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Light/Darkness Juxtaposition

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"Where the light is brightest, the shadows are deepest."

Darkness is the absence of light, and light cannot exist without darkness. The dichotomy between the two has been part of human storytelling for a very long time—many Creation Myths often involve light emerging from darkness, and many destruction myths involve darkness engulfing light. Light and darkness also have many other symbolic means across many cultures. Thus, it is not uncommon for stories to visually, literally, or metaphorically juxtapose the two, often associating them with real-world notions (eg. Light Is Good, Dark Is Evil) of light and dark. Shadow can be treated as more or less the same as darkness, or a mixture of both light and dark.

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Because of its ubiquity, a light and darkness contrast can be lent to any number of Duo Tropes. A character with Light 'em Up or Holy Hand Grenade powers can have a Foil, enemy, counterpart, or rival in a character who uses Casting a Shadow or The Sacred Darkness. A Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl duo or an Angel Devil Ship might have appropriate light and dark motifs. It can also be used in conjunction with other contrast tropes; for example, Life/Death Juxtaposition will generally have life associated with light and death with darkness. Solar and Lunar usually pairs the sun with light and the moon with darkness (due to its association with night). Chinese philosophy associates this with Fire/Water Juxtaposition, where the yin is associated with darkness and water, and the yang with fire and light.

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Light and dark can easily be treated as opposing cosmic forces. The Balance Between Good and Evil and the Lowest Cosmic Denominator traditionally associate light with goodness and darkness with evil, although Light Is Not Good and Dark Is Not Evil are the increasingly common subversions to that. And since they are diametric opposites, when light and darkness clash it is generally a Yin-Yang Clash, and when people use both it's a Yin-Yang Bomb. Alternatively, Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors will more often than not have light defeat darkness, since Light Is Good. There's a reason Darkest Hour is named so; "a light in the dark" is a phrase often used to symbolize hope—see Light Equals Hope.

This will frequently utilize Color Contrast via Color-Coded Elements, with light getting bright colors like gold and white (bonus points if it represents some sort of godly power), and dark getting deep colors like purple and black. Supertrope to Chiaroscuro, which is the contrast between light and dark used as a visual tool.

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A contrast between Heaven and Hell will likely have some of this mixed in. Cue the Sun functions as this, with the daylight symbolizing a new beginning after an arduous night. See also Nice Day, Deadly Night. The Evil Counterpart might be the 'dark' version of something. Light Feminine Dark Feminine is this trope applied to femininity. Night and Day Duo is another related trope which pairs a light-themed 'day' character with a (usually) dark-themed 'night' character.

The examples on this page have been alphabetized.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 
    Anime and Manga 
  • Digimon Frontier: Twin brothers Koji and Koichi wield the Spirits of Light and Darkness, respectively. They were Separated at Birth and at first fought on opposite sides, with Koichi having been brainwashed into evil. When Koichi snaps out of it, he awakens the good forms of the Darkness Spirit and fights alongside his brother. At one point, to comfort Koichi, an angel Digimon tells him that light and darkness are siblings, since there can't be one without the other.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura: The Light and Dark cards form a pair who must be sealed together. They appear as regal women and have the powers you expect; Light is white-colored woman with black accents and Dark is the opposite.
  • In Dragon Ball Super, this is seen with Goku Black and Zamasu. Goku Black is the Evil Twin of Goku and is an evil Palette Swap of the hero, invoking Dark Is Evil with his dark colored clothing, black colored ki, and being shrouded in shadows. Zamasu on the other hand is associated with light and invokes Light Is Not Good, being the equivalent of a Fallen Angel, traversing quickly using divine light, and naming all of his attacks with either divine or light themes. And then, it's revealed they are actually the same person thanks to a very complicated Timey-Wimey Ball.
  • Haikyuu!! has this in the Meaningful Names of its two main characters in order to further contrast them. Friendly, warm Hinata (written with the kanji for "sun") is polar opposite to cold, aloof Kageyama (written with the kanji for "shadow").
  • Kuroko no Basuke: This contrast is present in the dynamic between Kuroko and Kagami, as well as Kuroko and Aomine. Kuroko is a 'shadow' player who is nigh-invisible on the court; he focuses on supporting flashy 'light' players like Aomine and Kagami instead of making himself shown.
    Kuroko: I am a supporting actor, a shadow. But a shadow will become darker if the light is stronger and it will make the white of the light stand out. As the shadow of the main actor, I will make you, the light, the number one in Japan.
  • In the Lyrical Nanoha series, the two heroines who are originally from Earth, Nanoha and Hayate, are associated with light and darkness, respectively. Nanoha's pervasive motif is starlight (and stars in general), while Hayate is officially styled the "Queen of the Night Sky" and is the only one in the main continuity who can use elemental darkness in her magic. That said, the two of them have never been in opposition to each other, since Hayate's darkness is of the sacred sort, and do, in fact, regularly team up.
  • In Sword Art Online, Kirito gains this dynamic with the first two Big Bads, Heathcliff/Kayaba and Oberon/Sugou, with Kirito being Dark Is Not Evil while the villains being Light Is Not Good. Kirito is The Hero who always dresses in black, earning him the name the "Black Swordsman" and has swords named after dark themes like "Dark Repulsor" and "Night Sky Sword". Heathcliff is a paladin with his attacks including the "Holy Sword" and "Spiritual Light". Meanwhile Sugou made himself into the King of the Fairies and the God of Alfheim Online, giving himself a divine appearance with blonde hair and ornamented with gold.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! this dynamic is seen several times in "Dawn of the Duel":
    • Pharaoh Atem is a beacon of hope and commands the light-themed Winged Dragon of Ra. Thief King Bakura is a shady thief who plunders and murders; he uses Diabound as his monster which has several darkness based abilities such as turning invisible in shadows and walking through walls.
    • The parallel is once again seen with the Pharaoh and Zorc's guardian spirits: Hasan the Spirit of the Tablet who gives off an ethereal glow, and Akhenaden the High Priest of Darkness who serves as Zorc's minion and is able to project dark energy blasts.
    • To defeat Zorc in the Final Battle, the Pharaoh summoned the three Egyptian Gods: Obelisk, Slifer, and Ra, who fused together into Holactie the Creator of Light. He was able to smite the dark demon Zorc with one devastating light blast.

    Comic Books 
  • Cloak & Dagger are heavily associated with dark and light respectively. Cloak is a brooding dark-haired guy in black who wields a cloak of darkness, while Dagger is a perky blonde woman in white who wields daggers of Hard Light. They not only work together but need each other, as Cloak hungers for light consumption while Dagger needs to constantly expel light, meaning both of them quell each other's urges.
  • Green Lantern:
    • The Green Lantern Corps' oath tends to go something along the lines of "In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight", and other oaths tend to have light/dark (or some other juxtaposition) in them as well.
    • This becomes literal in the Blackest Night saga with the White Lanterns and Black Lanterns, who also overlap with Life/Death Juxtaposition. The Black Lanterns devour the other Lanterns' light, and their entity is Nekron, who is the shadow cast by the light of life and emotion. He believes that the natural state of the universe is darkness and death. Naturally, this is countered by the White Entity, who empowers White Lanterns.

    Fan Works 

    Film—Animated 
  • In Epic, this trope is used to emphasize the Life/Death Juxtaposition between the forest's forces of life and rot. Life is associated with daylight, growth, and bright colors, rot is associated with shadows, decay, and dark colors.
  • The Lion King contrasts the brightly-lit, beautiful Pride Lands with the Elephant Graveyard, a shadowy, miserable wasteland. Simba and Mufasa's rule is generally associated with light (eg. the Natural Spotlight when a new heir is born, the the warm light that surrounds Simba when he arrives to reclaim the throne, their own red-and-gold color scheme); meanwhile, when the dark-colored Scar usurps the throne, the Pride Lands are cast in shadow.
    Simba: Everything the light touches... What about that shadowy place?

    Film—Live Action 
  • Star Wars: The two sides of the Force are the Light and the Dark. The Light side is associated with peace, defense, detachment from emotions, and selflessness, while the Dark is associated with war, offense, emotional decisions, and selfishness. Keeping the Balance Between Good and Evil is central to the franchise, and Force-sensitive characters generally fall into one or the other.

    Literature 
  • The Caster Chronicles: On their sixteenth birthday, in addition to learning their "true name", Casters are given the choice to turn dark or light. For the Ravenwood Family, however, there's a curse that removes the option for choice. Though not all Dark Casters turn evil, they are Anti Heroes at best and are associated with sociopathy and negativity, while Light Casters are warm, loving, and fundamentally good. Lena, in her efforts to not turn dark, ended up choosing both, gaining one eye of each Caster's color.
  • This motif is present in the relationship between Nico di Angelo and Will Solace in The Camp Half-Blood Series. Nico is the brooding son of Hades, the god of the Underworld, and has Casting a Shadow powers; Will is the warm son of Apollo, god of the sun and medicine, and is noted for his healing capabilities. They're even a Hair-Contrast Duo.
  • The Lord of the Rings fairly straightforwardly associates the heroes with light and the villains with darkness, despite some instances of Light Is Not Good. The heroes are guided by Gandalf the White and aided by Galadriel, the Lady of Light, who gives Frodo a phial who can light up dark places. Meanwhile, Sauron rules over shadowy, dark Mordor and Gollum revels in the anonymity of darkness.
  • The Malazan Book of the Fallen has a whole mythology built on light and dark. The light is represented by the Tiste Liosan, who have light-themed powers and worship Father Light, while the dark is represented by the Tiste Andii, who have dark-themed powers and worship Mother Dark. Additionally, there are the Tiste Edur who have shadow as their hat and are considered to be unwanted bastards due to their admixture of light and dark. Mythologically speaking, Mother Dark is thought of as the primordial force that brought order and the concept of existence to what was pure chaos and nonexistence before her. She may have, depending on the In-Universe source, created light which brought justice, although the series makes the point that Father Light's justice is a harsh and unforgiving thing. Light Is Not Good and Dark Is Not Evil are out in full force in this series.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire pits R'hllor, god of fire, light, and life, against the Great Other, god of cold, darkness, and death. Doubles as Fire/Ice Duo and Life/Death Juxtaposition.
  • The conflict between the Light and the Shadow is an essential part of The Wheel of Time's mythos. Light is the force of good, while the Shadow is the force of evil.
  • The Dresden Files
    • The main Fey Courts are those of Summer and Winter. The lead Summer Queen Titania is called the Queen of Light, while her opposite, Queen Mab is called, among other names, the Queen of Air and Darkness. Summer is seen as a warm and inviting court. Winter is filled with darker creatures, the monsters of nightmares. That said, while Mab can be a vicious monster who would destroy a whole town if one person dares to draw a weapon against her, she is cold, calculating, and logical. If one has a good logical reason to act and she sees it is in her best interests, then she won't take issue with it. Titania is a follower of her emotions and heart. If one injures her or one she cares about for a logical reason, she won't give a shit and seek to kill the person. Even if that injury had to happen to save the world.
    • Uriel and Anduriel. Archangel Uriel, whose name translates to "God is my Light", is one of the strongest soldiers in God's army and strategist. A cunning being who will always aim for three birds with one stone. His purview is the protection of humanity's Freewill from forces who would corrupt or lie to humans. He is also Heaven's wetwork agent. If a job needs to be done and it comes down to pushing the line of Freewill, it is his job because he knows where the line is.note . His opposite, Anduriel, is one of the Fallen who served Lucifer in the War. He holds the moniker the Master of Shadows, and the spymaster for his side. He exists in the shadow of his human host, Nicodemus Archleone, and can control it too.

    Live-Action TV 

    Music 
  • It's right in the title of John Legend's album "Darkness and Light". In the titular song, he mentions the juxtaposition along many other opposites when describing two lovers becoming one.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Christianity:
    • From Book of Genesis: God creates light first, and separates it from the darkness.
    • The religion generally ascribes God and Jesus to light, and refers to Satan as the Prince of Darkness, among other things.
  • In Egyptian Mythology, the sun god Amun-Ra is threatened every day by the serpent of darkness Apophis.
  • Older Than Dirt: In Hindu Mythology, Light Is Good and Dark Is Evil most of the time. Creation Myths have the world emerging as a bright golden egg out of the primordial darkness, and many gods and goddesses use light powers to vanquish evil.
  • Taoism heavily features the contrast between yin and yang (represented in the taijitu). The yinnote  is associated with passive, water, female, dark energy while the yangnote  is associated with active, fire, male, light energy.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: Of the five colors, two are this: white (represented by a sun) represents light, life and order; black (represented by a skull) represents darkness, death and chaos.

    Theatre 
  • Les Misérables:
    • "Red and Black": As the students debate passion through the "colours of the world", Rebel Leader Enjolras compares red to "a world about to dawn" and black as "the night that ends at last" in succeeding lyrics.
    • "Stars" sees Javert refer to Valjean as a "fugitive in the night" and extol stars as symbols of order and light in the dark night sky.
  • Next to Normal: In "A Light in the Dark", a sole light turned on in a dark house is used as a symbol of hope for Dan and Diana repairing their strained relationship.

    Video Games 
  • Artix Entertainment games love doing this:
    • Artix von Kreiger is a Paladin who fights For Great Justice as well as a Magic Knight associated with light based magic. In every game there's almost always a darkness based villain to serve as his Evil Counterpart. In DragonFable he is mirrored by Vayle the Necromantress, who has the exact same Dark and Troubled Past and being empowered by the Darkness Orb, however while Artix chose to turn away from the darkness she embraced it and walked its path. In AdventureQuest Worlds, his darkness foil comes in the form of Sepulchure the DoomKnight and his daughter Empress Gravelyn, both of whom lead the Shadowscythe which are an army of The Undead and seek to conquer and enslave.
    • In DragonFable:
      • The Hero and Sepulchure are both in possession of a legendary dragon, the dragons from the White Dragon Box (a dragon of light prophesied to save the world) and the Black Dragon Box (a dragon of darkness prophesied to destroy a world). However the irony is the Hero acquired the dragon from the Black Dragon Box, while Sepulchure ended up with the dragon from the White Dragon Box. Nature vs. Nurture comes into play on whether the dragons would act out the prophesy.
      • A class of Legendary Weapons in the game are the dark elemental Doom Weapons and the light elemental Destiny Weapons. The player can purchase a Doom Weapon and either choose to keep it or purify it into a Destiny Weapon, with three from each side. Sepulchure is also in possession of his own Doom Weapon which is unavailable to the player.
    • In AdventureQuest Worlds, this trope is taken Up to Eleven in the "Doomwood Saga" where it's established that each of the elements possesses champion, with Artix being one of said Champions. But in an ironic twist, it's revealed Artix is the Champion of Darkness and he was created to end the world (though he refused this destiny). Further revelations then establish that Sepulchure's daughter, Gravelyn, who stepped up as Empress of the Shadowscythe after her father's demise, is the Champion of Light. Nature vs. Nurture again arises, where both Champions defy their chosen destines and choose to go in the opposite direction, with Artix fighting for good and Gravelyn continuing her path of evil.
  • Bayonetta has the Umbra Witches representing darkness and the Lumen Sages representing light, although in this case you're playing the side of darkness and Light Is Not Good.
  • The conflict between light and darkness and a theme throughout Child of Light, where the player character, Aurora, is a light-using young heroine opposing the forces of Umbra, Queen of the Night, who has stolen the sun, moon, and stars.
  • Final Fantasy: Light-themed warriors (sometimes referred to as the "Warriors of Light") opposing the darkness-themed enemies is a common theme throughout the franchise.
    • Final Fantasy I has the "Warriors of Light" defeat the evil Chaos. The juxtaposition is mentioned in the opening prophecy.
      "When darkness veils the world, four Warriors of Light shall come."
    • Final Fantasy III focuses around the fabled "Warriors of Light" banding together to put a stop to the evil Cloud of Darkness. Near the end of the game, when the Warriors enter the Cloud of Darkness' own dimension, they come across the Warriors of Darkness. It's only after battling against each other that they learn that the Warriors of Darkness were the chosen fighters from an alternate dimension where light and dark are switched around, and were also sent to defeat the evil Cloud of Darkness.
    • Dissidia: Final Fantasy brings back the Warrior of Light from the original game, but also refers to the heroic Warriors of Cosmos as the "Warriors of Light". They aim to defeat the "Warriors of Chaos".
    • In Final Fantasy XV Noctis and his party serve this function. Noctis is supposed to cleanse the world of Eos from a curse that lengthens nighttime and creates dark demons.
  • Kingdom Hearts treats Light and Darkness as opposing forces. Light is generally good and Darkness is generally evil, with the heroes often wielding light to vanquish the dark forces such as the Heartless.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Generally, the heroic Zelda will be ascribed to Light (with protagonist Link often joining her in this regard), and the villainous Ganon/Ganondorf and other villains will be ascribed to Darkness. Zelda and Link can fight with light-themed offenses (eg. Zelda's Light Arrows, their respective parts of the Triforce) while Ganon and other enemies draw power from the shadows. Link has to fight his Evil Counterpart, Dark Link, on occasion.
    • A Link to the Past has the Dark World, a darker parallel counterpart to the Light World.
    • In Breath Of The Wild, Ganondorf has degenerated into a malevolent, writhing mass of shadow and chaos called Calamity Ganon, while Zelda keeps him at bay with her magic, which manifests as bright golden light.
  • Mega Man Zero sees X become associated with light — he ends up becoming an Energy Being and has a nigh-angelic appearance. One of his Four Guardians, Phantom, has shadow powers; he's also the most loyal to X, the "shadow to his light".
  • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes has light and dark as a major theme. The planet Aether has been split in two, with a Dark World copy in another dimension. Over the course of the game, Samus travels between the two dimensions encountering light and dark enemies and obtaining light and dark beam weapons (which later combine into the Annihilator Beam), light and dark suits, etc.
  • Runescape: The high-ranked gods Zaros and Seren stand out as being the only two gods to be created directly by an Elder God and are closely linked with each other. The "Empty Lord" Zaros is associated with darkness, the Power of the Void, and the Shadow Realm between life and death; while the "Queen of Harmony" Seren is a Badass Pacifist who champions life and the harmony between living things. However, Light Is Not Good and Dark Is Not Evil.
  • A strange example can be found in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: both light and darkness are evil, and in fact, the being who represents light is the one who kicks off the plot of Adventure Mode. However, they fight each other just as much as they fight the Smashers.
  • Subverted in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and the sequel, where your glowing spectral elf companion is referred to as "the Bright Lord" and the "Bright Master" and opposes Sauron or Shelob, who personify Dark Is Evil. Although he starts out well-intentioned, if Creepy Good, he gradually becomes Not So Different from Sauron.
    Orc you just dominated: Eh, Bright Lord, Dark Lord, same thing, really.

     Webcomics 

    Web Video 
  • Night Mind: In the video about Welcome to Night Vale, Nick ended up crossing over with a morning radio host named Day Brain, or David (played by David from Midnight Marinara). While Nick specializes in dark media and analysis, David was interested in gushing about media that made him happy. They argued over Night Vale at first, but were eventually able to meet each-other in the middle and realize they were Not So Different.

    Western Animation 
  • BIONICLE: The Mask of Light features the introduction of the Takanuva the Toa of Light to the team, which gives them the power to go up against Makuta who embodies Shadows as his element. During a Final Battle, Takanuva and Makuta fall into a pit of energized protodermis which causes them to fuse into a single being, Takutanuva, Light and Shadow combined. As the perfect balance of Light and Shadow, he was unbiased and neutral, only carrying out the will of Great Spirit. He even performed a Heroic Sacrifice to save the rest of the Toa.
  • The Legend of Korra
    • The show's mythos doubles this with Order Versus Chaos. Raava, the blue and white ancient spirit of light and peace, is in constant conflict with Vaatu, the red and black spirit of darkness and chaos.
    • The finale of the arc dealing with the Raava/Vaatu conflict had Cross-Referenced Titles called "Darkness Falls" and "Light in the Dark".
  • In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the light and dark side themes of the Force are taken Up to Eleven in "Ghost of Mortis". The Jedi encounter physical personifications of the Force: The Daughter represents the Light side; she is pure, kind, and gives off an ethereal glow. The Son represents the Dark side; he is selfish and corrupt, possessing red Force lightning and is Obviously Evil from his red eyes and the dark markings all over him. The Father serves as a perfect balance between the two sides and keeps both of his children under control. The planet itself also reflects this, with the day time bringing all plants and vegetation to life, while nightfall casts a shadow across the land and everything withers and dies.
  • Done in Teen Titans with Raven and Doctor Light. To date, Raven — a demon's daughter who dresses in dark colors and uses dark-themed magic — is one of the few things that the light-based supervillain is terrified of. Having been dragged into her dark dimension once before, he would rather surrender and be jailed than having to face her again.
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