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Deer, being wild animals, can easily be magical and mysterious presences while still being hard to reach for humans.
Marvelous deer are often the quarry in hunts. Catching them may be another matter, especially since the marvelous deer tends to be a lone animal; herds of marvelous deer are impractical for maintaining the marvelousness
. (For the same reason, the deer in Woodland Creatures
is seldom this.) It can lead to Follow the White Rabbit
. This may be what The Wild Hunt
is after, if they aren't hunting humans
Because they are not predators, they can feature in either the Ghibli Hills
or The Lost Woods
For the deer to be white — or golden — is common. They are more likely to be stags, with magnificent antlers, but not overwhelmingly. A fawn adds connotations of innocence.
. See also Crown of Horns
Anime & Manga
- In The King Who Would Be Stronger Than Fate, he finds the hermit who tells him his daughter's fate while hunting.
In the course of the beat his dogs disturbed a beautiful snow-white stag, and directly he saw it the king determined that he would have it at any cost. So he put the spurs to his horse, and followed it as hard as he could gallop.
- The Brothers Grimm:
- "The Two Brothers", one brother, having rescued a princess from the dragon and married her, goes hunting and is lured into danger by a deer.
- In "Brother and Sister", Brother is transformed to a white stag, and the king discovers that he can talk and lives with his (still human) sister in the woods. This may be an Americanization, as in the case of Bambi. In the original German, Brother is a roe fawn, not a stag, but roes are not native to North America.
- Snow White & the Huntsman approach a marvelous deer deep in the forest that seems to be some kind of nature spirite. The sequence is very visually similar to the above-mentioned scene in Princess Mononoke.
- Bambi. Bambi's father is the Great Prince of the forest who guards the woodland creatures from the dangers of hunters.
- The large stag in Fantasia 2000 that awakens the Sprite of Spring at the end of winter, and then revives and comforts her after the Firebird wreaks havoc on the forest.
- The large (to the characters) deer in Epic that Nod and MK take a romantic, sunset ride on.
- In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first creature to reveal itself in the forest to Snow White is a fawn.
- In C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, they are hunting a stag that grants wishes when they stumble back out of the wardrobe.
- In Kate Seredy's The White Stag, it leads them onward at various times.
- Harry Potter's patronus is a stag, to symbolise his father's animal form and that he's still watching over him. The seventh book also prominently features a mysterious silver doe that leads Harry to the Sword of Gryffindor. It's actually Snape's patronus, and represents Lily, the woman he loved.
- James Thurber's The White Deer. Its nature is central to the story.
- In the Dragonlance novel Dragons of Autumn Twilight, the Forestmaster is a sentient, majestic deer that charges the Heroes of the Lance to travel to Xak Tsaroth to retrieve the Disks of Mishakal, an ancient artifact that could help bring back Krynn's gods.
- In P.N.Elrod's 'His Father's Son', a mystical boy character who entered a dreamworld-like setting and communicated with a white stag as a spirit guide.
- In the Magic Tree House, Merlin is able to turn into a stag.
- In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, while they are in the Mirkwood, one of the first marvels they see is a deer that leaps a wide river. Thorin's shooting it only causes it to stumble a bit.
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians:
- Artemis' chariot is pulled by a pair of silver deer that can fly. Percy thinks they look like Santa's reindeer which she takes credit for inspiring.
- In the The Demigod Files short story "The Sword of Hades", Thalia is led to meet Percy and Nico by the Golden Hind, which is, in fact, literally gold.
- In Patricia A. McKillip's Solstice Wood, Owen recounts the story he had been told of a man who shot a deer without killing it and went to track it down, and found instead a woman with a bullet wound in her shoulder. She lived with him for a year and half and had a son before she vanished. Then he explains that he finally realized it was his parents.
- In Debra Doyle and James Mac Donald's Knight's Wyrd, the day before his knighting, while on a hunt, Will is led in the wilderness by a white deer.
- In the Kyell Gold web novel Camouflage, the Archbishop of Tigue is a stag, whose white pelt is considered a symbol of "purity". In true medieval Corrupt Church style, he turns out to be a sadistic, homophobic sociopath and a very closeted nutcase who rapes people sentenced due to their sexuality. At least he's still white furred, though!
Mythology & Legend
- In Hannibal, a stag becomes a recurring symbol in Graham's dreams, and occasionally appears as an Arc Symbol in his real life. Even before this, the first episode strongly averted Bambification; a murder victim was found with multiple puncture wounds and antler velvet in them, and before they ascertained that she was killed by a human and mounted on the stag's head posthumously, they discuss the various ways different deer species are capable of killing humans, either by stabbing them to death with their antlers or by pinning them to the ground and crushing them until they suffocated.
- The stag, and later an emaciated man with stag horns, are both used as symbols of Hannibal in Will's dreams and hallucinations.
- Saint Hubert's legend: Hubert was the oldest son of the Duke of Aquintaine & a a great lover of the hunt, to which he devoted nearly all his time. One Good Friday morning, a As he was pursuing a magnificent stag, the animal stopped and turned. Hubert was astounded at perceiving a crucifix suspended between its antlers, while he heard a voice say, "Hubert, unless you turn to the Lord, and lead a holy life, you shall quickly fall into the abyss of Hell!" The saint renounced all honors & became an hermit, then a missionary in the pagan lands.
- One of the Twelve Labors of Heracles was that he had to capture - alive and unharmed - the Golden Hind sacred to the goddess Artemis.
- According to a tale, legendary Japanese warrior Tadakatsu Honda managed to escape his enemies and safely cross a river thanks to a deer. Since that day, he put antlers on his helmet as a sign of respect for all deers.
- Saint Patrick and his clerics were going to a hostile king's court, and prayed for protection. The ambushers saw them all as deer. (Which is why the prayer is known as "The Deer's Cry.")
- This trope applies to Santa Claus 's reindeer, at least in those versions of holiday folklore that attribute their flight to their own innate abilities (as opposed to Santa's magic, to eating magic grain, etc). Any child who's stayed awake on Christmas Eve listening for their arrival can testify that they're both mysterious and elusive.
- In Ars Goetia and other grimoires, the demon Furfur usually looks like a white angelic stag.
- The demon prince Ravanna used a golden one of these to kidnap Sita in the Ramayana. Rama tried to capture it for her, leaving his brother Lakshman to guard her. Ravanna then imitated Rama's voice yelling for help to lure Lakshman away, leaving Sita defenseless.
- Genevieve of Brabant, exiled on false accusations, was helped in the woods by a roe deer.
- Possibly in The Saga of Hervor and Heidrek: After vainly pursuing a stag for two days, King Svafrlami, grandson of Odin, catches two dwarfs whom he forces to forge the supreme sword Tyrfing for him. Maybe the stag was sent by Odin.
- According to Jordanes' Gothic History, the Huns discovered the land of Scythia when a doe pursued by hunters showed them a way westward across the Maeotian Swamp. The Huns liked the new country so much they invaded it through the trail revealed by the doe, conquering the Goths and beginning their invasion of Europe. They therefore believed the doe had been sent by their gods.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- Module IM3 The Best of Intentions. During the Olympic Trials, the Immortal PCs compete in an event called "The Wild Hunt". They must chase and kill a great white hart twice as large as a normal deer. The hart is actually another Immortal in deer form.
- Module O2 Blade of Vengeance. Karelia the faedorne sends a magical and intelligent white stag to lead Erystelle to the Circle of Dreams.
- Shadowrun. Shasta deer live on the slopes of Mount Shasta in California. They have some connection with local nature spirits and appear to have latent magical abilities similar to those of spirits.
- Warhammer's Wood Elves are essentially The Fair Folk, and their leaders have the option of riding Great Stags, which they see as being Nature Spirits in animal form. The trope was accentuated in earlier editions, when only their god-king Orion got to ride one.
- Chivalry & Sorcery 3rd Edition adventure Stormwatch has a possible random encounter for a highly chivalrous character. At night they will see a patch of moonlight shining down on a beautiful white hart (roe deer). All attempts to capture the hart will be unsuccessful. A white hart is an old symbol of honor, purity and valor.
- In Werewolf the Apocalypse the Stag spirit is the totem for the Fianna tribe.
- The King of Dragon Pass has a recurring event where a hunter from another clan has tracked a white stag to your lands and wants your permission to hunt it.
- From the Pokémon series:
- Stantler, from Pokémon Gold and Silver. It's said to be able to hypnotize and psychologically affect people and Pokemon with its antlers, which give the illusion of two large eyes in the center of each side.
- Arceus, the God of Pokemon, looks like a white deer.
- Deerling and Sawsbuck from Pokémon Black and White also seem to be based off this concept, being the only Pokemon that change forms with the seasons. Sawsbuck's antlers particularly are marvelous as they're tree branches with leaves that grow and die throughout the year.
- Pokémon X and Y features Xerneas as the cover legendary for X. Its antlers resemble chromosomes, in keeping with the games' genetic theme. It's also a Fairy-type, and though it's not small and cute like other Fairy types its mysterious and elegant nature fits well with older depictions of fairies.
- Hircine, the god of hunting in The Elder Scrolls universe, has a white stag as one of his avatars in Skyrim. Hunting the stag is necessary if the Dovahkiin wants to earn Hircine's favor.
- In Neverwinter Nights expansion pack Shadows of Undrentide, one of the side-quests involves hunting the Shadow Hart, a magical deer with teleportation powers.
- In Assassin's Creed III, Connor can accept a quest to hunt a unique deer. According to the huntmaster, several hunters have tried and failed to bring it down before, and they all swear it's got some mysterious power that makes it Immune to Bullets.
- In Mabinogi, the deer of Corrib Valley are a minor example. They give you herbs (including the exceedingly rare White Herbs) in exchange for mushrooms.
- In Quest for Glory I the hero followed the white stag to its resting place. It led him to the Dryad who was a spirit of nature. If the player attempts to harm the stag the Dryad will turn him into whatever he attacked, invoking a Game Over.
- Beast girl Sveta of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is nicknamed "The White Deer" by the people of her homeland, but her werewolf traits show more.
- A very likely inspiration for the Milwaukee Bucks; Wisconsin's state animal is the white-tailed deer.