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Embodiment of Virtue

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Hope, Charity, and Faith, the Three Theological Virtues

In some works of fiction, virtue is a central theme. Virtues usually constitute parts of a system, where the individual virtues are regarded as aspects of goodness, and no virtue alone is enough to form a good character. While they complement each other, they may also come into conflict with each other, leading to moral conundrums.

In fictional works dealing with virtue, the author often chooses to assign each virtue in the system to a different character, allowing said characters to allegorically represent their respective virtues through the natural leanings of their personalities. For example, a naturally empathic and compassionate character may be (explicitly or implicitly) assigned the virtue of Compassion to represent, while another may be assigned the virtue of Loyalty on account of his or her personalities' natural affinity for this virtue.

Sometimes this trope is applied to entities other than characters in works of fiction, such as organizations or even inanimate objects. In the latter case the representation has nothing to do with the personality of the assignee, for obvious reasons, but is rather more arbitrarily symbolic. For this reason this is not a strict subtrope of Allegorical Character.

In the specific case of literal personification of a moral ideal in the form of a character, we are speaking about an Anthropomorphic Personification.

The inversion of this trope is Embodiment of Vice. One notable difference between the two tropes is that in the case of characters, the people involved usually are aware of their virtues, and strive to actively cultivate them. Characters that personify vices are usually either unaware of them or somehow unable to overcome them. For example, characters that actively strive to be honorable and courageous are extremely commonplace in fiction, but how many characters have you encountered that strive to be as greedy as possible, for the sake of greed in and of itself? (well, it does happen occasionally). Vice is nearly always motivated by something other than the desire to be vicious, unlike virtue. In the (at least in real life) rare cases where this is not the case, we are dealing with a villain who does evil simply For the Evulz. Compare the Seven Heavenly Virtues.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Karakuridouji Ultimo, there are fifty Douji representing positive traits. Ultimo and the Six Perfects of Buddhism are the strongest of them, fighting against the Douji based on negative traits (including the Seven Deadly Sins).
  • The Chosen Children/Digidestined from Digimon Adventure each represent a virtue through their Crests, which allows their Digimon to reach greater strengths. Tai has Courage, Matt has Friendship, Izzy has Knowledge, Sora has Love, Joe has Sincerity (original)/Reliability (dub), Mimi has Purity (original)/Sincerity (dub), TK has Hope and Kari has Light. The second season adds a last one in the form of Kindness, but this was mainly just to rub salt in the Big Bad's wounds right before his Heel–Face Turn.
  • The three leaves of the clover in Black Clover each represent one of the classic theological virtues, and each of the three main characters is embodying one. Asta is Hope, being the Determinator, Noelle is Love because of her All-Loving Hero tendencies and Yuno is Faith both for his status as The Chosen One and due to the complete trust he has in Asta, despite the latter's circumstances.


    Comic Books 
  • In several Elseworld tales and other more compressed and self contained stories DC Comics' big name heroes are used to represent certain virtues, most commonly Superman as hope and/or peace, Wonder Woman as truth and/or love, and Batman as justice.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): When Athena resurrected Diana she could not bring her champion back as a human, and so pulling on Diana's ties to the truth made her into the Goddess of Truth, and therefore avatar of the truth, on Mount Olympus.

    Fan Works 
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: Like their predecessors, each of the six represents a social virtue.
    • Page Turner is the Element of Kindness, who acts as the moral guidance to the others.
    • Vix-Lei is the Element of Laughter, who keeps the others' spirits up even when things seem bad. However, she also needs to know when to be serious so her comrades know they can always count on her and not dismiss her for being useless or insensitive.
    • Wind Breaker is the Element of Honesty, who keeps the others honest by staying honest themselves.
    • Rex is the Element of Generosity, who understands others and inspires them with his selflessness.
    • Night Blade is the Element of Loyalty, who defends and protects the others even at cost to themselves.
    • Xvital is the Element of Magic, who is the balance that acts as a bridge between the other five.
  • Each of the Heralds of Dawn from Re:Flection Scenario represents a cardinal virtue. As with their theme of "too much of a good thing," the virtues are portrayed as corrupted:
    • Norius is Justice. He may be a Knight Templar planning to kick off the apocalypse Soiled City on a Hill style, but he gives the heroes a sporting chance to stop him. Like everything else about him, Norius' virtue is hollow; By his Villainous Breakdown, righteousness and belief in justice are exposed for self-righteousness and mad for revenge.
    • Souzi is Courage. If there's one thing Souzi is not, it's a coward. Fittingly, he's killed in a battle he really should have run from.
    • Easen is Wisdom. He's a Teen Genius who calculates his opponent's weakness, but he looks down on his peers as lesser minds. He won't even talk to anyone unless it's completely necessary.
    • Weselo is Temperance. He doesn't moderate his activities, given his level of Sloth, but he does moderate his ideologies. Weselo thinks for himself, never fully embracing one single philosophy, resulting in a timely Heel–Face Turn.
  • In The Weaver Option after Taylor seizes a Baal Ruby from Ka'Bandha she becomes a Living Saint, inheriting the aspect of Sacrifice from Sanguinus and the Emperor. She also later develops an aspect of Truth.

  • In Quest for Camelot, the introduction to Camelot itself is accompanied by a chorus of all of the Knights of the Round Table singing about unity of purpose. They go on to take their places at the table, each lifting their shield to honor their king, and then lowering it as they declare the virtue they most embody. There are far more than seven knights at the table, and not all of them get the chance to name their virtue, but "liberty", "justice", "trust", "freedom", "peace", "honor", "goodness", "strength", and "valor" are listed. Note that the main character's father laid down his shield on "valor", and the villain laid his down with a shout of "ME!".

  • Harry Potter: The four houses of Hogwarts Academy of Witchcraft and Wizardry represent and base their student selection on moral qualities.
    • Gryffindor represents courage and chivalry, the knightly virtues. Weaknesses include brashness, overconfidence, and pride.
    • Ravenclaw represents wisdom, knowledge, and honesty. Weaknesses include arrogance and aloofness.
    • Hufflepuff represents humility, loyalty, and diligence. No clear moral weaknesses seem to accompany these traits, yet Hufflepuff is the house which is most frequently looked down on in disdain by the others. A commentary on how humility can be misinterpreted as weakness or passivity?
    • Slytherin represents ambition, personal as well as collective. As a trait of utility rather than morality, it can sometimes overshadow traditional moral values, which is why most "evil wizards/witches" in the world come from this house. Yet its relevance as a positive trait cannot be denied. Where would the others be without it?
    • According to Pottermore, the American Wizarding School Ilvermorny also has 4 houses that represents virtues
      • Horned Serpent represents the mind of a witch or wizard. It is also said that Horned Serpent favors scholars.
      • Wampus represents the body of a witch or wizard. It is also said that Wampus favors warriors.
      • Thunderbird represents the soul of a witch or wizard. It is also said that Thunderbird favors adventurers.
      • Pukwudgie represents the heart of a witch or wizard. It is also said that Pukwudgie favors healers.
  • In The Dresden Files there are three holy Swords wielded by three paladins. Each Sword has in its hilt one of the Nails that pierced Jesus Christ to the Cross. What is interesting is while the swords represent are Christian virtues, one need not be a Christian to properly wield the sword.
    • Amoracchius is the Sword of Love, also called Excalibur. Its wielder tend to be people who have great amounts of love in their life, whether a loving husband and father of many children, who will halt his final attack to give an evil person a chance to redeem himself, or a mother who is protecting her child.
    • Fidelacchius is the Sword of Faith also called Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi. Its wielders are people who have a deep faith. Not necessarily in the True God, but in good overcoming evil and one person can make a difference. It has been wielded by a Japanese baptist, a police officer with a deep faith in the right and justice of the law, and one geek who was able to reforge the broken blade into the representation of his faith in the ideals Star Wars preaches: a lightsaber.
    • Esperacchius is the Sword of Hope, also called Durendal. The wielders are people who don't give up on hope. They believe an evil person can repent, that good will come back even in the bleakness of the time. The current wielder is completely agnostic to God's existence, despite having received his blade from an Archangel, and is a reformed villain himself, now seeking to atone for his actions by doing what he can.
  • Every character introduced in Canto XI of the The Faerie Queene's first book is a personification of some virtue.
    • Fidelia is seen teaching Redcrosse the Bible to represent one learning about God through their faith.
    • Speranza gives him an anchor to hold him steady to represent hope keeping you from being moved by evil
    • Charissa entertains Redcrosse as he learns the ways of goodness and introduces him to Lady Mercie, representing both how love can bring joy and teach us to be kind to others.
    • In the hospital, seven men are seen in service of God, each one representing one of the seven beatitudes from The Four Gospels.
  • Nansō Satomi Hakkenden: Each of the Eight Canine Swordsmen was born with a crystal orb marked with one of the eight Confucian virtues, transformed from one of the beads on their mother Princess Fuse's necklace.
  • In The Keys to the Kingdom, each of the seven parts of the Will represents one of the Seven Heavenly Virtues.
  • In Thief of Time, Wen the Eternally Surprised claims Susan Sto Helit is "helpfulness personified". Reluctant Hero Susan is less than happy about this.

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Exalted, the Unconquered Sun is this. Specifically, the embodiment of Compassion, Conviction, Temperance and Valor, each giving him immense power. This isn't always a good thing, since sometimes there is a contradiction between two or more virtues, which means that he has to choose which virtue to follow. Ignoring his virtues weakens him, meaning he sometimes ends up in situations that he suffers no matter what he does.
    • Exalted's Big Bad, the Ebon Dragon (then the Dragon's Shadow) created the Unconquered Sun since as the Cosmic Principle of Villainy, he needed someone to actually be evil to.

    Video Games 
  • In Bayonetta, personifications of the four cardinal virtues are used as antagonists. They represent Courage, Temperance, Justice, and Prudence. Their actual behavior is opposite to their respective virtue: Fortitudo (Courage) prefers to avoid confrontation and only fights Bayonetta after she follows and shoots at him twice, Temperantia (Temperance) has anger issues and exchanges rather suggestive dialogue with her, Iustitia (Justice) attacks without warning and doesn't care about plowing through the innocent child and mortal man nearby to get to her, and Sapientia (Prudence) acts like a boastful, bigoted arsehole.
  • In the Insanity Edition of The Consuming Shadow, pairs the investigators, the player characters, with a virtue:
    • The Scholar: Wisdom
    • The Ministry Man: Cunning
    • The Warrior: Skill
    • The Wizared: Magic
  • In Daemon Bride, each of the Angel side Brides represents one of the seven virtues. Michael represents Righteousness, Uriel represents Courage, Rafael represents Wisdom, Gabriel represents Love, Zadkiel represents Loyalty / Faith, Metatron represents Fidelity / Chastity, and Haniel represents Prudence.
  • Final Fantasy XI contains seven bosses (as a group named Jailers of the Sea or Jailers of Virtue) named after virtues. In order of kill, they are Jailer of: Temperance, Fortitude, Faith, Justice, Hope, Prudence, and Love.
  • Ōkami: The Satomi Canine Warriors. Each of them represents the Confucian virtues : Brotherhood, Faith, Knowledge, Honor, Wisdom, Duty, Loyalty, and Justice
  • Ultima IV: The main protagonist's companions, each one representing one of the Sacred Virtues of Avatarhood:
    • Mariah the mage represents Honesty
    • Iolo the bard represents Compassion
    • Geoffrey the fighter represents Valor
    • Jaana the druid represents Justice
    • Julia the tinker represents Sacrifice
    • Dupré the paladin represents Honor
    • Shamino the ranger represents Spirituality
    • Katrina the shepherd represents Humility
  • In the Diablo series, the leaders of the Angels represent different virtues.
    • Auriel is Hope
    • Malthael is Wisdom(Though he later renounces that virtue to become the Angel of Death)
    • Ithereal is Fate
    • Imperius is Valor
    • Tyrael unsurprisingly is Justice. In Diablo III, Tyrael's commitment to his virtue is so powerful that he renounces his position and powers to become mortal rather than abide by his fellow Angels' decision to abandon humanity to the demons. At the end of the game, Tyrael takes up the position of Wisdom instead, having gained some during his journey, confident that mortals can handle Justice just fine on their own.
    • The Seven Evils embody evil virtues.
      • Andariel is Anguish
      • Azmodan is Sin
      • Belial is Lies
      • Duriel is Pain
      • Mephisto is Hate
      • Baal is Destruction
      • Diablo is Terror.
  • In Persona 5, Morgana is literately made of humanity's hope. This becomes important as the restoration of humanity's hope is ultimately the start of the demise of the Big Bad.
  • Bearers of the Triforce in The Legend of Zelda are this. Specifically Link represents Courage, Zelda represents Wisdom, and Ganondorf/Ganon represents Power.
  • Each of the combatants in Brutal: Paws of Fury is said in their profile to embody one of the Noble Eightfold Path. Since there's more than eight fighters, they made new edicts for the original game's bosses and Updated Re-release Brutal: Above the Claw's new characters.
    • Kung-Fu Bunny is right understanding.
    • Prince Leon is right effort.
    • Tai Cheetah is right mindfulness.
    • Rhei Rat is right speech.
    • Pantha is right meditation.
    • Kendo Coyote is right resolve.
    • Foxy Roxy is right livelihood.
    • Ivan the Bear is right action.
    • Karate Croc is right respect.
    • Dali Llama is right perfection.
    • Psycho Kitty is right love.
    • Chung Poe is right power.

    Visual Novels 
  • Each of the main characters of Steam Prison is associated with one of the Cardinal Virtues as their "character theme" in their official profile. Notably, their respective virtues are not portrayed as being solely positive traits, and the various story branches focusing on each particular character tend to highlight the negative aspects of practicing a given virtue as well as the positive.
    • Cyrus Tistella, the heroine - Justice.
    • Eltcreed Valentine - Charity.
    • Ulrik Ferrie - Prudence.
    • Adage - Temperance.
    • Ines Heinrich Heine - Fortitude.
    • Yune Sekiei - Hope.
    • Fin Euclase - Faith.

  • Sins has personifications of the Seven Heavenly Virtues as some of the characters. In a subversion, they tend to suffer their virtues rather than embody them, and most are bitter about it (when not outright morally questionable).

    Web Originals 

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin: The Crystals have the power to reveal a key trait of a person, so when the heroes first find them, the Crystals show what virtues the heroes embody: Gimmick has Imagination, Grubby has Honesty, Prince Arin has Bravery, Princess Aruzia has Trust, Teddy has Friendship, and the sixth Crystal reveals a more unifying trait of Freedom for the group.
  • The titular protagonist of Hey Arnold! demonstrates three virtues:
    • Kindness. Arnold's kindness and generosity is extended to every citizen of Hillwood, adult or child, friend or foe. Even if his kindness is not reciprocated, it's very rare for Arnold to retaliate without patience.
    • Patience. Arnold is always willing to help people in need, no matter how long it takes, how much work he has to put in, how irritating the person is, or if the situation is resolved in the exact way he'd like it to. This virtue extends to his participation in sports where he'll insist on finishing a game even if the odds are stacked against him.
    • Charity. As mentioned above, Arnold is a giver. As long as he's capable of doing so, Arnold has no problem helping people resolve their issues.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: The "Mane Six", where one pony each represents one of the "Elements of Harmony": Fluttershy (Kindness), Rainbow Dash (Loyalty), Rarity (Generosity), Applejack (Honesty), Pinkie Pie (Laughter), and Twilight Sparkle (Friendship, which in the local lore happens to also be the Element of Magic).
    • The Equestria Girls-only character, Sunset Shimmer, represents Forgiveness/Empathy as a 7th Element.
    • In the past there were Precursor Heroes, known as The Pillars of Equestria, that followed a similar pattern and were in fact the ones who planted the literal seed that would manifest the Elements of Harmony themselves: Mage Meadowbrook (Healing), Flash Magnus (Bravery), Mistmane (Beauty), Rockhoof (Strength), Somnambula (Hope), and Star Swirl (Sorcery).
  • Schoolhouse Rock!: In the song "Three is a Magic Number", Faith, Hope, and Charity appear in the form of three women.

Alternative Title(s): Embodiments Of Virtue