Created By: Menarker on May 10, 2012 Last Edited By: Menarker on May 21, 2012
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Humans Are Smelly

Humans smell odd to other Races

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In real life, body odor is a fact of life that is inevitable for most if not all humans. Get a little sweaty, delay a little (or a lot) since your last bath and you might accumulate a scent that at least annoys if not offend others of your kind. Otherwise, some people seem genetically disposed to a bad scent or have a disease that creates this as a symptom. However, with basic hygiene most of us do not have a scent that very noticeable in day to day life.

This trope is not about that though. Or rather, not exactly.

This trope is about humans provoking a reaction, possibly through no fault of their own, to other races like elves, dwarves or hobbits but can easily include other races, especially those with unusual sense of smell. Often among more arrogant races, like elves, this may be one of the reasons they'll cite for the inferiority of humans, or rather the superiority of their own race. Bonus points if they describe the aroma as something very unusual we wouldn't generally link to human body odor. Due to the nature of this trope requiring the response of a non-human party, this trope is normally reserved for fantasy genres.

Note that for this trope to apply, this must be a human whose body scent must be in a state where other humans present would not object to the scent but others would. Someone who sacrifices basic hygiene or having a condition that creates a bad body odor that will offend humans is likely to provoke a justified response to anyone else having similar sense of smell (although such a odor might still further give cause for a non-human to say humans are smelly.) This trope also does not apply to artifically induced odors such as a Skunk attack, which could possibly give that odor to anything, not just humans. Finally, the scent need not be offensive, although reactions that view the scent of human as being very favorable is likely to be rare.

I'm a little lacking in terms of examples at the moment, but I would bet there are plenty of references for those willing to look for it.

One frequent running gag in the Webcomic Order of the Stick is for the halfling Belkar (who is also a gourmet chef and thus has a honed sense of smell) to state that humans stink horribly to the point of causing him misery every day. http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0838.html In this particular case, the scent he smelled that strip is unusual, but since he comments that this distress is a daily occurance the example works.

In the webcomic of Flintlocke's Guide to Azeroth, the elf Kathrena describes humans (to the fellow human Schweitzer) as all smelling as sweat and barbeque sauce and to which the dwarf Flintlocke shows up and ask if someone is cooking barbeque. http://pc.gamespy.com/flintlockes-guide-to-azeroth/episode-14-the-scarlet-hootenanny/675687p1.html

Community Feedback Replies: 20
  • May 10, 2012
    JonnyB
    Film
    • In The Matrix, Agent Smith tells Morpheus that to him (and presumably to other agents and machine programs), humans stink.

    Truth In Television
  • May 10, 2012
    crowlover
    Anime & Manga

    • In Spirited Away, several bathhouse workers complain about Chihiro's "human smell."
  • May 10, 2012
    fulltimeD
    Star Trek Voyager: Humans smell really bad to the Voth, a reptilian species descended from dinosaurs, with highly advanced olfactory faculties.
  • May 10, 2012
    Dawnwing
    • In Warrior Cats, the feline characters believe that humans smell, and even once the main character earns his place in the Clan (since he was born as a house cat), other cats still occasionally insult him by saying he smells like humans.
  • May 11, 2012
    AgProv
    It happens betwen widely seperated civilizations on this planet too. Take James Clavell's Shogun. Initially the first European visitors to Japan were considered filthy and repugnant, even though at the time Europeans bathed at least once a year, whether they needed to or not. Once the wisest and most pragmatic Europeans adopted a Japanese standard of personal hygeine - far higher than anything prevailing in England, Holland or Spain at the time - the Japanese accepted we could make an effort not to nasally assault decent people. But the Japanes, who lived a largely vegtarian diet, still maintained Europeans stank because all the meat we habitually ate made a difference, and leeched out of our bodies in the form of more intangible sweat and odours. (A theory modern science and observations sems to have proven - meat eaters do smell differently to veggies, howver clean they keep themselves. )
  • May 11, 2012
    JonnyB
    If I recall correctly, this is also mentioned in Alex Haley's Roots (in the book, anyway). The Africans remark that the white slavers have a distinctive unpleasant odor (I believe it was said they smelled like wet chickens).
  • May 11, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Classic Traveller, The Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society issue 10, article "Contact! Centaurs". The alien race called the K'Kree (AKA Centaurs) were vegetarians who couldn't stand the smell of humans who had recently eaten meat. Before meeting a Centaur, humans had to eat a vegetarian diet for several days to clean all the meat (and its smell) out of their systems.
  • May 11, 2012
    NateTheGreat
    SF Debris was annoyed when Star Trek Enterprise declared that humans smell funny to Vulcans. After thirty-five years an who knows how many other Vulcan characters in proximity to humans, now is when this little tidbit is revealed.
  • May 11, 2012
    Dawnwing
    • In Runt by Marion Dane Bauer, after Runt is healed by humans, his mother keeps washing him over and over, trying to get the human scent off him, even when he thinks it's gone.
  • May 14, 2012
    SharleeD
    • In Nor Crystal Tears, one of the things the thranx find objectionable about the weird bipedal creatures they've taken prisoner is their sweaty/greasy mammalian body odor.

    • Some fastidious pet animals, such as cats or fancy rats, tend to groom their fur thoroughly after being stroked by humans, as if they enjoy the affection but don't want our smell to linger on their coats.
  • May 14, 2012
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    • In Green Lantern Kilowog sniffs Hal Jordan, loud and long, before remarking: "You smell funny."
    • In The Fifth Element it is inverted. Ruby Rhod is complaining about the aliens assaulting his show, and cries, "They stink!" and the general identifies them as Mangalores.
    • In The Last Starfighter it is semi-inverted. Centauri, who looks like a human because of a disguise but is really an alien himself, warns that the Zando Zan assassins smell terrible; apparently they smell bad to any humanoid lifeform. This turns out to be more than a complaint as someone whiffs them later on -- but it doesn't save them from the alien assassins.
  • May 14, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    The Witches: Human children, though not adults, smell just like dog droppings to witches. They use this trait to help them track down children to destroy them.
  • May 14, 2012
    SharleeD
    • Half-elf Morley in the Garrett PI series taunts Garrett about how his meat-eating habits make him smell funny, although he may be just kidding about that.
  • May 17, 2012
    Fanra
    It happens betwen widely seperated civilizations on this planet too. Take James Clavell's Shogun. Initially the first European visitors to Japan were considered filthy and repugnant,

    The Native Americans felt this way about the Europeans when they arrived. Considering most Europeans felt bathing was dangerous to their health, this is not surprising.

    • As mentioned in a Cracked article.
      The natives, for their part, viewed Europeans as "just plain smelly" according to first hand records.
  • May 17, 2012
    Fanra
    In Venus on the Half-Shell, a science fiction novel attributed to the fictional author Kilgore Trout but actually written by Philip Jose Farmer, among the hundreds of alien races in the galaxy, humans are known as the smelly ones. Wondering why humans smell so bad to other races, some of whom smell like a sewer, it is pointed out that human morals stink, so that makes our smell stink.
  • May 17, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Perhaps Smelly Humans makes for a wittier title.

    Or even better: Humans Stink. (not related to Humans Are Bastards)
  • May 17, 2012
    Dawnwing
    • In Portal 2, Wheatley tells a story about how he was landed with the job of "tending to all the smelly humans". He quickly remembers that Chell is human and corrects himself.
  • May 17, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Or the inevitable suggestion of Humans Are Smelly Bastards.
  • May 21, 2012
    electronshock
    Birdy The Mighty, in a way. Altans are physically very similar to humans, and all the other non humanoid races seem to say Altans smell (strongly enough that some of them can track Altans amongst humans by scent alone). Humans can't smell Altans, and Humans aren't particularly smelly to the other races.
  • May 21, 2012
    DrDougsh
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