Where the Messianic Archetype echoes Jesus (or Mohammed or Buddha), this character echoes Moses.
Moses, the leader of the Israelites in the Book of Exodus, is one of the most enduring cultural figures throughout the world. The Exodus is a foundational story that is held in high regard by all Abrahamic religions, making Moses a figure that unites fully half the world's population. Even without that, the story of a man learning his true roots and rising up to free his people from slavery and oppression, and leading them to a new, brighter future, is a powerful narrative that speaks to almost everyone. Naturally, then, many a character and/or story is based on him.
This trope can take many forms, but its core typically involves a leader rising up to free their people from slavery or oppression and leading them to a new place where they can forge their own future. Unleashing some massive calamity upon the oppressors is optional. Other possible elements include:
- Emissary from the Divine: The character was chosen by a higher power to act as their messenger in the setting.
- Moses in the Bulrushes: The hero was spared from some calamity and cast into the hands of fate, to be adopted by a new family. Often, this is a family of the oppressor group, leading to Nature vs. Nurture conflicts.
- No Place for Me There: The hero dies before they finally reach the new land.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Herod!: The hero narrowly survived a great purge of their kind as a child.
- The Promised Land: Sometimes the new land is associated with a prophecy or covenant of some kind.
- Slave Liberation: The hero frees their people from bondage, their descendants and even their entire culture remembering them as a breaker of chains.
- You Can't Go Home Again: There is no turning back once they leave their original lands.
- While Superman has become a Messianic Archetype in modern times, the creators of the character Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (who were both Jewish) intended for his character and origin story to reflect Moses, having been sent to live away from his doomed home and birth parents in a "basket", only learning about his true heritage when he becomes a man and then embracing that heritage in his new persona, using his awe-inspiring powers to help the helpless.
- The narrator compares Dilbert's Pointy-Haired Boss to Moses because he refuses to act unless the Higher Powers send him a clear sign.
- When Ankh-Morpork in the Discworld gets a City Zoo, in the works of A.A. Pessimal, its Director has horrible visions of what would happen if they are ever so ill-advised as to acquire orang-utans. She reasons that the Librarian will turn up bearing bolt-cutters and a very loud "OOOOK!" meaning "Let my people go!"
- Jonathan Brisby from The Secret of NIMH is held in high regard by the rats from NIMH (except for Jenner) due to his importance in helping them escape from the titular organization; he was small enough to crawl through the screen at the end of the air duct. This is how Mrs. Brisby is able to get help from said rats when hers and (the now-dead) Jonathan's son Timothy falls ill when they need to move.
- Oswald Cobblepot, better known as the Penguin from Batman Returns, is in many ways the Anti-Moses by how his story parallels Moses. While Moses was born to slaves, was left in a river basket to save him from being murdered by Egypt's aristocracy and was found and adopted by royalty, Oswald's parents were wealthy aristocrats who left him in a basket to float down one of Gotham's rivers hoping he would die, only to be found and raised by the penguins left at the Gotham Zoo. While Moses was raised as royalty, only to leave to live in the desert and return as God's prophet, Oswald was raised as a circus freak and became an urban legend before he quickly became a darling to the people of Gotham and a candidate to become the mayor. Much like how the first borns of Egypt were selected to die as part of the tenth plague, Penguin's Evil Plan involved kidnapping and murdering all of the firstborn sons of Gotham's wealthy families for petty vengeance.
- Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and it's sequels. Raised by a human scientist and being exposed to the ALZ-113, he frees the newly intelligent apes from their prisons in zoos and laboratories, and leads them to form their own society, first in a redwood forest near San Francisco, then later leading them far south to another land, far away from the humans. However, like Moses, he dies before they reach the land.
- Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome: Max himself, a deeply flawed man who nonetheless liberates the slaves of Bartertown to led them and the lost children to a promised paradise, even sacrificing his own chance to enter it. The last scene implies he'll find his way there, one day.
- Us: Red, aka original Adelaide. She rose up from underground due to being able to dance, and she implies that she thinks God or at least some form of high power chose her. She is the leader of the Tethered, who live lives of pain and misery while their aboveground counterparts live in genuine fulfillment and happiness and are able to make their own choices. She taught them how to organize themselves, build costumes and weapons, and form a human chain like Hands Against America. She is also literally the only Tethered who can speak because she was taught in her past life as "Adelaide" meaning that she literally comes bearing the message.
- Tobias from Animorphs is an unusual example, as he was never a member of the people he helped to free and lead to a new homeland (the Hork-Bajir). He was chosen by a higher power, though. The Hork-Bajir colony holds him in high regard, and the first two he saved, Jara and Ket, name their daughter Toby after him.
- The Cold Moons features several badgers who have elements of this. Buckwheat and his son Beaufort are two badgers who help lead their community to The Promised Land while they escape genocide by humans. They learned about this journey from Bamber, a badger they considered God-sent. Bamber was the Sole Survivor out of his sett and travelled a long distance to tell other badgers about the danger. He died of exhaustion soon after arriving at Buckwheat and Beaufort's sett.
- Daenerys Targaryen of A Song of Ice and Fire is a Zig Zagged example. After having been made a slave wife to Khal Drogo of the Dothraki and attaining her freedom, she makes it her mission to free all the slaves of Esteros, reforming them into her main bloc of supporters and her military forces called the Unsullied. The aim of the army is to conquer Westeros, as she believes the Iron Throne is her birthright, and to form the Unsullied into her closest circle and elite.
- Watership Down details the exodus of marginal rabbits from Sandalford Warren to the far hill that becomes Watership Down. Tiny rabbit Fiver gets a premonition of doom, and beseeches his brother Hazel to abandon Sandalford. Hazel agrees, and convinces other rabbits to join the exodus. Fiver's premonition proves true: humans come with bulldozers and poison gas, killing rabbits galore. At one point, the wanderers come upon Cowslip's warren, but Fiver is unnerved by habits of these rabbits, and urges further seeking. Again, Fiver is proven right: snares around the warren cull rabbits, but not enough to panic the survivors, who pretend nothing's amiss. Together, Fiver and Hazel function as a lapine Moses, with Fiver having the premonitions, and Hazel acting as the leader.
- Laura Roslin on Battlestar Galactica (2003) is believed to be the "dying leader" destined to bring her people to Earth. However, she tends more towards the morally grey end of the spectrum than most other messiahs, and that's before the recent revelation that her prophetic dreams are being shared by Cylons.
- Jesus himself, appropriately enough. Many of the events in the Jesus story appear to have been deliberately presented by the authors as parallels to the Moses story, especially the Massacre of the Innocents (an event recounted only in the Gospel of Matthew), which appears to be intended to mirror the Pharaoh ordering the deaths of all Hebrew baby boys, which Moses narrowly escaped. This may have been an attempt by the apostles and/or early Christians to increase Jewish support for Christianity in its infant years, to present Jesus as a great liberator who would lead the Jews to freedom from the Roman yoke.
- Specimen Six in Aliens vs. Predator (2010) serves as a Moses figure for the Xenomorphs. Six is more intelligent than the rest of her kin, she is spared as an infant from being executed at the insistence of a human who sees her as a slave, she is forced to kill many innocent humans on her master's orders before hearing the commands of the Matriarch who orders her to liberate her people and in doing so, unleashing a plague on their oppressors. When Six is taken off-world, she is born again as a Queen to lead the Xenomorphs into a new era, and she is briefly shown in a Crucified Hero Shot at the beginning of the Alien campaign.
- Shartan from Dragon Age led the elves, who had spent a thousand years in slavery to the Tevinter Imperium, to join Andraste's rebellion and secure a new kingdom for the elves in southern Thedas, known as the Dales. However, he didn't live to see it; he was executed along with Andraste, and it was their followers who managed to bring down Tevinter once and for all. The elves forged a new nation in the Dales, but it didn't last; it fell to a war with the human empire of Orlais 200 years later.
- Warcraft series:
- Thrall of Warcraft III and World of Warcraft. Raised among humans as a gladiator slave, a prophetic vision leads him to free the orcs from their internment camps and sail across the sea to the continent of Kalimdor, where they found their own nation in Durotar.
- In the Expanded Universe novels, Dath'Remar Sunstrider also fits. He was the leader of the last of the Highborne, the magic-practicing upper caste of elven society before the War of the Ancients. The Highborne lost their status and continued to practice arcane magic, even though it was strictly banned after the war, which led to deep resentment mistrust between them and the rest of the elves. In the end, Dath'Remar led the remaining Highborne across the sea from Kalimdor to the Eastern Kingdoms, where they would later found Quel'Thalas.
- Kael'thas Sunstrider's story in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, meanwhile, broadly mirrors that of his ancestor Dath'Remar. After the near-total destruction of the high elves by the undead Scourge, and amid oppression and mistrust from the remnant of the Alliance and the human kingdom of Lordaeron, the surviving elves were on the brink of total extinction thanks to their addiction to the magical energy of the Sunwell, which the Scourge had befouled in their conquest. The son of King Anasterian, Kael'thas rose to lead his people into the "promised land" of Outland, joining Illidan Stormrage and the naga Lady Vashj, where magical energy was abundant and the elves could lead a new, dignified existence.
- Abraham Lincoln was in his time explicitly compared to Moses by black Americans. Understandably, the story of the liberation of the Hebrews resonated strongly with former slaves, even if the president fulfilled the requirements only metaphorically. note