Created By: SharleeDMarch 15, 2013 Last Edited By: SharleeDApril 13, 2013
Troped

Gigantic Adults, Tiny Babies

Tremendous creatures tend to have babies tiny enough to interact with and/or look cute to humans

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Trope
When a very large creature such as a Kaiju first appears in fiction, it's usually alone, and menacing for its sheer size even if it's not ferocious. If it acquires offspring, or is shown in flashback as an infant, the image of baby creatures invariably differs: unable to loom like an adult, the juvenile's depiction will become cute and cuddly (if it's friendly) or fast-moving and in-your-face (if it still wants to eat you). Either way, this transition from towering bulk to close contact is facilitated by making the subadult creature much, much smaller than its parent or adult self. Small enough, in fact, to interact easily with and/or appeal to human characters, in ways that the mature version can't.

While this makes sense in terms of drama, it can also lead to situations where the offspring are so tiny, it seems a bit bizarre to we humans to think that baby and adult versions are the same species. This is mostly a case of human/mammal chauvinism -- many, many invertebrates and fishes in Real Life are tiny or even microscopic as hatchlings -- but the feeling of incongruity persists.

Often used to incorporate the Shoulder Sized Dragon trope in stories about much larger dragons.

Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • Pokemon tend to be very small in their basic and baby forms, then get enormous with each evolution.

Film
  • In the American Godzilla, Zilla is the size of a skyscraper, but its horde of offspring are only about twice the size of humans, allowing them to pursue the main characters indoors.
  • The baby form of Godzilla Jr. from the heisei era of the Godzilla series.
  • Ice Age 3: The baby tyrannosaurs are around Sid's size, but the mother is taller than Manny.
  • The baby rock biter from The Neverending Story 3 is fairly tiny compared to the adult rock biters.
  • In The Water Horse, the Loch Ness Monster is small enough to swim in a bathtub as a baby, but the size of a bus when fully grown.

Literature
  • In Clifford The Big Red Dog, Clifford is born tiny, but he grows to the size of a house in compliance with his owner Emily Elizabeth's concerned wish for her undersized pet. In the spin-off Clifford's Puppy Days, his pre-wish life as a hamster-sized runt is depicted.
  • Baby dragon Norbert in Harry Potter And The Philosophers Stone is no bigger than a football. But in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire we see that adult dragons can get massive!
  • Dragons in Eragon are very large, but their babies are much smaller.
  • Seems to be the case in one of Robert Sheckley's short stories. A starship comes across a planet full of human scale animals and plants. In the end, it turns out that the planet is a playground for some kind of alien children. The children are probably human sized or near so, but the parents seem to cast mountain sized shadows and use a mile high metal column as a key to wind up the entire planet.
  • As a puppy, Harry Dresden's dog Mouse was small enough to fit in his coat pocket. Fully grown, it's a struggle to squeeze the pooch into Harry's Volkswagen.

Live Action Television
  • Word Of God is that adult Adipose in Doctor Who are twice the height of a human. The baby Adipose in "Smith & Jones" weigh exactly one pound and would fit in a human hand.

Tabletop Games
  • In a vintage Dungeons And Dragons supplement about giants, a "hulking barbarian" who volunteers to join the adventuring party turns out to be a young cloud giant playing at being a human warrior. Cloud giant adults average 18' tall, so if human-like growth patterns are assumed, a juvenile 6' tall ought to be their equivalent of a toddler too young to execute such a deception.

Video Games

Webcomics
  • Earthsong - The giant character is the size a human girl of her age would be. It is stated in the comic that had she the opportunity to reach puberty, however, she would be roughly 10 feet tall.
  • In an early Yamara strip, the adventurers come across a tiny two-legged creature and start arguing about what sort of monster it might be. In the last panel, a gigantic foot of the same type appears behind them, and Yamara looks up very high while fearfully suggesting that the tiny creature might be somebody's baby.

Western Animation
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Spike the baby dragon is small enough to live with and interact easily with the ponies. When we're shown a full-sized dragon we see that they are very, very, very much larger.
  • Applies to most The Land Before Time characters, Littlefoot especially. Averted with Petri, who apparently isn't one of the larger pterosaur species.
  • True of dragons in How To Train Your Dragon, as revealed in Gift of the Night Fury.
  • Invoked example: An episode of Danger Mouse had Baron Greenback get a hold of a formula that made giant chickens. The eggs they laid, however, were normal size, and his plan was to distribute them to the world's doorsteps, so that when they hatched...
  • Played with in the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Boast Busters." The Ursa Minor that attacks Ponyville is enormous despite being a baby, but its mother, an Ursa Major, utterly dwarfs it.
  • The sabre-toothed moose lion from Avatar The Last Airbender, which starts life as a rather cute Yorkie-sized cub and grows into a hefty 10' predator.

Real Life
  • Virtually all invertebrates play this trope straight, as do reptiles and bony fishes. Having babies that aren't extremely tiny is mostly reserved for placental mammals, birds, and some species of sharks.
  • Marsupials give birth to offspring that are hundreds of times smaller than their parents. Subverted in that a marsupial newborn is also so underdeveloped, it's neither adorable, nor capable of interacting with anything except the nipples inside its mother's pouch and the fur it has to climb to get there.
  • Bears are extremely tiny at birth compared to their parents. Newborn polar bears weigh just 0.9 kg, but grow to 386-405 kg if male or 150-210 kg if female.
  • Truth In Television: Dinosaur infants tended to be no larger than a football when born, even for the largest sauropod species. There was a practical reason for this: a larger, thicker eggshell would have trouble absorbing enough oxygen for the embryo inside.
Community Feedback Replies: 24
  • March 15, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    • Pokemon tend to be very small in their basic and baby forms, then get enormous with each evolution.
    • Truth In Television: Dinosaur infants tended to be no larger than a football when born. There was a practical reason for this: a larger egg would have trouble pulling in enough oxygen for the embryo inside.
    • Averted with whales. A baby blue whale can be 23-26 ft (7 -8 meters) and 6,000-8,000 lbs (2,700-3,600 kg) at birth.
  • March 15, 2013
    Desertopa
    If we count real life examples, that section is liable to get completely out of hand. This is true of more animals than one could reasonably count. Humans have to be born with heads of a certain minimum size given how developed our brains are, and we reach maturity very slowly. Many animals suffer no such restrictions, and there's no reason that their development cycle should be even roughly analogous to ours.
  • March 15, 2013
    willthiswork
    Earthsong - The giant character is the size a human girl of her age would be, it is stated in the comic that had she the oppertunity to reach pubertry, however, she would be roughly 10 feet tall.
  • March 15, 2013
    Knight9910
    • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Spike the baby dragon is small enough to live with and interact easily with the ponies. When we're shown a full-sized dragon we see that they are very, very, very much larger.
  • March 15, 2013
    SharleeD
    ^^^ It shouldn't be a problem if we limit the Real Life examples to broad categories of taxa rather than narrow ones. Just one or two posts could address all marsupials, reptiles, bony fishes, and most invertebrates.

    Aversions should be left out of the Real Life section for that reason, though.
  • March 15, 2013
    thewriter
  • March 15, 2013
    Tuckerscreator

    Maybe dragons need their own folder.
  • March 16, 2013
    waffledood
    Inverted in Spirited Away with Yubaba and her baby.
  • March 16, 2013
    Alega5
    • The baby form of Godzilla Jr. from the heisei era of the Godzilla series.
  • March 16, 2013
    Astaroth
    Would the sabre-toothed moose lion from Avatar The Last Airbender, which starts life as a rather cute dog-sized cub and grows into a 10ft predator, be an example? How much disparity between parent and baby does there have to be?

    Edit: 'dog-sized' means 'about the same size as a yorkshire terrier' so I'd say it conts.
  • March 16, 2013
    SharleeD
    ^ If it's a sufficient size difference for it to seem weird that they're the same species, it probably counts. If "dog-sized" means the size of a Great Dane, probably not; if it means the size of a chihuahua, definitely.

    ^^^ Giant baby, tiny mother probably ought to be its own trope, actually.

  • March 17, 2013
    TonyG
    An episode of Danger Mouse had Baron Greenback get a hold of a formula that made giant chickens. The eggs they laid, however, were normal size, and his plan was to distribute them to the world's doosteps, so that when they hatched...
  • March 29, 2013
    GiantSpaceChinchilla
    Could Shoulder Sized Dragon be split and the examples of young dragons put here?
  • March 29, 2013
    DaibhidC
    • Word Of God is that adult Adipose in Doctor Who are twice the height of a human. The baby Adipose in "Smith & Jones" would fit in a human hand.
  • March 29, 2013
    Larkmarn
    ^ You can be more specific about that, actually. Each Baby Adipose is exactly one pound.
  • March 29, 2013
    Chabal2
    Ice Age 3: the baby tyrannosaurs are around Sid's size, but the mother is taller than Manny.
  • March 29, 2013
    Carpetfreak
    As much as I hate to mention this movie, the baby rock biter from The Neverending Story 3 is fairly tiny compared to the adult rock biters.
  • March 30, 2013
    TrueShadow1
    • In Disgaea 3 Absence Of Justice, Main Character Mao is about the size of a normal teenager. His dad, the Overlord, is so freaking huge that even his fingers are several times Mao's size. However, Mao's ultimate skill Vasa Aergun reveals that Mao himself actually has a quite gigantic One Winged Angel form.
  • March 30, 2013
    Ryusui
  • April 2, 2013
    Omeganian
    Seems to be the case in one of Robert Sheckley's short stories. A starship comes across a planet full of human scale animals and plants. In the end, it turns out that the planet is a playground for some kind of alien children. The children are probably human sized or near so, but the parents seem to cast mountain sized shadows and use a mile high metal column as a key to wind up the entire planet.
  • April 7, 2013
    Unknown Troper
    Uhh... Avatar The Last Airbender is not an anime. It's Western Animation. Please change that.
  • April 12, 2013
    SharleeD
    Any more examples? Or suggestions on other tropes to link this one to? Which index(es) should this one be listed under?
  • April 13, 2013
    randomsurfer
    There was a short story I read years ago [possibly by Mark Twain, it seems like the sort of thing he'd write] where the narrator's friend "lifts weights" by picking up a calf every day. The friend figures, each day it's only a little bit heavier, so he should be able to lift it since he could lift it yesterday; eventually he'll be the strongest man in the world. The guy severely injures himself trying to pick up the now several hundred pound yearling. His last words are, "you know, they say a whale only weighs a few ounces when it's born."

    Or something like that.
  • April 13, 2013
    SharleeD
    ^ Not sure I want to include an example without a title or author. Could you put that on You Know That Show and find out?

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