For any manga to run two decades, there has to be an excess of creative influences to power the author attempting the undertaking, and Eiichrio Oda, the creator of One Piece, is no exception. Drawing from various sources, including pop culture and films, Oda frequently weaves dense mythology from around the world to enrich the lively world of One Piece.
Most readers and viewers have decoded some of the larger homages to myth in the manga, but so replete is One Piece with mythological references that there are several myth correlations in One Piece that many fans probably missed.
10 The Sun Tree
In the Fishman Island arc, fans learn that the submerged island, residing on the ocean floor, sustains the vitality of its citizenry via an immense tree that siphons sunlight from the surface. The tree itself also forms the roots of the Mangrove trees, essential to daily life on the Sabaody Archipelago.
This is reminiscent of the Yggdrasil the world tree of Norse mythology. Just as the Sun Tree tethers the worlds of One Piece, Yggdrasil binds all of the worlds that shape the Norse myth.
The labyrinthian tunnels of the undersea prison Impel Down, which is itself a reference to the Italian novel The Divine Comedy, specifically Dante’s Inferno, are already enough of a chore to navigate, irrespective of the guards that litter the place.
One of the most powerful jailers that protect the prison is Minotaurus, a gigantic minotaur that roams the floors. In Greek mythology, the minotaur is similarly confined to a maze to act as an unwitting guard that slays all who are foolish enough to enter.
Enel doesn’t draw from one specific myth, but rather all of the prominent lighting deities across the planet. During his battle with Luffy, Enel lists a variety of attacks that are seemingly innocuous to most fans, but they pay homage to the diverse myths that inspired his creation in the real world.
In no particular order, there’s Hinon, a reference to the Iroquois thunder deity; Shango, the Yorba lightning deity of Africa; and El Thor, alluding to the Norse deity that also inspired the Marvel character.
7 Raijin Island
Expanding on the previous entry, the deity that Enel borrows from the most on a visual level is the Japanese thunder god Raijin, hence the ring of drums adorned on his back, but the connections to the aforementioned Raijin don’t stop there.
After disembarking from Fishman Island, the Strawhats are given a trio of Islands to choose from to initiate the next leg of their journey. One of the Islands is plagued by an eternally violent electrical storm, which provides its given name of Raijin.
6 Boa Hancock
With her ability to turn anyone who gazes at her lustfully to stone, Boa Hancock’s mythological allusion to Medusa is fairly obvious. Similar to the Greek myth, Boa and her sisters are even called the Gorgons.
However, few know that Medusa, in the Greek lore, gains her serpentine hair and monstrous disposition from breaking a sacred vow of chastity by falling in love with Posiden. In the inverted version that One Piece presents, Boa becomes less of a monster after falling in love with Luffy.
5 Pell and Chaka
As two minor characters in the epic Alabasta arc, Pell and Chaka are often disregarded as seemingly insignificant in the One Piece lore. Pell, with his hawk visage, is representative of the Egyptian solar deity Horus and Chaka, his jackal-headed companion, represents Anubis, the Egyptian deity of death.
In the Egyptian myth, the two are siblings. Armed with this knowledge, Pell’s sacrificial ascent and improbable resurrection in the arc’s climax become metaphorically clear, as the Sun always rises- especially when he’s friends with death personified.
Reminiscent of Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Poneglyphys also have another mythological connection. In One Piece the Poneglyphs are said to possess the lost history of the world the characters inhabit, making them similar to the emerald tablets of Toth/Hermes.
Compiling a host of arcane and esoteric knowledge, the emerald tablets are believed to have information on the lost city of Atlantis, which, depending on your belief, either ascended or sank. Two of the most important Poneglyphs in the series were found in Skypeia and Atlantis, respectively.
3 Queen Otohime
Among one of the most tragic character backstories in the series, Otohime, as a character, could be regarded as merely plot fodder to amplify the tension between humans and Fishmen; and unless one is versed in Japanese mythology her metaphorical significance is void.
Borrowing heavily from the Japanese myth Toyotama-hime, who flees the sea to marry a surface dweller, Otohime also serves as a symbol of interspecies unity. Toyotama-hime also correlates to another ancient Japanese character also named Otohime in the fable of Urashima Taro.
Toyotama-hime, as mentioned in the previous entry, is the daughter of the famous Japanese sea god, or kami, known as Watasmui. Although presented as a dragon in the traditional folklore, his name and size are a direct inspiration on the bumbling Wadatsumi in One Piece. Unlike his predecessor Watasumi, Wadatsumi is gullible and weak.
Throughout the Fishman Island arc, Wadatsumi battles the Kraken, also a mythical sea monster, in what is a thrilling clash of eastern and western leviathans, akin to Godzilla battling King Kong.
Aside from the obvious references to Erik the Red, famous Viking pirate, Red-Haired Shanks bears a curious correlation to the Greek war deity Tyr. In the ancient myth, Tyr willingly offers his arm to a ferocious wolf as an act of charity that is prophesized to bring balance to the realms.
Similarly, Shanks offered his arm to save series protagonist Luffy, who himself is also heavily implied to be the catalyst that could restructure the world following the impending war for the titular One Piece.
One Piece pulls a lot of ideas from Mythology, but there are quite a few correlations that even the biggest fans probably missed.