Invisibility in fiction
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Invisibility in fiction is a common plot device, found in both the science fiction and fantasy genres. In fantasy, invisibility is often invoked and dismissed at will, with a magic spell, a potion or a ring. In science fiction, invisibility is often conferred on the recipient as part of a complex process that is difficult or impossible to reverse, so that switching back and forth at frequent intervals is less likely to be done in science fiction.
Invisibility can be achieved by any number of different mechanisms, including perfect transparency without refraction, mechanisms that reroute light particles so that the subject is not apparent to viewers, and mind control techniques that cause the viewer's minds to simply edit out the subject. In the case of magic, often no attempt at explaining the mechanism is even used. In addition, there are many instances of imperfect invisibility such as cloaking devices in science fiction or the near-invisibility of fantastical creatures that are "out of phase" with this reality. In paranormal fiction, there can also be partial invisibility in that some people, such as psychics, may see invisible creatures or objects while others do not.
Strictly speaking, invisibility does not show up and so itself is not the subject of any special effects techniques, but the interaction of invisible subjects with the visible world does call for special effects, especially in the case of invisible people wearing visible clothing. Early films and television shows used wires and puppetry to simulate the existence of an invisible person, along with some scenes that used a matte process to delete certain elements in favor of the background. In The Invisible Man the initial shots swathed the actor's head in a black velvet hood and shot this against a black velvet background. Later, CGI techniques and green screens allowed for greater variety, such as showing rain drops on invisible man Chevy Chase in Memoirs of an Invisible Man.
- One of the first known fictional depictions of Invisibility is the Ring of Gyges described by Plato. According to the legend, Gyges of Lydia was a shepherd in the service of King Candaules of Lydia. After an earthquake, a cave was revealed in a mountainside where Gyges was feeding his flock. Entering the cave, Gyges discovered that it was in fact a tomb with a bronze horse containing a corpse, larger than that of a man, who wore a golden ring, which Gyges pocketed. He discovered that the ring gave him the power to become invisible by adjusting it. Gyges then arranged to be chosen as one of the messengers who reported to the king as to the status of the flocks. Arriving at the palace, Gyges used his new power of invisibility to seduce the queen, and with her help he murdered the king, and became king of Lydia himself. King Croesus, famous for his wealth, was Gyges' descendant.
- A Cloak of invisibility appears in such a Fairy tales as The Twelve Dancing Princesses. A more common trope is the cap of invisibility. The cap of invisibility has appeared in Greek myth: Hades was ascribed possession of a cap or helmet that made the wearer invisible. In some versions of the Perseus myth, Perseus borrows this cap from the goddess Athena and uses it to sneak up on the sleeping Medusa when he kills her. The thief Autolycus, grandfather of Odysseus, had a helmet to make him invisible. A similar helmet, the Tarnhelm, is found in Norse mythology - from which it was taken into Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen where it is used by Alberich in Das Rheingold. In the Second Branch of the Mabinogi, one of the important texts of Welsh mythology, Caswallawn (the historical Cassivellaunus) murders Caradog ap Bran and other chieftains left in charge of Britain while wearing a cloak of invisibility.
- The 14th Century Sir Launfal was provided by his fairy lover Tryamour with an invisible servant called Gyfre. Launfal then defeats the giant Valentyne, thanks to this invisible servant, who picks up his helmet and shield when Valentyne knocks them down.
- After gaining magical power through his pact with the Devil, Doctor Faustus - as depicted in Christopher Marlowe's play - travels to Rome. Armed with his new powers and attended by Mephastophilis, he goes to the Pope’s court, makes himself invisible, and plays a series of tricks. He disrupts the Pope’s banquet by stealing food and boxing the Pope’s ears .
- According to legend the seventh century St. Aidan protected a stag from a pack of hunting dogs by miraculously turning it invisible.
- A Message from Mars (1913)
- The Invisible Man (1933)
- The Invisible Man Returns (1940)
- The Invisible Woman (1940)
- Hellzapoppin' (1941)
- Invisible Agent (1942)
- The Vanishing Private (1942)
- The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944)
- Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
- Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
- Forbidden Planet (1956)
- Invisible Invaders (1959)
- The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)
- Mr. Superinvisible (1970)
- Now You See Him, Now You Don't (1972)
- Invisible Strangler (1976)
- Pete's Dragon (1977)
- The Man Who Wasn't There (1983)
- Predator (1987)
- Wee Sing in Sillyville (1989)
- Predator 2 (1990)
- Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)
- The Shadow (1994)
- Mystery Men (1999)
- Hollow Man (2000)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001) and its sequels
- Die Another Day (2002)
- The Lord of the Rings (film series) (2001, 2002, and 2003)
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
- The Incredibles (2004)
- Alien vs. Predator (2004)
- Fantastic Four (2005)
- Hollow Man II (2006)
- Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
- Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
- Tooth Fairy (2010)
- Predators (2010)
- Griff the Invisible (2011)
- Jurassic World (2015)
- Spectral (2016)
- The Invisible Man
- Danny Phantom
- Dynamo Duck
- Gemini Man
- Mutant X
- Simon Bellamy in Misfits
- Claude in Heroes
- Ord (when he gets scared) in Dragon Tales
- Ea in Invisible Woman Ea (Japan, 1998)
- Pinky with magic power in Noozles
- Invisi-Spray in Phil of the Future
- Reloy in Stitch!
- Ben Tennyson as Ghostfreak in Ben 10 and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien
- Ben Tennyson as Big Chill in Ben 10: Alien Force, Ultimate Alien and Omniverse
- Zs'Skayr in Ben 10 and Ben 10: Alien Force
- Susan "Sue" Storm in Fantastic Four (1967-1970), The New Fantastic Four (1978), Fantastic Four (1994-1996), and Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes.
- What Was It? A Mystery (1859) by Fitz James O'Brien
- The Crystal Man (1881) by Edward Page Mitchell
- The Damned Thing (1893) by Ambrose Bierce
- The Invisible Man (1897) by H. G. Wells
- The Plattner Story (1897) by H. G. Wells
- The Secret of Wilhelm Storitz (fr.: Le Secret de Wilhelm Storitz) (written around 1897, published 1910) by Jules Verne.
- The Murderer Invisible (1931) by Philip Wylie
- The Hobbit (1937) by J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
- Koko kaupungin Vinski (1954) by Aapeli
- Danny Dean, The Invisible Boy (דנידין הילד הרואה ואינו נראה) (1961-2001) Israeli series of children's books comprising 29 volumes he:דנידין הרואה ואינו נראה
- Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1987) by H.F. Saint
- The Invisible Detective by Justin Richards
- Fade (1988) by Robert Cormier
- Mina ja George (1996) by Tõnu Trubetsky
- Thessalonica (1997) by Harry Turtledove
- Harry Potter (1997–2007) by J. K. Rowling
- The Glamour by Christopher Priest
- Invisible! (2000) by Robert Swindells
- Things Not Seen (2001) by Andrew Clements
- The Visible Man (2011) by Chuck Klosterman
- Winfred Cowell, Smedaphites, and the Aliens(2012)by Lee Ching Kai
- Ring of Gyges
- Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan
- Shizuka in Translucent by Kazuhiro Okamoto.
- Invisible Woman of Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four
- Martian Manhunter of DC Comics' Justice League
- Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes imagines himself to turn invisible.
- Doraemon and his 'invisibility cloak' gadget.
- Näkymätön Viänänen by Jorma "Jope" Pitkänen
- Optic Camo soldiers, Fennek Stealth scouts and Akula MBTs in Act of War: Direct Action and High Treason
- Ghosts, Wraiths, Observers, Dark Templar, and Infested Kerrigan/Duran in StarCraft
- Active Camouflage power in the Halo series
- Predator Cloaking Device in Predator and AVP video games
- Cloaking device powerup in Super Smash Bros. Melee
- Spy cloak in Team Fortress and Team Fortress 2
- Stealth Camo in the series Metal Gear Solid
- Vanish Cap powerup in Super Mario 64
- Potion and Boo's Sheet powerup in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
- Luigi turns invisible with Flower Power in Super Mario 64 DS
- Smoke and Reptile possess a special move to turn invisible in the Mortal Kombat series
- In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, a player can enchant multiple objects with a percentage of invisibility which creates 100% invisibility when worn. When combined with 100% stealth, this renders the player completely unable to be seen or heard by enemies. Enchanted invisibility is distinctly different from chameleon which only allows limited camouflage.
- The Chinese Stealth Suit of Fallout 3 allows the player to turn invisible whilst crouching. Stealth Boys offer the same effect.
- The Nanosuit in the Crysis series allows the player to have active camouflage hence being invisible.
- In Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier the player activates the cloak automatically by crouching, if the player gets too close to an enemy. He will be compromised.
- In Deus Ex, the player is able to activate an invisibility cloak, which is effective against human NPCs. There is also a cloak which diverts microwaves, rendering the player invisible to cameras, automated turrets and bots.
- Rain features an invisible world revealed by the rain.
- In Lego Jurassic World, the Indominus rex can become completely invisible whilst Owen Grady can use an invisibility cloak to become invisible (actually transparent and merely hidden to the Indominus' eyesight).
- Dungeons and Dragons and many other Role-Playing Games use several methods of invisibility, including magic potions, spells or devices.
Metaphorical Use of the concept
- As detailed in disambiguation page "The Invisible Man", this has been the title of numerous works. Some of them deal with the fictional depiction of literal invisibility, while others use the title metaphorically in reference to members of discriminated or marginalized groups in society.
- In Republic book 10, Socrates refers to the ring as belonging to Gyges himself, not his ancestor, as Glaucon states in Book 2. For this reason, the story is simply called "The Ring of Gyges".
- Maria Tatar, The Annotated Brothers Grimm, p 332 W. W. Norton & company, London, New York, 2004 ISBN 0-393-05848-4
- Edith Hamilton, Mythology, p 29, ISBN 0-451-62702-4
- Gantz, Jeffrey (translator) (1987). The Mabinogion, p. 80. New York: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-044322-3.