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The Marvelous Deer

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Even when giving advice, they can be impressive.

Deer, being wild animals, can easily be magical and mysterious presences while still being hard to reach for humans.

Marvelous deer are often the quarry in hunts. Catching them may be another matter, especially since the marvelous deer tends to be a lone animal; herds of marvelous deer are impractical for maintaining the marvelousness. (For the same reason, the deer in Woodland Creatures is seldom this.) Besides their rarity, such magical deer are often almost supernaturally elusive, sometimes to the point of being literally uncatchable. It can lead to Follow the White Rabbit. This may be what The Wild Hunt is after, if they aren't hunting humans.

These creatures are commonly encountered in pristine, unspoilt lands, usually far from civilization. The Ghibli Hills and Enchanted Forest are among the more common places where the Marvelous Deer may be found.

For the deer to be white — or golden — is common. They are more likely to be stags, with magnificent antlers, but not overwhelmingly. A fawn adds connotations of innocence.

The common portrayal of white deer as magical figures in European mythologies and folklore is likely due to the fact that both the red deer (native to Europe since the last ice age) and fallow deer (introduced into continental Europe by the Romans and present in Great Britain since the first century AD) often produce leucistic specimens.note  Since the gene that causes leucism is recessive, such white deer could appear suddenly out of a population of normally colored deer; this, to ancient people who did not know about genetics and inheritance beyond "like begets like" — a rule that such white animals would if anything seem to go against — would seem like a very mysterious and magical event. Combined with European cultures commonly viewing white as representing mysticality and purity, as well as white coats making their bearers stand out like ghosts in a forest's gloom, it isn't surprising that white deer feature as creatures of mystery and magic in many European folk traditions.

Contrast Bambification, as well as Moose Are Idiots for a much less favorable portrayal of cervids and Our Perytons Are Different and some portrayals of the Wendigo for a generally much less pleasant sort of mythical cervine creatures. A Sinister Deer Skull by itself also tends to be a sign of malevolence rather than magnificence. See also Crown of Horns. Compare Genial Giraffe, Unicorns Are Sacred, and Kirin.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Invoked in the original series. The Zeong, a Mobile Suit designed to use Psychic Powers, has a pair of comms antennae designed to look like antlers to emphasize its "supernaturalness".
  • In Nichijou Principal Shinonome battles a deer in hand-to-hoof combat, in a sequence which may be symbolic, mystic or just Yuuko's imagination. It's certainly a numinous moment.
  • In Princess Mononoke, Shishigami, or the Great Forest Spirit, is a powerful woodland god who appears in the form of a great stag.

  • The Gundestrup Cauldron is a silver vessel found in Denmark, dating back to anywhere between 200 BCE and 300 CE. It is inlaid with designs of a number of animals, including a stag, but the most prominent and oft-discussed figure is a man with antlers. This is sometimes linked to the Celtic god Cernunnos (see below under Mythology and Legends) but with no written records, it's impossible to say.

  • The Famous Flower of Serving Men: In some variants, the king is hunting and led off by a milk-white hind.
    Oh the hind she broke, the hind she flew
    The hind she trampled the brambles through
    First she'd mount and then she'd sound
    Sometimes before, sometimes behind
  • In A Lyttle Gest of Robin Hood, Little John uses the tale of one — which, he claims, is green — to lure the sheriff into the woods.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Overall, the game plays with this trope with the Elk creature type.
      • Generally, elk cards are Green (the color of nature), White (the color of order and moral law) or both. Their rules and flavor text generally associate them with purity and holiness. This is most prevalent on the plane of Theros, where Heliod, the White-aligned God of the Sun, frequently uses large, majestic stags as messengers. Deer are similarly associated with Nylea, the Green-aligned God of the Hunt.
        Nylea: "It is not yours to hunt, mortal. Be content with its beauty alone." — flavor text for Golden Hind.
      • On the plane of Tarkir, according to the card "Wetland Sambar," part of the initiation process for Jeskai monks involves approaching one such stag while holding a lotus flower. They can only proceed to the next part of their training if the stag eats the flower from their hand.
      • On the Plane of Mountains and Seas, it's believed that pale deer have lived for a thousand years and pure white deer for five hundred more. They're considered sacred, and some of the plane's natives search the wilderness for years to catch a single glimpse of these beings.
    • While the fairytale-inspired plane of Lorwyn/Shadowmoor didn't have any actual deer, it did get two separate spirits resembling snow-white, winged stags: the elemental of Purity (who has the ability to negate the damage done to you and give an equal amount of health instead) and the steed of the "Archon of Justice." Two more archons, hailing from the Arthurian plane of Eldraine, ride winged stags — the "Archon of Absolution" rides a golden stag and wields a lance made from a branching antler, while the "Harmonious Archon" rides a white hart much like the Archon of Justice's.
    • In "The Witch of the Woods," the werewolf Planeswalker Arlinn Kord recalls a time when she and her pack hunted a pure white deer with a smell she found strangely bewitching. They chased it for two days before cornering it at a cliff, but after that they let it go — according to Kord, "sometimes just laying your eyes on something's gift enough".

    Comic Books 

    Fairy Tales 
  • The Brothers Grimm:
    • "Brother and Sister": Justified. When a king goes hunting in the forest where Brother and Sister are living in a hidden cottage, the Brother, who has been turned into a roebuck by his wicked stepmother, makes a game of making the hunters chase him, then hides in the cottage for the night. Eventually, the pursuit of the mysterious roebuck which wears a golden collar leads the king to the cottage, where he meets a beautiful woman (the Sister) whom he falls instantly in love with and who becomes his wife.
    • "The Two Brothers": One brother, having rescued a princess from the dragon and married her, goes hunting in the forest and is lured into danger by a snow-white hart.
  • In The Hind in the Wood, by Madame d'Aulnoy, Princes Desiree is turned into a white doe when she is exposed to sunlight by an evil lady-in-waiting (as per a curse). Her fiance, not knowing that she is his bride-to-be, becomes fascinated with her and pursues her through the woods.
  • In The King Who Would Be Stronger Than Fate, he finds the hermit who tells him his daughter's fate while hunting.
    In the course of the beat his dogs disturbed a beautiful snow-white stag, and directly he saw it the king determined that he would have it at any cost. So he put the spurs to his horse and followed it as hard as he could gallop.
  • In "The Woodcutter and the Deer", a Korean fairy tale, a woodcutter encounters a deer in the forest who reveals to him how to capture fairies as a boon.

    Fan Works 
  • The Alarmaverse: The fia sídhe are the Equestrian equivalent of The Fair Folk, modeled after fairies from Celtic lore. They live in their own dimension, the sídhe, which can only be entered at certain points where it intersects with Equestria's reality, and cannot normally be seen by ponies.
  • It's A Dangerous Business, Going Out Your Door: The Deer of Shimmerwood are the setting's equivalent of wood elves. In the sequel, the elf parallel is stronger, with different deer races once being capable of using an aspect of the Elements of Harmony. Now, the deers' connection is superficial at best.
  • A Diplomatic Visit: Chapter 1 of the sequel, Diplomat at Large, reveals the changelings' true form, which they achieve when they begin to share love, undergoing Metamorphosis and becoming a strong, healthy, elegant, brightly colored hybrid mixture between beetles and deer, with the high-ranking ones having an even more deer-like appearance due to gaining antlers reminiscent of a stag beetle's jaws.
  • The God Empress of Ponykind: The sequel uses deer as an elf equivalent. Unfortunately, that equivalent is also based on the Eldar, and several of the deer are xenophobic pricks.
  • To Belong: Charming's animal form is a regal-looking deer. It fits his wealthy background and Nice Guy personality. Subverted when it turns out in the past he was a Prince Charmless, preferring to drink and ignore his duties. He's on the run for murdering his brother and his fiancee, though it's hinted that he was forced to do so.
  • Prehistoric Earth: The megaloceros rescued in Full Fathom Five are described in ways that make them come across as quite majestic and awe inspiring.
  • Prehistoric Park Reimagined: Much like in this story's spiritual predecessor Prehistoric Earth, the megaloceros rescued for the titular park are described by the narrative in ways that make them come across as quite an awe inspiring sight to behold.

    Films — Animated 
  • Disney:
    • Bambi. Bambi's father is the Great Prince of the forest who guards the woodland creatures against the dangers of hunters. By the end of the movie, Bambi himself has become a fairly majestic young stag in his own right.
    • Fantasia 2000: The large stag that awakens the Sprite of Spring at the end of winter, and then revives and comforts her after the Firebird wreaks havoc on the forest.
    • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The first creature to reveal itself in the forest to Snow White is a fawn.
  • Epic (2013): The large (to the characters) deer that Nod and MK take a romantic sunset ride on.
  • Princess Mononoke tells of the hunt to take the head of the Deer God, the avatar or embodiment of the life of the sacred forests of Japan. By day he is a deer-like god of life with tapir-like feet, a human-like face, and bushy antlers. By night he is the vaguely-bipedal, star-spangled-black god of death. Killing him is a hugely bad ideaall the sacred forests in Japan immediately die, and the beheaded death-god comes close to killing all humans as well.
  • Son of the White Horse: The titular Mare first actually appears as a mystical deer with crownlike antlers made of ice. She gradually sheds them like the petals of a flower as she raises her son Treeshaker, becoming a horse over time. This change symbolizes the ancient Scythian people, to whom the film was dedicated, abandoning deer herding and taking up horse breeding as they had traveled from Northern Asia to the south.
  • Song of the Miraculous Hind: The first two "songs" feature deer prominently, explaining their significance to ancient Siberians and their Creation Myth, and including the fabled Golden Stag that had led medieval Hungarians to the Carpathian Basin.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Detective Dee: The Empress's chaplain is on a "spiritual retreat", but approaches the Empress in the form of a talking deer to inform her to free Dee and charge him with solving the mystery.
  • The Queen: A stag lose on the grounds of Balmoral forms part of the plot, and the Queen is quite taken when she encounters it. It's eventually killed by a member of the press, giving it a symbolic connection with the Queen and/or Diana.
  • Defied in The Ritual, with a stag-like Animalistic Abomination as the main antagonist.
  • Snow White & the Huntsman: The titular characters approach a marvelous deer deep in the forest that seems to be some kind of nature spirit.

  • The Accursed Kings: While on a winter hunt, King Phillip IV sees a stag with a shining cross between its antlers and suffers a brain aneurysm, dying soon after and sending France into a succession of bad rulers and worse regents. The cross was actually a pair of sticks trapped in its antlers and covered with frost so they reflected the light.
  • In Ash: A Secret History, the new Duke of Burgundy is chosen by letting the pretenders to the throne hunt a magic, otherworldly stag, and seeing who brings it down. To some who see it, the stag appears to carry a cross between its horns, as in the legend of St. Hubert below. After Floria kills it, it turns into just an ordinary dead deer, showing her bloodline's power to settle the world in a more mundane state.
  • Bambi has the Great Old Prince of the Forest. He's a majestic old stag that is seldom seen, even by the other deer. He ends up becoming Bambi's Parental Substitute and mentor later in Bambi's life.
  • In Camouflage, a web novel by Kyell Gold, the Archbishop of Tigue is a stag, whose white pelt is considered a symbol of "purity". In true medieval Corrupt Church style, he turns out to be a sadistic, homophobic sociopath and a very closeted nutcase who rapes people sentenced due to their sexuality. At least he's still white furred, though!
  • Chronicles of Ancient Darkness: The World Spirit (effectively a god) takes the form of a Horned Humanoid with deer antlers in the summer (likely based on Celtic Mythology's Cernunnos). In the fifth book, we find out Torak's medicine horn is made from the point of one of the World Spirit's antlers.
  • Dragonlance: In Dragons of Autumn Twilight, the Forestmaster is a sentient, majestic deer that charges the Heroes of the Lance to travel to Xak Tsaroth to retrieve the Disks of Mishakal, an ancient artifact that could help bring back Krynn's gods.
  • In Fengshen Yanyi, The Hero Jiang Ziya is bestowed a riding beast in the form of the Supuxiang by Yuanshi Tianzun: said Supuxiang (lit. Four Not Alike) is described as an odd chimeric animal with body parts similar yet different from those of other four animals, namely the head of a deer, body of a dragon, legs of a leopard and hooves of a qilin, making it rather deer-like in depictions. Contrasting his bitter rival Shen Gongbao who rides a tiger instead.
  • In Gautrek's Saga, King Gauti hits upon an isolated clan of hillbillies after vainly pursuing a stag for a whole day. This is somewhat of a parodied trope, as instead of the supernatural beings usually encountered in this way, Gauti only meets a bunch of crazy forest-dwellers. There is, however, a sexual adventure in it for Gauti, which leads to the birth of his heir.
  • Harry Potter: Harry's Patronus is a stag, to symbolize his father's animal form and that he's still watching over him. In fact, when it shows up out of nowhere to save his life, he assumes it is his father's, somehow. (It was actually cast by a time-traveling Harry from the future.) The seventh book also prominently features a mysterious silver doe that leads Harry to the Sword of Gryffindor. It's actually Snape's Patronus, and represents Lily, the woman he loved.
  • "His Father's Son", by P. N. Elrod, features a mystical boy character who entered a dreamworld-like setting and communicated with a white stag as a spirit guide.
  • The Hobbit: While Bilbo and the dwarves are in Mirkwood, they encounter a black hart that knocks Bombur into a river whose waters cause a supernatural sleep. Thorin kills it. Later, they see a shining white doe and fawn — unfortunately, by that time the dwarves are mostly starved and half-mad, and try to shoot them.
  • In Knights Wyrd, by Debra Doyle and James MacDonald, the day before his knighting, while on a hunt, Will is led in the wilderness by a white deer.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: The protagonists are hunting a stag that grants wishes when they stumble back out of the wardrobe.
  • In The Lost World (1912), the bold explorers catch a glimpse of what seems to be the otherwise-extinct giant deer Megaloceros.
    Once, through a break in the trees, we saw a clear shoulder of green hill some distance away, and across this a large dun-colored animal was traveling at a considerable pace. It passed so swiftly that we were unable to say what it was; but if it were a deer, as was claimed by Lord John, it must have been as large as those monstrous Irish elk which are still dug up from time to time in the bogs of my native land.
  • In The Lost Years of Merlin, the first book begins with a young Merlin being protected by a stag from a wild boar. It is strongly implied that these are the spirits Dagda and Rhita Gawr, respectively.
  • In The Magic Treehouse, Merlin is able to turn into a stag.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians:
    • Artemis' chariot is pulled by a pair of silver deer that can fly. Percy thinks they look like Santa's reindeer, which she takes credit for inspiring.
    • In the The Demigod Files short story "The Sword of Hades", Thalia is led to meet Percy and Nico by the Golden Hind, which is, in fact, literally gold.
  • In Solstice Wood, by Patricia A. McKillip, Owen recounts the story he had been told of a man who shot a deer without killing it and went to track it down, and found instead a woman with a bullet wound in her shoulder. She lived with him for a year and a half and had a son before she vanished. Then he explains that he finally realized it was his parents.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: The sigil of House Baratheon is a stag. They are the ruling family of the Seven Kingdoms at the start of the series. Upon Robert's death, the ruling family effectively switches to the Lannisters, but they still rule the kingdom under the Baratheon name, and Robert's two younger brothers, Stannis and Renly, vie for the Iron Throne. While Renly is an opportunistic Jerkass who dies early on, Stannis is a righteous man despite his grim exterior, and has steadily gained supporters since saving the Night's Watch from the Wildling invasion in A Storm of Swords.
  • Survivor Dogs: Wolves believe in the mystical Golden Deer, a buck mentioned in the tales of the Wind-Dogs. All books in the second arc feature the Golden Deer on the cover.
  • In This Is Not a Werewolf Story, White Deer Woods contains a specific white deer with black antlers who will, on rare occasions, appear to people and speak to them. It's the one who taught Raul how to turn into a wolf each week.
  • In The Traitor Son Cycle, the cream of the Irk cavalry rides magnificent deer.
  • In The White Deer, by James Thurber, the titular deer's nature is central to the story.
  • In The White Stag, by Kate Seredy, one such stag leads them onward at various times.
  • Worth the Candle has the last druidic locus in the world, whose physical form is that of a large, white doe with six eyes. While being one of the most deeply magical creatures in the setting, and in many ways one of the most powerful — or at least differently powerful — it only very rarely gives any external hint of this, giving it a mundane appearance beyond the purely physical differences.
  • Clark Ashton Smith's fantasy short story "The Door to Saturn" (part of his "Hyperborea Cycle", set during The Time of Myths) has a Villain Protagonist named Morghi, high priest of Yhoundeh, the elk goddess. We aren't told much about Yhoundeh, but Morghi, at least, seems more motivated by his own power than by any sense of religious piety. Yhoundeh's church seem to be very powerful within the setting, and could well be a Corrupt Church, taking a dim view of the heretical worship of the forbidden deity Zhothaqquah (aka Tsathoggua) — though this could well be a case of Pay Evil unto Evil, since Tsathoggua is just the worst.
  • Xanadu (Storyverse): One character is transformed into a white stag from an ancient legend, which perceives itself as having once existed in the distant past and simply being incarnated again. Its legend had mutated in intervening centuries to describe it as granting wishes to those who could catch it; although its human self had hated that part, the stag accepts this new compulsion as simply a change in the world's magic and goes along with it, haunting the wild places of the world in challenge to would be wish-seekers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Hannibal, a stag becomes a recurring symbol in Graham's dreams, and occasionally appears as an Arc Symbol in his real life. Even before this, the first episode strongly averted Bambification; a murder victim was found with multiple puncture wounds and antler velvet in them, and before they ascertained that she was killed by a human and mounted on the stag's head posthumously, they discuss the various ways different deer species are capable of killing humans, either by stabbing them to death with their antlers or by pinning them to the ground and crushing them until they suffocated. The stag, and later an emaciated man with stag horns, are both used as symbols of Hannibal in Will's dreams and hallucinations.
  • House of the Dragon: In the third episode, a grand hunt is organized in honor of the king's baby son. The king's men whisper of a magnificent white stag that has been spotted in the woods and aim to catch it as it is a good omen for the young prince, since the stag is said to have ruled the woods before the arrival of the Targaryen dragons. However, it eludes them and they settle for a regular brown stag that they have to hold down for the king to kill. The white stag, however, willingly appears to the king's older daughter Rhaenyra, who seems to take it as a sign of her path to the throne.
  • Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger includes a deer mecha in its especially-big Mecha Expansion Pack. It forms the left arm in combinations and has healing powers.
  • Shadow and Bone: A subplot revolves around the search for Morozova's stag, a huge, mythical, all-white deer that roams the northern forests. Its body parts are valued as a Grisha artifact; whoever kills it gets an insane power boost. And Alina must have been dreaming of it since childhood for a reason... It turns out that the last bit about killing it is untrue — the deer chooses Alina, so it's her power that gets amplified and not Kirigan's (who actually killed it).
  • Vera: In "The Deer Hunters", the hunting lodge has a legend of a magnificent stag that is supposed to wander the preserve and hunters are encouraged to try and find it. The stag was actually killed years ago. The lodge maintains the legend to keep the hunters coming back.

    Mythology & Legend 
  • In Ars Goetia and other grimoires, the demon Furfur usually looks like a white angelic stag.
  • Celtic Mythology: White stags were associated with the otherworld, and sometimes considered to be messengers from its inhabitants. They would make their appearance in situations where it was possible to enter the otherworld, or when humans broke supernatural taboos — for instance, Pwyll's trespass into the lands of Arawn, the lord of the otherworld, is marked by Pwyll finding and chasing a stag while in Arawn's hunting grounds. Also, the god Cernunnos was depicted as a Horned Humanoid with deer antlers.
  • Classical Mythology: One of the Twelve Labors of Heracles was that he had to capture the Golden Hind sacred to the goddess Artemis, which had antlers like a stag and could outrun arrows, and that it had to be left alive and unharmed. Since he couldn't shoot an arrow at it, Heracles decided a simpler solution was to chase it on foot until it became too tired to run anymore and then gently pick it up to carry it back. It took a year of nonstop running before the Hind stopped to rest.
  • Arthurian Legend:
    • White harts and hinds would often appear to knights to herald the beginning of a quest. Most famously, Sir Gawaine was given the quest to pursue a white hart who appeared at Arthur and Guenevere's wedding feast. (The hart was part of a complicated cavalcade that also involved a hunting dog and a kidnapped damsel. Other knights were tasked with finding the dog and rescuing the lady.)
    • Arthur also once hunted a stag that could outrun his horse and those of all his knights and led him into position for plot-important appearances by Merlin and King Pellinore.
    • White stags were supposed to be literally uncatchable, and their pursuit was used to symbolize mankind's quest for spiritual perfection.
  • Ramayana: The demon prince Ravanna used a golden one of these to kidnap Sita. Rama tried to capture it for her, leaving his brother Lakshman to guard her. Ravanna then imitated Rama's voice yelling for help to lure Lakshman away, leaving Sita defenseless.
  • The Saga of Hervor and Heidrek: Possibly. After vainly pursuing a stag for two days, King Svafrlami, grandson of Odin, catches two dwarfs whom he forces to forge the supreme sword Tyrfing for him. Maybe the stag was sent by Odin.
  • Scythian Mythology: The deer was the heraldic animal of the Scythian people. Depending on who you ask it was the symbol of their queen of the gods, Tabiti.
  • Deer often feature in European Christian legends, where they are sometimes used as a symbol for Christ.
    • Saint Hubert's legend: Hubert was the oldest son of the Duke of Aquitaine and a great lover of the hunt, to which he devoted nearly all his time. One Good Friday morning, as he was pursuing a magnificent stag, the animal stopped and turned. Hubert was astounded at perceiving a crucifix suspended between its antlers, while he heard a voice say, "Hubert, unless you turn to the Lord, and lead a holy life, you shall quickly fall into the abyss of Hell!" The saint renounced all honors and became a hermit, then a missionary in the pagan lands.
    • Saint Patrick and his clerics were going to a hostile king's court and prayed for protection. The ambushers saw them all as deer. (Which is why the prayer is known as "The Deer's Cry.")
    • Genevieve of Brabant, exiled on false accusations, was helped in the woods by a roe deer.
  • According to a tale, the legendary Japanese warrior Tadakatsu Honda managed to escape his enemies and safely cross a river thanks to a deer. Since that day, he put antlers on his helmet as a sign of respect for all deer.
  • This trope applies to Santa Claus's reindeer, at least in those versions of holiday folklore that attribute their flight to their own innate abilities (as opposed to Santa's magic, to eating magic grain, etc). Any child who's stayed awake on Christmas Eve listening for their arrival can testify that they're both mysterious and elusive.
  • According to Jordanes' Gothic History, the Huns discovered the land of Scythia when a doe pursued by hunters showed them a way westward across the Maeotian Swamp. The Huns liked the new country so much they invaded it through the trail revealed by the doe, conquering the Goths and beginning their invasion of Europe. They, therefore, believed the doe had been sent by their gods.
  • Hungarian myths say that the ancestors followed a golden stag, or a stag with golden antlers, into the Carpathian Basin.
  • Played with in Brazilian Native American myths. Anhangá is a white deer with red eyes and a cross in its forehead; however, the creature is one of the closest things there are to the devil in those myths and is far from a benevolent entity. While it generally helps forest animals, it loathes humans and gleefully tortures them. A particularly popular legend includes it using illusions to make a mother kill her own son when she tried to kill a fawn.
  • Modern pop culture often treats the wendigo as an inversion of this, portraying it as a hideous monster with the antlers or head of a stag (or sometimes a stag's Skull for a Head). However, the original Algonquian and Athabaskan mythology had no particular connection to deer, though it was occasionally associated with owls.

  • In Medieval Times' dinner theatre shows, the emblem of the Green Knight is a stag, and his helmet often has a stag's antlers. His introduction by the Lord Marshal characterizes him as a promising young upstart, but how this trope is played ultimately depends on how well he does in the tournament.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Blue Rose: The Golden Hart chooses the sovereigns of Aldis. While it usually chooses well, its choices are not necessarily those a mortal would make, as seen with Queen Larai, known as "the Mad".
  • Chivalry & Sorcery: The 3rd Edition adventure Stormwatch has a possible random encounter for a highly chivalrous character. At night they will see a patch of moonlight shining down on a beautiful white hart (roe deer). All attempts to capture the hart will be unsuccessful. A white hart is an old symbol of honor, purity, and valor.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Module IM3 The Best of Intentions: During the Olympic Trials, the Immortal PCs compete in an event called "The Wild Hunt". They must chase and kill a great white hart twice as large as a normal deer. The hart is actually another Immortal in deer form.
    • Module O2 Blade of Vengeance. Karelia the faedorne sends a magical and intelligent white stag to lead Erystelle to the Circle of Dreams.
    • Dungeon magazine:
      • Issue #5, adventure "Lady of the Lake": While the PCs are investigating a skeleton, a highly intelligent magical white stag appears. If the PCs follow it, it will lead them to the place they must go. If they accomplish their goal, a white deer with rainbow wings and golden horns will appear to them to show them that they have succeeded. Later on, another white deer will give them a magic item as a reward.
      • Issue #65, adventure "The Ice Tyrant": While the Player Characters are traveling to the ruins of Anghanor, they meet a mystical white stag that tries to help them by leading them to an old sentinel tower where they can get some help.
    • The Mystara setting adds the Actaeon, a race of humanoid elks who serve as guardians of the forests. They'll viciously attack any threats to nature, and their breath can transform targets into woodland creatures.
    • The 3rd Edition Races of Destiny supplement introduced the sharakim, a Human Subspecies believed to have descended from a hunter named Sharak who ignored his fellows' warnings and killed and ate a sacred white stag, earning the ire of the gods. Sharak and those who partook of the blasphemous feast were cursed with monstrous forms resembling horned orcs, and their descendents try to compensate for their ancestral sin by being as civilized as possible.
  • Middle-Earth Role Playing: White harts are a rare species of deer found in the Old Forest. They grow to be larger than elk, are extremely rare, and have antlers that can be used to make a powerful healing potion. They're rarely hunted, however, because they will turn on hunters when cornered and killing one is said to bring bad luck.
  • Pathfinder:
    • Erastil, the Lawful Good god of the Good Old Ways, has a stag/deer motif and takes the appearance of a Horned Humanoid with a stag head and antlers. His herald, the Grim White Stag, takes the form of a titanic stag made out of rocks and plants, and his shed antlers grow into lesser versions of himself known as cervine protectors.
    • A cerynitis is a magical deer with a golden pelt and metallic hooves and antlers (this despite all cerynitises being does), born when a deity of nature or the hunt blesses a regular deer. They're prized targets by hunters and adventurers, both for the challenge of catching them and for their valuable antlers and pelts, but the cerynitises are well defended by their incredible speed and agility, their ability to speak with animals, and fluency in the language of the fey, and in extremis goring attacks with their antlers.
    • Emperor deer are the result of centuries of selective breeding by Taldori nobles and their huntmasters to create increasingly challenging and exotic quarry to hunt. They're majestic beasts with racks of ivory-white antlers on both sexes, and with the stamina to run for days on end through any terrain while outrunning even the best horses. Folk myth says that catching one requires days of tireless pursuit until either the hunted or hunter drops from exhaustion, but indolent Taldori nobles usually just rotate packs of hounds to exhaust the beasts while avoiding any personal strain, and afterwards make up grandiose tales of their supposed deeds.
  • Shadis magazine #23 article "Close Encounters of the Random Kind: Woodland Faerie Encounters":
    • One of the encounters is with young elf warriors hunting a mystical white stag, possibly as part of a coming-of-age rite.
    • A white Faerie stag that can't be caught taunts the PCs by shadowing them.
  • Shadowrun:
    • Shasta deer live on the slopes of Mount Shasta in California. They have some connection with local nature spirits and appear to have latent magical abilities similar to those of spirits.
    • Paranormal Animals of Europe describes grandfather elk, a rare variant of common elk distinguished by greater size and a prominent beard, which occasionally matures from a regular animal. They're natural leaders of herds of common elk, which they guide and protect from danger. They do not allow their herds to protect them when they're threatened, however, because they know that this will cost the herd too many lives and that another grandfather elk will mature soon after their death anyway.
  • Warhammer: The Wood Elves are essentially The Fair Folk, and have a strong association with deer:
    • Their leaders have the option of riding Great Stags, which are less natural beasts and more Nature Spirits in animal form. The trope was accentuated in earlier editions when only their god-king Orion got to ride one (though in his appearances in later editions he's way too big to ride one).
    • They also have two units of deer-riding cavalry:
      • The Wild Riders, who are sworn to Orion's service and have been changed into something more than Elven by their association with him (and who used to ride horses before they got new models). They're essentially The Wild Hunt, and hit like you'd expect that to.
      • The Sisters of the Thorn are spellcasters sworn to the service of the Wood Elf queen, Ariel. They use support spells and poisoned javelins.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse:
    • The Stag spirit is the totem for the Fianna tribe.
    • Roe Deer was a totem for White Howler packs, before that tribe's fall to the Wyrm. In the modern-day, she serves under Griffin, the totem of the Red Talon tribe.

    Video Games 
  • Arcanum: Raven tells you the Legend of Falcon's Ache, about a nature spirit the elves used to worship which wandered the Glimmering Forest in the form of a stag. Tragically, the elven Queen Falcon accidentally killed it during a hunting expedition, and was so distraught when she realized what she'd done that she passed away from sheer grief not long after.
  • In Assassin's Creed III, Connor can accept a quest to hunt a unique deer. According to the huntmaster, several hunters have tried and failed to bring it down before, and they all swear it's got some mysterious power that makes it Immune to Bullets.
  • Crusader Kings II: Your character states his goal to find the fabled White Stag whenever you choose to go on a hunt. There's a small chance of actually encountering one as well, which gives a prestige boost if you manage to bring it down.
  • The Deer God: The eponymous Deer God is a white, ethereal being, with no real body to speak of. She is responsible for reincarnating the player character into a more mundane deer, as recompense for his past crimes.
  • Dragon Age slightly deconstructs this trope with the Halla, a species of white deer that are sacred in the lore of Dalish Elves. Legend even says that the Halla carried Elven knights into battle during the golden age of the elves. However, ever since the Elves were enslaved by the humans, domestic Halla now mostly pull Dalish caravans and provide the Elves with milk and cheese. The Dalish also believe that their souls are guided to the afterlife by the Halla. Human nobles often eat halla, mostly just to assert their dominance over the Elves.
  • The Elder Scrolls: Hircine, the Daedric Prince of the Hunt, often takes the form of a white stag and even his humanoid avatar is typically depicted with deer antlers. In Skyrim, one has to hunt him in this form in order to gain his favor and be given his quest.
  • Fallout 4: In a quest in the expansion Far Harbor, you confront Brother Devin, a member of the Children of Atom (a post-apocalyptic Cargo Cult who worship radiation and atomic power in general, which they refer to as Atom) who is killing himself in an extreme religious fast. He claims to have found his faith when, while indulging his drug habit in the woods one day, a "verdant stag, wreathed in holy Glow" strode out of the sky and commanded him to give up his iniquities and devote himself to the god. Given his wording, he almost certainly saw a radstag, a type of highly mutated two-headed deer, that glowed due to heavy irradiation (a common variant of most enemy types).
  • In Far Cry Primal, one of the numerous creatures Takkar can hunt in the Oros Valley is an Irish Elk with red antlers known as "the tall elk", which he has to kill and skin before the Udam tribe kills it first.
  • In Fe, deer play a significant role in the story. The first animal Fe befriends is a young hornless deer who can be ridden on and activates wind flowers to propel Fe to out-of-reach ledges. Sadly, shortly afterward, the Silent Ones capture it, though you get to rescue it at the end of the game. The second story quest involves freeing a gigantic deer from the bondage of the Silent Ones, then climbing up to its head to learn the song of the deer so you can activate the aforementioned wind currents yourself, which are even more useful now that Fe has the gliding ability.
  • Genshin Impact: The adepti Moon Carver and Skybracer (the latter who died in the Archon War), are both illuminated beasts, taking in a form of deers.
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn: The beast girl Sveta is nicknamed "The White Deer" by the people of her homeland, but her werewolf traits show more.
  • In Guild Wars 2, one of the Sylvari personal story options involves a white stag that appears to you in your Dream, a mystical pre-life experience shared by all Sylvari that imparts wisdom to them all. The stag appears outside of the dream, and a mysterious object of desire for both you and the Nightmare Court, who seek to transform this mystical embodiment of pure good into one of evil.
  • King of Dragon Pass has a recurring event where a hunter from another clan has tracked a white stag to your lands and wants your permission to hunt it.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: The magical, deer-like Lord of the Mountain is the best mount in the game but can't be registered at stables, because the stable manager is scared that he'll be cursed for daring to stable a god. It's also called "Satori", and said to be the reincarnation of a benevolent sage who watches over Hyrule and its wildlife.
  • Mabinogi: The deer of Corrib Valley are a minor example. They give you herbs (including the exceedingly rare White Herbs) in exchange for mushrooms.
  • Mystery Case Files: The Forest Spirit from Dire Grove, Sacred Grove manifests as a blue-white stag with antlers made of ice.
  • Neverwinter Nights: In the expansion pack Shadows of Undrentide, one of the side-quests involves hunting the Shadow Hart, a magical deer with teleportation powers.
  • Octopath Traveler: Lord of the Forest, one of the bosses in Ha'anit's storyline, has the appearance of a giant stag formed from branches and vines.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon Gold and Silver: Stantler is said to be able to hypnotize and psychologically affect people and Pokémon with its antlers, which give the illusion of two large eyes in the center of each side. Pokémon Legends: Arceus gives Stantler an evolution in the Hisui region, the Normal/Psychic-type Wyrdeer, which uses its antlers like radar antennae via space-distorting psychic energy and is viewed as indispensable by the people of Hisui for the garments that can be made from its fur.
    • Pokémon Black and White: Deerling and Sawsbuck are the only Pokémon that change forms with the seasons. Sawsbuck's antlers particularly are marvelous as they're tree branches with leaves that grow and die throughout the year.
    • Pokémon X and Y features Xerneas as the cover legendary for X. Its antlers resemble chromosomes, in keeping with the games' genetic theme. It's also a Fairy-type, and within the series' mythology plays the role of a god of life and rebirth.
  • Quest for Glory I: The hero followed the white stag to its resting place. It led him to the Dryad who was a spirit of nature. If the player attempts to harm the stag the Dryad will turn him into whatever he attacked, invoking a Game Over.
  • Them's Fightin' Herds: It’s stated a few times that the Deerfolk of Reine in the Tundra live in the highest pinnacle of society in the world of Fśnum. Which seems to be true; they live in houses a lot more sophisticated compared to the other ungulate inhabitants, they are worshipped and pampered by the Winter Sprites, living in a city they help built and gained magic abilities by eating special Golden Oats provided by the Sprites, which gives the reindeer special powers such as being able to control Winter Magic. Their Champion, Velvet, is one of the highest classed and the most skilled in this wintery weather magic (and probably the most pampered and spoiled) out of all of them.
  • Total War: Warhammer: The Wood Elves — fey natives of ancient, magical forests — have two units of deer-riding cavalry in the form of the Wild Riders and the Sisters of the Thorn. The former are the titular hunters of The Wild Hunt and serve as fairly straightforward shock cavalry, while the latter are spellcasters sworn to the service of the Wood Elf queen, Ariel, and can cast a number of select spells in addition to throwing poisoned javelins. The Twisted and the Twilight DLC adds Great Stags, deer a good three times the height of a horse, as steeds for certain characters and as a unit of monstrous cavalry.
  • World of Warcraft: One of the eternal beings of Azeroth is Malorne, the White Stag, guardian of the natural world. During the War of the Ancients, he killed countless demons defending his son Cenarius, before finally being slain by the archdemon Archimonde. He is later resurrected by Malfurion Stormrage to help defend Mt. Hyjal from the Twilight's Hammer.

  • In Erstwhile, a deer is one of the forest creatures that looks over Snow White and Rose Red.
  • Realta: Elowen gets a vision of needing to find the Realta, then awakens to see a magnificent winged stag outside their home.
  • Skin Deep: White stags are a species of Always Male magical creatures resembling pure-white stags — literally pure white; even their hooves, eyes, and antlers are as candid as snow — and adults seem to have glowing balls of light suspended between their antlers. Since no white does exist, they need to breed with other cervine creatures — one white stag character is the son of a white stag father and a peryton mother.
  • In Tales of the Questor, Quentyn is urged to be true to himself by a white stag and receives a mark of favor from it. It later wakes him up just before he succumbs to his injuries in a later arc, telling him "Not yet, little one."
    • It's also implied that his predecessor and namesake, Quentyn of Ridgedale, had a similar encounter with the white stag.
  • In The Weave, a ghost doe keeps appearing to protagonist Tally, and leads her through some sort of portal into the fairy world and then back home. It might either be a protector spirit or a manifestation of Tally's own powers, as it was said it's Tally who can wander between the worlds, and she has been referred to as "fawn".
  • In Yokoka's Quest, The Forest Goddess, Methuselah, is depicted as a deer when Kalliv talks about her.

    Web Original 
  • Glass and Velvet: A figure featured in the story takes on the form of a muscular humanoid figure made of milk glass and possessing the head and magnificent antlers of a bull caribou. Possibly subverted as the caribou creature's actions seem to be self-defeating.
  • In The Life of Death, Death has a killer touch. He kills a wolf and a rabbit but can't bear to kill a deer doe. He spends time watching over her and befriending her. One day, she forces Death to touch her, finally killing her.
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-2845, the Deer God, is a magical extraterrestrial entity that greatly resembles a deer with an antlered human head.
  • Welcome to Night Vale:
    • Deer are a recurring motif, and seem to be a symbol of the alien and the other. Cecil has this to say about them;
    Are they beautiful? Yes. Are they graceful and picturesque, even borderline majestic beasts? Yes, yes, and yes. And, are they helpful to the community because real estate agents live inside of them? Of course! But deer are also dangerous creatures. They are terrible, deceitful, and vile animals. I'm not being mean, this is just basic science.
    • The mysterious being known as Huntokar the Destroyer looks like a woman with the head of a deer. She’s also Night Vale’s self-proclaimed protector deity, and unintentional destroyer.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time:
    • The weird, wild deer that rampages through the Candy Kingdom in one episode, and is later revealed to have knocked-out and kidnapped all of its inhabitants. Also, it was hiding fingers beneath its front hooves.
    • Ice King/Simon kills a harmless deer in the flash-back episode "Simon and Marcy", indicating his deteriorating mental state.
  • Farthing Wood Friends: The appropriately-named White Stag, who gives his name to White Deer Park.
  • Hilda has her pet deer-fox Twig who is almost always by her side. In the episode "The Deer Fox", we see that the grown up versions are indeed very majestic looking.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In the season 6 finale, after the Changelings have their Heel–Face Turn, they turn into beautiful, brightly colored hybrids of deer and stag beetles.
  • Over the Garden Wall: The Beast of the Forest has some shades of this — a Humanoid Abomination cloaked in shadow whose defining features are a tattered cape, two Glowing Eyes of Doom, and a massive rack of antlers. Though meant to invoke Satanic Archetype (and perhaps reference the Wendigo), the deerlike horns lend him an air of eerie majesty. Though the final episode does suggest that these are branches, the deer image remains.
  • The Smurfs: In one episode, the smurfs tend to a black stag's wounds after it was injured. What they didn't know was that it was King Gerard, who was put under a spell by his evil cousin in a plot to take over Gerard's kingdom.
  • Infinity Train has Alan Dracula, an all-powerful magical deer generally indifferent to everything that is not grass.

    Real Life 
  • Also from the world of sports, the Edmonton Elks football team has a horned elk as their logo.
  • Richard II of England's personal emblem was a white hart gorged with a royal crown. It was frequently incorporated into livery badges and other heraldic displays (the angels on the Wilton Diptych wear them) and lingering rumors of Richard's survival after his deposition in 1399 lent them a patina of spookiness.
  • In medieval Europe, the red deer was seen as a very noble and admirable creature, something reflected in most stories, works of art, and traditions featuring these animals.
    • They were especially associated with Christ (often, these stories would involve a cross or crucifix appearing between the antlers of a stag) and with royalty — if a work didn't depict the lion as the King of Beasts, chances were good the stag would be in that place instead. This is likely due to a stag's antlers being reminiscent of a crown; there was actually a rather specific convention for naming stags based on the number of points on their racks — a stag with twelve points was a royal stag, one with fourteen was an imperial stag, and one with sixteen or more was a monarch stag.
    • The modern association of this trope with the deer being hunted likely stems from how, in the Middle Ages, the hart (the male of the red deer) was seen as the most prized and respectable quarry to hunt, superior to all other wild game (this usually applied to red deer specifically: fallow deer were still a noble quarry, but not quite as prestigious). Deer hunting was thus viewed as the noblest form of hunting and often highly ritualized, taking in place in a specific series of steps as the hart was tracked, chased, fought, downed, and carefully dissected and dressed. Among other things, the hounds would be called off before the kill, as the honor of downing the noble hart belonged to the highest-ranking member of the hunting party — being torn apart by hounds or put down by a yeoman might be good enough for a wolf or a boar, but a stag deserved a nobler death than that.
  • Among certain online communities, a cryptid known as the "Not-Deer" has gained notoriety through posts starting in 2020. The creature is native to the foothills of Virginia and is described as looking like a deer but with some details off, such as possessing weirdly jointed legs, canine-like teeth, or a mouth that is a little too large. It is sometimes linked to the Native American Skinwalker or Wendigo to give it a bit of credibility — although neither creature (as mentioned under the Mythology and Religion heading above) had any real connection to deer in the mythology, and the Skinwalker comes from the lore of a people — the Navajo, specifically — who don't even traditionally live on that side of the continent.

Alternative Title(s): The Marvellous Deer