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In fictionland, there are many ways to underline a man's Badassery or his masculinity. But how can you display a woman's femininity in a less vulgar way than dressing like a whore and making a sandwich for a guy? Simple, have her play the harp.
Just as playing the electric guitar is often used as a sign of absolute masculinity, the harp's crystalline and delicate tones, as well as its graceful shape, will emphasize the femininity of the woman playing it. Not to mention that it gives the harpist a definite air of dignity and nobility. As such, harp-playing women in fiction are almost always important to the plot.
Playing the lyre is a lesser version of this and also counts for much more Gender Flips. In the very, very rare occurrences where a man is shown playing the harp, he will be at least a particularly effeminate Bishonen.
This is also Truth in Television, since harpists are mostly female.
Also note who else typically plays the harp: Angels, elves, and people who died and went to heaven.
Compare Feminine Women Can Cook, for a much less refined way to show femininity.
- Pictureed above: Lady Pandora in Saint Seiya, who loves playing the harp in her free time. There are even figurines that portray her like this, and many Pandora cosplayers pose with harps as well.
- Subverted with Benethosh Mime and the two Orpheus (Lyre from the manga and newer OVA's, Kotoza from one of the non-canon movies), girly-looking but still male Musical Assassins who use small harps and lyres as weapons of choice. In fact, we meet Mime in the Asgard Saga when Shun finds him peacefully playing his lyre in the snow... and then he quickly uses its chords as Razor Floss to attack.
- Mimay in Captain Harlock
- Shin in Saint Beast went to the extent of crafting his own harp to play.
- In Hidamari Sketch, Yuno saw Hiro planting herbs and asked what she was doing. When Hiro explained, Yuno misheard her as saying "harp" and envisioned a harp-playing Hiro. Now, Hiro is already the motherly one of the group, so the feminine qualities are already there, just enhanced in Yuno's imagination.
- Yuria in the Fist of the North Star anime, who has come into possession of a harp and nothing else while in Shin's captivity and is playing it in nearly every scene where she makes an appearance. The harp sound plays any time Kenshiro thinks about her.
- In Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics, both Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty/Princess Briar Rose are very pretty and feminine girls who play lyres.
- The most notable aversion is Harpo Marx. Hell, he's even named after it!
- The evil matriarch of the girls' boarding school in A Little Princess is shown playing a harp at moments when she's not actively working to make Sarah's life miserable. Her musical ability is arguably the only likeable trait the character has.
- In Green Wing the girly and perfect Angela plays the harp to Grade 7, while her more tomboyish housemate Caroline struggles to get a sound out of her flute.
- Aversion: Flewddur Fflam in the Prydain Chronicles was a consummate Badass, a king, and a wandering bard. He played a magic harp, which could be more accurately said to play itself, but harping is not regarded as particularly feminine in Prydain.
- What about Homer? Didn't Rudyard Kipling talk about "When Homer smote his bloomin lyre(not his most inspired passage)?
- King David: Traditionally his favorite instrument was the harp making this another inversion.
- Also Apollo. In fact, in ancient times the harp was if anything a masculine instrument and Homer, David, and Apollo aren't really aversions because the trope wasn't there yet to be averted.
- Featured in The Mists of Avalon, which Morgaine (as the viewpoint character) combines with Elegant Classical Musician to assure herself that she could have any man who heard her play the harp.
- Lyra Belacqua's first name in His Dark Materials is, according to this trope, the single most feminine thing about her.
- The Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG has Spirit of the Harp, a delicate woman playing the harp.
- Marin from The Legend of Zelda Links Awakening is shown to play the harp in official art (though she never does so in the game itself, and never mentions that she can, either). A harp is also one of the eight magic instruments Link has to acquire throughout the game.
- Sheik in The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, who plays the lyre. Of course, Sheik turns out to be female even though she looks male and more or less is implied to be throughout the game. The harping here is important to the plot, as Sheik teaches Link songs which he needs to succeed.
- The Legend of Zelda Oracle Games has the Harp of Ages, which is normally played by Nayru, but after she's possessed by the villain, Link (who is obviously male) has to do it himself.
- In The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker, the two female Earth Sages, Medli and Laruto, are harpists.
- Although she's never seen playing any instrument in her limited screentime, it's very possible that Zelda in The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess is also a harpist; her royal gown includes a harp pattern embroidered on the skirt. (Then again, since the Black Cloak she wears over the gown for part of the game contains Sheikah emblems, it's possible that her entire outfit is supposed to be a Call Back to Ocarina.)
- Zelda (again, for the first time), in The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword.
- In Lost Odyssey, Jansen hears Ming playing her harp and guesses that the musician must be a beautiful woman: "No dude plays a harp."
- Played with in Dual Hearts. McTuve (a male) plays a small harp, contributing to his Viewer Gender Confusion mystique. Doesn't help that the game is not dubbed (save for battle cries).
- Edward the very feminine Prince in Final Fantasy IV is a harp speciliast, and used it during regular battles as well as to aid the party in their battle against the dark elf while hundreds of miles away.
- The Comet Observatory theme from Super Mario Galaxy.
- Ishmahri of Dragon Quest VIII is the Bishonen version of this.
- Cai Wenji in Dynasty Warriors is a serene, compassionate and kind woman, not to mention modest found in the faction of Wei. She's using her harp and whatever tone she plays as her weapon.
- In Fire Emblem Awakening, Cordelia and Phila are said to be very good harp players.
- totally subverted by this Youtube vid, possibly the heavenliest rendition of the Star Wars Cantina music ever... played by a teen boy
- Duchess in The Aristocats. Made more impressive by the fact that she's a cat.
- The Emperors New Groove: Kronk's (male) shoulder angel carries a harp, prompting his shoulder devil to mock the "sissy, stringy thing."
- At least one animated version of the "Rapunzel" fable has the title character playing a harp. It's hearing her "special song" that allows the blinded Prince to find her again.
- Lyra Heartstrings of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic has a lyre for a cutie mark. It's assumed she can play one rather well, though she's never shown playing a lyre or harp.
- ↑ A pony's cutie mark signifies his/her special talent and/or skill.