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Mythical Motifs

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Mythical motifs are similar to Animal Motifs, but with mythical creatures being used as symbols. They, like animals, can be used to underline something important in the plot or to convey a character's personality. A particularly tough and quick-tempered character may be compared to a dragon, or a MacGuffin or delicate-but-powerful or wise character may be compared to a unicorn.

It can also be the use of mythology as a motif.


Here is a partial list of mythical creatures:

  • Griffin: Part lion, part eagle; noble, generally. Symbol of kingship/holy power.
  • Gorgon: Hideous monsters, causes people to turn to stone (from the Medusa myth). Another example of how mythic creatures can be a Brown Note Being.
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  • Hellhound: Either a vicious hunter, a vicious guardian or a Portent of Doom.
  • Hydra: Many headed creature, where if you cut off one head, two more grow in its place.note 
  • Kitsune: Illusions, mystery, trickery, cunning and wisdom. Also associated with femininity, despite their reputation of being males who turn into attractive human females.
  • Mermaid: Half-fish, half-human beings.
  • Ouroboros: A serpent eating its own tail: Infinity, alchemy, death and rebirth; lives at the edge of the world or at its base.
  • Pegasus (or winged horses in general): Freedom, high ideals, thought. Can be called "horse of the poets" thanks to his connection with Athena and the Muses, so is also linked with imagination, and writers in particular.
  • Phoenix: A flaming bird capable of rising again from the ashes: Death and rebirth; fire; eternal life; (Eastern) female.
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  • Salamander: Amphibians and reptiles with fire powers.
  • Sphinx: Cunning, mystery, riddles, desires. Terribly mysterious.
  • Unicorn: Purity, rarity, magic, power (which goes against tradition, 'cause in heraldry they are chained down because they're violent MFs). Usually the last of its kind. Often associated with virgins. Famously a heraldic beast of Scotland, and features on the UK Coat of Arms.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Most of the guilds in Fairy Tail have a mythical motif in their name, including the titular Fairy Tail (fairies), Quatro Cerberos, Blue Pegasus, Lamia Scale, Grimoire Heart (Devils), Phantom Lord and recently Sabertooth and Mermaid Heel.
  • Fist of the North Star: Nanto Ho-oken style is the "Phoenix Fist".
  • Gundam:
  • K: Upon becoming the new Red King, Anna's motif is a phoenix, symbolizing the rebirth of HOMRA.
  • From Kill la Kill, Satsuki and Ragyo Kiryuin being associated with dragons, with the Japanese mythology of that being that dragons are perceived to be divine animals, the which either serve the gods or are gods themselves, especially in the case of Ragyo.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: Kenshin is the Dragon.
  • While every other member of the titular The Seven Deadly Sins have Animal Motifs, the leader Meliodas has a dragon symbol.
  • Shigurui: Seigen Irako symbolises the Dragon.
  • Spirited Away: Haku is a dragon.
  • Takumi Kuzuryu in Tantei Gakuen Q uses dragon in many of his works. In-universe, he's depicted as a handsome, elegant, genius noble man, traits his known descendants, Ryu Amakusa for example, supposedly inherit. Those he considers legal descendants will contain kanji "Ryu" in their name, further solidifying the theme. This is a hint for the climax's reveal that King Hades, while being Takumi Kuzuryu's (illegitimate) son, is not Ryu's biological grandfather.
  • Tiger & Bunny: Nathan a phoenix; Pao-Lin a dragon.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
      • Dinosaur Ryuuzaki's ace cards being dragons.
      • Rebecca later moved from her old deck to a Dragon deck.
      • Seto Kaiba's signature card is the Blue-Eyes White Dragon, the spirit of which was his past incarnation's lover and occasionally sends him plot-relevant visions. He actually themes his clothes and a commissioned private jet around it.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Judai is represented by a dragon.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's: The six Signers have dragons as their Signer monsters and ace cards, but none of them use a Dragon archetype.
  • Aside from Kuwabara, the members of Team Urameshi from Yu Yu Hakusho all have Mythical Motifs.
    • The most obvious is Kurama having a connection to Kitsune as the guy actually was a kitsune in his former life before being reincarnated into a human. Kurama is quiet, secretive, cunning, and wise, with a feminine nature and appearance.
    • Yusuke Urameshi has a Phoenix motif, with his spirit animal being a phoenix and his Battle Aura taking the shape of one when he decides to let loose. Yusuke first acquired his powers after dying and coming back to life at the start of the series.
    • Hiei has a Dragon motif, with his attacks being named after dragons or to outright summon a dragon and throw it at his enemy. Oddly for a show so steeped in Eastern myth, his particular flavor of dragon is strictly Western; brooding, solitary, violent, and burning everything in its path. Hiei fits the motif like a glove.

    Comic Books 
  • In a few different Batman stories, The Riddler tries to give himself a Sphinx motif, being a crafty and wise riddle-giver who kills those that get it wrong. In the Zero Year storyline, Batman deduces that while holding the city hostage, The Riddler is hiding underneath a Sphinx statue at the Gotham museum.
  • HYDRA, the ersatz SPECTRE (who incidentally use the very similar motif of the octopuss), in the Marvel Universe.
  • Immortal Iron Fist has a significant ties with dragons — Sometimes he's known as the "Immortal Dragon Iron Fist"; his costume has a stylized dragon on it; he has a dragon tattoo on his chest; his powers come from an ancient dragon, Shou-Lao.
  • Phoenix from X-Men. She is a nurturing, subtly powerful figure with a hot temper, and holds untapped power that the others around her cannot quite match or comprehend.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm: Harry is repeatedly associated with The Phoenix, due to his habit of surviving things that should kill him (and at least once coming back from the dead) along with his instinctive talent for fire magic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it turns out that his protection is drawn from the Phoenix, which Lily merged with. Additionally, the Phoenix motif is played up more with him than with Jean Grey or Maddie Pryor, and usually manifests far more spectacularly in him, with a notation that male birds are the ones for the big display.
  • Forum of Thrones: Raenna Minsworth has a dragon motif going on, as a result of her Valyrian heritage and her fiery temper. She is even called the Half-Dragon by Noelle in her visions.
  • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail gives Lexi — a book with the ability to fold his papers into whatever he wishes — with a Gryphon Motif. Gryphons were said to be his favorite mythical animal, and he transforms into one for Chloe and Atticus to ride one. Unlike the legendary gryphons who collect gold, he collects stories.

    Films — Animation 
  • Kung Fu Panda takes it so far as to name characters after what species they are (or what style of kung fu they practise). The titular character, Po, is an odd case where an animal character has a separate animal motif, in which he, a panda, is frequently associated with dragons.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Sunset Shimmer's "I Am Becoming" Song "My Past Is Not Today" ties her with The Phoenix, rising from the ashes of her old life to make a new start for herself as a better person. This continues in Friendship Games where, after absorbing magic from her friends, her transformation has energy wings and her magic is distinctly fire-looking. The very end has a phoenix rise up from a hill before showing stars representing Twilight and herself.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Depending on how you interpret Blade Runner, a Unicorn motif can be assigned to Rick Deckard, Rachael, or the both of them. Unlike the rest of the cast with regular Animal Motifs.
  • Vlad and dragons in Dracula Untold, from where he, his clan and his castle take their names.
  • The murders in Sherlock Holmes (2009) are based of the parts of a Sphinx: the midget the face of a man, Sir Thomas the tail of a bull, the American ambassador the wings of an eagle, and the British parliament the body of a lion.

  • Several characters in The Circus of Doctor Lao.
  • Invoked in Ender's Game. The various armies in the Battle School are given animal motifs (though there is mention of a Phoenix and Manticore armies), until Ender becomes old enough to command an army of his own. Rather than assigning him a preexisting army, the administrators create an entirely new one for him staffed with inexperienced soldiers and dub it the "Dragon Army." With Ender in command it soon takes on an unprecedented winning streak (despite increasingly-unfair odds) and invokes the hatred of every other army in the school. The Dragon army is both mighty and has hoards of would-be heroes trying to "slay" it.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Albus Dumbledore's Patronus is a phoenix, and he is otherwise associated with phoenixes because of his pet, Fawkes, and his secret organization the Order of the Phoenix.
    • Rubius Hagrid and Newt Scamander can be associated with dragons and other fierce creatures due to extreme and touching care of magical monsters which most people would fear.
  • The Ordo Hydra, another conspiracy group, in the Inquisition War trilogy by Ian Watson ( a series of Warhammer 40000 novels). They are a secret group in the already secret group of the Ordo Malleus who are already part of the "mostly ignored of by the general population" group, the Inquisition. They are really secretive.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire the Targaryen have a three headed dragon as their coat of arms. The dragon heads represented Aegon, and his sisters, as well as their three dragons. House Stark has a direwolf as their sigil, while House Manderly has a Merman. The old Ghiscari Empire had the Harpy as their sigil, the cities of Slaver's Bay kept it as their heritage.
  • Mayland Long (Oolong) from Tea with the Black Dragon by R. A. MacAvoy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Smallville, during Lana Lang's return and last appearance, she gains a phoenix motif. She gets a phoenix medallion from her Training from Hell. Then when she gains superpowers, she also emits a speed aura when she uses Super Speed. However, while all other speedsters usually leave behind a trail of translucent "shells" of themselves when they super speed, Lana has a solid, burning, orange aura, even though she had a faint purple aura when she used Super Speed before. She bursts out of the containment chamber and waves her arms once to form the wings of a phoenix from the flames.
  • Star Trek: Picard: Cristóbal Rios has a thing for mermaids. His ship is named La Sirena, which means "The Mermaid" in Spanish. He also has a mermaid tattoo on his arm and various mermaid knickknacks in his cabin.

  • Akali from K/DA has a recurring dragon motif throughout the "POP/STARS" music video — on the back of her jacket; the first one of her spray paint drawing is of a dragon; the spray pain design on her mouthband resembles a dragon's mouth.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Especially common in Mexican Lucha Libre. It's hard to think where else Dark Unicorn and Mermaid Warrior would legitimately connect with crowds without aid of comedy or years of buildup.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Beast: The Primordial lets you play as a human whose soul has been replaced by a spiritual embodiment of Primal Fear, which, in a very Jungian way, is represented by a monster of myth- dragons, giants, krakens, gorgons, that kind of thing.
  • The Dragonmarked Houses in Eberron all have mythological beasts as their crests.
  • In the Iron Kingdoms, the Retribution of Scyrah fields myrmidons named after mythical beasts and often designed after the traits of their namesake ; the Phoenix is a perfect example with its regenerating force field and ability to bathe its surroundings in a roaring inferno.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Alpha Legion have the hydra as their symbol, representing the doctrine of autonomous operation and the ability to have multiple fronts who can act even without chains of command (the "head" being removed).
    • The Thousand Sons, on the other hand, use the Ouroboros to signify their mystical nature.

  • In Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, painfully isolated Laura identifies with her glass unicorn figurine of the horse-with-a-horn variety; when a young man dances with her and accidentally breaks off its horn, she states that he has enabled it to finally fit in with the other horses. Unfortunately, this Hope Spot is all too brief in the play (as with most Tennessee Williams plays).

    Video Games 
  • Motifs from Japanese, Norse, Classical and Abrahamic mythologies abound in BlazBlue:
    • The Big Bad of the series, Yuuki Terumi, fights with an Evil Weapon named Ouroboros, which not only gives him more Snake Motifs to go with him being the Satanic Archetype, but also ties in with his knowledge of alchemy; the Ouroborus being a representation of quicksilver, the most important substance in all of alchemy. When under the guise of his alter-ego, Hazama, his crest also includes an image of a snake biting its own tail. When he drops the alter-ego, this crest is instead replaced with one depicting a stylized Caduceus, the Herald Staff of Hermes, the Greek God of Boundaries, whose Roman name is the namesake of quicksilver: Mercury... Speaking of Hermes, wanna take a guess what the Japanese name for "Boundary" is? Hint: It's "Hazama"... In Central Fiction, Terumi's true form, Takehaya Susanoo no Mikoto, also has spikes resembling Mercury's Wings on his feet.
    • BlazBlue's second primary threat, Meiou Izanami, not only shares her name with the Goddess of Death in Japanese mythology, but "Meiou", meaning "Dark King/Lord", is the Japanese name for Pluto, both the planet and the Roman God of Death. In the English version of the game, her name is given as "Hades Izanami" in reference to this.

    Web Comics 
  • The title character of Decrypting Rita has dragons, primarily evident with Rita-1 (who dates Carol-1 in a dragon-like chassis) and Rita-3 (who is a dragoness).

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Zuko has an animal motif in the theme of dragons, creatures associated with fire. However, his motifs were of two dragons, one blue and one red, representing the dual aspect of his nature. The dragons also refer to his Uncle Iroh, the Dragon of the West who protected the last of the dragons, from whom Zuko and Aang later learn the true source of Fire Bending from.
    • Zuko's sister, Azula, is also associated with the blue dragon.
    • The Fire Nation has as its motif the dragons, who were the ones who taught the art of Firebending.
  • Star Wars Rebels uses phoenixes heavily, especially in regards to the Rebel Alliance. Starbirds, the Star Wars equivalent of a phoenix, are used heavily in propaganda and pro-rebel graffiti art. The heroes repeatedly lose major battles only to recover and come back stronger and the growing rebellion is often compared to fire spreading. Perhaps the biggest example would be in the latter half of season four, when Kanan Jarrus dies in an inferno, and is (briefly) reincarnated as a Force being to advise Ezra one last time.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Sugilite, the fusion of Amethyst and Garnet, produces a dragon-shaped aura when she is formed.
    • The fusion Obsidian resembles various deities from Polynesian and Hindu mythology, particularly Kali.


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