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Dire Beast

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And you thought bears were bad news before you met one the size of an African elephant.

"You know what a dire X is, right? They're like X, only dire."

The dire animal: a larger, often more "prehistoric"-looking version of a normal animal. It's popular in fantasy works. After all, watching your hero fight a normal-sized rat is hardly impressive, but make it the size of a small dog, now, that is amazing. A wolf might be threatening, but a sabre-toothed wolf the size of a bear... now, that's even more impressive.

Dire Animals have become a staple of fantasy works, often serving as early game enemies (with Dire Rats ideal for a Rat Stomp). Dire version of more impressive animals can still pose a challenge later in the story (Dire Bears the size of elephants, Dire Tyrannosaurus rex) but most often these form one of the earliest challenge heroes must face.

Dire Animals may fit into various subtropes depending on what animals they are:

Related to Whateversaurus. Subtrope of Bigger Is Better. Compare Animals Not to Scale, Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever when these beasts turn gigantic.


Examples

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    Anime And Manga 
  • Guyver: In a Flash Back, the Uranus test the abilities of the first Guyver by having it fight one of their last surviving T-Rexes, which has been biochemically enhanced through the same process which transforms humans into Zoanoids. It's also mentioned that ancient Zoanoid genes still resurface from time to time, with the resultant "dire humans" having inspired mythical creatures like werewolves and Bigfoot.

    Film 
  • In The Killer Shrews relatively giant shrews are attacking and killing. The "giant shrews" are played by German Shepard dogs with not very convincing makeup.
  • Mothra and her parody, Insectosaurus — the latter even turns into a butterfly.
  • Rampage has three ordinary animals: an albino gorilla named George, a wolf named Ralph, and an alligator named Lizzie, who are exposed to an experimental CRISPR mutagen that transforms them into rampaging Kaiju. While George looks the same, though bigger, Ralph and Lizzie gain monstrous appearances, complete with Spikes of Villainy.
  • As with the literary version, the film adaptations of Lord of the Rings feature wargs and oliphants, basically Dire Wolves and Dire Elephants. The wargs in The Two Towers look less like wolves however and more like grotesquely mutated hyenas, while the oliphants are 50 feet tall and have six tusks, with the largest pair covered in spikes.

    Literature 
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The Dire Wolf is the symbol of house Stark. At adulthood, if the TV show is any indication, they grow to the size of a horse. Everyone of Ned Stark's children is given a Dire Wolf pup as a companion early in the first book.
    • There's also aurochs, which are prehistoric cattle. They seem to be about as common as regular cows would be in real life.
  • There are many examples of this found in The Iron Teeth web serial. They usually have a well defined ecological role though and aren't just supersized versions of normal animals.
  • In The Pendragon Adventure "Quigs" take the form of some local wild fauna but are even more dangerous and single-minded to attack Bobby and his friends. On one territory they look like bears, another (undersea) they're sharks, on earth they're dogs, etc. On one territory where man isn't the dominant species they look human.
  • Wargs in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are perfect examples of dire wolves, even though they are never referred to as such. Also, Beorn's animal form could be considered a dire bear, and oliphaunts are essentially dire elephants (the films take this last one to a far greater extreme than the books.)
  • Discworld, according to The Compleat Discworld Atlas, has Dire Yak. However, although they are noticeably larger than regular yak, they are so named because they come from the Dire Peninsula (which is separated from the main continent by the Dire Straits).

    Podcast 
  • Dice Funk: Jayne can shapeshift into a dire wolf. She always employs this when combat occurs.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • This game is likely the Trope Codifier: Dire Animals are numerous, and Dire Rats, Badgers, Wolves and Bears are staples of the game and many adaptation, but more creative examples include Dire Crocodiles and Dire Sharks. Basically any animal you can think of often has a dire version. Dire animals are distinguished by their size and being covered in spikes.
    • In 3.5, even Dire Animals had their own "more dire" counterpart in the form of "Legendary" beasts and "Paragon" beasts.
  • Savage Worlds includes numerous dire beasties in its core rulebook's list of pre-generated foes.
  • Exalted has a bunch of super-sized animals found across the setting. They're usually some kind of Wyld mutant or supernatural creature.
  • In the Penny Arcade expansion pack for the game Munchkin, one of the treasures is a "Dire Teddy Bear". [1]
    • While Munchkin: Legends has the "Dire" monster buff.

    Video Games 
  • Dire creatures appear in Final Fantasy XII. Dire Rats and Dire Flans.
  • Dire wolves appear in RuneScape's forest of Isafdar as larger-sized versions of their cousins, guarding the entrance to the Elven city of Lletya.
  • Dire wolves are a pain in the ass in Age of Empires II, due to their propensity to violently murder your villagers.
  • Dire Wolves appear in The Battle for Middle-Earth. They did not appear in the books however (instead there were Wargs).
  • World of Warcraft has a ton of dire animals: Dire Wolves, Dire Boars, Dire Bats, Dire Apes, Dire Condors and Dire Lions.
  • In the Diablo franchise, there are often large, mean versions of common animals, especially spiders. Justified in the cosmology since all animals were originally based on demons, and are easily corrupted.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has the "Blighted" versions of some animals, such as spiders, wolves, and bears, which are bigger and tougher than their baseline counterparts. The blighted bear (known as "Bereskarn") in particular is much larger and even grows bony spikes all over its body.
  • In South Park: The Stick of Truth, Canada (in 16-bit top down view) has a whole array of dire woodlands creature like bears, snakes and spiders. Oh, and dire AIDS too, they're like regular AIDS but dire.
  • In Elsword, there exist giant versions of Phoru creatures that serves as minibosses. There are also giant, mutated rats in the Elder Bonus Dungeon.
  • Seemingly as a parody, the Age of Wonders series has exactly one kind of dire beast: the Dire Penguin.
  • In Gems of War, the Dire Wolf is, as per its card, "like a wolf, only more dire". They're distinct from the wolf-people who live in the same area.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
  • The Isle has the Hyperendocrin Rex, which is three times the size of the standard T. rex in the game and has far more attack power and health. However, it depletes its hunger meter very quckly, and must eat constantly to avoid starving.
    • Later updates included the Hyperendocrin versions of the Spinosaurus and Giganotosaurus.
  • Ancient Empires has Dire Wolves as a unit type. They're strong and fast and apparently have poisonous fangs, as their attack poisons the enemy.

     Real Life 
  • In prehistoric times, there were some animals that were, in fact, larger than their modern relatives. These included dire wolves, entelodonts (relatives of modern hippos that looked like giant pigs with More Teeth Than The Osmand Family), Elasmotherium (an ice age rhino with one horn taht grew to the size of an elephant), and Deinotherium, Stegodon and several mammoth species (elephant relatives). None of them tended to be quite so large as modern media portrays them (dire wolves, for example only grew to about 110-175 lbs and were actually shorter at the shoulders than modern wolves), and needless to say they weren't covered in spikes, either.
  • Thylacoleo, the so-called "marsupial lion", was in fact more of a carnivorous Dire Wombat.
  • Another real-life example: Aurochs, the ancestors of cattle, were on average larger and stronger than modern cows, and were more aggressive and territorial as well — far more like bison and cape buffalo than farm cows. It took some kind of serious badassery to domesticate them. They also went extinct less than 400 years ago, which means that Knights and Peseants, the Romans and Greeks, and most other ancient Afroeurasian peoples kept these as a source of food and often hunted them in the wild, and were thus badasses in their own right. Other giant ancient cattle included the long-horn bison of North America and the giant African bison, both stood more than eight feet tall at the shoulder and weighed more than two tons, that's heavier than a giraffe!
  • The aptly-named Hyaenodon, which looked basically a Dire Hyena the size of a small horse, though it was a creodont and thus not closely related to hyenas or any other member of Order Carnivora.
  • The short-faced bear, Arctodus simus was the largest known species of bear. A large male could stand six feet tall on all fours and rear up to eleven or twelve feet on its hind legs while weighing over a ton. It was one of the larges predatory land mammal of all time.
  • The Megalodon an enormous prehistoric shark thats three times bigger than the Great White Shark.
  • In the Carboniferous period, basically every arthropod fit into the Big Creepy-Crawlies trope.
  • Hornets are essentially Dire Wasps, and some species can reach lengths of up to over two inches.
  • Argentavis was a vulture-like bird with a wingspan of 26 feet. It was part of a group of truly immense birds called teratorns, literally "monstrous bird".
  • Haast's Eagle, once found in New Zealand hunting moas, did not have a wingspan excessively larger than the largest modern eagles, but was much more massive than any modern raptor.
  • The Flemish Giant Rabbit and Continental Giant Rabbit are rabbits that grow way larger than the average rabbit, the largest ones being the size of a small child. They're still adorable.
  • The largest canid to ever exist was the appropriately named Epicyon, "more than a dog". With a more robust build than any modern canine and powerful, bone-crushing jaws that were more like a hyena's, this borophagine from the Miocene of North America was an impressive 5 feet in length, 3 feet tall at the shoulder and weighed up to 370 lb. There are tigers smaller than this!
  • Killer whales might be better described as dire dolphins.
  • Temnospondyls, an extinct group of tetrapods from the late Palaeozoic and Mesozoic eras, are essentially Dire Amphibians. A good number of them could get to the size of a crocodile, with some like the absolutely gargantuan Prionosuchus approaching the size of a bus. Temnospondyls often filled the same niches as crocodiles, and as such generally looked pretty similar.
  • Livyatan melvillei was pretty much a Dire Whale. While not much bigger than today's sperm whale, it had far more powerful jaws equipped with massive teeth on both upper and lower jaws, and was believed to have preyed upon small baleen whales as well as sharks.

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