Horns are among the oldest, and loudest, musical instruments. Their ability to be heard over the din of battle gave them a key role in many historical armies, and their descendant the bugle is still used in this way today. This association means that horns in fiction often have strong symbolic links to warfare, leadership, defiance, and destruction.
Horns in fiction tend to figure in three main ways:
These horns are used to rally demoralized soldiers, to bring people to a central meeting place, and when Gondor Calls for Aid. If the soldiers are too far away to be helpful, horns can call out the peaceful townsfolk to form the Home Guard. In fantasy settings, they may be Summoning Artifacts that unseal a Sealed Good, Evil, or Army in a Can.
- In his first modern-day appearance (Fantastic Four #4) Namor the Sub-Mariner has a horn that summons sea monsters.
- In Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy Ron tries to summon the rest of his news team with a conch shell he's somehow produced, only to discover they've actually been hanging out twenty feet from him the whole time.
- Chronicles of Prydain series: At the end of The Castle of Llyr Eilonwy gives Taran a silver-bound battle horn from Caer Colur. In Taran Wanderer the dwarf Doli identifies it as the work of the Fair Folk, with the ability to summon them if the correct notes are played upon it.
- In Lord of the Flies, Ralph and Piggy sound a conch shell to gather the boys together. The eventual crushing of the shell alongside Piggy symbolizes the descent into savagery of the boys.
- The Lord of the Rings:
- Boromir uses the Horn of Gondor to rally the rest of the Fellowship to fight off an orc attack.
- In the last book, Merry blows the Horn of Rohan to call out the hobbit militia to fight off Saruman's men.
- In The Song of Roland, Roland dies after blowing his horn so loudly that his brain bursts out of his ears. He succeeds in summoning Charlemange, who's many miles away.
- The Horn of Valere is a Summoning Artifact in The Wheel of Time series that calls the great Heroes of the Ages to fight for its wielder.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire there is the horn Dragonbinder, created by the Valyrians and acquired by Euron Greyjoy, one of the most evil characters in this Crapsack World. He claims he can use it to summon dragons, though when one of his men blows it they die from being burnt within.
Mythology and Religion
- In Norse Mythology, the Gjallarhorn is the sounding horn of Heimdall. He is fated to blow it during Ragnarok, in order to rally the gods to fight the invading giants.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- Horn of the Azure Sea. At night, while on the open sea, it will summon a ghost ship with undead monsters aboard it. One of them will obey the user.
- Horn of the Barrier Peaks. If the user is in an area where giant eagles live, it can summon 7-12 of them within 7 minutes. They will attack the user's enemies or carry the user and his/her allies to safety.
- Black Ivory Horn. It summons an ancient bronze dragonne that attacks the user.
- Horn of Dolphins. Can summon all dolphins within 10 miles. The dolphins decide whether to help the user or not.
- Horn of the Grey Waste. Summons 1-4 lesser tanar'ri (demons) or 1 greater tanar'ri (demon). They will obey the user for 1-6 hours.
- Horn of the Sacred Grove. Can be used to summon the Wild Hunt, which will attack the user's enemies. Under certain circumstances it will summon the Ravenloft Wild Hunt, which will attack the user..
- Horn of the Tritons. Can summon hippocampi, giant sea horses or sea lions (lion/seal centaurs) that live within a body of water.
- Horn of Valhalla. Can summon berserk fighters to serve the user in combat.
- Horn of the Vast Swamp. Summons 7-12 giant toads to serve the user.
- Horn of War. Summons 10-200 quaggoths, who can be commanded to fight for the user.
- The Horn of Valhalla from Baldur's Gate is a magical horn that when played, summons fierce warriors from Asgard to fight for the player.
- Get Amped: the Gjallarhorn gear is a giant horn that summons Jormungandr, the Norse dragon of the end times, to do your bidding. Said dragon also has poisonous breath.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- Oracle of Seasons has a horn that summons an animal companion.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Bokoblins sometimes carry horns, which they can use to summon other Bokoblins.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Bokoblins, Lizalfos, and Moblins will often have one of their own as a lookout who will blow a horn to warn the others if it spots you. You can attack the lookout before it does so to keep the others ignorant.
- In Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, at the end of the story mode, as Archimonde climbs closer to the World Tree, Malfurion blows the Horn of Cenarius and summons the wisps of the ancient forests of Mount Hyjal to defeat Archimonde.
- World of Warcraft has quite a few equippable horns that summon robots or undead Vikings or whatnot to help players. Ironically, since item slots are limited and none of the summoned creatures are especially powerful, they're mostly Vendor Trash.
Let's Get Dangerous!, in horn form. The non-verbal equivalent of the Rousing Speech; bonus points if it's the Charge Fanfare. They may signal the arrival of The Cavalry (often literally) and give Status Buffs. They're commonly played by The Bard.
- The Lord of the Rings: The fort at Helm's Deep is called Hornburg, named after a horn, that the Rohirrim (or in the film, Gimli) blow before they ride out to attack the besieging Uruk-Hai.
- In Age of Mythology, the Einherjar myth unit carries a horn, which it blows while in combat to boost the attack of nearby friendly units.
- The Hunting Horn in Monster Hunter can provide Status Buffs or healing to nearby hunters when played. It can also be used to smack monsters.
- In Judaism, the shofar is a ram's horn blown during the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services to inspire awe and repentance.
These horns are bad news. In fantasy and mythological contexts, the horns themselves cause destruction and death when sounded. In more realistic settings, they cause dread to those who hear them. There's some overlap with the first type of horn, though—a horn that successfully rallies an army means the other army isn't likely to fare so well. Compare Musical Assassin.
- The notorious Jack Benny flop The Horn Blows At Midnight featured Benny as an angel given the assignment of blowing the horn that heralds the end of the world. In the end, it turns out It Was All Just A Dream.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, the Horn of Winter is said to have the power to bring down the continent-spanning Wall that keeps the undead Others from attacking the realms of the south.
Mythology and Religion
- The Bible:
- The probable Trope Maker is the destruction of the walls of Jericho in the Book of Joshua. By God's command, the Israelites marched around Jericho sounding their trumpets, and the power of the horns and the wrath of God sent the walls tumbling down.
- In the Book Of Revelation, seven horns are to be played by angels at the end of days, calling down fire and destruction on the world.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- Horn of Amplification. When the user yells, it does 2-20 Hit Points of damage to everyone within up to 50 feet away.
- Horn of Blasting. It can have one of two effects when blown: (a) damage, stun and deafen anyone within the area of effect OR (b) damage all constructions in the area of effect as if they had been hit by a catapult missile.
- Horn of Collapsing. If used properly, it can cause the ceiling (indoors) or roof overhead (underground) to collapse on opponents.
- In Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Lord Fredrik, leader of the Snowmads, has a magical horn that shoots ice, which he uses to plunge Donkey Kong Island into an Endless Winter as he conquers it.
- In Patapon, Megapon are special Patapon armed with large horns which they use to play destructive music against their enemies.
- Stronghold Legends has Sir Bedivere's horn of Camelot, which tears down all walls in its area of effect.
- Shovel Knight has the War Horn, which deals heavy damage to enemies in range, but costs a lot of Magic to use.
- The German Stuka dive bomber in World War II was equipped with a piercing siren called the 'Jericho Trumpet' that sounded as the bomber dove towards its target. The Stuka was perhaps the most effective weapon of the war's first year, and its terrifying sound was key to the demoralization of many Allied forces.