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King in the Mountain

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"Ah.... after all these centuries I awaken... now where's the nearest bathroom?"
"Welsh legend holds
That should Wales ever need someone bold
I'll rise up to help them — mind you, I'm six hundred years old!"
Horrible Histories, "Owain Glyndŵr"

A legendary form of Faux Death: the Long-Dead Badass is not really dead, but asleep. Usually, but not necessarily, under a mountain. Islands and a Magical Land are other possibilities. At any rate, somewhere difficult to access.

He will come again in his country's hour of need to play Big Damn Heroes. The original folkloric motif generally referred the hero's awakening to The End of the World as We Know It; the rise of nationalism altered the focus from the entire world to merely the nation.

The implicit power is such that this trope is usually not played out to the end; the king is alluded to, or seen asleep, but seldom wakened during the course of a story.

See also Awakening the Sleeping Giant, which comes into play when it does happen; while not technically neutral, they are effectively so because they are not in the fray. Sister Trope to Sealed Good in a Can and Sealed Badass in a Can; they overlap in those rare stories where the king does wake. Compare Sealed Evil in a Can. Compare Present Absence, Rip Van Winkle, Year Outside, Hour Inside, and Stumbling Upon the Lost Wizard.

Sub-Trope of Eternal Hero.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach: The Quincies have ancient folklore speaking of a Sealed King. The legend states that 900 years after he is sealed, he will regain his heartbeat; 90 years after that, he'll regain his intellect; 9 years after that, he'll regain his power. The Final Arc takes place during the year he regains his power and plunges everyone into a war he started a thousand years ago. Yhwach reveals the last stanza of the legend is that 9 days after he regains his power, he'll regain the world.
  • Saya in Blood+, until a couple years before the first episode, and then again in the epilogue.
  • Played with in The Five Star Stories. The legendary warrior king Colus III really is dead, but his Humongous Mecha and Artificial Human partner Clotho are sealed away waiting for a worthy descendant of the king to use them in his nation's time of need.
  • In Phantom Dreams, the Gekka family have a "sleeping king". Probably Sealed Evil in a Can for once.
  • Nakiami becomes this in the ending of Xam'd: Lost Memories.

    Audio Plays 

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • The Elseworld story Batman: Dark Knight of the Round Table re-imagines Batman as a knight in King Arthur's court. At the end of the story, the dying Batman is enchanted to sleep and awaken at the hour of Britain's greatest need. The final page shows the Batplane battling German fighters during the Blitz.
    • The Batman: Black and White story "Legend" is set in 'the far future', where a woman tells her child a bedtime story about how the great warrior Batman finally banished evil from the world, then went to sleep in the Batcave, having promised to awaken if evil ever returned. Then she starts crying, because the world they live in is beset by evil apparently victorious. The final panels show a malefactor looking around in surprise and then alarm as a familiar pointy-eared shadow falls over him...
  • In The Books of Magic, Tim Hunter and Doctor Occult encounter the King Under the Mountain. When they ask which king, they're told that he's all of them. The bard under the mountain specifically name-checks Barbarossa and Arthur, among others.
  • Camelot 3000 takes the Arthurian Legend and runs with it. King Arthur does indeed return in the hour of England's greatest need: an alien invasion in the year 3000.
  • Captain America, who slept for Xnote  years until our greatest need...
  • In both DC One Million and All-Star Superman, our Superman goes into the sun in order to rebuild its heart and leaves the superheroing to his many descendants who he blesses with extra-extraordinary powers. He returns after 83,000 years and brings New Krypton into our solar system.
  • In an Iron Man story featuring Doctor Doom and Time Travel, Iron Man and Doom find themselves in a future England (this was a sequel to an earlier storyline that had seen the same two characters go back to Arthurian times). Merlin is back, as is Arthur... only due to genetic engineering and such, Arthur was literally reborn to two Yuppie Britons and so is a spoiled young brat. Guess who has to take his place?

    Eastern Animation 
  • Suur Toll, being an animation of the myth of Toell the Great, has his decapitated head announce that he will one day return to protect Saaremaa, but without those troublesome kids mucking it up.

    Fan Works 
  • Chasing Dragons: After dying at the Second Battle of Ghoyan Drohe and his body disappearing afterwards, Ned Stark is mythologized as merely being in hiding healing from his wounds, and will return when the Kingdom of Myr needs him the most.
  • The Palaververse: The Bullwaldas of Bovaland and their most trusted housecarls are interred after death in an enchanted cairn, so that on Bovaland’s hour of greatest need the current monarch can awaken their remains to defend the nation.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the director's cut of Army of Darkness, Ash does this, complete with his car and boomstick, but wakes up 100 years later than planned and misses humanity's demise.
  • The Field Guide to Evil: At the end of "What Ever Happened to Paganus the Pagan?", Paganus is shown seated asleep and covered in cobwebs in 'The World Below'.
  • Viva Zapata! ends with the counterrevolutionary government putting Zapata's dead body on display to crush the spirits of the peasants. It doesn't work. The peasants who see Zapata's mangled corpse refuse to believe that he is dead. They say that it isn't him, that "he's in the mountains", and that if the people ever need him, he'll come back again.

  • In Patricia A. McKillip's Alphabet of Thorn, the Dreaming King will wake to save the kingdom. In the book, he wakes only enough to give the current queen a cryptic warning.
  • BattleTech Expanded Universe:
    • A variant of this occurs in the Warrior trilogy with Morgan Kell, the famous founder of the Kell Hounds mercenary unit. As the story opens, it's been years since he's disbanded half his unit and retreated to a monastery after a fight against one Yorinaga Kurita (who likewise hasn't been seen in action since) for reasons unknown to the others, and it takes his old enemy's return onto the battlefield and the death of his brother, though he didn't plan for that to happen to bring him out of his retreat and have him take the reins again.
    • A more classic example from the same setting: the legend that General Alexander Kerensky and his troops were still out there, somewhere beyond the Periphery, and would one day return to save the Inner Sphere in its hour of need. Well — their descendants did eventually return, all right...
  • In Book of the New Sun, Severian accidentally awakens a former Autarch in a mountain redoubt during his travels through vague "sciency" methods (this is during a time when much science was forgotten and is now referred to in near magical terms). This Autarch once ruled a galaxy spanning empire, which is currently been reduced to part of one continent on a single planet. While the Commonwealth is indeed threatened, its due to a cooling sun and having its natural resources all used up. In the end, Severian realizes this Autarch is just another despotic and totalitarian figure and promptly kills him.
  • Artus in Campione! is a God who only descends to eliminate Campiones who have begun wreaking havoc in the world, sleeping in solitude the rest of the time. As the in-universe basis of King Arthur's legend, this is why Arthur is said to be waiting in Avalon for the day England needs him.
  • In the Captain Future novel Planets in Peril by Edmond Hamilton, the Captain is convinced to go into a parallel universe and impersonate an ancient hero who promised to come back when needed. In the end, it is revealed that he didn't go into a parallel universe, but his own twenty billion years in the future, and he was the hero he impersonated.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia:
    • Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are all suddenly yanked into Narnia at the beginning of Prince Caspian and discover over the course of the story that they are the Kings in the Mountain who were awakened by someone else.
    • The 'beard growing around table' imagery of this trope is also used in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader for the Good Telmarine Lords who made it as far as the Island of the Star.
    • In The Silver Chair, we meet the Giant Time, who is lying asleep underground. This one's a subversion, though, as when he wakes up in The Last Battle it's a sign of the end of the world. "When he slept he was called Time. Now he is awake he will have another name."
  • In the Count to the Eschaton book The Hermetic Millennia, this legend accumulates about Menelaus's "Tombs" or cryogenic chamber, including names from many legends.
  • A legend in The Court of the Air. At the climax, someone exploits this belief with smoke figures.
  • Cthulhu of the Cthulhu Mythos. Awaits dead and dreaming? Check. Resides in his strange and otherworldly city? Check. Will return one day in connection to the apocalypse? Check, check, and triple check.
  • The Dark is Rising:
    • In The Grey King, to fulfill a prophecy of the Light, Will Stanton plays a golden harp and summons the Six Sleepers from their resting place beneath a mountain so they can ride against the Dark.
    • King Arthur comes 'back' to fight the Dark later in the series, but he's nowhere as specific, physical, or dull as under a mountain.
  • In Darkship Thieves, Thena characterizes her welcome back to the lair as this.
  • This is a plot point in Deep Secret with the Koryfonic Empire; the emperor in question disappeared rather than being buried under a mountain, and reappears at the end of the book. It's also evoked in the sequel, The Merlin Conspiracy, although in this case, Arthur 'The Count of Britain' is just one of several forces invoked and doesn't stick around after the upset any more than The Wild Hunt does, apart from scolding the current king.
  • Discworld inevitably plays with this as it does all other folklore tropes:
    • In Lords and Ladies, we catch a glimpse of an old king and his warriors in a cavern under the Long Man. Some old wizard put them in a magical sleep from which they're supposed to wake up in time for some final battle when a wolf eats the sun. You can wake them up prematurely by banging a nearby bell, though they'll be pretty cranky about it. Haven't had a wink of sleep for 200 years.
    • A somewhat more sinister example would be the Elf king, who waits beneath the Long Man for a time when "The iron in the head has rusted", which is to say, when there are no humans left capable of opposing him, at which time he'll take over the world.
    • "Big Fido" is a version of this for dogs found in Men at Arms. The members of the Dog Guild assure themselves that when Big Fido comes back down from the mountain, he'll come and he'll bring all the knowledge of the wolves with him and then, then the revolution will start. This would be a good trick, since Gaspode saw Foul Ol' Ron sell what was left of Fido to a furriers, but if you're going to worry about what actually happened, what's the point of having a legend?
  • This happens to Mendanbar between the third and fourth Enchanted Forest Chronicles books (ironically, the fourth book was written first, with this trope being central to the quest).
  • Anviliciously deconstructed in classic Russian short story "The Epic Hero" by Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin. The hero's power comes from his mother — the evil witch. His deeds were just a demonstration of brute strength, and they were few. When he really is needed after a millennium of sleep, it turns out that he has long died and "snakes have eaten his body up to the neck". The author was very unhappy with how the czar handled his job of running the country.
  • Forest Kingdom: In book 4 (Beyond the Blue Moon), this is the final fate of King John IV. After he confesses to the murder of his son Harald, his wife Queen Eleanor, whose spirit has now become the Lady of the Lake, comes to judge him and sentences him to sleep in the Land until he is needed once more, in order to redeem himself and the Land.
  • Gor: In Marauders of Gor, Torvald, legendary founder of Torvaldsland, is said to sleep in his mountain, awaiting someone to wake him to defend Torvaldsland. Ivar Forkbeard goes there and discovers that it's only true in a metaphorical sense.
  • The graveyard in The Graveyard Book was built over the tomb of a king like this; he never actually wakes up, but the spirit guarding him plays a crucial role in the plot.
  • Invoked in How Silent Fall The Cherry Blossoms. Adolf Hitler, realizing that Germany has lost this round, orders a massive tomb built for himself and Eva Braun, with orders to kill everyone involved in its construction so no one knows where it is, while also ordering most of his remaining followers to surrender, but to raise their children as Nazis. His plan is that future Nazis will search for his tomb, and when they find it, it will provoke an upsurge of pro-Nazi sentiment that will bring about the Fourth Reich. Yeah. The tomb is found in the 1980s... by Stephen Spielberg. It's turned into a museum about all the horrible shit Hitler did.
  • In Cordwainer Smith's Instrumentality of Mankind stories, the government of the "Australian" planet Norstrilia is still carried on in the name of Elizabeth II. An AI trying to understand this is told that "She might bloody well turn up one of these days."
  • In Austin Tappan Wright's Islandia, King Alwin XVII disappeared during a battle and is presumed to be still Out There Somewhere... The actual king only reigns by courtesy until Alwin comes back.
  • In Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, residents of Yorkshire and other northerners in England treat the Raven King as this. That said, nobody thinks he's asleep, just... that he's gone somewhere else for a while.
  • Alluded to (with a twist) in Lammas Night. The novel is set during the Battle of Britain, and one character points out that the planes defending England are powered by Merlin engines.
  • In Little, Big: or, The Fairies' Parliament, Frederick Barbarossa re-awakens. Subverted since he's a Knight Templar who, when elected President of the USA, plunges the country into a dark age of tyranny, economic depression and civil war.
  • In The Lost Fleet, the story is that the legendary naval commander John "Black Jack" Geary will come to save the people of the Alliance and win the Forever War. This makes it rather awkward for Geary when he actually shows up as a Human Popsicle with a bad case of culture shock. Especially after he does save the Alliance and win (or at least end) the Forever War, because everyone is now unshakeably convinced that he's some sort of Messiah who enjoys the guidance and favour of the powers that be... which, the narrative keeps broadly hinting, might actually be true.
  • In the Moth and Cobweb book Green Knight's Squire, King Arthur appears, sleeping, but still capable of accepting Gil's homage.
  • In Poul Anderson's Orion Shall Rise, the line "Orion shall rise" is used by many citizens of a subjugated land. This trope is invoked to explain their superstition. In reality, they're talking about the restarting of a secret program codenamed "Orion". This was to ensure that any leaks would be attributed to the superstition, helping cover up the program. Given what the Orion Project is, the secrecy is understandable.
  • The Promethean Age: In Blood and Iron, King Arthur is actually awakened.
  • The subject of the trope page quote itself is used in The Raven Cycle, with the plot centered around the main characters trying to find and wake the sleeping Welsh king. Gansey in particular is obsessed with the man.
  • Realm of the Elderlings: In the Farseer trilogy, legends state that King Wisdom awakened the Elderlings to defend the Six Dutchies. He vanished afterwards, but will return again to save the land. After King Verity does the same to end the Red Ship war, the same legends form around him.
  • In the Red Mars Trilogy, this comes close to being the hat of Mars. Over the two centuries or so the series spans Mars sees a lot of political movements rise and fall, and it's just so damn easy to get away from it all and hide if things no longer go your way. The trope is pioneered by Hiroko Ai shortly after the first landing, and following her lead, the number of important people disappearing only to emerge out of some off-the-records settlement decades later is impressive. On top of this, there's a whole lot of important people whose fate is unknown to the public, so for each person actually hiding there's probably two that are rumored to be.
  • The Scholomance: The Seventh Sage of Beijing, the founder of the Beijing enclave. He never actually died but instead disappeared into the ether, occasionally reappearing to other wizards whenever the Beijing enclave is in some kind of crisis and needs his help. By the time the protagonists meet him in the last book, nobody has seen him in centuries.
  • In The Sleeper Awakes, a man previously in a coma for two centuries happens to awaken to find himself in a bleak, dystopian London of the future. Not only that, but upon first entering his trance-like coma two hundred years prior, his money had been placed into a Trust which had managed his money for him in his name; this money accumulated into a vast quantity over the centuries, due to the compound interest compiling steadily for so long, and the stewards of that Trust eventually put all this wealth to establishing a global political and economic conglomeration. The effects of all this boil down to the Sleeper now finding himself the richest man in the world, as well as effective leader of the world seeing that this political and economic entity had been created in his name. He proceeds to assume the role of the "Hero" in an attempt to restore London from this grim present and free the oppressed populace.
  • In the Spiral Arm novel The January Dancer, Hugh sneaks off planet with the promise to return again. Later, the Fudir speaks of the legends of Stonewall and how they correspond to many King in the Mountain legends.
  • A Tale of Time City uses this trope with the sleeping Faber John inside Time City.
  • That Hideous Strength: The fact that Merlin is resting beneath Bragdon Wood is a major plot point, and both factions wish to recruit the reawakened wizard to their side.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The Army of the Dead in The Lord of the Rings — deserters cursed to guard the tunnels under the White Mountains (the Paths of the Dead), until they fulfill their promise to protect Gondor.
    • In The Silmarillion (or more precisely the Akallabêth), the evil last king of Númenor, Ar-Pharazôn, set sail with his armies to conquer the holy lands of Valinor from the Valar (god-like angelic demiurges). The Valar prevented the heresy, and possible slaughter of resident elves, by burying him and his armies under a mountain. Supposedly, he will only be freed to fight in the final battle with the Dark Lord. Rather ominously, the legend doesn't specify which side he'll be fighting on.
    • Invoked in the fate of the legendary father of the Dwarves, Durin the Deathless. The Song of Durin even ends with the line, "...till Durin wakes again from sleep."
  • In the first Vesper Holly book, King Vartan is supposed to be this. He never actually returns, but since his death, several popular leaders have claimed to be Vartan returned and led uprisings.
  • In War of the Dreaming, it's the King in Exile and his sleeping warriors who await the time of their triumphant return — but it's been a very long wait, and some of them are getting impatient...
  • Watership Down: General Woundwort ends up this way because they Never Found the Body after he launched a suicidal attack on a large dog. Such is his influence over the rabbits he both inspired and terrorised as their dictator that his followers insist that he went away to start a warren from more worthy rabbits. Long after the Efrafan rabbits have become assimilated into the Watership Down warren, Woundwort is remembered as either the boogeyman, or as a giant rabbit dwelling somewhere over the downs who shall one day return to fight for those who honor his name.
    Such was Woundwort's monument: and perhaps it would not have displeased him.
  • By the era of Wax and Wayne, the Church of the Survivor believes that the Survivor returned from death centuries ago, and will come again when the world needs him. At least one person is skeptical about this legend; namely, what was he doing when the world was being destroyed in Hero of Ages? The church may be right; he showed up alive sixteen years after his death, on a different continent, saving a different dying civilization.
  • In The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, the wizard, Cadellin, is the guardian of the Cave of The Sleepers; wherein Arthur and his knights sleep, awaiting the Final Battle or some time of great need.
  • Margaret Ronald's The Welsh Squadron from Strange Horizons has King Arthur and his men show up in WWII as a squadron of fighter pilots during the Battle of Britain.
  • Played for Laughs in Who's Afraid of Beowulf?, in which Viking King Hrolf of Caithness ("God-forsaken country — but it is my kingdom") and his band of heroes are disinterred in time to put an end to the attempt of their ancient enemy, the Sorcerer King, to take over the modern world via magic — or as we call it, technology.
  • In Wicked, some people believe that the Wizard couldn't bring himself to kill Ozma and put her into a magical stasis, and they she may come back to rule Oz someday.
  • A Wizard in Rhyme: In the first book, Her Majesty's Wizard, Matt is taken to a cave in the mountains where the legendary emperor Hardishane and his knights are waiting for the time when they will need to save the world from evil. They don't come back just yet; Matt just needs to be there for a special knighting ceremony. However, there is an example of Waking the Sleeping Giant. Hardishane is specifically mentioned to be Charlemagne's counterpart in the Merovence universe, so it's sort of inevitable that something that was a myth about Charlemagne in our world literally applies to his counterpart in a world where magic exists.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5:
    • Sheridan disappears at the end of the Grand Finale. Some of the Minbari believe that he'll return someday.
    • Subverted in the case of David MacIntyre from "A Late Delivery from Avalon", who's just a delusional man driven by his guilt to believe that he's King Arthur. The possibility that he is the real deal is raised (the Vorlons have been known to abduct and preserve humans in stasis) but immediately shot down; a real person from that time period would not have been fluent in anything resembling 23rd century English.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Subverted in "Battlefield". It's implied that the King Arthur of a parallel universe is doing this on the main Whoniverse Earth, but it turns out that he was dead all along and the story that he would return was just propaganda.
    • For a good deal of the series, Ur-Time Lord Rassilon is sealed in his tomb/tower. Unfortunately, when he woke up to lead the Time Lords in their hour of greatest need, he turned out to be a Knight Templar Omnicidal Maniac.
  • In Highlander, Duncan became this in his hometown after his first fight as an immortal where he "killed" the immortal Kanwulf who was attacking his clan. These events started a legend that Duncan Macleod would return whenever his hometown, Glenfinnan was in trouble. When Kanwulf returns some time later, Duncan kills him off for real.
  • In Red Dwarf, when Lister goes into stasis. The cat religion that builds up around him says he was frozen in time and will come back to lead them someday.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, there's a legend like this surrounding the Klingon imperial founder Kahless. In "Rightful Heir", a group of monks make a clone of him and claim that he's returned in an attempted power grab.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Arthurian Legend: King Arthur in Avalon, and Merlin in the oak. Said to come back when England is in its hour of most need. Still hasn't shown up, despite the threats of the Spanish Armada, Napoleon and Nazi Germany. Since then Francis Drake, the Duke of Wellington (who gets bonus points for his name being Arthur Wellesley), and Winston Churchill have all been referred to as reincarnations of Arthur, and Admiral Nelson is also a candidate, though he'd have to mud-wrestle The Duke of Wellington to figure out which of them it was since they lived at the same time. In much the same way, Arthurian legend is still very popular in many Commonwealth nations, particularly the Commonwealth Realms where the Royal Family still reigns (Canada, Australia, and New Zealand).
  • Bendigeidfran (or Brân the Blessed, not to be confused with BRIAN BLESSED), giant and King of Britain. His severed, still living head was buried under the White Hill in London, facing France, to protect the Island of the Mighty from invasion. A jealous King Arthur dug it up, claiming his strength alone was enough to safeguard Britain.
  • Ogier the Dane (Holger Danske), asleep under Kronborg castle, near Helsingør, Denmark.note  His role is summed up thus: "Når Danmark stander i våde, så vil Holger Danske vågne op til dåd" ("When Denmark is in peril, Ogier the Dane will rise to the occasion"). The statue of him in Kronborg is, in fact, a copy used for the casting (originally of plaster; later replaced by a concrete version) of the actual bronze statue. The real statue is located at a nearby hotel/casino named Marienlyst, and far from as well known as the copy. Local folklore of the area is that Denmark is only in serious trouble if both statues wake up. As Ogier the Dane was originally from a French story, where he served a French king, some versions of the stories had him be spirited away to Avalon by Morgan Le Fay only to return 200 years later to save France.
  • According to German folklore, Emperor Frederick I of the Holy Roman Empire (a.k.a. Friedrich Barbarossa, or Redbeard) sleeps in the Kyffhäuser mountain in Thuringia in Central Germany, from which he will eventually emerge to reclaim his empire. The story exists in numerous versions which make different claims as to when this will happen. Most modern versions of the legend are dependent on German Legends (1816) by the Brothers Grimm or the poem "Barbarossa" (1817) by Friedrich Rückert. Incidentally the emperor in the mountain was originally Barbarossa's grandson Frederick II ("Stupor mundi"), who soon after his death was claimed to be alive inside Mount Etna. Around 1420, Frederick is first described haunting Kyffhäuser by a German source. In the following centuries, ambiguity arose over which of the Fredericks was enchanted in Kyffhäuser; as German patriots over time tended to idolize Barbarossa over the younger Frederick, the former eventually completely superseded the latter. Frederick Barbarossa also has the advantage that he has no known grave.
  • An adaptation of this myth has Charlemagne living in the Untersberg near Salzburg. His beard is growing around a table, wrapping twice around it so far. When it has reached around three times... you know the deal. Of course, since the location of Charlemagne's remains is known (Aachen cathedral), this myth is far less popular than the one about Barbarossa.
  • In the Philippines, Tagalog folk hero Bernardo Carpio is chained up hand and foot within the mountains of Montalban, and also caught between two boulders trying to crush him. He is often said to be the reason for the earthquakes in the area. The legend states that he was a Herculean man who fought against the Spanish occupiers, and so they enlisted a local sorcerer to trap him in the mountains. When his final chain breaks, so the tale goes, "the enslavement and oppression of the Filipino race will be replaced with freedom and happiness". This was mentioned in the novel El Filibusterismo by Philippine national hero José Rizal. Intriguingly, the figure originated in a Spanish Chivalric Romance as a knight named Bernardo del Carpio. It's unclear how the Filipino tale started, or whether his name was grafted onto an original Filipino figure.
  • The Philippines' national hero José Rizal himself is said to be sleeping within Mount Banahaw, where he was supposedly spirited away after his execution in 1896. A local cult called the Rizalistas revere him as God made manifest, and believe that he will return from the mountain to make the nation great again, riding upon a white horse and his appearance heralded by seven suns rising over the Philippines.
  • Francis Drake is said to be sleeping "in his hammock" on the sea floor. The legend says he'll return in England's time of need, when his drum at Buckland Abbey sounds. While he may never have returned in body, legend has it that the drum has sounded by itself several times over the centuries.
  • Väinämöinen. He's apparently not sealed in any single location, but wanders between the stars ("higher earths, lower skies") until he's needed again. Parodied in a Finnish comic book when Väinämöinen visits Avalon. He meets King Arthur, mentioned above, and they briefly discuss this trope. Arthur reveals that he did in fact return once, during World War II, before adding that it took him two years to escape that asylum.
  • Gearoidh Iarla (Earl Gerald) and his warriors are asleep in their seats around a long table under the Mullaghmast. Once every seven years, the Earl awakens and rides his horse around the Curragh, in County Kildare. When the horse's shoes are worn "as thin as a cat's ear", he and his warband will arise for good and drive the English out of Ireland.
  • Muhammad al-Mahdi, the twelfth Imam of Shia Islam lived most of his life in a cave, was (allegedly) hidden away by God, and is expected to return someday to establish justice.
  • Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, is this for the Druze and other Ismaili sects of Shia Islam.
  • Constantine XI, the last Roman (Byzantine) Emperor, whose body was never found after the storming of Constantinople, in a variation was turned into a statue instead of sleeping. But he still waits to be awakened and help take back Constantinople.
  • The Portuguese equivalent of this trope is King Sebastian I of Portugal, and was widely rumored to have survived the battle of Alcazar-Qebir in Morocco in 1578, in which he was killed (but his body was never found). After the Habsburgs claimed the throne of Portugal, thus losing it its independence, these legends arose about Sebastian of Portugal, the last king of Portugal before them. The myth that he would return to save Portugal in its darkest hour persisted and even spread to Brazil, when anti-republican movements began rallying his memory as the Brazilian monarchy descended from the Portuguese.
  • King Wenceslas (yes, the one from the Christmas carol, though he was actually just a duke), in Czech folklore, who sleeps inside the mountain Blaník, in the Czech Republic. With all his knights, too. They are supposed to show up and whip away adversaries when the country is at her worst. They haven't shown up even though the country had been oppressed terribly and there are several extremely poignant moments in the history. The motif of them coming to help recurs in literary works, especially in poetry. According to the more popular version of the legend, the army that will arise with Wenceslas is not his own, but the redoubtable army of the 15th-century Hussites. This shows up in Blaník, the sixth and final segment of Smetana's symphonic poem Má vlast, where a Hussite chorale is used as a main theme.
  • King Matjaž, who was presumably based on King Matthias Corvinus. In Slovenia, he is a legendary hero who sleeps with his army in the mountain called Peca in the Karawanks. When his beard grows nine times around the table, he will awake from his sleep and bring a golden era to his people.
  • Not a King per se, but Fenibeso was the first sole ruler of Okrika (in today's Nigeria). Local religion states that he did not die, but instead went into the jungle, became a spirit, and is now the kingdom's patron saint and god of war. The belief is that he will return physically to lead Okrika's armies if she is ever on the verge of being conquered (apparently getting colonised by the British didn't count because the reigning monarch signed a treaty willingly before a shot was fired).
  • Norse Mythology has the villain version of this for Loki. His return will bring the end of the world. However, the dead god Balder is also meant to return at the same time, and help to rebuild from the ashes.
  • According to Japanese folklore, the 9th-century Buddhist monk Kukai (Kobo Daishi) is not dead, but "meditating" underneath Mount Koya, awaiting the coming of Maitreya. His followers bring him food and a change of clothes daily, and a massive cemetery has sprung up around his resting-place.
  • The giant-king of Estonian myth Toell the Great was supposed to be this for Saaremaa, but a bunch of troublesome kids lied and said there was a war, so he swore to never return.
  • According to the epic Kalevipoeg, Estonia's mythic king Kalevipoeg will one day return.
  • According to a Polish legend, there is a whole army of knights (King Boleslaw I is often claimed to be among them as well, depending on the version told), sleeping in a cave under the Tatra mountains until the time of need comes. Every now and then, someone stumbles into a cave. The king asks them "Is it time?" and they have to explain to him the country's situation. If he finds it desperate enough, the army will ride out to fight the invaders. If not, he concludes that it is not, in fact, time, and he resumes his wait. This was the subject of a joke from the Cold War years, when Poland was a Soviet puppet. An old Polish lady visits the Tatra mountains and is shown the entrance to the cave by a local guide: "Here is where the sleeping army lies, ready to wake in Poland's hour of need." Says the lady: "Well, what are they waiting for?"
  • According to a Serbian legend, Marko Kraljević, a legendary warrior, went to sleep long ago and will rise again one day to a better age, when he will once again kick ass and take names. The reason why? He saw a gun and realized that "the weakest sissy could kill the bravest, strongest warrior with it" and decided that he was just too awesome to go down like that.
  • The Welsh rebel Owain Glyndŵr will supposedly return from hiding when Wales needs him the most.
  • Quetzalcoatl of Aztec Mythology sailed eastwards one day, vowing to return. Apocrypha claims this is why the Spaniards had such a warm reception.
  • Sweden has one in "The knights of Ålleberg". According to legend they've been there since 1389, waiting to save Sweden from invaders, which makes one wonder where they were when the nearby city of Falköping was burnt and plundered in 1520, 1566, and 1571. The legend is unclear about how many knights there are, everything from "thousands upon thousands" to just twelve, though one version claims that they started as twelve but their numbers have increased over the centuries.
  • Quinnipac Native Americans in Connecticut believed that Mount Caramel/Sleeping Giant State Park is the dirt and plant covered form of an actual sleeping giant named Hobbomock. While certain tribes in the region state the sleeping giant, who was put under a spell by a spirit, is benevolent, there are other tribes that hold that the Hobbomock is Sealed Evil in a Can and that awakening him will end the world. It is at least fairly consistent he likes oysters and caused the Connecticut River to divert east ages ago.
  • Urban legends also claim that Theodore Roosevelt is either resting under Mount Rushmore, or in Area 51, and will return in America's darkest hour with a new band of Rough Riders.
  • The earliest American case of this was probably Andrew Jackson. After founding the Democratic party and becoming by far the most powerful President up to that point, he retired to a life of relative obscurity. Naturally this led people to believe he would one day take the political reins of America to solve some situation, and his death did little to dissuade them. In the months leading up to the Civil War many believed Jackson would rise again and resolve the whole situation.
  • In an Evil Counterpart of this, a conspiracy theory holds Adolf Hitler did not die and instead fled to Argentina.
  • Belief may have waned over the years, but for some time, the assassinated populist governor of Louisiana, Huey Long, was expected to return to lead the state to prosperity.
  • A modern legend related to this trope involves Subhas Chandra Bose, the Indian independence leader who escaped British India for Germany then took two submarines (one German, the other Japanese—they rendezvoused off the coast of Madagascar so that Bose could change ships) to Japanese controlled Southeast Asia. Supposedly, he died in a plane crash in Taipei, Taiwan, on August 18, 1945, but he is said to have survived the crash and either became a Hindu mystic or somehow took refuge in Soviet Union. Some (including his relatives) have claimed that he would return to an independent India (although no one has quite claimed that he would return to lead India at time of its need).
  • There's a belief that Charlemagne isn't really dead, but is simply lying in wait for the rise of the anti-Christ so he can battle and defeat him.
  • The Legend of Granger Taylor. Granger Taylor was a well known eccentric inventor who was born in 1963. One day, he disappeared during a vicious storm, but left a note for his parents. He claims that aliens have contacted him and that he is currently on an interstellar voyage that will last 42 months, but he that he will someday return. Granger has yet to return, but many believe that he is simply late due to how differently time works in space, and that he will one day return to give humanity a higher level of knowledge.
  • A popular urban legend holds that Walt Disney isn't dead, but had himself frozen or put in suspended animation (no pun intended) when he learned he was dying of lung cancer, to be resuscitated when the cure for his ailment was discovered. This has been called America's version of the King in the Mountain legend, and the fact that Disney was not a king or a hero but a businessman and entertainer is the subject of some discussion (usually suggesting the country is too young and/or shallow to have a "real" hero).
  • A Mongolian folk tale holds that in 1227, Genghis Khan called for the most beautiful maiden in his empire, who turned out to be the princess of Xi Xia. When she went to Genghis, her father gave her a knife to conceal in her clothes, telling her that she would know what to do. As the princess lay with Genghis, she took out the knife and cut off his penis. Genghis called his guards and sent her away, saying he wished to sleep. He has been sleeping since then, and will one day awaken to save Mongolia.
  • Camilo Cienfuegos, one of Fidel Castro's closest allies during the Cuban Revolution, disappeared during a flight over the Straits of Florida one night in 1959. Cubans believed his plane crashed, exiles believed he was shot down on Castro's orders. But it's also a popular belief in both groups that Camilo survived the crash and decided not to return to Cuba, hiding somewhere in Ybor City in Tampa. Cubans on the island believe that Camilo, who was extremely popular for being a kind, jovial, and loving man, will return to rescue Cuba from its economic plight, while exiles believe that Camilo will return to kick out the communists.
  • Some QAnon adherents took to thinking that John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. would come back and serve as VP for Donald Trump.
  • Not long after Nero's death in 68 CE, the myth of Nero Redivivus was born. Supposedly Nero was actually hiding out in Parthia and would one day return at the head of a large army. Interestingly for a man of Nero's reputation this legend had both negative and positive connotations and would inspire at least three rebellions led by men claiming to be Nero. The negative versions of the myth would later figure into the Book of Revelation as the basis for its prophecies about the Anti-Christ.
  • The song Óró sé do bheatha abhaile holds that noblewoman and pirate Grace O'Malley will soon return from over the sea with a thousand warriors to disperse the foreigners, presumably the English.
  • Hindu Mythology: King Muchukunda helped the devas defeat the asuras in a decisive battle and as a reward he asked to be allowed to sleep forever, and the power to incinerate anyone who woke him with a glance. Eons later Krishna lured his enemy Kalayavana into the cave where Muchukunda slept and tricked him into waking the ancient king.
  • The Irish version has Fionn mac Cumhaill and his warriors coming back from their mounds to defend Ireland.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Toyed with in BattleTech with Devlin Stone: he ruled the Republic of the Sphere for several decades of relative peace in the Inner Sphere, before stepping down, promising to return if needed, and vanishing. The Inner Sphere almost immediately descends into chaos. It was later revealed that he had been placed into cryogenic suspension to presumably invoke this trope and had intended to be thawed out fifty years later, not the fifteen that wound up happening. This trope is then subverted, as his impact after his return is minimal and does little to stop the Republic of the Sphere from crumbling.
  • GURPS Technomancer: Stalin turned out to be this for the Soviet Union. He awoke after the fall of the USSR and tried to Make the Bear Angry Again.
  • Shadowrun: There are rumors that one of the effects of the Awakening and the return of magic was the return of the legendary German emperor Frederick Barbarossa, who had been in an enchanted sleep waiting for Germany's hour of greatest need. According to some accounts, he was the real identity of a German general who was instrumental in safeguarding southern Germany during a series of wars between the European and Middle Eastern nations. According to others, he had apparently been a carrier of the genes that cause goblinization, and when he stepped out of his tomb as a troll he was promptly murdered by neo-Nazis.
  • Warhammer:
    • The dwarfs believe that their ancestor gods Grugni and Valaya disappeared into the heart of the mountains, to return when needed. Likewise, High King Snorri Whitebeard, the first ruler of the dwarfs, vowed on his deathbed that he would return one day when the dwarfs' foes would be at their gates. Many dwarfs believe that the enigmatic dwarf hero Grombrindal, who appears sporadically to lead dwarf armies to victory over dangerous foes, is in fact Snorri himself, returned to fulfill his promise.
    • Dragons also have a habit of hibernating for centuries at a time (they're not adapting to the planet's changing climate well), and can only be roused by powerful mages. Hence why High Elf "dragon princes" ride into battle on horses with dragon-themed barding these days.
    • Gilles le Breton, being Warhammer's King Arthur, was taken to a ship on his death that sent him to the Lady of the Lake, and it is said that he will return in Bretonnia's time of need. A lot of people in-universe speculate that the Green Knight, a mysterious warrior who challenges Questing Knights and occasionally appears to aid Bretonnian armies when they need help, is actually Gilles. And they're right. It's rather darkly subverted in the Grand Finale; by the time he returns Bretonnia is beyond saving, and all he can do is lead a doomed Last Stand off-screen while the real battle for the fate of the world happens elsewhere.
    • Sigmar, the first ruler of the Empire, gave up the throne and went into the mountains to the east, never to be heard from again. He is said to have ascended to godhood. Which he actually did, and in The End Times, he comes back too. Though not in the way you'd think.
    • The orcs and goblins have a version of this concerning the legendary goblin warlord Grom the Paunch, who vanished after his invasion of the high elven homeland was defeated. Among the numerous theories on his eventual fate is the rumor that Grom will one day return and lead the greenskins to great victory over the other races.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The God-Emperor of Mankind has been confined to the arcane life-support systems of the Golden Throne for ten thousand years, and there's a number of theories and heresies about the circumstances of his possible revival. Some believe he will rise again one day to begin a new Great Crusade, while others hold that if everyone would just let his ruined husk die, the Emperor could reincarnate into a healthy new form. The Inquisitor rulebook mentions a theory that the Emperor could have been recalled to his body as early as a year after being placed on the Throne, but those ruling in his place prevented it to preserve their own power and the stability of the Imperium. Of course, the complicating factor is that the Golden Throne is part of the psychic beacon called the Astronomicon, without which it would be impossible to navigate through the Warp, leading to the collapse of galactic civilization...
    • The loyalist Primarchs, the Emperor's sons, all either died, dissapeared, or left for parts unknown after the end of the Horus Heresy. Many of them have legends around them claiming they'll return one day under various circumstances. So far, two of them have, and many are waiting to see who comes next.
    • In Henry Zhou's novel Emperor's Mercy, the ancient xenos artifact the Old Kings is supposed to produce the Star Kings at some point.

  • In the opera Rip van Winkle, the chorus calls Rip "King of the Mountain" as he begins his twenty-year sleep in the Catskills.

  • In BIONICLE, the entire Myth Arc is that the Great Spirit Mata Nui, a planet-sized robot whose body houses the Matoran Universe, has been put into a coma by the Makuta's virus a thousand years ago and the main heroes, the Toa need to awaken him. There are some twists involved:
    • Nobody apart from Makuta and a select few actually knew what Mata Nui was, other than some revered godlike entity. Mata Nui was exploring space and heading back to his place of origin when Makuta struck and the robot crashed on the water moon Aqua Magna. Many evacuated his body, settling on an artificial island that formed on Mata Nui's face when his camouflage system kicked in. Makuta kept them from returning and rebooting Mata Nui, arguing "sleep spares him pain, awake he suffers". Had he been reactivated too early, Mata Nui standing up would have destroyed the island, killing all on it. Only when the time was right and the fabled Toa of Light appeared could they reenter the robot.
    • The virus slowly caused Mata Nui to die, meaning there was also a time limit to awaken him. Failing to do so would lead to the death of the Matoran Universe within a few days as the robot's biological functions shut down.
    • Makuta accounted for all this, knowing that the Toa are destined to revive Mata Nui despite his efforts, so he planned ahead, making sure the Great Spirit would die only temporarily, while he placed his own soul into the robot's CPU and banished Mata Nui's soul into the Mask of Life that the Toa used to revive him. When the Great Spirit body awoke, Makuta was controlling it, setting up the story's climax.
    • Creating a small temporary body for himself on the planet Bara Magna, Mata Nui discovers the body of a more ancient giant robot, his own prototype, which he theorizes might have once been a great ruler like himself. He's actually wrong, as the prototype Great Spirit robot didn't have a soul. But it comes in handy to battle Makuta.
    • At the very end, Mata Nui chooses to go back to sleep, this time voluntarily sealing his soul in the Mask of Life, not wanting his people to hail him as an almighty god anymore.
    • The Toa were examples as well. As a contingency measure, they were forced into stasis to only awaken if Mata Nui needed them. In the following 100,000 years, they became heroes of legend, which is how Makuta knew about their foretold fate. Unfortunately, when the time came, their pods malfunctioned and Toa remained in stasis for another thousand years, losing their memories and having to relearn everything to live up to their reputation. By the time they were about to revive Mata Nui's heart, they knew it would mean giving up their lives and going back to stasis, as the heart's energies would obliterate them otherwise. To solve this dilemma, they used the Mask of Life to re-energize Mata Nui and escaped before the energy engulfed the heart chamber.
  • In BIONICLE (2015), Ekimu the Mask Maker fell into a coma after fighting his brother Makuta, but murmured the prophecy of heroes to his followers in his sleep. Ages later, when the island Okoto is overrun by an army of Skull Spiders, the Toa are summoned to find Ekimu's tomb and awaken him to be their mentor and guide.
  • Transformers: Most versions of Primus, the god of Transformers, are asleep, and have been for several billion years, sworn only to revive when "all are one". So, given the nature of Transformers, he's not waking up any time soon. It usually takes something pretty drastic to get Primus directly involved (like, say, shooting him in the face). Of course, there is a pretty good reason for his long nap: If he wakes up, Unicron will instantly know where he is and make a beeline straight for him. And Primus has a pretty bad track record with regards to fighting his nemesis...

    Video Games 
  • Breath of Fire IV subverts this to the point of deconstruction with Fou-lu. He was meant to be this trope if things went as planned, if the Fou Empire (which he founded) wasn't corrupted to the point of wanting him dead. Instead, Fou-lu's entire storyline in the game can be best described as what happens when a country's government sees the return of its King in the Mountain as an Unwanted Revival. It goes poorly for all involved.
  • The nameless protagonist in Crystalis is essentially this, as is Mesia.
  • Dark Souls III: When the link of the fire is threatened, all the lords of Cinder that have ever ruled rise from their graves to avoid the end of the Age of Fire. It is the player's task to hunt down those of them who refused the call.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind:
    • Nerevar, the long-dead Chimeri/Dunmeri Founder of the Kingdom. He finally returns in Morrowind's hour of need as the player, who is his reincarnation. Nerevar is known as a great leader who united the Dunmer and brought peace and prosperity to Resdayn, and they have been divided since his death. The Ashlanders eagerly await his return so that their people can know prosperity again.
    • Big Bad Dagoth Ur is a villainous version. He was thought to have been vanquished, but having already attained godhood, his defeat was only temporary, and he regained his power over several millennia, leading up to the events of the game.
  • At the end of Final Fantasy XV, Noctis, which is the heir of the kingdom of Lucis, spends 10 years sleeping in the Crystal for accumulating enough power to defeat the Big Bad and then save the world.
  • Half-Life: After stopping the Xen Invasion, Gordon Freeman spends 20 years floating in space-time limbo courtesy of the G-Man, and as a result misses out on the subjugation of Earth by the Combine Empire. In the meantime, word of this Free Man's deeds have grown to mythic proportions, to the point that news of his return is enough to spark humanity's uprising against the Combine.
  • In Halo 3, Master Chief winds up adrift in space, with no communications available. He enters a stasis tube with the final words "Wake me when you need me."
  • In Kingdom Hearts, Sora is sent into a deep sleep along with his companions, so that Namine can piece his shattered memory back together. In the year this process takes, much conflict ensues over the sleeping Sora. Between DiZ who seeks a tool for his revenge in Sora, and Organization XIII who seeks to steal Sora's power and stop him from ever waking.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, there's a Princess Zeldanote  who has been asleep for years.
    • At the beginning of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, it's implied that the reason why Old Hyrule fell is because they were expecting this trope: the Hero had saved them from Ganon once before, and now he was failing to do it. Because someone decided that the hero needed to spend some more time on his childhood and sent him back to his other timeline at the end of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Way to go, Zelda.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: The Link in this game unsuccessfully first battled Ganon 100 years ago, and was left mortally wounded. He was then taken to the Shrine of Resurrection on the Great Plateau so slowly he could regenerate, which ended up taking a century. While he wakes up at the start of the game to try once again to save Hyrule, there's a lot of lore written while he was asleep wondering when he's going to wake up, treating him as his trope. Furthermore, Princess Zelda has long since faded into legend, with the vast majority of Hyrule is unaware that she is still alive and fighting to keep Ganon contained in Hyrule Castle.
    • Mineru, the Sage of Spirit, is this for Link and the Sages in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Whenever the four Sages touch their secret stones, their ancient predecessors give them exposition about how the first Sages fought the Imprisoning War against Ganondorf. After they help Link fight Phantom Ganon in Hyrule Castle and discuss the situation with Purah, they realize that there was a fifth Sage in images of that ancient battle who does not have a modern counterpart. Link investigates the matter further and eventually finds out that Mineru, after receiving mortal wounds in the Imprisoning War, transferred her spirit into the Purah Pad. She has Link put together a Construct body for her to inhabit so she can fight alongside him and the modern Sages.
  • In The Longing, you play as a Shade who serves one such king. The King has expended his powers and must rest, tasking the Shade to wake him up once 400 real-time days have passed.
  • Mass Effect:
  • Mega Man: Both X and Zero during the time between their respective series. Zero at one point learns that he's the Typhoid Mary of the Maverick Virus. Fearing that he might be subconsciously spreading the virus as long as he walks, he asked to be put to sleep and surrendered his body for study. X however, sought out his help once more for the Elf Wars, but immediately after putting an end to that, Zero asked to be sealed again, this time, for eternity. X, meanwhile, can be a literal example, since by this point, he's now the ruler of Last Bastion Neo Arcadia, yet he used his body to imprison the Dark Elf (the cause of the Elf Wars). X's absence resulted in Neo Arcadia commissioning an El Cid Ploy with a clone called Copy-X that has Gone Horribly Wrong.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Big Boss, as we learn in The Reveal at the very end of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Though Snake thought he killed him, he was actually locked away and kept in suspended animation by the Patriots after failing to break away from their grasp with the Outer Heaven uprising. Throughout the course of the entire series, his surviving comrades — including EVA and Ocelot — were actually trying to uphold his legacy by bringing down the Patriots and freeing him.
    • In Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Big Boss becomes the prophesied founding father of modern-day Private Forces who would eventually return to rock the world and lead mercenaries to victory, which he does after nine years in a coma. Except the player character is not Big Boss but Venom Snake, the true apprentice of Big Boss and the final boss of Metal Gear, distracting the world so that Big Boss could build Outer Heaven.
  • Planescape: Torment: The Silent King of the Dead Nations sits frozen on the throne, a little more dead than The Undead citizens. Except during the game, he's actually completely dead, which Hargrimm is covering up. The Nameless One may choose to replace him, or give the position to a previously treacherous diplomat.
  • Pokémon:
    • Arceus is one of these in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, having fallen into a deep slumber after creating the Pokémon world. The player needs to awaken him using the Azure Flute before they can enter the Hall of Origin to fight him.
    • A number of Legendary Pokémon fulfil their region's local version of 'disappears for centuries at a time, to reappear in the hour of dire need'. Examples include Rayquaza for Hoenn, Zygarde for Kalos and Zacian and Zamazenta for Galar.
  • In Spirit of the North, the titular guardian of the Northern Lights had abandoned its duties and slept in an ice cave atop a mountain. When it is awoken by the player fox, the civilization who worshiped it is long dead, leaving murals of them dying to a plague while it slept in its hidden sanctuary.
  • In TRON 2.0, Programs have this idea about Tron himself. He vanished shortly after his victory over Master Control, and they believe that he would return in the system's darkest cycle. In the game itself, it's played a bit sideways; at best, the game's protagonist could be called a half-brother (he's the human son of Alan and Lora). Played completely straight in the sequel Killer App, in which Alan did put Tron in stasis after all, and sends him out with modern upgrades to fight a menace to Encom.
  • Played with in Undertale, as the king was imprisoned under a mountain along with his subjects by humans, both king and subjects not being human, long ago. Due to the death of the king's son at the hands of their descendants, the inevitable release of the king and his people, because of curious children like the protagonist, is played up as marking the extinction of humanity. Subverted in that the king made that decree while still mourning his son, but couldn't take it back once he'd calmed down because it gave the people hope, and he couldn't bring himself to dash those hopes just because he hadn't been of sound mind at the time. What is notable is that his Leitmotif is officially titled "Bergentrückung", which is the German name for the concept. Ironically, this trope actually applies more to his former wife, the queen, who fled the castle and isolated herself in the ruins in disgust.
  • In Warframe, the Tenno and their One-Man Army Warframes are awoken from cryosleep by the Lotus (after some unknown time) to once again bring peace and balance to the solar system during a time of great war between the Grineer and Corpus superpowers and a Technocyte pandemic known as the "Infestation".

  • The Dreamland Chronicles: Keeping King Arthur alive but out of the way is crucial to Nicodemus.
  • In the backstory of Drowtales, Queen Sharess made a promise to the Dark Elves that she would return and lead them back to the Surface from the Underworld once it was safe again after demonic wars had made it uninhabitable, before she departed into the Netherworld to seal the gates. After 1000 years there are no signs of her returning, and the Dark Elves and those who believe in her are largely extinct outside of the Kyorl'solenurn clan. However, Sha'sana actually has been keeping Sharess' body alive the entire time, and has her own plans to bring her back to unite the clans. The prophecy is eventually given a twist when Diva transfers her soul into Sharess' body for the final battle, and afterword assumes her identity to unite the Underworld and command an exodus to the surface, bringing an end to the Moonless Age. Word of God says that Sharess herself was never going to come back on her own, making the ancient promise empty.
  • Leif & Thorn: Variation in which Ceannis' Arthurian national hero Rhódon is dead — but reincarnation is a known thing, and she has come back several times. It's believed she will reincarnate again if and when the nation needs her.
  • Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic: There is a prophecy that King Eric I of Drostardy would rise from his grave to defeat the ultimate evil in the world's darkest hour. This is exactly what happens, full-resurrection while Ranna breathes.

    Web Originals 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Avatar Aang accidentally seals himself and Appa, his flying bison, in ice for a hundred years. He does indeed return to save the world, although judging by what Zuko says in the first episode, everyone probably expected an old man in hiding rather than a Keet Cheerful Child.
  • Beast Wars: The original Optimus Prime (in stasis lock) sits in his command chair in the Autobot ark, which crash-landed and buried itself under a dormant volcano, awaiting a revival millions of years in the future.
  • The Boondocks: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is revealed to be this, awakening from a coma 40-odd years after being shot. In a pretty dark subversion of the trope, he turns out to be pretty disappointed with the direction that African-American culture has gone in his absence.
  • Gargoyles: As with the original legend, this happens to King Arthur. When King Arthur came out, the Magus replaced him after using so much magic without a channel like the grimoire.
  • Gravity Falls: Quentin Trembley may be the most bizarre example of this ever written. He is the founder of Gravity Falls and 8 1/2th President of the United States, and disappeared after riding his horse over the edge of a ravine, backwards. It eventually transpires that he preserved himself in peanut brittle, believing it could sustain his life, and hid himself away in a secret chamber, leaving a series of cryptic and nonsensical clues as to how to find him. He is finally awoken, after a couple of centuries, when the protagonists have need of him.
  • The Simpsons: Invoked at the end of "Goo Goo Gai Pan". As the Simpsons are leaving China, a trio of dragons — which Homer had first glimpsed in a drug-and-alcohol-induced hallucination — appear and one sings a prediction:
    "American jerks are going home.
    Now we sleep for a thousand years.
    When we wake, the world will end."
  • Sofia the First and its spin-off Elena of Avalor have the case of Princess (later Queen) Elena, who was magically sealed inside Sofia's amulet for almost 40 years, until the later manages to expose Shuriki's usurpation of the Throne of Avalor and helps Elena to retake her rightful kingdom.
  • South Park: The Knights of Standards and Practices were a Medieval organization formed to guard against the excessive use of profanity. In the episode "It Hits the Fan", they're awakened from an enchanted slumber when one particular word becomes mainstream (so much so that the episode has a counter on the screen to track how many times it's used).
  • In Trollhunters part 3, it is revealed that Merlin, creator of the Trollhunter armor and amulet is not actually dead but has been asleep for centuries in a crypt in a cave actually in a mountain. He is awoken by the heroes and joins the team.
  • The Venture Bros.: Lampshaded in how Nazis are simply obsessed with cloning or resurrecting Hitler in one way or another. As mentioned in the Real Life section below, this may count as an evil version of the trope.
  • X-Men: Evolution: Captain America's role as a King in the Mountain is made even more explicit. Instead of being accidentally frozen in an iceberg and presumed dead for years, he's intentionally placed in cryogenic sleep when it turns out that the super-soldier serum is slowly killing him. The implication is that he will be revived to fight again when S.H.I.E.L.D. scientists find a way to cure him.

    Real Life 
  • There were several real historical figures who did remain in hiding for a long time and presumed dead, only to resurface when the situations seemed right. An example of this is the Cossack Ataman Nikolay Kulakov, a well-known anti-Bolshevik leader from the Russian Civil War who lost both legs and was presumed dead, only to have remained in hiding for two decades, until he volunteered his services to the invading Nazis against the communists. The story did not end well.
  • Henry VII of The House of Tudor played upon the Arthurian connection to his Welsh heritage as propaganda to legitimize his own reign, even going so far as to claim descent from the man himself and name his own firstborn son and heir Arthur; neither one was literally the returned legendary ruler of Camelot, of course, but invoking the metaphor was key to Henry's own presentation of his assumption of the throne after defeating the Yorkists in the Wars of the Roses as a Rightful King Returns scenario. Fate had other plans, though — Arthur died young during his father's reign, meaning the throne subsequently went to Henry's second son, known to history as Henry VIII.