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Tunnel King
"Huh, huh! Dig, dig, dig, dig!"
Melvin Mole, MAD

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.

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.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    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.
  • Gash 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.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.

    Film 
  • 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.
  • Baragon and Megalon from the Godzilla franchise, the former uses his glowing horn to light his way underground and employed his burrowing to perform sneak attacks on Frankenstein's Monster and Godzilla, the latter having 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 Underminer, a supervillain who appears at the very end of The Incredibles.

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • Similar to the Belgariad case listed above, 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.

    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.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The Mole from the Dick Tracy comic strip.
  • The Spook in The Wizard of Id. He can tunnel out of prison relatively easy, he just can't keep from getting caught again.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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, 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 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.

    Toys 

    Video Games 
  • 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; many players begin this way to avoid monsters at night.
  • Pokémon
    • Also, the Underground Man in Diamond/Pearl/Platinum, along with his son and grandson, Byron and Roark.
    • Diglett, who is forever half-submerged in the ground, and who's 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..

    Webcomics 
  • Digger from, well, Digger. Unsurprising as Digger is an anthropomorphic wombat.
  • Sizemore from Erfworld epitomizes this trope. He can make braced, lighted, and reinforced tunnels as fast as he can walk.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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.
    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!
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • 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.


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