Created By: FloriaAugust 7, 2013 Last Edited By: FloriaDecember 23, 2013
Troped

Cute Critters Act Childlike

Small, cute intelligent nonhumans are characterized with childlike personalities.

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Trope
Among fantastic sapient species, the small, cute races (often Hobbits or Ridiculously Cute Critters) are often given personality traits commonly associated with children - such as innocence, playfulness, curiosity, or naivete - to complement their adorable appearances. These creatures are usually sympathetic, but a rare evil or dangerous example of the trope may be a Psychopathic Manchild.

These little guys are often capable of inspiring protective affection in members of the bigger races, and possibly, in the audience - although they may not need it. However, if done badly, this trope can get into Tastes Like Diabetes territory.

Despite being an iconic short fantasy race, dwarves are more likely to be treated with an inversion of this trope and depicted as if they're all born Grumpy Old Men.

This is related to the real-life concept of neoteny. Among many domesticated animals, the adults retain more cute physical traits and more youthful behaviors (such as playfulness and sociability) than adults of their wild counterparts. See also The Cutie.


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • Potemayo and Guchuko from Potemayo are small, round, big-headed and completely adorable. Potemayo may have reached physical maturity for her species (given the Bizarre Alien Biology at work, it's hard to tell), but in many respects she acts like a small child. (Guchuko is more self-sufficient, but her behavior is in some ways more reminiscent of a sapient feral cat's than a human adult's.)
  • Dragon Ball Z: Psychopathic Manchild and final Big Bad of the series Majin Buu, especially in his "fat-Buu" form, speaks in a simple childish way e.g: "Buu gonna hurt you, make you sorry," is bright pink and loves candy so much that he can shoot a laser out of his headtentacle-thing that turns people into sweets so he can eat them.

Film - Live Action
  • Played with and then averted hard in Galaxy Quest, with the rock miners. At first, they expect the cute looking aliens to be nice and friendly, particularly as they appear to tend to one of their wounded. But then they start cannibalizing the helpless alien and begin attacking the crew.
  • Cute little Gizmo from Gremlins.

Literature
  • Hobbits in The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings are downplayed examples. Tolkien doesn't portray them as particularly cute, but they are small people notable for their innocence and simplicity.
  • Kender in Dragonlance are small, halfling-like people known for curiosity, playfulness, and lack of self-preservation.
  • Poul Anderson's Hoka series. The Hoka are a race of teddy bear-like aliens who love playing pretend. To the extent that their hat is reenacting various human fictional and historical scenarios. (Although, considering the popularity of historical reenactment and LARPing among adult humans, one could argue that this makes them less childish than nerdy.)
  • In The Railway Series and its Animated Adaptation Thomas The Tank Engine, the smaller tank engines are usually portrayed with more childlike, playful personalities while the tender engines have more matured (if still occasionally boisterous) personalities.

Tabletop Games
  • Pathfinder goblins are a rare evil example. They are big-headed, child-sized, Ugly Cute little Psychopathic Manchildren who enjoy games, songs (mostly about eating or murdering people), and running around setting things on fire. The human-sized goblinoid races, by contrast, are unpleasant in much less amusing ways.

Video Games

Webcomics

Western Animation
  • Mort, the Mouse Lemur from Madagascar. Despite his childish personality, Word Of God says he is actually an adult.
  • Invoked and subverted in Futurama. Nibbler and the rest of his kind use this to their advantage, but are more intelligent and advanced than humans (at least the ones Nibbler hangs with).

Community Feedback Replies: 21
  • August 8, 2013
    DAN004
    The title can be confused with cute actual humans being childlike even if they're old.

    BTW compare Immortal Immaturity and Not Growing Up Sucks.
  • August 8, 2013
    Psi001
  • August 8, 2013
    IAmATropist
    Pretty much any baby Pokemon is portrayed as playful, especially Igglybuff, who, according to its Pokedex entry, cannot stop bouncing on its own once it starts.

  • August 8, 2013
    arromdee
    I don't think baby Pokemon count, since they are supposed to be babies and thus legitimately more like a child. (Although the game mechanics in creating baby Pokemon throw a wrench into this.)
  • August 8, 2013
    Elbruno
    You might want to start sorting the examples by media sooner than later.

    Video Games

    • The Lumas from the Super Mario Bros series are playful and childlike star children. Most live on the Comet Observatory under the care of their "Mama", Rosalina.
    • The Nopon from Xenoblade Chronicles are cute fuzzballs mostly known for being laid-back and easy-going, and for their simplistic speech pattern. Most are okay with child-like treatment the other races tend to give them, a few take full advantage of it to get away with some questionable things, while others lament that nearly no one takes them seriously.
  • August 8, 2013
    robbulldog
    Played with and then averted hard in Galaxy Quest, with the rock miners. At first, they expect the cute looking aliens to be nice and friendly, particularly as they appear to tend to one of their wounded. But then they start cannibalizing the helpless alien and begin attacking the crew.
  • August 8, 2013
    Snicka
    Mort, the Mouse Lemur from Western Animation/Madagascar. Despite his childish personality, Word Of God says he is actually an adult.
  • August 8, 2013
    KingZeal
    This is a Real Life concept called Neoteny. Betty Boop is given an example of how it's used as appeal.
  • August 8, 2013
    xanderiskander
    Is this trope specifically about cute Fantastic Races being child-like/ childish? Or is it about cuteness itself conveying child-likeness? If it's the former it could use a better title, because the title currently sounds like the trope is "all cute characters look like children".
  • August 8, 2013
    DAN004
    I like the current title better. :D
  • August 9, 2013
    Arivne
    Added a few Namespaces and un-Pot Holed the name of the Hoka series as per How To Write An Example - State the source.
  • August 9, 2013
    KingZeal
  • August 12, 2013
    Floria
    bump
  • August 25, 2013
    Floria
    Potemayo and Guchuko from Potemayo are small, round, big-headed and completely adorable. Potemayo may have reached physical maturity for her species (given the Bizarre Alien Biology at work, it's hard to tell), but in many respects she acts like a small child. (Guchuko is more self-sufficient, but her behavior is in some ways more reminiscent of a sapient feral cat's than a human adult's.)
  • August 31, 2013
    Floria
    bump
  • September 3, 2013
    Floria
  • September 3, 2013
    arbiter099
    • Dragon Ball Z: Psychopathic Manchild and final Big Bad of the series Majin Buu, especially in his "fat-Buu" form, speaks in a simple childish way e.g: "Buu gonna hurt you, make you sorry," is bright pink and loves candy so much that he can shoot a laser out of his headtentacle-thing that turns people into sweets so he can eat them.
  • September 3, 2013
    Chernoskill
    What about Gizmo from Gremlins? He's not really intelligant though...
  • October 21, 2013
    Alvin
    Western Animation: Invoked and subverted in Futurama. Nibbler and the rest of his kind use this to their advantage, but are more intelligent and advanced than humans (at least the ones Nibbler hangs with).
  • December 7, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Namespaced a couple examples.
  • December 23, 2013
    DAN004
    Launch plz?

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable