"Huh, huh! Dig, dig, dig, dig!"A Tunnel King is a character who is an expert in, well, tunneling. His solution to any problem is likely to be "We'll dig our way out." Carrying the trope to its extreme, the Tunnel King may dwell Beneath the Earth in an underground civilization that he constructed himself. In animated series, this character will often be a burrowing animal with their digging abilities carried to ludicrous extremes. Once in a while, it will save the trapped main character(s) because [It Knows A Way Out]. Human versions of this character are almost always nicknamed The Mole, but that title was already taken for a different trope. Mole Miners and Mole Men are often this. In a fight, expect some kind of Dig Attack.
— Melvin Mole, MAD
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Anime and Manga
- Simon the Digger from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Yes, "The Digger" is his title. Prior to discovering Lagann, his main job and talent was to dig very fast (that's how he discovered Lagann in the first place), and it's therefore fitting enough that his mecha (and its successive upgrades) employs drills as weapons. He manages to fight off several enemies with tunneling tactics, including Viral, the Dai-Gunzan and the Dai-Gundo.
- Even his name reflects this, as it's pronounced "Shimon" - "shimo" means "below" in Japanese.
- Oddly, one of Team Rocket's specialties on Pokémon, and often noted by them. Their holes are good enough to impress the very Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann-esque Byron.
- Ryoga from Ranma ˝, once he learns the Bakusai Tenketsu, a pseudo Pressure Points attack that lets him demolish rock with a touch of a finger. Once he learns the Shishi Hokodan, he gets even better at it. Why someone with his directional issues is burrowing under the ground in the first place is a mystery.
- A character from The Law of Ueki has, as he calls it, "A power to turn my beautiful hair into a drill!" which allows him to dig extremely fast. Ueki states that this power is actually awesome, as he is pretty much unbeatable underground (that's the reason why he has to catch him in the air).
- One Piece
- Miss Merry Christmas is a Tunnel Queen, as she has the power of the Mole Mole Fruit. The sheer tunneling power is awesome, considering that she can dig as fast as a running man, with only one arm, and while carring, with the other one, a person that is out on the surface (meaning that that arm is cutting the terrain like a blade).
- Level 5.5 of Impel Down is said to have been created by someone with a similar power.
- The Fishman Island arc gives us Daruma, one of Hody Jones's officers, who bites his way through the ground with nasty, big, pointy teeth. Chopper one-ups him by showing off his new Horn Point, which likewise lets him excavate at high speed.
- Free from Soul Eater wanted to escape prison using this method but they only gave him chopsticks.
- Zatch Bell! features the Majestic Twelve, a team of Western superheroes, as minor characters. Among them is Tremor Mole, who can burrow through the ground as easily as you can walk down the street.
- An early MAD (back when it was a comic book) story featured a character named Melvin Mole, who could dig through anything given an implement, be it a spade, a lunch spoon, a toothpick, or even his nose hair. This leads to his downfall when he tried to tunnel out of prison and ended up tunneling into his own execution chamber.
- Melvin Mole inspired a one-shot Batman villain, also called The Mole. Attempting to tunnel out his prison, he tunneled his way into a pipeline carrying toxic waste was was mutated into something resembling an actual mole with phenomenal digging abilities.
- On the other hand, the Fantastic Four's Mole Man is a bit of a subversion. Even though he looks like a mole and lives underground, he lets his giant monsters do all the manual labor, including digging tunnels.
- The Dalton Brothers from Lucky Luke are experts in escaping through tunnels. They often dig one tunnel each to get out of their single cell, but still.
- Cave Carson, an obscure DC Comics character from the '60s who still makes the occasional cameo. He's a spelunker with a tunneling machine that he and his team use to explore underground caverns.
- The Mole was also an antagonist of Mandrake the Magician, a genius inventor with a headmounted broad-beam heat ray capable of vaporising rock. It was so effective, his regular outfit included a jetpack so he could keep up. Naturally, he used it to steal from banks.
- Digby the Human Mole in The '70s UK Anthology Comic Plug was a criminal whose mole-like appearance made him a brilliant tunneller, using this both to break into places and break out of jail. Unfortunately, his sense of direction wasn't quite so good. Hilarity Ensues.
- Henry Burrows was a similar concept in The Beano in The '90s, minus the criminal aspect.
- Superlópez: Chin Chao, an Asian associate of Giorgio Papino's band, is known for digging his way out of prisons... with spoons. He himself states as much when leaving the burning house in "El caserón fantasma" through the 'emergency escape tunnel':
Chin Chao: I dug it myself in 1990! Started with a spoon...Bast Honazo: How...?Chin Chao: How else? With patience... Chinese patience, of course.Dr. Tijera: Right... And where does it end?Chin Chao: In the house, that's how I found it and set up the up-and-down mechanism.Giorgio Papino: Okay, then where does it start?Chin Chao: In the Cuatro Caminos prison, it was my first escape... (every other character's eyes suddenly turn red, some of them can clearly be seen making angry faces)
Giorgio Papino: How's the tunnel progressing?Chin Chao: At a rate of 5 centimetres a day. The spoon isn't of much more use...
- Referenced again in the sequel "Nosotros los Papino", as Chin Chao is in charge of tunneling the band out:
Films — Animated
- South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut: "The Mole" digs his way to the USO show stage to free Terrance and Phillip, but the boys forget to turn off the alarm on time and he's mauled to death by guard dogs.
- Molier in Atlantis: The Lost Empire: He's not only the team excavations expert, but also absolutely obsessed with dirt. He keeps piles of it from different parts of the world! There's apparently an explanation for his... er, profession, and equally apparently, we don't want to know. Near the end of the movie, he even head towards a potted plant to dig up the dirt once a formal photo-shoot of the team was over.
- All the Meerkats in The Lion King 1˝. Except Timon. (He gets better at it, though, eventually using it in the series.)
Dig, dig! Dig, dig a tunnel! Never ever gonna get done-eh! Dig, dig! Dig, dig a tunnel! Quick before the hyena come! Dig!
- Behold the Underminer, the epilogue attacking villain in The Incredibles! He may always be beneath us, but nothing is beneath him!
- Bunnymund the Easter Bunny from the film version of Rise of the Guardians creates magical tunnels that can lead absolutely anywhere by just tapping his foot.
Films — Live-Action
- The Trope Namer is The Great Escape, which featured Danny and Willie, nicknamed 'The Tunnel Kings', as well as Archibald 'The Mole' Ives. Subverted in that Danny has claustrophobia, but it really just makes Danny more of a badass; he's scared as hell about the tight corners and cave-ins, but hey, stuck in a German POW camp, what choice does he have? Being portrayed by Charles Bronson also doesn't hurt.
- The Godzilla franchise:
- Baragon uses his glowing horn to light his way underground and employed his burrowing to perform sneak attacks on Frankenstein's Monster and Godzilla
- Megalon, one of the most famous Tunnel Kings, has half-drills for lower arms that he can combine into a drill to move at great speed through the earth, and like Baragon used his tunneling power to outmaneuver and surprise attack Godzilla and Jet Jaguar.
- Zilla as well, with its son Zilla Jr. taking it up a notch, as well as comic!Zilla in Godzilla: Rulers of Earth, all using their tunneling ability to move quickly without detection, chase after subterranean opponents, and set up pitfalls and surprise attacks.
- M.O.G.U.E.R.A.'s upper half is Land Moguera, a strong and speedy Drill Tank, which was used to weaken the underground supports of the crystal tower Spacegodzilla was using as an amplifier enough for Godzilla to push over and destroy.
- Gnorm in A Gnome Named Gnorm is a tunneler gnome who helps investigate a botched sting by tunneling to a crime scene.
- The Mole from the Burke novels by Andrew Vachss: He's an anti-Nazi Jew who specializes in bombs, weaponry, breaking and entering, biology and computer hacking and who lives in a series of tunnels he constructed under a junkyard.
- Mr Fox and his allies from Fantastic Mr. Fox are all digging animals, which works out nicely for them when they dig their way to the food-stuffed cellars of Farmer Boggis, Farmer Bunce and Farmer Bean.
- Relg, the zealot from The Belgariad. Though all his people are underground dwelling, Relg takes it to extremes, going as far as considering caves holey. Plus, he has a special magic that makes it possible for him (and people he carries along) to walk through solid rock.
- The Nome King from the Oz books. In Baum's universe, the Nomes are immortal rock fairies who dwell underground. They hide jewels and precious metals in the earth, and resent the "upstairs people" who dig down for those valuables. Apparently as revenge, the Nome King enjoys keeping surface-dwellers as slaves—not for their labor but simply to have them.
- Earthcrafters in Codex Alera can phase through earth and rock, allowing them to travel underground without leaving any sign of their passing.
- Mulch Diggums in Artemis Fowl is a dwarf who can unhinge his jaw and inhale the earth to dig tunnels, and is often the subject of Toilet Humor. Dwarves from Artemis Fowl wear trousers with bum-flaps so they can... well... you get the idea.
- Discworld dwarfs are a bit like this, since they all live in underground kingdoms, and are skilled miners. More traditionalist groups tunnel everywhere, and think seeing the sun is dangerous. In Thud!, the network of tunnels that it's hinted will become Ankh-Morpork's underground railway were dug by traditionalist dwarfs because they were looking for something and it didn't occur to them not to dig tunnels throughout the city.
- Soap Distant from Robert Rankins' Brentford trilogy, like his father before him, a Flat Earther looking for the underground kingdom of Ridgijenpo or something.
Live Action TV
- Oz. Agamemnon 'The Mole' Busmalis, who likes tunneling into banks and out of prisons, which is why they gave him a cell on an upper floor. Eventually, he finds a storeroom on the ground floor and starts tunneling out during the day.
- The Horta from Star Trek are a race that chew through solid rock like it was air. Unlike most diggers on this page, Horta use powerful acid to burn perfectly round tunnels.
- In one episode of Angie Tribeca, Angie and Geils break out of prison by digging a tunnel (using tools made out of their blankets) out of their cell. They emerge through the ceiling of the police department several miles away.
- The Skaven from Warhammer have a tunneling unit. Whether it appears where it should (directly underneath the enemy's artillery units, usually) or the tunnelers screw up horribly and either collapse their tunnel or arrive somewhere on another continent or at least at a different spot on the battlefield than they should (whereupon they spend the rest of the turn bickering about who held the map the wrong side up) is dependent on the roll of a die. Dwarven miners are a somewhat more reliable version.
- The Tyranids from Warhammer 40,000 have tunneling creatures with the size and power of tanks.
- Kobolds in Dungeons & Dragons. They're almost completely helpless in the open (arguably the weakest common monster in the game, to the point that a housecat can rip one to shredsnote ), which they make up for by squeezing through narrow tunnels, leading attackers into traps, and using hit-and-run tactics. A tribe of kobolds in their home warren can be downright deadly.
- The Mole, a villain from the Golden Age of Champions, who constructed a mechanical exoskeleton that enables him to tunnel through anything.
- In BIONICLE, the cave-dwelling Onu-Matoran are an entire tribe of these.
- The earth-elemented Cragsters from Mixels each have powerful digging abilities as their secondary abilities. Krader uses his giant right hand like a spade, Seismo pounds down on the earth with his giant feet, and Shuff spins himself like a drill. All three of them have come up with a game using their digging skills to see who can loop around first.
- Dwarves being Tunnel Kings is a central game mechanic in Dwarf Fortress
- Drill Man from Mega Man 4, who could burrow into the ground and pop up under Mega Man.
- Ground Man from Mega Man and Bass could do the same, except he could also drill into the ceiling too AND spike you with a giant drill from there.
- Drill Man gets even more skill in Rockman 4 Minus Infinity. He can now cause the ceiling to collapse on Mega Man and pop out of it to confuse him as well.
- The player in Minecraft can certainly become this, and likely will since the only way to get many necessary resources is by digging underground and mining them out; many players begin this way by digging out a simple shelter to avoid monsters at night, and most will end up this way in the late game when their mining ends up digging out a massive system of tunnels.
- The Underground Man in Diamond/Pearl/Platinum, responsible for starting out Sinnoh's extensive Underground with his digging, along with his son and grandson, Byron and Roark.
- Diglett, who is forever half-submerged in the ground, and whose species is responsible for the digging of Diglett's cave.
- Clay, "The Underground Boss", is a Gym Leader whose Gym is an underground maze and who specializes in Ground-type Pokémon. His signature Pokémon is Excadrill, the Ground/Steel mole from Pokémon Black and White..
- Terraria calls for the player character to be one if any progress is to be made. 95% of the game is underground.
- One of the movement powers in Champions Online is tunnelling... which moves you underground as fast as flight moves you through air!
- Most Worms games will scold you if you do this. Players who make good use of the game's digging and tunneling tools are known as "Darksiders".
- Mogmas in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, though they aren't always quick to think of digging under a barrier even though they can barely move aboveground.
- Muddy of Mole Mania, digs to solve environmental puzzles.
- Dig Dug might be one of the earliest video game examples. The title character Taizo Hori uses a drill to tunnel through layers of soil and hunt monsters.
- Mr. Driller is the spiritual successor of the aforementioned Dig Dug. The title character Susumu Hori is the son of Taizo Hori. Susumu drills through whatever beneaths him provided if air is given.
- Whateley Universe: MoleAr, who can manipulate rock and similar materials by touch and directed a digout from a collapsed prison:
He looked around. “The only way out is the rubble in the tunnel. We tunnel into the debris, dealing with the way the rubble will slide down toward us as we work. The magical spells in the tunnel ought to be as wrecked as the walls. So once we get far enough into the tunnel to get around the magical effects of the ceiling in here, we can go straight up. We just solidify the debris as we go. Then we tunnel upward a bit at a time, making sidesteps to deal with the problem we’ll have when we finally get through the bedrock.”The Black Tiger sneered, “Oh, and what makes you such a big expert on this shit?”Mole Ar mildly said, “This is what I do. I have a Masters and a Ph.D. in mining engineering from Texas A & M.”The Black Tiger didn’t say anything, but his face was sure red.
- SCP Foundation, SCP-2709 ("Can Anyone Hear You Scream?"). SCP-2709-1 is a giant anomalous antlion that digs tunnels underground. It performs a Dig Attack on human beings by collapsing the ground under their feet.
- The Diggers from Recess who are two boys who have enjoyed digging holes since kindergartern. In the first episode, they end up digging a hole all the way to Beijing.
- Tunnel Rat from G.I. Joe and related media. As with many Joes, often shown battling in situations having nothing to do with his or her specialty.
- Bugs Bunny is shown doing it in almost every medium, though he often ends up taking a Wrong Turn at Albuquerque. In fact, two games require Bugs to use tunneling to solve puzzles or bypass enemies, and another relies solely on him for transport between game worlds.
- Superspeed digging was one of Zippy's many talents in The Perils of Penelope Pitstop.
- Professor Moliarty from Darkwing Duck. A mush-mouthed mole who schemes to put the surface world into an eternal darkness. His name is a reference to Sherlock Holmes nemesis James Moriarty and his persona may be inspired by Marvel Comics' Mole Man.
- The Diamond Dogs of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic are a group of doglike creatures who live underground, tunnel very fast and mine gems. In the episode they appear in they inhabit a complex system of tunnels and mines that they likely dug themselves.
- Zoop from Iggy Arbuckle. In "The Case of the Messy Marauder", she starts sleep tunneling.
- The badger-moles of Avatar: The Last Airbender. In fact, they're the first Earthbenders!
- The Whispering Death from Dragons: Riders of Berk has the ability to use its jaw (which has six inner rings of teeth that rotate in opposite directions of each other) to quickly travel through solid rock.
- In Dennis the Menace (UK) animated series, Gnasher is able to tunnel incredibly quickly as part of his ability to bite through anything.
- Wally Floody, one of the men responsible for planning the Great Escape from Stalag Luft 3 during World War 2.
- The North Vietnamese Army had build up a huge network of tunnels through Vietnam during The Vietnam War.
- Mexican crime lord Joaquin Guzman, aka El Chapo, who has dug miles of tunnels under the US-Mexico border to smuggle contraband narcotics across the border- his method of escape upon being captured is, predictably, having his thugs dig a tunnel into his cell from the outside. Also, the French officers who were captured during World War II- they dug a tunnel out of the camp against all odds and escaped.
- The Mole Man of East Hackney.
- Megatherium, a prehistoric giant ground sloth roughly the size of a rhinoceros, may have been a burrower.