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Animal Nemesis

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One must stand strong, even in the face of an over-whale-ming adversity.

Lisa: Dad, you can't take revenge on an animal. That was the whole point of Moby-Dick.
Homer: Lisa, the point of Moby-Dick is to be yourself.

A situation in which the Hunter Archetype fixates on an animal as his Arch-Enemy as a result of twisted logic, almost always a direct result of a past personal grudge. Be it an animal that constantly thwarts his efforts or just some plain old mindless beast that made off with one of the human's limbs, the human dedicates all of his time and effort toward the capture or killing of the beast, even if it kills him.

A human Super-Persistent Predator — in some cases, the Hunter is justified in hunting the animal because It Can Think. In others, the Hunter himself illustrates that Humans Are the Real Monsters or Humans Are Cthulhu. See He Who Fights Monsters.

Please note that animals with clearly human intelligence, behavior, and ability to communicate with humans do not qualify. Someone must be seeking revenge against an animal that acts like an animal.


Frequently, media that employ this trope will reference the Trope Codifier, Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, though it would be an oversimplification to say that this trope is the whole point of the book. It is one of many points.

Compare Enmity with an Object.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the film version of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Kushana has lost an arm (and possibly more body parts) to the insects of the Sea of Corruption. Hence her attempt to wipe out the Ohmu with the God Warrior. This subplot — origin, motivation, and outcome — doesn't exist in the manga.
  • Grandpa Gohei and Akakabuto, the bear who took his left ear and killed his hunting dogs in Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin.

    Comic Books 
  • The original The Transformers comic did a Whole Plot Reference to Moby-Dick at one point. The Transformer in question lives on a world far from most of his race and is a Pretender (a Transformer covered in a pseudo-organic shell that allows him to pose as an organic, but is rather difficult to repair) and so cannot get his leg properly restored. He finally incapacitates the beast responsible but decides against finishing it off.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Tick Tock the crocodile is this for Captain Hook in Peter Pan, as he ate the captain's hand. He's also an interesting example, as while the ending shows he's more than willing to take a bite out of Hook if the opportunity presents itself, the croc for his part isn't all that fussed about getting at Hook, and is content to simply mess with him. Contrast this with the Croc from the original novel, which was hell-bent on finishing the meal it started years ago.
  • Buck and Rudy in Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Their feud starts after Rudy scratches out Buck's eye and Buck knocks out Rudy's tooth. Of course, the "human" in this case is a Talking Animal while the "animal" is a Super-Persistent Predator, but that is Carnivore Confusion for you.
  • Kenai and the bear (Koda's mother) in Brother Bear, later followed by bear-Kenai vs. Denahi.
  • Inverted in The Jungle Book; Big Bad Shere Khan (a tiger) actually wants to kill Mowgli just for being a human.
  • Amos Slade (and, to a much lesser extent, Copper) during the second half of The Fox and the Hound, who wants to kill Todd out of revenge for (indirectly) injuring his dog Chief by having him be hit by a train. Originally, he was actually going to be more so, as Chief was originally going to die after being hit by the train.
  • Samson and Kazar in The Wild.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Steve and the shark that ate his partner from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. He eventually overcomes his need for vengeance and is satisfied just to see it again.
  • Carl Spackler and that gopher from Caddyshack.
    Carl: I smell varmint poontang. And the only good varmint poontang is dead varmint poontang.
  • Jake Cullen (played by Bill Kerr) in the movie Razorback hunts and kills razorback boars because a particularly big one killed his grandson.
  • Jaws: Quint, at least, wants revenge against the shark. The others are more motivated by "we need to kill it because it keeps eating people".
  • Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Conan the Destroyer had the camel. Whenever they met, the camel would spit on Conan, Conan would knock out the camel, or both.
  • In Of Unknown Origin, a New Yorker becomes so obsessed with eliminating the pesky rat infesting his apartment that he eventually trashes his own place in frantic pursuit of it.
  • Invoked in Soul Surfer when the shark is shown harpooned and dangling as a trophy. Apparently, Bethany Hamilton's surfing buddies think that when you mess with one of their own, It's Personal.
  • In Immortal, Inspector Froebe has had a grudge against the Dayak ever since it bit half of his face off.
  • Ahab was referenced in the movie Star Trek: First Contact, when Captain Picard brutally guns down several Borg in the holodeck and refuses demands to self-destruct the Enterprise in lieu of stopping the mechanical menaces personally, all because of the violations he suffered when they assimilated him and his anger over Starfleet's inability to halt their encroaching on Federation space. Lampshaded when the 21st-century woman referencing the book admitted that she hadn't actually read it and only remembered the idiom that went with it. Soon after the release of that movie, Patrick Stewart played Ahab in a made-for-TV movie of Moby Dick, mainly because he was so good at a referenced state of mind that they decided he would be good for the real thing.
  • Patterson becomes obsessed with taking down the two lions in The Ghost and the Darkness. The film was loosely based on the Tsavo Maneaters (see Real Life below).
  • The first film in the Anaconda franchise features Jon Voight as an animal poacher seeking to capture a particularly large specimen of the eponymous snake. Said snake was partly responsible for the death of partner.
  • Jurassic Park:
    • In the first film, we have "The Big One" to Muldoon, who knows just how monstrous the former is and is determined to stop her. He fails.
    • In the fourth film, Delta, one of Owen's trained raptors, expresses a clear hatred toward the main human villain Vic Hoskins. Played with, due to the fact that Hoskins doesn't seem to realize that she hates him and even tries to calm her just before she mauls him to death.
  • In Kong: Skull Island, Colonel Packard becomes obsessed with hunting down the titular ape after Kong annihilates most of his helicopter squadron. His single-minded obsession endangers the lives of the surviving members of the expedition, most of whom just want to get off the damn island, and ultimately gets Packard killed without causing any lasting harm to Kong.
  • In White Hunter Black Heart, film director John Wilson becomes obsessed with hunting and killing one particular bull elephant at the expense of the film he is supposed to be in Africa to shoot: jeopardizing his own career, and those of his cast and crew.

  • Older Than Radio: One of the best known examples is the deadly rivalry between Captain Ahab and Moby-Dick. The relationship has been subject to much parody. Ahab himself hung a lampshade on this trope in the original novel — he essentially said that if he could not hunt down the abstract fates that ultimately cost him his leg, the eponymous whale — the instrument of fate — would be the next best thing. The book itself deconstructs this, as its unlikely that the whale even recognized Ahab, much less understood why the loudmouth human was hunting him.
  • This was Prince Rilian's undoing in The Silver Chair. Yeah, the snake that killed his mother was really a Scaled Up mind-controlling witch and thus perfectly capable of forming intent, but he had no way of knowing that.
  • Invoked in Warhammer 40,000 novel Storm of Iron: an Iron Warrior captain imagines that he is hunting a legendary beast while trying to kill a Warhound Titan (Warhounds are the smallest of the Titans, with a focus on infantry/armour support role rather than a "level cities" role).
  • The Western novel Killers of Man by Ralph W. Cotton features a wealthy businessman determined to get revenge on the grizzly bear that took his leg.
  • Parodied in Railsea by China Miéville, in which Captain Naphi is perpetually hunting Mocker-Jack, the blonde giant mole that took her arm. In the community Naphi comes from, every real hunter is required to have an Animal Nemesis, and it turns out that she didn't actually lose the arm.
  • This happens a few times in Terry Brooks' Shannara series:
    • In The Druid of Shannara, Pe Ell fixates on The Rake after it nearly strangles him to death. He eventually drops it down a hole for The Maw Grint to eat.
    • In The Elf Queen of Shannara Wren Elessedil is pushed into a near fatal encounter with The Wisteron, the spider/monkey hybrid that makes its home in the In Ju swamp. In the end she has to track it to its lair and kill it in order to retrieve a magical artifact that it has stolen.
    • The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara sees Redden Alt Mer wracked with fear for the first time in his life after a bad run-in with the Graak. Convinced that the only way to shake off his fear is to descend into the Crake rainforest and face the Graak, Redden nearly gets his entire party slain trying to feel tough again.
  • In Lord El-Melloi II Case Files, Waver develops a vendetta against a stray cat that invades his office and bit his shoes... his most favorite shoes that he bought with his first teaching paycheck! He stays up all night researching curses to get back at the cat... and then the cat gets injured by a car, and he changes his tune and takes care of the cat instead.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the TV series The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom, Huck and Becky are lost at sea when they encounter Captain Mordecai, a whaler with a mission to kill a monstrous unkillable whale. His countless failures have driven him mad as a result. All are later swallowed by the whale. The captain holding the trio responsible for his latest failure, pursues them through the vast, strange and weirdly colored innards of the gigantic mammal. The children manage to escape through the whale's blowhole, but Captain Mordecai is seemingly trapped inside his eternal nemesis for the rest of his life.
  • The Colbert Report: Stephen Colbert and bears (and owls).
  • Gordy and the Weasel Mascot of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide. In the Grand Finale, he (with the help of the other teachers) finally catches it after tearing down half the school. Then it turns out to have had babies, so they adopt it as a mascot.
  • Sawyer in Lost has managed to do this on two separate occasions. Once chasing after a boar who ransacked his tent and then chasing after a treefrog which annoyed him with its croaking. He eventually caught up with both of them with help from Kate and Hurley respectively. He decided to let the boar go as it was "just an animal" but then rejected Hurley's offer to relocate the frog and simply crushed it in his hand.
  • Happens in an episode of Desperate Housewives in which Lynette spends half an episode hunting down a possum because Possums = Cancer.
  • Al Bundy went through this in one episode of Married... with Children, becoming obsessed with a rabbit that ruined his vegetable garden and trying to kill it. Of course, Hilarity Ensues, especially given that the rabbit has the intellectual advantage.
  • A Bottle Episode of Breaking Bad has Walter White acting bizarrely obsessed with killing a fly that's somehow entered his laboratory. It's both a microcosm of his obsessive personality and a sublimation of his feelings of guilt and frustration regarding Jesse.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy Tactics A2 has a sidequest revolving around a clan named House Bowen, whose leader seeks revenge on a gigantic cockatrice for killing his wife.
  • The game Cabelas Dangerous Hunts 2009 is about a famed big game hunter who swears revenge on a bear who killed his best friend.
  • Skies of Arcadia features an old fisherman named Drachma who chases the giant flying whale Rhaknam for killing his son decades ago. Like the rest of the game, it's an old tale/genre/mentality (obviously Moby-Dick in this case) Recycled In Air.
  • In The Sims Medieval, your hero can be given the "Whale Ate My Parents" trait, which, er, speaks for itself. The result is that they will become obsessed with whales to the point of occasionally getting a "Whale Rage" buff.
  • In RuneScape, players can meet a whaler named Hubbub, whose ship was destroyed and crew killed as he tried to kill the blind white whale named Shuma, in revenge for her destruction of human villages in the Eastern Lands, including his own.
  • In Evolve, Torvald is on a mission to kill the monster that destroyed his ship, killed his crewmates, and left him a ruin of a man. Word of God is that that particular monster is a unique adaptation of an as-of-yet unseen breed.

    Web Comics 
  • Bronze Skin Inc :From the anger that Supervisor Vanessa shows when she discovered coatis thefts, it seems that she treats them that way in her mind.
  • Mocked severely in this The Perry Bible Fellowship strip: a man believes he's killed a shark that killed his father, but then realizes the "scar" he identified the shark by is a natural feature of a whole species of shark.
  • Belkar of The Order of the Stick has a grudge against Windstriker, Miko's horse. Said horse is one of the characters he asked the Oracle if he'd wind up killing, and he is quite disappointed when he discovers that Miko has died, leaving Windstriker in the Outer Planes, meaning he'll never be able to kill Windstriker.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja parodies this with the birdosaurus, a dinosaur that follows the doctor around and performs minor actions with more serious consequences (e.g. stepping on the stone that sets off all the traps while the doctor is standing in the trapped area), which he has developed an intense, somewhat disproportionate hatred for.
    Doctor McNinja: I hate you. I hate you so much. I will hunt you down forever. When you die, my laughter will be so bright, it will be the last thing you will hear, see, smell and feel.
  • Oglaf: This strip has an entire ship of obsessive hunters who are hunting the great white whale which took their legs. As it turns out, the shark actually TOOK their legs, and used them to move onto the land.

    Western Animation 
  • Batfink and Hugo a Go Go.
  • Alfred and the wombat in Mike, Lu & Og.
  • There was a character in Disney's Aladdin: The Series that was obsessed with hunting down some sort of desert whale/shark, in what was obviously a homage to Moby-Dick. His quest was actually quite practical, as the belly of the sand shark was covered in precious jewels. Far from seeking revenge, the captain was hunting for sport, and when he does catch it, he has no idea what he will do now, so he decides to cut the shark free and hunt it again.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In one episode, Homer is menaced by a bear and constructs a metal "safety suit" in order to kill the creature and regain his respect, which elicits the page quote. However, this gets subverted when Homer realizes the bear is lashing out in pain due to an electronic tracking tag on its ear, so he removes the tag, ends up befriending the now gentle bear, and gives it the suit so it can brave a gauntlet of hunters to get to a wildlife preserve. Which sparks a feud between the bear and a particularly mean-spirited elephant.
    • Another episode has Homer try to go after some food-stealing raccoons, only for Bart to remind him about his feud with the worms. Not only did Homer lose, but the worms made him build a statue of himself bowing before them.
  • Leela in the Futurama episode "Möbius Dick", a Whole Plot Reference to Moby-Dick. It parodies the concept further, as the Space Whale she hunts feeds on obsession, so it naturally antagonizes ship captains. Leela eventually overwhelms the whale's will with a bigger obsession than revenge: finishing her delivery!
  • The Thunder Cats 2011 episode "Ramlak Rising" (yet another Whole Plot Reference to Moby-Dick) gives us a peculiar Inversion. Ahab-Homage Captain Koinelius Tunar, a Fishman who sails the sand sea, has sworn vengeance on the creature who destroyed his home and took his eye and leg. His nemesis the Ramlak is a giant Planimal, a Man-Eating Plant that's hybridized with the ambulatory capabilities of a Giant Squid. Like Captain Ahab, Tunar has degenerated into prizing Revenge Before Reason and shares Ahab's fate almost exactly, while quoting his dialogue.
  • One episode of Dragon Tales had the main characters help a sky pirate hunt down a giant flying whale for eating his ship. At the end of the episode, they successfully capture the whale, and it turns out that the ship said whale ate was a toy ship.
  • In the opening of Dan Vs. Anger Management, Dan is about to launch a nuclear warhead that will cause World War III at a family of squirrels he's currently upset at.
  • The Vulture Squadron vs. Yankee Doodle Pigeon.

    Real Life 
  • Predators sometimes, for whatever reason (usually because humans make decent hunters but also slow, easy prey), will imprint upon humans as prey and go out of their way to hunt people even over what they would normally hunt. The only way to deal with such animals, known appropriately as Man-Eaters, is to invoke this trope, hunt them down, and euthanize them. The most notorious and well known example are the Tsavo Maneaters. They were killed by Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson, who went full Captain Ahab to bring them down.
    • A modern-day example is Gustave, a monstrous Nile crocodile who hunts humans and other animals just for the sake of killing, and has survived countless attempts at killing him. He was last seen in 2015, dragging an entire bull into the water. So far no one has been able to catch him, much less kill him.
  • Crows not only have the ability to remember faces, they have the ability to hold grudges and to transfer that knowledge. They're also smarter than you expect.
  • Quite frequently if a human is attacked or killed by a dog/shark/magpie/leopard/whatever, the animal responsible (or thought responsible) will be killed, even though that ends up with nothing but a dead animal.
  • According to Antoine-Vincent Arnault, Napoleon's greatest rival was not a man, but rather his wife's pet pug, Fortune, who apparently was very possessive of its owner and decided to make its animosity clear by attacking Napoleon on his and his wife's wedding night.
    Napoleon: Do you see that gentleman? he is my rival. He was in possession of Madam's bed when I married her. I wished to remove him, but it was quite useless to think of it. I was told that I must either sleep elsewhere or consent to share my bed. That annoyed me considerably, but I had to make up my mind. I gave way. The favorite was less accommodating ..."

Alternative Title(s): The Ahab, Captain Ahab Syndrome, Pick On Someone Your Own Species


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