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Feathered Serpent
aka: Quetzalcoatl

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Feathered Serpents, also known as Plumed Serpents or Quetzalcoatls, are supernatural entities featured in many Mesoamerican cultures, starting from the Olmecs. Naturally, this makes this trope Older Than Dirt. Its name at the time was likely meant to represent the dual nature of the entity: its feathers were meant to show its divine nature for showing the ability to fly, while the fact that it's a serpent represents its human nature with its ability to creep on the ground among other animals of the Earth. This was a very common among Mesoamerican deities. Nowadays, though, this trope mostly gets used due to Rule of Cool.

Please note that a character or creature being called a Feathered Serpent or Plumed Serpent or being named after the Trope Codifiers, the gods Kukulkan, Q'uq'umatz and Quetzalcoatl, does not automatically make them a carrier of this trope. It's the image that's important, not the name. Some examples of this are Quetzalcoatl from Godzilla: The Series, who was more or less a Kaiju Archaeopteryx, and another Quetzalcoatl from The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, who is pretty much human in appearance aside from having a feathered tail and forked tongue.

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Such beings will sometimes be referred to as simply Coatls or Couatls, especially if present as a non-divine or physically unimposing species. Although often a truncation of the name "Quetzalcoatl", the word "coatl" is also the Nahuatlnote  word for "serpent".

Related to Basilisk and Cockatrice, which could be considered an Old World equivalent appearance-wise, and the more recent phenomenon of Feathered Dragons.

A Sub-Trope of Mix-and-Match Critters, Our Dragons Are Different and Our Gods Are Different depending on how it's used. Depending on whether the serpent is benevolent/Good or malevolent/Evil in nature, it can overlap with either Dragons Are Divine or Dragons Are Demonic. Can overlap with Snakes Are Sinister if the serpent is malevolent.


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Examples:

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     Anime and Manga 

  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's: The Crimson Dragon may be this since it was revealed to be Quetzalcoatl in one episode. The juries out on whether or not it's actually feathered though, definitely serpentine though.
  • Lucoa's dragon form in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid fits the description, being a large, snake-like body with feathered wings (and horns). She is a genderflipped Quetzalcoatl after all.
  • Miata from Claymore is this as her Awakened form.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: Coatls are a type of snakes that often appears with feathered wings. Winged coatls were among the creatures born when the shards of Alara fused with one another again, and are also common in Ixalan. Ice-fang coatls are also present as snow creatures.

     Comics 

     Films — Animated 

     Films — Live-Action 

  • The Flying Serpent: Quetzalcoatl appears to be some sort of dragon having both arms and legs, though still manages to resemble a snake with feathered wings. Q: The Winged Serpent is a light remake.
  • Q: The Winged Serpent: Quetzalcoatl or simply Q appears and though she has some traits of snakes and birds she mostly averts this trope and looks more like a generic dragon. Various references and allusions to this trope are used though.

     Literature 

  • Harry Potter: Provides us with two examples:
    • Male basilisks, which in the books are gigantic snakes, are stated to have scarlet plumes on their heads.
    • The Occamy is a large serpentine creature with a plume of feathers on its head, feathered wings and a birdlike beak.
  • Eric: Quezovercoatl is depicted as a feathered boa by his worshippers, he actually looks nothing like that.
  • Ology Series: Mexican amphitheres are feathered dragons with birdlike wings and no legs, and fairly clearly based on mesoamerican feathered serpents.
  • The Kane Chronicles: The uraei are cobras with eagle wings. Thankfully, they are creatures of Ra.
  • Skinjacker Trilogy: In the third book, one of the characters (who is a shapeshifter) temporarily turns into this trope in order to impersonate the Mesoamerican deity.
  • In the how-to-draw book disguised as a field guide Dracopedia, feathered serpents are depicted as a species of dragon known as "Coatyls". They're subjected to Doing In the Wizard, as it's revealed that they weren't gods, but rather relatively normal animals that had a symbiotic relationship with the Aztec people—the Coatyls took up residence in Aztec temples, wherein they ate vermin such as rats and bugs. The Aztecs, in turn, protected, housed and fed the serpents, holding them sacred and worshiping them, similar to cats in Ancient Egypt. Two other feathered serpent species are mentioned, namely an Egyptian variant (based on heiroglyphics that depicted winged serpents) and, oddly enough, The Phoenix. Unfortunately, the Aztec and Egyptian Coatyls are critically endangered due to the destruction of their habitats, while the phoenix is so rare that it's thought to be extinct. The book mentions the "International Coatyl Fund" as an organization fighting to bring them back from the brink of extinction.

     Live-Action TV 

  • Lost Tapes: Quetzalcoatl is featured in the 32nd episode.

     Mythology & Religion 

     Tabletop Games 

  • Digimon: Coatlmon and of course Bio Coatlmon are heavily based off of Quetzalcoatl.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Couatls are an entire race of Quetzalcoatls and a consistent part of the Monster Manual since 1st edition. They are typically described as a Lawful Good race of resplendent winged serpents from the Upper Planes that often inhabit jungles of the mortal world, where they sometimes are worshiped as gods.
    • Forgotten Realms: Qotal is a Maztican god taking the shape of a feathered dragon, who according to Maztican tradition gave humans the gifts of speech and maize.
    • Quetzalcoatl occasionally appears in different versions of the Deities and Demigods sourcebook as part of the Aztec pantheon.
  • Pathfinder:
    • Couatls are feathered serpents with birdlike wings that act as messengers of virtuous deities and shepherd and guide the development of fledgeling civilization.s
    • Uraei are two-headed cobras with birdlike wings that act as protectors to rivers and the communities found along their banks.
  • Shadowrun: One type of dragon is the Feathered Serpent, found in Central and South America. Adults are about twenty meters long with a fifteen meter wingspan. Their wings and head are covered with feathers, and they have extensive magical powers.
  • In Rifts, the Kulkucan is a type of Dragon with a more serpentine body covered in feathers and a beaked head. Quetzalcoatl himself happens to have been a Kulkucan Dragon who ascended to Godhood.

     Video Games 

  • Smite: Kukulkan one of the Trope Namers is a playable character, and one of his skins turn him into Quetzalcoatl, and for some reason inexplicably speaking 99% in Brazilian Portuguese.
  • LEGO Harry Potter: The basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets has a scarlet plume on its head, despite not having one in the book or movie.
  • Warcraft:
    • The Couatl is a winged serpent complete with feathers. They are obviously named after Quetzalcoatl.
    • Although Dragonhawks in Warcraft III were giant birds, they were redesigned when they debuted in World of Warcraft as creatures with serpentine bodies and wings that look like a cross between a bat and a butterfly, with feather-like appendages all over their bodies.
    • Wind Serpents in World of Warcraft have long, serpentine bodies, feathered plumes on their head, and birdlike, feathered wings.
    • Then there's Hakkar the Soulflayer, one of the troll gods and not a very nice one at that. He's basically a giant wind serpent with arms that end in scythes.
  • Final Fantasy: Quezacotl/Quetzalcoatl is a recurring summon in the games, how much he follows this trope varies in each game though.
  • Free Realms: Quetzalcoatl is a boss and he's a Feathered Drake, he's still very serpentine though.
  • Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine: A monster called Quetzalcoatl attacks Indiana, it is a giant snake with feathers around its neck.
  • Might & Magic VIII: Day of The Destroyer: The Young Couatl, Couatl and presumably the Winged Serpent (they share the same sprite) are this having serpentine bodies and avian looking wings. And beaks.
  • RuneScape: The Cockatrice and its variants all have serpentine bodies along with the legs and wings of a bird.
  • Dragon City: Several exist like the Ozone and Quetzal dragons.
  • One of the two rare dragon breeds in Flight Rising is the Coatl, which resemble snakes with short legs, prehensile tails, and feathered wings and crests.

     Webcomics 

  • The Wyverns from Slightly Damned resemble snakes or legless lizards with downy manes and feathered wings, they come in variety of colors and subspecies and are naturally skilled in wind magic which gives them control over wind and lighting. The now extinct wind dragons they're related to were even more powerful and possessed two pairs of wings and hawk-like legs.

     Web Original  

     Western Animation 

  • Aladdin: The Series: Malcho is a nature spirit in the form of a serpent with wings anf feathers on his back. Iago is able to recgonize one of his feathers because it has scales.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: A interesting example, Quetzalcoatl; yes that Quetzalcoatl, is not a plumed serpent himself, instead he's only half- plumed serpent and half-human.
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series: episode "How Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth". The highly advanced space alien Kukulkan is one of the Ancient Astronauts in the Star Trek universe. He is a giant snake-like being with wings and feathers who was the inspiration for the Mesoamerican legends of Kukulkan and Quetzalcoatl.
  • American Dragon: Jake Long: Aztec Guardian Serpent probably applies due to being inspired from Aztec Mythology, though it's hard to tell thanks to the animation style.
  • The Real Ghostbusters: Quetzalcoatl himself appears in one episode, the Quoatle that appear in the same episode also count.
  • Gargoyles: Zafiro of the Mayan Clan has the lower body of a serpent, he also has feathery wings instead of the normally bat like ones. He's based off of Kukulkan.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Several spirits qualify.
    • When angered, Wan Shi Tong stretches his body out like a snake. This makes sense both snakes and owls are used as symbols for knowledge.
    • The Dragon Bird Spirits which natural share traits with the dragons of Avatar; such as their serpentine bodies, and birds such as feathers.
    • The Dragon Eel Spirit may also possibly qualify. He has a serpentine body; which is clearly where the "eel" part of his name comes from, but he also possesses a beak and what may be feathers.

     Real Life 

  • The Atheris hispida's scales are extremely keeled giving it a bristly or even feathery appearance. Fittingly one of its common names is feathered tree viper.
  • Many dinosaurs did indeed have feathers. Pterosaurs didn't, but one genus (Quetzalcoatlus) was named after the Aztec deity due to its long snake-like neck and the plume-like crest on its head.
  • Darters, also known as snakebirds, are aquatic birds that got their alternative name after their long, snakelike necks.


Alternative Title(s): Plumed Serpents, Quetzalcoatl

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