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When Light Is Good and Dark Is Evil, it was held that just as darkness was the absence of light (which is accurate), so evil was the absence of good. Where there was good, therefore, evil could not stand.
Anything "sufficiently" good didn't need to be intelligent or powerful in order to protect itself because good was invincible enough just being there. Good things had "auras" of purity or goodness that could slice and dice evil or evil-aligned beings like blades, atomize them entirely or at least leave a second or third degree burn. Even the greatest threats would run off screaming like nursery girls at the mere rumor of their presence, ignoring the fact that the objects of their fear were otherwise absolutely harmless.
Often times, the more proactive heroes were unable to have such an effect due to lesser purity, which left the local priest, nun or pure child to act as a Deus Ex Machina for when they get overwhelmed by the legions of darkness. Objects touched or blessed by objectively good characters could gain similar protective qualities, and religious sanctuaries were the mightiest of fortresses when evil was on your tail.
This injurious side of good is becoming rare as readers and viewers learn to take Grey and Gray Morality for granted, but expect very strong showings in religious literature. A Purity Sue (or any Sue in general) may have this trait, but often without the restricted freedom that traditionally comes with it.
Note that differences of belief weren't ever an issue because it was taken for granted that the good thing or person really was good, and not just belonging to the majority faith, sometimes resulting in a rather heavy handed Aesop for characters who were from the dominant church or local equivalent.
Now the only reason it's probably discredited is that it's largely been absorbed by the Holy Hand Grenade and Smite Evil tropes -- which could be an interesting cultural study, in that now apparently people no longer think that Good, itself, is invincible, but used correctly it can really kick ass! If it is used in modern works, it's usually in works centered squarely on the Idealistic side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, or at the very least in a work where the baddies ARE shadows/darkness and thus are Weakened by the Light. It's often utilized alongside Only the Pure of Heart. Holy Burns Evil is a subtrope,. The inverse of this trope is Allergic to Evil (for people) and Cross-Melting Aura (for holy artifacts). Might be a reason for Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth. See also Revive Kills Zombie.
- A somewhat secularized version is played for laughs in The Slayers when Lina turns Genki Girl Amelia loose on Xellos. Since monsters in the slayerverse feed on negative emotions the full unbridled effect of Amelia's sheer perkiness alone (backed up by a rather insincere-sounding Gourry and Zelgadis) is enough to completely debilitate one of the most powerful evil characters in the series.
- The character known as "The Oracle" from Spider Riders has the ability to prevent her power form being abused by those who use it. Mostly she dosen't actually hurt anyone, she just blinds them with a flash of light.
- The page image comes from a What If Silver Surfer story. Mephisto finally manages to acquire Silver Surfer's soul and brings him into Hell. He realizes too late that the Surfer's soul is so good and pure that its light hurts him. Since Surfer already agreed to be in Hell forever, Mephisto will burn "until time's end".
- In an Italian Mickey Mouse comic book story, Mickey meets Flagellus, a "Knight of Evil" whose sole presence causes chaos and disaster to spread around him. After turning Pluto into stone and burying Goofy, he is about to kill Mickey in a sword fight but agrees to let him live if Minnie becomes his bride... and she accepts without hesitation. As he takes her hand, he yells in pain and is fading off into nothingness, because "her good is more powerful than his evil".
- The Brood from Marvel Comics are an entire alien race that, until recently, screened out compassion by killing any of their offspring that showed potential for it. Brood can learn compassion, but having it suddenly forced on them (via psychic projection for example) will kill them.
- More than one powerful baddie in The Lord of the Rings had a vulnerability to Elvish invocations of the Valar.
- Gollum feels pain when he comes into physical contact with the enchanted rope the Elves gave to Sam. Also his aversion to the sun might qualify.
- So does the Nazgûls' fear of running water; the power of Vala Ulmo still runs strong in the Middle-Earth's waters.
- The Silmarils of The Silmarillion burn anyone of evil heart who comes into contact with them, as they contain the trapped holy light of the lost Two Trees. This is a plot point several times -- Morgoth burns his hands when he originally steals them and is forever in pain afterwards (but still covets them and wears them in his iron crown), the great wolf Carcharoth goes on a panicked rampage being burned from the inside out after swallowing one, and when the Silmarils' creator Feanor's sons Maedhros and Maglor find that stolen Silmarils burn them, they realise that their evil deeds mean they have lost all right to them.
- The light in the vial that Galadriel gives to Frodo, which Sam uses against Shelob? That light is the concentrated essence of one star - but that's not really a star at all, it's a Silmaril in the sky. And the Silmarils are made from the light of the Two Trees, and therefore the light of Iluvatar itself. By the Transitive Property of Holiness, Sam fights Shelob with the light of God.
- Then, it's brutally subverted at Mount Doom, where Sam pulls out the vial for some kind of help... only to watch in terror as it grows dim. Mount Doom, apparently, is an evil so absolute, even the (reflected) glory of God gives way.
- Harry Potter. The Power of Love his mother left on him is powerful enough to melt faces and make the most powerful of curses backfire. However, since the universe is mixed with Magic A Is Magic A, the Big Bad is able to take steps to prevent its effects against him.
- Voldemort is still hit with this at the climax of book five, when he succeeds in possessing Harry. He tries to goad Dumbledore into attacking Harry in hopes of killing them both at once. Harry is in so much pain that he finds himself wishing Dumbledore would do it, since it would mean he could see Sirius again - and Harry's thoughts of Sirius cause Voldemort so much agony that he never even tries the possession tactic again.
- The Dementors can be fought off by summoning a creature made of concentrated positive emotion (love or happiness). It's not clear whether dementors are evil (since they appear to have very minimal sentience), but it's implied that Patronuses are made of good (they are immune to Dark magic).
- In Good Omens, the demon Ligur is rather nastily killed by holy water. Holy water's typical effect on demonic entities such as demons and vampires in fantasy fiction is a common type of this trope.
- Something of a subversion in that it wasn't sprinkled at him with a chant by a robed holy man; it was weaponized into booby traps and squirt guns by another demon who premeditated his defense.
- The good/evil lines on Good Omens are all blurred, which is sort of the point; Crowley isn't very evil, but he is still a demon and he still treats holy water with the caution a chemist gives to concentrated acid.
- All over the place in Left Behind, of course, but most squickily in Glorious Appearing, where a would-be rapist of a returned immortal Christian bursts into flames--but only after being allowed to begin the attack, and even though traditional narratives allow for less violent methods of defense, such as intangibility.
- The protagonist in Sorcerer On the Rocks, Shibas Scotch, is such a bad person that being in a nice place like a clear meadow on a sunny day makes him ill.
- In The Dresden Files, the White Court of vampires is harmed if their victims express the positive emotion that is anathema to what they feed on: The lust-eating Raiths are harmed by true love, the despair-eating Skavis by true hope/optimism, and the fear-eating Malvola by true courage and bravery. Things get complicated when Thomas falls in love with his favorite 'food'. Also, in a twist, if the offspring of a White Court vampire experiences their opposite emotion before they start learning how to truly 'feed', they never develop into vampires and turn human instead.
- The Knights of the Cross, wielders of swords into which the nails from the Crucifixion have been worked, are hell on wheels against supernatural evils for precisely this reason.
- Played relatively straight in The Stand. Trashcan Man is positively frightened by his dreams of Mother Abagail (who pities him in hers, even when she can't remember him). Flagg loses all of his composure and power around the Free Zoners, even traitors like Harold and Nadine.
- In Lord Dunsany's The Charwomans Shadow, the false shadow is driven off by the priest and his bell.
- Rand al'Thor from The Wheel of Time seems to have gained this ability as of book 13. Though it can't be perceived by the eyes of someone who is good, he apparently has a radiant aura that blinds Darkfriends. We have yet to see what this will do to more evil creatures.
- John Galt from Atlas Shrugged is supposed to be so awesome that merely talking with him and beholding his face makes any evil character very uncomfortable with all the self-deceptions that they live with. This effect is worst for the most self-deceived characters like Eugene Lawson and Jim Taggart--the latter of whom actually loses his mind when he is interrogating Galt.
- Played with in The Mummy 1999, when Benny holds up a series of holy symbols hanging around his neck -- accompanied by appropriate incantations -- to try to find one that will fend off the titular monster. (Turns out Imphotep doesn't fear crosses or stars of David ... just cats.)
- Chernobog in Fantasia is driven away by the forces of "the sacred".
Live Action TV
- Used and subverted on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Vampires have weaknesses to Holy Water, Crosses, and the like, (apparently, because Christians are the ones who have done the most monster hunting) but said protection in no way extends to the people fighting against them. If fact, the blood of a Slayer is said to be particularly tasty to vampires (and, if Spike is to be believed, is a potent aphrodisiac for them as well).
- Holy water is used to great effect in Supernatural (sanctified sprinkler system) and demons flinch when they hear the name "Christo".
- Both crosses and stars of David annoy vampires in Being Human.
- Gloriously revised in the Doctor Who story The Curse of Fenric, set during World War II: In this story it's not the symbol that's important, it's the bearer's faith in the good that that symbol represents. As a result, the vampire/zombie haemovores are untroubled by a priest holding up a cross, because the horrors of war have eroded the priest's faith. But the Doctor is able to repel a mob of them by reciting all his companions' names (from Susan up through Ace), and a patriotic Soviet soldier fends off some more by holding up the hammer-and-sickle badge from his uniform!
- Many, many, many tales of Catholic saints, including St. Margaret of Antioch, who was swallowed by Satan in the form of a dragon. However, her innate goodness (and the crucifix she bore) proved too much for Old Nick's saurian stomach to handle, and the dragon burst asunder. St. Margaret became the patron saint of childbirth, which should bring disturbing images to the mind of any pregnant woman.
- Many Swedish folk tales had mythological creatures of differing degrees of malevolence who could be stopped, harmed or driven off by holy things, including prayer, the sound of church bells, drawing a cross on the ground, and in one tale casually saying "cross".
- Unicorns, who were all but invincible to fight, could be tamed and therefore conquered only by purity. It was said that the touch of a virgin maiden who was pure of heart could do the trick.
- According to exorcists, exorcism is so painful for demons that they find Hell preferable.
- Fairly standard abilities for good characters of various kinds in Dungeons and Dragons.
- However, there are plenty of inversions. For example, a Good-aligned character trying to touch an Evil artifact suffers penalties identical to an Evil-aligned character touching a Good artifact. The same holds true for other properties, such as Law and Chaos, Fire and Cold; indeed, D&D has the trope generalized to Extreme Hurts Extreme.
- The High Elf Everqueen in Warhammer Fantasy kills demons and undead just by her presence.
- The Merit: True Faith in White Wolf Game Studio's original World of Darkness allowed certain virtuous characters to harm evil entities by touch, deed or (at high levels) presence alone. The behavior required to match the Merit's greatest levels put them (theoretically) beyond the reach of most player characters, but - as with an game - exceptions were probably common.
- In Exalted, the Unconquered Sun is the cosmic embodiment of virtue. As a result, it is within his power to deem which sorts of beings in Creation and beyond count as "creatures of darkness" (usually demons, the undead, and Raksha). His chosen, the Solar Exalted, thus have access to Holy Charms that allow them to do extremely grievous damage to said creatures of darkness. This is something of a subversion, however. The Sun has authority to declare whomever he so chooses to be Creatures of Darkness without any due process. If a Lawful Good Paladin style character pissed him off sufficiently, she could be declared a Creature of Darkness no matter how many kittens she saved or old people she helped across the street. It is only the Sun's commitment and restraint that prevents him from abusing this power.
- Other classes of Exalted also can deploy Holy magic, though the Solar versions tend to be the most directly potent of the bunch as usual.
- For more detail, see the game's entry in Detect Evil.
- Kingdom Hearts plays this very straight in the ending of the first game when the light of the titular power destroys the game's Big Bad.
- Giygas is defeated by way of this trope in both Earthbound Zero and Earthbound. In the first game, he's overwhelmed by the love bound inside a song his adopted mother used to sing to him, and after he's gone Cosmic Horror, it takes the combined prayers of everyone in the game universe, as well as those of the player, to defeat him once and for all.
- In Disgaea, optimism and love physically weaken Laharl, resulting in reduced stats in one fight when his enemy takes advantage of this.
- The Legend of Zelda, with the Master Sword, "The Blade of Evil's Bane", and the Light Arrows.
- Kingdom of Loathing has the Bad Spelling monsters, hurt by reading the dictionary.
- Good irritates evil in the video game of The Darkness. The Darkness refuses to manifest itself around the subway stations full of normal people, and if you try it'll complain that it finds the people too boring to attack; the Darkness is attracted to darkness, and even the metaphorical darkness of the heart is preferable to it.
- In King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella the way to rid yourself of the villain is to shoot her with Cupid's arrow, which (probably unbeknownst to Rosella herself), kills her, as something so foul and fueled by hate cannot survive the experience of love.
- On meeting Casavir in Neverwinter Nights 2, Neeshka remarks that paladins always make her spots itch.
- In Alan Wake, Light Is Good and Dark Is Evil are to be taken literally. Rub those brain cells together and see what you come up with.
- In Doom3 hell starts leaking into our world (or Mars in this case) causing insanity and other problems. It is suggested this is also happening in reverse, although for them it's probably not so much hurt as mildly annoy.
- Worded a bit differently in Sailor Nothing, magical girls' usual powers can't hurt the Shadow Queen because she is their source; only Good can do it.
- Played for Laughs in No Place In Hell by Fredrik K.T.Andersson
- K'Z'K of Sluggy Freelance is destroyed by reading a book full of pictures that create peace and serenity in the viewer.
- And before K'Z'K, there was the famous instance of Torg hiding from a bunch of demons inside a literal circle of goodness. He'd taunt one of the stupider demons into trying to leap at him, and his arms would catch on fire, prompting the classic line, "I'M BURNING WITH GOODNESS AGAIN!"
- Holy symbols also harm/repel vampires and suchlike. We usually see Riff (he being Jewish) using a Star of David on vampires, but he also put a screen on one of his robots that shuffles through the mahor holy symbol of every religion in case K'Z'K had a vulnerability for one of them. (When we were shown this one in action, it stopped on Ricky Martin.)
- Black Mage in Eight Bit Theater.
- In later comics, it turns out Fighter is the ONLY member of the party this doesn't apply to, as the other three all have negative reactions to a set of celestial weapons (although Thief and Red Mage just report uncomfortable heat and scalding, while BM bursts into flames).
- In Sinfest, when Jesus makes Hell blossom, they give Baby Blue hayfever.
- A minor version from Adventures in Care-a-Lot: after seeing his plan to break up a band made of a few of the female Care Bears thwarted by The Power of Friendship, Grizzle comments, "This sickening display of friendship HURTS!" Trueheart asks if it isn't just the high heels he's wearing as part of his drag disguise.
- Variation: In an episode of the 90s Incredible Hulk cartoon, Ghost Rider realises that Rick is a good kid when his Hellfire doesn't hurt him.
- In one episode of Thundercats, a robot is armed with a magic katana and sent out on a rampage. The katana's original user, a samurai, stops this by doing a Barehanded Blade Block which results in the robot exploding. The samurai explains that since the machines are neither good nor evil, the katana didn't know it was being misused, but after touching samurai's skin it caught on and destroyed the robot.
- Roger in American Dad. His people need to let their bitchiness out. If they don't, it turns to a physical bile and poisons them. Roger will literally die if he does too many selfless acts.
- Across all Transformers media, Unicron's weakness is the Matrix of Leadership, a conduit to Primus's own spark. It's actually justified as Primus and Unicron are said to be equal and opposite and exposing their energies to one another like that is essentially mixing matter and anti-matter.