Since the dawn of time man has wanted to fly. But, well... To be honest it is pretty darn hard. It took a long time to figure out that humans themselves could not fly and it took even longer before man could do it with tools. But what if if could be done easier? What if humans could simply grow wings themselves and fly away?
Growing Wings is a trope centered around a person, animal, or even an object that sprouts wings. The wings either grow over time, or are gained instantly. The wings can appear suddenly, often as a result of a magical spell or MacGuffin.
In case of a person or animal, the character could also go through Metamorphosis. They can wake up one morning to discover tiny wings on their back, which grow over time until they are functional. The initial sprouts can be ridges, feathery tufts, or tiny, articulated wings. The more realistic the story is, the more slow and painful the change will be. If the transformation is graphic and large flight muscles also develop, it can be a case of Transformation Horror.
Note that this trope is for permanent or semi-permanent wings. Wings that appear and disappear go into the category of Power Gives You Wings.
- People often sprout wings in Red Bull commercials.
- In Cardcaptor Sakura, Sakura gains wings when she uses the Fly card in the second season. In the first, her staff sprouted the wings and she rode it like a witch's broom. There's also Yue and Ruby Moon who have wings in their true forms but not their false ones.
- In Naruto Sasuke sprouts wings during his fight with Naruto. The transformation sequence looks a bit painful and they burst through his clothing.
- Princess Ai sprouts a pair, on account of her unconventional heritage.
- In the final episodes of Eureka Seven, Eureka is distressed when she undergoes a mysterious transformation that includes the sprouting of bright green butterfly wings.
- In Angel Beats!, Kanade programs angel wings on herself after Otonashi suggests it.
- In Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Alita sprouts wings with damascus metal blades for feathers after her second resurrection. She's not impressed with them, since they impede her fighting style.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
- Madoka sprouts a pair upon her ascension as a goddess.
- Homura grows wings in Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion.
- Haibane Renmei: The Haibane grow small, non-functional wings within a few hours of their "birth". The wing-growing is shown to be extraordinarily painful, as the wings tear through the skin on the back and come out covered in blood.
- In the climax of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency, Kars, having just become the ultimate life-form, gains Voluntary Shapeshifting. He uses it to grow wings and fly after Joseph's plane.
- The Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1 story arc "Quarantine" (issues 530-534) introduces an experimental drug that gives a specific mutant's power to ordinary humans. One of the volunteers, Penny Newsom, chooses Angel. Shortly after taking it, she sprouts wings.
- The Flight Volume 1 short comic "I wish..." by Vera Brosgol is about a teenage girl that grows angel wings one day. It's mostly her talking with a friend about growing up wishing she could fly.
- The tiny wings on Glimmer's shoulders grew to full size by the start of She-Ra: In The Wake, the sudden metamorphosis apparently how that works with her mother's species.
- At the end of Thumbelina the titular heroine sprouts a pair of fairy wings when she marries fairy prince Cornelius.
- In X-Men: The Last Stand, Angel is shown to have something growing out of his back as a child. Fast forward ten years: he has wings.
- An interesting variation occurs in the novel Mail-Order Wings by Beatrice Gormley. The protagonist Andrea builds a set of artificial wings from a kit and drinks a potion that causes them to gradually become real. Unfortunately for her, the potion also causes her to slowly metamorphose into a bird.
- The Icarii race in The Wayfarer Redemption series are born wingless, and develop wings in infancy. Dormant wing-buds of half-Icarii, half-human adults can still be encouraged to sprout, using magic.
- In The Magician's Nephew, Aslan gives Strawberry wings and renames him Fledge. Instant Cool Horse.
- Mervyn Peake's Mr Pye is such a saintly character that he begins to sprout angel wings. He finds them an embarrassing nuisance and eventually decides to try not being saintly any more to try and get them to go away again. It works... but he then begins to sprout horns instead. Reverting his character to get rid of the horns again works, but the wings come back...
- Laurel Winter has a book called "Growing Wings", where it's a kind of Puberty Superpower. The wings are too large to really be hidden, but there aren't any other physical adaptations for flight, so no one with wings can really use them to fly on their own.
- It happens to Miranda in Dr. Franklin's Island in a horrifying way - she loses her hands and her breastbone bursts through her skin as she turns into a bird. As it happens she tries to stay positive about it, saying that she'd love to be able to fly.
- Rapture by David Sosnowski is about a virus that causes people to grow wings and how society adjusts and reacts to this new subset of the human race (i.e. not very well).
- When We Have Wings by Claire Corbett is a dystopian novel where the extremely wealthy opt to get a combination of surgery, genetic modification, and drugs to grow and maintain flight-capable wings. These people live in floating paradises in the sky, making it kind of similar to Elysium (although predating it by a few years).
- Self Portrait with Wings by Susan Kohn Green is about an eleven year old girl that magically gains mostly-invisible dragonfly wings after drawing a picture of herself with them.
- This is a central plot point in the children's book The Little Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings. The rabbit wishes for the traits other animals have, and his wish is granted when he grows red wings to match a cardinal's. However, the rabbit's mother and friends fail to recognize him with wings, and send him away. The next day the rabbit wishes the wings away and is once again accepted by society. The Aesop in this story is that you should be happy with who you are and not be envious of others.
- In the fantasy novel Black And Blue Magic set in the time of the Great Depression the young boy protagonist is gifted a bottle from a mysterious man who for a short while rents a room from his mother (and is implied to both be of fantastic age and his large bag to contain many magical items from ancient stories including Aladdin's Lamp), by rubbing a drop of the pearlescent liquid inside on each of his shoulderblades and reciting a magical chant he grows large wings that remain until he recites the counter-spell.
- The aves stole the toy box from Necessarius in order to use its more advanced Bio-Augmentation to grow wings for themselves. They barely made any progress by the time they were forced to flee the city.
- Several people with powers have been shown to have variants of this ability. A shifter can shift into a form with wings (though they will eventually run out of power and snap back), and a morpher can grow wings over the course of hours or days. In both cases, it's noted that wings aren't the best methods of flight, and most other types outpace them in both speed and maneuverability.
- In Dragons of Ether book three, an elf named Peter sprouts dragon wings.
- In The Rain Wild Chronicles Thymara eventually develops wings, due to influence from her dragon. They are not strong enough to allow her to fly, however.
- In Tithe, as Kaye begins showing her pixie heritage, she sprouts gossamer buglike wings from two bumps on her shoulder blades. As with insects, they take a bit to dry off after emerging, and Kaye is large enough that they aren't capable of actual flight.
- In the season 2 finale of Lucifer (2016), Lucifer is knocked out and wakes up in the middle of the desert, his wings having grown back after having cut them off before the series began. The following episode, he has had his wings cut off multiple times, only for them to grow back in an instant.
Linda: I didn't know that they could grown back. Are wings like... body hair?
Lucifer: No. Don't be so ridiculous.
- Fallen, the 2006 miniseries starring Paul Wesley, involves various angelic and half-angelic characters sprouting wings, with their size and color being marginally plot-relevant. This is particularly climactic for the protagonist, who does not know his is not human, or (once he learns the truth) whether he can claim his true nature.
- A plot point for Paul, the protagonist in The Fades, signaling his role in the apocalyptic crisis developing around him.
- The Music Video for Asian Kung Fu Generation's "After Dark" features a man randomly sprouting wings on his back one day, and desperately hiding them until a window-washer is dangerously close to falling off a building.
- Ascending to Daevahood in Aion lets a player character summon a pair of wings at will.
- Getting certain upgrades in tandem with Transcendence in The Binding of Isaac will cause Isaac to grow a pair of wings.
- In Darksiders, War obtains demon wings after completing a quest for one of the hellish archlords stranded on earth. Although these don't give flight, they will allow War to float to new areas and jump higher.
- In Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures, the Cubi race grows a second pair of wings on their head in addition to the pair on their back when they come into power.
- Jarred experienced this early in Boomer Express. It was quite the painful episode.
- Beret Guy in xkcd has "endless wings", as seen in 1099.
- In Homestuck any troll characters who die on their questbed or die and are placed there ascend to god tier and grow a pair of wings the same color as their blood.
- If this happens in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, expect the episode to be a Wham Episode:
- In the Season 3 finale "Magical Mystery Cure", Twilight Sparkle gains wings, becoming an alicorn, when she manages to finish an incomplete spell created by Star Swirl the Bearded.
- In the Season 8 episode "Molt Down", Spike acquires wings after dealing with a magical symptom called "the molt", which is essentially dragon puberty, and a very uncomfortable one at that.
- Supplementary info implies that the opposite happened to Princess Cadance: she already had wings, and gained a unicorn horn instead.