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Hydra Problem

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Kudos (Greek!) to Hercules for thinking outside the amphitheatre on this one [...] but it seems to me there was another way out. If he had just kept chopping, eventually the creature would have had a hundred thousand heads, making it look something like venomous reptilian broccoli. Then it would have tipped over and been no threat to anyone. People could come up and laugh at it, it would have been a great tourist attraction.
Lore Sjöberg, The Book of Ratings

This is where when you defeat an enemy, one or two more show up in its place, and so on until you perform some kind of specific attack to kill it for good. Named for the Hydra from Greek mythology, which had nine heads that grew two more heads whenever one was chopped off;note  the only way to destroy it was to cut off the heads and cauterize the stumps with fire before the head was able to grow back and multiply. Expect a lot of decapitation, even though this is probably the worst possible strategy to use.

Compare to Asteroids Monsters, in which a destroyed monster divides into several smaller versions of itself, and can only be defeated by killing all of the smallest-sized version, Kill One, Others Get Stronger, in which killing targets powers up their remaining fellows, and Healing Factor. Solving this might involve the Gemini Destruction Law. The "hydra" will usually go for Not Quite Dead on the first go around. For general portrayals of actual hydras, see Our Hydras Are Different.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Berserk: When Guts slices off one of the Slug Count's giant appendages, it immediately grows back; the only way to kill him is to cut off his human face. As he taunts Guts,
    "It's futile. No matter how many times you chop off my arms and legs! Each time you cut them off, my body becomes stronger! It grows bigger and bigger! A mere sword can't possibly destroy me!"
  • Ushio and Tora: the Stray Gedo is a monstrous Hell Hound who can split into multiple copies of himself whenever he's sliced or damaged by an attack, making him a truly difficult monster to deal with. Tora manages to defeat one by using a specific depowering spell on him, while the main body of the Stray Gedo is injured by the powerful Beast Spear and Eaten Alive by Shindara's own tame Gedo.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering has a number of creature cards that implement this trope as mechanics. Usually, if the creature survives taking damage, it gets stronger afterwards. In the Theros block, the planeswalker Elspeth Tirel has to fight Polukranos, a hydra that is dubbed the "World Eater" with very little apparent hyperbole. She is armed with a polearm. She kills it not by lopping off heads, but by splitting each head in two. The bisected crania can't regrow, nor, obviously, can they live.
    • On a different note, Hydras are Green's iconic creature, and yes, they do often have this ability too in some form or another.

    Comic Books 
  • DC Comics:
    • One issue of Green Lantern has a powerless Hal Jordan confronting a monster that grows more body parts depending where it gets hit; hit it in the midsection, it grows more arms, hit it in the face, it grows more heads. Hal defeats it by punching it all over its body in rapid succession, leaning it an ungainly mass of random jumbled body parts that can barely function, let alone fight.
    • The Monster Society of Evil has a literal Hydra created by Mister Mind, which, when it loses a head grows it back with the head of another animal. Captain Marvel causes its heads to fight over meat, killing it.
    • The Superman villain Riot has a similar power to Multiple Man. Defeating him requires indirect methods like cutting off his air supply or catching him in a net.
    • Wonder Woman faced one of these fairly early in the George Pérez run of volume 2; her solution is the fairly Boring, but Practical tack of tying all its heads together with her unbreakable lasso, then piercing its heart with arrows.
  • Godzilla: Rage Across Time: In Ancient Greece, Godzilla battles the Hydra. Its regenerating heads give him trouble initially, but he defeats it by blasting Mount Olympus and letting the Hydra get crushed by the falling rocks.
  • Groo the Wanderer: Groo once faced a hydra-like monster, guarding the entrance to the underworld. Being a Master Swordsman, but not much of a thinker, Groo beats it by chopping off head after head until the beast had so many it couldn't stand up anymore and Groo could just walk past, still puzzling about what it was he was doing wrong.
  • Marvel Comics:
    • Doctor Strange: Originally, the snake god Set had only one head. Atum cut off its original head, but two more took its place. So Atum kept cutting until Set had the seven heads he has today.
    • This concept is the origin behind the name of the terrorist organization HYDRA, though in practice it's essentially a boast about their neverending Red Shirt Army. Their motto is "Cut off one head, two more take its place". In Captain America: The First Avenger, this sets up one of Colonel Phillips' CMOA when, after shooting a HYDRA mook who just shouted the line, quips "Let's go find two more." It also sets up the many times that an Anti-Hero decided to see whether the creed was literal at an individual level: with all the superheroes and supervillains running around, it would after all be easy to make an army of mooks with a twisted healing factor. The surviving mooks are often quite dismayed to realize that it's not.
    • Ultimatum:
      • The only way to get rid of the never-ending waves of duplicates of the Multiple Man is by killing the original one. Wolverine had to hunt the original Madrox all across the world.
      • Captain America mentioned in Valhalla that for each zombie they kill, two others take its place.
    • In X-Factor, Madrox the Multiple Man has a form of Self-Duplication that usually works like the Hydra Problem from his enemies' point of view because he involuntarily creates a copy of himself when struck. Punch him, and suddenly he has backup. The answer to beating him is a One-Hit Kill (Pretty Little Headshots don't create copies), restraining him so that he can't receive a sufficient blow (punching a wall would suffice, so you'd better tie him up tight), or employing a method that doesn't involve direct force (poison, for example).

    Fan Works 
  • Avengers of the Multi-verse: In Dawn of the Dragon, Lance, Rex, and Hayley face off against a hydra and encounter this problem. They resolve it the same way Hercules did, by dropping a rockslide on it.
  • Chaos Theory: At one point, Rider and Dark Saber fight a shadow monster manifested from the Grail. Being a mass of curses, when a head or appendage is cut off the curses spill out and create new "flesh", leaving it with even more appendages than before.
  • In the Fate/Zero fic Fate Crazy Nights, Caster unleashes eldritch horrors on Saber and the Knights of the Round Table that regrow from each severed body part. Saber's holy sword can burn them to a crisp with one stab, but many of the knights stubbornly keep cutting them and just multiply the problem. Bedivere and Agravain manage to punch a few into submission and Tristan kills several with Flaming Arrows. Eventually, Galahad calls on a miracle from God, which causes Caster to be blown away and the horrors to be turned back into the children Caster created them from.
  • ky-nim's Nuzlocke Runs: In the Pokémon White playthrough, Ghetsis' Hydreigon has the ability to regrow its heads in true Hydra fashion. Nina and her Pokemon ultimately get around this by slicing off all three heads simultaneously, leaving no more heads to instigate a regeneration.
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim: Season 1's Beach Episode sees Dib, Zim, and Tak's teams teaming up to defeat a sea serpent which turns out to be a hydra. And when they try the "cauterize the neck" trick, they find that it's a demon sea hydra which grows stronger from the flames (Dib notes that even by their standards, this is ridiculous). To defeat it, they ultimately have to do the same trick as The Order of the Stick, and make it grow so many heads that it can't get enough blood to its brains to stay conscious.
  • Whenever You Call: King Sombra summons a four-headed hydra and augments it with his dark magic before having it rampage. Superman battles it, but presumably because of the dark magic, burning its heads and necks with heat vision does not stop it from multiplying its heads. After it has sixteen heads, Superman defeats it by lifting it into the upper atmosphere until it almost passes out from lack of oxygen, then drops it on a deserted island where it can't hurt anybody.

    Films — Animation 
  • Batman: Soul of the Dragon: When Lady Shiva servers Schalangenfaust's snake arm, he not only regenerates a new one but the severed limb also turns into a giant snake monster. She then promptly puts her sword away.
  • Fantasia: In the Sorcerer's Apprentice segment, Mickey enchants a broom to do his chores for him. When it begins to flood the castle, he tries chopping the broom into pieces. This backfires horribly, as each splinter becomes a new broom. Only the Sorcerer's magic can get rid of them and undo the flooding.
  • Hercules has Herc face this problem when fighting the Hydra. The iconic multi-headed serpent actually starts with one head, but after the young hero chops it off, three grow in its place. In desperation, Herc starts wildly chopping at the beast, leaving him with a bigger problem than what he started with. However, the hero soon triumphs by causing the chasm they're in to cave in, resulting in the Hydra being crushed under a rock slide.
  • The Assassinoids in Jonny Quest vs. the Cyber Insects. When shot or blown up, the bits of them regenerate into more and keep on coming. Only freezing or nuking them seems to work.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Dragonball Evolution, Piccolo summons minions that can regenerate from any piece of them cut off. Goku slices them up with a sword and then throws them into lava, forming stepping stones so he can cross.
  • #-Headed Shark Attack: The mutant sharks demonstrate the same type of head-replacing Healing Factor as the mythical hydra's. Later films in the series even have the creatures bite off their own damaged heads so that intact replacements can grow in.
  • King Ghidorah from Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) has an amazingly rapid healing factor, able to regenerate his severed left head in less than a minute, with that head's individual personality intact, no less. While he regrows only one head, fortunately, it's theorized that he can eventually regenerate from any severed piece of his body, with his severed head being recovered in The Stinger implying he's not gone for good.
  • Hellboy: Sammael is a creature that, when destroyed, gives life to two of its previously laid eggs. Fortunately, destroying the eggs doesn't spawn more eggs. The only way to stop Sammael is to wipe out all of its bodies and eggs at once.
  • Jason and the Argonauts: Averted, as Jason avoids cutting any heads at all and just stabs the Hydra's body.
  • John Wick: Chapter 4: Winston compares the High Table to the Hydra while explaining to John that killing their members does nothing because they can instantly be replaced. Winston says John will run out of bullets long before the High Table runs out of heads.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • As noted above under Comic Books, HYDRA in Captain America: The First Avenger, though the organization is pretty much solidly defeated by the end.
      • The catchphrase takes a much darker turn in Captain America: The Winter Soldier where it's revealed after their defeat in WWII, HYDRA went underground and have shaped the history of the world. They even infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. at its creation. When Captain America protests that HYDRA died with the Red Skull, Zola nonchalantly comments "Cut off one head..."
      • Averted in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where the Avengers take down one HYDRA base after another based on intel from Maria Hill until they arrive at the last remaining powerful HYDRA base. Strucker and List, the two last remaining higher-ups, are killed, the former by Ultron and the latter by Iron Man, thus putting down HYDRA for good.
    • In Avengers: Age of Ultron, no matter how many Ultron drones the Avengers destroy, the AI itself can still escape to anywhere. Eventually, Vision interfaces with Ultron and prevents him from escaping through the Internet.
    • In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Strange conjures hydra heads that spawn two more when one is destroyed, briefly stalling Wanda before she stops attacking the individual heads and destroys the whole spell.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The main characters fight a literal Hydra that presents them with this problem. They beat it by using Medusa's head to turn it to stone.
  • In Prometheus, Fifield attempts to cut off the alien snake's head when it breaks Millburn's arm but not only does it spray acid blood over Fifield's face for his efforts, the head instantly grows back.

  • The Adventures of Samurai Cat: Cerberus turns out to have this power. Samurai Cat just responds by just chopping off heads until Cerberus had so many that they're all too small to bite effectively and weigh so much that Cerberus can't walk around anymore.
  • Animorphs: In The Andalite Chronicles, Visser Three unleashes mortrons, creatures that can regenerate into separate beings when sliced apart. Elfangor resorts to knocking them out. Loren strangles one to death, and uses a softball bat to cave one's skull in.
  • The Death Gate Cycle: The Chaodyn are monsters that, if wounded, will create another Chaodyn whenever a drop of their blood hits the ground. The only way to stop this is to deliver a wound that kills them before any of their blood hits the ground.
  • Fantastic Creatures: In "The Botticelli Horror", the Night Cloaks reproduce by getting torn apart — torn-off pieces turn into infant Night Cloaks — otherwise they grow tremendously large. They can survive being torn into tiny slivers too weak to fly away.
  • Harry Potter: Not a literal example, but Snape describes The Dark Arts as this in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
  • Downplayed in Mother of Learning when Zach and Zorian encounter a nine-headed hydra. It doesn't grow back two heads for every one, but it does regenerate them extremely quickly, so the only way to fight it is to strike hard and fast to kill off all of them quickly, otherwise it will soon be back at full strength while the attackers are exhausted. After encountering it several times, they discover that it's instead possible to use a divine artefact to bond with it and become its master.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Percy, Annabeth and Tyson are attacked by a roaming hydra early in The Sea of Monsters, which as Percy discovers when he charges in to chop it to pieces grows two new heads every time one's chopped off. Here, Clarisse kills it by blowing it up using a gunboat. It's also stated that the Hydra is connected to, and was created in, a chain of donut shops called Monster Donuts that spawns a new location for every Hydra head chopped off and sent rolling away.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. shares a continuity with the Captain America film examples above. Coulson takes down HYDRA by basically cutting off as many heads as possible and, when he gathers enough intel, he calls in the Avengers (through sharing intel with Maria Hill) to deal the final blow, giving them Strucker's location so they can attack his base. Hydra is now scattered and Kebo says that "heads ain't growin' back". Then Ward decides to revive HYDRA in his own image and recruits Baron Von Strucker's son as his apprentice, while the modern-day head of the ancient Hive cult that eventually became HYDRA, Gideon Malick, joins forces with Ward; more heads have grown. All known heads are again cut by the end of the third season, including Hive, the original head and the reason HYDRA was founded in the first place. In Season 4, HYDRA does not appear at all (in the real world anyway) and might be gone for good. It's also revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D. has a division devoted to crushing any sign of HYDRA, effectively cutting off any head the moment one appears. HYDRA returns again in Season 5, with General Hale and her daughter Ruby who escaped the take-down in Season 3. Hale specifically states that she and Ruby are the last two heads (they have other people working with them, but apparently they aren't HYDRA), and eventually they team up with Strucker's son, who while comatose had also survived. All three are dead by the end of the season, which was Hydra's last chronological appearance, meaning they are finally gone for good. Maybe. Probably.
  • The Angel episode "Waiting in the Wings" had mooks who respawn into two whenever they're killed. Angel has to fight past them and defeat the mage controlling them to make them disappear. Fortunately, the mage's power weakens each time a new lackey is created, as he has to keep control of an increasing number of mooks.
  • Charmed (1998): Swarm demons are replaced by two more swarm demons when they're killed. The sisters have to destroy the lead Swarm Demon, the demon from which all others come from, in order to kill them all. And in another episode an evil witch unleashes her snake familiar onto the sisters and when the snake is chopped into two pieces, the pieces both grow into a new snake. The witch is killed and then so are the snakes.
  • Hercules: Hercules, Linus, and Amphitryon battle the Hydra. They figure out the solution to burn its neck stumps by chance when one of the stumps falls on a campfire. When they get to the last head, Hercules kills it by caving its skull in with a club without cutting it off.
  • Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger/Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: At the halfway point of the series, the Big Bad creates a set of Elite Mooks that split into two new copies whenever they are destroyed, making them practically indestructable. They can only be truly destroyed by a set of legendary slingshots, which are luckily obtained by the red and green rangers.


    Myths & Religion 
  • The Trope Namer: The name comes from the Lernaean Hydra from Classical Mythology. Whenever a head was broken, two more grew in its place. To defeat it, the hero Heracles had his friend Iolaus burn the stumps before the head grew back until he smashes off all the beast's heads with his club. (Adding insult to injury, King Eurystheus wouldn't count this one towards the Ten Labors because Iolaus helped him.)
    • The Hydra also had one immortal head, which they had to bury under a rock. The whole thing might be an allegory for a swamp that just couldn't be drained, as every time a spring was blocked off, more would pop up.
    • There's also a classic math problem involving hydra herds in which every blow which fails to kill a hydra spawns a number of duplicates of the damaged hydra equal to the number of blows which the entire herd has received. (Added to that, Heracles is cursed to only be able to smash heads in the worst possible order.) Still beatable by an immortal demigod, but it's surprising how quickly the required number of blows grows.
  • Hindu Mythology:
    • Durga once found herself facing Raktabija, an enemy whose power was a regeneration-based Self-Duplication — every time a drop of his blood hit the ground, a clone would pop up into existence. After a period of futile fighting, she transformed into her Kali aspect, which quickly solved the problem by catching her enemy and, depending on the version you read, either eating him whole or holding him still so she could drink all his blood as it spurted from his wounds.
    • The legend behind the Thuggee cult was about regenerating demons too, therefore demanding strangulation (a bloodless killing method).
  • The Bible [Jesus; Matthew 12:43-45] once said that if you defeat a demon/unclean spirit with your own power — meaning without God's aid — it would return with seven more of its kind (or worse, just by it coming back and finding its house empty, as in without, you know, the Holy Spirit coming in to occupy it after the person was freed).

  • Gladiators: The final boss is the Beast, a three-headed flying dragon that can only be defeated by beheading itnote  in a specific order.

  • In Dino Attack RPG, if one of the Mutant Vinscale Octomus's tentacles is severed, two more grow back in its place.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Judges Guild module Dark Tower has an area with a mirror hanging on the wall that's guarded by a skeleton. If an attack against the skeleton doesn't do exactly eight Hit Points of damage, it splits into two skeletons with the same property. The only way to defeat the skeletons (other than by doing damage) is to destroy the mirror.
    • D&D's Monster Manual also lists the Hydra among the monsters that the players can fight. However, only the Lernaean variety of the hydra exhibits the Hydra Problem; the (normal) hydra and the fire-breathing pyrohydra both get weaker as you lop their heads off, not stronger.
    • In 5e, there is only one kind of hydra in the Monster Manual, and it has this ability, sort of. If it loses 25 health in a single turn it loses a head and regrows two more for every head lost in its turn. It only gains a total of 20 points of health back so, without healing, the hydra will eventually die if its heads keep getting cut off.
  • Godforsaken: Hydras sprout new heads when wounded, except when they are injured by extreme energy attacks like fire and electricity.
  • Pathfinder: In first edition, as with the 3.5 Dungeons & Dragons game it was spun off from, hydras *can* be killed by cutting off and cauterizing the heads, but doing this effectively requires specialized builds and very good party coordination. It's much easier to just hack away at the body, which has a decent healing factor, but nothing that a focused party can't outdamage. In Pathfinder's second edition, cutting off the heads is easier to accomplish, which is good as it's now the only way to make a hydra stay dead.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Alpha Legion's motif is the hydra, for good reason. They have a decentralised command structure and encourage squads and legionnaires to take the initiative while keeping the overall strategy in mind. This leads to enemies launching assassination attempts on what they think is the legion's commander, only for three more identical guys to jump up crying "I am Alpharius!" This is only one of the many ways the Alpha Legion like fucking with their opponents' minds.

    Video Games 
  • Bloons Tower Defense 5 and 6 have regrow bloons which regrow lost layers. This isn't a problem unless you find a way to simultaneously damage them and knock them back, in which case every regrow bloon will split into two, then regrow to become two copies of the original.
  • In Caves of Qud, Twinning Lampreys always come in pairs and one will instantly copy itself if its partner dies. Both must be killed in the same turn for them to stay dead.
  • Dwarf Fortress: Averted by actual hydrae but played straight in some evil biomes, where individual severed body parts of a dead creature can rise up and attack. Now in these evil biomes all the wild animals are zombies, so the effect is that killing zombies creates more zombies and trying to destroy an individual undead creature by chopping it to pieces will result in being overwhelmed by a tide of undead limbs, bones and organs. The only way to kill such zombies for good is by pulping them.
  • Referenced in Enter the Gungeon with the Gilded Hydra gun, a rare shotgun that fires more times in a single clip depending on the amount of damage the wielder has sustained. Every half-heart below the player's maximum health capacity adds another shot to its magazine, while healing brings this count down accordingly.
  • Hearthstone:
    • Implied by the effect of Gazh'rilla, a Legendary hydra minion. Each time it survives damage, its attack is doubled, representing it losing a head and growing two more. The right card combo can have Gahz'rilla easily pushing a thousand damage or more.
    • Hydralodon comes into play with two heads alongside its body. As long as the body is alive, each head will split into two more copies of itself when killed. The only way to get rid of Hydralodon is to kill its body first.
  • In Heart of Darkness, a particularly tough enemy introduced late in the game will turn into two blobs upon being killed; if they're not destroyed in time, they'll instantly grow into two more enemies. Since they frequently can appear in pairs, and you constantly have to dodge their attacks, they can quickly overwhelm you if you don't stop them from multiplying.
  • Hero Core: The Plasma Hydra boss initially has three heads. In Normal difficulty, it only regrows one head for each one destroyed and only has two heads per neck. In Hard, however, it grows two for each destroyed head, and when those two are destroyed, it sends out a third, extremely powerful head. Once the third wave of heads is dealt with, however, the Plasma Hydra self-destructs.
  • In Gems of War there's a Hydra troop, and its famous feature is represented in its special attack; the base damage is boosted by however much damage to its health the troop has taken, reflecting the extra heads which the Hydra now has. (The Hydra doesn't actually gain any extra health to represent the increased difficulty in killing it, however.)
  • In Guild Wars Nightfall the Torment creatures have the ability "Call to Torment" which they will cast once at low health, spawning a duplicate of themselves. These clones in turn also have the Call, meaning they can potentially infinitely spawn more of themselves. The only method to prevent this is to either kill or interrupt them before the cast completes. This isn't too hard except for the Arms of Insanity which, if not stopped, will use a powerful self-heal and ability that lets them dodge most attacks before casting the Call.
  • Hydra Slayer is a quirky little Roguelike game wholly concerned with how to resolve the Hydra Problem on a case-by-case basis. Your success is determined by being able to tell which weapons/powers will remove heads, which will add heads, and how to combine these two factors to kill each individual hydra in the shortest possible time.
  • Lollipop Chainsaw: The boss Mariska respawns into two when Juliet slices her in half. The copies then tear themselves in half several times to create an army of Mariskas. Juliet shoots the copies down, and when she gets to the last one, she lops her head off. Mariska seems to run out of energy and perishes.
  • Quest for Glory V: One of the Rites of Rulership is a three-headed Hydra. While it doesn't spawn additional heads, the heads do grow back indefinitely, making it a Puzzle Boss. To beat it, the Hero must team up with Elsa to defeat it, with either the Hero cutting off the heads and Elsa cauterizing the stumps or vice-versa. Also, if the Hero takes the latter job but takes too long to do the stumps, Elsa will get impatient and force him to switch roles to ensure it gets done right.
  • RuneScape: The beast god Loarnab had multiple heads, and cutting one off caused two more to take its place.
  • Trauma Center: New Blood has the Brachion Stigma, which is a core with several arms. Whenever you cut off the heads of the grappler arms, it pulls them back and emits more. Killing it involves continually cutting the arms loose, which ultimately overtaxes the core and causes it to disintegrate.
  • Wandering Hamster: Undead enemies respawn every time they're killed, unless you use the glimmer item which kills them for good.
  • Warcraft:
    • Warcraft III features hydras as a neutral monster, but use Asteroids Monster due to technical limitations: every three-headed hydra splits into two smaller three-headed hydras on death. They also regenerate health much faster than any other enemy type in the game.
    • World of Warcraft: Megaera is a three-headed hydra in the Throne of Thunder; when one of her heads is killed, two more grow in its place. Megaera still takes damage with each head killed, so it's just a matter of killing seven heads and holding out against the assault from all the extra heads. Perhaps a Shout-Out to the original mythos, at the last stage of the fight, Megaera has nine heads; two that can be attacked and must be tanked, and sevennote  attacking the party from a distance.
  • You Don't Know Jack (the UK edition anyway) has a question asking "Suppose you cut off all of the Hydra's heads, all its replacement heads, then half of the new heads, how many heads would there be?" note 
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! BAM, after you defeat their leaders, the Ghouls taunt you that their numbers are endless.
    Game: You jump, startled and ready to fight. From the utter silence slithers in a cryptic whisper: It does not matter. We are the Ghouls. Even if you bury us, we will get out. We are the Ghouls. We will meet again.


    Web Videos 
  • Internet Historian frequently discusses this phenomenon, such as in The Tumblr-4Chan Wars, Pool's Closed, and his four (used to be five) videos about "He Will Not Divide Us", whenever "the hive" is roused. He explains you simply can not win against the Internet because of this: they can operate anonymously 24/7 without rest, and actually scoring a win against one of them or taking one of them down will result in even more coming back to counter-attack twice as hard. He heavily suggests Sheathing Your Sword if you're ever on the receiving end of an internet raid:
    Internet Historian: Lay down and surrender. The only thing you can do, really, is log off and wait for it to be over.

    Western Animation 
  • Played for Laughs in Black Dynamite when an Intimidating Revenue Service agent threatens BD by telling him that for every one IRS agent he kills, two more will take his place. He then starts listing off exponentiations of 2 all the way to 2^8.
    Agent: 64 and 64 equals 128. And do you know what 128 times two is? 256! All! Up! In! Your! ASS, Black Dynamite!
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002):
    • In "Orko's Garden", He-Man faced a Man-Eating Plant that was similar to the Hydra. He finally kills it by uprooting it.
    • Another episode had Triclops unleash an army of skeletal warriors that respawn into two every time they get smashed. They are defeated when the heroes smash the device Triclops was controlling them with, making them all crumble to dust.
    • In "Rattle of the Snake" King Hiss awakens the "Guardians of Old" in the Temple of Serpos, portrayed as four serpent statues that fight He-Man and the Masters. Though Teela and Fisto have trouble due to being temporarily blinded, He-Man fights off the serpent heads, who proceed to attack. He-Man grabs the fangs of one head, struggling to hold it back while another head watches. Soon three of the serpent heads gang up on He-Man, who dodges until one of the heads catches him, then flips him in the air as another head catches him in its mouth. But after a moment, He-Man bursts his way out and teams up with Fisto to defeat the serpent statues.
  • ''Hercules: The Animated Series
    • In "Hercules and the Son of Poseidon", Hercules boldly confronts a three-headed sea serpent, only to be nervous after seeing the monster up close and is initially easily defeated. While trying to eat Herc, the heads themselves also fight over which one gets to eat him and accidentally tosses him away.
    • Obviously in "Hercules and the Long Nightmare" when Hercules fights the Hydra, revealed to be Phantasos in Hercules' dreams. Though afraid, Hercules overcame his fear, and bravely defeats the monster. After stopping Phantasos, Hercules told Morpheus that because of the dreams, he wouldn't be afraid if he ever faced a real Hydra, that tackling it in his dreams made it less frightening.
    Herc: [The three-headed Hydra grabs Herc and start snapping at him] Phil, I need a sword! Find me a sword!
    Phil: Kid, the last thing you used to defeat the Hydra is a sword. You got enough mouths to feed already!
    [Herc struggles against the Hydra]
    Herc: What am I supposed to do?!
    Phil: Remember why you here: fight your fear, not The Hydra!
  • King Arthur & the Knights of Justice: The sea dragon that Arthur faces in "Quest for Courage" can not only regrow any severed appendage, but the severed limb will reform into a new, smaller dragon. It is implied the secondary serpents have the same power, but Arthur wisely stopped trying to chop them to bits at that point.
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • The Powerpuff Girls (1998) episode "Beat Your Greens" had Plant Aliens that regenerate. They are defeated when everyone eats them.
    • The Powerpuff Girls (2016): In "Splitsville", Buttercup faces a giant dog monster that splits into two whenever it is hit. Buttercup stubbornly keeps hitting them until there are dozens. She finds out the dogs obey commands like regular dogs and tames them. When she tells them to "play dead", they literally die.
  • SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron: Zig-zagged in "The Giant Bacteria." Overlapping a bit with Asteroids Monster somewhat, Dr. Viper's bacteria monsters divide like amoebas whenever they're struck. The original monster had four eyes because it was created by Viper mutating a minor villain with eyes in the back of his head, and when it divides, two monsters with two eyes result. When one of those divides, it becomes two one-eyed monsters. The single-eyed creatures can't divide because the eyes themselves can't split, limiting the number of potential creatures to four (although there only end up being three).

    Real Life 
  • There's a small aquatic predator literally known as Hydra, and true to their name they immediately grow into even more hydras when cut into pieces. Scientists actually divided it into its individual cells with hundreds of more hydras sprouting up from the ensuing goop. They're a threat to fish fry and small shrimp in freshwater aquaria, and if you try and stop them by crushing them, well...
  • If a planarian's head is split without severing it from the body (not that they can't survive that) both halves can regenerate, ending up with a two-headed planarian. Temporarily, at least - as invertebrates, they tend to resolve the problem of the heads swimming in slightly different directions by slowly unzipping from each other until they’ve completely separated.
  • Some weeds ensure their survival by sending out long horizontal roots that can sprout new stalks if the original stalk is destroyed. Pull up the first stalk, and you'll find a cluster of new weeds sprouting all around the hole a few days later.
    • Coppicing, a traditional means of force-growing wood for long-term harvest, involves cutting trees of various resilient species at ground level in winter, so that a ring of new shoots will sprout up from their stump wood in springtime. Done correctly, a single tree can produce multiple crops of new growth, that can be cut in turn after however many years it takes for the shoots to attain a suitable size for their intended use.
  • Falling afoul of the Streisand Effect can land you in a PR nightmare because of this trope, especially on the internet. Did you force a takedown of a song posted to YouTube, even though the way it was posted constitutes fair use? Expect much hate mail and at least fifteen reposts. Scoured the internet just to delete all references to you that you feel are overly critical, or connect you to something stupid/embarrassing you did? Congratulations, what you've censored has just been reposted to five blogs, and a sixth one commented on your dickery. Forced the takedown of an entire site? Well, now there's two mirrors registered under foreign domain names and five with slight variations of a common name.
  • A similar event happened when manga publishers asserted their copyrights to get Scanlation sites taken down. Many more sprung up to take the places of the ones targeted. The same thing tends to happen to sites that illicitly stream anime where anime publishers are concerned as well.
    • Similarly, the Hentai community is extremely active... for obvious reasons, so if a hentai site gets taken down, expect like a million more hentai sites to show up.
  • Starfish can regrow limbs or even form new starfish out of the old limbs if the severed appendage contains enough of the central disk. Oyster farmers unaware of this ability would often pull starfish from the reefs and cut them to pieces, unaware that they were creating more oyster eating starfish.
  • Edward Snowden: "You're not going to bully me into silence like you've done to everybody else. And if nobody else is gonna do it, I will. And hopefully, when I'm gone, whatever you do to me, there will be somebody else who'll do the same thing. It'll be the sort of internet principle, of the hydra; you can stomp one person, but there's gonna be seven more of us."
  • Nintendo
    • The company ran into this problem in an attempt to ban cartridge dumpers and copiers in the '90s. They started by targeting the most prolific manufacturer of cartridge copiers, Bung Enterprises. Nintendo went as far as to get an injunction on Bung Enterprises merchandises in the US. They managed to kill Bung Enterprises shortly after, but then numerous manufacturers sprung up in Bung's place. Additionally, the amount of publicity generated resulted in the Streisand Effect for cartridge copiers. The US Customs also received a number of eggs on their face after they confiscated a package from Bung Enterprises meant for a US customer, and it turned out that the package only contained one Game Boy Advance link cable.
      • Nintendo would later do the same things with flashcarts, and then tried it with YouTube videos containing their characters.
    • A strange case happened in Mario Kart Wii's online play when Nintendo started getting serious about crackdowns on cheaters, mostly going after those who used infinite spawns of particular items. This caused there to be more and more people who cheated in this way. The more Nintendo tried to catch the cheaters, the more of them there were until, at its worst, there were more Griefers than regular players. When Nintendo backed off and left everybody alone, the griefers all vanished, leaving online play the same as it was before. To this day, no one really knows where all the cheaters came from — whether they were just trolls who wanted to ruin it for everyone or people who just didn't like being told what to do is up for debate.
  • The Pirate Bay, sink a pirate ship, two more shall rise from under the water, no matter how many times the site gets shut down, it never goes down permanently, it's incredibly easy to put the site back up again.
  • Similarly, Encyclopedia Dramatica. While it's one of the most infamously offensive websites on the web, it's also a wiki that operates within the law with many of its members keeping backups on private servers. Threaten to sue them and they laugh at your "lolsuit" and write an article about you. Get its provider to take it down, it appears under a new one within the week. Vandalize an article on it and it's restored within the hour, possibly now featured on the main page as retaliation. Even the site's original owner and creator couldn't kill it: the safe-for-work site OhInternet that it was turned into went down after a couple of years while the original site, with new ownership that was rebuilt from backups, lives on to this day.
  • This is generally why adblockers and private VPNs are, often begrudgingly, tolerated by online services. While said sites would love to just force you to gawk at all their ads, if they fight back on such things too hard they begin popping up in greater numbers as people become more incentivized to use them and develop them to become stronger. Youtube, in March of 2023, simply announced they were "testing the waters" with anti-adblocker to only a select group of users, and the internet went absolutely wild in its aggressive retaliation with discussions of how to circumvent it, better adblockers, adblocking services tailor-made to circumvent it, and in one case even wrote an entire mirror of Youtube (that won't be linked here, for obvious reasons) that strips out all the ads and only shows videosnote . Not to mention it called attention to it to a lot of people content to not use adblock, and guess what they all went out and downloaded. When they effectively said "cowabunga it is" and rolled it out in mid-October later that year, the pushback was belligerent and immediate — you could watch a Lensman Arms Race in real time between adblockers, mirrors, userscripts, frontends, and general trickery practically rolling off an assembly line from all directions with Youtube on the other desperately playing Whack-A-Mole to try and stay ahead of them.
  • The hydra gets used as a stock metaphor for problems that keep coming back even if one fights against them. It's pretty common to find political cartoons depicting political groups as hydras or other things the author happens to oppose.
  • A problem with targeting the leader of a drug cartel is that this only causes the cartel to fracture into smaller groups, resulting in an increase in the drug supply as each competes with the others.
  • The aptly named hydra effect is a concept in pest control where increased deaths will actually lead to more overall members of a species. This is either because they have mechanisms to produce more births after a major die off or that their is more food to go around to raise healthy babies.


Video Example(s):


So, No Blades

A snake monster is able to regenerate and multiplicate himself when his limbs are cut off.

How well does it match the trope?

4.96 (25 votes)

Example of:

Main / HydraProblem

Media sources: