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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. For villains who act animalistic, see Feral Villain.

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 
  • Grandpa Gohei and Akakabuto, the bear who took his left ear and killed his hunting dogs in Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • Godzilla: The Half-Century War is the tale of one man's fifty-year struggle against the King of the Monsters.
  • The Transformers (Marvel) 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.
  • Wonder Woman Volume 1: One of the impossible tasks Thomas Tighe sets for the Holliday Girls is for one of them to help Captain Rab, a clear pastiche of Captain Ahab from Moby-Dick, hunt down his whale nemesis.

    Fan Works 
  • Better Bones AU: Shredtail is very intense about seeking revenge on the boar who killed his mate and kits, developing many hog-hunting techniques that still get used generations later to kill it. He eventually uses a clanmate as live bait to catch it (which gets him sent to the Dark Forest after he dies).
  • In The Witch of the Everfree, after Applejack's parents are killed by the Great White Wolf, she swears revenge on it.

    Films — Animation 
  • Brave: Though he's usually quite jovial about it, King Fergus has had a bit of an obsession with killing the Demon Bear Mor'du ever since he lost his leg to the bear in the prologue.
  • Brother Bear: Kenai hunting down the bear (Koda's mother) doesn't start with a large personal grudge, but devolves into one. Initially, he is somewhat angry at it, but primarily intends to retrieve a basket the bear stole in order to prove how tough he is. However, after Sitka dies trying to protect him from the bear, Kenai decides to avenge Sitka by killing it. Denahi later tries the same thing when he believes a bear has killed Kenai... but unbeknownst to him, that bear is Kenai.
  • 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.
  • Buck and Rudy in Ice Age: 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.
  • Played for laughs in Incredibles 2, where Jack-Jack, who strikes up an enmity with a raccoon scavenging in the Parrs' garbage can, and fight until Bob breaks them up.
  • Inverted in The Jungle Book; Big Bad Shere Khan (a tiger) actually wants to kill Mowgli just for being a human.
  • Migration: The Mallards (especially Mack and Pam) end up - unwillingly - becoming this to the Evil Chef.
  • 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.
  • In The Sea Beast, Captain Crow is a professional monster hunter, but he bears a special enmity for the Red Bluster.
  • Samson and Kazar in The Wild.
  • Spirit and the Colonel in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. The Colonel tries to break Spirit when the horse is captured and later purifies him until Spirit makes a dramatic canyon jump and the Colonel gives a subtle Worthy Opponent acknowledgment and gives up the chase.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • Inverted in Avatar: The Way of Water with the tulkun Payakan, who lost his family to whalers and whose attempt to get revenge led to tragedy. He's even missing a fin to complete the reference. Unlike Ahab, however, Payakan does get his revenge when he attacks the boat to free his spirit brother Lo'ak
  • Carl Spackler and that gopher from Caddyshack.
    Carl: I smell varmint poontang. And the only good varmint poontang is dead varmint poontang.
  • 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).
  • In Immortal, Inspector Froebe has had a grudge against the Dayak ever since it bit half of his face off.
  • Into the Grizzly Maze: After being attacked by a bear in his sleep, and managing to drive it off by stabbing it under the jaw, hunting guide Douglass became obsessed with hunting and killing grizzlies.
  • Jaws: Quint, at least, wants revenge against the shark (as a stand-in for the sharks that killed many of the men after the Indianapolis, which he was on, sank). The others are more motivated by "we need to kill it because it keeps eating people".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • MonsterVerse:
    • 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.
    • Godzilla has also been this to Mark Russell and Ren Serizawa respectively. In Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), Mark despises Godzilla and wants him dead, due to Mark's son being among the casualties of Godzilla's battle against the MUTOs and Mark having spent the last several years holding onto that grief. The novelization of Godzilla vs. Kong reveals that Ren wants Godzilla dead because he blames Godzilla for his lifetime of Parental Neglect and for the late Ishirō Serizawa's Heroic Sacrifice to save Godzilla permanently dashing Ren's hopes of reconciling with his father. Mark learns during the former movie to let go of his grudge against Godzilla, whereas Ren does not.
  • Nope: The Haywoods and their allies at first see the giant flying animal they call Jean Jacket as a way to get rich and famous. But then it starts eating hordes of people, and they decide it has to die.
  • 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.
  • Pig Hunt: Before his death, John's uncle was obsessed with hunting the Ripper: a legendary 3000 lb. killer boar.
  • Jake Cullen (played by Bill Kerr) in the movie Razorback hunts and kills razorback boars because a particularly big one killed his grandson.
  • In Ring of Fear, Dublin O'Malley hates the tiger that almost killed him, and plots to turn it into an Animal Assassin to use against Clyde Beatty, the man who saved him from the tiger: thereby destroying the two beings he holds responsible for his humiliation and downfall.
  • In Sands of the Kalahari: Egomaniac Hunter O'Brien develops a vendetta against the tribe of baboons that keeps antagonizing the survivors. By the end of the film, it seems this feeling is mutual.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Ironically, this film introduced the Borg Queen, moving the Borg too far up the Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism to count as a straight example of this trope; up until that point the Borg Collective had been portrayed as a Horde of Alien Locusts with some sort of controlling AI that might not even be sentient, and individual drones developing any individual personality traits was outright harmful to it.
  • 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.

  • Bret King Mysteries: The Secret of Hermit Peak features the mountain lion Old Stubfoot (whose name comes from losing two toes in a trap). Stubfoot is notorious for killing livestock (including Rusty King's new colt). Bret and the others are trying to hunt down the nimble and crafty mountain lion when they stumble into a mystery involving human villains.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 and homage (many of the examples on this page in some way reference the story). 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 it's unlikely that the whale even recognized Ahab, much less understood why the loudmouth human was hunting him.
  • 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 that they've been maimed by and which has some symbolic or metaphorical meaning to them, and it turns out that she didn't actually lose the arm and was only pretending to have an Artificial Limb so they'd take her vendetta seriously.
  • 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.
  • Ironhead: The main character reluctantly resolves to kill the eponymous alligator that lives near his home after it becomes a danger to his father (who is mentally disturbed and unaware of his surroundings). He respects how Ironhead has been there longer than his family and is relieved when the alligator simply moves on after his pond dries up. The Hero is also hunting an eight-foot rattlesnake to sell to a zoo for money to take care of his father, but gives the snake less attention and personal investment than Ironhead.
  • 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 of Olympian lore 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). He ultimately slays it at the very end of the novel, only for its twin to open fire and obliterate him with several turbolaser shots.

    Live-Action TV 

    Video Games 
  • In Chapter 5 of Bug Fables, Kabbu leads his team on a revenge-driven quest to slay the Beast, a giant centipede that killed his mentor and his best friend. It should be noted that, normally, Kabbu is an Ideal Hero who serves as The Heart to the team, and when he became obsessed with killing the beast, his teammates are understandably worried. Also worth mentioning that, while every character in the game is a bug, the main characters are sentient bugs, and the beast is an animalistic "lesser bug", though it does show sadistic tendencies while preying on Kabbu and his friends.
  • The game Cabela's Dangerous Hunts 2009 is about a famed big game hunter who swears revenge on a bear who killed his best friend.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Maneater is centered around the conflict between the titular shark that serves as the protagonist and the sharkhunter Scaly Pete after Pete scarred the shark as a pup, who then proceeded to bite off his arm. As the game progresses the conflict escalates as Pete's efforts leads to him losing his leg and his son, becoming more and more obsessed with hunting for vengeance.

    Web Comics 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 whale actually TOOK their legs, and used them to move onto the land.
  • 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 Perry Bible Fellowship: Parodied in this 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.
  • Sleipnir: Equine Invader from Jupiter: Downplayed with Clint regarding Jericho, a stallion with whom he had an antagonistic relationship as a child. Still alive and healthy as, well, a horse almost two decades later, Jericho promptly headbutts Clint into a patch of mud and feces before trying to bite him, forcing Jess to break up the fight before her brother can get hurt. Despite the antagonism between them, Clint is heartbroken when General Kincaid kills Jericho when the horse attacks him to protect Clint.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines: The Vulture Squadron vs. Yankee Doodle Pigeon.
  • Dragons: The Nine Realms: The Big Bad Buzzsaw blames Thunder for the fire that destroyed his lumber company. As such, he starts hunting him down seeking to kill him. After learning about the Riders, he extends his animosity to Thunder's Rider Tom as well. However, his main target remains Thunder.
  • 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.
  • 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 Monk and the Fish: A comic animated short in which a monk grows increasingly obsessed with catching one perfectly ordinary little fish in a reservoir, going from a fishing rod to a net to a bow and arrow to diving in himself.
  • Alfred and the wombat in Mike, Lu & Og.
  • In Phineas and Ferb this is essentially an institution, with every single one of the show's Card-Carrying Evil Scientists (of which there are many) having an intelligent animal secret agent as a "nemesis," and seemingly more than one organization devoted to the training and assignment of these agents. Unlike most examples, these animal nemeses tend to be the aggressor in the dynamic (being sent to foil their human enemies' evil schemes as a matter of routine), and the results tend to be reciprocal Friendly Enemy relationships. The series' most prominent example is, of course, Perry the Platypus as nemesis to Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz, until the latter makes a Heel–Face Turn and they become a regular old Interspecies Friendship by the end of the series and into Stealth Sequel Milo Murphy's Law.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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 themnote . 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.
    • Big cats, it's theorized, can become addicted to the sodium content in human blood due to feline's need and enjoyment of salty flavors. This is especially cited as a possible factor for tigers in India that become such pathological maneaters they'll even forgo their normal prey in favor of humans, which causes village-wide hunting parties to terminate them.
  • 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 ..."
  • In 1932, Australia fought a war against emus. The emus won.

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