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Enigmatic Empowering Entity

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"The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. That is why I am your king!"

Whether their gift to the hero is a Protective Charm, a MacGuffin, a fancy title, or something else, the Enigmatic Empowering Entity is the mysterious being behind their power and glory.

There is a saying that "Behind every great man there's a great woman," and this trope often follows this theme: the receiver tends to be a man, usually a mortal muggle, while the Enigmatic Empowering Entity tends to be female — often a divine/supernatural female of mysterious origin and identity.

One of her most common incarnations is The Lady of the Lake, originally from the Arthurian Legend — thus making this Public Domain Character an Internal Subtrope of this trope. Characters such as the Fairy Godmother, Santa Claus, and even God sometimes also fill this role. A person empowered this way may be Touched by Vorlons. A Captured Super-Entity is if this wasn't consensual on the entity's part. It's Bequeathed Power if they die soon afterwards.

In The Hero's Journey, an Entity often shows up as the one providing Supernatural Aid. In completely different kinds of stories, however, it might turn out that The Presents Were Never from Santa. If the Entity is God Himself, it's a type of Divine Intervention. See also The Chooser of the One and The Idol's Blessing. May also be a Mysterious Backer.

Examples of the Lady of the Lake:

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    Comic Books 
  • In the early 2000s, Aquaman underwent yet another retooling, which involved him being named "The Waterbearer" by the Lady of the Lake herself. Rather than a magic sword, he was given a magic hand made of water.
  • In Camelot 3000, the comic ends with her giving Excalibur to some alien who is obviously intended to be the next champion in the struggle against evil (and who may or may not be an reincarnation of King Arthur, considering that the protagonists was reincarnations of the king and his knights).
  • In Captain Britain, Lady Roma, the daughter of Merlyn, takes a role similar to the Lady of the Lake when she bestows the power of Captain Britain to Brian Braddock. Merlyn himself often plays the same role, empowering an evil version of Brian, called Albion, over Roma's concern for no other reason than "felt like it".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Invoked in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. King Arthur plays the Arthurian legend straight; claiming his kingship was bestowed upon him by the Lady of the Lake, whose arm rose through the waters bestow upon him the sword Excalibur. Unfortunately, it didn't work as planned and it gets deconstructed by the anarcho-syndicalist peasant he's trying to convince owes fealty to him. All together now:
    Dennis: Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government! Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony! [...] Well, you can't expect to wield supreme power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you! [...] I mean, if I went around saying I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away!

  • In The Mists of Avalon, The Lady of the Lake is the title used by the Matriarch of Avalon, a Machiavellian politician who supports King Arthur because she believes that it will save her people... much to the sorrow of our poor protagonist, Morgana Le Fay.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Lady of the Lake appears in Merlin (2008) as Freya, a young Druid girl who dies in the same episode she first appears, only to return as a spirit the following season and deliver Excalibur into Merlin's hands.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In several versions of The Holy Grail, the Lady of the Lake acted on God's behalf when she gave King Arthur Excalibur and the right to rule over all Britons. However, in most, it was the mysterious Sword in the Stone — which is not Excalibur — that announced he was the rightful king of Britain. Excalibur was just a sword.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer: The Bretonnians borrow heavily from Arthurian legend, alongside pretty much every other source of medieval chivalric archetypes going. As such their chief deity is the Lady of the Lake, whose favour they often pray for before battle (and it actually works, protecting them from ignoble enemy missile fire!) and whose magic Grail is the object of frequent Grail Quests for knights seeking the highest ranks of knighthood. The Lady's chief priestess is the mysterious sorceress Morgiana the Fey, who may or may not be a Wood Elf masquerading for her own people's benefit.

  • In Spamalot, the Lady Of The Lake is one of the main characters of the musical. She is also a Cher impersonator.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • In Gargoyles, the Lady of the Lake appears in Central Park and helps King Arthur regain Excalibur.
  • In Mike Tyson Mysteries, a fisherman uses the magic of Excalibur to cheat in a bass catching contest, and after being mortally wounded by Mike Tyson he asks his rival to return Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake before being taken to Avalon like King Arthur himself.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Excaliferb!", Ferb takes on the heroic knight role, and his Precocious Crush Vanessa becomes the Lady of the... Puddle. When asked about the name, she reveals that her mom is the Lady of the Lake and is handing out quests to adult knights nearby.
    Charlene: Hey, kids, you're getting a little quest of your own! Oh, that's so nice.

Examples of other Enigmatic Empowering Entities:

    Anime & Manga 
  • Yoruichi from Bleach, due to her training of Orihime and Chad.
  • C.C. from Code Geass gives The Protagonist the eponymous Geass power. With the show's running theme of Arthurian myth and legend, she can easily be seen as a stand-in for the Lady of the Lake. In fact, a popular Epileptic Tree suggested that she was the Lady, until it was Jossed in the second season.
  • In Future Card Buddyfight, the Gargantua Punisher card is unique in-universe and taking it puts one in contact with a mysterious entity that only appears as a pair of draconic eyes in a starfield. This entity is The Chooser of the One for Tasuku and with one exception, only appears when one picks up that particular card. Its identity is never revealed, but it's clearly not Gargantua Dragon, the fifth season's mascot, despite it being his sword.
  • Kyubey from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Extra emphasis on "enigmatic", since there's a lot about being a Magical Girl that he doesn't tell those who make contracts with him.
  • The mysterious demonic being called The Door in Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, who first connected Yuma to Astral and later gave them both the knowledge of the Numerion Code. It told Yuma that "Whoever opens this door will obtain a new power, but in exchange will lose what they appreciate the most," and Yuma accepted this condition. It is only at the end of the series after the villain is defeated that Yuma learns what the cost is. He at first thinks that the cost will be losing his friendship with Shark but he manages to avoid it. After this he duels with Astral and learns that he had already paid the price by losing his ability to enjoy dueling. He regains his enjoyment of dueling and defeats Astral by destroying the Door of Destiny, at the cost of saying goodbye to Astral.

    Comic Books 
  • The wizard Shazam has a similar role in the Golden-Age Captain Marvel.
  • The 'red goddess' Scáthach who grants Red Sonja her fighting skills in the Marvel Comics version of her origin.
  • This is a common trope in the Myth Arc of CrossGen; however, their role has some variance.
  • A relaunch of Genął written by Chris Claremont involved a being called "Herod" empowering teenagers around the world and letting them run free before later on hunting them down "at the appointed time" in order to "judge" them. The series was canceled and given a Retcon before it could give the reason why it did this.
  • In Star-Lord's first appearances in Marvel Preview, the title of Star-Lord is a job, given by the Master of the Sun. Years later, after he'd renounced the title, Quill notes he has no idea what a Star-Lord was actually supposed to do. Then it was retconned that the Master of the Sun never existed... then Guardians of the Galaxy (2020) comes along, suggesting the Master is real, and might be an Anthropomorphic Personification of galaxies. And that something is very determined to convince everyone (including the readers) he doesn't exist.
  • Nexus originally received his super-powers from Drizripool the Merk, though it was years before they met face to face, and they never got along well (Drizripool being insane, after all). He has a better relationship with Drizripool's successor, GQ.
  • The Wicked + The Divine: Ananke serves this role to the pantheon, seeking them out and awakening them as reincarnated gods. Now, as to whether she's actually helping them is an entirely different story...

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm has the Phoenix (specifically Lily Potter after merging with the Phoenix to become the White Phoenix of the Crown) serve as this to Harry until chapter 70 provides an Internal Reveal of what she is — then chapter 78 provides another one of who she is and just why she's doing it. Partly. There are implied to be two motives in play: first, Lily's desire to protect her son, and second, the Phoenix's motive for empowering him, which is implied to be part of a scheme cooked up by her and Doctor Strange to prepare him to face down Thanos — and take down Surtur, in the process, against whom the Phoenix has a very big grudge.
    • Doctor Strange plays this role frequently, though usually with information. In a more direct sense, he gives Carol the Green Lantern Ring in chapter 75 and neglects to mention what it really is.
  • In Slightly Damned: Wind of Redemption and Rebirth, the Master is this to the many Rebirths he creates.
  • Played with in With Strings Attached. A mysterious priestess gives George his powerful shapeshifting ring after he does a minor favor for her, but it's clear to the reader that the Fans manipulated her into this role.
    • The Fans themselves both avert this trope and play it straight. They play it straight from the viewpoint of the four, who always see them as Enigmatic Empowering Entities (though they get a bit chummy with them at the end), and avert it because the reader always knows they're just a trio of alien college undergraduates, and everything they do is made very clear in the story.

    Films — Animation 
  • Cinderella: In Disney's version, the Fairy Godmother fills this role.
  • Pinocchio: In Disney's version, the Blue Fairy fills this role.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Red Sonja: Sonja encounters one of these (who might be a Goddess, it's never clarified) right after she got raped. The encounter gives her courage to fight the evil hordes.
  • In The Wizard of Oz (film version only), the wizard ends up in this role. He gives everyone symbolic gifts that are exactly what they need. And symbolic gifts are perfectly valid, since it's All Just a Dream. (This is why it doesn't work in the book version, where Oz is a real place.)

  • In the Book of Exodus, this role is fulfilled by God as he shows himself to Moses in a burning bush.
  • Pandora serves as this for all the god-slayers in Campione!. She, her husband Epimetheus, and his brother Prometheus were the ones that enacted the ritual that allows a mortal to steal a measure of god's power by killing them, but she's the one that appears to the Campione when they first gain those powers. Or at least to Godou.
  • Common to all versions of "Cinderella". Where the Perrault and Disney version have a Fairy Godmother, other versions include a magical tree, the bones of a fish, a talking bird — which always connect somehow to the spirit of the girl's departed mother. Some versions, such as in Mexico, have the actual Blessed Virgin Mary herself act as the Fairy Godmother. This entity is often very cruel to Cinderella's tormenters — in The Brothers Grimm, her friendly birds peck out the eyes of her sisters in retaliation. Ouch.
  • Sephrenia, in The Elenium trilogy by David Eddings, turns out to be one of these. A side story (presented as a prologue to one of the three novels) gives the entwined history of the royal house of Elenia and the house of Sparhawk. Both the Elenian monarch and the current generation of Sparhawk wear a special diamond ring, which this story reveals was given to their ancestors by Sephrenia, who most likely was acting on the orders of the delightfully meddlesome Child-Goddess Aphrael. Notably, this revelation is provided for the reader only, not to the characters.
  • The alien godlike being "Old One" in A Fire Upon the Deep is even weirder: the final "messages" aren't conscious thoughts, just subconscious instructions describing how to stop Old One's murderer.
  • In Harry Potter, Albus Dumbledore and other living characters sometimes fill a bit of this role for Harry. However, they are all overshadowed by the one who truly gave Harry special powers (beyond being a wizard) and made him The Chosen One... his mother, Lily Potter. Much of his powers also come from a part of Voldemort's soul trapped inside him, but that's a direct result of Lily's sacrifice.
    • Inverted with the legend of The Silver Princess and The Blue Knight. While the central duo strongly echo the Lady of the Lake and King Arthur respectively, it's the Blue Knight who is the enigmatic one, a Knight in Shining Armor of unknown background who assists the Forthorthian royal family, receives special authority to wield the princess's Excalibur-like sword of kingship, and then disappears when no longer needed. After the first arc (where the legend features in the form of a play), a Wham Episode reveals what actually happened all those millennia ago, and the truth of the Blue Knight's origins becomes central to the story.
    • Played Straight with Nalfalaren, "The Rainbow Before the Dawn", an omniscient goddess of Light, Creation and Camaraderie... who might as well be the goddess of Arc Welding for all the characters from seemingly unrelated worlds who turn out to be somehow connected to her or worship her under another name (with the Silver Princess in particular being described as her avatar). Koutarou stumbling across a buried temple to the goddess is the Inciting Incident which turns his apartment into a Weirdness Magnet and kicks off the plot. Eventually she provides the cast with a Mid-Season Upgrade when they assist in reforging the Blue Knight's broken sword (which embodied her "White" aspect as a granter of wishes) into a new one which shines in every colour of the rainbow.
  • The aptly-named Mentor from the Lensman series provides all of the Lensmen with their lenses, and later provides additional empowerment to a select few.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter trilogy, Miranda's Lady.
  • The Witch of Envy from Re:Zero gives Subaru his Return by Death, the single most enigmatic ability in the series as well as the most powerful, as it allows the main character to keep trying after his deaths in a world of demigods.
  • In The Saga of Darren Shan, Mr. Des Tiny gave the vampires the impenetrable Hall of Princes, and the Stone of Blood, capable of mind-linking with any vampire. He also gave the enemy clan, the vampaneze, a Coffin of Fire — if a human lays down in it, that human will be burnt to death, unless that human is their destined leader, the Lord of the Vampaneze. A Lord is found, and the second half of the series has the main characters leading the vampires in a war against him. However, the ending reveals that both Darren and the Vampaneze Lord were created for this purpose, fathered by Mr. Tiny to fight this war for their father's twisted entertainment, and to take the whole world down with them. The Coffin of Fire could have been set to look for whatever Tiny told it to. It's understood by the end that he doesn't really have the authority to dictate those things, and if any of those Proud Warrior Race Guy vampires weren't so scared of disobeying the prophecy, all of this could have been avoided.
  • Tanavast serves this way for Heralds and Radiants in The Stormlight Archive. He provided the Heralds with their Honorblades and first Surges, and other spren followed his example and started to bond Knights Radiant, granting them Blades and Surges based on the Heralds'.
  • Valis: A rather weird example. In Philip K. Dick's novel, an alien godlike being takes over the hero's mind and transmits to him messianic messages. Sadly, one of them wasn't, "Stop doing all that speed, Dick!"

    Live-Action TV 
  • Kamen Rider Gaim: DJ Sagara, whose true motives are kept a secret until very late in the series, is one to Kouta, giving him five of his most powerful Lockseeds (Lemon Energy, Tuliphopper, Kachidoki, Dandeliner and Kiwami), plus the equipment to use one of them (a Genesis Core to let him use Energy Lockseeds with his Sengoku Driver).

    Video Games 
  • Well written questgivers in computer RPGs and MMORPGs often fill this role: Their purpose is to give the character some MacGuffin or similar, but they have a good in-universe reason to do so.
  • Control
    • Jesse gains access to the Service Weapon from the Board, a strange entity that looks like an upside-down pyramid and speaks in radio noise that somehow becomes understandable in the listener's mind. Whenever a potential Director picks up the Service Weapon, they put it to their head — either willingly or under compulsion — and the Board transports them into the Astral Plane for tests. You succeed? Welcome, Director, here's your Morph Weapon. You fail? The Board fires you... literally.
    • Jesse also has another Enigmatic Empowering Entity inside her head in the form of Polaris, who is the the main reason Jesse is so powerful compared to previous Directors. For example, the second most powerful Director was Northmoor, whose power level was comparable to a nuclear reactor (which is why he is currently being used as a literal one). With that power, he was able to telekinetically throw a bowling ball six feet, which was considered an amazing achievement. Meanwhile, Jesse is able to throw objects of similar weight dozens of feet even without any upgrades to her telekinesis, and can hold three things at once and pick up large objects such as forklifts when upgraded all the way. She's also able to use the Control Points for fast travel, which is something nobody else has been able to do before. When Hedron, Polaris's physical body, dies, Jesse loses all her powers until she awakens the remnants of Polaris still living inside her head.
  • Destiny has two: the Traveler, which uplifts and empowers entire species with its reality-bending Light, and the Darkness, which mostly prefers to destroy entire species, but indirectly empowered the Hive a few million years ago in order to assist it in that purpose.
  • The God of Time and Space in Devil May Cry appears again and again throughout the series in the form of the Divinity Statues. Why it does what it does is unknown; very little about it is known at all. What is known is that by offering the blood of demons to it, one can gain incredible power. They act as a Dungeon Shop, where you give up crystallized demon blood (in the form of Red Orbs) and receive skills and items.
  • The Dishonored series has an entity that may be some manner of Eldritch Abomination known as "The Outsider". This entity often empowers certain individuals just to see what they do with the power. That he is seen as an agent of chaos because of the mayhem that often erupts from such empowered individuals is probably more telling of humans than of the Outsider.
  • This is what ultimately composes Cosmos' Thanatos Gambit in Dissidia Final Fantasy: by siphoning out what remained of her power into the crystals that her warriors had been collecting for their Destiny Odyssey storylines, she weakened herself enough for Chaos to take her down, but empowered her warriors enough to defeat him, too, and finally break the cycle. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work.
  • Sothis, the young girl living in Byleth's head in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, is this. On their own, Byleth is a talented mercenary with an above-average talent for leadership. Sothis bestows them with the Divine Pulse, enabling them to rewind time to an unlimited degree on the battlefield, and later fuses her soul with Byleth's, granting further divine power, as she is the goddess of the Church of Seiros.
  • In Granblue Fantasy, the primal beast Celeste has the power to prevent death from occurring. On some occasions, it grants individuals Complete Immortality with all the benefits of eternal youth, perfect health and a variety of abilities relating to the realm of the dead. The "enigmatic" part comes from the fact that almost nothing is known about why Celeste does this and how it chooses who gets to be immortal.
  • .hack: Do you know why Kite, a level 1 noob, gets to become The Hero? Because Aura gave him a Bracelet that gives him hax powers. To be fair, the real Chosen One Missed the Call, and he had to pick up the slack.
  • Halo:
    • Dr. Halsey could technically count, as she was the one who started the SPARTAN-II project, making the test subjects Super Soldiers, though most did not survive the process. It is also unique in that the way she gives you "powers" is done mostly through drugs and machines rather then magic.
    • A more straightforward Sufficiently Advanced Alien example is the Librarian, a Forerunner whose long-term plans for humanity's ascension are still ongoing despite her having died 100,000 years ago; among other things, she put inheritable genetic instructions into prehistoric humanity, with her machinations being partly responsible for the very existence of the Master Chief and Cortana. In Halo 4, one of her "essences" gives Chief immunity to the Composer, while another gives Dr. Halsey the Janus Key (which contains the real-time location of all Forerunner tech in the galaxy).
  • The Water Dragon from Jade Empire is a good example of this. She frequently gives the player character new powers, but is doing so so that the PC can help her in return.
  • In several The Legend of Zelda games, beginning with A Link to the Past, fairy queens in aquatic temples upgrade Link's equipment and magic abilities.
    • Arguably, the original The Legend of Zelda game contains a trio of male embodiments of this trope — the three old men who provide Link with his swords.
  • Kuryuu Tokio in LINK. If it wasn't for Amagi Saika giving him the black device, he won't be The Hero in it.
  • Izanami acts as this in Persona 4. The twist is, you're not the only one to get this special treatment, and you might not even realize it unless you take a certain path. It was part of her labyrinthine social experiment in which she gave powers to both you and Tohru Adachi, to test human wishes.
  • The Bees of The Secret World, who imbue the players with magical powers at the start of the game by symbiotically bonding with them. For good measure, players at first have no idea why they've been chosen or what they're expected to do with their new powers, though it's eventually revealed that the Bees are actually biomechanical Magitek creations of Gaia, the Immaculate Machine, and Bee-imbued operatives are meant to serve as the magical equivalent of white blood cells. Plus, once you've gotten into the habit of collecting the lore entries they transmit, the Bees end up revealing a lot more than the player's employers among the Big Three.
  • Lucifer joins in the act as this in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. He implants the Demi-Fiend to be with the demonic parasite to induce the transformation and pops up at his leisure to either give cryptic hints, invite the boy over for a chat at the Labyrinth, and make some offers...
  • Starbound: The Cultivator, a godlike being, created the six artifacts that form the key to the Ark, and gifted them to the player races in the event that the Ark needed to be opened again... and also to unite the races under a single cause. Also, after the death of the Ruin, it sacrifices its remaining energy to bring the Protector back to life.
  • Jonathan's sire in Vampyr (2018) turns out to be none other than Merlin (or Myrddin Wilt, one of the many names he was known for and the one he goes by in the game) who, instead of an wizard, is a mysterious vampire entity that over the centuries has raised immortal heroes to protect Britain from the Red Queen's wrath. His gift makes him stronger and more powerful than the oldest and most feared vampires, and Jonathan is just the most recent in a long line of vampire champions which includes King Arthur (though his premature death led to the Red Queen's victory and Britain suffering for years to come).

    Web Animation 
  • This trope goes through a Double Subversion in the first episode of Doraleus and Associates. The being called "The Lady of the Lake" is obviously supposed to be a Enigmatic Empowering Entity, guarding the Zephyr Blade in waiting for The Chosen One to wield.
    • However, she turns out to instead be be a case of The Presents Were Never from Santa, handing out increasingly random things like a tiny dagger, a biscuit and a branch, and asked Doraleus to use them to fight an incredibly deadly beast hidden in the darkness, until Doraleus got fed up and left.
    • Later on, it turns out that while she's clearly insane, the branch really was the Zephyr Blade!

  • In the Sluggy Freelance filler story "Stick-Figure Tales of Cotton", both Captain Hippity and Science Guy were empowered and given the start with their superhero careers by a group of mysterious aliens. The villain in the story wanted to oppose the aliens, having figured out that they were actually the disguised hand of the author of the comic himself, messing with continuity in order to create the filler strips to take a break from the main comic.
  • In a subversion, the Guardians from Tower of God. Usually, they form contracts with the residents of the Tower that allow them to use Shinsu, which is theoretically limitless. However, it also binds them to certain rules that are more like laws of nature, for instance not being able to kill the King of the Tower. The subversion comes with Bam, who also makes contracts with the Guardians, but is a person who does not need need contracts to manipulate Shinsu nor is he bound to the laws of the Tower.

    Western Animation 
  • In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983), the power of Castle Greyskull is guarded by an enigmatic woman called the Sorceress. In most continuities, she is the one who give He-Man the magic sword that makes him He-Man. Her own nature is usually undefined (as in "remains a mystery"). At least one continuity treats her as a personification of Castle Greyskull itself, while another continuity have her as a human who is also the mother of Teela. In one time travel episode taking place in the future, Teela is the Sorceress.
  • In the second season of Stormhawks, Piper develops a technique that can grant Aerow various powers, but only while she channels them. However, this is something of a Dangerous Forbidden Technique since it's slowly killing her. By the finale, she learns that being "in synch" with the recipient makes the technique lose all harmful side effects, and of course, they're both perfectly in synch. Cue Villainous Breakdown by Cyclonis and the Dark Ace.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Empowering Lake Lady


The Lady of the Lake

To again wield Excalibur, Arthur must first learn where it is from the Lady of the Lake.

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