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Mythology Upgrade

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Need a totally awesome magical beast to make your show that much more awesome? Why make one up when mythology's done it for you? The Behemoth, the Leviathan, maybe a dragon or two. In works involving the afterlife, you can even expect Cerberus to make an appearance.

But wait... in their original forms, these guys weren't quite awesome enough! We need to give him NEW powers so he presents a real threat to our heroes (or our villains). Behold the power of creative license! Time for a Mythology Upgrade!

Cerberus not cool enough? Let's give him a human form! Raging dragons not doing it for you? Let's make them superintelligent and magic-resistant! Leviathan not dangerous enough in the water? Let's make him fly!

Note that the Mythology Upgrade refers specifically to an already established creature of legend who gets entirely new powers, not one that just mysteriously got more powerful. Compare Public Domain Artifact, Sadly Mythtaken. Adaptational Badass often ensues.

Compare Historical Badass Upgrade for historical people version.


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  • Dragons are perhaps the greatest recipients of this trope. Besides their animal ferocity and often venom or fire breath, most myths didn't give them many additional powers. Modern sources, however, almost always depict dragons as gigantic beings of incredible physical and magical strength.
  • It should be noted that in the original myth Bahamut isn't exactly carrying the world, though it is the most common interpretation and perhaps what the original myth intended, the exact words say that it was carrying: "all of god's creation". Some authors have played with this and stated that what it is actually holding is the universe. This is actually an enormous literature upgrade.
  • Cerberus deserves a special mention in any appearance he makes, since the original creature, depending on which myth you're going by, had snakes growing from his back and was formed by/had skin made of the squirming souls of the dead. On top of that, its saliva was poisonous and once stopped a Titan from escaping the underworld. Which practically makes many of his appearances a Mythology Downgrade.
  • Arachne is simply a progenitor of all spiders in Classical Mythology. If there are monsters with that name in modern works, they are commonly half-spider half-woman beings with human size, if not larger.
  • Depictions of Gorgons in mythology varied a bit through Greek history. What was consistent was that there were at most three of them, and that two of the sisters were immortal; Medusa was the name of the third who was mortal and killed by Perseus. Medusa had snakes for hair, the other two may or may not have done so, and all could either turn a person to stone by a look or possibly by simply seeing their face. It's not uncommon for works to feature them as an entire species of snake-people, who generally have the power to briefly paralyze or immobilize a single target.

  • An arc of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime gave the Leviathan strange powers related to souls and children's card games. It could apparently make people immortal and/or "awaken the darkness in their hearts", and was said to be responsible for the fall of Atlantis.

    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman:
    • The Amazons are a zig-zagged example. In the myths, they are just ordinary warrior women whose fighting prowess was highly spoken of, but were often defeated to show off a male hero's strength and skill. The original Wonder Woman comics by William Marston reimagined the Amazons as a nation of powerful fighters who were trained in Supernatural Martial Arts, as well as being more scientifically and spiritually more advanced than the rest of the world. This got downplayed in Post Crisis comics for a time where the Amazons' technology was made much more primitive than the rest of the planet and their flaws got played up more. Over time, writers have attempted to make the Amazons more in line with their Marston depictions sans BDSM imagery.
    • The Wonder Woman comics depict Ares as much more cunning and dangerous than his mythological counterpart, often having him as a potential apocalypse bringer rather than the dimwitted, cowardly thug who was often beaten and humiliated.

  • J. R. R. Tolkien's dragons were huge, highly intelligent, possessed magical powers (particularly mind-bending magic), and were quite possibly incarnate minor deities, if evil ones. Word of God admitted a certain fondness for this particular creature, so he used them sparingly but when he wanted to go for grand effect.
  • Both played straight and averted in Harry Potter. For example, a Cerberus-esque dog makes an appearance as a giant, three-headed guardian closely resembling its original myth, but the boggart gets quite a significant power increase from its minor mischief origin.
  • The Camp Half-Blood Series (Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus, Trials of Apollo) give literally every monster from Classical Mythology an upgrade in the form of Resurrective Immortality. When a monster dies, it goes to Tartarus to regenerate. Percy and his friends often kill the same monster several times over the course of the series.
    • Objects get this, too. In the myths, the Golden Fleece is basically a MacGuffin, with no special powers on its own (aside from, y'know, being gold that grew from an animal). Here, it magically enhances nature and is used to protect the camp. The Labyrinth is an Eldritch Location instead of a normal maze, and the string Ariadne gave Theseus was a special invention of Daedalus' to get out.
  • The Lost Years of Merlin and its Sequel Series has the strange example of Rhita Gawr, the Big Bad. He's depicted as the Celtic War God and, given his appearance, a vague Lucifer analogue. He's actually a rather obscure villain from Arthurian Legend, a giant whom Arthur either killed or possibly just beat up.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons is at the forefront of this trope, with the most obvious example being its treatment of dragons (it is in the name after all). Elevating them from being just very dangerous animals in medieval legend to anything between some of the most powerful beings in the world and, in the case of the strongest dragons, monsters beyond even gods.
  • Scion upgrades various mythological beings with modern elements. Examples include Centaurs as half-human and half-Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Scylla having machine replacements for its monster heads, and Surtr's main fortress in Muspelheim being able to transform into a Humongous Mecha.
  • Rifts has many, many examples, but one familiar to even casual players of the game would be dragons. Dragons in Rifts have Psychic Powers, Voluntary Shapeshifting, and Teleportation as standard abilities, on top of the normal breath weapon and flying abilities. They're also intelligent at birth due to Genetic Memory. Oh, and hatchlings are available as player characters.
  • White Wolf also generally did this with their Werewolf game lines. It's not enough that they're shapeshifting killing machines — to fit roughly in with the themes of works such as The Howling and Wolfen, werewolves also have ties to nature that give them access to the Spirit World and a special relationship with its denizens. Whether this relationship is "stalwart defenders" or "border police" depends on the gameline.

    Video Games 
  • Castlevania:
    • Recurring boss Legion has gone from a group of demons who possessed a man and a herd of pigs, to a massive, flying sphere of zombies with a tentacled monster at the center that shoots Fricking Laser Beams.
    • Castlevania: Circle of the Moon featured the sun god Adrammelech as a giant, eyeball controlling, ooze gagging goat thing that pissed off players.
  • In Devil May Cry, Alastor is a sword found impaled into a statue of the Judge of Death. In demonology, Alastor is the name given to the supreme arbiter of the court of Hell, or alternately, Hell's chief Executioner. Furthermore, Alastor is a Greek term for "avenger", notably both a title given to Zeus and the name of a man executed by Zeus, which would explain the lightning attacks in the game.
  • Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening makes heavy use of this trope:
    • The legendary Leviathan (a sea-monster) here is an enormous flying creature with a demonic immune system, which Dante has to fight through to kill the creature from the inside out.
    • Cerberus (the Underworld's guard dog) still guards the gateway to hell, but now has some wicked ice powers (which may be a homage to the coldness of hell in Dante's Inferno).
    • Other examples include Beowulf as a light-flinging demon and Geryon having time-control powers.
  • Fate/Grand Order has a number of examples, some of the most notable being:
  • Several of the enemies and almost all of the summons in the Final Fantasy franchise are creatures or characters taken from mythology and given new powers.
    • Bahamut, who makes an appearance in almost every game, is the King and/or God of all dragons. In his Final Fantasy X incarnation, he (while not necessarily being more powerful than the mythological Bahamut) has a giant ring on his back which charges with energy to unleash his Overdrive, which is basically a giant blue laser.
    • Leviathan in Final Fantasy VIII does fly.
    • Adrammelech, a sun god, for some reason has electric powers and looks like a dragon.
    • Cu Chulainn, Ixion, and many other figures bear almost no resemblance to their mythological counterparts.
    • Odin keeps showing up as the instant-death summon, and is infamous for his unreliability.
    • Gilgamesh is all over the place in the Final Fantasy series. In his original myth, he is the king of Uruk, and essentially the strongest man ever. In the Final Fantasy series as a whole, he has eight arms and wanders across various dimensions looking for rare swords. In Final Fantasy V, he's a general in Ex-Death's army, and once took out an entire army by himself. In Final Fantasy VI, he's an Esper (though only in the remakes). In Final Fantasy VIII, he's a replacement for the Guardian Force Odin, and can even one-shot certain bosses for you. In Final Fantasy IX, he's Alleyway Jack, the pickpocket/treasure hunter that teaches you to play cards. In Final Fantasy XII, he's a formidable opponent who keeps getting stronger. In Final Fantasy XIII-2, he's one of the DLC arena bosses, and seems to be quite weak at first... until he ditches the assault rifles and rocket launchers, picks up his swords, and powers up to the point of effectively invincible over the course of the fight unless you can kill him from 4.5 million hp in one stagger.
    • Gilgamesh's companion Enkidu was affected, too. He's some kind of demonic buddy to the Gilgamesh Esper in the GBA remake of Final Fantasy VI, and in Final Fantasy XII he's... a dog. Final Fantasy XIV has him as a green chicken.
  • This isn't a NetHack-only feature but the lore change of Gorgon Medusa is probably the most famous mythological downgrade of any mythological monster. Originally, Perseus faced the Gorgon by looking at her reflection in his mirrored shield and cutting her head off. Over time, a more pacifist approach was adopted that Medusa could stone herself by looking at her own reflection.
  • Shin Megami Tensei and all its incarnations, with various demons and mythological figures.
  • Terraria includes a few specific cases of artistic license here and there, the most notable of which is the game's first boss. The Eye of Cthulhu is given the ability to fly around, summon other, smaller flying eyeballs, and halfway into the fight gains teeth where the iris used to be. Other instances include Harpies, who can fling sharpened feathers, Nymphs, who are incredibly durable and strong for how early they can appear, and, if the buffs you get when you transform into one are anything to go by, Werewolves.
  • Touhou has most of its characters taken from Japanese mythology. They all look like little girls and are each capable of Curtain Fire, an ability notably absent in their source material.
  • Many of the monsters from Will Rock have extra powers: the Minotaurs can split in two lesser ones when slain, the Harpies shoot fireballs, Cyclops have goat legs and can eat and spit hot stone pellets and Orthuses can spit fire and acid from their heads.

    Western Animation 
  • Dante's Inferno: An Animated Epic — The animated short had Cerberus, who was already pretty frightening as a three headed fire breathing dog, reinvisioned as a giant colon like monster with many mouths and residing as a guardian in the third circle of Hell, Gluttony. The gluttonous souls swallowed by Cerberus are forever denied the pleasures they overindulged in while alive. Cerberus's stomach is also the realm that Dante had to cross to enter the next circle of Hell.