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"You can see for yourselves. She is a god. A god who does not know she is a god."
The god Majere, referring to the "dead" Mina.

When some form of spiritual being, or deity, becomes encased in a mortal shell, usually causing them to have no or limited access to their powers...sometimes of their own design, sometimes forced upon them.

Of course, any example of this trope would be justified in saying "A God Am I", without the usual implications of megalomania. That said, many go the other route and say "A God I Am Not" due to their new proximity to mortality and humanity.

May or may not be accompanied with the loss of their memories of godly life. This is often justified as them wanting to better understand the lives of mortals, thus living a mortal life without remembering their Godhood. In that case they may simply appear as a fully grown adult with no memory or past, or they may actually be born into a human family and live a seemingly average life.

As such, their human forms may often have a very different personality, and on occasion even alignment, from their True Self. For example, a villain could very well live their human life as a pure and chaste paragon of heroism, but return to villainy upon awakening. And a benevolent deity could very easily be a thuggish Jerkass. Although overall, it is more common for benign gods to be good people, and malevolent deities to be bad people. Killing the human form of the god, if it's possible, probably won't actually kill the god.

Note that despite the title, this isn't restricted to humans, it can include aliens and the like as well. As the Greek philosopher Xenophanes said: "If horses had gods, they would look like horses!"

Often referred to as an avatar, after the Hindu religious term, but the word has gotten a little bit too commonplace to use as a trope name.

When the character is not a god but is merely pretending to be one, the trope is God Guise.

Compare Physical God, A Form You Are Comfortable With, I Am Who?, Angel Unaware and Deity of Human Origin. Also see God Test. A Human Am I is a subtrope (related to Amnesiac God), where a character is convinced they are human as a result of the loss of memories.

Examples of God in Human Form include:


Anime

Comic Books

  • Death in the Sandman series does this for one day every hundred years in order to experience life and death and better understand both.
  • Doctor Donald Blake. When he hits his cane upon the ground, it is replaced by Mjolnir and he by The Mighty Thor.


Film

  • George Burns plays the Almighty in the Oh, God! movie series.
  • God does this in the movie Dogma in order to play skeeball, which almost leads to the destruction of the universe.
  • In the movie Thor, the god in the title is Brought Down to Normal when he is exiled to Earth as punishment, after breaking a fragile truce with the Frost Giants.
  • In the second Evil Dead, the way to get rid of the Evil was to make it flesh, then have it sucked into a portal.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean Tia Dalma is the goddess Calypso. This particular case was decidedly involuntary; she was trapped that way by Davy Jones, with a little help from the Brethren Court, and spends the whole third movie trying to get her full power back. It works.
    • This is also parodied in the second movie, where a tribe of cannibals think for whatever reason that Loveable Rogue Jack Sparrow is a God in Human Form. He thinks this is great- until he finds out that they intend to "release" him from said human form... by eating him.
  • Bruce Almighty and the sequel has Morgan Freeman as God.
  • In The Return of Hanuman, Hindu God Hanuman descends to Earth as a human boy named Maruti because of his boredom as a result of staying in Swarglok (some Fluffy Cloud Heaven) for many years.


Live-action TV Shows

  • In Angel, Jasmine fits this trope: supposedly a former Powers That Be who comes from another dimension to spread peace and love, albeit doing a lot of horrific things to allow herself to be incarnated bodily. She also achieves her aims through mind control and eating people.
    • Also Illyria. The loss of powers was definitely not an intended result in her case.
      • Illyria is actually only an Old One, a group is very powerful and old pure demons. Her title as God-King is self given.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Anya wasn't exactly a god, but a demon with a great deal of power (granting wishes to scorned women). Then she got trapped in the form of a normal high-school girl.
    • Also Glory. In her case the human form was not just a different personality, but a different body and gender that Glory periodically broke out of to assume her own shape and at least some of her powers.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Q got demoted to mortal as punishment from the other Qs. Later, the same happened to his son.
  • Some Ancients in Stargate SG-1 would chose to descend from their "ascended" status, forfeiting all of the cosmic enlightenment (and in some cases, the memories) they gained while in that form. Also Daniel.
  • Anna Milton on Supernatural.
  • This was done in Power Rangers Wild Force. And Kite/Animus ended up taking away the team's powers because of the current state of the environment.
  • Steven Baxter in The Second Coming is a very ordinary, not particularly bright bloke who suddenly finds out he's the son of God. He only discovers what he's supposed to do little by little. Killing him, in his human form, means that God dies. His dual nature makes it all incredibly sad: though the death of God is supposed to be a good thing and he eventually accepts this, Steven is also very much human and doesn't want to die at all.
  • In the new Doctor Who series, there are a couple of instances of Time Lords locking away their Time Lord identities and memories, and assuming human form. The Doctor does it to escape a family of short-lived assassins. Later, it's revealed that the Master did the same thing to escape the Time War.
  • Leo in Charmed, after Ascending to A Higher Plane of Existence twice. The second time was the reason for his depowering and mind wipe, as he had betrayed the set of gods he became part of for another more powerful set of gods.


Literature

  • The gods and goddesses do this sometimes in The Odyssey.
  • The Ur Example of this trope is oldest known work of fiction, The Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh is a demigod, and Enkidu is made by the gods to keep him in check. Not sure if that makes them gods themselves or just Cursed with Awesome.
  • Emmanuel, the main character in the novel The Divine Invasion by Philip K. Dick, is, in actuality, the Judeo-Christian God - and he lost his memories in a car accident.
  • Nyarlathotep often appears in the form of a man. He has several other avatars as well, ranging from aformentioned human form to monstrous and inhuman.
    • Well, in Lovecraft's canon he appears in human form once (The Dream-Quest of the Unknown Kadath), and possibly pseudo-human form in The Dreams in the Witch-House. It's also briefly mentioned that he once took human form in the ancient Khem, better known as Egypt for modern readers.
      • He also appears as a human in Nyarlathotep, the first story he appears in. He appears in a monstrous form in Haunter in the Dark, and one of his non-human forms is mentioned in Rats in the Walls. He also appears in both human and pseudo-human forms (described as looking demonic) in Lovecraft's sonnet Fungi from Yuggoth. In Hanter in the Dark it's somewhat implied that he gained his human form by posessing a human (most likely an egyptian pharaoh named Nephren-kha).
  • Margaret Weis's The Dark Disciple series, Mina turns out to be a goddess of light, who was tricked into believing she was a human girl. She becomes a necromancer of death god, Chemosh.
  • In Small Gods, the Great God Om decides to visit the Disc in the body of a great bull. Instead, he gets stuck in the body of a tortoise, and doesn't have enough godly mojo left to get out.
    • Also by Pratchett, in Strata all sentient life in the universe falls under this trope, losing all memory of divinity in order to better learn.
    • The Death of Discworld isn't a god by the standards of his universe, but he does occasionally self-limit his powers and go walking the Disc disguised as a human. Usually fails miserably because: a) in spite of hanging around humans for millennia, he's no good at being one, and b) some supernatural crisis inevitably drags him back to work.
  • Ian McDonald's novel Out On Blue Six--Kilimanjaro West turns out to be this.
  • In the Young Wizards series the most powerful of the Powers That Be exist mainly outside of time and, to be able to do anything to that which exists inside of time, not only need to insert fragments of themselves into the time stream(s), but also to put that fragment into a physical body. This is usually done by the fragment hitching a ride in an already living being (usually without the mortal host being aware), which limits the amount of power they can use. However, if the host dies they can slap together a blob of physical matter and shove the fragment into that, giving them much greater access to their powers (and in a few instances the Big Bad starts out that way).
  • The Devil from Glen Duncan's I Lucifer is given the choice by God to redeem himself by taking over the body of Declan Gunn. He retains his devilish characteristics, but spends much of his time utterly overcome by the power of his human senses.
  • A character in the Well World series claimed to be this, more or less.
  • The group of so-called "wizards" in JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, while appearing as old human men, are actually five Maiar, a kind of angelic spirit, who are themselves incorporeal but can usually clothe themselves in any form they like. The five have been sent on a mission to help the peoples of Middle-earth against Sauron, during which they are bound in their physical form, unable to change it, and also limited in their powers and knownledge. (When Gandalf the Grey dies and comes back as Gandalf the White, it's hinted that he regained his Maia powers in "death" and this allowed him to rebuild his body. It might also have been a near-death experience: the text never explicitly says he died.)
  • In Heinlein's Stranger in A Strange Land, it's strongly hinted a couple of times (though never quite confirmed) that the Martian-raised protagonist may in fact be the archangel Michael in human form.
  • In John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos, the children.
  • In The Wheel of Time, the Dark One can manifest in the form of a Myrddraal called Shaidar Haran after the seals on his prison begin to weaken. He mainly uses this to spy on and terrorize the Forsaken.


Religion

  • Jesus in The Bible, according to Christians, at any rate; Jews have another tale to tell...
  • All human beings are seen this way in some religions. Scientology is one example, considering human souls to be the reincarnations of alien souls. Mormons believe that everyone human started off as something approximate to God; the Veil keeps you from remembering properly and the human experience is seen as developmental and helpful rather than evil. In Gnosticism, the Demiurge is keeping you in a human state: for instance, Adam, the first human, was originally (and again once his human body died) the archangel Michael.
  • In Buddhism, the object of enlightenment is to reach Nirvana rather than become a god; although gods are seen as beings longer-lived and more powerful than humans, they are not much better or all-knowing. In Mahayana Buddhism, Boddhisatvas (which are basically all-powerful and all-knowing) can manifest in human or animal form if need be.
  • In Norse Mythology, the god Odin was known to appear to mortals in the guise of an old man.
  • As mentioned above, the Hindu concept of avatars is one of the most widespread and influential implementations of this trope.
    • As Hinduism is often seen as a Pantheistic religion, all of reality can go under the umbrella of God in X Form.
  • In Japanese Mythology, Susanoo was exiled from heaven for offending his sister, Amaterasu and forced to wander Japan for awhile. Eventually he killed the Orochi, found a wife, and got restored to his status as a god. He later became an Overprotective Dad against his daughter's suitor Okuninushi, but was eventually won over.
  • In Greek mythology, Apollo served for a year as the human-seeming shepherd to King Admetus.
    • Similarly, Demeter became nursemaid to King Celeus' son Triptolemus when she was too exhausted to continue the search for her own daughter. She wanted to make Triptolemus a god by covering him in ambrosia and putting him in the fire, but was unable to complete the process due to his mother Metanira walking in on her and freaking out. Demeter got a little annoyed, but unlike the more vengeful gods, she understood Metanira's feelings and groomed Triptolemus to be the first priest of her Eleusinian Mysteries as consolation.
  • Thoroughly averted in Islam. To believe that God would ever put himself in human form is not blasphemy or apostasy, it makes you non-Muslim by definition. Islam is very big on picturing God as a transcendent if benevolent being bordering on the Eldritch and is very critical of Pride (to say that God would take human form is to hold the human form somehow equal to Him, which is prideful on humanity's part) so it makes sense.
    • In point of fact, the religion scholar Stephen Prothero has gone so far as to say that this is the defining characteristic of Islam: the belief in the transcendence of God to the point where opposition to Pride is the central aspect of the faith (and in a way, he's indisputably right: Islam is, after all, Arabic for "submission/surrender"). This is why Islam is very definite on having no images of God; some very strict Muslims believe it's wrong to create anything at all (being that only God can create).


Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons and Dragons on this, but on the other hand in D&D dragons have their own deities whose avatars are dragons.
    • In the Dungeons and Dragons Avatar Series (books and adventures), the deities of the Forgotten Realms are forced to descend to Faerun in their considerably weaker avatar forms as punishment for the misdeeds of two of them.
    • In the Dungeons and Dragons Dragonlance setting, the god Paladine appears in the mortal world as the wizard Fizban.
    • 4th Edition has taken this to new levels by actually allowing player characters to be the mortal embodiments of a god with the various divine Avatar epic destinies, which represent a character discovering that they are a God in Human Form, or at least part of one, and ultimately ascending to rejoin that god.
  • In Warhammer40K, The God-Emperor of the Imperium is the God of Humanity ...and a mortally wounded and crippled man kept alive in the most complex iron lung imaginable.
    • The Eldar can call forth the avatar of their god of war into one of their own for combat.
    • Also, the form the C'tan, and possibly the Chaos Greater Daemons, take on the battlefield.
      • One of the C'tan, the Deceiver, often takes on a human (or alien) form in order to manipulate people to do his bidding. Seeing how the C'tan are heavily inspired by Lovecraftian deities, he's essentially 40k's version of the aformentioned Nyarlathotep.
    • In both Warhammer 40K and Warhammer Fantasy, Chaos Demons are weak forms of the chaos gods.
  • Scion has the gods occasionally take on human form in order to conceive the titular Scions. One divine power, Avatar, allows them to temporarily lower their Legend to make the job easier (the higher a god's Legend, the more power they have to expend to take on physical form).


Toys

  • While not exactly a human (especially if you go by his toy design, which doesn't have organic features) Mata Nui from Bionicle went through such a phase, after having been robbed of his own body, that of a Humongous Mecha Physical God, and forging a new, human-sized (this time, a mostly organic) form for himself from sand. He lives with "normal" people for a while, but later swaps his body for another giant robot to beat the Big Bad. May count as a light subversion, as the people he met didn't regards him as a god, as they never even knew him, and those to whom he was a god didn't get to see him in this form.


Video Games

  • In The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword Zelda is revealed to be the reincarnation of the goddess Hylia.
  • Hakuoro and Diy of Utawarerumono. Technically the same person, actually, but due to being unable to die and having a huge mental breakdown some indeterminate but loooong time before, the person called 'Iceman' split into them. They tend to fight each other a lot as they embody separate aspects of his character. Hakuoro seems to vastly prefer his existence as a human, being the side of him wishing for peace/to be destroyed instead of to destroy while Diy is his violent chaotic side which seems to prefer Godhood so as to blow stuff up as part of his evil darwinist philosophy.
  • Joshua aka The Composer in The World Ends With You.
  • Arawn in Tears to Tiara is called the Great Demon God and actually hasn't really been depowered since before being killed a thousand years before. The actual problem is that he currently possesses a much more humanlike shell and that actually using that power properly will destroy his nerves and muscles, so he doesn't. Except he has been the entire time, leaving him incredibly worn out and ragged by the end. Also, even before when fighting with Pwyll he was already a depowered deity-level figure from being one of the Twelve Angels, and taking that form again causes him immense damage.
  • The God of Harmony in Lost Kingdoms has the form of the old woman Gurd. Or at least it's heavily implied if you find the secret room in the cathedral and read the books. But she just comes out and says it in the sequel.
  • Lufia from the Lufia games is the God of Death who occasionally takes human form.
  • Aveyond has The Oracle, who is an old woman despite statues of a young and beautiful Goddess. She claims that that was what she looked like way back when.
  • The Lunar series has Althena routinely taking the form of a human girl (usually a singer), who is the incarnation of the deity. They don't usually know this fact, nor do the other characters. Lampshaded in Lunar Silver Star Harmony, when Alex tries to make a sculpture of Luna, and the person looking at it notices the similarity to the Goddess Althena.
  • If you play your choices right in Dragon Age: Origins, You can conceive one of these with Morrigan, a child with the soul of an old god. This will presumably have great consequences in the sequels.
  • In Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 3, both halves of the Dragon-God get depowered and assume human forms as a result. Kokuryuu/the Dark Dragon had his weakened human body destroyed and his powers snatched by an enemy, although it didn't cause power loss to his Miko. Hakuryuu/the White Dragon is initially found in the form of a pre-teen kid (also qualifying for the Really Seven Hundred Years Old trope as the Dragons have been around for at least 300-400 years by that point); he partially retains the ability to cross time-space, and later regains some of his power and assumes a more adult form. In one side game, both Dragons can be seen in both childlike and adult human forms.
    • Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 5 features human forms of The Four Gods. Needless to say, they're extremely pretty (especially Suzaku and Genbu).
  • In Jade Empire, Kang the Mad is really Lord Lao, the god of machinery with Laser-Guided Amnesia.
  • Mortal Kombat's Raiden, Thunder God and protector of Earthrealm. Originally a God of Evil in the original game, later retconned into a Mentor for the good guys. (By way of the movie) Once an Elder God, he later took human form to assist the heroes in their defense of Earthrealm.
  • Oracle of Tao, this is the basic premise behind the hero's amnesia. Things don't add up with her memories and she thinks that she might not exist, but the truth is in fact she's the only one who does exist, and the world is a dream.
  • The twin goddesses of Ys in the first two games.
  • Miang, the Big Bad of Xenogears, is essentially the physical avatar of Deus, created 10,000 before the beginning of the game, manipulating history in order to orchestrate its revival.
  • In Final Fantasy XIII the Fal'cie seem to have the ability to do this. Most prominently, Barthandelus uses the guise of primarch Galenth Dysley to control Cocoon while avoiding its residents' eyes.


Web Comic


Web Original

  • In The Gamers Alliance, gods can end up in human form whenever they possess a willing mortal host. Although possessing a mortal makes the gods unable to use their full powers, it also prevents them from being permanently killed off (if the host dies, the god's essence can simply leave the body and return to the High Plane unharmed).
  • Fine Structure features both the Big Good and the Big Bad in mortal human bodies, with useful but not unreasonable superpowers.


Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra are examples of this: The World Spirit continually incarnates into human form (the namesake Avatar) in order to understand mortal life better and therefore appreciate what it is there to protect. See also the Moon and Ocean Spirits, Tui and La respectively, from the same series.
  • Disney's Hercules series had Zeus turn himself into a human teenager, ultimately even less powerful than Hercules, to prove a point to his son. This backfires on him dramatically, especially after Hades finds out that his nemesis is temporarily mortal. He maintains his memories throughout, and it only lasts a short while before he returns to his godly form.
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