Come, try me, immortals, so all of you can learn.
Hang a great golden cable down from the heavens,
lay hold of it, all you gods, all goddesses too:
you can never drag me down from sky to earth,
not Zeus, the highest, mightiest king of kings,
not even if you worked yourselves to death.
But whenever I'd set my mind to drag you up,
in deadly earnest, I'd hoist you all with ease,
you and the earth, you and the sea, all together,
then loop that golden cable round a horn of Olympus,
bind it fast and leave the whole world dangling in mid-air—
That is how far I tower over the gods, I tower over men.
In a setting with a few or more gods
, there is often one who stands above all the others. This god is usually one of the following:
- King of the Gods: Not that different from the rest of the gods, but he tends to have the benefits of Authority Equals Asskicking in full effect. He's often applicable to You Kill It, You Bought It if someone challenges his title. See this article on Wikipedia for more info on these types.
- God of Gods: This version is as far beyond the other gods as they are beyond mortals. They're often a stand-in for the Abrahamic God, or at least a Crystal Dragon Jesus Expy. The "lesser" gods or spirits may or may not worship and/or serve them. It depends on the work in question.
Sometimes, there may be both types in the same setting. In that case, the one (or several, if there are multiple pantheons) King of the Gods is still below the God of Gods. Examples should go to the mixed section if both types are present in the work in question.
If there's an entire class of beings that are above the gods, see The Old Gods
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Kings of the gods:
- Marvel's Odin certainly qualifies. He is both the King of Gods in the Norse pantheon, and is also part of a pantheon consisting of his "brothers"; each of whom is an "Sky Father" in themselves to each of their respective pantheons, and includes Zeus, Osirus, Manitou, Nuada, and others.
- In Warbreaker, the Returned are the gods of Hallandren, and their leader is Susebron the God-King. Played with in that Susebron is actually a figurehead for his priesthood, and the Returned are not gods in Brandon Sanderson's wider cosmology, though their followers certainly regard them as such.
- In Discworld Blind Io is generally seen as the chief of the gods, although it's unclear what, if any, power this position gives him. In Small Gods, he clearly assumes not even another god would dare to challenge him, but a god fueled by a temporary surge of especially powerful belief is actually able to physically overpower him, perhaps partly due to the Refuge in Audacity of even trying.
- In Creatures of Light and Darkness, Thoth had this role, as ruler of the House of Life and Death, until his mysterious disappearance. Since then, Osiris and Anubis have basically split the job, as rulers of the House of Life and the House of Death respectively.
Mythology and Religion
- In Hittite Mythology Teshub, who replaced Kumarbi, who replaced Anu, who replaced Alalu.
- In Mesopotamian Mythology Marduk, Enki/Ea, Enlil/El, and Ashur all got the honor in different places and times.
- Celtic Mythology had a number of gods that presided over the Tuatha de Danann as the High King, namely Nuada of the Silver Arm, The Dagda, and Lugh the Long Handed.
- Nyname of Ashanti mythology.
- Cagn to the Bushmen. He is also The Trickster in his pantheon.
- Prior to the descent of Islam, the Arabs had pantheon of clan deities. They acknowledged Allah, adapted from an Aramaic term for the Hebrew God but besides crediting him with the creation of the heavens, the earths and providing rain they kept him in the background, focusing their worship on the clan deities, mostly as a part to assert the superiority of one's own clan over others (it was a vicious time). According to the Book Of Idols, Allah's children were more venerated than he was and Hubal, whose idol was the greatest of those in the Ka'bah would have been king of the Arab gods from the Quaraysh and other Meccan's perspective.
- Nana Buluku King and Queen of the gods in Fon religion. There are also many lesser god monarchs, such as Sogbo who leads the thunder gods.
- Aramazd was basically the Armenians adopting the monotheistic Ahura Mazda into their own polytheistic system.
- The God King, from this video.
Gods of gods:
- The Marvel Universe has the One Above All. It's above every other Cosmic Being and god-like creature in the setting. Of course.
- The DC Universe follows a similar route with the Presence.
- In the Marvel Universe some particularly powerful demons and magical entities are worshipped as gods, or even God, by other beings who are themselves worshipped as deities and have the power to back it up. Shuma-Gorath, for instance, has relied on numerous gods and demons to do its bidding and has a massive power difference to back it up. Mephisto and Sataanish, demons who in their own realms are nigh-omnipotent, are said to be like "mice in a great temple" compared to even one of Shuma-Gorath's weaker forms. It is the ruler of literaly hundreds of universes and worshipped in thousands more, so the fact that it is a God of Evil makes its power particularly worrying.
- It got worse when it's revealed in The Thanos Imperative that Shuma-Gorath is merely one member of an entire pantheon of these things called the Many-Angled Ones.
- Fate and Destiny in The Legend of Link: Lucky Number 13. They created the lesser gods and control their very destinies on a level few of them truly understand. However, they are not invincible - they were unable to kill the Originals or their descendant Hadrian, and are eventually surpassed by another god.
- Chronicles of Harmony's End: Array and Discord represent order and chaos respectively, with Harmony above them. It's unknown how strong he was, only that he couldn't fight the two of them at once.
- In the Pony POV Series, the alicorns and draconequi report to their respective Elders, who are Eldritch Abominations to their Physical Gods. Further separating them from their children, the Elders are stated to be multiversal singularities by Word of God, meaning there's effectively only ONE of each in the multiverse, each 'seperate' version simply being a different part of the same being.
- In The Elenium and The Tamuli, most of the gods are mortal (although very hard to kill) and their power is directly tied to how many worshipers they have. Then there are Bhelliom and Klael, who have no such restrictions and are responsible for the creation and destruction (respectively) of entire worlds.
- In The Belgariad from the same author, UL is the father of the other gods and is far more powerful than them, though he's usually pretty hands-off; he was intended as roughly analagous to the Judeo-Christian God. Torak thinks he's this, but it's all in his head- really, it's about as close as an actual god can come to declaring A God Am I.
- The Young Wizards series has The One, who is ultimate source of everything, although he delegates quite a bit. This applies because his most immediate agents, The Powers That Be, are godlike in power and have been worshiped as deities; in fact, one of them has been known as Athena and other pagan figures.
- Played with in Lord Dunsany's short story "The Sorrow of Search": a prophet has a vision of gods mightier than those his people worships, and goes in search of them with his followers. They find them, and they settle down to their new religion, but then the prophet has another vision of gods even beyond those. This repeats several times, with fewer and fewer followers accompanying the prophet each time, until his last vision brings him alone to gods mightier than any so far encountered—who turn out to be the same as the gods he started with.
- The Deed of Paksenarrion has two: the High Lord, whom Paks eventually becomes a paladin of, and Gitres, the High Lord's Evil Counterpart.
- Near the end of Robert A. Heinlein's Job: A Comedy of Justice, Lucifer - in a desperate attempt to get Yahweh and Loki to stop screwing with reality over a bet - appeals to 'the Director' to mandate an end to the central character's troubles. He mentions in an aside to the main character that the Director's powers are beyond his and Yahweh's, but that the Director is also not Top God.
Mythology and Religion
- The Zoroastrian Ahura Mazda is similar to the supreme being of Abrahamic religions, but rules over a pantheon of divine or angelic figures called Ahuras, Amesha Spentas, and Yazatas.
- In Yoruba tradition Orisha, owners of heads, are often translated as gods since they are worshiped like a polytheistic pantheon but they really are not. It is just that God is too powerful and defying of description for humans to properly worship so a lot of attention is given to Orishas, who take on forms that can be viewed by people directly, with hope they will act as middlemen to God for humans. Undergods is a more correct term.
- Voodoo works similarly. People often call the loa gods but the theology states there is only one God. Loa are powerful forces who are served by people and serve people in a mutualistic relationship that helps both groups reach paradise with God.
- Roog, who is known by different names depending on which group you ask, in Serer religion.
- Perun, notable for being worshiped as a grand god by nearly all Slavic tribes. Even if they couldn't agree on anything else, they acknowledged that Perun was the god of gods.
- In Dragonlance, Highgod is the supreme being analogous to Yahweh who created the other gods.
- Beneath the Highgod, each of the three pantheons has its own supreme deity: Paladine for Light, Takhisis for Darkness, and Gilean for Balance.
- In Nobilis, one god or another incarnates literally every single conceivable ideanote , so there are naturally quite a passel of them. However, Cneph the Creator is on a vastly higher order than any of them— albeit so completely non-interventionist that a few heretics think It may actually be a myth.
Anime and Manga
- Dragon Ball loves this one. Some planets have a God, then there are their bosses, the four Kaioh (Lords of Worlds) that rule over the four galaxies, the Great Kaioh that leads the four Kaiohs, the four Kaiohshin (God Lords of Worlds) that are over the Kaiohs and rule over the four quadrants of the Universe and the afterlife, plus their boss Great Kaiohshin, making this dude a King of Gods of Gods of Gods. And then the manga ended before Akira Toriyama could add more to the cosmology.
- The Inheritance Trilogy has the Maelstrom, the primordial creative force which birthed the universe and may or may not be sentient, as a variation God of Gods, and also the Three (Nahadoth, god of darkness and chaos; Itempas, god of light and order; Enefah, goddess of balance) who collectively function as Kings and Queen of the gods. When the Three fall out of harmony, or any time the Maelstrom's attention is drawn to the physical world, bad things happen...
- In The Silmarillion there is Eru Ilúvatar (who is meant to be the Christian God), who rules over the Ainur (angels equivalents to "lesser gods"). This was one of the ways that Tolkien—a devout Catholic—reconciled his fictional world to his deeply-held religious beliefs. There's also Manwë, who is the leader and most powerful of the Valar (the 14- 15 if you count Morgoth- strongest Ainur) and functions as a King of Gods under Eru's ultimate lordship.
- In the Mithgar novels, there are several levels of this going on. The main pantheon of gods is led by Adon and the evil splinter group by Gyphon, both of whom being examples of Kings of Gods, because they're the same kind of being as their subordinate deities, just stronger. Above them are the Fates, and above them is the Great Creator. However, the series leaves it unclear if the Fates and Great Creator are personified entities or cosmic forces.
- In Supernatural, the pagan gods are more or less on the level of most of the monsters that the humans fight, likely as a result of Gods Need Prayer Badly. In contrast, the angels are largely untouchable, with few exceptions, and the most effective way of killing an angel thus far in the story has been to persuade another angel in one way or another to do so, with Zachariah as the sole exception. Then consider that even in their own belief system they aren't the top of the food chain, and we have this trope. The Abrahamic God seems to be part of a duality alongside Death, who is stated to actually be capable of killing Him (although Death is in no rush to do so, and plans to do it so far into the future that it might as well never happen as far as humanity is concerned).
Mythology and Religion
- Modern-day Hinduism is more in the God of Gods mold. The various local deities are seen as "aspects" of Vishnu or Shiva; but this is after millennia of syncretism, and strong influence by both Islam and Christianity in the recent past. The original concept of these (and several others: Indra, Rama, Krishna, arguably Ganesha) was the king of gods.
- All gods (and indeed all creation) are aspects of the Brahman, the energy-like primordial entity from which all creation springs forth. The many Hindu gods are entities which are distinct, yet still part of the Brahman, as are humans, who are less connected but still part of it. And indeed, many local gods of Hinduism are aspects of other more important gods. In fact, many gods are recognized as being the same god, yet worshiped separately. For example, Parvati and Kali are different aspects of the same goddess who is Shiva's consort.
- From Japanese Mythology, there's Amaterasu, a relatively rare example of a Queen of gods being supreme (rather than a consort, if a powerful one). But...
- Chinese Mythology, specifically Taoism, has the Jade Emperor and his Celestial Bureaucracy. However, in some cases, the Buddha shows up as a God of Gods to deal with problems that even the Jade Emperor cannot handle — most memorably at the beginning of Journey to the West. In very early Chinese religion a god named Shang Di was worshipped, who was considered the highest possible deity, but worship of Shang Di fell out of practice early on in dynastic China (the term was later taken over by Christian missionaries to refer to God the Father).
- Egyptian religion had different kings of the gods in different periods of their history. Re, Amun, Atum, Amun-Re, Ptah, and Isis all had their turn at the pinnacle of the pantheon. The Ennead of Heliopolis made Ra (also identified with Atum) the first king of the gods, but then had Osiris and then Horus serve as sort of under-kings because Ra was too busy with handling the Sun (or something like that), leaving affairs on Earth and the other gods to them. We should note that this concept of a heavenly dynasty appeared just as the first pharaohs were concentrating their authority and building up their dynasties...
- The Egyptian religion also included the concept of a deity "mightier than the gods," though more as a matter of theology than actual worship. This deity was rarely depicted iconographically, and writers had no fixed name to refer to him/her. Attempts to illustrate the god beyond the gods generally involved combining the iconography of several deities together into a hermaphroditic, multi-armed, multi-headed, multi-winged entity somewhat reminiscent of Hindu deities.
- There were French settlers that concluded the "Great Spirit" recognized by many of the Native American groups they encountered was the same God they believed in. Unfortunately, this way of thinking did not become too popular with their successors.
- In Greek Mythology, Zeus is the king of the gods, who succeeded his father Cronus, who succeeded his father Ouranous. However, no god could get around the decisions of Ananke, the personification of fate and god of gods.
- Odin is also a king of the gods in Norse Mythology, but when the Norns came the gods themselves could not escape. Odin had no problem with that. You may not be able to escape your fate, but you can meet it with valour.
- The Judeo-Christian God could be considered a god of gods if you consider the angels and demons as lesser gods, which would make the Archangels as kings of the gods. Early Judeo-Christian thought seemed to consider all gods as being real, but all except Yahweh are evil impostors, with Yahweh being the one true god. Later though, in Jeremiah, God only refers to some of the gods as actual creatures that he will punish, like Amon, while most, like Chemosh, are idols based on someone's imagination.
- In non Biblical Hebrew Mythology El and Astarte were the mother and father of the Elohim (godly beings). One of El's sons, usually Baal-Hadad, sometimes someone else, was king of the Elohim. Elyon was God of the gods, basically the same as what the Israelites thought of as God except the other Hebrews did not consider Elyon to be the same as YHWH.
- Aisa is the mother of the Winti gods and the creator of the continent where people originated from(Africa) as well as the head of the ground pantheon. She and the other Winti were only allowed to reign with the permission of a more powerful supreme God who prefers to stay distant from creation however.
- Ala, embodiment dry land, is very much the same in Odinani religion. The supreme eternal god appointed her ruler of everything else.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- The Forgotten Realms setting has Ao, who is more of a boss than a god to the multiple pantheons. Ao's boss was mentioned at least once as a being of pure light, and may in fact be a God of Gods.
- Another Forgotten Realms feature (though it often bleeds into other settings) is that while the standard (read: human) pantheon lacks a "Top god" (at least publicly; Ao and his boss work in the shadows and most mortals don't know about them), the racial pantheons of dragons, dwarves, elves, giants, goblins, and orcs tend to have a designated ruler/leader among them. As Forgotten Realms holds to the Divine Ranks trope, the top god in the racial pantheons tends to be the only "greater god" among them, the others being intermediate or lesser deities.
- Exalted used to have Theion, Divine Tyrant of the Primordials, the beings that created the gods, but then the Exalted killed some of them and crippled the rest, letting the Unconquered Sun become the King of the Gods.
- Sluggy Freelance: In the Mohkadunese pantheon, which exists at the time of the existence of Mohkadun, Krohnus the Time-Father is the chief of the gods, whom he seems to have promoted to godhood himself. Above him is Prozoato the Creator, and above it is something known only as The One, who created both the Creator and its counterpart the Destroyer. The Destroyer is evidently equal to the Creator, but the others, to some extent apparently even The One, view him as the adversary.