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All spoilers regarding Fairy Tail and Fairy Tail Zero are unmarked. Examples pertaining to 100 Years Quest can be spoiler tagged if deemed necessary.


Zeref Dragneel
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/zeref_ft_2018.png

Voiced by: Akira Ishida, Aina Kusuda [child] (Japanese); Joel McDonaldnote , Emily Fajardo [child] (English)

Zeref the Black Wizard is considered to be the most evil wizard who ever lived, having left a legacy of death, destruction, and demons of his creation. Some of his devoted fanatics have sought to use his magical tools of resurrection to bring him back from his presumed death centuries ago; others believe he was merely sealed away and waiting for someone to unleash his dark powers on the world.

What they don't realize, however, is that Zeref's a kind yet tormented young man who has been kept alive for over 400 years by the Black Magic of Ankhselam, a curse that steals all life around him the more he wishes to preserve it. For this reason, he has wandered aimlessly while avoiding as many people as possible, unless he chooses to see them as pawns that can be used as a means to an end. After witnessing too many conflicts done in his name, however, he decides to step out of the shadows to wreak havoc on mankind—all while holding out hope of being stopped by his younger brother, Natsu, whom he is certain is the only one capable of ending his life.

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    A-I 
  • Affably Evil: One of the very few villains that can fit in this trope. He begs people around him to stay away from him in order not to get killed, and taught Mavis and her friends magic as gratitude for her showing kindness to him. He is also cordial to Natsu, considering Natsu is his little brother.
  • All According to Plan: He counted on Ajeel and Brandish losing, but also states that Fairy Tail's weakness is their Thou Shalt Not Kill policy, possibly implying he's got a Batman Gambit up his sleeve. This ultimately pays off as Mavis, who still loves Zeref, intervenes in his fight with Natsu in an attempt to bring him salvation - only for him to drain her of all her power when she leaves herself vulnerable.
  • All-Powerful Bystander: What he was prior to the Sirius Island arc, and what he wanted to be indefinitely. Until Hades forced his hand. Though given The Reveal in Chapter 444, he apparently spent part of the last few hundred years establishing an empire on another continent.
  • The Aloner: He is never around anyone else, mostly because he kills them simply by being near them. Never around anybody else but Mavis, anyway, and that's because she's immortal like he is.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: An effect of the Curse of Contradictions Ankhselam slapped on him. Between his conflicted or even polarizing emotional states and his making contradictory statements within one sentence with no memory of it in Mavis' flashback, it's implied that Zeref's curse causes him suffer from some form of acute schizophrenia, explaining both his fragmented sense of rationality and occasionally-contradictory desires.
  • And I Must Scream: The reason why he truly fears Acnologia. While Acnologia can't kill him thanks to his Complete Immortality, Zeref himself can't kill Acnologia due to the gap in their powers and Acnologia's status as a magic eater. As such, Acnologia can essentially turn him into an immortal stress-ball/chew-toy while he wipes out the rest of humanity. Forever.
  • Anti-Villain: The guy has had it so rough throughout his very, very long life that it's really no surprise that he turned out the way he did, and just wants it to be over, by any means necessary.
  • Apologetic Attacker:
    • When he can't control his powers, he constantly apologizes to people, animals or plants that get near him.
    • In Chapter 532, he puts on a tough front, but breaks down and sheds tears while forcibly ripping Fairy Heart out of Mavis, while apologizing to her for everything he's done and promising her that he will "fix it" with Neo-Eclipse.
  • Arch-Enemy:
    • Zeref is intentionally trying to invoke this trope with Natsu, to the extent that he's willing to kill Natsu's loved ones to make it happen. This is because Natsu is the one being capable of killing him, and Zeref desires him to be at his very strongest to make it happen.
    • Mavis is this since she's the founder and de facto Big Good of the guild that is the biggest threat to his plans, Fairy Tail. That being said, the relationship is further complicated by the fact that she's also the love of his life.
  • The Archmage: The greatest example of this in the series. His power and knowledge of magic dwarfs that of any other character so far. Fairy Tail Zero reveals that the some of the other top contenders for this title Mavis, Precht, and Walrod were his students, and another, August, is his son. He was the one who taught them the magic that they would eventually master to become some of Fiore's strongest mages. Chapter 10 of Fairy Tail Zero reveals that one of Fairy Tail's strongest signature spells, "Fairy Law", was a spell that Zeref taught Mavis.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority:
    • This is the guy who conquered an entire continent and united its 700+ magic guilds, Light and Dark alike, by himself. The fact that he could and did do this is the main reason Ishgal is so wary of him even though they know so little about his 'Spriggan' persona. If they knew Spriggan's true identity, they surely would crap their pants at the mere thought of Zeref being in charge of Ishgal's greatest geopolitical threat.
    • He single-handedly turned Alvarez from a small city-state into a massive, continent-spanning superpower, and it's implied that a good portion of it, if not all of it, was done through pure martial force. The Spriggan 12 follow him seemingly for this reason alone; most of them don't even get along with each other, and are united purely by their respect and admiration for the Emperor.
  • The Atoner: His final plan was to go back and reset the world and undo all the damage he caused throughout his lifetime, which would result in the obliteration of an entire timeline. However, his atonement could only come through the other way around- by meeting his death and owning up to his mistakes, and doing so gracefully. What he tried to do was just running away from them and a thinly-veiled attempt to wipe out the reality where they happened just to say they technically never took place.
  • Badass Boast: When Mavis asks him if he is going to war, he answers, "No. It will be a one-sided annihilation."
    Mard Geer: Mard Geer... can realise... what you wish...
    Zeref: No, you can't.
    • And again during the invasion of Fiore once the gloves come off.
    Zeref: "All my doubts have been cleared. Natsu... Mavis... I'll paint over your very existence with the darkest of black!"
  • Badass Fingersnap: He gives one in Chapter 414 which turns Mard Geer back into book form and promptly lights him on fire.
  • Badass Long Robe: He has a black tunic of some kind, worn under a white, toga-like outer layer, complete with High Collar of Doom.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: He appears to mean well, so the bad guy part is currently debatable, but when Hades is driven off with no sign of repenting, he's the one who takes care of him.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Played With. When he was first cursed, he was legitimately horrified by what he was doing to others and still remains regretful over the carnage his powers have caused, but because of how the curse works he can't do anything about the Power Incontinence as long as he cares about life and thus had to start treating others like things at best or flat-out stop caring at all.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Mavis, after witnessing his curse and seeing just how lonely and miserable he was, used her illusions to let Zeref pet some animals. Zeref was so moved by the encounter that he agreed to teach Fairy Tail's founding members some magic to help defeat Blue Skull. When she became immortal like him and she suggested they give Eternal Love a shot since they only have each other, her kindness made Zeref fall in love with her. Tragically, the curse wouldn't allow them to be happy together.
  • Been There, Shaped History:
    • Despite the fact that 'official' history has gotten a lot of things wrong about him, Zeref is quite possibly more responsible for the state of the world than the entire rest of the cast combined. The Eclipse Gate? His invention. The R-System? Also his invention. Tartaros and the other Etherious? His creations. The Alvarez Empire? He founded it, and is The Emperor. The dragons disappearing? Part of his, Igneel's, and Anna Heartfilia's plan to kill Acnologia. The Dragon Slayers? Without him, they would not be in the present, and Natsu in particular wouldn't have lived past the age of two. Lucy's mother, Layla? She died because of the aforementioned plan with Igneel and Anna, because Layla was the one who had to open Eclipse from the other side, and had to Cast from Hit Points to do it. And finally, Fairy Tail itself? If he hadn't taught its founders magic, the guild itself (as well as Grimoire Heart) would have never existed, and Mavis Vermillion, Zeref's former lover, would have never become Fairy Heart, which is quite possibly humanity's last, best hope to stop Acnologia now that Zeref and Igneel's Plan A seems to have failed. And the icing on the cake? Not only did he teach its founders magic and was mutually in love with its First Master, but three of Fairy Tail's members (Natsu, Wendy, and Gajeel) are even in this century at all because he sent through through Eclipse with their dragon parents inside of them as a part of the plot to stop Acnologia! If it's a major plot in the series, in some way, it can all be traced back to him, for better or worse.
    • About the only thing in the series he doesn't seem to be responsible for is Acnologia becoming a dragon, which is apparently a natural side-effect of abusing Dragon Slayer Magic. Ironically, he was blamed for this in-universe by the Fiore Royal Family, for seemingly no other reason than because, hey, he's done so much damage to the world already that it would just be one more way in which he's screwed it up.
  • Benevolent Boss: While he shows indifference towards Tartaros, he shows a very friendly and positive relationship with his servants from Alvarez Empire. Played with, since he sees them as mere pawns, he doesn't display sadness or grief whenever they are defeated or killed and shows occasionaly amused smiles.
  • The Berserker: Zeref is usually quiet and melancholy at best and cold and calculating at worst, but once he gets to fight Natsu at full power, he gets a little too excited at the very opportunity, sporting a Slasher Smile while at it. Clearly, the Curse of Contradictions messed with his mind a tad too much.
  • Big Bad: The definitive main antagonist of the series, Zeref's responsible for the existence of demons, and becomes active after he's found on Sirius Island and decides to wipe out humanity, building himself up to a final battle with Natsu. He returns to this position after he takes E.N.D.'s book from the protagonists and kills Mard Geer for failing him. Zeref's story is the longest-running storyline in Fairy Tail, lasting 24 volumes in the manga.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: For a good part of the series, he's only served as a secondary villain to Arc Villains Hades, Future Rogue, and Mard Geer. But in the end, he’s this with Acnologia for the series as a whole.
  • Big Bad Friend:
    • Fairy Tail Zero shows that Zeref is this to Mavis when it's revealed he taught her and the other founding Fairy Tail members how to use magic, and that she has the exact same curse he has. Makarov even implies that this is the real reason Zeref wants to get his hands on Lumen Histoire. His reasons become even more suspect when it's revealed that he was in love with her prior to her death. Even when Mavis later acknowledges that Zeref has become a threat to humanity, the expression on her face makes it clear that she would really, really prefer that he just come to his senses instead of having to fight him.
    • Likewise, despite his threatening demeanor when Mavis is released from Lumen Histoire, he orders Invel to free her from his ice saying he can't 'bear to see her lose her freedom again.' He also can't bring himself to watch Irene's Separation Enchantment, which is apparently excruciatingly painful. No matter how hard he might try to deny it, it's painfully obvious that he still cares about her to some degree.
  • Big Bad Slippage: Of a sort: while he was the Greater-Scope Villain prior to being discovered, he still wasn't evil after he was discovered until he felt the human race was too evil to keep on living.
  • Big Brother Instinct: His entire Start of Darkness was caused by his desire to resurrect his younger brother, Natsu. Yes, that Natsu. After he was cursed, he shifts between wanting kill Natsu and wanting Natsu to kill him — which is only possible because he still considers Natsu one of the two most important people in his life, alongside Mavis.
  • Big Fancy Castle: Apparently, he lives in one of these as of Chapter 416. Makes sense, as it's later revealed that he's The Emperor of Alvarez.
  • Bishounen: Particularly when Chapter 7 of Zero displays that he's one of the few young adult males in the series to be lean rather than muscular.
  • Bling of War: Once he starts dressing the part of The Emperor. Turning his white toga thing into a Badass Cape? Check. Badass Longcoat and Badass Long Robe? Check. Making the gold trim on his Badass Long Robe even more elaborate? Check. Clearly, Invel knows his stuff when it comes to fashion.
  • Blood Knight: When he finally fights Natsu seriously, he's shown to be enjoying himself a lot, and reacts negatively when Larcade tries to interfere with their fight.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: The Brooding Boy to Mavis' Gentle Girl. She was the first person to show him kindness and be able to understand him in his lonely immortal life. Tragically, falling in love with her got her killed.
  • Brutal Honesty: Does not make any attempt to sugarcoat that Mavis is going to start inadvertently killing everyone around her just like he does.
  • Cain and Abel: The Cain to Natsu Dragneel's Abel. Although Natsu was clueless of the relation until midway through the Alvarez Empire arc, it doesn't change the fact that Zeref is hell-bent on eradicating mankind while Natsu is a force for good who treasures family links and companionship. Zeref practically invoked this trope by using his late brother's body to create the one being he thinks will be able to kill him.
  • Can't Live Without You: None of the beings created by Zeref's magic can survive without his magic sustaining them, including Natsu. If he dies, they die with him.
  • Child Prodigy: He was the most brilliant student at the Mildian Academy, to the point where he made his teachers nervous for studying magic typically considered taboo and creating several magical theories most sane mages wouldn't even touch. According to his teachers, this is supposedly what pissed Ankhselam off.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: He's not a cruel person to his comrades all across the board but if you're an associate, past or present, who's angered him for whatever reason, petty or not, he'll turn his back on you and end you with the same casual disregard as a normal person would feel towards stepping on a cockroach. Even if it was a Kick the Son of a Bitch moment, Zeref had no problem killing Hades, a former student of his. And then there was the way he coldly ended Mard Geer's life for seemingly no other reason than failing to defeat Natsu and Gray. Even worse is his brutal murder of Larcade, one of the Spriggan who genuinely loved Zeref and considered him family. While he could have simply told Larcade to stand down against Natsu, Zeref decided instead to brutally kill him in the most callous way possible. And that's not even getting into his attitude towards Natsu whom Zeref seemed to genuinely love and wanted the Dragon Slayer to end his life at first... but then quickly changes his mind during their climactic battle and decides he's perfectly okay with committing fratricide so he can fulfill his own agenda of slaying Acnologia and going back in time to give himself a happier ending.
  • Climax Boss: Despite being the Big Bad of the series, he's not technically the Final Boss. That's the more powerful Acnologia.
  • The Coats Are Off: When he is about to have his true Final Battle with Natsu at Fairy Tail's guild hall, he removes his white toga for the very first time, indicating that he isn't fighting just to die like the last time he and Natsu faced off — he's fighting for keeps.
  • Complete Immortality: His immortality is part of a divine curse, so it's not going to be overcome that easily. Killing him is tantamount to overcoming the will of the gods, who want him to suffer for eternity. Notably, even when Natsu finally overcomes Zeref's power, he still couldn't kill him, and Zeref even notes that he will regenerate from even those injuries. He only dies when his and Mavis' love for each other overcomes their curse.
  • The Corrupter: He views himself as the main reason why Humans Are Bastards. Fiore and beyond for the past centuries was shaped by his immortal self and the dark legeacy he left behind. He hates it and his plan of "destorying the world" and "wiping ot humanity" is him time-traveling to prevent his immortality. Beyond preventing Achnologia from existing, he hopes that doing this will purge humanity of his influence.
  • Cosmic Plaything: He received a cruel curse from a Jerkass God merely for wanting to bring his little brother back. Ever since then, the curse has found its way to make Zeref miserable and ruin any chance of happiness he might get. Including killing the girl he loved, even though she had the same exact curse he has.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Inverted. In a huge twist of irony, both the guilds that pose a credible threat to him owe their very existences to him. Fairy Tail and Tartaros. Fairy Tail because without him, the founding members might have never learned magic, and Tataros because he created most of its members, including its Guild Master and founder.
  • Creating Life: He (literally) wrote the book on Living Magic. While other dark mages, including Hades, have been shown using it to create mooks, Zeref has used it to create anything from giant Eldritch Abominations to fully-sentient demons, many of which make up the Dark Guild known as Tartaros.
  • Creepy Monotone: Interestingly, his voice has become this in the anime following the Grand Magic Games. Possibly justified, however, considering how much he's changed since the Sirius Island arc.
  • Cry Cute: Admit it, this is not what you first imagined after the way he was built up throughout the series.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Zancrow and Hades got their asses handed to them by him.
  • Curse: Zeref suffers from a rather cruel variation of this. The more he values life, the more everything around him dies. On the other hand, if he does not value life, he will regain control of his immense magic, and he will no longer automatically kill everything around him. However, the fact that he doesn't value life means that he will probably still kill people anyway, only intentionally this time. This way, it is set up so that he will always end up killing people, whether he wants to or not. Of course, it's heavily implied that he brought this upon himself. The Mildian Academy claims that Zeref was committing blasphemy against the gods for studying taboo magics in order to resurrect his dead brother, hence a curse that was designed to kill anybody he could ever care about or even being in the same general area as him, with immortality to boot.
  • Curse Escape Clause: The immortality is permanent, but the "kill everyone around you with uncontrollable waves of death" part of it seems to go away if Zeref stops caring about other people. If that happens, Zeref's able to control it. When they became a couple, Zeref loved Mavis more than she did, so he killed her despite Mavis also being immortal. When Mavis is able to bring herself to love Zeref as much as he loves her, they both die.
  • Cursed With Awesome: The immortality that is part of his curse did give him enough time to complete his original goal of bringing back his brother.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: The first one was the death of his little brother and his attempts to revive him which got him cursed. The second one was when Zeref finally finds somebody he genuinely cares about, and comes to believe he can safely be with Mavis, even falling in love with her. And then she died... mostly.
  • Dark Is Evil: He's not called "Black Wizard" for nothing; along with other, more common dark magics, he could create his own demons and magical objects that were designed to kill people. He himself wasn't that bad of a guy, though; the evil part came much later.
  • Dark Messiah: Zeref genuinely wants to see the world become a better place. Zeref outright states that his sole motivation for becoming an Omnicidal Maniac is to 'cleanse the world of its sins,' and is perfectly prepared to die to atone for his own, and wants his brother Natsu to be the one to do it. He even has twelve disciples in the form of the Spriggan Twelve, including a Sixth Ranger Traitor, as if Mashima was intentionally trying to invoke this trope. His true master plan puts him firmly in Well-Intentioned Extremist territory.
  • Dating Catwoman: Zeref is an evil wizard who eventually becomes the Big Bad of the series and it's eventually revealed he was romantically involved with Mavis, the First Master of Fairy Tail.
  • Death Glare: The absolute master of this in the series. Zeref's glares have been enough to make grown men burst into tears and crap themselves. If Zeref is giving you this look, run!
  • Death Seeker: He expects to be killed by Natsu someday. And he'll wage war on humanity if he has to for it. The entire reason the demons of Tartaros even exist is because Zeref was trying to create something powerful enough to kill him. When it becomes clear that he can't and won't die, he decides to invoke a Reset Button to travel back to the past and Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
  • Despair Event Horizon: He was already well on his way there, but the big one came when he fell in love with Mavis and she died as a result, right when he thought he finally found somebody he could safely allow himself to care about. By the present storyline, Zeref has fallen so far into the deep end that his idea of fixing the problem is to go reset his life before he became immortal, ensuring that all the tragedies that befell him and others as the result of his actions never happen.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Zeref is an extensive planner and is thus rarely caught off guard, however, even he never expected Gray to be willing to sacrifice everything, up to his very existence in history to seal Zeref for a hundred years or more with an even more powerful version of Iced Shell. The only reason why he escapes is the fact that Natsu stops Gray from using the spell once again.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: One of the very first things he says to Acnologia when the two finally meet:
    Zeref: How's the arm?
  • Died Happily Ever After: After he and Mavis departed to the afterlife, Makarov dreamt of them running through a field together, happy as can be.
  • Disappears into Light: He and Mavis break their curses through The Power of Love, causing them to finally escape their immortality and pass on to the afterlife, disappearing into a heavenly light with flower petals encircling them.
  • Dissonant Serenity: He can talk about wiping out humanity in the same sad, apologetic tone he uses when killing people by accident.
  • Doom Magnet: Even though it's probably all his fault, wherever he goes, Acnologia is never far behind. And that's assuming he doesn't kill everything around him himself, first.
  • The Dreaded: Very few names in Earth-Land invoke as much unmitigated terror as his does.
  • Driven to Villainy: He really was not that bad of a guy to start with. Honestly, seeing everyone you've ever cared about die and becoming the Cosmic Plaything of a Jerkass God would make anyone snap, eventually.
  • Dying as Yourself: He and Mavis finally come clean that they still love one another, despite everything. It is through this act that the One Magic lifts both of their curses, allowing them to die in each other's arms.
  • Early Installment Character Design Difference: His tunic was initially red before changing it to black like in the anime.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: He lost his whole family at a young age. He was cursed by a Jerkass God for the act of trying to resurrect his little brother with a horrifically cruel curse that he had to suffer with for the next four centuries. He was hated and feared by (almost) everyone. His magic and his very name were used by dark guulds to justify their own evil. He lost the love of his life right when it looked like he had a chance at happiness. He was dragged kicking and screaming back into the world by a dark guild led by somebody he thought he could trust as his former student. He learned that in the future, Acnologia ruled the world. He started a world war to try to fix everything with a Xanatos Gambit. And in the end? It was all worth it; he and Mavis were finally free.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: He has black hair and pale skin, and is considered the most evil wizard in history.
  • The Emperor: Of Alvarez Empire, where he is referred to as Spriggan.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Apologizing to the wolves that die trying to attack him.
  • Eternal Love: Tragically subverted. Once Mavis became immortal like him, Zeref thought he finally found somebody he could safely allow himself to care about. Sadly, that same love got his beloved Mavis killed. They eventually can at least be Together in Death.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Although he isn't really that evil to begin with until later on, Zeref still loves his younger brother, Natsu. He is what he is today because he tried to bring the deceased Natsu back to life, and can do nothing but cry when he sees his brother alive and well and all grown up.
    • Again, even though he wasn't exactly evil at the time, Zeref fell in love with Mavis after she assured him that they could be together forever until they found a way to break their curse. Sadly, their mutual love resulted in Mavis' 'death' and is implied to be when Zeref's true Start of Darkness began.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: He has a noted disgust for most Dark Guilds, especially those who commit atrocities in his name, with Grimoire Heart having earned the dubious honor of being the guild whose actions finally convinced him that Humans Are Bastards. Zeref has also apparently decided that the one thing he definitely wants to do before he dies is kill Acnologia.
  • Evil Costume Switch: His original outfit was a holdover from the culture of his childhood village and fairly plain. However, when it gets damaged in a fight with Natsu in the final story arc, he decides to switch it for clothing more befitting an emperor, and thus dons a rather regal and grandiose outfit, fully embracing his position as a conqueror.
  • Evil Counterpart: To Mavis, in a number of ways. For example:
    • Both were Child Prodigies in magic, having a near-encyclopedic knowledge of magical theory; Mavis in magic in general, Zeref in more taboo forms of magic. Mavis went on to create the titular guild, which became the defining guild of Fiore, while Zeref was indirectly responsible for just about every dark guild in the series that came after his heydey (especially Tartaros).
    • Mavis did die (except not really), while Zeref wants to die but is immortal. Both gained their inability to age by messing with magic they didn't fully understand for somebody else's sake, with Zeref pissing off Ankhselam by trying to resurrect Natsu as E.N.D., and Mavis using Law without having mastered it first to save Yuriy's life, which also pissed off Ankhselam.
    • More subtly, both also resorted to magic to cope with loss: Mavis subconsciously used her Illusion magic to pretend that Zeira was still alive while Zeref devoted himself to exploring forbidden magic to revive his dead little brother Natsu. And the clincher? They both have the exact same Curse. Probably helps that they were romantically involved, too.
    • The Fairy Tail Zero anime takes it a step further: Both were Conveniently an Orphan, with Mavis being entirely self-educated and desperately wanting to attend school, whereas Zeref was shipped off to a boarding school after his parents and younger brother were killed by dragons. Mavis only left Sirius Island after meeting Yuri, Warrod, and Precht, all of whom later became her co-founders in Fairy Tail, whereas Zeref was surrounded by his fellow students and teachers. He may or may not have had friends his own age, but his teachers were both awestruck and incredibly nervous about Zeref's chosen field of study, and was later more or less completely isolated up until he met Igneel, Anna, and later, what would become Alvarez, and Mavis herself.
  • Evil Overlord: Subverted. He is clearly considered supreme among the rest of his subjects, and each member of his Praetorian Guard could be considered a candidate for The Archmage. Makarov is surprised to find he is friendly and willing to negotiate, and his subjects are genuinely happy to see him return. Although Makarov realizes that Spriggan is Zeref a short while later.
  • Evil Sorcerer: A very, very Deconstructed Character Archetype. While he was indeed a Child Prodigy in the field of magic, already writing entire theses on magic most adult wizards won't even touch while he was barely even a teenager, he never once becomes Drunk with Power like so many other examples of this trope do. His turn to Living Magic was less about power for power's sake and more about ending his own life and saving his brother's. As for his "Instant Death" Radius and Complete Immortality? He didn't choose them. They chose him. The 'evil' part of the trope came much later, after years of being ostracized and hated by virtually the entire world, all while, hypocritically, doing many of the things they were accusing him of doing.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Hades never stood a chance against this guy.
  • Exact Words:
    • His threat to "wipe out humanity" to Mavis. Him waging a war was entirely true, and perhaps he overestimated Alvarez's strength, but 'wiping out humanity' apparently only meant that the current world would be Ret-Gone should his plan succeed.
    • He does reject the world. In its current form.
  • Fangs Are Evil: He has large canines in his early appearances, but they disappear later on.
  • Fate Worse than Death: He's immortal, but he also has an "Instant Death" Radius designed to kill anybody he could ever care about. The only way around it is to stop caring about their lives (which kind of defeats the purpose), or if the person he cares about is also immortal. Like Mavis, for instance. And even then, the curse still kills her when they fall in love. The reason he fears Acnologia despite his immortality is because both he simply can't kill Acnologia as he is and he believes (with good reason given what Acnologia is like) that an eternity as Acnologia's chewtoy would be a living hell.
  • The First Cut Is the Deepest: He did not take Mavis' death well. After delivering her body to Fairy Tail, he unceremoniously drops her on the ground at Precht's feet, while walking away claiming that he's sick of being around people and will therefore go back to Alvarez (since he sees the people that live there are mere pawns), and that he shouldn't have fallen in love.
  • Foil: The revelation of Acnologia's Freudian Excuse makes him one to Acnologia. Both lost their entire families and loved ones to dragons four hundred years ago. While Acnologia became a revenge-driven monster worse than anything he killed, Zeref at least tried to undo some of the damage the dragons did, by attempting to resurrect his little brother (that resulted in Zeref getting cursed and subsequently hated and feared by everyone else, and it only went downhill for him from there). The dragons created both sides of the series' Big Bad Ensemble, but the way they responded to their respective Starts of Darkness could not have been more different, nor could the end results.
  • Forgot About His Powers: Justified. For Natsu to stand a chance at winning required Zeref to completely forgot all his powers. Timestop, enchantment, teleportation and "Instant Death" Radius, etc. were all traded for basic punches and rudimentary dark magic. While the "Instant Death" Radius can be explained away by Natsu's scarf being able to protect him, less excusable is, after noticing that Natsu's book is gone, he doesn't teleport it back into his hand, something he did long before Fairy Heart gave him control over spacetime. Where the justification lies is that Zeref's curse has driven him completely crazy, to the point he's still not sure if he wants Natsu to kill him or for him to kill Natsu, despite what he says, and he really wants to fight Natsu.
  • Founder of the Kingdom: He created an entire country where he rules as a relatively benevolent Emperor, though he himself admits he didn't create Alvarez for the sake of being a ruler.
  • Friendly Enemy: Towards Natsu. When the two finally see each other again in Chapter 372, Zeref greets him by smiling, and saying that he knew Natsu would be strong enough to make it that deep inside of Tartaros' headquarters. The reason he's rather friendly to him is because he doesn't hate his brother at all — everything that Zeref has done that led him to being what he is today was to bring the deceased Natsu back to life.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Zeref went from being a fairly normal, if absolutely brilliant and defiant student at Midlian Magic Academy to The Dreaded Black Wizard.
  • Front Line General: Marches right alongside his soldiers during the invasion of Fiore. Much to Mavis' chagrin.

[[]]

  • Given Name Reveal: Overlaps with Wham Line below. Go on, click that spoiler next to his name if you dare.
  • A God I Am Not: Many Dark Guilds worship him as a Physical God of Evil. Zeref thinks they're scum and resents their reverence, with Tartaros being the only possible exception.
  • A Good Way to Die: In the end, he got everything he wanted when he died: Acnologia is dead, his curse was broken, and he gets to spend an eternity in the afterlife with the love of his life, Mavis. The end text even lampshades it, by saying that at long last, he's finally happy.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Was this prior to his proper introduction in the series. It's been 400 years since his presumed death, and people are still fighting against demons and other evil artifacts he made back then. Hades, the closest thing the series has to a Big Bad at that point, is one of the few who realizes he's Not Quite Dead, and aims to unleash his sealed power on the world.
    • Deconstructed since Zeref sees himself as this as well, blaming himself for all the terrible things done in his name and that Humans Are Bastards are all his fault. His ultimate plan is based on exploiting this trope; he plans on timetraveling to prevent his immortality, thus removing his existence (well, from what would've been his natural death) and changing hundreds of years of history.
  • Headbutt of Love: He gave Mavis a loving headbutt when she told him she used an incomplete version of Law, but he was Tempting Fate to see if she'd die. She didn't.
  • Healing Factor: After his fight with Natsu, where he was clearly holding back because he had hoped Natsu would kill him, his wounds healed so quickly that Invel did a double-take. Apparently, it comes with the Complete Immortality.
  • Heel Realization: Had one over 400 years ago. Or it'd be more accurate to say that he was never really evil to begin with; he just delved a bit too deeply into forbidden magic, and screwed the entire world up as a result. He would do anything - anything - to fix it.
  • Hero Killer: He came so dangerously close to killing Makarov that it's not even funny. And that was after sending him flying with one flick of his wrist.
  • Hope Spot: Congratulations! You've stopped Face, you prevented E.N.D. from being activated, and all that's left is to destroy or take the Tome of Eldritch Lore back to—... wait, where did it go?
    Zeref: "This belongs to me. I'll be taking it back, now. It's really important, you know."
  • Humans Are Bastards: He believes that humans never learn from their mistakes, and that war, hatred, evil, and all of the more unfortunate sides of human nature will never disappear. Though, given villains such as Zero, who wanted to destroy everything that has form; Hades, who planned to eradicate 90% of the world's population for a so-called utopia; Future Rogue, who wanted to Take Over the World at the cost of the extinction of the human race; and Acnologia, by far Fairy Tail's greatest Jerkass, are all humans, it is not that hard to agree with him.
    • The big twist is that to him, the reason Humans Are Bastards is because of him. He has Been There, Shaped History for so many centuries and nearly every Big Bad could be traced back to him and his legacy. It's why his plan of "destorying the world" is him becoming so powerful he can hit the Reset Button, undoing the last several centuries of history and changing it.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Wanting to die yet being near perfectly immortal, Zeref struggles with this one. At some point, he took to creating demons in the hopes that one would become strong enough to kill him.
  • Identical Stranger The epilogue reveals one in the case of Arleos who takes an instant liking to Mavis's doppelganger Mio. While the scene is heartwarming it is odd because at most a year has passed since the final battle. The two share no relation to the other two other than their identical appearance and happening to fall in love at first sight.
  • Idiot Hair: Has one spike in the middle of his head. Of course, he's no idiot.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Mavis' death was what broke Zeref for good. To make it worse, his love for her was the very thing that killed her.
  • "Instant Death" Radius: Things die around him. No touching needed.
  • Invincible Villain: He is believed to be the most powerful mage ever, rivaled only by Acnologia, who isn't even entirely human. The mere possibility of his return made the Magic Council ready to cross the Godzilla Threshold and fire Etherion regardless of collateral damage, and his level power is more or less the only thing uniting the Alvarez Empire around him. The reason he's considered unbeatable is because of his Complete Immortality, something Zeref himself would rather not be the case; Zeref can't even kill himself, and based on his own words, he tried. He's only lost twice that we've seen, and one case was an example of Worf Had the Flu (see below), and in the other, he was deliberately holding back, because he was hoping Natsu would finally put him out of his misery, and thus had no intention of winning. The only being who could possibly defeat him in a straight-up fight is Acnologia himself, and that's because of a technicality: While Zeref is immortal and Acnologia is not, none of Zeref's magic, not even his death curse, can kill Acnologia due to the latter's status as The Dragon of Magic, rendering each other's main edge to kill the other useless. And since one of them is a giant dragon and the other a human, the fight essentially turns into Acnologia using Zeref as a chew toy. Forever.
  • Irony:
    • He came up with the idea of the Eclipse Gate, so he can go back in time and avert his brother's death. 400 years later, the Kingdom of Fiore finish the Eclipse Gate, so they can go back in time and kill Zeref.
    • He taught magic to Mavis' group, who would form the very same guild where his brother Natsu would later join.
    • He decided to live out the rest of his days on Sirius Island. He had no idea that it was a sacred place to the same guild where both his lover and brother belonged.
    • And let´s not forget the greatest Irony of all! For hundreds of years humans have called Zeref the most evil wizard that ever lived, but Zeref only became truly evil after witnessing humans commiting evil acts, and became so disgusted with them that he decided to wipe them out. The last straw was Hades who forced him out of his self-imposing exile in order to create a so-called utopia which would kill ninety percent of the world's population. Becoming the 'most evil wizard of all time' was a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy created by humanity. At the same time, we later discover that he views humanity's evil acts as his own fault because they were following his footsteps.
  • It's All My Fault: Ultimately, this is his mentality and in fact, he blames himself for why Humans Are Bastards.

    J-Z 
  • Just Between You and Me: He tells Gray that his intentions with Fairy Heart go beyond defeating Acnologia, something which he hasn't even told the Spriggan 12, because he intended to kill Gray by the time Natsu arrived.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • To Mard Geer, in the form of You Have Failed Me.
    • He almost did this again to Makarov, saying he was going to kill him and then send his dead body back to Natsu for the sole sake of pissing him off. Mest saved him just in time.
    • He repays Larcade attacking Natsu in an effort to give his "father" the advantage by blasting a hole through his chest, telling him he's nothing but a prototype to E.N.D., and finally killing him off while Larcade begs for mercy, all while Natsu watches in disgust.
  • Killer Rabbit: Easily the most feared wizard to ever walk the face of Earth-Land, and with good reason... who also happens to be a youthful self-loathing Death Seeker who has a tendency to break down in Tears of Remorse.
  • Kiss of Death: Subverted. At first, it was heavily implied that confessing his love for Mavis and kissing her 'killed' her, thus began his true Start of Darkness. Of course, not only does Mavis come Back from the Dead, it's implied (and then shown) that it wasn't a Kiss of Death, but, uh... something else.
  • Knight of Cerebus: His subordinates might not seem that scary compared to the likes of Tartaros, but the fact they're being lead into by Zeref is nothing to laugh at.
  • Knight Templar: God help you if he thinks you're evil.
  • Kung-Fu Wizard: When he finally decides to start fighting seriously, he's shown to be able to match Natsu, the Kung-Fu Wizard, blow for blow in hand to hand combat.
  • Lack of Empathy: He admits to treating his people like pawns in a game of chess. This is how he protects his own subjects from his curse.
  • Lean and Mean: As could be seen from Mavis' Naked First Impression, he's noticeably much thinner in build and less muscular, especially in comparison to the vast majority of the rest of the cast. Not that that means a whole lot, given his level of power.
  • Light Is Not Good: After absorbing Fairy Heart, his clothing, hair, and wings all gain a white and gold scheme that makes him look like a divine being. He's still the Dark Messiah he always was, and first act upon gaining this power is to impale Natsu through the chest and tell him Makarov's dead.
  • Living MacGuffin: Several villains are out to gain his power, if not his very existence. Also it's examined: This status of his is why Zeref wishes to gain ultimate power to time travel and change the past, as he views his influence having been a dentriment to the world, as noted by how nearly every if not all villains arose from his involvement.
  • Long-Lost Relative:
    • He's Natsu's long-lost brother.
    • He has his own in August, his actual biological son. In all the years he's lived with Zeref, August has yet to tell him the truth about their relationship.
  • Love Hurts: Trying to bring back the little brother he loved got him cursed. Falling in love got the girl he loved killed. Every time Zeref has allowed himself to love anything, it blows up in his face.
  • Love Makes You Evil: On two levels. His love for his little brother and his desire to see him brought Back from the Dead started him down the slippery slope. Inadvertently killing his lover Mavis when they became intimate pushed him right down it, and watching humanity repeat the cycle of war and death endlessly were the last straws.
  • Made of Iron: Thanks to his Complete Immortality, Zeref is practically invulnerable to pretty much anything. Natsu's Fire Dragon King Mode which was meant to be a trump card, while left some injuries, weren´t very accentuated and they were negated thanks to his Healing Factor.
  • The Man Behind the Man: While he is not technically the leader of Tartaros (that would be E.N.D.), because he is the one who created the demons that make up the guild they idolize him, making him something of a de facto figurehead. He otherwise has no direct involvement with them.
  • Manly Tears: When he realizes his injuries from his final battle aren't going away and both he and Mavis are beginning to disappear, he starts shedding tears of relief at the realization their curses have broken and he's now going to find everlasting peace along with Mavis because they truly love each other, as well as tears of sorrow for causing so much hurt on the path to breaking the curse when the solution was this simple all along.
  • Meaningful Name: His Spriggan alias. Spriggans are depicted as grotesquely ugly, and said to be found at old ruins and barrows guarding buried treasure and generally acting as fairy bodyguards. They were also said to be busy thieves. He wants Lumen Histore which houses Mavis inside. He later lampshades this, himself, telling Makarov that he picked this alias specifically because it means "Ugly Fairy".
  • Mentor Archetype: He plays this role in Fairy Tail Zero, where he effectively taught Mavis, Yuriy, Walrod and Precht, of all people how to properly use magic.
  • Merlin and Nimue: Mavis was his magic apprentice and eventual lover. Because she used an incomplete version of the Law that he taught her, she ended up cursed like him. Mavis wanted her and Zeref to form an Eternal Love relationship to have each other and find a way to break the curse together, but sadly them falling in love with each other got her killed. Driven mad by grief, Zeref lost it, spiraling even further into darkness and despair and eventually resolved himself to wipe out humanity. Mavis, who still loved him but nonetheless recognized he needed to be stopped, declared that Fairy Tail would wipe him out instead.
  • Mind Rape: Mavis correctly deduces that Ankhselam's Curse is causing Zeref's own thoughts to contradict themselves, such as when he seemingly can't decide if he wants his brother to destroy him, or if he wants to destroy him. This explains his rather massive mood swings and constantly switching back and forth between being a Friendly Enemy and wanting to become the Arch-Enemy to Natsu, and even struggling with his own feelings for Mavis after her death.
  • Mirror Character: Future Lucy and Zeref both lost loved ones to dragons and watched Natsu be killed by fire dragons, and were the only survivors of the attacks. Both wanted to return to the past so their tragedies could be averted, but while Zeref changed his mind and decided not to go through with time travel, Future Lucy did.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: Chapter 340 reveals that he has become this since the events of Sirius Island. Turns out that being Really 400 Years Old has given him the unique perspective to observe some rather unfortunate traits of human nature as well as the fact that humans never seem to learn from their past mistakes. What Hades pulled was the last straw to him, and Future Rogue's actions probably didn't help, either. However, then it turns out that this is due to his own attitude on himself, having viewed many of the human tragedies as it being all his fault.
  • Mood Ring Eyes: They change between red and black depending on his mood.
  • Mood-Swinger: Ankhselam's Curse is a curse of contradictions, causing Zeref to suffer severe mood swings and his thoughts and wishes to contradict themselves.
  • Mook Maker: His "Living Magic" allows him to create giant demons of immense, nigh-unstoppable power, including Eldritch Abominations such as Lullaby and Deliora. In fact, Tartaros is made up of nothing but demons created by Zeref.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Despite his relatively thin frame, Zeref is capable of sending Natsu through a wall with roundhouse kick to the side of his head. Subverted post chapter 531, as Zeref has been shown to have put on more muscle mass.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Upon seeing what his research into magic governing life and death had done to the entire rest of the academy, Zeref had a mental breakdown. His life was a downward spiral of guilt culminating in a death wish ever since.
  • Naked First Impression: Mavis first met him when he was taking a bath in a lake.
  • Necromantic: The reason he studied all of that forbidden magic was to resurrect his brother, Natsu, who had died at a very young age. He succeeded, by giving Natsu an Etherious body, hence E.N.D.
  • Nigh-Invulnerable: Takes a punch from Natsu without a scratch.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: When he's finally introduced, Zeref is shown to not be the legendary evil wizard that he's made up to be. He's a lonely and tortured man with an uncontrollable "Instant Death" Radius that just wants to be left alone so he doesn't have to hurt anyone anymore. But later on he finally gets fed up of humanity and getting rejected by the world.
  • Oh, Crap!: It takes a lot to make him have this kind of reaction.
    • When Acnologia shows up at the end of the Sirius Island Arc.
    • When one of his followers, Irene Belserion, decides to take matters into her own hands and 'use her Reality Warping magic on all of Fiore because she thinks Zeref is Just Toying with Them during the Alvarez invasion of Fiore, and she thinks they should just decisively end it already.
    • Natsu suddenly getting back up after he impaled him prompts this before he figures out someone (Lucy) is writing in the E.N.D book to keep him alive. But a much bigger one comes during their final blows when he realizes Natsu's flames, powered by his raw emotions for Fairy Tail, are much stronger then his infinite magic before Natsu proceeds to finally defeat him.
  • Official Couple: With Mavis. Chapter 450 reveals they were lovers in the past and despite everything, it's clear they still have feelings for each other. They're even on the cover of Volume 53 of the manga holding hands, with a giant heart-shaped tree behind them, and their... complicated relationship is the focus of the Alvarez Empire arc.
  • Offing the Offspring:
    • Zeref is more-or-less the father of the Etherious. When he kills Mard Geer, it gives vibes of this trope, which is probably why everyone watching reacted badly to it.
    • He unceremoniously blasts a hole into the chest of another Etherious, Larcade, with a lethal black magic spell, who had attempted to give Zeref an edge and kill Natsu, coldly telling him not to interfere. After Larcade asks him why, Zeref shows him no sympathy, explaining his origins and continuing to beat him down, much to Natsu's disgust. He finally straight-up annihilates him without mercy.
  • One Head Taller: He tops Mavis' height by at least a full head.
  • One-Hit Kill: He kills Zancrow and Hades with a single spell.
  • One True Love: With Mavis Vermilion. Throughout his hellish existence, Mavis was the only person to have ever made Zeref truly happy, and his time with her are his fondest memories. As the only other bearer of the Curse of Contradictions, she was also the only other person that could ever fully understand and empathize with him — the only person that can connect with him. It was Mavis' death that drove Zeref off the deep end, and when enacting his plan to rewrite the timeline, his only regret about his new world is that it will be one where he and Mavis will never meet.
  • Opposites Attract: Zeref is an evil wizard whose moods constantly switch from brooding and melancholic to wrathful and violent, while his lover Mavis is a kind-hearted and cheerful All-Loving Heroine.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: His biological son August dies from his aborted Taking You with Me, with Zeref never finding out about their true relation.
  • Overarching Villain: Many conflicts can be traced to Zeref's actions. Zeref designed the R-System, which was enventually constructed by Zeref fanatics. Zeref also created the Eclipse Gate, which Future Rogue tried to use in an attempt to Take Over the World. Zeref also created the Alvarez Empire under the alias of Emperor Spriggan.
  • Parental Neglect:
    • Even though he created the demons of Tartaros, he never shows any slight care for them. Everything that Mard Geer and the Nine Demon Gates did was they thought it would please their creator, and yet Zeref is not even touched by such dedication and lets his own creations be defeated and kills Mard Geer for his failure.
    • Played with in regards to his relationship with August, his actual son. Zeref never showed him any parental love, because August never told him the truth of who he really was, and may or may not have been intentionally invoking this trope (for his own safety/wellbeing). Considering the complicated relationships Zeref has with his brother Natsu and his lover Mavis, August's uncle and mother respectively, this might've been for the best. August seems content with keeping their relationship as it is, being Zeref's most powerful and most loyal soldier.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: The most powerful wizard in history, bar none.
  • Pet the Dog: He came across Irene Belserion one day, and correctly identified her as having been a Dragon Slayer who had transformed into a dragon a la Acnologia. Without even being asked or without asking anything in return, Zeref restored her human form, but said that it was only in appearance only; Irene still is and always would be a dragon, biologically. She has been his loyal follower and one of the most powerful members of the Spriggan Twelve ever since.
  • Physical God: Considered one as part of being the strongest being in the setting aside from Acnologia and definitely became one after absorbing Fairy Heart's power.
  • Power Gives You Wings: To complete his new divine look after absorbing Fairy Heart's power, he gains glowing energy wings.
  • Power Incontinence: Zeref's harmless without his powers, but once they've activated he can't stop them.
  • Put Them All Out of My Misery: Once reaching the conclusion the world will never accept him, Zeref casually states that he will wipe out humanity. In a manner of speaking.
  • Really 700 Years Old: He doesn't look like it, but he's over 400 years old.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Yajeel claims that he is one. Supposedly the Spriggan Twelve are the ones who were really eager to invade Ishgal, and Zeref had been keeping the peace for years. Though he later intends to start a war once he plotted his 'Kill Them All' plan.
  • Red Baron: "The Black Wizard."
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: A sign that he will kill on purpose, as opposed to the uncontrollable blasts of death magic that normally surround him.
  • Redemption Demotion: Played with. Zeref outright states that learning the value of life made him weaker, but it also led to his Power Incontinence, suggesting not so much a loss of power as a loss of control.
  • Reluctant Warrior: The reason he kills Hades is solely because Grimoire Heart wanted to use him to destroy more lives.
  • Renowned Selective Mentor: He is the one who personally taught Mavis and Fairy Tail's founding fathers how to use magic. Each of them would then later on become the strongest wizards within the series. According to Acnologia, he also trained Irene Belserion in the art of High Enchanting, only she took that form of magic to its logical conclusion.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: He's a 400-year-old immortal who is unable to die by virtually every means a human being can think of. However, with the exception of Mavis, Grimoire Heart, Tartaros, and some—if not all—of the Spriggan 12, no one who knows Zeref as the Black Wizard realizes this by the start of the series, believing that he somehow died over 400 years ago. The only others who've met him and lived to tell about it know him either by a different name (in this case, an entire empire he built from the ground up on the other side of the world) or no name at all.
  • Reset Button: His desire to "destroy the world" is Metaphorically True: he wants to destroy the current world by going back in time and stopping himself from ever becoming immortal, as well as killing Acnologia while he's at it. Considering the huge hand these two have had in shaping most of the world's history, this would alter the current timeline to such a degree that it would essentially be a Ret-Gone for more people that can be accounted for.
  • Ret-Gone: This is what his master plan means in spirit. He views the current world and most humans as corrupt and all of it his fault as the world was shaped by his actions and most of the villains born of his legacy. As such, when he says "Destorying the world and humanity", he means preventing himself from being cursed and changing history so much this happens.
  • The Scapegoat: For the first part of the series, every time someone misused Zeref's studies most of the blame would go to Zeref, believing that he was the reason why said people turned evil in the first place. While it is true that Zeref created several studies and demons, the first was to resurrect his brother and the second was to kill himself, but most of them were used for much less altruistic goals, such as Lullaby being used by Eisenwald, R-System by Jellal (secretly by Ultear and by Hades) and Eclipse by Future Rogue.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Subverted. Grimoire Heart is under the impression that his true power was sealed away, leaving him the weak and pathetic mess they find him as, and thus aim to acquire "keys" to "reawaken" that power. Ultimately, however, he reveals he was never "sealed" to begin with, and that the legend of these so-called "keyes" was just a rumor started by a delusional cult.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: His master plan is to go back in time using Neo Eclipse to prevent Natsu's death, thus ensuring he never gets cursed in the first place. According to him, this also means Acnologia will also never gain power, essentially making him Ret-Gone... along with the rest of the present world. Turns out this is what he meants by wanting to "destory the world" and in fact, given how he blames himself for why Humans Are Bastards, this is probably part of the plan too.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: He has never fallen in love with—or expressed a casual interest in—anyone other than Mavis, in the entire four centuries of his life. Justified since their shared curse pretty much made them each other's only option.
  • The Slow Path: Zeref stayed behind while the Dragon Slayers (and by extension, the dragons) were sent forward in time through Eclipse. It was over the next 400 years that Zeref came to believe that Humans Are Bastards and had his Start of Darkness when Mavis died.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: He's the Emperor of the Alvarez Empire, and one of the most powerful wizards in history.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: With Mavis. Ankhselam's Curse all but ensured the two can never truly be together. They can only be Together in Death when their mutual love kills them both.
  • Start of Darkness: Everything that made Zeref "The Black Wizard" was stemmed from his attempts to revive his younger brother, Natsu. He immersed himself in the dark arts, and his studies apparently pissed off the gods enough to curse him. Things went downhill from there, culminating with Mavis seemingly dying and the first bit of genuine happiness in his life being tragically taken away from him.
  • Stepford Smiler: During his appearances in the Tartaros arc, he's constantly smiling and speaking in a polite tone. When he threatens Natsu in Chapter 414, it looks like a mix between his now-legendary Death Glare and a Slasher Smile.
  • Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum: While more sympathetic than most, this is what Zeref's motives ultimately boil down to. He's cursed with Complete Immortality and doesn't like it one bit, so he created a bunch of demons in the hopes that one of them will be strong enough to kill him. When it becomes apparent that this won't work, he claims he will wipe out humanitysorta. Turns out that he plans on preventing his curse of immortality by time traveling, which would warp the world of Fairy Tail so drastically, it'd be unrecognizable.
  • Supernaturally Young Parent: Thanks to his ageless immortality, he looks a lot younger than his son August.
  • Survivor's Guilt: He lived, while his younger brother died at an extremely young age. It was what spurred him to learn dark magic, in an attempt to resurrect him.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: He became romantically involved with his magic apprentice, Mavis. Admittedly, he didn't fall in love with her until long after he mentored her.
  • Tears of Remorse: Especially after he realizes Natsu isn't powerful enough to kill him yet.
  • Thanatos Gambit: The entire reason he created his demons, and why his demons are trying to activate Face, is so that E.N.D would be released, and would serve its original purpose: killing Zeref. That's right, his demons are just an elaborate way for him to try to commit suicide, since almost nothing else in all of Earth Land even comes close to being able to put him out of his misery.
  • That Thing Is Not My Child!: Larcade Dragneel is the only one of the many Etherious that Zeref kept at his service and he views Zeref as his father who he wants to please. Zeref, however, doesn't think of Larcade as his son, or anything but an expendable pawn.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: Since the events of Sirius Island, he kept pondering whether the world would truly change for the better and, having decided it won't, he opts to wipe out humanity to cleanse the world of its sins. However, even this is a matter of Exact Words, since he plans on wiping out the world by changing the past, this destorying the world as we know it, in the hopes that his influence would not corrupt humanity as he puts it.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: Studying these has been his life's mission ever since he was a child. It was initially to resurrect his dead little brother, Natsu. After he was cursed, it was for finding a way to kill himself.
  • Time Stands Still: Before he appeared to Natsu in Chapter 372, he somehow caused the Tartaros mooks attacking him to freeze in place, while the world around him had its colors inverted, so that the two can speak one-on-one.
  • Together in Death: With Mavis. They finally confessed that they still loved each other despite everything, providing yet another contradiction; only this time, it was with the help of the One Magic. Their curses ended, and with it, their suffering, and they could spend an eternity in the afterlife together at last.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Books of Zeref, named after him, and written by him as well. They're all how-to book for the Black Arts, and explains in detail how to summon demons. In the case of his higher demons such as those that make up Tartaros, they literally are demons.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Chapter 414 confirms that he did in fact step down from Greater-Scope Villain to Big Bad.
  • Tragic Keepsake: His necklace that he's always seen wearing, even while bathing, is, in fact, a locket. And inside is a picture of him and his little brother Natsu when they were children.
  • Tragic Villain: He Used to Be a Sweet Kid who just wanted his baby brother back, and never quite understood why researching the connection of life, death, and magic was so taboo. As a result of his curiosity and dedication to somebody he loved and cared about, he was cursed by a Jerkass God, and everything went downhill for him there.
  • Tranquil Fury: He never raises his voice when he's angry, and yet his Death Glare can reduce people to being petrified with fear.
  • Tsundere: A bizarre case of this trope being justified. He confessed his love for Mavis prior to her death. His mind was already a mess due to the Mind Rape caused by the Curse of Contradictions messing with his thought processes. After her death, the Curse caused him to deny his own feelings for her, even to the point where he unceremoniously dumped her body at Precht's feet before walking away.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Turns out Zeref's a textbook example of why These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know. All he wanted was to resurrect his younger brother. He became the most powerful dark wizard to ever live in the process.
  • The Villain Knows Where You Live: Overlaps with Wham Line. He reveals to Makarov that not only does he know what Lumen Histoire is, he knows that 'Lumen Histoire' is a code name for 'Fairy Heart,' which is a magic that is even more powerful than the Three Great Fairy Magics.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Beloved by the people of Alvarez. Not so much in Ishgal.
  • Villainous Breakdown: If he hadn't gone off the deep end before, he definitely does at the end of Fairy Tail, babbling incoherently and sporting a Slasher Smile, all while refusing to call Natsu by his name, calling him "E.N.D." instead. It's a rare justified example, in that it's caused by the Curse of Contradictions, given Zeref screaming the entire time about how he wants Natsu to destroy him, and how he wants to destroy Natsu, the exact same thing he said while having a mental breakdown in front of Mavis.
  • Walking Spoiler: It's virtually impossible to talk about him to someone who hasn't gotten to the point where he shows up without ruining just about every single major plot point of the series. His relation to Natsu is an even bigger spoiler, along with the fact that he's Emperor Spriggan of the Alvarez Empire.
  • Walking Wasteland: His Ankhselam Black Magic can turn an entire forest into a lifeless desert full of corpses in mere seconds.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: He's painfully aware of why the world hates him, and all of the damage his very existence has done to it. His way of fixing it, however? Use Mavis to power a universal Reset Button to alter the past so drastically that the present ultimately no longer exists. He does not care how many people have to die in order to achieve this, because in his mind, they'll be alive, well, and much happier in another timeline. And he is fully aware that once it happens he will never meet Mavis, which he states would be his only regret.
  • Wham Line:
    Zeref: My name is Zeref Dragneel. I'm your brother, Natsu.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The real reason why he's so miserable, according to Mard Geer. He's only half right.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: A Death Seeker who hates himself so much that he chose to become The Aloner out of guilt and fear of what his power has could still do to the world. And yet, the moment he's pissed off, it becomes clear that he's The Dreaded for a damn good reason. He really was not that bad of a guy to start with, however. Honestly, seeing everyone you've ever cared about die and becoming the Cosmic Plaything of a Jerkass God would make anyone snap, eventually.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Zeref states that this is why he lost to Ultear, who is, for all intents and purposes, not even close to being in his league. Because he didn't want to kill her, his control over his magic was weakened enough for him to lose to her in single combat. Despite winning, and despite Zeref not being at the top of his game, Ultear was still so exhausted after fighting him that she collapsed.
  • World's Strongest Man: According to the Magic Council, he is the strongest wizard of all time. The only character who surpasses his level of power is Acnologia, the Black Dragon of the Apocalypse, and he isn't human — at least, not entirely, and he no longer considers himself as such anymore anyway.
  • Worthy Opponent: He wants Natsu to become one to him, as doing so means Natsu is capable of killing him. When Natsu finally reaches his level and fights him, it is by far the happiest Zeref has been in the present storyline — he meets his brother head on with a visible Slasher Smile on his face.
  • Xanatos Gambit: His plan to 'wipe out humanity' is clearly this. If he manages to use Neo-Eclipse, he will be happy that the world has been fixed. If he is killed, then he will overjoyed to finally being free of his curse. Either way, he will in a way get what he wants.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Right when it looked like he finally found somebody he could safely bring himself to care about in Mavis, he ends up killing her.
  • You Are Not Alone: As Mavis ran away crying after Zeref revealed to her that she's Cursed just like he is, he thinks to himself that, finally, there's somebody else out there who knows exactly what he's going through, and can safely walk alongside him. Until he fell in love with her, at least...
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Believes in this to an extent. He spent years trying to subvert his cursed fate, either by finding companionship (Mavis) or by getting himself killed (Natsu), but constant failure left him no choice but to accept it. Ironically, his 'master plan' involves throwing the very idea of fate out the window and into a woodchipper that feeds into a burning septic tank. Which makes perfect sense when you remember his curse.
  • You Have Failed Me: To Mard Geer, complete with Dissonant Serenity and a Pre-Mortem One-Liner.
  • You Won't Like Me When I'm Angry: His mere expression has been enough to make people cry when he's pissed off.

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