Created By: Nathanoraptor on October 19, 2017 Last Edited By: Nathanoraptor on October 24, 2017
Troped

Heinous Hyena

Hyenas in a work are evil.

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Hyenas are portrayed as evil in fiction. Sometimes they are depicted as insane Ax-Crazy sadists. Other times, they are depicted as stupid Dirty Cowards. The majority of the time, however, they're depicted as dirty, smelly Villainous Gluttons. These hyenas also have a fondness for laughing and a fear (and hatred) of lions.

How many times have you seen a good hyena in fiction? None? Very few? That's because of this trope. Aversions of this trope are incredibly rare. This trope does not only apply to actual hyenas, but humans or other creatures that use hyena symbolism; comparing a character with an unpleasant laugh to a hyena is particularly common in fiction.

Fictional hyenas are almost always spotted hyenas; striped and brown hyenas are much, much rarer.

Subtrope of Scavengers Are Scum. Contrast King of Beasts (hyenas are the Unpleasant Animal Counterpart to lions). Compare The Hyena, which is a character that's constantly laughing (and is not always, but quite often, a literal hyena).

Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Harley Quinn has traditionally kept a pair of hyenas named Bud and Lou, which she has used in the dual role of personal pets and attack animals. These two hyenas sometimes accompany Harley during a brazen heist to keep the hostages / customers / incidentals at bay. Nosy goofballs throw Harley off her groove, y'know? Bud and Lou would migrate to Batman: The Animated Series along with Harley

     Film - Animation 

     Literature 
  • In The Island of Doctor Moreau, the nastiest of the Beast Folk was created from a hyena and a pig.
  • In the Earth's Children series Ayla has a strong aversion to hyenas, ever since a hyena grabbed a baby during a mammoth hunt. She sees hyenas as scum and will never allow a hyena around. She is otherwise a Friend to All Living Things (even those she kills for food).
  • Averted in the children's book Pinduli, which is one of the few sympathetic depictions of hyenas. The protagonist is a young hyena who gets teased by other animals because of her looks. The book also lists various facts about hyenas at the end. This book was written by the author of a number of other books about unpopular animals, including Stellaluna (about a bat), Virdi (about a snake), and Crickwing (about a cockroach).

    Mythology and Folklore 
  • The crocotta is a vicious mythical animal from Roman and Medieval bestiaries and accounts, said to inhabit subsaharan Africa, India or both and resemble a monstrous doglike or wolflike animal. It was reputed to have a single ridge of bone in each jaw rather than teeth, to dig up and eat human corpses and to switch genders every year. Its most notable characteristic was its ability to imitate human voices, an ability it used to lure humans and dogs out of their homes and into the wilderness. Those who answered its calls were set upon by the beast and viciously torn to pieces. There was a similar creature called the leucrocotta, which had much the same appearance and attributes, but also had hooves and was reputed to be an extremely swift runner. It is generally agreed that the creature was inspired by real life accounts of hyenas, which do indeed produce human-like vocalizations (such as their famous "laughter") and whose genders are notoriously difficult to tell apart (female hyenas are bigger than the males, in the inverse of how it usually works for mammals, and most notably their sexual organs resemble those of mammal males far more than they resemble those of other female mammals). The scientific name of the spotted hyena, Crocuta crocuta, was directly inspired by the mythical crocotta.
  • In many African — especially West African — traditions, hyenas do not exactly enjoy a stellar reputation. They are often associated with a great variety of negative traits (exactly which ones often depends on the culture and tradition in question), including deviousness, brutishness, immorality, gluttony, subversive and unwholesome behavior and filthiness.
    • At least one myth, from the Tanzanian Gogo people, blames hyenas for human mortality: according to the myth, humans were originally supposed to be made immortal, but a hyena kept this from happening to ensure it would always have plenty of corpses to eat.
    • Hyenas are also associated with evil magic. They are often paired with witches: in the folklore of the Mbugwe people of Tanzania, for instance, all hyenas are considered to be under the control of witches, who keep them as familiars, milk them and use them as mounts. Other traditions include shapeshifting werehyenas, creatures often considered evil and wicked.
    • This has spread beyond the native animistic religions: the Christian Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Ethiopia uses hyenas to symbolize criminal behavior and sexual deviancy.
    • This is, however, averted in a number of other traditions which see hyenas in a more positive light. For example, the mythology of the Lungu people credits a hyena with bringing the sun — and, consequently, warmth and life — to a previously cold and barren Earth.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Gnolls are monstrous humanoids resembling hyenas that were originally created by the demon lord Yeenoghu. They are Always Chaotic Evil to the point that the 5th edition Monster Manual compares them to demons in that they lack anything resembling a conscience and nothing can sway them from their destructive tendencies.

    Web Original 
  • Orion's Arm: Sapient spotted hyenas are one the many kinds of Uplifted Animals among the Terragen civilizations. While not evil, as such, they are noted to be very aggressive and competitive compared to other sapients, something carried over from their non-sapient ancestors. As such, they have long-standing problems with conflicts with both each other and other sapients, as well as recurring issues of fratricide among their young before they can be properly socialized.
    • As they developed as a people in their own right, they ended up consciously embracing the stereotypes of this trope: while neurological and biological modifications were available to dampen their aggressive tendencies, the sapient hyenas saw these as anthropocentric attempts to erase their identity as a species and turn them into yet another clade of humans in animal bodies. As such, most sapient hyenas ended up celebrating their status as aggressive outcasts and pariahs unwanted by mainstream civilization. Of course, many hyenas did choose to take the behavioral modifications, and considered the hyenas still enamored with this trope to be backward savages obsessed with glorifying violence.
    • Overall, sapient hyenas in the setting's present have tendency to live in highly hierarchical matriarchies, to have personalities tending to being aggressive and vindictive and to spend a great deal of time jockeying for position amongst each other, although they are also highly social and cooperative. Notable hyenas in the galaxy include the inhabitants of Skulk, a gas giant dotted with floating habitats home to hyena clans, which were unified by a hyena matriarch named Belligerence in a bloody power grab. Some centuries in the past there was also a band of mercenary humanoid hyena cyborgs that rose to infamy when they attacked a peaceful habitat with maser weaponry, boarded it with several containers of salt and spices and devoured the soft-boiled bodies of its inhabitants over the course of a three-day feast.

    Web Comics 
  • Subverted by the anthropomorphic hyenas in Digger: the first group that Digger encounters have no qualms about targeting her for a Sapient Eat Sapient lunch, but she later befriends the tribe and finds them to be staunch allies.

     Video Games 
  • Out of the various Beast Man species that populate the WarCraft universe, the gnoll (humanoid hyenas) are one of the least noble ones.
  • In "'Pokémon'' the two Pokemon based on hyenas (Poochyena and Mightyena) are pure Dark-type.

     Western Animation 
  • The Lion Guard:
    • Zigzagged. A group of hyenas are the villains in the pilot and become recurring antagonists in the series; they are portrayed as thuggish and malevolent. However, a hyena named Jasiri mentions that hyenas serve as scavengers in the Circle of Life and tells Kion that not all hyenas are bad, and Kion and the Guard become close friends with a group of "good" hyenas (including Jasiri).
    • * All the Aardwolves (a small species of hyena) that appear in the show are "good." In fact, this trope is a plot point in their initial appearance, since they get mistaken for the "bad" spotted hyenas and chased out of the Pridelands by the Guard.
  • In Gargoyles, one of the most depraved members of the animal-themed mercenary group The Pack is named Hyena (according to Word of God she's a psychopath).
  • Harchi the hyena from Oscars Oasis is part of a villainous trio that tries to eat Oscar.
  • Krypto the Superdog: Bud and Lou, Harley Quinn's pair of pet spotted hyenas, appear as recurring antagonists.
  • Zig from Zig & Sharko is an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain who keeps trying to eat a mermaid. No, really.
  • Averted with Hardy from Lippy The Lion And Hardy Har Har. He's a nice guy, if a bit depressed.

Community Feedback Replies: 25
  • October 19, 2017
    intastiel
    • Subverted by the anthropomorphic hyenas in Digger: the first group that Digger encounters have no qualms about targeting her for a Sapient Eat Sapient lunch, but she later befriends the tribe and finds them to be staunch allies.
  • October 19, 2017
    Snicka
    Compare The Hyena, which is a character that's constantly laughing (and is not always, but quite often, a literal hyena).
  • October 19, 2017
    Astaroth
    Dungeons And Dragons: Gnolls are monstrous humanoids resembling hyenas that were originally created by the demon lord Yeenoghu. They are Always Chaotic Evil to the point that the 5th edition Monster Manual compares them to demons in that they lack anything resembling a conscience and nothing can sway them from their destructive tendencies.
  • October 20, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    It might be worth mentioning Animal Jingoism in the description, since these kind of hyenas often have it with lions, when both appear in the same setting.

    If you don't have indexes picked out, I think this trope might belong on Mammal Tropes and Added Alliterative Appeal. It also sounds like a subtrope of Animal Stereotypes and Good Animals Evil Animals.

    Web Original
    • Orions Arm: Sapient spotted hyenas are one the many kinds of Uplifted Animals among the Terragen civilizations. While not evil, as such, they are noted to be very aggressive and competitive compared to other sapients, something carried over from their non-sapient ancestors. As such, they have long-standing problems with conflicts with both each other and other sapients, as well as recurring issues of fratricide among their young before they can be properly socialized.
      • As they developed as a people in their own right, they ended up consciously embracing the stereotypes of this trope: while neurological and biological modifications were available to dampen their aggressive tendencies, the sapient hyenas saw these as anthropocentric attempts to erase their identity as a species and turn them into yet another clade of humans in animal bodies. As such, most sapient hyenas ended up celebrating their status as aggressive outcasts and pariahs unwanted by mainstream civilization. Of course, many hyenas did choose to take the behavioral modifications, and considered the hyenas still enamored with this trope to be backward savages obsessed with glorifying violence.
      • Overall, sapient hyenas in the setting's present have tendency to live in highly hierarchical matriarchies, to have personalities tending to being aggressive and vindictive and to spend a great deal of time jockeying for position amongst each other, although they are also highly social and cooperative. Notable hyenas in the galaxy include the inhabitants of Skulk, a gas giant dotted with floating habitats home to hyena clans, which were unified by a hyena matriarch named Belligerence in a bloody power grab. Some centuries in the past there was also a band of mercenary humanoid hyena cyborgs that rose to infamy when they attacked a peaceful habitat with maser weaponry, boarded it with several containers of salt and spices and devoured the soft-boiled bodies of its inhabitants over the course of a three-day feast.
  • October 20, 2017
    Snicka
    Anime:
  • October 20, 2017
    TonyG
  • October 20, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    Comic Books
    • Batman: Harley Quinn has traditionally kept a pair of hyenas named Bud and Lou, which she has used in the dual role of personal pets and attack animals.

    Mythology and Folklore
    • The crocotta is a vicious mythical animal from Roman and Medieval bestiaries and accounts, said to inhabit subsaharan Africa, India or both and resemble a monstrous doglike or wolflike animal. It was reputed to have a single ridge of bone in each jaw rather than teeth, to dig up and eat human corpses and to switch genders every year. Its most notable characteristic was its ability to imitate human voices, an ability it used to lure humans and dogs out of their homes and into the wilderness. Those who answered its calls were set upon by the beast and viciously torn to pieces. There was a similar creature called the leucrocotta, which had much the same appearance and attributes, but also had hooves and was reputed to be an extremely swift runner. It is generally agreed that the creature was inspired by real life accounts of hyenas, which do indeed produce human-like vocalizations (such as their famous "laughter") and whose genders are notoriously difficult to tell apart (female hyenas are bigger than the males, in the inverse of how it usually works for mammals, and most notably their sexual organs resemble those of mammal males far more than they resemble those of other female mammals). The scientific name of the spotted hyena, Crocuta crocuta, was directly inspired by the mythical crocotta.
    • In many African — especially West African — traditions, hyenas do not exactly enjoy a stellar reputation. They are often associated with a great variety of negative traits (exactly which ones often depends on the culture and tradition in question), including deviousness, brutishness, immortality, gluttony, subversive and unwholesome behavior and filthiness.
      • At least one myth, from the Tanzanian Gogo people, blames hyenas for human mortality: according to the myth, humans were originally supposed to be made immortal, but a hyena kept this from happening to ensure it would always have plenty of corpses to eat.
      • Hyenas are also associated with evil magic. They are often paired with witches: in the folklore of the Mbugwe people of Tanzania, for instance, all hyenas are considered to be under the control of witches, who keep them as familiars, milk them and use them as mounts. Other traditions include shapeshifting werehyenas, creatures often considered evil and wicked.
      • This has spread beyond the native animistic religions: the Christian Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Ethiopia uses hyenas to symbolize criminal behavior and sexual deviancy.
      • This is, however, averted in a number of other traditions which see hyenas in a more positive light. For example, the mythology of the Lungu people credits a hyena with bringing the sun — and, consequently, warmth and life — to a previously cold and barren Earth.

    Western Animation
    • Krypto The Superdog: Bud and Lou, Harely Quinn's pair of pet spotted hyenas, appear as recurring antagonists.

    EDIT: A thought occurred: to my knowledge, fictional hyenas are almost always spotted hyenas — striped and brown hyenas almost never appear. Might this be something worth putting in the description?
  • October 20, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Comic Books
    • Batman nemesis Harley Quinn keeps a pair of hyenas as pets, naming them Bud and Lou. These two hyenas sometimes accompany Harley during a brazen heist to keep the hostages / customers / incidentals at bay. Nosy goofballs throw Harley off her groove, y'know? Bud and Lou would migrate to Batman The Animated Series along with Harley.
  • October 20, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    ^ I'm gonna second the wording of this example over mine. Much better written.
  • October 21, 2017
    Snicka
    The numerous examples that came up now pretty much shows that hyenas are not Seldom Seen Species (on that trope page they are listed as an animal hardly ever seen in media outside The Lion King and Batman The Animated Series, which I always found weird).
  • October 21, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Pardon me, Theriocephalus, for stepping on your metaphorical toes. I didn't see Harley in the example section, and thought she'd been overlooked. I missed your entry entirely, because I'm a poor troper. Forgive me, Chief?

    Are we including aversions? Where hyena characters, though culturally different, prove helpful to other characters?
  • October 21, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    ^ No sweat. My example was pretty bare-bones anyway.

    If I remember correctly, wiki policy says that strict aversions — meaning situations where the trope is just not used — should not be listed. That said, situations where the trope is set up or implied and then not used, or talked about in the story, or similar — there's no rule against listing those. Obviously I don't know what OP had in mind, but that's the, quote unquote, official ruling on this sort of thing.
  • October 21, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    ^ No sweat. My example was pretty bare-bones anyway.

    If I remember correctly, wiki policy says that strict aversions — meaning situations where the trope is just not used — should not be listed. That said, situations where the trope is set up or implied and then not used, or talked about in the story, or similar — there's no rule against listing those. Obviously I don't know what OP had in mind, but that's the, quote unquote, official ruling on this sort of thing.
  • October 21, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    ^ No sweat. My example was pretty bare-bones anyway.

    If I remember correctly, wiki policy says that strict aversions — meaning situations where the trope is just not used — should not be listed. That said, situations where the trope is set up or implied and then not used, or talked about in the story, or similar — there's no rule against listing those. Obviously I don't know what OP had in mind, but that's the, quote unquote, official ruling on this sort of thing.
  • October 21, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    ^ No sweat. My example was pretty bare-bones anyway.

    If I remember correctly, wiki policy says that strict aversions — meaning situations where the trope is just not used — should not be listed. That said, situations where the trope is set up or implied and then not used, or talked about in the story, or similar — there's no rule against listing those. Obviously I don't know what OP had in mind, but that's the, quote unquote, official ruling on this sort of thing.
  • October 21, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    ... why in the world did my comment get repeated so many times?
  • October 21, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    Changed "immortality" to "immorality" in the mythology and folklore folder. Typo in my suggestion, my bad.
  • October 21, 2017
    Snicka
    ^^ Glitch happens.
  • October 21, 2017
    EdnaWalker
    To The Lion Guard example.

    • All the Aardwolves (a small species of hyena) that appear in the show are "good." They get mistaken for the "bad" Spotted hyenas in the show.
  • October 22, 2017
    Snicka
    ^ An addition to this: Since aardwolves are insectivores, they don't fall under the Scavengers Are Scum stereotype.
  • October 22, 2017
    Snicka
    ^ An addition to this: Since aardwolves are insectivores, they don't fall under the Scavengers Are Scum stereotype.
  • October 22, 2017
    Snicka
    Is there any reason why the Kimba The White Lion and Bedknobs And Broomstick examples I suggested are not added?
  • October 22, 2017
    Astaroth
    ^ Same question re my Dungeons & Dragons example
  • October 23, 2017
    MarkLungo
    I think an image of Scar's hench-hyenas from The Lion King would be the ideal image for this trope, because they're the best-known example and their perpetual Slasher Smiles make their evil nature very clear.
  • October 24, 2017
    Snicka
    This was launched before the examples were added...
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=9i10ls5hcl7dovgjvyqjhkzk