're sitting by the fire one night, reading your book, when suddenly there's a gust of wind. The light flickers and you see your shadow move - except you're not moving. You get up and see that there's actually two shadows - one is yours and one, well, that one's moving independently of you. How (creepy) amazing!

This is the Living Shadow. Sometimes it's evil, sometimes it's good, sometimes it's merely mischievous. It may be a ghost, a person with the power to become a shadow, an alien that only appears to be a shadow, or something much, much worse. Regularly, they're used as Nightmare Fuel.

Voluntarily separating yourself from your shadow is one of the more dangerous things you can do. It usually has the obvious corollary that you Cast No Shadow but that's merely the obvious.

Not to be confused with a Shadow Archetype, which isn't usually a Living Shadow, or with Fighting a Shadow, or Loving a Shadow (which may happen with a Living Shadow, but is not necessary). Also not to be confused with Casting a Shadow, though it's not uncommon for the two to overlap.

Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Leliel, the 12th Angel in Neon Genesis Evangelion, proved to be a two-dimensional creature resembling a shadow that projected a three-dimensional, spherical shadow; everyone understandably assumed the sphere was the Angel. You attack the sphere, you get eaten by the "shadow".
  • An episode of Ranma ˝ had Ranma train against his shadow (literal "shadow boxing"). Inevitably, the shadow became evil and had to be put back to normal.
  • In the Thriller Bark arc of One Piece, Gecko Moria's Kage Kage no Mi (Shadow-Shadow Fruit) powers allow him to remove shadows from people as if they were living things. He can also stuff them into corpses, turning said corpses into zombies (which gain all the abilities and personality of the shadow's true owner). Shadows can also be stuffed into living people, with the same result, but after a certain period of time (depending on the willpower and concentration of the person), the shadows remove themselves forcibly.
    • The Shadow-Shadow Fruit also gives Moria's own shadow the ability to move (and, of course, fight) independently, as a straighter example of this trope.
  • In Soul Eater, Tsubaki's brother Masamune, the Uncanny Sword, has the ability to twist his shadow into a stick-figure shadow monster, an ability she inherits after defeating him. Crona also talked to his/her own shadow in their Mental World, but that was more of a symbolic thing. Ragnorak, Chrona's partner / sapient blood, also resembles a shadow somewhat.
  • In the 5th arc of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure the Stand wielded by Polpo, Black Sabbath, has the ability to jump from shadow to shadow. This means any shadow big enough to fit him not attached to a human and he attacks by pulling your shadow up from the ground and stabbing it with an arrow that comes out of his mouth. Really. However it's only a 50% change you'll die from it because if you can handle it the strain on your soul you get your own Stand. Alessi from Part 3 also uses a shadowlike Stand, Sethan, who de-ages whomever it touches.
  • Pride/Selim Bradley from Fullmetal Alchemist has the ability to transform any shadow in his area into an Eldritch Abomination covered with eyes and teeth. Those shadows are also quite 'physical'; they can touch people and objects (and rip them apart or consume them). However, the shadows have to be visible, so he can't do anything in an area of complete darkness. Ironically, he needs light to use his shadows, while at the same time being vulnerable to very bright light, as a flash grenade at close range can temporarily hurt him.
    • In a flashback, Father's original form was shown to be a tiny, shadowy ball in a flask that was able to manifest a single eye and mouth. In chapter ninety-seven, his true form is shown to be a nothing more than an mass of shadows covered in teeth and eyes formed to resemble a human.
  • Shadow type magic in Mahou Sensei Negima! uses this as a fighting style, and can create tangible objects out of the stuff. Word of warning- as tempting as it might be, don't make clothing out of it. Like any magical construct, it will vanish if the person generating it is incapacitated. It took Takane D. Goodman quite a... while to learn it.
  • Some Pokémon (mostly ghost types) can turn into moving shadows to evade attack. In one of the movies, Darkrai did this a lot, much to Ash's frustration.
  • The Illegals in Dennou Coil resemble living shadows, especially the humanoid Nulls.
  • The Nara Clan of Naruto, which includes Shikamaru Nara, can utilize shadows as weapons for binding, controlling, impaling, strangling, or other manipulations. Jiraiya, who is unrelated to that clan but is the main character's mentor, has a similar skill that can cause him to merge with someone's shadow, controlling them.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The witch Elsa Maria and her minion Sebastian. Kriemhild Gretchen appears as this as well.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has the monster "Wall Shadow", which is pretty much Exactly What It Says on the Tin. A living creature hiding inside its shadow, only capable of moving along walls. In the actual card game, however, it is just a level 5 monster with 1600 ATK and 3000 DEF, capable of attacking just like any other monster.
  • Seiichirou Tatsumi's power in Descendants of Darkness is manipulating shadows as a mean of transport and as a weapon.

    Comic Books 
  • Sergio Aragonés "The Shadow Knows" strips for MAD depict people's shadows acting out their secret fantasies.
  • Shadow-powered Golden Age DC villain Ian Karkull; at one point, he was messing with Anti-Hero Obsidian, who can also become a Living Shadow. In Superman: The Animated Series, he was reimagined as a monster simply known as Karkull.
  • The Shadow Demons from the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover are two-dimensional silhouettes of the Monitor, and their merest touch can be deadly.
  • The Sandman:
    • "Season of Mists" makes a specific point of describing the odd behavior of each of the Endless' shadows as they are introduced. Desire has two of them, Despair's has its own odor, Delirium's is tangible and changes shape on its own, Destiny doesn't have one, and Dream only has one when he remembers. Death's is not mentioned (although she is consistently the most human-like of the Endless), and Destruction is not present at the time. However, none of their shadows seem to be sentient, at least as far as we know (it would be entirely plausible, there's just no actual evidence for it).
    • The shaman who hides himself by transforming himself into a bear, the bear bites off his shadow, and the shadow turns into a decoy shaman.
  • Cloak of Marvel Comics' Cloak & Dagger can likewise take on shadow characteristics.
  • As mentioned in the Western Animation examples below, the Shadow Thief is a Hawkman foe who can turn into a living shadow.
  • In addition to the other Doctor Who examples on this page, there's also Shayde, from the Doctor Who Magazine comic, a mental construct who's nigh-indestructible, able to travel anywhere in space and time, and kills his enemies with psychic weaponry. Fortunately, he's on the Doctor's side.
  • In the Judge Dredd / Batman crossover The Ultimate Riddle, they face a character actually called "The Living Shadow".
  • The eponymous entity of Top Cow's The Darkness has elements of this. One notable example is when Jackie, paralyzed by holy light, summons tentacles out of the shadow cast by the person projecting said light.
  • New Gods: A member of the Female Furies named Malice Vundabar can summon a horrific shadow monster called Chessure to devour victims.
  • An old Marvel horror comic has "Joe the Invisible Goon", a creature which obeyed a guy's literal commands (To the point where it caused his girlfriend to have a heart attack when he yelled at her to drop dead), which took the form of his shadow most of the time.
  • This is the power of the Shade, a foe of The Flash and a sometimes enemy/sometimes ally of Starman.
  • In "The Living Shadow," in issue #26 of The Haunt of Fear, the main character murdered his wife so he could marry his mistress, only to have his wife's shadow come back and kill the mistress, causing him to be charged with her murder.
  • In "Shadow of Death," in issue #39 of Tales From The Crypt, a paraplegic newsstand owner's business was being ruined by a perfectly healthy rival who stood on a nearby corner and sold papers more cheaply. After a few days of this, the stand owner's shadow picked up the shadow of a sledgehammer and hit the rival's shadow over the head with it, causing the rival to mysteriously drop dead.
  • The reptilian Shadowjumpers from Tellos are this.
  • The Doom Patrol villain Mr. Nobody was one of these at least until he became "Mr. Somebody".
  • In The Shadow Hero, the Green Turtle's patron deity, the Turtle, one of the ancient spirit animals of China, takes over his shadow to communicate with him.

    Fanfic 

    Film 
  • In The Artist, downtrodden hero George Valentin, in the depths of his despair, screams at his shadow from the light of a movie projector. The shadow turns and walks away.
  • In Bram Stoker's Dracula, Dracula had a shadow that could move independently of him.
  • Played for laughs in Mel Brooks' Dracula: Dead and Loving It. His shadow limps after Dracula falls down a flight of stairs, despite his claim that he was unhurt, does an... interesting dance with Mina's shadow, and ultimately runs away after Van Helsing, Jonathan, and Dr. Seward are trying to kill him.
  • In Carl Dreyer's 1932 film Vampyr, the main character sees shadows living independent of their owners. This wasn't due to their being vampires, however; the movie simply had a very, very dream-like quality.
  • At the end of the Patrick Swayze-Demi Moore film Ghost, living shadows drag Sam Wheat's former friend Carl Bruner and his associate Willy Lopez down to Hell.
  • Done as a quick gag in Who Framed Roger Rabbit: While in Toontown, Eddie's shadow says "Gesundheit" after he sneezes.
  • Played for laughs and awesome during the "Bojangles of Harlem" number in Swing Time. Fred Astaire dances before a large backdrop on which he seems to cast three shadows. The shadows begin moving independently of him, and eventually walk away. (The amazing thing, on a meta level, is realizing that until this point he had been dancing in perfect sync with the prerecorded back-projection, which he wasn't even looking at.)
  • In Disney's The Princess and the Frog the Big Bad, a voodoo magician named Dr. Facilier, called in-movie "The Shadowman", has a living shadow that can interact with the real world, and serves to both mirror and accentuate his evil, mysterious nature. Later in the film, Facilier bargains with his "Friends on the Other Side" for the ability to control a whole swarm of living shadows.
    • Interestingly, the same concept was Dummied Out for an older Disney villain. Aladdin concept art showed Jafar with a living shadow in the shape of a snake.
  • In Freddy vs. Jason Freddy Krueger plays with this trope by projecting his shadow to attack a potential victim; however, because Freddy's still recovering from his time deprived of Springwood's fear and belief, the shadow passes clean through the teenager without harming him.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas: one of the denizens of Halloweentown is a living shadow that likes to cross the moon. The video game sequel makes it clear this is Oogie Boogie's shadow.
  • In Nocturna, the Big Bad is a practically-unstoppable Living Shadow that devours light, seemingly growing more solid/substantial the more it 'eats'. It was also unintentionally created by Tim, but is destroyed when he faces up to it, overcoming his fear of the dark.
  • In A Christmas Carol (2009), the Ghost of Christmas Future is Scrooge's shadow.
  • The Necromancer (AKA: Sauron) appears as this in The Hobbit.
  • In the end of the 2002 live action version of Pinocchio, Pinocchio walks to school, while his shadow is left behind. The shadow then notices a butterfly and chases it.
  • The 2013 movie Shadow People depicts a sleep study conducted during the 1970s in which patients report seeing shadowy intruders before dying in their sleep. The movie follows a radio host and CDC investigator who research the story, and the story is claimed to be "based on true events".
  • Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away: Mia and the Aerialist briefly become these in the "Get Back" number.

    Literature 
  • Hans Christian Andersen's 1847 story The Shadow is about a writer whose shadow comes to life and eventually overcomes its owner. It has a Downer Ending, too.
  • Peter Pan had a living shadow that escaped and he had to have Wendy sew it back on.
  • In The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland..., September trades away her shadow at one point. The shadow didn't seem at all upset about being given an independent existence of its own.
  • In Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas series, the main character sees these shadows and calls them "bodachs." It's implied that they might actually be visitors from the future.
  • John Dies at the End features the Shadow Men, malevolent entities that can erase people from existence.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, there's an entire alien species called the Defel or Wraiths that appear as shadows.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Nicodemus has a mobile shadow he uses to strangle people and fly at high speeds... A shadow which is actually a Fallen Angel. It even paces round the walls of a room when bored, or as close as the avatar of an immortal, soulless fallen angel can get.
    • A demon called He Who Walks Behind resembles a living shadow and stays behind its target at all times.
  • The members (cousins) of Faction Paradox have independent shadows called sombras que corta (shadows that cut) that they graft weapons onto - a cousin's shadow could take a roomful of mooks apart while they themselves wouldn't have to budge an inch. Of course, this is just part of their shtick of Magic from Technology ... or is it?
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them describes Lethifolds, which look like shadows but are actually just very flat black creatures.
  • The titular Haunter in the Dark in a story by H.P. Lovecraft appears to be some type of a shadowy creature (with wings, tentacles and a three-lobed burning eye). It's weakness is light (little light hurts it, bright light will banish it).
  • The Ghouls in Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee. Martinez are part-Living Shadow when in darkness. Also, Earl, being a vampire, has a shadow that is completely independent of him.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel Dead Sky Black Sun, they are attacked by shadows and escape only by Kill It with Fire. They are told they are only pollutants with life.
  • The sleeping humans on Dorma Island in Welkin Weasels are guarded by their now-independent shadows. The weasels get past them by waiting till noon. Since it's near the equator and the shadows are still cast in the same way they would be if the humans were attached, the shadows are reduced to tiny blobs which the weasels can just step over.
  • Shades from Karen Marie Moning's Fever Series are low-caste Unseelie which hunt at night and drain their victims until there's nothing left except clothing and the dehydrated remains of whatever they couldn't eat.
  • In P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath, the Kencyr dead whose remains have not been given to the pyre may remain in this world, but can only be perceived through their shadows. One particular such ghost girl appears in book 2, Dark of the Moon, and again in book 4, To Ride a Rathorn.
  • In Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami, the narrator of the "End of the World" sections has become seperated from his shadow, and must reunite with it if he wishes to escape the city.
  • In A Wizard of Earthsea, Ged accidentally summons up one of these, and spends the rest of the novel trying to either escape from or destroy it. The author explained that this is an allegory of the Jungian concept of the Shadow.
  • Played straight in Terry Pratchett's Carpe Jugulum, when King Verence's (second) shadow has to be removed and "killed" by the Nac Mac Feegle (with a well-aimed crossbow bolt) because its presence allows the vampires to control him.
  • George MacDonald was apparently fond of this trope. In Phantastes, a dark shadow attaches itself to the protagonist, causing him to suffer a severe depression. They play a more benevolent role in a short story entitled "The Shadows," in which they cast themselves on walls to comfort the bereaved, amuse children, inspire musicians, and confront guilty parties with their misdeeds.
  • In Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell it's revealed that Childermass can transform himself into a shadow, having learned something during his years of service to the magician Norrell.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Shadows in the Moonlight" this is one of the problems.
    Far below her something moved. It was as if a black shadow detached itself from the gulf of shadows below her. It moved slowly up the sheer face of the cliff—a vague bulk, shapeless in the semi-darkness.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Lost, the barghests combine this trope with Hell Hound.
  • In Shadows of the Apt, Scyla is haunted by a shadow from the box.
  • In Susan Dexter's The Wizard's Shadow, a murdered wizard turns himself into this; he then attaches himself to a passing peddler and more-or-less drags him off to finish the wizard's unfinished business.
  • In The Bartimaeus Trilogy the magician Khaba the Cruel has one of these. He avoids going out at noon to make it less obvious, but it's always behind him wherever the sun is, and is always long and dark no matter the time of day, and its limbs are sometimes threateningly outstretched when his are crossed. It's actually a powerful Marid called Ammet, who is extremely devoted to his master.
  • In Nnedi Okorafor's The Shadow Speaker, the main character Ejii has the ability to talk to shadows like they are alive. However the ability is not common.
  • In Septimus Heap, in Flyte, Marcia Overstrand is haunted by her own shadow, who turns out to be the Suspended Ellis Crackle that DomDaniel set upon her so that she would build a Shadow-fang that he corrupted for his own purposes.
  • Matthew Swift has to deal with his old teacher, Mr. Bakkir's shadow, a shadow-creature that is the projection of Mr. Bakkir's will to live that will do anything to ensure its survival. Including tearing Matthew open to get at the Electric blue angels.
  • In The Lost Years of Merlin series, Merlin eventually gets his shadow to come alive. His shadow ends up being headstrong and mischievous, and leaves after a disagreement with Merlin. Luckily, he comes back just in time for the final battle, having gone to recruit the swamp ghosts to aid their cause.
  • Sorcerers in David Eddings' Belgariad and Malloreon books can send their shadows away as spies (and occasionally more).
  • Shadow, in Casey Fry's Death Speaker is a ghost who takes form in the shadows of other people, particularly in the main character, Ricker's, shadow. When he does this, the shadow he infiltrates takes on an altered form. Presumably, it is the silhouette he would have cast when alive.
  • The Shadow appears to be able to become one (the first book is even called The Living Shadow). Whether or not it's really a trick is unclear.
  • Iron Council has a sort-of example in the form of a golem made of shadow, which is somehow able to engulf and choke people.
  • Theodore Sturgeon's short story "Shadow, Shadow on the Wall" features a flickering thing living in the upper corner of a little boy's bedroom. In the light, it's a shade darker; in the dark, it's a shade lighter. When the little boy's Wicked Stepmother interferes with it, it doesn't end well for her.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Melisandre the red priestess can give birth to these, typically used for assassinations. Targets include Ser Cortnay Penrose and Renly Baratheon.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Bear in the Big Blue House there's a living shadow character. She falls under the friendly/mischievous category.
  • Charmed:
    • The Woogyman appeared like this when giving instructions to the people it had possessed.
    • Apparently, Cole/Balthazar used his Living Shadow for surveillance.
  • Doctor Who has had plenty of Paranoia Fuel over the years:
    • The Vashta Nerada in "Silence in the Library". They are piranhas of the air, swarms of tiny black creatures that mimic your shadow and can literally melt flesh. They exist on billions of worlds, including Earth, where, though they mainly feed on roadkill, they still kill humans, and are the reason why every intelligent form of life is afraid of the dark. Plus, if they get inside a suit meant to keep them out, they can control your skeleton and use it to chase down your friends, all whilst your last words repeat endlessly and remind the Nerada's new victims just whose corpse is chasing them down. Technically, the last words part was a side-effect of the communicators and happens for non-Nerada deaths too, but we all know it's really there to make the Nerada victims even more creepy.
    • Expanded Universe rivals Faction Paradox combine this with Hyperspace Arsenal and nightmarish imagery. How? They use their weird technology to transform their shadows into living arsenals capable of directly manifesting in 3-D, allowing their priests to calmly sit down for a spot of tea as their shadows tear all enemies around to pieces.
    • Another episode, "Love & Monsters", revealed that Elton's mother was killed by an "Elemental Shade". It's not clear or not if it was a Vashta Nerada. Vashta Nerada are unlikely culprits, since in Elton's flashback we see her body, rather than a skeleton. Apparently universe is big enough to contain yet another shadow race.
  • The Friday The 13th: The Series episode "Shadow Boxer" revolves around a pair of cursed boxing gloves that allowed a washed up boxer to bring his shadow to life. While the boxer was in the ring, the shadow would murder someone while the gloves granted the boxer a surge of strength, allowing him to win any fight he entered.
  • An extraterrestrial Monster of the Week from Fringe resembles a three-dimensional shadow.
  • The Haven episode "Ain't No Sunshine" featured a man's shadow coming to life and killing people who angered him. The heroes destroy it with bright light, but it reappears on the man. They defeat it for good by keeping the man isolated in total darkness: no light equals no shadow. Fortunately for the man, he's blind.
  • One Monster of the Week in Lois and Clark was a man like this. He was an invincible killer who could enter any place as a shadow and kill his target without being seen or leaving any trace of his presence… but unfortunately, he was facing a guy with laser eyeballs and light means to him just what it means to actual shadows.
  • In an episode of Smallville, "Prey," one freak-of-the-week was a meteor freak partly based on Shadow Thief.
  • The trope is flirted with in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Identity Crisis, in which an alien parasite is discovered by its shadow since the magic camouflage it inflicts its hosts with doesn't work against spotlights.
  • An episode of Supernatural dealt with creatures who were invisible except for their shadows.
  • There's an episode of The Twilight Zone called "The Shadow Man," about a living shadow that lives under a boy's bed and will harm anybody except the person whose bed he lives under. At the end of the episode, the Shadow Man starts choking the boy, saying that he is a Shadow Man from a different bed. Brrr.
  • Not precisely "living," but on one episode of The X-Files, an experiment involving antimatter goes horribly wrong, causing the shadow of the scientist to consume the body of anyone it fell upon, leaving only a scorch mark on the wall/floor. Guaranteed to cause nightmares for days.
  • Once Upon a Time has Pan's shadow, a creature that can rip the soul from others and make them like itself.

    Music 
  • This video by hip-hop violinist Lindsey Stirling, "Shadows", has Lindsey playing and dancing alongside her own shadow, similar to Fred Astaire's "Bojangles of Harlem" number listed above.

    Mythology 
  • Wraiths and Shades sometimes.
  • In Nigeria, the Yoruba people believe that a person has at least three spiritual beings. One of them, the Ojiji, is a shadow that follows its owner and awaits his return in heaven when he dies.
  • Older Than Feudalism: In Roman Mythology ghosts were usually jet-black, and resembled living shadows. The souls in the underworld/afterlife were called umbrae, meaning shadows, in Latin. So everyone becomes a Living Shadow upon their death (unless you are deified).

    Radio 
  • There was an episode of Hall Of Fantasy, an old time radio program in 1953, called "The Shadow People."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The shadowdancer Prestige Class from 3rd Edition allows the character to summon a shadow as an obedient servant. There's also the shadowcaster base class that can do a whole series of interesting things with shadows, including summoning them. Most of these shadow creatures come from the plane of shadows or the Shadowfell (depending on which edition of D&D you're playing).
    • There's an undead creature called a shadow which drains the strength of whatever it encounters, if the creature it attacks dies, the creature will become a new shadow under the control of its creator.
    • The 3.5 era book Tome of Magic introduces the Shadowcaster, whose powers all revolve around manipulation of shadows. Unfortunately, despite oozing cool, it's generally regarded as underpowered.
    • In 4th Edition, one of the Epic Tier Arcane Familiars is the Shadow Incarnate. It is implied to actually be the caster's shadow separated from them, and once per encounter it can be used to determine line of sight, effect, etc. for your arcane spells.
    • In the Dark Sun campaign setting, Shadow giants are just that: Giant humanoid shadows.
  • In Warhammer 40,000 it's heavily suggested that Dark Eldar Mandrakes are this. They can crawl into and out of the shadows of their targets, come from a dimension of pure shadow and often request odd things in exchange for their services. Also in 40k, some daemons are shadows. This means that bullets and cannon shells pass through them harmlessly, but laser beams and similar energy weapons will utterly destroy them. Just one of the reasons why a lasgun is the most practical weapon in the Imperium
  • Exalted
    • A practitioner of the Ebon Shadow Style martial arts can temporarily transform into this.
    • The minor deity/spirit Five Days Darkness is the shadow of the Unconquered Sun. He's a pretty nice guy, but he has a hard time helping people since he disappears in sunlight.
    • The Dragon's Shadow, the Shadow of All Things, used to be this before the Primordial War, but the wounds he suffered forced him to become an actual three-dimensional Ebon Dragon instead of just the shadow of a Dragon.
  • The Shadow Form ability in GURPS. It's a powerful advantage if it can be controlled but a disadvantage if it's always on.
  • The Lasombra of the Old World of Darkness had the Discipline of Obtenebration (shadow manipulation). Their Antediluvian [Lasombra] becomes a creature of pure shadow living in the Abyss, and comes to the world during Gehenna.
  • Darkling Stalker from Magic: The Gathering.
    "In this dark place, yes, I am afraid of my own shadow."

    Theatre 
  • Hans Christian Andersen's The Shadow was adapted into a play by the Russian playwright Eugeny Shwartz (and later into two movies). The concept of living shadow is deconstructed - when the Shadow becomes the king and orders its former master beheaded, it loses its own head. Its henchmen are forced to resurrect the writer but the Shadow is nevertheless exposed and dethroned.

    Video Games 
  • Five Living Shadow-Eldritch Abominations serve as the bosses for the five Nightmare Worlds in Nightmare Ned.
  • In Blue Dragon, each character has a magical blue living shadow.
  • Also in Mega Man Battle Network, there are shades that are incorporeal and can only be hurt by swords.
  • In Don't Starve, when the player's sanity is sufficiently low, monstrous shadows appear and hunt them. Maxwell can use shadow hands to attack and manipulate his victims. Or do the shadows manipulate him?
  • Some versions of Dark Link in The Legend of Zelda.
  • While none of the Heartless in Kingdom Hearts are anybody's shadows, they are clearly designed with this in mind, being the darkness from people's hearts. Many of the Pureblood Heartless (naturally-forming Heartless, like Shadows, Darkballs, and Invisibles) have the ability to temporarily become shadows to dodge attacks and move faster. Ansem's invincible Guardian Entity seems to sprout out of his own shadow.
    • Sora also has to fight his own shadow in the Neverland level in Kingdom Hearts. This is based on the scene from the original story (and Disney movie) where Peter Pan has to chase his own shadow.
      • Sora's shadow also turns into a Darkside at the beginning of the game, and Sora has to battle it.
  • Living shadows in a variety of shapes and sizes are the main enemies in ICO. They show up in Shadow of the Colossus, though they're harmless this time around. Dormin's true form is a colossal shadow as well.
  • Okage Shadow King is the story of a boy and his shadow, which was possessed by the Evil King Stan in return for curing his sister of a Pig Latin curse.
  • Prince of Persia had a shadow that separates from the Prince after he jumps through a mysterious mirror.
  • The World Ends with You: Mitsuki Konishi states that she would hide in one place in the six days Neku and Beat were allotted to find her. She was able to abide by her own rules and remain mobile, because her choice of location was Beat's shadow.
  • Eddie in Guilty Gear is a living shadow that now fully controls his old hosts' corpse.
  • Heart of Darkness has a monstrous medley of these as the Kid Hero's enemies. They all try to kill and eat you, sometimes not even in that order.
  • In the Pokemon games, Gengar are described as being able to take this form.
    • The Ghost-type attack Shadow Sneak does exactly what you would think it does.
  • Dante of Devil May Cry once had to fight one of these. It later became an ability of his.
  • Being the Arcana of Shadow in Arcana Heart, Gier naturally takes this form, swimming around in the floor of the stage and jumping out when the Maiden commands him to attack.
  • Bogmire in Luigi's Mansion is a living shadow type creature apparently made by negative emotions. Then there's the fact that its own shadows are not only sentient, and attack in swarms of about five or ten at once, but are half transparent and created by lightning.
  • Castlevania
    • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia had Blackmore, a boss near the end of the game. His shadow is host to a powerful demon, which manifests as a wolf-monster, and he apparently feeds on the shadows of others if his introduction is any indication ("I will take your shadow!"). Appropriately, his area is lit with hundreds of floor-mounted candles.
    • Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance has a living shadow as a being cast off of your childhood friend Maxime. This, coupled with his Obviously Evil look in his eyes is the first big sign that you are dealing with a Rival Turned Evil. The shadow itself takes on the forms of several things, among others a giant moth, a black panther, and a sabre.
  • Persona 3 and Persona 4 refer to all enemies as Shadows. Their base forms are inky blobs. This is supposed to be a reference to the Jungian Shadow, not the physical absence of light.
  • Silhouettes in Metro 2033, which are imprints of the past, appearing only as shadows linked to nothing material when you happen to shine your flashlight on them, constantly repeating a window of time shortly before the person's death. And they can hurt the living by contact.
  • In Planescape: Torment, the Transcendent One's main servants are these. Oh, and they're not just a horde of mooks it raised/found one day, they're the vengeful souls of the thousands of innocent people killed to fuel your immortality spell.
  • Your Shadow, a Boss Monster from Kingdom of Loathing. Attempting to attack it does nothing, since it's your opposite; defeating it requires healing yourself. As the thing does 80% of your health with each hit, it's not a hard puzzle.
  • In the sequel of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance the fortress of Mordoc is filled with tons of living shadows. Since he has no longer one (being a vampire and all) he likes to manipulate them.
  • Ecco the Dolphin : Defender of the Future has a level where you run across dolphin shadows that have no dolphins to cast them.
  • Lost In Shadow: You play as a boy's shadow which has been ripped from its owner and thrown off a tower. The aim of the game is to get back to him.
  • The Empress in The Fool's Errand has been cursed with a second, jagged shadow who carries a screaming crystal ball.
  • The Fairly OddParents video game Shadow Showdown has as its main villain the Chamberlain's Shadow.
  • Noob Saibot in Mortal Kombat 9. There, he gains a shadow clone that appears to be made of an ink-like substance that Noob can send out to attack enemies from afar or to bolster his close-range combos. If you look closely, Noob's real shadow doesn't return until his clone disappears. This might overlap with Literal Split Personality, as developer notes and drawings designate this entity as "Saibot", with "Noob" as the playable character (previous games gave his full name in this form as Noob Saibot—usually just Noob for the sake of brevity; there was no implication of a second person beforehand).
  • The Eldritch Abomination shadow demons haunting the titular Ambridge Mansion are this.
  • In Diablo 2 the Assassin can summon a shadowy clone to fight on her side.
  • In Immortal Souls the Black Witch is Cursed with Awesome with one that she can wield like a set of Combat Tentacles, and increases her strength and power overall.
  • League of Legends has Zed, whose playstyle revolves around throwing his shadow out to attack from an angle. Nocturne on the other hand is this.
  • In Contrast, Dawn can become one at will, and it is the core mechanic of the game.

    Visual Novels 
  • Kind of turns up in Heaven's Feel route of Fate/stay night. The shadow Dark Sakura kills people and can corrupt all Servants other than Gilgamesh. Including your love interest from the previous two routes (well, certainly from Fate, and possibly from UBW).

    Webcomics 
  • Shadow2 and the other "glass-eyed men" from Gunnerkrigg Court are a race of 2D shadow-people which cannot exist without something to "cast" them. Eventually Shadow 2 is accidentally peeled off the floor and suddenly turns 3D. Though created by Coyote, many of them live in England.
  • Ursula Vernon's Digger:
    • The Shadowchild, who was supposedly 'hatched' from a dead bird and has absolutely no idea what he is. In addition to being a shadow, he can also eat the shadows of other things, which apparently kills them on the spot.
    • Sweetgrass Voice, who is far more malevolent than the innocent but powerful Shadowchild.
  • Misfile has the Big Bad of Book 8, a shadowy entity dubbed the Wraith by fans. Apparently, it was the manifestation of Bronwyn's confused inner desires towards her boyfriend. Finaly stopped when Rumisiel stuffed it back where it came from.
  • For a long while in Sluggy Freelance, Bun-Bun's shadow was replaced with a living one (the same one that tries to scare the groundhog every February 2nd). For a while all it could do was talk and shift its shape, but after Bun-Bun started acquiring the powers of various holiday figures, it was able to take on a physical form as well.

    Web Original 
  • The Auditor from the Madness Combat animation series is a living shadow who can become intangible at will, among other things.
  • Of The Shadows of Miir, only Despair really fits this trope. The other Shadows are more like The Fair Folk.
  • An Easter Egg in a Strong Bad Email features Homestar being pitted against his shadow self, fighting game style. He begins to mock the old "dip the main character in ink and make him fight himself" trope when he gets his bwathom whomped almost before the fight even really starts.
  • A good variety of these in Neopets; Perhaps the oldest example is the mysterious Shadow Usul.
  • From The Fear Mythos: the Nightlanders. The Choir also sometimes manifest within people's shadows.
  • In Dragon Cave, the 2011 Halloween dragon were the Shadow Walkers, dragons which can move among the shadow realm.
  • Moord Nag from Worm has an enormous (and murderous) monster-shadow as her familiar.
  • Creating Living Shadows called Darkwraiths is the power of the Dark in Brennus. The Darkwraiths are three-dimensional shadows with six red eyes, capable of thinking and possessing a variety of abilities.

    Western Animation 
  • Ebon from Static Shock could turn into a living shadow and teleport people.
  • In the Men In Black cartoon series, there were some shadow aliens.
  • There's an episode of DuckTales called "Magica's Shadow War," where Magica deSpell harasses Scrooge McDuck with lots of living shadows.
  • One of the villains in Justice League Unlimited was a living shadow named the Shadow Thief. He has traditionally been an enemy of Hawkman, and also appeared in The Batman.
  • In the cartoon The Art of Self Defense, Goofy tries his hand at shadow boxing - and has his butt handed to him by his own shadow.
  • In Disney's Aladdin: The Series an evil sorcerer steals the main cast's shadows and turns them all evil. There was a world where shadows went while people slept, ruled by a being called Farabu who looked like a living shadow but made of starry night sky.
  • Johnny 13's Shadow in Danny Phantom is interesting in that it's not quite an additional thing: it is the actual lack of light caused by his presence in said light's path, and while it's moving around being alive, he doesn't cast a shadow. Doesn't that mean that Johnny should be invisible while it's doing its thing? Yet he gives it orders, and the shadow follows them. Likely, Shadow just acts like Johnny's real shadow until called upon, since few other ghosts in the show cast shadows either. It's also been theorized that Shadow is the embodiment of bad luck that followed Johnny 13 around in life, and now does so in death...
  • In one "U.S. Acres" segment of Garfield and Friends, Wade's shadow, brought to life briefly through the Rule of Funny by way of Tempting Fate, gives him good reason to reassess his realization that shadows cannot hurt him.
  • Piglet of Winnie the Pooh befriends his shadow when his friends are too busy to play with him in an episode. The shadow feels neglected and leaves when Piglet returns to his normal friends. Piglet's friends try to fill up his lack of a shadow by offering to give him their own shadows, but he's happily reunited with his shadow at the end.
  • In Jackie Chan Adventures, the Shadow Khan were ninjas that could turn into shadow and move around in that fashion, perfect for ambushing.
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle
    • In one Aesop and Son segment the story of the dog who dropped his bone because he was trying to steal the one his reflection had was changed to the story of a dog who attacked his shadow for the same reason. He ends up knocking himself out and his shadow simply steals both bones and walks off. When he realizes that he no longer has a shadow he has to buy one off the black market. His new shadow once belonged to a man named Charlie who, it's implied, met a rather sticky end. Charlie's shadow refuses to mimic his new owners actions and the two of them don't get along very well. After they both learn to work together, it's reveled that "Charlie's shadow" was really the dog's old shadow all along.
    • Bullwinkle also had to deal with fighting his own shadow (and losing) while reading "My Shadow" (from Robert Lewis Stevenson's "A Child's Garden of Verse").
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog once encountered a sentient shadow that gained consciousness after its former master - a feeble, callous, ornery old man - died. Still retaining some of his master's cruelty, the shadow spent some time terrorizing Courage but eventually they reconciled and Courage even devised a plan for a shadow to find happiness - it becomes a shadow of a star.
  • Dante's Inferno: An Animated Epic. In Limbo, the first circle of Hell, great men such as Plato, Caesar, Aristotle, Socrates, and King Latinus, are depicted as whispering shadows, unaware of their fate. Unlike the other circles of hell, their torment is the least hellish.
  • In The Mask, one recurring villain was Skillet, an immortal Enfant Terrible intended as an evil expy of Peter Pan. One of his powers was to release his shadow to consume those of others, causing them to rapidly age while keeping him immortal.
  • In an episode of the German/Italian cartoon School For Vampires, the vampire kids learn how to control their shadows, causing them to do everything from backflips, to picking up and holding physical objects. But the main character Oskar's shadow goes wild and becomes fairly menacing until he learns to control it.
  • The main cast of ReBoot and Mike the T.V. once fought a shadow monster towards the end of a Dungeons and Dragons inspired game.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
    • Judging from her appearance and Word of God on her origins, Nightmare Moon may very well be one of these.
    • At the end of his tyrannical rule, King Sombra was turned into this and imprisoned far away from his kingdom.
    • The mythical Pony of Shadows seems to have it right there in its name. When it was revealed as Real After All, it first appeared that something was casting a shadow on a wall, before the shadow opened its glowing yellow eyes.
  • In The Smurfs, Jokey's shadow comes to life when he accidentally sprinkles Mother Nature's magic powder for bringing trees to life onto it.
  • On the Flip The Frog cartoon "The Cuckoo Murder Case", Flip's shadow keeps getting ahead of him, and he keeps telling it to get behind him. Eventually he just closes a door on the shadow and leaves it behind.
  • The Simpsons: Bram Stoker's Dracula gets spoofed in the "Bart Simpson's Dracula" segment of "Treehouse of Horror IV", with vampire Mr. Burns' shadow shown playing with a yo-yo as he walks away.
  • The Birdman villain Murko had a Ring of Power that could bring people's shadows to life to do his bidding. He is defeated when he blocks out the sun in an attempt to weaken Birdman (Birdman is solar powered). While it did weaken Birdman, it also meant there were no shadows for him to animate.
  • In the Super Friends episode "Battle of the Gods", Superman's shadow is brought to life and attacks him. He defeats it by putting out the fire in the room, taking away the light.
  • In the Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures episode "Diamonds and Jade", the villain brings a monstrous shadow puppet to life to do his bidding. Notably, the heroes tried to defeat it by shining bright light on it, but it turns invisible in the light. They defeat it by holding a mirror up to it, somehow making it reverse direction and accidentally destroy the puppet making the shadow.
  • One Captain N: The Game Master episode shows Glass Joe shadow boxing and getting KO'd by his own shadow.
  • One episode of The Mr. Men Show had Mr. Funny interacting with his own shadow. At one point, they have a pretend sword fight with brooms. The shadow loses.
    Narrator: Where there's sun, there's a shadow, and no one knows that better than Mr. Funny.

    Real Life 
  • A phenomenon known as Shadow People entails humanoid shadows appearing in the periphery of some peoples' vision, only to disappear when confronted. There are many explanations, both scientific and pseudoscientific, for this phenomenon, but little agreement over the true causes.
    • Some studies have suggested that this and similar/related phenomenon such as dopplegangers and out of body experiences are a result of, more or less, a part of the brain misfiring. Essentially, the part of the brain that's responsible for spacial self-awareness (ie how the brain knows where your hands are and how you're positioned so it can do basic things like walk and put your finger on your nose) can, if stimulated, result in the brain being fooled that you are, in effect, somewhere else such as three feet behind and to your left. Consequentially, the rest of the brain tries to reconcile the fact by freaking out even more. Of course, the setup for that experiment was an attempt to trick the mind into thinking it had control of another body that it could actually see, so YMMV.
    • A researcher working in the CIA has seen this phenomenon, and found it to be from the ventilation fan which made his eyeballs resonate, giving false images.
    • This can also be a side effect of migraines, along with other visual anomalies.
    • There's also the Third Man Factor, where people under extreme stress or profound isolation perceive (or hallucinate, depending on your interpretation) the presence of a being to keep them going in the face of despair. Not your typical Shadow People encounter, but possibly a similar effect.


Living GasbagIndex of Fictional CreaturesMacGuffin Guardian
Little PeopleOtherness TropesMark of the Supernatural
Genius LociThis Index Has a Mind of Its OwnLove Imbues Life
Living BodysuitHorror TropesLong Neck
Lights Off, Somebody DiesDarkness And Shadows TropesScary Flashlight Face
Frogs and ToadsImageSource/Animated FilmsMagic Kiss
Living MacGuffinOlder Than FeudalismLoads and Loads of Races
Living Doll CollectorVillainsLiving with the Villain

alternative title(s): Shadow People; Shadow Demon
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