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Monster-Shaped Mountain

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When a rocky topographic feature — a mountain, hill, giant boulder, or even an outcrop at sea — plays an important role in a work of fiction, writers are prone to making its appearance unique and memorable. As few writers or viewers are geologists, saying it's made of such-and-such a type of stone can contribute little to the work, either descriptively or dramatically. Making it look like a creature, however, is sure to strike a chord with the audience.

This trope typically comes in two variants:

  • The geological feature looks like a tremendous creature, or part of one. Whether carved out by natural erosion or shaped by some long-ago civilization's sculptors, its resemblance sets the mood for the locale: a mountain shaped like a tiger evokes a different ambiance than one shaped like a gigantic fist, for example. Its distinctive appearance may be utilized in-story as a landmark for navigation ("Walk two miles towards the peak shaped like a horse's head..."). If it resembles a creature that is held to be sacred by the local culture, expect the terrain-feature to be considered holy as well.

  • The mountain actually is a tremendous creature, one that was either made of stone to begin with or Taken for Granite. If it's dead or merely inert, it may be overgrown with vegetation; if it is dead, maybe the inhabitants are living in a fossilized skeletal structure, or even the skull of this creature; even if alive, locals might even have built homes on its surface, making the possibility that it might wake up and start moving a serious concern. In cases when the creature is openly known to be alive, it will often fulfill some benign protective role for nearby inhabitants. If the Mountain is intelligent as well as living, it's a type of Genius Loci.

Both variants are often combined with Cave Mouth. Mountaineers may find themselves engaged in a Colossus Climb. For its squickier sister trope, see Giant Corpse World, a landscape made of a decaying corpse. If it's an actual landmass rather than mountain that resembles a creature, then it falls under Object-Shaped Landmass.

Contrast That's No Moon, in which a geographic feature may seem nondescript at first, but later reveal itself to be something else as a surprise. May overlap with It Kind of Looks Like a Face.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Naruto, the Land of Iron's signature landmark is the Three Wolves, a mountain that is shaped like 3 wolves' heads.
  • Pokémon: The Series: In the Indigo league episode "The Ghost of Maiden's Peak" the top of titular Maiden's Peak is in the shape of a young girl praying. The legend is that long ago a girl waited for her lover to return from the war. She stood at the edge of the cliff for days and weeks on end waiting for his return until eventually she turned to stone. The real ghost of the now-stone girl cooperates with a Gastly who aspires to help find her lost lover.

    Card Games 

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Comics:
    • The Avengers: The 2018 title starts off with an arc where the corpse of a Celestial is discovered in the Arctic. After resolving the crisis involving a cabal of Celestials corrupted by the same force that killed the first one, the other celestials honor their victory by raising the body up from the ocean floor and the Avengers move into it as their new headquarters, Avengers Mountain. It's posed holding a staff with an outstretched hand and partially frozen over. Features include a spinal column elevator, a cerebral cortex database, a world teleporter, intestines for a brig and it's fingers are hangars.
    • In The Incredible Hulk #261, the Hulk battles the Absorbing Man on Easter Island. The Absorbing Man absorbs the Earth itself, but then Hulk bashes him into the sea, where he becomes a small, man-shaped island.
    • In some stories featuring the Mole and Monster Island, the mountain that leads to his underground lair resembles a monstrous face (complete with Cave Mouth).
  • ElfQuest: In the later series, Ember's tribe settles at Howling Rock, which is shaped like a baying wolf's head.
  • DC Comics:
    • Superman: One of the more bizarre sequences in Superman: For Tomorrow involves Superman fighting Mount Rushmore. Not on it, but the actual mountain given a body with the presidents' four heads.
    • Legion of Super-Heroes: One silver age story reveals that the origin of the legion's headquarters, which looked like an upside down rocket perfectly planted into the ground, is that it's actually the body of a Legion reject named Fortress Lad. Defending the Legion from another, disgruntled reject with memory erasing powers, he completely forgot everything of his identity with only the thought to never give up being left. The rest of the Legion forget where a sorely needed headquarters came from, though they do feel some familiarity to it.
  • Superlópez: In All Against One, One Against All, the Big Bad's secret lair is revealed to be a skull-shaped island. Complete with Cave Mouth. Right off the shore of a local beach. So of course the Supergroup fail to get the clue and waste their time horsing around on the beach while the Big Bad prepares to engage them.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Book of Life: The Cave of Souls, which is not so much just a mountain. Its shaped like the Coatlicue stone idol, Precolumbian goddess of life and dead. When approached, it comes to life as a Judgement entity.
  • In The Land Before Time, "the rock that looks like a Longneck" is one of the landmarks that Littlefoot's mother teaches him to look for on the way to the Great Valley. There is also Three-Horn Peak, a mountain that resembles a Triceratops, in The Land Before Time VII: The Stone of Cold Fire.
  • Disney:
    • Saludos Amigos: In the Pedro segment, Mt. Aconcagua is portrayed as a scary, human-faced monster.
    • In Moana, once Te Fiti's heart is restored to her, the goddess lies down on the seabed and becomes indistinguishable from an island.
  • Cars: A number of mountains and rock formations resemble automobiles or parts of them. This counts as this trope, as all self-propelled vehicles in this 'verse are living creatures.
  • Some of the offshore rocks near the village of Berk in How to Train Your Dragon are carved into the shapes of fierce Vikings. They can be clearly seen during Hiccup's and Astrid's first flight, with bonfires blazing in their open mouths.
  • Song of the Sea has a large island located a distance from the main characters' lighthouse home, which is shaped like the legendary Irish hero Mac Lir. Ben claims that the island is Mac Lir, who was Taken for Granite by his own mother Macha, though he mainly says this to scare Saoirse. This turns out to be true, though Macha turned Mac Lir to stone not out of malice, but to take away his emotional pain and prevent him from drowning the world in his tears. He eventually returns to life at the end of the film.
  • Ice Age: Continental Drift: More of a Companion Cube than a creature, but the island of Skrattlantis looks like a giant acorn when seen from the right angle.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • King Kong:
    • Several fictional homages to the original King Kong (1933) have taken Skull Island's name literally, depicting either its central mountain peak or the actual shoreline as skull-shaped.
    • In Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005), numerous rock outcroppings surrounding Skull Island are carved to resemble snarling ape-faces.
  • In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, after being rescued by the Eagles, the dwarves' party is set down on a mountaintop resembling the head of a bear.
  • The Lord of the Rings depicts gargantuan carvings of kings, both human and dwarf.
  • In George of the Jungle, Ape Mountain is a mountain shaped like a gorilla head.
  • In Conan the Barbarian (2011), the villains stage a necromantic ceremony inside a rock formation that's shaped like a screaming skull.
  • Dracula Untold: The rock ledge outside the Elder Vampire's cave looks like a mandible, complete with teeth along its edge.
  • In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, the "gateway" to the titular Golden Army is a giant animated stone half-figure, with a doorway in its belly. It resembles an ordinary bunch of scattered boulders until signaled to rise up.
  • Many huge stone faces border the rim of Gargantua in Jack the Giant Slayer. A fight scene between Elmont and Roderick takes place in a water-filled tunnel that leads to the mouth of one such face, with the former actually clinging to a platter-sized tooth to avoid falling to his death.

  • Discworld:
    • The Colour of Magic: One of the worlds that the sea troll observed while drifting through space was actually a continent-sized sleeping dragon, its mountain-sized spinal ridges capped with snow.
    • In The Light Fantastic, Rincewind and the group who've captured him find themselves in a troll-shaped mountain. Then they light a fire in a convenient cave and find out it's actually a mountain-sized troll.
    • In Equal Rites, the Paps of Scilla, a mountain on the caravan-route from Zemphis to Ankh-Morpork, has stirred a lot of speculation about the lady in question, because it has eight peaks.
    • In Small Gods, Om directs Brutha to head towards a tall, erosion-shaped rock that looks... very unexpected, really. Apparently the wind god has a rather crude sense of humor.
    • Lords and Ladies: The burial mound of the King of the Elves looks like a person — at least, a specific part of a person — and leaves Nanny Ogg curious to see if it's to scale.
    • Carpe Jugulum: In a small-scale example, a limestone formation in the shape of a witch sits near the entrance to a cave beyond the gnarly ground.
    • In Wintersmith, the titular elemental creates icebergs that look like Tiffany Aching. Previously, in A Hat Full of Sky, the Chalk itself takes on Tiffany's form within her Mental World.
  • Peter Pan: Skull Rock in the various versions of the story, where Captain Hook takes the kidnapped Princess Tiger Lily.
  • Dragaera:
    • Dzur Mountain is one of the major locations in the series, and is shaped like the ferocious feline it's named for.
    • Adrilankha's name, according to Paarfi, was derived from how the cliffs on either side of the city's harbor resembled a bird's outspread wings. Subverted when one of the "wings" collapsed into the sea during Adron's Disaster.
    • A character in one of the Paarfi novels references an outcropping shaped like a hawk's beak while giving some travelers directions.
  • In The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, Carter learns what the gods look like by viewing a gigantic face carved into the side of the mountain Ngranek.
  • The Chronicles of Prydain: In The High King, Mount Dragon is so named because its peak is in the rough shape of a monstrous, crested dragon's head with gaping jaws, and on either side the lower slopes spread like outflung wings.
  • In Storm Over Warlock, by Andre Norton, Shann Lantee first dreams of, and then sees, a mountain like an enormous skull. Winged creatures fly into and out of its eyeholes.
  • In The White People, the young girl's diary describes her wandering among strange stones that look like faces, weird creeping animals "putting out their tongues", and dead people lying on the ground.
  • Some versions of And Then There Were None that use the "Ten Little Indians" version of the rhyme also refer to the setting as "Indian Island", and depict one of its rocky cliffs as resembling an elderly Native American's profile.
  • In The Shattered World, by Michael Reaves, one of the Floating Continent fragments is carved into the shape of a robed wizard. In the sequel, The Burning Realm, a mountain on Tamboriyan resembles a regal woman on a throne, although it's unclear if it was carved that way or if it's natural.
  • Jackelian Series: Coppertracks captures photos of a gargantuan stone face on the neighboring planet of Kaliban. It turns out to be a former energy-collecting facility from the fallen Kal civilization.
  • In The Worms Of Kukumlima, by Daniel Pinkwater, the adventurers are given cryptic instructions to "look for the Elephant Gate". They eventually find it in the form of a rock arch shaped like a giant elephant, which is the only entrance into the Lost World of Kukumlima crater.

    Live-Action TV 
  • When Sesame Street visits Hawaii, Big Bird spends a lot of time looking for Mount Snuffleupagus; a mountain shaped like, well, a Snuffleupagus.
  • In Merlin (1998), the Rock of Ages is a sentient mountain resembling a man lying half-buried in the ground. Merlin asks it to hold Excalibur until a worthy wielder appears.
  • Doctor Who: In the Fourth Doctor episode "The Face of Evil", a gigantic carving of the Evil One's head is what taught the Sevateem what this terrifying villain looks like. Too bad for the Doctor that it has the face of Tom Baker...


  • Seawitch: The backglass depicts a skull-shaped mountain in the background.

  • In Moon Over Africa, a Jungle Opera story, the adventurers encounter a giant rock shaped like a rhino's head, which their magical talking head guide indicates is worth exploring for its mysteries and possible connection to Atlantis. The party approaches it, but see signs indicating that the rock is a sacred, mystical site for a Cannibal Tribe, who capture them before they can properly explore the rock.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Champions: In the scenario The Sands of Time, the PCs are dropped in an extradimensional realm with nonhuman inhabitants — and yet there’s a mountain carved into the shape of a human face. Subsequently, they encounter a person with that face; the arch-villain who is responsible for the whole plot.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Ravenloft campaing setting:
      • In the adventure "Neither Man Nor Beast", the beach where the player characters become marooned on Markovia is covered with giant stone figures buried waist-deep in the sand or just offshore.
      • Graben Island is shaped like a three-clawed monstrous hand.
    • Tomb of Horrors: The entrance to the infamous adventure is through one of the openings in a skull-shaped cliff.
    • The Dragonlance campaign setting has Skullcap, cranium-shaped site of a long-ago evil wizard's stronghold, and the cover of the module Dragons of Light features a huge dragon statue carved out of a mountaintop.
    • Dungeon: A short adventure is located at the site where a huge dragon and the flying ship it'd attacked crashed into a pool of lava. Several of the caverns in the resulting dungeon are shaped like dragon parts, as the lava had congealed around its skull, limbs, ribcage and tail.
    • The Draconomicon supplement reveals that this is how a dragon can die — rather than suddenly succumbing to the centuries, a dragon can choose to consume its hoard and undertake a ritual that allows it to merge with the landscape. The resulting hills or lakes are typically shaped like a dragon head or footprint, and are ideal nesting sites for future generations, as eggs laid there are magically hidden from danger, while wyrmlings can commune with the departed dragon's spirit for guidance.
    • Eberron campaign setting. The "Dragons of Eberron" supplement has a mountain in Sarlona that closely resembles a giant dragon's head, although without being recognisable as any specific breed of dragon. The dragons themselves believe it to be proof that the progenitor wyrms exist and that Eberron really is made of an ancient dragon.
    • In the Mystara-setting adventure "O2: Blade of Vengeance", the red dragon lair lies behind the eye sockets of a huge skull carved into a mountainside. An invoked example, as the resident dragon's grandsire had it carved that way by enslaved dwarves to intimidate his humanoid minions.
    • The old-time solo adventure module "UK5: Eye of the Serpent" gets its title from this trope: from the top of the mountain where the adventure begins, a river that runs down to a small lake with a single island looks like a snake. There's also a cave in the adventure in which dripping mineral deposits have encased a long-ago hunter's dead body, creating a humanoid-shaped limestone formation.
    • The third-party planar adventure sourcebook Beyond Countless Doorways includes the realm of Palpatur, a former Genius Loci world that was traumatized when warring demons and devils turned it into a battlefield, devastating the landscape. The sentient world's resultant anguish caused gargantuan, pain-wracked faces to erupt from the ground, and these mountain-sized faces still remain there, even after Palpatur sank into a coma.
  • RuneQuest: In Glorantha, the primary setting, True Dragons are a part of the landscape of the world, forming several major mountain ranges. Even the smallest known True Dragon is dozens of miles long. Most of them are asleep, while their spirits wander in other planes, but one in the vicinity of Kralorela acts as a guardian deity of sorts for the nation, occasionally communicating with their Emperor, who is a human with a dragon's soul.
  • Discworld Roleplaying Game: The Discworld bit about mountainous trolls is referenced in a vignette, in which a clacks operator delivers the message "Mr Shine, him diamond" to a cave near the top of a rocky hill, and then the entire hill starts to move.

    Theme Parks 
  • Skull Island: Reign of Kong: The entrance is themed as a giant rock formation that closely resembles King Kong.
  • Disney Theme Parks: Disney's California Adventure theme park has Grizzly Peak, shaped like a bear's head. It was originally the park's signature landmark, though that honor has since gone to the Carthay Circle Theatre.

    Video Games 
  • Azada: In the fourth game, a path leads up a hill shaped like a giant canine.
  • Borderlands 2: There are a number of skeletons in the DLC "Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt" that tower way above the player character and sit on various mountain surfaces.
  • Child of Light has the sentient variant in Magna, a giant on whose back reside the Bolmus Populi. The Populi are a race of travelling merchants, whose business thrives thanks to Magna's provision of transportation.
  • City of Heroes: One of the zones in the City of Villains expansion is named Cap au Diable (literally, "the devil's headland"). It's overlooked by two curved mountains that resemble a devil's horns.
  • The Curse of Monkey Island: Parodied with "Skull Island", which turns out to have a prominent mountain that's clearly in the shape of a duck. When the ferryman claims it looks like a skull if you squint at it and tilt your head sideways, Guybrush points out that just makes it look like a bunny instead.
  • Donkey Kong Country: DK Island is shaped like Donkey Kong's head.
  • DOOM (2016): During your second incursion into Hell, the player encounters a massive series of bones, gore and decay that are the remains of a Titan, one of the greatest warriors of the realm that the Doom Slayer killed in single combat before the game began. The rest of the level then takes place inside temples made within its remains.
  • Drawn: Trail of Shadows: One of the painted worlds is home to a mountain-sized stone giant with huts built on its shoulders. Events in-game have saddened it, so a slender waterfall of tears streams from its gargantuan eye.
  • Elden Ring: Caelid has many mounds of porous white rocks that resemble skulls, most obviously the ones on the shore in front of the Great-Jar. Possibly a Visual Pun on how skulls are used a symbol of poison, something Caelid has plenty of.
  • Icewind Dale: The dungeon of Dragon's Eye is much in the shape of a dragon's head, hence the name.
  • King's Bounty: Dark Side: Parodied. The island inhabitated by Amazons, when seen from above, is in the shape of a woman in a pinup pose.
  • The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night: The Mountain of Malefor is shaped like the head of a monstrous, skyward-gazing dragon, with caverns on its peak resembling eyes and two rows of curved pinnacles that frame its caldera like a titanic set of fangs.
  • The Lost Crown: Saxton folklore holds that the jagged rocks along the shoreline are spines on the back of Grindle, a dragon from local legend.
  • Nancy Drew: Chicken Ridge, from The White Wolf of Icicle Creek, looks just like you'd expect from the name, at least when it's covered in snow. In The Creature of Kapu Cave, 3 Finger Rock actually does look like a trio of human digits... although such stubby ones, they might better have called it 3 Toe Rock.
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps: The gateway to Kwolok's Hollow is a gigantic stone idol of the eponymous frog guardian. The key is the two Eyestones found nearby after acquiring the Spirit Arc, as hinted by Tokk's line "The gaze of the great Kwolok admits only the worthy". Earlier, the background of Howl's Den has what looks like a large elephant skull.
  • Paper Mario: Color Splash: Fortune Island, true to its pirate theme, has a stone hill shaped like a skull jutting out into the ocean nearby.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers: You and your partner often stay on Sharpedo Bluff, which is a cliff hanging over the ocean that resembles a Sharpedo.
    • Pokémon Snap has two of these: a rock formation in the shape of a Kingler in the Beach stage, and a Dugtrio-shaped mountain range in the Valley stage. These are two of the Pokémon signs present in the game: photographing them is essential to reach the secret final stage.
  • Red Dead Redemption II has the appropriately named Face Rock, which is an important landmark in the Treasure Map quest.
  • Riven: Several of the animal-sound spheres are located near or in natural rock formations that resemble the animals they mimic.
  • Shin Megami Tensei II has several areas with distant mountain ranges, that are eventually revealed to be the gradually awakening Kuzuryu, who is also the cause of the earthquakes that occur periodically beforehand.
  • Total War: Warhammer: Mountains shaped like giant skulls are scattered throughout all mountain ranges in the campaign map, especially in Norsca and the World's Edge Mountains. Several battle maps also feature large rock formations shaped like draconic craniums in their backgrounds.

    Web Animation 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Magic School Bus: In an episode about erosion, the class's trip along a mountainside triggered a series of rockfalls and stream-diversions that re-shaped the terrain to resemble a vaguely human visage.
  • The Adventure Time episode "Memories of Boom Boom Mountain", in which the titular mountain is living, has a face, and cries boulders. A female mountain, also with a living face at its peak, appears as well.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Snake Mountain; in the 2002 series, it was eventually revealed to actually be a giant snake frozen in place when King Hiss and the Snake Men take over.
  • Birdman (1967): In "Wings of FEAR", FEAR's secret base is inside a mountain called Death's Head Peak which has a giant skull at the apex.
  • Pixar Shorts: In Lava, an old volcanic island and the new island that's about to emerge from the depths both have human-like faces, and sing to one another.
  • Scooby-Doo: The gang has solved mysteries in places like Skull Island (named for a cranium-shaped rock on which an abandoned prison was built) and Vulture's Claw (a peninsula shaped like a bird's foot).
  • Molly of Denali: A mountain shaped like a bear's head and a boulder shaped like a nose are used by Molly as guiding landmarks on a canoe journey.
  • Dragons: Riders of Berk: A snake-like offshore rock formation contains one of the keys to a lost treasure that Hiccup pursues.
  • Samurai Jack: The Sirens live in an island with one of these carved into the mountainside, appearing as a giant hooded woman's head at a canted angle with a Sickly Green Glow giving it a Scary Flashlight Face and Hidden Eyes. The effect is... deeply unsetteling.
  • The Animals of Farthing Wood: In the third season, the would-be rat king Bully keeps his personal quarters inside of a cave in a rockey outcropping that resembles an upturned, screeching rat's head, with the interior accessible by twin caves behind its stalactite incisors.

    Real Life 
  • Several actual terrain features, such as Mount Carmel in Connecticut or the mesas at Sibley Peninsula in Ontario, are nicknamed "Sleeping Giant" for their resemblance to a prone human figure.
  • The "Old Man of the Mountain" was a granite feature in the White Mountains of New Hampshire which, until the formation collapsed in 2003, resembled a human profile.
  • A photo from the Viking probe which went to Mars in the 1970s showed a feature in the Cydonia region which looked eerily like a human face, and was the object of a lot of Ancient Astronauts speculation, including a popular book on the subject. More recent photography of the area by probes showed a more mundane geological image, and that the face seen in the original was probably a coincidence caused by shadows.
  • Catalina Island, which is off the coast of California, has a mountain called Lion's Head near the harbor to Cherry Valley. Naturally, its face resembles that of a Panthera leo.
  • Hong Kong has a mountain range, where one of the peaks is a bare exposed rock that bears resemblance to a crouching lion, especially when viewed from the East Kowloon districts south of the mountain. In English it is known as the Lion Rock, but in written Chinese and spoken Cantonese, it is translated literally to "Lion Mountain".
  • Malibu, also in California, has a mountain resembling a gorilla's head. Amusingly, it's nearby where Planet of the Apes was filmed.
  • Germany has the Sleeping Witch as well as the less spectacularly shaped Sleeping Goddess.
  • The extinct volcano Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh resembles a lion couchant when viewed from the west; accordingly, two of the old volcano's main vents are named the Lion's Head and the Lion's Haunch.
  • The summit of Helm Crag near Grasmere, England, is known as The Lion and the Lamb, because that is what it is said to look like from some angles. Also known as The Old Woman Playing the Organ when seen from a different angle. Up close the rock formation is called the Howitzer. Helm Crag is a popular short walk from Grasmere village but despite its modest height even by English standards (405 metres) many more people have set off up its slopes than have stood on the actual summit.
  • The Wain Stones on Bleaklow near Manchester, England, are also known as the Kissing Stones or The Kiss.
  • Crowfoot Glacier, in Canada's Banff National Park, is a subversion: it used to resemble a bird's three-toed foot, until the right outlying toe collapsed in an avalanche.
    • Tunnel Mountain, in the heart of the town of Banff, resembles a sleeping bull Bison bison. There's general agreement that the mountain (which, due to an adjustment in early railway routes, contains no tunnel) ought to be renamed; the main hold-up on declaring such a change is that there's no consensus as to whether "Sleeping Buffalo" or "Sleeping Bison" is the better name.
  • Naka Cave in Thailand is named for a legendary serpent-creature because of a protruding boulder that resembles a snake's head, as well as a winding stretch of passage where cracks in one of the walls make it look like a scaled, half-coiled serpent's flank.
  • Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona resembles a camel lying down.
  • In Romania, there are the Great Bucegi Sphinx (nicknamed as such for resembling the Great Sphinx of Giza), and the Babele (The Old Women) in the Bucegi Mountains of Romania. Both are natural rock formations and one of most popular tourist destinations in the country.
  • The mountain Annapurna II, proportionally even deadlier than its taller namesake, is notable for having a kilometer-high skull created by hanging ice and snow on its north side.


Bonehead Island

Bonehead Island is shaped like a gigantic skull.

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