Follow TV Tropes


Harping on About Harpies

Go To

"Grimmer than these scarce any prodigy, nor any plague e'er rose at the wrath of the gods from the Stygian waves: a winged thing with maiden’s face, belly o'erflowing and most foul, a hooked hand, and face hunger-pale forever."
Virgil, The Aeneid, Book III, ll. 253-257.

Like centaurs, mermaids, Fauns and Satyrs, harpies are mythical creatures that take the form of part-human, part-animal creatures — in this case, one half is a woman and the other half is a bird, usually a bird of prey. They originated in Greek Mythology, where they often took the job of punishing mortals for their misdeeds. This punishment frequently took the form of snatching away or befouling people's food, hence their name which comes from the Greek word for "snatcher." They also can be considered as Anthropomorphic Personifications of violent winds.

They can vary widely in appearance. Most of the time they may or may not be subject to the Gorgeous Gorgon effect, but they were originally described as ugly and grotesque before the mix up. The subjective ratio of human to bird can also vary from woman's body shape with wings in place of the arms and a birds' feathers & feet to a woman with winged forearms, a feathered body, clawed hands, and birds' feet. In many classical depictions, their arms are their wings. They often come in groups of three, and are often given the names of Aello, Ocypete, and Celaeno.note 

Related to the other mythological half-woman half-bird creature, the Enthralling Siren. Sirens and harpies are confused almost as much as sirens and mermaids, usually by giving harpies beautiful voices.

Harpies frequently appear as relatively small Giant Flyers, almost always as the "Leathery-Winged Avians" variant, of which they may well be the Trope Codifier.

See also Bird People.

The harpy eagle is named for them, and their tendency to be Always Chaotic Evil has led the word "harpy" to be used to describe any unpleasant woman.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Harpus from Bakugan.
  • Papi from Daily Life with Monster Girl, and her fantasy expys, Aero of Deadline Summonner and a different Aero of 12 Beast.
    • 12 Beast also has several harpies as part of Eita's mercenary army.
  • Harpies play a major role in the first episode of the fantasy softcore Hentai The Elven Bride, in which the protagonist attempts to capture a traditional monstrous harpy in order to farm it for its secretions, which are rumored to be the "ultimate lubricant" that would enable him to consummate his marriage to the titular elf (the initial attempt at doing this failed due to the bride possessing an unusually small receptor). However, the attempt leads to him being abducted by the harpy's mother... A Cute Monster Girl called a Harpian.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure provides a rare male example with Kars's ultimate form, where he changes his arms into wings, and considering that he's a Pillar Man.
  • The Mass-produced Evangelions in The End of Evangelion have picked up the Fan Nickname of "harpies" because of their wings, monstrous appearance, and vulture-like behavior.
  • Fairy Tail
    • Lisanna Strauss's Animal Soul can change her arms into wings and her lower part of the body into bird legs and tail.
    • Kyôkahas Cool Mask looks vaguely like a bird's head, hair that resembles wings, and talons. Her Etherious form adds feathers onto her back and horns.
  • Humanoid Monster Bem has one as the monster of episode 4.
  • One Piece introduces us to Monet in the Punk Hazard arc. Usopp identifies her as a harpy at first sight but the truth is a bit more complicated. She is an otherwise normal human who had her arms and legs replaced with wings and bird-like talons with the aid of Trafalgar Law's Op-Op Fruit.
  • Yubaba has one as a pet in Spirited Away.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has the Harpie Lady cards, the signature monsters of Mai Kujaku. Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V adds the Lyrical Luscinia archetype used by Ruri Kurosaki, which cross over into Enthralling Siren with their songbird motif.

  • Francisco de Goya: All will fall in his Los Caprichos series shows a group of winged males circle around a half-woman, half harpy. Down below the fallen males are plucked by a group of women, thus providing Book Ends in how both sexes prey upon each other.

    Card Games 

    Comic Books 
  • The Incredible Hulk: The Leader turned Betty Ross into a Gamma powered Harpy once, and in World War Hulk's "Gamma Corps", the Hulk's old enemy the Clown was turned into the Griffin with Gamma technology, specifically based on Betty as the Harpy.
  • In the Uncle Scrooge comic The Golden Fleecing by Carl Barks, Harpies (renamed "Larkies" for the story, as the editor objected to the word "Harpy") are the guardians of the Golden Fleece, and are also portrayed as horrible cooks. They kidnap Scrooge and Donald in order to get them to judge their revolting recipes. (The story was loosely adapted into a DuckTales (1987) episode.)
  • In Gold Digger, Charlotte, aka "Charlie," is a genetically engineered harpy. She was created by a villain as a disposable book, but after he was defeated, Penny adopted her. Despite being the size of an adult, she is only a few years old and has the emotional maturity of a child. She's both attractive (in a fuzzy-yellow-feathers-all-over-her-body kind of way) and very sweet-natured, but she also has big scary bionic claws on her arms.

    Films — Animated 
  • The film The Last Unicorn contains a harpy that looks less like a harpy and more like a ugly, eared and toothed vulture with 3 disgusting breasts that are way too detailed for a film that is supposedly kid friendly. It was captured by a old hag and the unicorn sets it free. It then reveals itself to be just as evil and nasty as most harpies, when it attacks the unicorn. Oddly enough, it speaks with a male sounding voice despite being female.
  • Hercules a harpy is one of many monsters shown during the "Zero To Hero" number. Hercules puts it in a cage. The same creature appears as part of a puzzle game on the tie-in "Animated Storybook" CD Rom.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Jason and the Argonauts - in both versions, true to the original myth, they taunt the blind prophet Phineus. Every day on his island, a huge banquet is laid out but the harpies take the food every day. There are only two instead of the traditional three. In the Harryhausen film they are caught in a net by the Argonauts and locked in a cage while Phineus now eats the food in front of them. In the Hallmark film they are killed when the bricks from their temple crush them.
  • They appear as monsters in the movie version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
  • They show up in Clash of the Titans as the flying, devilish minions of Hades. Although they don't resemble bird-women at all, they do serve the purpose of snatching people up and pulling them into the Underworld.
  • In the 1979 Belgian short Harpya, a Gay Nineties' gentleman saves a harpy from being murdered by another man in a public fountain. After bringing it home, the Harpy proceeds to eat all of his food, his parakeet, and then his legs. But only when she tries to cheat him out of a packet of Pommes Frites, he tries to kill her himself. But then the Harpy is suddenly saved by a policeman.

  • The "Great Arms" of the Imperial City of Nuremberg originally depicted an eagle with a king's head; over the decades this was Flanderized into a harpy.

  • Celaeno first appears alongside her fellow harpies in The Aeneid, where she prophesies that before Aeneas and his men find their home, they will become so hungry that they will eat their tables.
  • The Black Jewels trilogy includes them as the new forms of dead women who were killed violently by men.
  • Dante's The Divine Comedy puts them in hell, specifically the area inhabited by people who have committed suicide.
  • A rare heroic (and gorgeous) harpy, Chewppa, is the lead female protagonist of Book 5 of Grey Hawk Adventures novels.
  • In the Harry Potter universe, there is a Quidditch team called the Holyhead Harpies, that's made up entirely of women. As to whether actual harpies exist in the setting, no confirmation has been received so far (Though other teams are known to be named after magical creatures that do exist).
    • The veela are vaguely similar, though they're more reminiscent of sirens or banshees.
  • In His Dark Materials, harpies guard the underworld. They were told by the Authority to feed off the misery of the dead by taunting them with whatever they did wrong in life. One harpy betrayed evil by helping Lyra and Will cut open a portal for the dead to escape. As thanks, Lyra gave her a name - Gracious Wings.
  • The Last Unicorn includes the harpy Celaeno.
  • They make an appearance in a Dream Sequence in Last Exit To Brooklyn.
  • They appear in Ronja the Robber's Daughter, possibly with a different name.
  • The Secret of Platform 13 has them as the Island's Good Is Not Nice police force. Eventually, a team is dispatched to rescue the prince when the less nightmarish team of rescuers seem to be failing.
  • Peter David's Sir Apropos of Nothing has male harpies, called "harpers", mainly as an excuse for a "Harper's Bazaar" pun.
  • The Solomon Kane story "Wings in the Night" has them pop up in Africa. They're called akaanas, and they like to eat people, and are notable for being the only time that Solomon Kane has gone berserk. In a rare twist to the traditional One-Gender Race, they are all male, their females having died off a generation ago.
  • Xanth harpies are ugly old hags who attack via curses. The One-Gender Race and Gorgeous Gorgon aspects of them are played with, in that there are a few rare male harpies who are the good-looking ones; this is explicitly (not that kind of explicit, they're not that kind of book...usually) contrasted with the goblins, which in Xanth are mostly ugly males with a few beautiful females.
    • Also it becomes clear in one of the novels that young female harpies are actually very pretty; it's not until they grow up (which tends to also entail becoming embittered and losing all regard for hygiene) that they become ugly.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the harpy is the symbol of the fallen civilization of Old Ghis.
  • In the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, harpies help keep curfew at Camp Half-Blood... by eating any camper stupid enough to break it.
    • In The Son of Neptune, they meet Ella, a harpy who remembers everything she reads and doesn't seem interested in eating the kids. Maybe Roman harpies are nicer than Greek ones.
  • From A Fantasy Attraction is Herbert, a scholarly harpy with magic glasses. No, really.
  • The Iron Teeth free web serial has harpies. They are large birdlike animals with a second pair of claws on their wings and mouths full of teeth instead of beaks. They are also natural mimics similar to parrots.
  • Tamora Pierce's Tortall Universe has Stormwings: Female and male harpies with sharp steel feathers and talons, who desecrate bodies of those slain on the battlefield and are so odoriferous that they repel most humans.
  • Esther the harpy is a waitress from the Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. series. A terrible waitress, who's so unpleasant and vindictive that diner patrons leave her tips in gratitude if she doesn't lift a finger to serve them.

    Live Action TV 

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Harpies are from Greek Mythology, where they seem to be personifications of malevolent storm-winds that abduct people and spread pollution and filth. They were one of the obstacles faced by Jason and the Argonauts.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Harpies appear as a flying unit for Dark Elves and Hordes of Chaos in Warhammer. They are a One-Gender Race of winged female humanoids, a bunch of scavengers and snatchers. The issue of beautiful vs ugly Harpies comes to a head since they are depicted as attractive but only from the belly up to the neck as a "parody of a woman's body".
  • Dungeons & Dragons has had harpies throughout the various editions, though their appearance has varied considerably. Similarly, their status as an Always Female One-Gender Race has fluctuated, from being always female and depending on parthenogenesis/crossbreeding with humanoid men/a combination of the two, to having males who are simply less common and/or expected to Stay in the Kitchen.
    • 2e Harpies are ugly, resembling nasty-looking crone-like women who have the lower bodies and wings of vultures, but with beautiful, enrapturing voices.
    • 3e Harpies were, similarly, ugly creatures who combined the worst aspects of crones and vultures and contrasted it with hypnotic voices. Indeed, the art for the 3.5 Harpy is probably even more hideous than the classical 2nd edition Harpy, if only due to the general Art Evolution.
    • 4e Harpies are... well, see the page image; they definately took a swing into the Gorgeous Gorgon territory for this edition, compared to that of previous editions. In the default Nentir Vale setting, they are given an origin as the descendants of an evil Elf queen whose family misused magic to assume the form of birds in order to spy upon their tyrannized subjects. When their people revolted, the magic went haywire and trapped them as half-elf, half-bird beings.
  • Pathfinder:
    • Harpies aren't necessarily ugly — in fact, their artwork tends to make them look fairly attractive, if inhuman — but they have absolutely no sense of hygiene (and powerful musk). They may not be bad to look at, but you can usually smell them coming a mile away. They are explicitly a One-Gender Race that must mate with humanoids to procreate... unfortunately, not only do they tend to be sadists, they usually eat their partners when they're done. In fact, it's mentioned in one sourcebook on Classical Monsters that in Harpy society, not eating the father of one's daughter is a shameful event, unless said male is strong enough that he's more worthwhile if kept alive.
    • Pathfinder also includes a Siren species, which are bird-women like their harpy cousins (a woman's head, the body of a giant eagle/hawk/owl), but more benevolent. For starters, they don't eat their lovers, and in fact have been known to commit suicide if their lovers are stolen away from or leave them.
  • The Harpie Lady monsters from Yu-Gi-Oh!.
  • A very early issue from Games Workshop (now long discontinued) was a set of assemble-and-paint Harpie figures with the distinct faces and hairstyles of Margaret Thatcher, Nancy Reagan, Ronald Reagan and Edwina Currie.

  • Ariel disguises himself as one in The Tempest to deliver a message.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon's Dogma: Generally speaking, the game has harpies almost everywhere and they behave like sirens, known for being both beautiful and hideous. Their depictions are actually accurate to the source materials due to their bird-like proportions. Harpies and their variants sing to hypnotise their prey to sleep and snatch them away. However, what makes them truly annoying is how the Pawns overreact to almost every single harpy.
    • The Snow Harpy is a variant which can freeze its prey with a chilling breath.
    • The Succubus, surprisingly, does not have horns. Instead, it's a harpy with bat wings they can curse its prey with its seductive song and bite them.
    • The Gargoyles also falls under this category since they also behave like harpies, except they have tails which can petrify their prey.
    • As for the literal Siren, their singing can heal nearby creatures instead of hypnotising prey.
    • And there's Strigoi, the large red Gargoyle.
  • Dark Souls has its own variant of harpy: a creature with a head and wings of a crow and body of a man or woman.
  • 15+ of the Castlevania games have harpies as an enemy.
  • God of War had these as easy to kill but annoying enemies. They are typically seen scavenging off corpses and their behavior implies that they are not sentient. Also, like most female monster in this game, they have exposed breasts, but not very nice ones.
  • Guild Wars has harpies as an enemy type.
  • Harpuia from Mega Man Zero is based on this. His name is derived from the ancient Greek word for Harpy.
  • Harpies appear as enemies in the Might and Magic games.
  • The Warcraft world has Harpies as enemies both in the RTS and the MMORPG.
  • Harpies are some of the standard Mooks in Titan Quest.
  • In Breath of Fire II, a group of three harpy sisters are the first Mini-Boss. They spend the second turn arguing and attacking each other and only attack Ryu (since they find him attractive...or something like that, it's hard to tell).
    • They want to eat him because he's more attractive than Bow.
  • In King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder!, Graham is abducted by harpies, and has to play on a harp to distract them from eating him.
  • Golden Sun has the Harpy, Virago and Harridan monsters. Amusingly enough, all three terms can refer to a spiteful, shrill woman.
  • Terraria has harpies as a relatively common enemy on the heights where sky islands usually form. Their feathers are used for Gravitation potions.
  • The Elder Scrolls
  • Stage 2 of Maldita Castilla is called "Road of the Harpies", that's all that you need to know.
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings features harpies as enemies, especially down this one road where you encounter hordes and hordes of them, along with a variant called erynias. One Fetch Quest has you harvesting their feathers for a merchant who is essentially a member of the Furry Fandom.
  • Luna Online has harpies as mid-level enemies. You can also get a baby version of them as a pet in the expansion.
  • Harpies have been a recurring enemy type in the Tales Series from the very first game. It's not uncommon for them to have a singing attack that induces the Confuse or Charm status on your party members.
  • Monster Girl Quest has them of the Cute Monster Girl variety. They're actually among the nicest and least dangerous of monsters, and most of them live peacefully with humans.
  • In the first Shantae game and in Half-Genie Hero, this is the last required transformation that the heroine could get. It grants her Video Game Flight and a short-ranged attack with her talons if she finds the necessary upgrade. Naturally, she's a Cute Monster Girl in this form.
  • Harpies are an enemy in the Serious Sam games. Weak, but annoying, as usual. The game lampshades the use of breasts on a bird monster (they don't actually produce milk, they're just there to attract prey), and the liberal use of Nightmare Face makes it clear the series is rooted in the Fan Disservice side of the harpy lineage.
  • In Skullgirls, Eliza transforms into a harpy (actually the egyptian goddess Nekhbet) during her air throw. She also has a Blockbuster version of the attack.
  • Dragon's Crown has a harpy as the first boss you fight. Its head is an armless woman from the waist up, but the rest it is a big, colorful bird. It's also about the size of a station wagon with wings attached.
  • In Persona 4, Yukiko's Shadow takes a form similar to a harpy for her boss battle- a giant, red phoenix-like bird with Yukiko's face and long black hair, and vaguely humanlike breasts.
  • Puyo Puyo has a character called Harpy in reference to the mythical harpy, but her appearance and mannerisms are more comparable to an angel. In the PC-98 version of Madou Monogatari 1-2-3, she's an actual harpy, thus fitting this trope.
  • Monster World IV has a harpy that appears as the mid-boss of Handera Volcano who flies around and drops fireballs on the ground.
  • Pokémon Black and White introduced us to Vullaby and Mandibuzz, a species of all-female, Dark-type vulture Pokemon who wear bones as clothing and certainly seem to have been created with the concept of a harpy in mind.
  • Harpies exist in Miitopia although they look more like a Ridiculously Cute Critter, as they are winged creature with Cat Smile and small claw-like feet. They are notoriously bothersome because of their Tornado Move, which can temporarily remove a non-guest party member from the battlefield.
  • In Pyre, they’re a race called “Harps” that look like elves with wings in place of arms and birdlike legs. They may or may not be a One-Gender Race; nobody in the Commonwealth has seen a male Harp (leading to a nasty rumor that the females eat their mates), but your Harp party member claims they have a prince. Their country is currently at war with the Commonwealth, so Harps residing there often face discrimination. Harp criminals are often punished by having their wings clipped before being tossed into Downside; it’s to keep them from using their flight to escape, but it also leaves them effectively crippled for life.

    Web Comics 
  • Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic has Innocent Fanservice Harpy Nike and her hot sisters, plus not-so-hot mom, who is a bit of a harpy in the colloquial sense as well.
  • The Archipelago has many varieties of bird-people. Three particularly malicious female ones work for the Raven, referred to as harpies by their exasperated husband.
  • Joselyn of The Horrifying Experiments of Dr. Pleasant! has a more warm and friendly disposition than her macabre appearance would imply. Also, an accomplished cook.
  • Many harpies live in the Avalons shown in Skin Deep and get on in society just like all of the other creatures; the most notable example being the bar tender Abby.
  • Champions of Faraus: In #2, "Over the sea and through the air", The main characters are attacked by harpies while traveling through some mountains.

    Web Original 
  • One of the collectable pets in Uni Creatures is a harpy, although they aren't evil due to being in an exaggerated Sugar Bowl.
  • A interesting variation where the maiden is half plane in Mind My Gap.
  • There's a particularly odd interpretation of them in The Iron Teeth, where they are large birds of prey with sharp teeth instead of beaks, and claws on the tips of their wings.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • The term "harpy" nowadays is a very nasty insult towards a woman one considers to be unpleasant.
  • The harpy eagle, the largest eagle alive today, is named after the harpy. The name is very appropriate, as like all raptors the female harpy eagle is larger and more aggressive than her male counterpart.
  • And speaking of dinosaurs, the name of the ornithomimid Harpymimus translates to "Harpy Mimic". Here, the name is less appropriate, as Harpymimus couldn't fly and was most likely a herbivore.

Alternative Title(s): Harpy, Harpies