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File:Army of the dead.jpg

Do you have any idea how long we've been waiting to kick ass?

And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them,[...] and breath entered them, and they came to life and stood up on their feet - a vast army.

The Evil Army is about to overrun our stronghold! Hold the Line tactics worked just fine until The Dragon showed up and smashed a bloody great hole in our defenses. It looks like the enemy has won... but wait! The wizard has finished that spell he was working on! There's a horn sounding over the horizon.

Wait... why are all our fallen comrades in the courtyard stirring? Is that army coming over the hills... translucent?

Man, I sure am glad the Army of the Dead is on our side. They're tearing The Evil Army right up. I sure hope we can keep these guys around! ...What do you mean, "good for one battle only?"

The essence of this trope is: Fallen allies, usually having died either in the battle at hand or in a previous battle with the same enemy, rise temporarily from the dead en masse and contribute to the ongoing battle in some critical way. The undead in question are more likely to be spectral than physical, but both are possible. The important part is that the loyalty of the fallen is preserved. Also, the Army of the Dead can help win the (usually climactic or highly significant) battle, but they can't then join the standing army. They tend only to last until the immediate threat is vanquished.

The Trope Namer and possibly also modern Trope Codifier is the Army of the Dead from Lord of the Rings. However, it's Older Than They Think.

See Also: The Cavalry, Big Damn Heroes, Desperation Attack. Contrast Animate Dead, where the original loyalty of the raw materials isn't relevant.

ENDING TROPE! Unmarked Spoilers ahead.

Examples of Army of the Dead include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Saint Seiya, Hades brings back to life fallen Gold Saints of Athena granting them 12 hours to bring him her head. If they do so he may bring them back to life for real. It turns out that they remained loyal to their Goddess nonetheless and only accepted Hades' deal to warn her about the upcoming Holy War while killing some members of Hades' army in the process. Once the 12 hours delay expired they disappeared to return to the Underworld (where they join again to fire a super Combined Energy Attack).
  • In Fate/Zero, among the Noble Phantasms owned by Servant Rider, Alexander the Great, is his Reality Marble: Ionioi Hetairoi, "Army of the King". After the boundary field is set, his entire army from life slowly appear, each and every one so ferociously loyal to Alexander that death itself can not keep them from aiding their king. 100 of the greatest assassins in history? Meet the army that conquered the world.



  • In JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the Dead of Dunharrow, who over three thousand years ago betrayed Isildur by running away and not coming to his aid against Sauron, are called upon by his descendant Aragorn to fulfill their oath and have peace afterwards. They are released after defeating the fleet of Umbar coming up the river Anduin. This stops Sauron getting reinforcements at the Battle of Minas Tirith, frees the now unoccupied South Gondorian soldiers, and conveniently provides transport to get them up the river to Minas Tirith to once again turn the tide of the battle.
  • Subverted in the Zombie Survival Guide. The Japanese and Soviets attempt to create armies of undead to unleash upon their enemies. It doesn't work.
  • At the end of The Princess and the Bear, the animal magic brings all the dead soldiers on the protagonists' side back to fight.
  • In Micah E. F. Martin's The Canticle, any Necromancer or High Dead worth his salt has a legion of starving ghouls at their beck and call.
  • In the climax of Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, the shades of the last several people Voldemort murdered come out of his wand and swarm him, giving Harry just enough time to escape.
  • In the last book of His Dark Materials, Lyra and Will have to travel through the land of the dead and dead characters from the last several books decide to come along with them to help Lord Asriel's side in the fight against The Authority's angels.
  • In The Bible, Ezekiel, with God's help, raised his own army of the dead.

Video Games

  • In Age of Mythology, when you lose normal army units while playing as the Greeks worshiping Hades, you will receive weak "shade" units at your temple. They're weak and vulnerable, but they don't count toward your Arbitrary Headcount Limit, making them great for a Zerg Rush or as last-ditch Cannon Fodder.
    • There's also a God Power, Ancestors. It summons a bunch of zombies to fight your enemies, but only for about a minute.
    • Also, there's the Einherjar, if you're Nordic.
  • Spellforce 2 Paladins, on their deaths, turn into killable ghost warriors who fade over time. They're only slightly weaker than the original unit, so they're useful for pressing an attack or covering a retreat.
  • In Warcraft III, Paladins and their evil counterparts the Death Knights both have the ability to resurrect dead units en masse. The main difference is that the Paladin fully restores them to life permanently to normal life again, but only friendly units, while the Death Knight summons up shades of either allied or enemy units temporarily, but those shades are indestructible during that time.
    • In World of Warcraft, the ability is actually called "Army of the Dead"! However, the way it works changed significantly, most likely due to the Genre Shift from a RTS to a MMORPG. The World Of Warcraft version of the ability simply summons 10 ghouls from the ground to fight for the Death Knight for a limited time. It doesn't require nearby corpses, and the ghouls mindlessly swarm the area and don't have any special abilities, but the spell can still be a very effective "panic button" in some situations.
  • In Phantom Brave, Marona's power is to communicate with spirits, and give them corporeal form, basically making an army once you make enough player characters.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • Used by both sides in the Olympics plot of DC Nation. to be fair, they were fighting Hades. Jerkass God he is, he killed off Nightwing and Arsenal, then sends an army of undead rogues, skeletons, and victims. just when it looks like the heroes are up a creek, here comes Hawkman, flanked by the two fallen Titans and bringing in fallen allies for one Battle Royale With Cheese.

Western Animation