Created By: surgoshan on September 5, 2012 Last Edited By: Arivne on October 18, 2015

Nefarious Nose

Evil people use their noses.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Our sense of smell is a more primitive sense, tied directly into our limbic system, which controls memory emotion. In this way, smell is a much more direct and powerful sense than sight. It evokes emotions and memories directly.

Perhaps it's because the sense of smell is harder to visualize, but it tends not to show up as often among the suite of heroic powers. Heroes have magic eyes, villains have magic noses.

You can also expect an unpleasantly creepy unwelcome love interest to spend a lot of time sniffing a girl. See also The Nose Knows for general strong-nose incidents.


These examples stink

Film
  • Prince Humperdinck from The Princess Bride is an expert tracker, and can identify iocaine powder by smell, despite that it's said to be odorless.
  • In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the Child Catcher figures out there are children around by smell.

Literature
  • The creature, Mbwun, of The Relic has worse eyesight than a person, but a much better sense of smell, which is explicitly stated to be more primitive and emotional, leading the creature to go on a rampage during the museum party.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Elves and good Men have keen eyes while creatures of Mordor have keen noses. In particular, the Ringwraiths are often depicted as sniffing for their Hobbit quarry throughout their chase in The Fellowship of the Ring.
  • The protagonist of the novel Perfume is a mutant autistic sociopath, who primarily experiences the world by smell.
  • In Roald Dahl's The Witches, children give off a scent of fresh dog's droppings, which only the titular witches can detect.

Live-Action TV
  • Doctor Who. The Family of Blood chases the Doctor across time and space using their sense of smell and spends their episodes sniffing sinisterly.
  • When Xander gets infected by the spirit of a hyena in the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he spends a lot of time sniffing at Buffy.

Video Games
  • Killer Croc repeatedly tells Batman "I've got your scent" in Batman: Arkham Asylum and uses his sense of smell in his Easter Egg cameo appearance in the sequel.
  • Although it's a largely unexplored ability of his, Zexion of Kingdom Hearts is able to "smell" the scent of other characters' darkness.

Community Feedback Replies: 34
  • September 5, 2012
    McKathlin
    Film
    • Prince Humperdinck from The Princess Bride is an expert tracker, and can identify iocaine powder by smell, despite that it's said to be odorless.
  • September 5, 2012
    McKathlin
    The last paragraph in the description should pothole somewhere to Perverted Sniffing; that's the related trope that it describes.
  • September 5, 2012
    surgoshan
    I knew this wasn't completely original!
  • September 5, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    There are many examples of good guys using their nose. Monk often finds olfactory clues at a crime scene. Part of Wolverine's mutant power is a keen sense of smell. Chairs.
  • September 5, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the Child Catcher figures out there are children around by smell.
  • September 6, 2012
    Generality
    I think this exists, though I can't find it. I recall reading about how heroes tend to have enhanced vision and hearing, while villains have strong noses. But maybe that was specific to the following work:

    • In The Lord Of The Rings, Elves and good Men have keen eyes while creatures of Mordor have keen noses. In particular, the Ringwraiths are often depicted as sniffing for their Hobbit quarry throughout their chase in The Fellowship of the Ring.

    In any case, I think it has to do with basic anthropology. Humans use vision as their primary sense, whereas most other animals rely on their noses at least as much as their eyes. Thus animalistic characters have strong noses, and since most monsters are bestial, this goes hand-in-hand.
  • September 6, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    How about Villainous Sniffing? The current name could be interpreting as stinking instead of using the sense of smell.
  • September 6, 2012
    surgoshan
    rodneyAnonymous got me thinking; in addition to Monk and Wolverine, there's also Gus from Psych. With enough examples I'd be more than happy to just make a "people with strong schnozzes" trope, rather than "Villains and inversions".
  • September 6, 2012
    surgoshan
  • September 6, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    "There are many examples of good guys using their nose. Monk often finds olfactory clues at a crime scene. Part of Wolverine's mutant power is a keen sense of smell. Chairs."

    How is this chairs? You're lumping in two different tropes with this one (smell as a super sense, and paying attention to small details), but also forgetting that each of these is still significant in a work. Chairs is when it has no consequence or addition to the work, and all examples mentioned, even by you, have significance.
  • September 6, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    Ugh chairs is not "no significance at all". Anything that appears in any context in any work is arguably significant. That is still not what it means.

    It is chairs because "bad guys using smell" isn't a trope, it is just "using smell" + "bad guys". Perverted Sniffing is a particular thing; it is "irreducibly complex", in a sense. There is no extra tendency for villains to use their nose. No special significance to who is doing it. It is a beastly thing, maybe, but not an evil thing.
  • September 6, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Well you didn't put it that way in that other post. This is actually a good argument.

    Now if we put it that some characters can smell things other people can't (whether justified with super senses or not), that would make a trope.
  • September 6, 2012
    Generality
    See also The Nose Knows for general strong-nose incidents.
  • September 6, 2012
    Astaroth
    • In Roald Dahl's The Witches, children give off a scent of fresh dog's droppings, which only the titular witches can detect.
  • September 6, 2012
    X2X
    Video Games
    • Although it's a largely unexplored ability of his, Zexion of Kingdom Hearts is able to "smell" the scent of other characters' darkness.
  • September 6, 2012
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    • Lots of animal-sensed/themed characters have the enhanced sense of smell. Animal Man, Bwana Beast...
  • September 7, 2012
    randomsurfer
    See also the ykttw Can Smell Fear. Done by both heroes and villains, but more often villains.
  • September 7, 2012
    Lumpenprole
    The protagonist of the novel Perfume is a mutant autistic sociopath, who primarily experiences the world by smell.

  • September 7, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    I thought this was about smelly villains. Change the title, please.
  • November 11, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    Motion to discard.
  • November 11, 2012
    shimaspawn
    The real correlation here seems to be feral characters and people tied to nature in some way (hunters, trackers, etc.) use their noses. There doesn't seem to be any tie to evil characters specifically as a theme. I can think of a large number of heroic characters with a good sense of smell. Motion to discard as per Rodney.
  • November 11, 2012
    notShemp
    In The Hills Have Eyes 2, a mutant named "Grabber" is nearsighted and relies on his sense of smell to find people and travel through the dark.
  • July 29, 2015
    notShemp
    Bump
  • July 29, 2015
    eroock
    Compare Sinister Schnoz.
  • July 29, 2015
    WalterSmith
    The main villainess from the third movie of Madagascar franchise uses her keen nose to track the animals'truck during their trip at Monaco.
  • July 30, 2015
    Arivne
  • July 30, 2015
    TonyG
    In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Judge Doom discovers a record in the bar and sniffs it for Roger's scent, figuring out that he's hiding there.
  • July 31, 2015
    Arivne
    Film
    • The Silence Of The Lambs. When Clarice Starling first meets Hannibal Lecter he sniffs the air and is able to detect what perfume she is wearing.
  • October 17, 2015
    notShemp
    Bump.
  • October 18, 2015
    Snicka
    Related to Sinister Schnoz, where having a large nose is a sign of villainy. In fact, the current name is misleading, easy to confuse with Sinister Schnoz. I think Evil Sniffing, Sinister Sniffing, Villainous Sniffing or something along the line would be a better name.
  • October 18, 2015
    DAN004
    I can't get the idea of sniffing being a villainous trait. Sure heroes doesn't do it often (even though the sniffers examples that I'm thinking are all heroes) but I still don't see the "evilness" of the sniffing.
  • October 18, 2015
    Snicka
    I think it's because sniffing is a savage, animalistic action; therefore a person who sniffs is savage and animalistic, thus more likely to be a villain. And there's also Perverted Sniffing.
  • October 18, 2015
    StrixObscuro
    Theatre
  • October 18, 2015
    Generality
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=5npaytoyr5o74gmspeuzcwor