Whenever anyone, or anything, stands between the light and a surface, you get a shadow.
It may, like a vampire's lack of reflection, indicate the character is not what he appears to be — down to and including that he's a copy of the real thing, or even just an illusion. It may show that someone stole his shadow. It may indicate that, Casting a Shadow, he has animated his into a Living Shadow, and it's elsewhere, or even that he's a Living Shadow himself. But it definitely indicates something uncanny's going on.
Does not, of course, include those where the medium or artwork ensures that all characters and objects have no shadows.
Don't ask what's supposed to happen if you look at a bright light source with these guys blocking it—nobody knows!
A Sub-Trope of The Shadow Knows, more cryptic than the usual ones, where the shape gives a clue what the issue is. (Unusual shadows belong there, along with the inversion where an invisible character casts a shadow; this covers only a total lack.)
- In One Piece's Thriller Bark arc, Brook (a living skeleton) casts no shadow. It's not really meant to emphasize his supernatural-ness (although he's supernatural already). Instead, he lacks a shadow because someone with a power to control shadows stole it and used it to reanimate one of his zombie minions. Later on, there are other pirates stuck there who also cast no shadow for the same reason. Having no shadow is a bad thing for all of them because sunlight will vaporize them, requiring them to have to avoid it. Luffy, Zoro, Sanji and Robin all lose their shadows until Moria's defeat.
- In Paranoia Agent episode "Happy Family Planning" 3 people make multiple attempts at suicide through out the episode. At the end they realize that they don't have shadows and that one of their suicide attempts was successful.
- In the Black★Rock Shooter TV anime, Yuu has no shadow, as a sign that she had traded places with her other self.
- Apparent in one of Don Rosa's The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck chapters: As a young lad, Scrooge meets a mysterious caretaker of his family castle. Although he doesn't notice it, the caretaker casts no shadow albeit he himself and the castle cast their own shadows, hinting that the caretaker is not what he seems.
- In Power Man and Iron Fist Tyrone King was seen casting no shadow. According to this you were supposed to suspect he was a vampire, but he wasn't.
- Destiny from The Sandman doesn't cast a shadow or leave footprints. Several of the Endless have unusual shadows.
- In The Woman Who Had No Shadow, after consulting a witch and using her magic to ensure she would have no children, a woman casts no shadow.
- Peter Pan when his shadow is literally separated from him.
- In IT the titular Eldritch Abomination casts no shadow when it is disguised as Pennywise, as Ben Hanscom notices when IT first appears to him on a frozen river with the sun directly behind it. Why IT casts no shadow is probably because it has no true physical form to cast a shadow from.
- In Masques this is how Aralorn sees that what seems to be the ae'Magi is merely a magical illusion — it casts no shadow.
- In the German novel Der Krähenturm ("The Tower of Crows"), the protagonist, a medical student, examines a corpse, in which there is no cause of death to be found with the usual methods. He finally realizes that the corpse lacks a shadow, which is a hint at the cause of death. Later, he starts to lose parts of his own shadow, when the same creature goes after him.
- In Andre Norton's Witch World novel Year of the Unicorn, after Gillian is abandoned by the company, she casts no shadow. Only later does she find out what was done to her to cause that.
- In Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, Mr. A. H— casts no shadow. Noticing this nearly drives Chandresh mad.
- In the story "Cast the First Shadow", a man without a shadow, long persecuted for it, meets with a woman who similarly has no shadow — only to be revolted and turned away from her by the discovery that she also has the unnatural property of having no reflection.
- Inverted in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, where Bilbo casts a shadow even when he shouldn't — when he's invisible.
- In Lord Dunsany's The Charwoman's Shadow, both the charwoman and Ramon have bargained away their shadows to the magician and cast none.
- In The Seventh Tower, people with Spiritshadows have no normal shadows. It's later revealed that the Aeniran creatures that become Spiritshadows bond by actually picking up the shadow and assimilating it.
- In Mary Hoffman's Stravaganza series certain characters are able to use a talisman to travel between modern Earth and Talia, the Fantasy Counterpart Culture version of Renaissance Italy. A character who is only visiting that world has no shadow. If they gain one, it means that their body has died in their world and they are stuck there.
- In the novella The Wonderful History of Peter Schlemihl (1814) by Adelbert von Chamisso, young and naive Peter Schlemihl happily sells his shadow to a mysterious old man in exchange for a bottomless purse. Only then does he discover that the lack of shadow makes him an outcast from human society. When he meets the strange old man again, the latter refuses to reverse the bargain, but offers to take Peter's soul in exchange for the shadow.
- In The Box Of Delights, Kay casts no shadow when travelling into the past in search of Arnold of Todi.
- In Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising, the Riders of the Dark cast no shadows, at least in their natural appearances; it's never stated that Mr. Mitothin of book two doesn't have one, nor do the children notice a lack of one for Hastings in the first book and one would think John Rowlands would have noticed if his wife didn't.
- Orted Ak-Ceddi from Karl Edward Wagner's The Dark Crusade doesn't cast shadow after being touched by the power of a dark god Sataki.
- Mordeth in his first appearance in The Wheel of Time doesn't have a shadow, owing to being a semi-corporeal spirit rather than a living man. Though it's never explicitly stated, he presumably got a shadow back after merging with Padan Fain and getting a new body therefore.
- Dr. Seuss's book "Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?" has a character named Harry Haddow, who "can't make any shadow."
He thinks that, perhaps, something's wrong with his Gizz,
and I think that, by golly, there probably is.
- The Aimians of Roshar have a variant of this. They have a shadow, but it points towards light instead of away from it.
- In the Chronicles of the Kencyrath, a person's shadow is cast by their soul. Therefore, neither Bane (who asked a priest to carry his soul so that it would not be tainted by his actions) nor Terribend (whose soul is in the possession of The Dragon) casts a shadow.
- Inverted in The Divine Comedy when the souls being rehabilitated on Mount Purgatory recognize the Pilgrim as a living man because he casts a shadow, and marvel at his presence.
- In The Nekropolis Archives, the vampires of Nekropolis, called the Bloodborn, cast no shadows in addition to having no reflections.
- The Oasis song "Cast No Shadow" is about a man who can't express what he really wants to say and has allowed himself to be dominated by others.
Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say
Chained to all the places that he never wished to stay
Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say
As he faced the sun he cast no shadow.
- "Daniel and the Sacred Harp" by The Band. Daniel unknowingly made a Deal with the Devil when he bought the sacred harp, and at the end of the song notices he doesn't have a shadow anymore.
- J. R. R. Tolkien's "Shadow Bride" has a man who casts no shadow. When he and the title character dance, they cast only one.
- In The Dark Eye high-ranking priests of the Nameless God will sacrifice their own shadows (and souls) to their patron. This makes them a little easier to identify than the rank-and-file of the cult, but they tend to be powerful enough by that point to more than make up for it. Mages who mess up while performing certain spells or rituals, or people who managed to attract the wrong kind of extraplanar attention can also lose their shadows and will frequently be mistaken for Nameless cultists, usually with fatal consequences.
- Dungeons & Dragons Dark Sun setting supplement Monstrous Compendium Appendix II - Terrors Beyond Tyr.
- The undead monster known as the T'liz casts no shadow.
- If a DM uses the random undead generation tables, an undead so created can have the weakness of not casting a shadow, which makes it easy to identify in the light.
- The Thinking Zombie Claktor Bloodfist has this quality, which it presumably received by rolling it on the random undead generation tables.
- Exalted: Inverted with Ligier, the Green Sun of Malfeas. His otherness is indicated by no object whatsoever casting a shadow when illuminated by him.
- This is one of the identifying signs of the Hollow Mekhet in Vampire: The Requiem, for whom it's a side effect of having part of their soul removed. They also can't be recorded and don't appear in mirrors, because their reflections are off doing other things.
- In Richard Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten, the Empress has no shadow because she is a Shapeshifting Lover; if she does not gain one, she will be reclaimed by her father, and the Emperor turned to stone.
- The Ascians of Final Fantasy XIV; in fact, their name literally means "without shadow".
- This is how you can tell that the opponent you're looking at in Halo: Reach and Halo 4 multiplayer is actually their Hologram armor ability — though it looks right and can even move to a limited degree, the illusion won't have a shadow under it. The other way to find out they're a Hologram is to shoot or bump into them, causing a Hologram Projection Imperfection, but at that point the Hologram's owner has probably started shooting at you already.
- The focus of the third episode of Civil Protection is on a man who happens not to have a shadow. Mike and Dave theorize on why that might be, going from "he's a vampire!" to "bad light." When they try to trump up a charge to bring him in on, he suddenly has a shadow again. Mike doesn't care, ending up chasing him down the street so he can arrest the guy for jaywalking.
- In The Order of the Stick, the characters, being Stick Figures, have no shadows — a fact lampshaded by one character when another one was so foolish as to become a shadowdancer. Later a fire causes a shadow, enabling escape.
- Phillip Jackson's Sequential Art strip #299 recounts how Joviel Jakovitch was hanged for high treason. His corpse cast no shadow. Later, his autonomous shadow led a revolt of the shadow-men, which obliterated Pypingrad. He and his minions subsequently migrated to the UK.
- In Digger, Shadowchild can produce this effect in people.
- On one The Smurfs episode, Jokey's shadow is brought to life and goes around playing pranks, for which Jokey is blamed. As he is put on trial, one of the Smurfs notices that Jokey is not casting a shadow.
- One episode of the animated The Mask has a baddie steal people's shadows, which causes them to age at a rapid rate.
- In an episode of World of Winx, an aspiring fashion designer named Sophie had been abducted and replaced with a shadow creature. Bloom noticed this when she saw "Sophie" cast no shadow, cluing her to what really happened to her.
- One episode of Jackie Chan Adventures had a variety of Shadowkhan that could eat shadows.
- In the Challenge of the Super Friends episode "Trial of the Super Friends", Cheetah summons holograms of herself. Wonder Woman points out the holograms don't have shadows and lassos the Cheetah who has one. Unfortunately, this Cheetah turns out to be a robot.
- An Aesop and Son short in Rocky and Bullwinkle is about a dog losing his shadow taking his bone with him. The dog buys Charlie's shadow from a back alley as a replacement.
- The villain in the "Bright Lights" arc of My Little Pony 'n Friends draws power from stealing ponies' shadows, turning the ponies into something akin to Technically Living Zombies.