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Angel Unaware

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"Spare a tuppence, guvnuh?"

"Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."

A character or entity that is implied to be, but not necessarily explicitly described or defined as, an angelic being or divine messenger. This is sometimes revealed as such in the end of the story, but not always, leaving open the question of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane. If they are revealed to be an angel, and they're implied to be around because it's Christmas, see Christmas Miracle and Special Occasions Are Magic. All in all, a good reason to be nice to your guests, and Beware the Nice Ones. If the characters Gave Up Too Soon, only the audience will know.

This is often used to underscore the importance of Sacred Hospitality, as in the Trope Naming page quote, by means of the angel, deity or the like going around disguised as someone harmless and innocuous to test the hospitality, kindness or generosity of mortals. Those who take them in or treat them kindly are usually rewarded, although often without knowing what truly happened. Those who turn them away or attack them can expect a sudden and dramatic punishment.

Sub-Trope of Secret Identity and Mysterious Stranger. Super-Trope to God Was My Copilot. Compare Devil in Disguise.

Compare Damsel Errant, King Incognito, Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Old Beggar Test. Contrast with I Am Who? if the angel is unaware that they are an angel. See also God Was My Copilot, where the supernatural aspect is revealed after a long period of appearing normal. Compare Santa Ambiguity.

See also Angels in Overcoats, a common trait of angels disguising themselves as humans.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Big O: Subverted in that while she's called Angel and even has two scars on her back where there were once wings, she's not exactly an angel.
  • El Cazador de la Bruja: In the middle of Mexico/south of Mexico, there's an inn run by an old man; he stops the villains chasing the heroines for a day or two so that they can have some character development. This includes a Tyke Bomb and witch with magic powers, who he stops simply by looking at them. Apparently is really the Hopi Fertility Deity Kokopelli. He takes the form of a white author who died 3 years prior to the plot.
  • Heaven's Lost Property:
    • The second movie heavily implies Mikako is one of the many angels from Synapse who are "dreaming" they are humans, as an angel from Ikaros' flashback looks a lot like Mikako. The final arc of the manga also gives some hints as Mikako knew what was happening when Chaos uses Eishiro to activate Rule and restart the world again.
    • Initially appearing as a normal human girl, Hiyori Kazane is revealed to be an angel who was "dreaming" inside the sleeping chamber. Once her real body starts to wake up, her human avatar dies in an accident in front of Tomoki. She soon returns as the Angeloid Zeta.
  • In Otherworldly Izakaya Nobu, Nobu and Shinobu serve a mysterious woman who is dressed a Miko after they just closed their restaurant. The woman, delighted with the food prepared for her and how well the restaurant is doing in the parallel world Aitheria, comments that making the connection between worlds is worth it before vanishing before their eyes and leaving behind a tip of Japanese yen. Nobu realizes that the woman was in fact the spirit of the fox statue that he and Shinobu had prayed to for success of their restaurant three months prior.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: In episode 24, Kaworu Nagisa reveals that Rei Ayanami is the same as him, and that they have "both taken the forms of the Lilin (humans) on this planet". Kaworu is revealed to be the 17th Angel, and the SEELE monoliths state that he is the vessel of the soul of Adam, the first Angel. Misato in End of Evangelion finds out that human life comes from an Angel called Lilith, just like Adam. Putting two and two together, Rei, the only one of her series of clones to have a soul, was an Angel with Lilith's soul.
  • No Longer Allowed in Another World: It's after Toneriko village drives away Esche for allegedly helping the casino's otherworlders exploit their town does she reveal herself to Sensei as the spirit of the World Tree, making Sensei's nickname for her — "goddess" — equal parts accurate and ironic.

    Fan Works 
  • A Boy, a Girl and a Dog: The Leithian Script:
    • Gandalf -who is a Maia, a literal minor angel in the Tolkien's Legendarium-, spends a lot of time in the Halls of Mandos, looking after deceased Elves as masquerading as an Elf who happens to be apprentice to one of the Valar (high-ranking angels).
    • Beren and his comrades believe Huan is "merely" an exceptional wolfhound until they start noticing strange stuff as his capability to talk, or his being able to get help from the Divine Eagles...eventually figuring out that Huan is a Maia incarnated as a dog.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Love Actually, Rowan Atkinson's character is an angel, though it was more explicit in the original script. The only thing that was altered in his "storyline" is a shot of him fading away as he walks off at the end.
  • In Van Helsing the title character is implied to be one of these. He is in the service of God, is apparently immortal (he remembers fighting Romans at Masada, and was Dracula's murderer hundreds of years prior to the movie), and in the novelisation of the film he is said to have two scars on his back where wings may have once been. Furthermore, Dracula repeatedly refers to him as "Gabriel" and "The Left Hand of God".
  • Kingdom of Heaven: The hospitaller is implied to be this in the extended cut. According to the DVD Commentary, he may even be God himself. There are a number of hints throughout the movie, such a bush catching on fire just as he appears, and telling Balian that if God has a purpose for him, he will keep him safe—right after which Balian is the only one to survive a shipwreck. It's never explicitly stated, and the filmmakers even kept it secret from the actor who portrayed him, although they admit he probably figured it out anyway. The character is also a mouthpiece for a more modern and tolerant depiction of Christianity than the bloodthirsty bigots that make up most of the cast, including much that would have been considered hugely heretical at the time.
  • Pirates of the Great Salt Lake: The Man in White. Only ghosts and people who can see ghosts can see him, but he can interact with the world in ways ghosts can't. He's also the only one who directly addresses the fourth wall, which greatly perplexes the protagonists.
  • In Almost An Angel, former bank robber Terry Dean is convinced that he's died and been sent back to Earth as an angel. Most of the other characters think he's just an eccentric, but accept him since he's a pretty nice guy despite the crazy. The last few minutes of the movie reveal that, indeed, he's an angel for real.
  • Mary Poppins: Mary is seen putting her makeup on while sitting waist-deep in a cloudbank.
  • The Legend of Bagger Vance: The titular character is subtly hinted to be one of these. The most overt example is when he says there's a storm coming on a perfectly clear day, which later develops a storm that prevents the hero from running out of town.
  • Pale Rider: The "Preacher" rides out of the mountains on a pale horse as Megan prays for help against Lahood's men, and there are heavy implications that he is a dead gunfighter sent back to Earth.
  • The Green Mile: John Coffey, by virtue of his miraculous healing powers (up to and including resurrecting a dead mouse within seconds after the moment it has been killed), similarly strong powers of empathy, the sheer ambigouity of his past prior to ending up on the Green Mile, and his seemingly implied direct familiarity with angels and Heaven, may or may not be an angel (if he isn't Christ).
  • Constantine (2005) provides some backstory about the rules of the cold war between Heaven and Hell. Neither side is able to set foot in the mortal world, but "half breeds" on either side can. They don't do much directly, instead influencing mortals to act on their behalf. With a whispered word they could give someone endless Heroic Resolve, or drive them straight over the Despair Event Horizon. The Stinger implies that Chaz was one all along or somehow became one after his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • The DTV movies Call Me Mrs Miracle and Mrs Miracle In Manhattan don't say it, but the sweet old lady who fixes people's problems with common sense and sensitivity and just a tiny bit of magic is called Mrs. Miracle, and at the end of both movies she walks into the distance, fades, and we look up and see a star twinkle in the sky.
  • Life Blood: God, having already appeared to Rhea as God earlier on, appears again as the waitress in the diner at the end of the film.
  • Dead Again in Tombstone: Although his true nature is never established, Dr. Goldsworthy definitely an agent of some kind of higher power.
  • Dr. Terror's House of Horrors: At the end of the movie, Dr. Schreck is revealed to be The Grim Reaper.

  • A Chorus of Dragons: Khaemezra is initially presented as a powerful but otherwise unremarkable sorceress and priestess, but is later revealed to be Thaena, the goddess of death, in mortal guise.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • A literal angel in human form (specifically, the Archangel Uriel) makes a brief appearance as Jake the janitor.
    • Mouse is also this trope, albeit in dogasaurus-form rather than human and an Asian version — specifically, he's a foo dog masquerading as a normal, albeit very large, earthly canine.
    • Apparently, Halloween was an attempt to prevent mortals dying during a particularly magically powerful time of the year, when immortals come to feed. But, if everyone is wearing a mask, there's a strong possibility that you're about to try and eat someone your own psychic size, in turn requiring would-be supernatural predators to exercise a degree of restraint.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The Lord of the Rings: The Wizards appear to be Men, but have magical powers and are very, very old and mysterious. Pippin at one point wonders just what Gandalf is, but gets distracted. In fact, according to the appendices and various posthumously-published writings of Tolkien's, the Wizards are Maiar (angelic beings of the same order as Sauron) sent from the West to help defend the people of Middle-earth against their fallen brother. Gandalf in particular liked taking on this role even before he came to Middle-earth: the Silmarillion recounts that when he lived in Valinor he often took on the form of an Elf in order to walk among the Elves incognito, helping and inspiring them without revealing his true nature.
    • Most people in Middle Earth believe the Giant Eagles are just exceptionally large and intelligent animals. They are actually high-ranking servants of Manwë, King of the Valar. Most of the time they don't get involved in world affairs. Thus the fact that they help the heroes in The Hobbit foreshadows that the Quest for Erebor is much more significant than the characters realize.
    • Beren and Lúthien: Most of characters believe that Huan, the giant wolfhound of Valinor, is "only" an exceptionally intelligent, talking dog. Supplementary material, though, hints that Huan is really an animal-bodied Maia.
  • In The Magic Map, the quirky pilot who flies David up to Canada turns out to be the wind itself.
  • Skellig: It's heavily implied that the titular Skellig is an angel. He claims to be ancient, has discussed the idea that humans once had angel wings attached at their shoulder blades, and even cures Michael's baby sister's heart condition.
  • The Green Mile: John Coffey may or may not be an angel. The narrator doesn't think so, but there's definitely room for doubt.
  • Tales from the Wyrd Museum: The Raven's Knot by Robin Jarvis has a man who believed himself to have been saved by angels in WWII, but realizes eventually that he is one, trapped in human form since he descended. Oh, and angels look like giant two-headed dragons that breathe holy light.
  • Robert A. Heinlein:
    • Stranger in a Strange Land: Valentine Michael Smith is strongly implied to be the Archangel Michael of the Bible. (It's never quite stated outright, but the particular way in which we never see both at the same time — with the angel Michael being mysteriously absent from what we see of Heaven for most of the book — strongly suggests the connection. Or else a suspiciously plot-convenient coincidence, of course.)
    • In Heinlein's Magic, Inc. it gradually becomes clearer and clearer that the witch in the story is no mere witch but the Earth Mother Gaia herself.
  • Dragonlance: Reorx often walks Krynn disguised as a rather fashionable dwarf named Dugan Redhammer, often revealing himself at the end of the story.
  • Chronicles of Chaos: Inverted: the protagonist is this to a minor character who gives her a lift. She and her friends later repay the favor by curing his Driven to Madness relative.
  • The Darksword Trilogy: Implied with Scylla. She says she's a secret agent, but always flashes her ID card too fast for anyone to see exactly which agency she's an agent of. Later, it is said that the only ones who can use Time magic, as Scylla has done in the story, are Agents of God. (Or the Almin, as the series' God is known).
  • Cthulhu Mythos: Inverted in the most disturbing way. A recurring character, Nyarlathotep, often appears as a likeable (if somewhat... off) stranger to the main characters. The problem is that Nyarlathotep is an Eldritch Abomination (one far more powerful than Cthulhu, at that), and his hobby is screwing with people's lives.
  • Hyperion Cantos: All through the cycle, A Bettik, the last surviving android in the galaxy is ordered about by every human in the series. It's only at the end of the final book that he is revealed to be an observer created by the entities who had been driving events from their home in hyperspace.
  • The Ten Tales Of Shellover: In one story, an old man finds a starving cat in the snow and takes her in. She eats all his bread, milk and meat, and makes him use up all his logs, but he doesn't throw her out. In the end, she leaves, and his milk, bread, meat and logs never run out from that day forth. That said, he may suspect that she isn't an ordinary cat when she asks him why he doesn't drive her away and when he notices that she leaves no footprints.
  • Leo Tolstoy: This is the theme in the short story "Where Love is, There God is Also". Martin, a poor cobbler who lost his son years ago, has a vision one day that he would be visited by Jesus Christ in course of the day. In the course of that day, he is visited by a number of people in unfortunate circumstances whom he treats kindly. At the end of the day, he realizes that he has been visited by Jesus after all.
  • Edwin Markham's "How the Great Guest Came" is about a cobbler named Conrad who dreams that Jesus is going to visit him. After performing several kind acts, at the end of the day he asks in disappointment why Jesus never showed up.
    "Three times I came to your friendly door;
    Three times my shadow was on your floor.
    I was the beggar with the bruised feet;
    I was the woman you gave to eat;
    I was the child on the homeless street!"
  • Nathan Ausubel's A Treasury of Jewish Folklore includes an anecdote about Rabbi Meier Primishlaner. According to the rabbi, one day he shooed a ragged-looking traveler out of the local synagogue, only to be told by his father later on that he'd turned away the prophet Elijah.
  • The Queen's Thief: In Thick as Thieves, multiple people help Kamet avoid capture in suspiciously specific ways. Given the gods' interest in the affairs of the peninsular countries in previous books, its very likely they're still pulling strings.
  • In The Water-Babies, a poor Irishwoman sees Mr. Grimes striking the ten-year-old chimney-sweep Tom. She warns him, "Those that wish to be clean, clean they will be; and those that wish to be foul, foul they will be." She turns out to be Queen of the fairies. Mr. Grimes doesn't heed her warning, and after he dies, he's forced to work as a chimney-sweep in the afterlife.
  • What Happened To Lani Garver: Lani is a Magical Queer come to help the protagonist sort out her life, and may or may not actually be an angel.
  • You Are Dead (Sign Here Please): Bureaucrats use disposable bodies to get around on Earth when they want to inspect something personally or deal with a tricky problem.
  • Used briefly and unintentionally in Huntress, a short story in Tortall and Other Lands. Corey, being actively hunted by humans, sees her Goddess appear as a jogger to intervene and, being a decent person, tries to tell Her to get away and save Herself. The Goddess pauses and says this "gallantry" is not needed, but She's pleased that Corey offered it; the Goddess will remember this, even after She helps Corey out.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "A Passage for Trumpet", a down-on-his-luck musician has a near death experience, and meets a fellow trumpeter who convinces him to return to his life and appreciate it. When asked his name, the stranger says "you can call me Gabe".
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003):
    • It's implied that the hallucinatory guides of multiple characters are something like this. They are visible to whomever they want and corporeal whenever they want. In the end, as Head Six and Head Baltar talk, Six says they work for God and Baltar says the entity they work for does not care for that name. Which means it's either the/a God with a sense of humor, or a sufficiently advanced alien being/machine/whatever that some of these "virtual beings" deify.
    • Starbuck turned out to be a corporeal version.
  • Touched by an Angel centers around this trope, taking the point of view of the angels who are Walking the Earth helping people. The finale, however, cranks it up when it's revealed that Monica has been helping Jesus unawares.
  • Highway to Heaven uses the same premise, only it's one male angel (played by Michael Landon) instead of two female angels. He's been sent to Earth to do enough good to "earn his wings."
  • Supernatural:
    • Anna Milton appears fully human and lives a normal life as a college student until one day she starts to hear voices and have visions of the upcoming Apocalypse. She institutionalized as a schizophrenic, but the demons recognize her visions are accurate and she is hearing angel radio. She's completely unaware of why she can do this until she is hypnotized and remembers that she is a Fallen Angel.
    • The Archangel Gabriel, who had been hiding as the Trickster since seasons prior. He has been hiding on Earth for millennia and done such a good job of it that other magical beings and even non-Christian gods do not realize that he is an angel and not one of them.
    • In the season 5 finale, Chuck finishes writing his story and vanishes with a knowing smile on his face. Debate is raging in the fandom about whether this means the writer was literally God. Season 11 reveals that yes, Chuck is God.
    • An episode in season 7 reveals an amnesiac Castiel living as a well-adjusted man, albeit one with extraordinary healing powers which he uses to help people.
  • My So-Called Life: The homeless girl in the episode "So-Called Angels" . Probably.
  • Ashes to Ashes (2008): In the finale, Gene Hunt is revealed as a deceased human who, although having no conscious knowledge of it, has acted as a guide and protector of the other cops stumbling across him in cop purgatory. He fully and knowingly takes up the mantle by series' end.
  • Sons of Anarchy: There's a recurring homeless woman who might be this, if she's not just crazy.
  • Bones had an episode where the victim of the week was a brilliant surgeon, but her disappearance went unnoticed for a while because she was so focused on her career that she didn't seem to have any friends or family. Brennan starts wondering if she herself might end up alone in the future, since her potential love interest is now in a serious relationship with someone else, and she finds herself deeply troubled. Late at night while alone in the lab, she ends up talking with a janitor named Micah, who reassures her and helps her find a different perspective in the case. Considering that this character never appeared on the show before or after, no one seemed to know about him except Brennan, and the name does refer to a Biblical prophet, there was some speculation about him possibly being an angel, or a hallucination created by her subconscious mind to help her deal with her issues.
  • The Messengers: Vera, Erin, Joshua, Peter and Raul. They themselves don't know this at first.
  • Night and Day: In one week of episodes, time itself stops dead, and a mysterious man called Gabriel (played by Clarke Peters of The Wire) questions Thornton Street’s residents about Jane’s disappearance, before reporting back to Jane herself in the graveyard about what he’s learned. The characters have no memory of this when time resumes; but later, two of the characters see a grave with Gabriel’s name on it and think it seems familiar.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power:
    • Halbrand is not a mere human, but Sauron, the Dark Lord himself, part of the Maiar, Tolkien's version of angels. After being "killed" by Adar, he took on the form of a human being in order to walk among the inhabitants of Middle-earth incognito, deceiving them without revealing his true nature, until Galadriel confronts him about his true identity.
    • Turns out that the Stranger is one of the Istari, who are also Maiar spirits.
  • Lucifer (2016):
    • For a time Lucifer is convinced that Detective Chloe Decker is this, as it would explain why she's immune to his powers. Eventually, it turns out she's not an angel, but God did send the angel Amenadiel to bless Chloe's infertile mother shortly before Chloe was conceived.
    • In a season 3 episode, Ella tells the squad that she has for years interacted with a ghost who is now helping on a case. Although Ella doesn't, Lucifer realizes that the ghost is actually his sister Azrael, the angel of death.
  • Kingdom Adventure: It's revealed that Reagle has a humanoid form, much the same way Dagger does, when Napps shoots Reagle out of the air, and he reverts to his humanoid form while injured and on the ground. Pops and the kids take him into their home to recuperate, even as Lolly and Garbo complain about having to take care of him. They change their tune when he helps Garbo out of a jam, and they figure out that Reagle is one of The Emperor's special soldiers. The episode where all of this happens is even called "Angel Unaware"!
  • Day Break (2006): One possible interpretation of Jared Pryor. Despite appearing to be a paranoid schizophrenic initially, the end of his Day in the Limelight episode confirms that he is also aware of the same loop. At the end of the series, he silently watches over Hopper, hinting that he was Hopper's guardian angel all along.

  • The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster's song "I Could be an Angle" is based on the misspelled sign of a beggar who was trying to invoke this trope.
  • This idea is the main theme of Michael W. Smith's "Angels Unaware," undoubtedly inspired by the Trope Namer:
    Maybe there is more than meets the eye
    Who's that stranger there beside you?
    Don't be smug and don't be cruel
    Maybe we are entertaining angels unaware.
  • The music video for Within Temptations's song "Utopia" follows an old man in a suit wandering through a city. As he walks, he encounters prostitution, drug trade, theft and other crimes, but is only a passive witness. Near the end, he stands next to a mother and her child next to a busy street, when the kid drops and then stoops down to pick up a toy. The man grabs him and pulls him up just in time to keep him from being killed by a speeding truck and instantly disappears thereafter.
  • In the music video for "Centuries" by Fall Out Boy, a robed and hooded man secretly hands four Roman prisoners each a piece of leather, bits of string, or a small stone, respectively. Forced into public gladiator combat, the prisoners assemble the pieces into a sling, which they use to kill a raging barbarian fighting them. The end of the music video has the man cast off his robe to reveal a pair of angelic wings.
  • Tom Waits' "Black Wings" is about a character who is implied to be either a very dangerous, possibly Fallen, angel.
  • Leslie Fish: "The Wanderer" describes a wandering old man, heavily implied but not stated to be Odin, who wanders from house to house, asking for a bit to eat or drink, giving a blessing to those who show kindness before moving on. The refrain exhorts the listener to always show kindness to strangers, for you'll reap what you choose to give them.
    Always be kind to travelers, wandering near or far.
    Always be kind to travelers; you don't know who they are.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • Book of Genesis 18:2-16 refers to the hospitality that Abraham offered angels, making this Older Than Feudalism.
    • Acts of the Apostles: Paul and Silas were taken to be Zeus and Hermes in disguise during their travels. Denying it got them in a LOT of trouble.
    • In the story of Lot, two angels visit the city of Sodom and are put up for the night by Lot and his family, who protect his divine guests when his neighbors want to rape them. Lot refuses to let the mob do so and sends out his own daughters instead, but the mob is relentless. (Genesis 19:1-11) Lot offering his daughters in exchange isn't seen all that favorably by many people, although the fact that Lot is mentioned as living "near the gates" is sometimes taken to signify that he was a well known figure in the city, and as such that in all likelihood he knew that the people would refuse his daughters.
    • In the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit, Tobit's son travels around with Raphael, one of the archangels. When he first appears, the Archangel Raphael is disguised as Azarias, the son of the great Ananias, and is seen traveling with Tobias. After traveling a bit, Raphael proceeds to show him how to drive off the demon Asmodeus, who had killed the seven men Tobias's bride Sarah had married before, after which Raphael bound the demon. He also shows Tobias how to cure his Tobit's blindness, before revealing himself as the Archangel.
    • The Four Gospels:
      • Two men are discussing Jesus's death and rumors of his resurrection while walking to Emmaus. A third man joins them and explains the whole deal... guess who he was?
      • Jesus used a figurative version of this as An Aesop once: on Judgement Day, He separates the "sheep" (those to be saved) and the "goats" (the damned). He tells the sheep that they're being saved because they fed Him when He was hungry, clothed Him when He was naked, sheltered Him when He was homeless, visited Him in prison, etc. The sheep, confused, say they never remember doing any of this, and He explains that they did these things for the least of his followers — and as far as He's concerned, that's just as good as doing it for Him. The goats get just the opposite; seeing His followers in the same desperate situations and ignoring them is considered just as bad as ignoring Jesus Himself in that situation.
  • Saint George: In some variants, George kills the dragon after his martyrdom, having been sent back from Heaven for this purpose. In a Muslim interpretation of the same legend, the knight who called himself George was actually Al-Khidr, an angelic immortal who travels the world in disguise and aids good people in need.
  • The "Three Nephites" of Mormon religion are this in practice, if not technically. Specifically, they are said to be three apostles who were promised by Christ that they'd be allowed to live and remain on earth until the Second Coming. This means you could, at any point, run into any or all of these immortal apostles, without knowing who they are.
  • Jewish tradition has the prophet Elijah loving to pull this one, going in disguise as a beggar or traveler of some sort. Treat him nice and you'll be rewarded umpteen times over. The Aesop of all the stories is "be nice to strangers and help those in need". Good Aesop. Jewish tradition also has that Elijah was human back in Biblical days, but, according to legend, he never died and ascended to heaven while still alive. To this day, it is believed he turns up on Earth sometimes to deliver unexpected help. According to some traditions, he became Sandalphon, an angel associated with prayer and children.
  • Classical Mythology: This is so common that it has its own word, theoxeny, named for Xenia the goddess of hospitality.
    • Baucis and Philemon (as told in The Metamorphoses), despite their poverty, received with glad hospitality two weary travellers whom their neighbors had driven off. Since these were Zeus and Hermes, their neighbors' village got transformed into a lake and the neighbors into fish, while Baucis and Philemon's humble home was transformed into a magnificent temple, and they received their wish: that, after a long life as the temple priest and priestess, they should die at the same moment so neither of them had to live widowed. Their bodies were also transformed into two trees, an oak and a linden, growing from the same trunk.
    • In the The Odyssey, as part of her plan to finally allow Odysseus to return home, the Goddess Athena disguises herself as the Chief Mentes and visits Odysseus' son Telemachus in Ithaca. As usual in Greek stories, Telemachus greets the disguised Athena with hospitality and confers with her how much he loathes the suitors who try and woo his mother, while mooching on his father's wealth and constantly wrecking his home with their feasts. Athena urges Telamachus to sail to other city-states to find news on his father, he agrees and goes on to visit the various warrior Kings of Greece who tell him stories of his fathers exploits during the The Trojan War.
    • You must appreciate exactly how often this sort of thing happens in Greek and Roman tradition. Even the fact that Evander treated Heracles nicely as a stranger was treated as a throwaway line in The Aeneid.
  • Irish Mythology: In one story, Morrigan disguises herself as an elderly woman and asks the warrior Duirmund to help her across a river. When he does so, she gives him a love spot as a reward, causing him to be irresistible to any woman who sees it.
  • Norse Mythology: Odin was known to wander around as an old traveler. He tended to wear a blue cloak and a hat that was pulled down to hide his missing eye. This avatar, Grimnir, is often considered to be the origin of the classic image of the wizard. Some examples from Old Norse literature:
    • In Völsunga saga, Odin in disguise visits Sigurd repeatedly to give him valuable advice.
    • In Hrolf Kraki's Saga, a magically skilled, one-eyed Swedish farmer called Hrani gives advice to Hrolf Kraki and his champions that helps them overcome their opponent King Adils. On their way home, Hrani wants to present them weapons, yet they decline. Only afterwards it dawns on them that Hrani was Odin.
  • Pacific Mythology: Pele tests people on their Sacred Hospitality by appearing as a hitchhiker on the side of the road (either as an old woman in a white dress or a younger woman in a red dress, and sometimes accompanied by a small dog). If the traveler picks her up, they often will be rewarded somehow... but if they don't, they run into some type of misfortune. She also is said in some stories to go to people's houses disguised as an old woman seeking food or lodging.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Metallic dragons, especially golds and bronzes, often use magic to disguise themselves as common humanoids or animals, typically preferring nonthreatening and seemingly helpless forms that allow them to test the character of those that they meet. People who give help or charity to the apparent stranger earn the dragon's respect, which may well lead to aid or rewards in the future. Those who instead attack or try to take advantage of them, however, find themselves dealing with much more than they bargained for when what they thought was a helpless victim reveals itself to be a powerful and very indignant dragon in disguise.
    • The god Bahamut sometimes walks the material plane in the form of an elderly man who is accompanied by seven trained canaries which are actually seven ancient gold dragons in disguise. Do not mess with this guy.
  • New World of Darkness:
  • Pathfinder: It's not uncommon for people wandering in rural areas around sunset to come across an old woman traveling by herself, dressed in black rags and followed by a flock of crows. This woman is the empyreal lord Andoletta in disguise, and if greeted politely and offered a meal she will reward this generosity with valuable advice.
  • Warhammer: Both the Bretonnian Green Knight and Grombrindal, the White Dwarf could possibly be this; the Green Knight may be the spirit of Gilles le Breton, founder of Bretonnia and its first Royarch, while there are a lot of theories on the White Dwarf, again including the possibility that he's Snorri Whitebeard, the first High King of the Dawi. Both were confirmed in The End Times.
  • Warhammer 40,000 character the God Emperor loved doing this to people, especially when he was recruiting his Primarch sons. In one story, he disguised himself as a traveler named Revelation to discuss matters of spirit with the last priest on earth. He eventually revealed himself as the Emperor, in the process ruining the priest's faith (he had turned to religion after a vision of God that was actually the Emperor). Despite his shaken faith, the priest remained true to his beliefs, and chose to become a martyr instead of joining the Emperor.

  • An Inspector Calls: It is heavily implied that the inspector is not what he seems, although it is not explicit.

    Video Games 
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
    • A variation occurs where, right up until the moment they absorb Mirmulnir's soul and gain the ability to use the Thu'um, the Dragonborn spends most of their life believing themselves to be (and actually being) merely a normal person. Even afterwards, they are as much in the dark about their true nature as everyone else until the Greybeards explain it to them.
    • A sidequest has you go drinking with a random guy you meet in a pub... and then wake up on the other side of the map and spend several further sidequests finding out what happened on your epic bender with what turns out to be the Daedric Prince of revelry and debauchery.
  • Genshin Impact: In the prologue webcomic, the city of Mondstadt is visited by a mysterious wandering bard named Venti. He quickly insults the ruler's cruel son and is nearly arrested, but rescued by a slave-girl named Vanessa. For her defiance of the Lawrence Clan that rule the nation, Vanessa and her clan are sentenced to fight a great monster outside the city's walls at dawn. Venti breaks into the cell to offer Vanessa the chance to escape, but she refuses to abandon her loved ones and chooses to stay and fight. Lord Lawrence mockingly promises Vanessa the keys to the city and all his property, if she can defeat Ursa the Drake, a terrible dragon that had terrorized the region for years. When all seems lost, Venti reveals himself as the God of Wind, Barbatos, and helps Vanessa drive off the beast. He then reminds Lord Lawrence of his promise, warning him against lying to the gods. For her kindness in rescuing a stranger, Vanessa becomes the legendary champion that freed Mondstadt and ascended to divinity as one of the Four Winds that guard the nation.
  • God of War: It is very heavily implied (though not quite confirmed) that the gravedigger is Zeus or one of the other gods in disguise.
  • The Granstream Saga: At the end, Arcia turns out to have been a celestial being all along. Considering that this character is also one of the worst Purity Sues in video game history, this realization probably drove her past the point of likability for many players.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: The Nora tribe believe that they're on the wrong end of this trope. They're incorrect about the divine aspect of it (probably), but it is true that things would have been easier for them if they had acted morally. Years ago, a newborn baby was left in their sacred cavern. A few Nora thought she was a gift from the Goddess and wanted to raise her as one of the tribe, but the majority wanted to kill her (the tribe is intensely xenophobic). Eventually they compromised by exiling the baby permanently — something only done to the worst of criminals — and asking another outcast to raise her. Naturally, the child grew up to become an incredible warrior who turned everything she touched to gold. She still saved the Nora from the apocalypse, because she was that good a person, but she never loved them like she could have, and they knew it. To make things worse, she traveled so far and met so many people that soon there wasn't a tribe on the continent that didn't know the Nora were baby-killers.
  • Red Dead Redemption:
    • The first game contains the Stranger side missions "I Know You" in which a well dressed stranger from John's past meets up with him three times in each of the game's main locations (New Austin, Nuevo Paraíso, and West Elizabeth). The final meeting is the most notable, as John, finally fed up with not getting any answers from this guy, shoots him three times as he's walking away. The bullets apparently pass right through the guy, but leave no evidence that they even touched him. When John looks away for a moment, he's gone. The man calls the last place that they meet "a fine spot." That same area is where John, his wife, and Uncle are eventually buried.
      John: Damn you!
      The Strange Man: Yes, many have.
    • Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare has a Hispanic woman who appears as a background extra in many of the game's cutscenes. Since attention is never drawn to her most players don't even notice, or if they do, they chalk it up to a reused model. At the end of the game, however, it's revealed that this woman is actually Ayauhtéotl, an Aztec goddess who has been quietly guiding John towards the source of the undead plague: An ancient mask stolen from its crypt by Abraham Reyes.
  • Sonic Unleashed: Sonic's amnesiac new friend Chip, is revealed to be Light Gaia, the opposite of the final boss.
  • Total War: Warhammer III: Some of Cathay's dilemma events describe the player encountering people or animals that are very heavily implied to be Cathay's semi-divine rulers, the Dragon Emperor and Moon Empress, in disguise. For instance, the "Bosses Undercover" event describes two stray cats — a silver female with a moon-shaped marking and a golden male with a serpent-like stripe down its back — observing your soldiers' training, and gives you different bonuses depending on which one you give attention to.
  • Vespers begins with the Biblical quote, and begins as the characters, Medieval monks, grant a place to stay to an almost-dead, beautiful girl that arrives at their gates. It's a subversion: she's a demon.
  • The World Ends with You:
    • Joshua displays an assortment of clearly divine powers before later being revealed as the Composer.
    • And then, once you start getting the secret reports, you learn that Mr. H is literally an Angel. As well as Joshua's boss. Wings and everything, in the secret ending.


    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • Dr. Clef is heavily implied, but never confirmed, to be Satan. Word of God is that he is, but not in the way you think. What exactly this means is unclear.
    • SCP-343 claims that he's God, but it's unknown if he really is or if he's just a powerful Reality Warper with a God complex.
    • Dr. Clef's SCP-001 is all but outright stated to be the angel tasked with guarding the Garden of Eden.
  • A few of the stories on Not Always Hopeless have this as a possible explanation.
  • The titular subject of The Knight of Hope is implied to be an angel of some sort, what with the video starting with a prayer that first mentions Saint Michael, the woman's locket disappearing from her hands only for the Knight to appear to save her, and him defeating over ten men at once.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: Subverted in "Freak City". Finn secretly hopes a beggar is a disguised wizard or elf, and gives him food. The beggar reveals himself as "Magic Man" and rewards Finn with "a mystical magical favor" — turning him into a giant foot.
  • Played for Laughs in American Dad! when Francine says it would take a "miracle" to repair their house, and a carpenter who is very clearly Jesus in a Paper-Thin Disguise shows up. They then spend the entire episode's B-plot antagonizing him as he turns the other cheek, with the punchline being Francine in the end threatening to "crucify [Him] on Angie's List."
  • In The Forgotten Toys the old, homeless man Teddy and Annie meet is heavily implied to be Santa Claus.
  • Madeline: The animated version of Madeline's Christmas features a kindly old woman named Marie who is strongly implied to be an angel. She replaces the stranger, less Christmassy character of the Middle Eastern rug merchant/magician in the original book.
  • Moral Orel: In one episode, Orel gets a dog named Bartholomew who is heavily implied to be the Second Coming of Jesus. He gets put down by the town out of jealousy that he got so much attention, complete with very heavy crucifixion imagery: Bartholomew carries a cross shaped stick, he's taken to Calvary Pain Institute to be euthanized, etc. Then again, it's kinda hard to dispute the 'unaware' part when Bartholomew literally barks 'Jesus' when Orel ponders a name.
  • My Little Pony 'n Friends: In "Would-Be Dragonslayer", Alonzo stops to help a cranky old turtle who got flipped over on his back, and by dint of some effort and an improvised lever is able to flip him back on his feet. The turtle them reveals himself to be a powerful wizard, who took on a different shape to observe Alonzo's moral fiber.
  • The Simpsons plays with this with social worker Gabriel, who Homer is convinced is actually a messenger of a higher power.


Video Example(s):


The Golden Spider

It is revealed that the mysterious spider Asura encounters in Naraka is Chakravartin, the Creator of the Earth, the God of Samsara and source of all mantra

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / AngelUnaware

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