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Mythical Motifs

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The use of mythology as a motif. A character, faction, or place can be associated with a god, hero, monster, or location from mythology or a mythical creature to underline something important in the plot or to convey a character's personality. This is a type of allusion and many creators like to use it to make the work seem a bit more high-brow that it might otherwise be.

Perhaps a character's story is acknowledged as a History Repeats version or Whole-Plot Reference of a mythical tale like the Nibelungenlied or the Ramayana. Maybe they are named for a specific god, wield a weapon made by the god, or have an appearance and powers that echo that god's domain. Maybe each member of a team is patterned after a mythical group, like the pantheon of Egyptian Mythology, or the Western or Eastern Zodiacs. Another common variant is to mix this trope with Animal Motifs and compare an aspect of the story to a mythical creature; for example, 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. Or maybe just naming your powerful monster "Quetzalcoatl" or "Baba Yaga" just sounds cool. Regardless of the specifics, Mythical Motifs serve a dual purpose of making the motif-bearer seem ancient and powerful while hinting at what they are capable of.

Supertrope to Icarus Allusion. Works that make use of several mythological canons at a time might also be working with Crossover Cosmology or Fantasy Kitchen Sink. See also Religious and Mythological Theme Naming (which is just for names).

Examples with their own page:

Web Animation


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Black Clover:
    • Asta is heavily associated with devils, given his Anti-Magic's demonic origins and the appearance of his Super Mode. Fits even more upon learning of that Liebe, for whom he acts as a devil host, is his adopted brother.
    • Yuno:
      • Sylphs, owing to his powerful wind magic and the appearance of his Spirit Drive. Bonus points for having an actual Wind Spirit named Sylph as a companion.
      • Later on, becomes associated with Angels as well, gaining wings and a halo in his Super Mode. Becomes even more prominent when he unlocks his Star Magic.
    • Noelle Silva:
      • Most of her water spells' names include "Sea Dragon". Following the motif of the serpentine dragon formed by her Sea Dragon's Roar, Noelle is a dignified, elegant young woman of royal birth with powerful magic.
      • Gains an association with mermaids with her Valkyrie Armor — Mermaid Form, giving her the appearance of one, complete with a fish tail. She also fits given her beauty and water magic.
      • After forming a contract with Undine, she gains an angel motif. Her Saint Valkyrie Armor comes with feathered wings, a Holy Halo, and grants her the power to defeat devils.
    • Luck Voltia has one of the Raijin, the Japanese god of lightning and storms often depicted with a terrifying appearance and associated with death and destruction. He's nicknamed the "Smiling Battle Fiend", his magic manifests clawed gauntlets and boots, and he has a sociopathic love for fighting that can make him very unnerving in battle. Luck's Ultimate Lightning Magic: Lightning Battle Fiend continues the theme with his horns and spheres of lightning arranged circularly behind him, evocative of the deity's Thunder Drums.
    • Nacht Faust has Faust. Like the scholar Faust who made a contract with Mephistopheles to exchange his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasure, the delinquent Nacht without any purpose eagerly delved into devil magic when he showed a gift for it, feeling joy from the malice inside himself. Nacht's summoning of Lucifugus leads to the death of his beloved, good, and righteous brother Morgen, tying into how Mephistopheles kills the good humanity within Faust in the myth. Nacht and Morgen being polar opposites references the myth's theme of polarity. And Nacht's character arc of atonement goes with the myth's aesop that humanity is capable of sin but able to be forgiven through repenting.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
      • Zigfried has a deck filled with Valkyries and other elements of Northern European Mythology.
    • 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 YuYu 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 
  • Batman: In a few different 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.
  • Dollicious: Delliland - a land where everyone is named after food - tend to use names of "Nectar" and "Ambrosia" names as exclamation and worship them as legendary figures.
  • Iron Fist: The 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.
  • S.H.I.E.L.D.: HYDRA, the ersatz SPECTRE (who incidentally use the very similar motif of the octopuss).
  • X-Men: Phoenix. 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 
  • Two of the bosses in Black Heart are based on mythology. Medusa has the ability to turn others to stone, and Siren sings her level's song during a fight implied to take place underwater.
  • 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.
  • Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls:
    • Sunset, as in canon, is associated with The Phoenix, the association going further with her Soul Reaper powers. Her Shikai gives her Playing with Fire abilities, and her Bankai gives her Hot Wings, has her shield morph to look more like a Phoenix, and her ultimate attack, Final Phoenix, has her combine her sword and shield and throw them at her foe, forming a giant fiery Phoenix that explodes when damaged, but unfortunately limiting her to Shikai for at least a day afterward.
    • Adagio unsurprisingly has that of a Mermaid. Her Adjuchas form looked like that of her Equestrian form, while her resurection turns her into traditional mermaid with and an armour.
    • Gilda Resurrection has more of an animal motif with a centurion helmet in a shape of a lion head, lower body that of a lean anthropomorphized lion with golden fur, thick claws but also with a barbed tail not unlike Equestrian Manticores. Her spear also drips caustic droplets of blood.
    • Fluttershy's completed Fullbring is heavily inspired by the "Bodhisattva" of Buddhist religion.
    • All Sternritters have an Angel motif in their Vollständig form. The appearance warry from person to person but they all have wings (Butterfly wings, wheels of fire, etc) and halos of some sort.
  • 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.
  • The Morrigan has a plethora of allusions to Celtic Mythology;
    • The main three gundams in the fic are The Morrigan (Celtic goddess of war and fate), the Nemain (Celtic goddess of war and frenzy), and the Lugh (Celtic god of light and authority).
    • Nika Nanaura has her left arm covered in silver permet growths, is the leader of her faction, and fights a being called Balor, just like Nuada Airgetlám, the first king of the Tuatha de Dannan.
    • Suletta Mercury has an Animal Motifs of a dog and pilots the Lugh, evocative of the hero Cú Chulainn.
  • The Myth of Link & Zelda: Survivors of the Calamity makes extensive use of mythological parallels in its story, reflecting the epic scale on which this occurs.
    • Fi's singing is outright compared to that of a siren call, which it essentially is because she wants Link to come and reclaim her as his weapon.
    • The Koroks are a parallel to Nymphs and Dryads, the Zora are a parallel to merfolk, the Gerudo are a parallel to the Amazons, the Rito are a parallel to the Ornithese Areioi, and Gorons are a parallel to Golems.
    • The four main protagonists all have mythological characters matching their characterizations.
      • For Link, it's Odin, specifically, the heroic interpretation of him. Odin was The Beastmaster to Geri and Freki, just as Link is the master of the Wolf Spirit, and both are determined to stop an apocalypse. Furthermore, they both tried to avert a prophesied apocalypse and failed, though Link gets a second chance to do so and succeed. In addition, Link encompasses both negative and positive aspects that Geri and Freki embody. He's prone to extreme anger and violence against the Yiga, but he's also headstrong, brave, and above all loyal to his companions.
      • For Zelda, it's Athena. Zelda is the wisest woman in the land and one of the most powerful magic-wielders, and she's also associated with owls, just as Athena was an undefeated warrior goddess and the goddess of wisdom who was said to have a little owl accompanying her.
      • For Impa, it's Jiraiya, a powerful ninja with the magic power to shapeshift into a toad. While for Impa, it's a frog, she essentially is the female Jiraiya after obtaining the Frog Spirit and being able to summon its giant spectral appearance as a shell for herself.
      • For Ganondorf, it's the Erymanthian Boar, a borderline mindlessly violent entity that the gods would send to get revenge, and was said to be the manifestation of the gross vital, primary, wild, brutal, insensitive energy that indiscriminately attacked and killed. Ganondorf often manifested as a Boar, and Calamity Ganon fit all of these to a T until he was finally freed from the Curse of Demise.
  • Oni Ga Shiku Series: Izuku associates Kiryu with dragons to a degree that he openly refers to him as a dragon when describing him to other people. Izuku views Kiryu as an indomitable pillar of strength, to the point he refuses to call him "Uncle Kaz" even though the man himself encourages it. The only time Izuku views Kiryu as a human being rather than a dragon is when he's injured and depressed by the assassination plot targetting Haruka. But even after this event he still views Kiryu as a dragon.
  • In There's No One Like You, Blight Manor and the Siren Hotel both have a motif of monsters, manticores specifically. It creeps Luz out, and she mentions feeling like she's walking into a monster's den when she enters both buildings. The motif goes with their theme of being figurative monsters who prey on the downtrodden.
  • In Whispered Tribulation, while this world's #1 supervillain prison is named Tartarus, the #1 psychiatric facility is called Olympus.

    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.
  • Spirited Away: Haku is a dragon. This ties into his character since dragons are considered indicative of rivers in Japan, and Haku lost his memories when a river in the human world got paved over for an apartment complex.

    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.
  • Brahmāstra: Part One – Shiva makes a lot of references to Hindu mythology.
    • The Agnyastra/fire astra is named for Agni, the god of fire.
    • The Nandiastra, which gives one the strength of a thousand bulls, is named for the bull of the god Shiva.
    • The Vanarastra, which bestows the strength and agility of a monkey on its wielder, is named for the Vanara, a mythical group of monkey people.
  • Vlad and dragons in Dracula Untold, from where he, his clan and his castle take their names.
  • Eternals: They titular characters are immortal heroes, some of whom are patterned after mythological figures. For example, Thena is a graceful and pragmatic fighter like Classical Mythology's Athena. In-universe, it is explained that they were the inspiration for some of humanity's most enduring myths; for example, The Epic of Gilgamesh is a story Sprite tells ancient Mesopotamians starring her friend Gilgamesh.
  • In Love Again, Mira grieving her fiance's death is explicitly likened to the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, except she (unlike Orpheus) chooses to get over it rather than take extreme action.
  • Monkey Man: : Kid has strong thematic ties to the monkey god Hanuman, a major ally in The Ramayana who helps the hero Rama defeat the demon king Ravana. Thus the Big Bad Baba Shakti, who is responsible for much of the onscreen suffering, is the film's Ravana. This is explicit in the final confrontation where the two stand in front of a mural of Hanuman fighting Ravana.
  • Oppenheimer: Bohr compares Oppenheimer to Prometheus, the titan who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humanity. Both kickstarted new ages for mankind and like Prometheus, he was also tortured for his transgressions. However, for Prometheus, the torment inflicted was physical, for Oppenheimer, it was much more internal.
  • Saltburn: Vampires, to the point that the creators consider it a vampire movie even without any supernatural elements. The movie's aesthetics is heavily influenced by vampire movies and their gothic atmosphere. Oliver calls himself a vampire when eating out Venetia during her period, there is a scene of his mouth drenched in blood in the bath later, and one can see it as a story of Oliver sucking the Cattons dry over the course of the years like a vampire feeding on them, as well as being a parasitic being in their lives.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • InCryptid: Alice's quest to find her missing husband Thomas is directly compared to Odysseus trying to reunite with Penelope, only in this case it's gender-flipped. Thomas holds out hope for decades that she will one day find him. Bonus points for the observation being made by a satyr from a dimension called Ithaca.
  • The Ordo Hydra, another conspiracy group, in the Inquisition War trilogy by Ian Watson (a series of Warhammer 40,000 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 Targaryens 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, and the cities of Slaver's Bay kept it as their heritage.

    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.
  • The White Lotus: The season 2 characters are ominously told the legend of the Moor's Head, a common decorative motif in Sicily, in the first episode. According to legend, a Sicilian girl began an affair with a visiting Moor, only for him to tell her he was returning to his wife and child in the East. She then killed him in a fit of rage. It's appropriate for the season's theme of gender dynamics, and indeed infidelity, betrayal, and marital stress are common among the characters.

  • 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.
  • Sleeping at Last: Some songs in Atlas refer to the mythical namesakes of the planets. For example, "Mars" (named for the Roman god of war) is about an armed conflict, while "Neptune" (named for the Roman god of the sea) features a lot of water imagery.

    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.
    • The Fire Dragons style themselves after the Dragon, a figure from the Eldar mythic cycle that tried to set the whole galaxy aflame, and seek to emulate the great creature's powers of fiery destruction by wearing the colors of flame and using heat-based weaponry to annihilate their enemies.
    • Howling Banshees take on the image of the banshees from Eldar myth, who were said to be the heralds of death and ill-fortune. The warriors of the Shrine replicate the piercing screams of their mythological counterparts with their own psychically amplified war cries that foretell the death of their enemies.
    • The Void Dragons corsairs make heavy use of draconic imagery. Their symbol is a pair of coiled serpents, and there adorn their armor with images of fearsome drakes and wyrms.

  • 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 
  • There's plenty of motifs and allusions from Shinto, Norse/Germanic, Classical and Biblical/Abrahamic mythologies BlazBlue but a few stand out:
    • 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.
  • Dislyte: The Espers are all representations of mythological figures from Greek, Egyptian, Norse, and Chinese mythologies, ranging from gods, heroes, and monsters. As a result, their abilities and appearances are based on what mythological figure they host their powers while modifying them for a music-focused Urban Fantasy setting. In particular, Espers based on mythical monsters or Egyptian gods (which have animal heads) tend to be Beast Men (i.e Freddy, Drew, Sander), have Little Bit Beastly traits (i.e Berenice, Ren Si), or have animal companions based on whoever they represent (i.e Jacob and his serpent companion).
  • Many characters in Like a Dragon have symbolism based around certain mythical icons, usually signified by a tattoo on their body:
    • The series' original protagonist, Kazuma Kiryu, has a dragon motif, specifically the ouryuu, also known as the Yinglong or "responding dragon", hence the series' name. He has a silver dragon tattoo on his back, has a tendency to come to blows with characters with tiger motifs, and is portrayed as powerful and manly, but also as a wise Warrior Poet. The ouryuu was also said to have been banished from heaven after committing a murder, mirroring Kiryu being arrested and expelled from the yakuza after taking the fall for a murder in the first game. Also, his boss fight in Yakuza: Like a Dragon has him be weak to Ice elemental attacks, as that is the weakness of dragons in Dragon Quest.
    • While not as prominent as his dog motif, Goro Majima also has an Oni motif. His back tattoo is that of a Shinja, a type of Hannya mask that represents a woman so overcome with envy that she has transformed into a snake-like Oni. His affinity for baseball bats is also likely an allusion to Oni traditionally being portrayed as wielding iron clubs.
    • Yakuza 2:
      • Daigo Dojima has a motif for Fudo Myo-o, the guardian of the Buddhist faith. Fudo Myo-o is depicted with a sword representing knowledge and power in his right hand and a rope for binding evil in his left. He's also depicted with flames behind him, representing purification. Likewise, Daigo is seen as a magnanimous yet unyielding leader of the Tojo Clan, especially in regards to going into a brawl himself. He also underwent his own purification courtesy of Kiryu beating some sense into him. This gets highlighted even moreso when comparing him to his father Sohei.
      • Ryuji Goda has a motif for the Golden Dragon, or in his words, the dragon of the world. The Golden Dragon reigns supreme over the Four Heavenly Beasts, including the Azure Dragon. This reflects his desire to rule supreme over the Japanese underworld.
    • Yakuza 3:
      • Shigeru Nakahara has a motif for shisa, a dog-lion spirit strongly associated with his home of Okinawa. It's his tattoo, and the shisa is primarily a guardian spirit, with Nakahara and his mob of Neighborhood-Friendly Gangsters spending most of their time dealing with petty crooks and ensuring that local shops don't get muscled out by big chains. Even when he is brought into conflict with Kiryu, it's because he is doing what he thinks is best for the locals.
      • Yoshitaka Mine has a motif for the Kirin, known in Chinese legends as the Qilin. Besides being his tattoo, the Kirin is regarded as a symbol of fertility and protection, which reflects him not only as the Tojo Clan's top earner, but also his Undying Loyalty to Daigo. The Kirin is also the only creature in eastern mythology capable of killing a dragon, representing his status as one of the most formidable enemies Kiryu faces in the entire series.
    • Tatsuya Ukyo, the protagonist of the Kurohyō spin-off games, has a dragon motif, as seen in his title, "Kamurocho's Mad Dragon".
    • Yakuza 4:
      • Fitting with the Four Gods theming of the playable characters, Shun Akiyama has a motif for the Vermillion Bird. His kick-centric fighting style is like a bird attacking with its talons, he runs a money-lending business called Sky Finance reflecting how the Vermillion Bird descends from the heavens to do good deeds, and he's very selective about who he gives money to like how the Vermillion Bird is said to be very selective about where it perches. Interestingly, he also pulls from The Phoenix in that he had a death and a rebirth, winding up homeless after losing his banking job and using the money he gathered from the 10 billion yen Nishikiyama gave his life to destroy at the end of 1 to rebuild his life and become the Lifeline of Kamurocho.
      • Taiga Saejima has a motif for the White Tiger. The White Tiger is said to embody power, strength, and courage while acting as a guardian of morality and justice. Indeed, there's no denying Saejima's absurd strength, his unshakeable valor in the face of danger, and his strict adherence to Thou Shall Not Kill despite having the capacity to go against it. He even has a tiger as his irezumi. Also, the only match for the White Tiger is the Azure Dragon, and he's one of only a few people to match Kiryu in a fight.
      • Masayoshi Tanimura has a motif for the Black Tortoise. The Black Tortoise is said to have a snake wrapped around it in some depictions, and Tanimura wears a snakeskin belt. The tortoise and the snake put together represent the death that comes with winter and the new life that springs from its end. Tanimura is undeniably a Dirty Cop, but only so the people of Little Asia have someone to watch over them given Japan's turbulent history with outsiders. Even his fighting style has a duality to it, being fluid and flexible when landing combos yet needing to be perfectly still when executing a parry.
    • Yakuza 5:
      • Masaru Watase has a motif for asura, specifically Mahabali, the Asura King. Despite being a battle hungry yakuza patriarch, Watase does adhere to his own sense of honor and benevolence, much like how Mahabali was viewed as a benevolent ruler whose people were happy and healthy. He's even willing to disband the Omi Alliance if it means his men can still retain their honor and dignity while starting up a security firm to guarantee that they'll still have somewhere to go, as demonstrated in Like a Dragon.
    • Yakuza 0:
      • Daisaku Kuze has a motif for Enma, the judge of the dead. Enma judges a man's sins to determine if they are worthy of Nirvana, and Kuze constantly comes to blows with Kiryu to determine if he has what it takes to be a real yakuza. Fittingly, he's the first sign that the game's done with the training wheels.
      • Keiji Shibusawa has a motif for the Azure Dragon. With a bringer of wealth and prosperity on his back, Shibusawa handles the business side of the Dojima Family. Unlike Kiryu's dragon irezumi, which is seen clutching a pearl symbolizing its authority and control over water, Shibusawa's dragon doesn't have one which reflects his desire to become the Dragon of Dojima. Their dragons are even facing opposite of one another, with Kiryu's facing upwards to the left while Shibusawa's faces downwards to the right. Fittingly, not only does Shibusawa act as the final boss for Kiryu's side of the story, but Kiryu also fills the role of the Azure Dragon in 4.
      • Hiroki Awano has a motif for Momotaro. Not only does this reflect how he would come to blows with Majima, but in some versions of the story of Momotaro, he became lazy and shirked his duties. Likewise, Awano was once the strongest yakuza in the Dojima Family, but he became hedonistic and let his strength decline.
      • Lao Gui has a demon motif. Besides the fact that his name is literally Chinese for "old demon", his motif is also meant to parallel Majima's Oni motif, befitting his role as Majima's foil and Final Boss of his side of the story.
      • Miss Tatsu has a motif for dragons. Her name can mean "dragon", she wears a jacket with dragons on it, and she's a powerful fighter who has a reputation as The Dreaded.

  • Decrypting Rita: Rita has dragons, primarily evident with Rita-1 (who dates Carol-1 in a dragon-like chassis) and Rita-3 (who is a dragoness).
  • Homestuck: In addition to widespread use of Animal Motifs, some trolls are associated with mythical creatures:
    • Tavros has fairies, in addition to a bull motif. His lusus is a small fairy-winged bull, and his home is decorated with fairy posters.
    • Terezi has dragons. Her lusus is an unhatched dragon, she decorates her home with dragon scales and collects dragon plushies, alchemizes her walking stick into a dragon-headed cane, and her Ancestor rode a full-sized dragon. Her appearance is also reminiscent of a dragon with her sharp teeth, red eyes/glasses, and a jetpack sporting bat-like wings.
    • Equius has centaurs. His Zodiacal sign is Saggitarius, his Trollian handle is centaursTesticle, and his lusus is a centaur.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Prince 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, Princess 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.
  • Blue Eye Samurai: Mizu is often called a "demon" by her foes for her incredible skill, ruthless nature, and Icy Blue Eyes. "The Tale of the Ronin and the Bride" makes explicit just what kind of demon she is with the intercut Flashbacks to her tragically brief attempt to live the life of a normal woman: an onyrou, the vengeful spirit of a person—often a woman—who was betrayed in life and whose drive for revenge is so intense that it will unleash all kinds of disaster on any who encounter it. Particularly when she causes the Great Fire of Meireki.
  • The Owl House
    • Luz Noceda
      • Witches. She is a massive fan of them because of the Azura book and initially her main goal in the Boiling Isles is to become a real one. As the series progresses she slowly turns into a Cute Witch, and throughout Season 3 she wears a witch costume, which even influences her Titan form with a witch hat and longcoat.
      • Demons as well. Luz is big fan of them in general and gets along with the non evil ones. Angels might also count since traits of both are in her Titan form, having horns, claws, a darker color scheme, but also uses Light Glyphs, and a glowing orb above Luz that acts like a halo.
      • In-Universe, she is associated with the titans. King, one of her closes companions/little brother is in fact one and the Boiling Isles Titan himself is rather fond of her. It became even more prominent in her Titan form, having many traits of the titans themselves.
    • Eda Clawthorne
      • Bears similarities to La Lechuza, a mexican folklore about a creature that is woman by day and owl by night.
      • She eventually becomes associated with harpies because of Harpy Eda after reconciling with the curse.
    • Philip takes several elements from the biblical Cain himself, such as his mostly normal human appearance having a large band of green rot running across his face, complete with black holes digging into his skull, akin to the 'mark of Cain' that God placed upon him so that all would know who Cain was on sight, what his crimes were, and would not grant him the mercy of death. As Belos, this mark persists even when he covers it up with his mask and Glamour abilities as a small scar on his face, that rapidly expands into its discoloured state whenever Philip is angered, letting his true nature show. Additionally, "For the Future" showcases that his monstrous slimey true form is poisonous to the touch, draining the life out of whatever Belos touches and corroding the earth he walks on, even as he desperately seeks more sustenance out to continue of his never-ending quest to kill all the witches and 'reunite' with Caleb. Cain similarly was cursed by God to forever wander the Earth and be denied sustenance from it and its bounty for his crimes.
      Genesis 10-12: And He said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the soil. And so, cursed shall you be by the soil that gaped with its mouth to take your brother's blood from your hand. If you till the soil, it will no longer give you strength. A restless wanderer shall you be on the earth."
      • In his monstrous form, Emperor Belos has quite a bit in common with a Wendigo:
      • He is a huge, humanoid monster who is horrifically emancipated. He even sports a pair of antler-like growths, reminiscent of the deer-like pop culture take on Wendigos.
      • Wendigos were an Anthropomorphic Personification of greed and starvation, fitting Belos' feasting on palismen to sustain himself and his gradual transformation into a monster by doing so, along with his monstrous form being almost skeletally thin and emaciated-looking. Wendigo are also heavily associated with cannibalism and, while Belos isn't technically a direct cannibal, his predatory modus operandi towards palismen —which are carved from wooden trees grown from the flesh of the dead titan — and later, Human Realm wildlife is arguably just as disturbing to see. He even restores his body to full strength by draining Hunter's life essence through his possession, with the ugly-losing scars left behind on the boy making it clear that extended possession would have reduced his body to mere bones.
      • Wendigos were formerly human, but became cannibalistic monsters due to their greed and selfishness. Belos also was just a regular human, but as Luz herself pointed out, in his mad pursuit of witch genocide, he eventually stopped being a human altogether, both figuratively and especially literally.
      • As previously said in Animal Motifs, Belos shares a bird of prey motif with a lot of the cast. Coincidentally, rather than with deer as pop culture will tell you, Wendigos in the original folklore were sometimes associated with owls, even sharing the same term in some Native American dialects.
      • Wendigos originate from Native American legends, and Philip started out living in America.
      • Wendigo habitats are usually considered to be dark caves or woods where they make their lairs and hunting grounds. Several important revelations about Philip's true nature are revealed whilst inside of darkened cave formations like the inside of the Titan's skull, and Luz and Hunter discover his true psychotic nature whilst inside the darkened and twisted woods of his mindscape, where he possesses a Home Field Advantage that almost renders them powerless before him.
      • Some legends state that Wendigos fear or are vulnerable to fire, because their hearts are made of Ice. Though subtle, Belos has demonstrated an aversion to fire throughout the series, most noticeably, in "King's Tide" his confidant and calm demeanour briefly falters when Luz nearly hits him with a fireball, and his suppressed facial disfiguration, which is demonstrated to be tied to his emotions, is shown to have slightly broken as a result. Having a 'heart of ice' also neatly describes Belos' true nature quite accurately.
      • Additionally, Belos also has some points in common with the native American depiction of a Skin Walker.
      • Skin Walkers were shapeshifting beings that were thought to be created when a benevolent medicine man abused the indigenous magic of the land for evil purposes, and in turn gained mystical powers to be used for evil purposes. Though varying from tradition to tradition, one common power was the ability to turn into or possess animals or people. This fits with how Philip abused the native Glyph magic of the isles for his own purposes and gradually turned into a monstrous form that needed to forcibly disguise itself into a human form in keeping with his delusional perceptions of his own humanity. Whilst deceiving Luz and Hunter within his mindscape his inner self makes extensive use of shapeshifting to appear either as a benevolent guide or to underscore his revelation to Luz about his true identity as Philip Wittebane. Once trapped on Earth, Philip reconstitutes his body by possessing and feeding on the life-force of both animals and eventually Hunter.
      • It was believed that anybody could become a Skin Walker if they committed some sort of deep-seated taboo. Philip's near-biblical Sibling Murder of Caleb, down to getting his own 'Mark of Cain' from holding tightly to the Fantastic Racism of witches that turned him murderous towards his brother for 'betraying' him for them, would fit that criteria.
      • It was believed that Skin Walkers were near-impossible to kill, unless with a bullet or knife dipped in white ash, and Belos' current form has proven to be capable of surviving physical trauma that would have killed a normal man easily.
    • In the epilogue, Lilith Clawthorne gains a Harpy mode just like her sister, presumably working things out with her version of the curse.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil
    • Star Butterfly, The Underestimated has a Unicorn motif as shown by her close friendship with Pony Head, her introductory scene riding a Unicorn, the tiny unicorns that power her wand, and the unicorns she created in The Realm of Magic.
    • Marco Diaz has a small Dragon motif as shown by his dragoncycle, the dragon designs decorating his dojo, and when he uses Star's wand it appears to have dragon wings.
    • Whether this is intentional or not is up to debate, Star Butterfly, The Underestimated has a lot of similarities to Loki from Norse Mythology.
      • In Norse Mythology, Loki was a god who overcame problems through cunning and in modern tellings, Loki is depicted as morally superior to the Aesir, who are depicted as corrupt and immoral. In the myths, he was Odin's blood brother and the mother of the eight-legged horse Sleipnir. The format of Loki's myths is that he's blamed for something and the gods force Loki to fix it for them. In the Ragnarok prophecy, Loki is against the gods by siding with his children as they bring about the end of the world.
      • In the series, Star is a mewman of noble birth who overcame problems by using magic haphazardly. When Star learns of Mewni's history, she becomes morally superior to the Butterfly family, who annexed the monsters and attempted a race war multiple times. Due to being part of this family, the monsters hold her and her family accountable for the actions of their ancestors and the mewmans force the Butterfly queens to do everything for them. In the end, Star turns against the mewmans as she and her friends and family trigger armageddon through the destruction of magic.
      • Like Loki, Star has connections to Scandinavia. Loki is a Norse god and Star is a Johansen on her father's side. The Johansens are a barbarian clan based on Nordic clans and royalty.
      • Like the Norse gods, the mewmans force the Butterflys to solve a problem they can't handle, the Butterflys gives them a scapegoat so they can maintain their own perceived flawlessness as a species, and the mewmans are never introspective enough to meaningfully improve their lives or take responsibility for themselves.
      • In the series, Star is characterised as the rebel of the Butterfly family because she refuses to follow the traditional role of a princess. In Norse mythology, Loki is a magic user and he doesn't act like a traditional Asgardian.
      • In the series, it's revealed that all descendants from Festivia are an offshoot from the original Butterfly bloodline. After learning this, Star still occupies the castle in order to help Eclipsa with the public image. In Norse mythology, Loki and Odin were blood brothers but Loki is also theorised to be an offshoot of Odin due to their associations with trickery. Loki hangs around Asgard and often helps the Asgardians with their adventures. In recent studies by Eldar Heide in his work ”Loki, the Vätte, and the Ash Lad: A Study Combining Old Scandinavian and Late Material.”, Loki may not have originated as an Asgardian. Like how Star isn't a member of the original Butterfly clan.
      • In the series, Star is the mother of a horse-like monster called "The Firstborn". In the mythology, Loki is the mother of the eight-legged horse Sleipnir.
      • Like Loki, Star ends an imperfect world to make way for a new one. In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is theorised to have been originally framed as a cleansing armageddon, an event that destroys the world but allows it to be rebuilt as something better because the gods were too corrupt, destructive, and immoral. In the series, Star destroying all the magic is framed as ultimately a good thing because magic is way too dangerous to be used responsibly by anyone. The mewmans used magic to oppress others and fuel a monster genocide.
      • Like modern tellings of Loki, Star is considered to be morally superior because she learned the dark history of her family and decided to improve the relationship between humans and monsters.
    • Meteora's story arc in season 3 has some connections with the Greek god Hephastus. Meteora was sent off to St. Olga's as a baby due to being half-monster, just like how Hera disowned her son Hephaestus because of his deformities and exiled him from Mount Olympus. Meteora and Hephaestus were both raised without knowing their true identities, and when they find out they both enact violent revenge against those who wronged them. Meteora is eventually happily reunited with her parents, like how Hephaestus eventually earns a place in the pantheon with the rest of his family.
      • Additionally, Hephaestus is associated with robotics, while Meteora had several robotic henchmen and was raised by a robot.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Divine Motifs, God Motifs


Go Kiramagers

Inspired by the legend at a shine, the Kiramagers use a power up based off of the immortal phoenix.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / MythicalMotifs

Media sources: