A Tunnel King is a character who is an expert in, well, tunneling. His solution to any problem is likely to be "We'll dig our way out." Carrying the trope to its extreme, the Tunnel King may dwell Beneath the Earth in an underground civilization that he constructed himself.
In animated series, this character will often be a burrowing animal with their digging abilities carried to ludicrous extremes. Once in a while, it will save the trapped main character(s) because "it knows a way out".
Human versions of this character are almost always nicknamed The Mole, but that title was already taken for a different trope. Mole Miners and Mole Men are often this. In a fight, expect some kind of Dig Attack. See also Our Dwarves Are All the Same for an entire race typically having this trait.
- Dokonjou Gaeru has Mogura, the local bully's sidekick, whose name is Japanese for "mole". As his name implies, he can dig underground.
- Ginga Densetsu Weed: Mole the dachshund may look small and useless to the group but he proves to be a useful ally when he uses his digging skills to dig through a tunnel to Gin's prison for stealth purposes.
- A character from The Law of Ueki has, as he calls it, "A power to turn my beautiful hair into a drill!" which allows him to dig extremely fast. Ueki states that this power is actually awesome, as he is pretty much unbeatable underground (that's the reason why he has to catch him in the air).
- One Piece
- Miss Merry Christmas is a Tunnel Queen, as she has the power of the Mole Mole Fruit. The sheer tunneling power is awesome, considering that she can dig as fast as a running man, with only one arm, and while carring, with the other one, a person that is out on the surface (meaning that that arm is cutting the terrain like a blade).
- Level 5.5 of Impel Down is said to have been created by someone with a similar power. It eventually turns out to be Morley, a giant and okama with the Push-Push Fruit, granting him the ability to manipulate earth as if it were clay. He's since become an executive officer in the Revolutionary Army.
- The Fishman Island arc gives us Daruma, one of Hody Jones's officers, who bites his way through the ground with nasty, big, pointy teeth. Chopper one-ups him by showing off his new Horn Point, which likewise lets him excavate at high speed.
- Oddly, one of Team Rocket's specialties on Pokémon, and often noted by them. Their holes are good enough to impress the very Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann-esque Byron.
- Ryoga from Ranma ½, once he learns the Bakusai Tenketsu, a pseudo Pressure Points attack that lets him demolish rock with a touch of a finger. Once he learns the Shishi Hokodan, he gets even better at it. Why someone with his directional issues is burrowing under the ground in the first place is a mystery.
- Free from Soul Eater wanted to escape prison using this method but they only gave him chopsticks.
- Simon the Digger from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Yes, "The Digger" is his title. Prior to discovering Lagann, his main job and talent was to dig very fast (that's how he discovered Lagann in the first place), and it's therefore fitting enough that his mecha (and its successive upgrades) employs drills as weapons. He manages to fight off several enemies with tunneling tactics, including Viral, the Dai-Gunzan and the Dai-Gundo. Even his name reflects this, as it's pronounced "Shimon" - and "shimo" means "below" in Japanese.
- The Prince of the Underworld, from Urusei Yatsura. Being a Tunnel King was literally his power, akin to Lum's flight and lightning bolts, but with No Sense of Direction.
- Zatch Bell! features the Majestic Twelve, a team of Western superheroes, as minor characters. Among them is Tremor Mole, who can burrow through the ground as easily as you can walk down the street.
- Melvin Mole (see below) inspired a one-shot Batman villain, also called The Mole. Attempting to tunnel out his prison, he tunneled his way into a pipeline carrying toxic waste was was mutated into something resembling an actual mole with phenomenal digging abilities.
- Henry Burrows was a similar concept in The Beano in The '90s, minus the criminal aspect.
- Cave Carson, an obscure DC Comics character from the '60s who still makes the occasional cameo. He's a spelunker with a tunneling machine that he and his team use to explore underground caverns. Revived by Young Animal in Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye.
- On the other hand, the Fantastic Four's Mole Man is a bit of a subversion. Even though he looks like a mole and lives underground, he lets his giant monsters do all the manual labor, including digging tunnels.
- Tunnel Rat from G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel) is the squad's tunnel-making expert. He was an EOD tech (like Hama) and the toy was designed to resemble him.
- The Dalton Brothers from Lucky Luke are experts in escaping through tunnels. They often dig one tunnel each to get out of their single cell, but still.
- An early MAD (back when it was a comic book) story featured a character named Melvin Mole, who could dig through anything given an implement, be it a spade, a lunch spoon, a toothpick, or even his nose hair. This leads to his downfall when he tried to tunnel out of prison and ended up tunneling into his own execution chamber.
- Digby the Human Mole in The '70s UK Anthology Comic Plug was a criminal whose mole-like appearance made him a brilliant tunneller, using this both to break into places and break out of jail. Unfortunately, his sense of direction wasn't quite so good. Hilarity Ensues.
- Superlópez: Chin Chao, an Asian associate of Giorgio Papino's band, is known for digging his way out of prisons... with spoons. He himself states as much when leaving the burning house in "El caserón fantasma" through the 'emergency escape tunnel':
Chin Chao: I dug it myself in 1990! Started with a spoon...
Bast Honazo: How...?
Chin Chao: How else? With patience... Chinese patience, of course.
Dr. Tijera: Right... And where does it end?
Chin Chao: In the house, that's how I found it and set up the up-and-down mechanism.
Giorgio Papino: Okay, then where does it start?
Chin Chao: In the Cuatro Caminos prison, it was my first escape... (every other character's eyes suddenly turn red, some of them can clearly be seen making angry faces)
- Referenced again in the sequel "Nosotros los Papino", as Chin Chao is in charge of tunneling the band out:
Giorgio Papino: How's the tunnel progressing?
Chin Chao: At a rate of 5 centimetres a day. The spoon isn't of much more use...
- Referenced again in the sequel "Nosotros los Papino", as Chin Chao is in charge of tunneling the band out:
- Although he usually prefers to fly, Superman is able to burrow through the ground as easily as he soars across the sky thanks to his superhuman strength, speed and toughness. When he was Superboy -during the Pre-Crisis and late Post-Crisis eras-, he dug a tunnel connecting his parents' basement with the woods to get in and out of his house quickly and stealthily. In Kryptonite Nevermore, a hallucination shows him digging his way through Earth as battling the Sandman Superman.
- At the beginning of the Silver Age, Supergirl couldn't let people learn of her existence, so she resorted to tunnel underground when she wanted get anywhere or perform deeds unseen. Being a Pre-Crisis Kryptonian, she could dig one tunnel through the planet in seconds (as seen in Action Comics #267). She got so good at it that she built a whole underground lair in a matter of minutes for her friend Batgirl in Detective Comics #509: The Attack Of The Annihilator only because Babs mentioned in passing she needed one.
- Mon-El, another character linked to the Superman and Legion of Super-Heroes mythos is an excellent digger. In The Dominator War Legion storyline, Mon-El has to go from Metropolis to Tokyo, so he tunnels his way to Japan merely because he felt like it.
- Superman's villain the Mole is an expert tunneller. In Two For The Death Of One he tries to bring the Daily Planet down by digging through the steel beams supporting the building.
- The Mole from the Dick Tracy comic strip. The Mole ran an underground hideout/hotel for criminals on the lam.
- The Mole was also an antagonist of Mandrake the Magician, a genius inventor with a headmounted broad-beam heat ray capable of vaporising rock. It was so effective, his regular outfit included a jetpack so he could keep up. Naturally, he used it to steal from banks.
- The Spook in The Wizard of Id. He can tunnel out of prison relatively easy, he just can't keep from getting caught again.
- The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: In the sequel Picking up the Pieces, it's revealed that as part of her earth-related powers, Cadenza Guard Captain Standing Wall can phase through the ground without leaving a trace.
- Molier in Atlantis: The Lost Empire: He's not only the team excavations expert, but also absolutely obsessed with dirt. He keeps piles of it from different parts of the world! There's apparently an explanation for his... er, profession, and equally apparently, we don't want to know. Near the end of the movie, he even head towards a potted plant to dig up the dirt once a formal photo-shoot of the team was over.
- Behold the Underminer, the epilogue attacking villain in The Incredibles! He may always be beneath us, but nothing is beneath him!
- All the Meerkats in The Lion King 1½. Except Timon. (He gets better at it, though, eventually using it in the series.)
Dig, dig! Dig, dig a tunnel! Never ever gonna get done-eh! Dig, dig! Dig, dig a tunnel! Quick before the hyena come! Dig!
- Bunnymund the Easter Bunny from the film version of Rise of the Guardians creates magical tunnels that can lead absolutely anywhere by just tapping his foot.
- South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut: "The Mole" digs his way to the USO show stage to free Terrance and Phillip, but the boys forget to turn off the alarm on time and he's mauled to death by guard dogs.
- Andersonville: Sgt. Gleason and his men (including Tobias and Blackburn) have been digging a tunnel out of the camp for a long time, using skills they learned coal miners before the Civil War. They do complete their tunnel, but Gleason is the only man to escape.
- Bad Boys II: When drug lord Johnny Tapia flees to Cuba with the kidnapped sister of DEA agent Burnett, agent Vargas mentions his crazy cousin Tito who helps by using his network of tunnel diggers to infiltrate Tapia's guarded mansion.
- Gnorm in A Gnome Named Gnorm is a tunneler gnome who helps investigate a botched sting by tunneling to a crime scene.
- The Godzilla franchise:
- Baragon uses his glowing horn to light his way underground and employed his burrowing to perform sneak attacks on Frankenstein's Monster and Godzilla
- Megalon, one of the most famous Tunnel Kings, has half-drills for lower arms that he can combine into a drill to move at great speed through the earth, and like Baragon used his tunneling power to outmaneuver and surprise attack Godzilla and Jet Jaguar.
- Zilla as well, with its son Zilla Jr. taking it up a notch, as well as comic!Zilla in Godzilla: Rulers of Earth, all using their tunneling ability to move quickly without detection, chase after subterranean opponents, and set up pitfalls and surprise attacks.
- M.O.G.U.E.R.A.'s upper half is Land Moguera, a strong and speedy Drill Tank, which was used to weaken the underground supports of the crystal tower Spacegodzilla was using as an amplifier enough for Godzilla to push over and destroy.
- The Trope Namer is The Great Escape, which featured Danny and Willie, nicknamed 'The Tunnel Kings', as well as Archibald 'The Mole' Ives. Subverted in that Danny has claustrophobia, but it really just makes Danny more of a badass; he's scared as hell about the tight corners and cave-ins, but hey, stuck in a German POW camp, what choice does he have? Being portrayed by Charles Bronson also doesn't hurt.
- Trench 11: Berton, a soldier during World War I. He was caught in a tunnel collapse and left for dead but dug his way out days later. British intelligence calls on his expertise to lead the expedition into an underground weapons facility.
- In Animorphs has the Taxxons, one of the main alien species, which are good at digging (which makes sense, as they originally lived in mountain-sized hives). When Tobias morphs one, however, he notes that really Taxxons are good at eating, and simply devour the earth in front of them very quickly.
- Mulch Diggums in Artemis Fowl is a dwarf who can unhinge his jaw and inhale the earth to dig tunnels, and is often the subject of Toilet Humor. Dwarves from Artemis Fowl wear trousers with bum-flaps so they can... well... you get the idea.
- Relg, the zealot from The Belgariad. Though all his people are underground dwelling, Relg takes it to extremes, going as far as considering caves holey. Plus, he has a special magic that makes it possible for him (and people he carries along) to walk through solid rock.
- Soap Distant from Robert Rankins' Brentford trilogy, like his father before him, a Flat Earther looking for the underground kingdom of Ridgijenpo or something.
- The Mole from the Burke novels by Andrew Vachss: He's an anti-Nazi Jew who specializes in bombs, weaponry, breaking and entering, biology and computer hacking and who lives in a series of tunnels he constructed under a junkyard.
- Earthcrafters in Codex Alera can phase through earth and rock, allowing them to travel underground without leaving any sign of their passing.
- Discworld dwarfs are a bit like this, since they all live in underground kingdoms, and are skilled miners. More traditionalist groups tunnel everywhere, and think seeing the sun is dangerous. In Thud!, the network of tunnels that it's hinted will become Ankh-Morpork's underground railway were dug by traditionalist dwarfs because they were looking for something and it didn't occur to them not to dig tunnels throughout the city.
- Mr Fox and his allies from Fantastic Mr. Fox are all digging animals, which works out nicely for them when they dig their way to the food-stuffed cellars of Farmer Boggis, Farmer Bunce and Farmer Bean.
- The Nome King from the Oz books. In Baum's universe, the Nomes are immortal rock fairies who dwell underground. They hide jewels and precious metals in the earth, and resent the "upstairs people" who dig down for those valuables. Apparently as revenge, the Nome King enjoys keeping surface-dwellers as slavesnot for their labor but simply to have them.
- In one episode of Angie Tribeca, Angie and Geils break out of prison by digging a tunnel (using tools made out of their blankets) out of their cell. They emerge through the ceiling of the police department several miles away.
- Oz: Agamemnon 'The Mole' Busmalis, who likes tunneling into banks and out of prisons, which is why they gave him a cell on an upper floor. Eventually, he finds a storeroom on the ground floor and starts tunneling out during the day.
- The Horta from Star Trek are a race that chew through solid rock like it was air. Unlike most diggers on this page, Horta use powerful acid to burn perfectly round tunnels.
- Many, many, many kaiju in the Ultra Series are burrowers (particularly the reptilian ones for some reason), usually striking at cities or fleeing from Ultras by tunneling underground. And just as many are encountered slumbering Beneath the Earth before being disturbed and rampaging towards the surface. A list can be found here.
- The Mole, a villain from the Golden Age of Champions, who constructed a mechanical exoskeleton that enables him to tunnel through anything.
- Kobolds in Dungeons & Dragons. They're almost completely helpless in the open (arguably the weakest common monster in the game, to the point that a housecat can rip one to shredsnote ), which they make up for by squeezing through narrow tunnels, leading attackers into traps, and using hit-and-run tactics. A tribe of kobolds in their home warren can be downright deadly.
- Purple worms and umber hulks, which are often credited as having dug out many of the tunnels of the Underdark in their never-ending subterranean quests for food.
- The Skaven from Warhammer have a tunneling unit. Whether it appears where it should (directly underneath the enemy's artillery units, usually) or the tunnelers screw up horribly and either collapse their tunnel or arrive somewhere on another continent or at least at a different spot on the battlefield than they should (whereupon they spend the rest of the turn bickering about who held the map the wrong side up) is dependent on the roll of a die. Dwarven miners are a somewhat more reliable version.
- The Tyranids from Warhammer 40,000 have tunneling creatures with the size and power of tanks.
- In BIONICLE, the cave-dwelling Onu-Matoran are an entire tribe of these.
- The earth-elemented Cragsters from Mixels each have powerful digging abilities as their secondary abilities. Krader uses his giant right hand like a spade, Seismo pounds down on the earth with his giant feet, and Shuff spins himself like a drill. All three of them have come up with a game using their digging skills to see who can loop around first.
- In Age of Wonders 3, the Dwarves' irregular and Tier III units, the Prospector and Firstborn respectively, have the Tunneling ability, which allows them to dig through dirt wall underground. As such, dwarves doesn't have to rely on Builders to dig through the caves.
- One of the movement powers in Champions Online is tunnelling... which moves you underground as fast as flight moves you through air!
- Deep Rock Galactic: While every dwarf has a pick to dig with, the Driller's the one that can truly get you from point A to point B in a timely manner no matter how many tons of rock are in-between, thanks to his twin drills. Give him a point and enough fuel, and he'll get you there. Especially useful when the Drop Pod's waiting for everyone, and the main path through the caverns is a mess of glyphids and horrible terrain; it's often easier to just tunnel there directly.
- Dig Dug might be one of the earliest video game examples. The title character Taizo Hori uses a drill to tunnel through layers of soil and hunt monsters.
- Dwarves being Tunnel Kings is a central game mechanic in Dwarf Fortress.
- Mogmas in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, though they aren't always quick to think of digging under a barrier even though they can barely move above ground.
- Drill Man from Mega Man 4, who could burrow into the ground and pop up under Mega Man.
- The player in Minecraft can certainly become this, and likely will since the only way to get many necessary resources is by digging underground and mining them out; many players begin this way by digging out a simple shelter to avoid monsters at night, and most will end up this way in the late game when their mining ends up digging out a massive system of tunnels.
- Muddy of Mole Mania, digs to solve environmental puzzles.
- Mr. Driller is the spiritual successor of the aforementioned Dig Dug, and the title character Susumu Hori is the son of Taizo Hori. Susumu can drill through blocks in the vast underground tunnels with ease, but he has to take care to avoid drilling through wooden "X" blocks, which release Deadly Gas that causes a significant penalty to his Oxygen Meter.
- The Underground Man in Diamond/Pearl/Platinum, responsible for starting out Sinnoh's extensive Underground with his digging, along with his son and grandson, Byron and Roark.
- Diglett, who is forever half-submerged in the ground, and whose species is responsible for the digging of Diglett's cave.
- Clay, "The Underground Boss", is a Gym Leader whose Gym is an underground maze and who specializes in Ground-type Pokémon. His signature Pokémon is Excadrill, the Ground/Steel mole from Pokémon Black and White.
- Spelunky has the Tunnel Man, who digs shortcuts to later areas in the game in exchange for money (or various items in the HD version). In the original version, he was unlockable as a playable character, and came with an unbreakable mattock.
- SCP Foundation, SCP-2709 ("Can Anyone Hear You Scream?"). SCP-2709-1 is a giant anomalous antlion that digs tunnels underground. It performs a Dig Attack on human beings by collapsing the ground under their feet.
- Whateley Universe: MoleAr, who can manipulate rock and similar materials by touch and directed a digout from a collapsed prison:
He looked around. The only way out is the rubble in the tunnel. We tunnel into the debris, dealing with the way the rubble will slide down toward us as we work. The magical spells in the tunnel ought to be as wrecked as the walls. So once we get far enough into the tunnel to get around the magical effects of the ceiling in here, we can go straight up. We just solidify the debris as we go. Then we tunnel upward a bit at a time, making sidesteps to deal with the problem well have when we finally get through the bedrock.The Black Tiger sneered, Oh, and what makes you such a big expert on this shit?Mole Ar mildly said, This is what I do. I have a Masters and a Ph.D. in mining engineering from Texas A & M.The Black Tiger didnt say anything, but his face was sure red.
- Amphibia episode "Flood, Sweat, and Tears" reveals Sprig to be a pretty good hole digger.
- The badger-moles of Avatar: The Last Airbender. In fact, they're the first Earthbenders!
- Bugs Bunny is shown doing it in almost every medium, though he often ends up taking a Wrong Turn at Albuquerque. In fact, a few games require Bugs to use tunneling to solve puzzles or bypass enemies, and another relies solely on him for transport between game worlds. note
- Professor Moliarty from Darkwing Duck. A mush-mouthed mole who schemes to put the surface world into an eternal darkness. His name is a reference to Sherlock Holmes nemesis James Moriarty and his persona may be inspired by Marvel Comics' Mole Man.
- In Dennis the Menace (UK) animated series, Gnasher is able to tunnel incredibly quickly as part of his ability to bite through anything.
- The Whispering Death from Dragons: Riders of Berk has the ability to use its jaw (which has six inner rings of teeth that rotate in opposite directions of each other) to quickly travel through solid rock.
- Tunnel Rat from G.I. Joe and related media. As with many Joes, often shown battling in situations having nothing to do with his or her specialty.
- Zoop from Iggy Arbuckle. In "The Case of the Messy Marauder", she starts sleep tunneling.
- The Diamond Dogs of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic are a group of doglike creatures who live underground, tunnel very fast and mine gems. In the episode they appear in they inhabit a complex system of tunnels and mines that they likely dug themselves.
- Superspeed digging was one of Zippy's many talents in The Perils of Penelope Pitstop.
- Pluto shows that he's a Tunnel King of sorts in the 1943 short Pluto and the Armadillo, diving underground to chase after a female armadillo who qualifies as a Tunnel Queen.
- The Diggers from Recess who are two boys who have enjoyed digging holes since kindergartern. In the first episode, they end up digging a hole all the way to Beijing.
- Street Sharks: The titular characters can swim through solid concrete and dirt by eating the ground in front of them.
- Ze Mole from South Park, as part of his infiltration expertise. He digs his way to free Terrance and Phillip, but Cartman fails to shut off the alarm in time and he is mauled by guard dogs.
- Wally Floody, one of the men responsible for planning the Great Escape from Stalag Luft 3 during World War 2.
- The Vietcong dug huge networks of tunnels during The Vietnam War to conduct guerrilla warfare in rural areas. The most impressive lies in Cu Chi, just northeast of the South Vietnamese Capital of Saigon.
- Mexican crime lord Joaquin Guzman, aka El Chapo, who has dug miles of tunnels under the US-Mexico border to smuggle contraband narcotics across the border- his method of escape upon being captured is, predictably, having his thugs dig a tunnel into his cell from the outside. Also, the French officers who were captured during World War II- they dug a tunnel out of the camp against all odds and escaped.
- The Mole Man of East Hackney.
- Megatherium, a prehistoric giant ground sloth roughly the size of a rhinoceros, may have been a burrower.
- Moles. What else do you call an animal that has perfectly adapted to spending its entire life underground?
- Other animals noted as highly proficient burrowers include aardvarks, naked mole-rats, gophers, rabbits, badgers, and far too many invertebrates to list.