One of the oldest themes and concepts in myth or storytelling is the idea of the elements, the forces of nature that make up the world around us. Some can control these elements, and those who do are often going to be strongly associated with whatever element they master. However, what about people who are just associated with these elements?
That's where the Elemental Motif comes in. Instead of just controlling the elements, these things are highly associated with these elements — and the story makes sure to point it out. From characters, to objects, to fighting styles, and anything and everything in between, there can be a deep and often metaphorical association with a specific element. After all, a lot can be said about something or someone by comparing it to an element, just as a lot can be said with comparisons to animals or colors. What is being said, however, depends on the subject.
The association can be positive or negative, regardless of whatever element is being used. To name a few...
- Water: Calm, life-giving, feminine, flowing, but dangerous, overwhelming, sad, full of Hidden Depths.
- Fire: Warm, protective, illuminating, expressive, creative, purifying, masculine, but dangerous, destructive, zealous, angry.
- Air/Wind: Flowing, calm, quick, progressive, adventurous, free, but loud, dramatic, uncaring.
- Earth: Organized, grounded in reality, supportive, but uncompromising, stubborn, blunt, aloof, slow.
- Light: Illuminating, warm, life-giving, colorful, but blinding, illusory.
- Darkness/Shadows: Observant, beautiful, mysterious, but scary, misunderstood, depressing.
- Electricity: Energetic, innovative, quick, exciting, illuminating, but dangerous, unpredictable, lazy (as lightning always strikes the thing closest to it).
- Ice/Snow: Cool, elegant, beautiful soft, but distant, numb, slippery, fragile, slow.
- Botany: Nurturing, creative, lucky, but vengeful, self-serving.
- Metal: Hard and cold, but also efficient, logical and progressive.
These associations can also range from being obvious to subtle, and from deep to shallow, so long as there is an intentional connection there, and it's meaningful to the story in some way. For these reasons, these themes can apply to anyone or anything, just as long as it's not about some form of elemental control. After all, it's almost expected for people with magical control over the elements to be heavily associated with their elements, and this trope is concerned more with the metaphorical and figurative side of things than the literal.
It can still come from a supernatural source, however — such as a nation that worships an elemental deity, while the people of the nation themselves typically lack any sort of magical abilities of their own. If these nations do have a few individuals with elemental powers, the nation itself can still count for this trope if a majority of it's inhabitants do not and simply have the association, instead. Those powered-up individuals, on the other hand, would not count on their own, unless the association isn't based around them having powers, is about a power besides what they have, or is otherwise a separate beast.
Compare, of course, to Elemental Personalities and Elemental Powers, as well as Color-Coded Elements, which is when this trope overlaps with Color Motif. Night and Day Duo may also overlap, as well as Fire/Water Juxtaposition. Compare and Contrast Elemental Embodiment, when a character is that element.
See also: Four-Element Ensemble, Elemental Nation, Zodiac Motifs
- "High Voltage" is a Bones Coffee flavor marketed for its incredibly high caffeine count and has an electricity motif on the label.
- Ayakashi Triangle: While Matsuri uses actual elemental ninjutsu, Soga is a purely-physical brawler whose association with lightning isn't as literal: he's known as the "Lightning-Fast Exorcist Ninja", his Transformation Trinket is shaped like a lightning bolt, he has an attack named "Thunder Slash Recoil", and his eyes sometimes glow and have electric trails when he's moving very fast.
- Brave10: as explained later on in the series, each of the Braves represent an element of nature, namely fire, water, ice, lightning, earth, wind, metal, grass, darkness and light. Some of them, like Unno, Ana and Kamanosuke can actually use elemental technique in combat, others are simply associated with their elements (Juuzo Kakei's use of firearms and guns likens him to metal, while Sasuke's a Nature Hero and thus associated with Grass).
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: The Demon Slayer Corps' swordsmanship styles evoke the elements. Water Breathing is adaptive and flexible, Thunder Breathing strikes quickly, Wind Breathing involves lots of quick aerial tricks, and so on. Visually, the swordfighting is depicted as if they are actually manipulating elements, though it's been confirmed that none of the Demon Slayers actually have any Elemental Powers and the elemental effects are just for visual flair.
- The so called "Five Element Swords" of the Ogame Ryu, the main school of Kenjutsu the protagonists belong to. The Ogame Ryu has five styles called "Forms", each with three techniques and themed after an element with a corresponding specialization: Ikazuchi no Kata (Thunder God Form) stands for lightning and focuses on speed and fast movements, Kagutsuchi no Kata (Scorching Blaze Form) stands for fire and specialize in cutting power and deadly attacks, Oboro no Kata (Empty Vacuum Form) stands for "sky/void" and has techniques based on sudden movements to dodge attacks and step into the enemy's guard, Mizuchi no Kata (Water Dragon) is water and teaches refined and tricky sword attacks which are hard to predict and block and lastly Dokou no Kata (Earth Lord Form), the form of earth focusing on unorthodox but powerful attacks to break enemy weapons and repeal any attack. Like with the above example, the effects are merely cosmetic, as Gamaran has no supernatural elements.
- In the sequel series Shura, the assassin Raio Magami has a lightning motif: his name translates to "Thunder Sakura", he wields a set of Urumi with such speed and skill that he downright claims they're worthy of the title "Lightning Blades". Even after losing an arm and replacing it with a scissor katar, he develops a secret technique with it named "Vajra's Thunderbolt".
- Moriarty the Patriot: William's elemental motif is fire, Sherlock's is water.
- William is constantly associated with fire in a huge swath of ways, from anger, hatred, inspiration, passion, and light. He comes haloed in light and fire and is reborn in fire as "William James Moriarty" in chapter one. He uses fire as almost a preferred weapon and sees hellfire wherever he goes. In fact, he even acknowledges this motif at the end of The Valley of Fellows by comparing himself to a fire he'd watched, realizing that much life fire he needs to be able to flicker, change, and adapt to keep burning and living.
- Meanwhile, Sherlock is much the same with water, from deep unknowable depths to calming purification. The Final Problem. His introduction takes place on a cruise ship and he spends much of A Study in 'S', the first arc he owns as his own, doused in rain. He compares himself to a ship lost at sea looking for William's lighthouse fire for guidance.
- My Hero Academia:
- Midoriya and All Might possess a light motif as holders of One For All. Each of the lights that appear in their mind while tapping into the Quirk represent a previous wielder. The anime frequently depicts All Might and Midoriya standing in front of blinding light with their back to the viewer, showing their roles as the current and future Hope Bringer. Sometimes they're even shown emitting light from their fists as they're punching someone. The future shown in the Batman Cold Open of Season 2 has Midoriya's punch coincide with the rising of the sun, seemingly illuminating the world in the process.
- Conversely, Shigaraki and All For One are heavily associated with shadows and darkness. Their lair is a dim, secluded bar, they're both dressed in all black, and both of them are evocative of the unsavory underside of hero society. Even Kurogiri, their personal attendant who can create warp gates, has them step out of the murky black fog as they're being transported.
- Thor's Fight with the Giants: Lighting can be seen leaping from Mjölnir, solidifying the fact that this is the God of Thunder doing the smashing.
- Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons: The Olympians that have particular association with an element/nature gets shown in their appearances. Zeus has sky-blue skin with lightning bolt veins, Poseidon's skin looks like shimmering ocean water, and Apollo has a sun-like halo around his head,
- X-Men: Emma Frost does not have ice powers (instead, she is a telepath who can shapeshift into a diamond form), but she is associated with it: she is a blonde dressed in all-white, her surname is "Frost", she has a cool and cynical personality, and her organic diamond form can look like ice. It is also a point of contrast against her fellow telepath, sometimes-ally, and sometimes-romantic-rival Jean Grey, a Fiery Redhead whose "Phoenix" powers manifest as flames.
- The Monolith's resonance in AWE Arcadia Bay (Rogue_Demon) is characterized as a form of white lightning.
- Stella Zhau in Flowing Star is associated with Lightning due to her inventive skills and she can become cheerful and very active. Her baseball bat can be electrified to defeat her foes.
- Kyril Sutherland from The Night Unfurls is a rare example that is metaphorically associated with multiple elements as opposed to just one.
- Water: Kyril is compared to water-related terms, like ocean, waves, and storm. The Terrible Ticking Celestine experiences whenever the Hunter is within her proximity is the roaring sound of the ocean, its waves crashing against the shore. Olga can see a storm brewing around the Hunter as she witnesses his Tranquil Fury. Kyril is an uncannily effective One-Man Army who is entirely capable of killing everyone if he so chooses, akin to the overwhelmingly destructive potential of large bodies of water. The Hunter is characterised as cool, patient, level-headed, and full of depth. Lastly, his hidden nature as a great one evokes the unfathomable nature of the Eldritch Ocean Abyss, for none could comprehend who he is or what he is truly capable of.
- Darkness: This one is more obvious — the man who was once a Hunter of Monsters trying to survive the Night of the Hunt is dressed in dark grey and is associated with “dark” stuff (e.g. death, demon, secrets, shadows, masquerade, etc.). Overlapping with water abovenote , Kyril has a dreaded reputation, a weapon he exploits to its fullest to demoralise anyone who crosses him. Darkness is a Primal Fear that makes people scared and vulnerable after all. Personality-wise, the Hunter is a gloomy, mangsty, and paranoid Broken Bird. Behind this metaphorical shroud of darkness is a nobler, more content side that he doesn't show openly.
- Metal: A subtle one. Much of Kyril’s life is combat-related (as per his internal monologue in the remastered version, "every battle a blur of blood, screams, and steel"). Both his journey and arsenal revolve around blood, which contains iron and has a coppery scent. His Pocket Dimension features a workshop with metallic weapons left and right, a place for enhancing strength and fortifying weaponry. He’s a Multi-Melee Master and a Multi-Ranged Master, akin to the diverse nature of metals. Being The Spock and The Leader most of the time, Kyril's tendency to apply rules, reason, and the greater good to his decisions marks him as a cold, logical, efficient, and progressive figure. Determined, but not outright inflexible.
- Happy Heroes: The Stones has a series of posters that symbolically correlate the Supermen and their Car Knights to one of the five classical Chinese elements, regardless of actual abilities.
- Happy S.'s hot-bloodedness is represented as his helmet wings emitting flames.
- Sweet S. is enveloped in a circular gust of wind; as The Heart of the group, she's supposed to represent Pacifist Wind.
- Smart S. is covered in vines and there are flowers growing on his Car Knight, representing wood. This might be a pun on his Chinese name, which is "Flowering Heart Superman".
- Careless S.'s motif is electricity, but going by the Chinese elemental theming it's likely meant to be metal to some extent; he does, after all, invent weapons.
- Careful S. is submerged in water, signifying his calmness.
- Moana: Downplayed. The protagonist is said to have always been drawn by the ocean, and she has the quiet strength and deep compassion to match. But she's also the next chief of her tribe, and therefore expected to have earth-element qualities — strength, stoicism, and maternal instinct — typical of an agricultural society's leader. The end of the film shows her reconciling the two worlds by placing a conch shell atop the mountain climbed by the previous chiefs and restoring her people's status as wayfinders and explorers across the ocean, looking for new lands to settle.
- The Craft: Legacy: Each girl is symbolized with a different element: Frankie air, Lourdes earth, Tabby fire and Lily water. This is reflected in the colors which they wear and their specific abilities.
- Ophelia: Ophelia is heavily associated with the element of water. She enjoys swimming, frequently wears the color blue, is nicknamed "little fish" by Hamlet and chooses drowning as a method of suicide although she actually fakes her death in this version to escape Claudius, so in this case immersing herself in water helps save her life. She's also characterized as level-headed, adaptable, and possessing a quiet strength and determination.
- Star Wars: Padmé Amidala is associated with water. Her name is derived from "padma", the Sanskrit word for lotus, which is a flower that grows in water. Her homeplanet is filled with deep oceans, lakes, waterfalls and swamps. She spent her happiest days in the Lake Country and wanted to raise her children there. Her apartment on Coruscant is decorated with fountains and water features, and she tends to wear blue clothing. She meets her downfall on a fiery planet devoid of water and during her funeral she's dressed in a blue outfit that gives the impression she's floating in water. She's characterized as level-headed, intelligent, deeply compassionate, and gentle (unless provoked).
- Dark Shores: The Maarin are associated with water, or, more precisely, the oceans. They are a seafaring nation worshipping the sea goddess Madoria, they prefer to be buried at the sea, with burial underground being Fate Worse than Death, and their eyes change color within the range of sea colors to show their mood. And individuals chosen and marked by Madoria (she never chooses anyone outside the Maarin) gain the ability to breathe under water.
- The Hands of the Emperor: For the main characters:
- Cliopher is strongly associated both with fire and water:
- Fire (especially hearth-fire) as the Tanà, e.g. fire-keeper: he is passionate, protective and warm.
- Water (as a Wide Sea Islander): he is graceful, diplomatic and outwardly calm in his manner, achieves his goals by gradually overwhelming the opposition like a river eroding the earth and also has hidden depths through his culture and history.
- The emperor, Artorin has even more elemental motifs:
- He is a descendent of the Sun, a wild mage with a focus on fire, passionate (even if he doesn't show it), radiant (one of his titles being His Radiancy) and creative.
- His other focus as a wild mage is wind magic and his personalty fits: while outwardly calm, he is adventurous, progressive (he dismantled the whole ancient traditions of the Empire together with Cliopher) and free-spirited.
- Lastly, he is associated with Earth: as the Lord-Wizard of Zunidh, he is intrinsically linked to the world itself and is the anchor point of magic, and also is patient and stable as his job and the rituals demand him to be. For Cliopher, the earth-association is more personal: he sees the emperor as providing the bedrock on which he can build his reforms.
- Cliopher is strongly associated both with fire and water:
- Harry Potter: According to Word of God, the four Hogwarts Houses are a loose Four-Element Ensemble. Gryffindor, with its courageous members and red and gold scheme, corresponds to fire. Slytherin, with its flexible and ambitious members, corresponds to water. Hufflepuff, known for hard workers, is closest to earth (its yellow and black color scheme represents wheat and soil). And Ravenclaw, the house of thinkers, is associated with blue and birds, therefore, the sky and air.
- The Hunger Games: Katniss was strongly associated with fire throughout the series. In addition to her nickname being "The Girl on Fire", she also came from the coal-mining district with a bread-toasting marriage tradition, was attacked with fire by her sponsors in the arena, and even describes herself as having a fire that needed to be tempered by Peeta's calm "dandelion". Her action in the games spawned a literal and metaphorical fire across Panem that lead to the rebellion's resurgence, and her declaration that "fire is catching".
- Memoirs of a Geisha: Chiyo is said to have "a lot of water in [her] personality". She has a subtle strength, is patient, adaptable, and looks for every way to overcome obstacles, including those not immediately obvious. She also has striking blue-gray eyes, considered an unusual trait in Japan, which other characters link with her "water" personality.
- Night World:
- Three of the four known Wild Powers are symbolically linked to different elements (they all possess the ability to use Blue Fire, though they're not all just associated with fire).
- Iliana Dominick is associated with air. She's noted to be delicate-looking and flighty, but is stronger than she seems. One of her titles is also "Mistress of Air".
- Jez Redfern is associated with fire. She has red hair which is compared to flames and is fierce and dangerous, yet is also seen as beautiful and compassionate.
- Delos Redfern is associated with earth. He grew up surrounded by woods and mountains, and is noted to be stoic and unmovable (for both positive and negative — he can be stubborn and hard-hearted, yet also determined and resilient).
- Maggie Neely, like her soulmate Delos, is linked with the earth element, though in a comparatively softer way. She has red hair compared to autumn leaves and "sorrel" brown eyes (sorrel refers to both a herb and a shade of color used to describe a horse's coat). She has an interest in the outdoors, including hiking and mountain-climbing. She's also characterized as nurturing and strong-willed.
- Three of the four known Wild Powers are symbolically linked to different elements (they all possess the ability to use Blue Fire, though they're not all just associated with fire).
- The Silver Brumby: Thowra is associated with the wind. He was named the Aboriginal word for "wind" because he was Born During a Storm, and his mother believed he would have to run as fast as the wind to avoid being hunted for his rare cream color. It is also implied he can shapeshift into a hawk.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- The Starks are heavily associated with ice. They rule the icy northernmost part of Westeros, they were historically known as the Kings of Winter, their seat is Winterfell, their house words are "Winter is Coming", and part of their look is Icy Gray Eyes.
- The Targaryens, the former royal house, are heavily associated with fire. They are descended from Dragon Rider conquerors, their house seal is a three-headed dragon, and they kept dragons until certain events wiped them out. Given their penchant for inbreeding, the volatility of fire also fits them as Targaryens are said to either be great or mad. Aerys II was known as the "Mad King" and nearly burnt King's Landing to the ground; his daughter Daenerys later hatches three dragons of her own in fire.
- The Greyjoys are associated with water. As the leaders of the Ironborn, the warlike seafaring Fantasy Counterpart Culture to the Vikings, they are Born Under the Sail and their sigil is a kraken. Some Ironborn also worship the Drowned God, a sea deity.
- House Tully is also associated with water, but in a different way from House Greyjoy — unlike the warlike seafaring Iron Island natives, the Tullys (an Irish Gaelic name meaning "flood") are lords of the Riverlands, one of Westeros's more bountiful regions. Their house colors are blue and red, their seat is Riverrun, and their sigil is a leaping trout. Their house words are "Family, Duty, Honor", reflecting their heavy focus on family and the nurturing role of rivers, especially in a politically turbulent region.
- House Tyrell is associated with earth — their colors are green and gold, their sigil is a rose, and their words are "Growing Strong". The Reach is known for its bountiful harvests.
- House Arryn is associated with air. Their sigil is a falcon and moon on a sky-blue field, and their words are "As High as Honor". They live in the mountainous Vale of Arryn and their seat is a castle called the Eyrie ("eyrie" being the nest of a bird of prey built high off the ground), situated atop the Giant’s Lance (the tallest mountain peak within the Mountains of the Moon). Criminals in the Eyrie are imprisoned in the "sky cells", which have no exterior walls and leave prisoners exposed to the elements thousands of feet up. If they're really unlucky, they may get chucked out the Moon Door, a pair of doors that open out into nothingness on the side of the castle.
- The Spectrum Game:
- Inigo is associated with Water. His predicament is commonly referred to as him “drowning in a sea of [his] own identity”, and swimming and drowning are motifs generally used in association with him. His main colour besides purple is blue, too, and he wields the element of Ice in battle. He is known for his adaptability and flexibility regarding tactics, and his personality is fairly easygoing, but also very moody.
- Iago is associated with Darkness. He entered the Spectrum Game under the God of Darkness and he wears black all over, complete with black hair. He wields the element directly in battle, and he bears an association with secrets, lies, demons (and fallen angels) and death. Personality-wise, he is a shifty schemer with a somewhat wonky moral compass.
- Scarlett is associated with Fire. She is played up as a contrast to the water-associated Inigo, has motifs involving the colour red, such as her name and the colour of her clothing, and wields the element directly. Her narration sometimes references fire and heat, and she makes the odd fire pun outside of it, too. Personality-wise, she is fiery, passionate and one of the more sensual characters, but is also very nurturing.
- Azurine is associated with Light. She entered the Spectrum Game under the God of Light and her Tarot Motif is The Sun, in addition to using the code name 'Solar' to anonymously contact Kotoba. She is put in direct opposition with the Darkness-associated Iago, and her personality is very bright, cheerful and optimistic.
- Silas is associated with Earth. He wields the element in battle, and his stats reflect the element very well. He entered the Game looking to find a solid, stable ground for his mother to rest on. Personality-wise, he is stable and reliable, being very grounded in reality but occasionally rather slow.
- The Stormlight Archive: Kaladin Stormblessed is practically the wind itself. He is the first of a new generation of Windrunners in the rebuilt Knights Radiant, he feels a certain freedom out in the open and hates being imprisoned and chained in any way, and any time he battles an enemy in the air, he always at some point mentally crows that "the skies are mine."
- Warrior Cats:
- The ever-heroic and warm-hearted Firestar was, of course, heavily connected to fire. His prophecy called him the Fire that would save ThunderClan, and with his bright orange pelt, he even looked like fire. Similarly, in an omen sent in the New Prophecy series, he and his kin were represented by fire.
- All the Clans are named and themed after elements of nature. RiverClan cats are great swimmers and depend on the river for protection and sustenance, WindClan cats are the fastest ones, ShadowClan cats hunt better at night and are known to be sneaky and SkyClan cats specialize in jumping really high. ThunderClan cats seem to be the exception.
- Earth, Wind & Fire: Maurice White explains that he got the band name from his star sign Sagittarius which is a fire sign, and according to the elemental triplicities, his sign had the seasonal qualities of earth (situated in Autumn in the northern hemisphere) and wind (situated in Spring in the southern hemisphere, and also represents Gemini).
- The Front Bottoms: In "Legit Tattoo Gun", the narrator compares himself to water to explain his own stubborn social isolation:
I am the water in the puddle of the shade of a tree
You are the sun, when I freeze over, you cannot touch me
The tree feels bad- you can tell by the way that it felt
But he still won't move, and the ice won't melt
- Florence + the Machine: Water, specifically drowning, turns up a lot in the band's discography. Welch has stated that she is drawn to the overwhelming, enveloping feeling, which plays into her lyrics — as does the (paradoxically) quiet peace also associated with water.
Your songs remind me of swimming
Which I forgot when I started to sink
- "What the Water Gave Me", which was partially inspired by Virginia Woolf's Suicide by Sea.
Let the only sound be the overflow
Pockets full of stones
- "Heavy in Your Arms":
My love's an iron ball
Wrapped around your ankles
Over the waterfall
- "Never Let Me Go":
Oh, and it's breaking over me
A thousand miles out to the sea bed
Found the place to rest my head
- Pink Floyd: The sticker on Wish You Were Here (1975) includes all four elements. The album artwork also incorporates the elements: the burning man (fire), the trees (wind), the diving man (water), and the faceless man in the desert (earth).
- Second Person: The Elements is themed around elements, with each song being based around a different one: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. For the most part, the album describes the emotional arc of the singer through a relationship and its aftermath, with the elements serving as metaphors.
- "Wood" is light on the elemental references, but does contain the line:
But you don't see the wood for the trees
- "Fire" uses the element's bright but destructive nature to describe a magnetic, Destructive Romance.
But one of my addictions is
I used to play with fire
Do you / Do you have a light
Do you have the time of day
Oh so much phosphorescence
We added spark to spark
I engineered the chaos
I burned the fortress down
- "Earth" uses the element's association with death and burial.
See their shoulders strain below the weight of the spades
Stereo plays for a funeral
I leave myself to the earth
To the air
To the ashes
This is my early grave
- "Metal" uses the element's hardness and toxicity to describe anger and bitterness, as well as using some reflection imagery and referring to alchemy.
But when I'm full of heavy metal once again
All the pride inside me would give him hell
Heavy metal, well it gets inside
No matter how decisively or nice you slice it
It insinuates until the driest ice
Has taken every synapse for its own devices
Throat is coated with these frozen crystals
Notes you hold are only broken whistles
Slick as sequins are the icicles glistening
I think his kisses were sick as strychnine
- "Water" uses the placidity associated with its element to describe a state of acceptance and forgiveness.
I stand on the stones and I stare at the waves
And all of my anger runs red in the sea
I have let go of all of my rage
It's sailing, it's sailing away from me
- "Wood" is light on the elemental references, but does contain the line:
- Sleeping at Last: The singer in "Two" compares themself and their caring to water in the verses: "a mighty ocean", "like a tidal wave", "or calm waters".
- Tarot Cards: Readers of Tarot frequently associate the four suits of the minor arcana, which evolved into the standard Western playing card deck, with the four elements. Wands/Staves (clubs) with fire, Cups (hearts) with water, Swords (spades) with air, and Pentacles/Coins (diamonds) with earth.
- Warhammer 40,000: Despite the strong East Asian elements of their design, the Tau use the Classical theory of elements (water, air, earth, fire, and ether):
- The Water Caste are diplomats, described as being much like water in that they work subtly, with nothing being visible on the surface, and leave little trace behind.
- The Air Caste are the pilots of both air and spacecraft.
- The Fire Caste are Hot-Blooded warriors, being naturally tougher and stronger than the other castes.
- The Earth Caste are the builders and engineers of the Tau.
- The Ethereal Caste are the leaders of the Tau, possibly through More than Mind Control.
- "Heart of Stone" from Six: The Musical, sung by Jane Seymore, mentions the four classical elements in the chorus. Fire, wind and water reflect Henry's turmultuous emotional state while earth (the titular heart of stone) reflects Jane standing by him and trying to be a steadying influence during their marriage.
- When the fire's burned
When the wind has blown
When the water's dried
You'll still find stone
My heart of stone.
- Matoran usually have personalities relating to their elements, have colors corresponding to their elements and are naturally adjusted to living in respective environments, but possess no powers, elemental or otherwise. Transforming into a Toa is the only way Elemental Powers are granted, which are more or less lost when becoming a Turaga.
- All residents of Bara Magna lacked powers of any kind (even the Glatorian, who are similar to Toa), but still patterned their tribes after elements, having formerly been ruled by the Element Lords, who do possess such powers. Ironically, members of Bara Magna tribes visually resemble their elements more than Matoran or Toa, despite lacking them initially. Subverted for many Glatorian when Mata Nui granted them the appropriate Elemental Powers, though Gresh, who is from the Jungle Tribe and has plant motifs got air powers (despite jungle powers existing in-universe).
- Buriki One: Protagonist Gai Tendo, and a not-so recurrent character in The King of Fighters series, has his MMA speedo and Badass Longcoat with fire designs and motifs. Considering he's a passionate Fiery Redhead, has the red as one of his main colors and even being voiced by a voice actor known for playing fiery characters, Gai fits perfectly in the Playing with Fire motif but without the Elemental Powers.
- Chantelise: Colored Slimes come in the elemental colors of Fiery Red, Watery Blue, Earthy Yellow, and Windy Green, and are hurt more by their opposing elements, but don't have any elemental manipulation abilities.
- Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale: The knight enemies that are colored fiery red, watery blue, earthy yellow, and windy green, whose Random Drops are elemental crystals of the appropriate elements.
- Dark Souls: Halfway through the first game you're tasked with recovering the four fragments of the Lord Souls to fill the Lordvessel and access the Kiln of the First Flame. Coincidentally or not, the location of each fragment and their owners can be associated to one of the four elements: the Bed of Chaos is Fire (it was born from the master Pyromancer, the Witch of Izalith, and located in a magma-filled sets of caverns), Gravelord Nito is Earth (his domain lies deep underground, into the darkest depths of Lordran), the Paledrake Seath is Air (his domain lies in the highest place of Lordran, his sanctum being a crystal cavern filled with chasms and invisible pathways) while the Four Kings are Water (they reside in a moist, initially sunken ghost town and are associated with the Abyss).
- Fate/Grand Order: Sigurd's Icy Blue Eyes, country of origin, and preference for snowy landscapes give him a strong association with ice. His Final Ascension art turns Gram a cool blue-green while the ground he stands on is covered in frost. Even his fighting style is described as frosty even though none of his attacks involve ice.
- League of Legends: The K/DA-verse version of Seraphine is associated with the ocean. Her social media username is seradotwav, she has a wave emoji in her Twitter username, her sections in the "MORE" music video have an underwater look to them, her lyrics in the song include the line "Feeling like an ocean on the wave now", she has blue hair around that era, and one of her journals describes her lifelong fascination with the sea. She also has some association with stars, wearing star decals on her cheeks and using a star emoji in her Twitter username.
- The Legend of Zelda has this with the recurring races of Hyrule, who will have the elemental MacGuffin, relevant location, etc. for the plot. More prominent members may also have Elemental Powers.
- The Gorons, despite being a race of rock people, are strongly associated with fire and the goddess Din (also associated with fire), as they live in an extremely hot volcanic region.
- The Zora are a race of Fish People who usually live underwater and are associated with the goddess Nayru (water).
- The Kokiri/Koroks are "children of the forest" who are in tune with the land and earth, and are guarded by the Great Deku Tree away in a Hidden Elf Village. They are appropriately associated with the goddess Farore. However, in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the Koroks, and their sage Makar specifically, are associated with wind, being able to fly, and giving Link the Korok Leaf, which lets him glide.
- The Rito are bird people who can fly, and are appropriately associated with wind. However, in their debut game, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker they, and their sage Medli, are associated with earth, living on the volcanic Dragon Roost Island.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: The Gerudo are associated with electricity, which is the dominant elemental association of the monsters living in their desert homeland. Divine Beast Vah Naboris' main mechanic is, like nearly all of the shrines in the Gerudo Desert, based around electrical circuits. The Gerudo champion Urbosa has power over electricity (notably, she is the only champion with elemental powers; Revali can fly but cannot otherwise control air, while Mipha and Daruk do not display any command over their respective elements of water and dire), and the gift she gives to Link upon the liberation of Vah Naboris allows him to call down lightning after a charge attack. The boss of Vah Naboris is Thunderblight Ganon, which also has power over electricity, and the Thunder Helm, a helmet that is a priceless heirloom of the Gerudo people, allows the wearer immunity to lightning.
- Moonrise: Chika Itou is an Ice Queen and, as is tradition, associated with cold, ice, and the color white.
- Pathologic 2: The setting is split between Sky and Earth, which is why it's so fucked up. On one side, there's the Polyhedron, a man-made, physics-defying tower of dreams that was created by driving a foundation spike into the Earth goddess' heart. Around it is the steppe, where various fantastical plants and extinct species live- including the traditionalist Kin tribes who worship Earth and disdain all modern science. And touching both is the Town, which is filled with disease sent by the wounded Earth and political conflict because the two sides are cracking under the strain of coexistence. The only way to heal the Plague is to pick one side: destroy the Polyhedron and let Earth bleed to death, or let the plague kill the town and lessen Earth's burden. The people of whatever element you don't choose are condemned.
- Sonic the Hedgehog:
- In several games' stories and sometimes in his Image Songs, Sonic himself has a strong wind motif because he's free-spirited, independent, and of course likes to go fast. He's even given the title "Knight of the Wind" in Sonic and the Black Knight. Some games go further and give him wind-based powers, which vary wildly in how much control he has, how much he uses it, or if it's really just the force of wind generated by his Super Speed and not its own magic. While others use wind powers in battle (like his sometimes Moveset Clone Shadow and other Speed-type or Flight-type characters in general), they don't get the same associations. Shadow, for instance, is instead more associated with fire or machinery (being a bio-android), and his go-to "elements" when not cloned from Sonic's are Pure Energy and Time.
- Knuckles is sometimes said to embody earth/mountains because of his stubbornness and great strength, contrasting Sonic's carefree nature and incredible speed. Like Sonic, Knuckles sometimes has elemental control over the element he embodies.
- A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky:
- Downplayed with Brooke, a girl who's really focused on water, with blue hair. She helps develop the water features of the town that the player creates, a.k.a. a water show outside the theatre.
- There are blue dog-like enemies called Frostbites that live in the tundra, who don't have any elemental attacks but are otherwise associated with ice.
- Yandere Simulator: Kuudere, a girl whose name means Cool-dere, with icy-blue hair and a cold personality, is obviously associated with ice.
- Sweet Enchantments:
- Zain is often associated with storm clouds and twilight by the heroine's narration, tying in with his dark magic, his color scheme, and his mystery.
- Liora is associated with the night sky and moonlit seas, reflecting her serenity and to an extent, her overall color scheme.
- RWBY: Weiss Schnee has a Snow White Fairytale Motif that has led to her entire family having a snow/ice association. They all have snow-white hair and pale skin and the emblem of their family and company is a snowflake. The family's white colour motif has a secondary colour of blue to create a snow/ice theme that is so associated with them that Weiss's father, who married into the family and originally had black hair, has fully adopted the entire elemental theme as part of his take-over of the family and company. When the main characters are introduced on their first day at school, Jaune takes an immediately liking to Weiss and nicknames her 'Snow Angel'. Others, however, call her 'Ice Queen' for her cool, aloof personality; her older sister, Winter, shares the same nickname for the same reason. Like all Huntsmen and Huntresses, Weiss and Winter can use any type of Dust energy in battle, but they both prefer using Ice Dust, which completes the family's elemental motif.
- Homestuck: In addition to their unconventional Elemental Powers, each of the Beta Kids also has an associated Classical Element not directly related to their powers (except for John, who has wind powers as well as an Air motif).
- Wind is emphasized in the depiction of John's house on Earth, and his Sburb planet is the Land of Wind and Shade.
- Rose must struggle through rain on Earth, and her planet, the Land of Light and Rain, is covered with water.
- Dave's home on Earth is bakingly hot with a blood-red sun, and his planet is covered in lava that he has to deal with, tying him to fire.
- Jade is a gardener living on a volcanic island on Earth, and her planet quest involves reviving a volcano in order to bring her Land to life, associating her with Earth.
- Ménage à 3 and its spinoff Pixie Trix Comix: Maura and Tess are professional wrestlers whose ring personas invoke fire and ice respectively. They are in fact shout outs to the characters of Laura and Cess in the earlier Eerie Cuties, who were supernatural beings with actual Elemental Powers.
- The Cry of Mann: The mysterious and aggressive Frank had a strong connection to water. He would ask callers about lakes, coasts and reefs constantly, but moreso than that, he was drowned by Gergiev as a child and then brought back to life afterward, a story described in detail by Martinez, which describes the very source of his obsession with water.
- Tribe Twelve: Milo is associated by fire in that he was repeatedly being "burned". His birth father died in a housefire started by his mother, his name was mentioned on a burned piece of paper Noah was given, and Noah nearly burned Milo's journal to get the lock open, only to break down in tears:
Noah: I can't do it. I can't do it, Milo. I can't burn you. I can't burn you. Not again. I can't burn you again.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: While there are many people who control the element native to their nation, the majority of their populations do not (Air Nomads are an exception to this, in that they are all so spiritual that everyone is a bender). Despite this, many characters do tend to still be associated with the typical personality traits of their nation. Sokka, for example, demonstrates the Water Tribe's resourcefulness and adaptability (and later gets associated with wolves); Ty Lee has the passion and excitability for fire; Suki has the stubbornness and strength of earth. Each of them also typically wear the colors associated with their nation, like pretty much everyone else in the series.
- Miraculous Ladybug: Episodes ("Glaciator", "Syren",Frozer", "Chat Blanc", the Christmas special) where Adrien has a Heroic BSoD are marked by flooded or icy backgrounds. At one point, his akumatized self expresses anger by plunging someone into an ocean, and said self's eyes turn from their natural green to blue like his girlfriend's.
- Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Jackie has several connections with water such as her sea green eyes, blue hair stripe, sea shell necklace and sea foam green dress in "Bon Bon the Birthday Clown". According to concept art, she was planned to appear in "Hungry Larry" dressed as a mermaid. When she breaks up with Marco, it's on the piers at the seaside.
- Steven Universe: In general, Homeworld's Fantastic Caste System follows these rules: Most Gems are closely connected to some element, with the requisite personalities — for example, the intelligent, calm diplomats and psychics use water and ice-based abilities, while the hotheaded bodyguards and foot soldiers have fire powers.
- Another key example comes from the four members of the Great Diamond Authority, who rule Homeworld:
- Yellow Diamond, the leader of the Homeworld Military, has electric powers, but her legendary temper, bellicose nature, dangerous rages, and philosophy relate to fire.
- Blue Diamond, the head of diplomacy and justice, is the most intelligent, patient, emotional, and dangerously underestimated of the four, connecting her to water. She also wears blue and has the power to spread her grief among other Gems, paralyzing them with tears.
- Youngest "sister" Pink Diamond often "grounded" the other three with her playful personality; that, along with her stubbornness, pride, and plant powers, tie her to the earth. It also helps that she was the shortest Diamond — making her literally closer to earth — and her first colony was Earth. She took on the more positive aspects of the earth element—patience, warmth, and matronly affection toward her followers—when she assumed the mantle of Rose Quartz.
- White Diamond, the oldest and most powerful of the group, is closely connected to a very dangerous version of light-based abilities, but she's also an enormous presence over all of Homeworld, and nothing is done without her approval. She's usually calm and even breezy in her tone, but when she gets angry... you might even say she's the very air the Gems breathe.
- The Crystal Gems of Earth also have this going on. Amethyst (fire) is an impetuous, playful hothead; Garnet (water) exudes a calm, deep, and powerful authority (fittingly, she's a permanent Gem fusion of a Ruby and Sapphire); Steven (earth), like his mother Rose Quartz, is a nurturing, loving soul with a grounded personality; and Pearl (air) is somewhat flighty, usually trembling, and always graceful.
- Another key example comes from the four members of the Great Diamond Authority, who rule Homeworld:
- The Owl House: Though subtle, the more is shown about Emperor Belos true character, the more he is shown to have a wood motif. One of Philip's most prized possessions from childhood was the wooden mask his brother carved for him to play with, becoming the inspiration for his 'Emperor Belos' mask and being prominently featured when the Inner Belos disguises himself as his childhood self. His brother is greatly implied to have been a woodcarver, and what's shown of their fatal argument seems to have taken place in a heavily-wooded forest. They first met a witch from the Boiling Isles in what appears to bee a wooded area. He sustains himself by draining the essence from Palismen, carved wooden creations, and his true name of 'Wittebane' sounds similar to 'whittle bane', as in the act of carving wood into a certain shape. His currently elderly, wrinkled and scarred appearance, combined with the band of 'rot' running across his face, visually evokes the imagery of a dead, but still standing, tree, it's inner decay showing on the surface. This is further evoked by the visual of his Mindscape, the trees that hold his memories being barren and withered◊, similarly rotten but still-upright. As Belos, Philip pretends to nurture and teach the Denizens of the Boiling Isles the 'right' way to use magic, and even managed to reverse-engineer the Glyph magic system well enough to pioneer Magitech from it, but is ultimately only forwarding his own self-serving agenda of destroying them all, seeing it as the 'natural order' of things and is implied to hold a degree of anger towards the inherent magic of the isles for his brother choosing to 'betray' him over it. The stiffness of wood is also called to mind by the sheer inflexibility of his convictions, as he continuously believes that witch-kind and anything magic-related in inherently evil in spite of evidence to the contrary, can barely be moved or persuaded by anyone even if they do something in his name (Lilith, Hunter and Kikimora are examples) and won't even look to Wild Magic for a cure to his condition.
- The Book of Five Rings written by Miyamoto Musashi has its chapters named after the 5 elements in Japanese philosophy (Shinto and Buddhism). The first, Book of Earth, serves as introduction. The second, Book of Water, describes his swordsmanship style, "Niten Ichi-ryu" (Two Heavens, One Style). The third, Book of Fire, describes the heat of battle and what one should do in different situations. The fourth, Book of Wind, describes the flaws of the contemporary sword styles. The last, Book of the Void, discusses his Zen-influenced thoughts and mindset.