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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.

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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.


Examples:

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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 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.
      • 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.

    Art 

    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.
  • 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.
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    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.
  • 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 Triforce Trilogy makes extensive use of mythological parellels 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.
  • 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.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Literature 
  • 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.
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    Music 
  • 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.

    Theatre 
  • 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.
  • Many characters in Yakuza have symbolism based around certain mythical creatures, 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". For one, the series' Japanese name, Ryu ga Gotoku, translates to "Like a Dragon" in English. He also 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 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 weilding iron clubs.
    • 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 0:
      • 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.

    Webcomics 
  • 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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Alternative Title(s): Divine Motifs, God Motifs

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