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Often in fiction, fairy creatures, fireflies or other magical insects get depicted as simple little points of light rather than going for a full design for something so tiny we'll never get a good look at it.

The obvious inspiration is fireflies. It's funny how fireflies often end up behaving in unusual and rather magical ways. In a way, it's an example of the connection between light and magic.

Do not confuse with By the Lights of Their Eyes; this trope is about Energy Beings or Faceless Masses that may or may not sparkle. See also Will-o'-the-Wisp (point of light that leads unwary travelers into danger) and Hitodama Light (floating flame that represent ghosts).


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • This trope actually becomes motive for murder in Furuhata Ninzaburou — a very eccentric editor decides to change the lime-green points of light to red points of light for the hell of it. The original artist flipped out and bashed the editor's head in. (Art is Serious Business.)

    Comic Book 
  • The Kane Chronicles: In the graphic novel of The Red Pyramid a Flashback of Bast is shown with her battling Apophis. In the flashback Bast is portrayed with little detail and is mostly a humanoid green glow.

    Fan Works 
  • Homecoming, 2026: As part of a Virtual Sidekick being a Shout-Out to Navi, her appearance as "a ball of light with wings", and her reminders in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time:
    As additional students and visitors wandered through the culinary laboratory, a ball of light with wings flickered into existence over the shoulder of one of the school's shide students. The Virtual Assistant flitted in front of its master and began speaking. "Hey! Listen!"
    "What is it Navi?" Came the expected response.
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    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • It's a Wonderful Life: The ghosts/angels in the opening are seen as celestial bodies that flicker when they speak.
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream: In the 1999 film version, the fairy characters have this form at the beginning of the movie, when they arrive, and at the end, when they leave.
  • Bit from TRON is the personification of an on-off bit. It's basically a Disney sidekick fairy in Cyberspace.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Mothra ironicallynote  and may actually be the largest example of this trope. This is seen when she's hovering above the oil rig that is the Monarch base called Castle Bravo, while hovering her body is glowing so brightly that aside from her wings no other features can be made out.

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Fear, Itself", Willow summons a fairy like this to guide her out of the haunted house. However, the spell is warped by the demon haunting the place and her own lack of focus, leading to her being chased around by a swarm of little floating lights.
  • Doctor Who:
  • Merlin (2008) has the Sidhe depicted as blue points of light, but due to Merlin's magic powers, we get some lovely FX shots of them in all their scary magical glory.
  • The fairy in Supernatural is shown on screen as a ball of golden light, albeit a fast-moving Pintsized Powerhouse one that can hit as hard as a grown man. When you get a closer look, though...
    Dean: [squinting] ...Nipples?

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Lantern archons, the lowest rank of archons in most cosmologies, resemble floating, featureless spheres of light.
  • Pathfinder: The Lantern King, one of the Eldest who rule the First World, takes the form of a ball of golden light crowned by floating arcane symbols.

    Theatre 
  • Tinkerbell in Peter Pan (1904) and adaptations is commonly depicted as a glowing ball of light (dragonfly wings optional), based on the original medium using a small light reflected from a mirror and a tinkling bell.

    Video Games 
  • All the Animal Crossing games have fireflies shown as points of light, until you catch one of them.
  • Black & White: Gods like the player character manifest as large balls of light with their symbol floating inside. Your own cursor appears as a hand that physically interacts with the world, but other gods show no sign of a physical body.
  • Child of Light has Igniculus, a newborn firefly with the appearance of a glowing blue raindrop. He is later revealed to be an elemental, and there are others like him.
  • Most "realistic" The Legend of Zelda games from Ocarina of Time onward depict fairies as a ball of glowing light with butterfly wings, as opposed to the "cartoony" games such as The Wind Waker, where fairies are the usual fully humanoid figures. While this was originally done because of the N64's engine limitations, their appearance seems to have become literal at some point, as the fairies still appear as balls of light in the mangas and higher-end console games, and in some games such as the Oracle series the "Ball" and "Human" fairies appear together. The Minish Cap and Hyrule Warriors have the fairies transforming between the two, implying this may be a case of A Form You Are Comfortable With.
  • In Lost Ember, the wolf's companion is a ball of red light that used to be a human spirit, but has since lost his human form after forgetting who he was in life.
  • Mega Man Zero: The Cyber-Elves have different appearances and forms, but in gameplay, they all look like flying spark of light.
  • Nox: A magical spell summons a small swarm of fairies that circle Jack until an enemy approaches, at which point they go kamikaze on the enemy. The fairies never appear as anything more than yellow sparks.
  • Quest for Glory: The fairies in the first game are little balls of light of various colors. The ones in the fourth game, however, are far more detailed.
  • Rayman: The Lums are literal spark fairies, in the sense that they're actual balls of light with faces and small wings.
  • Spirit of the North: The guardian of the Northern Lights, a translucent fox, is reduced to a point of light after lending her powers to the player fox in order to heal it.
  • Fairies in Stonekeep can apparently switch between spark-fairy mode and detailed mode.
  • Terraria uses this look for both insects (fireflies and lightning bugs) and actual fairies (both the hostile kind that will attack you and the kind you can summon to produce light). Insects only appear this way when present in the world though, as they get a more detailed sprite in your inventory.
  • Uru: Flying points of light (presumably insects) are an important plot element in one Are. They're attracted to your character, but dislike crossing water or getting rained on.

    Web Animation 
  • Dreamscape: Eleenin can separate into a horde of these for defense. If they are destroyed, she instantly appears in a flash of light.


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