You guys may have heard this term before. I often see critics talking about it in some Studio Ghibli's movies where the reviewers say that the antagonist is the force of nature itself.

But I also see stories where people say that the force of nature is personified.

It is said that Chigur from No Country for Old Men is a force of nature antagonist. It is said that some antagonist robots from Isaac Asimov's stories are forces of nature. It is also said that the Chandrian from the Kingskiller chronicles is a force of nature antagonist. I got these few examples which I dont know if they are pure opinion-based visions or not.

My question cannot be more simplified than this: What makes a personified force of nature?

This question may involve these ones to incite imagination in your answer: He/she should be antagonist all the time or not? What kind of person he/she would be? Why he/she would act the way he acts? How powerful should he/she be to be considered "a force of nature"? I know that the question sounds simple and that the answers might be huge, but this is a topic I would like to see being answered with different visions.

I think that the core of the question is in the word "MAKES." It makes the question to be more specific and have some good answers for it too.

PS: I'm new to SE and I dont know if my question is good or clear enough. I shall be reading your feedback in the comments if you guys need anything from my question.

4 Answers 4


The phrase "force of nature" refers, properly speaking, to a natural phenomenon outside the control of human beings. The key idea here is can't be controlled because, typically, it's too strong.

When referring to people as "forces of nature", that's still the key idea: a strong person that defies societal rules (and, therefore, can't be controlled by human society).

I tend to see characters that are 'forces of nature' more as protagonists than antagonists: they typically identify a social problem and fight against it. Society may try to force them to conform but they still carry on until they manage to reach their goal.

It's not so much about physical powers or strength, but rather inner strength. The power to force one's way against everyone else. It requires a deep faith in the righteousness of one's path (or an incredible level of stubbornness) and the capacity to suffer for a future greater good.

Of course the phrase can also be applied to people who are simply unstoppable: they want something for themselves (or their family / people / country / etc) and will stop at nothing (including atrocities) to get it. Such characters can still be ready to sacrifice themselves for their family's greater good, for example, ot they can be spoilt little brats that will step on anyone who's in their way.

Talking about Studio Ghibli films, I'd say the characters are sometimes less 'forces of nature' as I mentioned above and more 'representations of nature'. In Mononoke Hime, for example, the fight between the animal-gods and the humans can be seen as a fight between nature and humanity and both San and Ashitaka become their representatives, although breaking away from the blind conflict and searching for a balanced end to it.

  • A very good answer. I didnt see that protagonists can be a force of nature too. This have opened my mind!
    – Hanilucas
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 18:10

In this context, I would take it to mean someone who cannot be reasoned with. When dealing with a mountain or a rainstorm, you can't reason with them or reach a deal or a compromise with them. When you are dealing with a normal human being, on the other hand, you can reason with them or make a deal with them.

To describe a person as a force of nature, is to say that you can't bargain with them or reach a deal with them. They are as implacable as a mountain or a rain storm.

The term is used in much looser sense as well, to describe someone of great energy or abundant personality, but I think it is the sense described above that most likely fits the intent in the examples you cite.

  • 1
    Your answer reminds me of the Joker. He could be traited as a force of nature, just like Albert said "Some men dont want money or power. They just want see the world burn."
    – Hanilucas
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 12:20
  • But he could also follow a strict moral code or rules, like Chigur or an AI
    – Hanilucas
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 12:27
  • 1
    @Hanilucas, either way, be it someone who just wants to watch the world burn or someone who follows a strict set of rules, you can't bargain with them. Like the mountain or the rainstorm they are, in a strange sense, incorruptible. They cannot be turned from their purpose.
    – user16226
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 13:35
  • 1
    Exactly. On Star Trek: Voyager, the Borg were described this way in "Dauntless": "The Borg Collective is like a force of nature. You don't feel anger toward a storm on the horizon, you just avoid it." They are impacable, unstoppable, and have no capacity for negotiation. (At least, that's how they were devised; that later changed as plots demanded.) Commented May 3, 2017 at 15:27

The traditional "man vs nature" plotline is animated by the struggle of a person or group of people against an implacable, depersonalized force of nature. The flood, or tornado,or hailstorm, or fire can't be reasoned against, it isn't out to get the protagonists, and it cares neither if they live or die. This typically leads to a very different kind of story than one with a human antagonist.

It's possible, however, to have a book with a human antagonist, but a plotline that is closer to the "man vs nature" archetype. There is no reasoning with this antagonist, he or she is implacable, relentless but possibly disinterested (not personally invested in the outcome). There is no meaningful relationship between the protagonist and the antagonist.

Inspector Javert in Les Miserables and the biker from hell in Raising Arizona are two figures that come to mind in this light. Both are clearly human beings that do interact with the protagonists at various points, but in the context of the structure of the plotlines, they arguably operate more as "forces of nature."

  • I might argue against Javert. Later in the story he becomes more personally invested in chasing down specifically Prisoner 24601. (Also, in the musical, at least, he's given more of a backstory and a personality.) Valjean's escape and success offend Javert on a personal level, and Valjean's innate and demonstrated goodness and repeated acts of mercy go against Javert's rigid view of Justice and Wrongdoers. In both book and musical, he cannot reconcile evidence with belief, and kills himself. Forces of nature don't behave that way. Commented May 3, 2017 at 21:41
  • I'm surprised you didn't list the numerous antagonists from "The Terminator" franchise, all of whom are robots designed to look as human as possible for the purposes of assassination of human beings. Since the original film, the inability to reason with a Terminator has been a feature of the killing machines that makes them more terrifying than their inhuman resistance to pain. They are single minded in their mission.
    – hszmv
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 12:57

It can be a good thing, as if someone’s life path carries with it their goodness and positive effects on those around them, that when any thing or person tries to harm them, nature reacts in their defense to protect them from harm. You reap what you sow.

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