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Legendary Carp

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"I think I made the fish too hardcore."

Carp have a strange tendency to appear unusually powerful in fiction, often being gigantic. Giant Carp are venerated for being colorful and allegedly wise pond dwellers, especially in Japan. Sort of like swimming parrots. They are known for their ability to jump many feet into the air and their long lifespan, something which is usually forgotten amongst their more domesticated, ill-kept brothers called goldfish. According to legend, a sufficently old and powerful carp that is able to climb a waterfall may even become a dragon.

See Seahorses Are Dragons for another animal that turns into a dragon in Japanese Mythology.

Oddly, despite goldfish being a sort of carp, and supposedly being flushed down toilets on a regular basis, this myth rarely seems to cross over with the "giant alligator in the sewer" Urban Legend. Probably because the carp has barbels which make it look more like an Eastern dragon while goldfish doesn't...thus a goldfish won't turn into a dragon at all.


See also The Catfish, a more elusive kind of fish. If you searched for Legendary Crap, you either want Blatant Lies, Toilet Humor, So Bad, It's Good, or a page on the Darth Wiki that shall not be named.


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     Anime and Manga  

  • Magikarp in the Pokémon anime usually appear as extras in underwater scenes and the badly-disguised wares of a Snake Oil Salesman, but occasionally have made a bigger impression:
    • In the episode "The Joy of Pokémon" one Nurse Joy had a giant Magikarp for a friend.
    • "The Wacky Watcher" had a direct reference to the legend — a huge school of Magikarp (which were color tagged by how old they were) attempting to climb a waterfall to prove they have the strength to evolve into the dragonlike Gyarados.
    • The episode "Ya See We Want An Evolution!" had a Magikarp and Feebas (its expy/foil) beating the snot out of Piplup and Ash's Pikachu almost effortlessly.

     Collectible Card Game  



  • Turns up in The Exorcist III, of all places.
    There's a carp in my bathtub, Father. And for three days it's been swimming. Up. And down. Up. And down. And I hate it. I can't go home until the carp is asleep. You've been standing close to me for some time now, Father. Can you tell? I haven't had a bath for three days.


  • According to Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway, the Reflecting Pool in the Washington Mall is home to a legendary carp which has grown to 1900 pounds on junk food thrown by tourists and once swallowed a passing pedestrian (the Secretary of the Interior) whole. And yes, Dave Barry does mention in a footnote that "'Legendary Carp' would be A Good Name for a Rock Band."
  • In the story "Tunnel of Fish" from Kate Atkinson's short story collection Not the End of the World, on his birthday Eddie is taken to Deep Sea World where, in an undersea tunnel, he receives a message from a giant carp.
  • In Alastair Reynolds' "Chasm City", research involving carp produced the earliest immortality treatments. As a result, the postmortal upper class reveres carp in general, and there is also a specific carp which is also several hundred years old and therefore extra-revered.
  • In Keys to the Kingdom, one of the parts of the Will takes the form of a carp.


  • Kintaro ("Golden Boy"), a character in Japanese folklore, was depicted as fighting a giant carp.
  • In Chinese Folklore, a carp that was able to jump over the Dragon's Gate would then transform into a dragon itself ("The Carp Jumping the Dragon Gate" is now used as an aphorism for any sudden success). This myth inspired Magikarp.
  • In Mercer Mayer's illustrated version of "East of the Sun and West of the Moon", a Legendary Carp is one of the beasts that assists the heroine on her journey. He gives her a ride across the sea on his back and a fish scale that proves useful later.


     Tabletop RPG  

     Video Games  

     Western Animation  

  • One episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender begins with Aang riding a giant koi off the shore of Kyoshi Island.
    • Another ends with Aang becoming merging with a water spirit that takes the form of a koi fish and powering the vengeful spirit with the Avatar State so it becomes what the fandom have dubbed "Koizilla", which then utterly savages the invading Fire Nation navy.

     Real Life  

  • Benson the giant carp, formerly of Bluebell Lakes, England.
  • There was a red koi fish named Hanako, who lived to be 226 years old (confirmed through examination of her scales and the records kept by the temple she resided at) before dying of natural causes in 1977. She appears to have come from a long line of long-lived fish. (For reference, most other koi only live for about 50 years on average.)


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