Created By: FishStampede on August 4, 2011 Last Edited By: Arivne on October 6, 2015

The Harder They Fall

Bigger isn\'t always better.

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How did we miss this one?

So things look bleak. Perhaps the villain just went One-Winged Angel, or maybe it's merely a Giant of some kind. Regardless, the enemy is freaking HUGE. We're talking enormous. Your sword is like a toothpick. Your bullets are like grains of sand. This is not going to go your way. He raises one ponderous foot, slowly...slooooowly...

...and you dodge out of the way easily. Heck, you barely had to walk. Those little grains of sand you shoot may not hurt much, but there's no way you could miss. That toothpick is sharp and strong, and can still hit an artery. It isn't long before your giant opponent is completely at your lilliputian mercy.

Guess it's true that the bigger they are, The Harder They Fall.

Often a cause of Clipped-Wing Angel, an inversion of Giant Equals Invincible. Not always a villain, giant-sized heroes can run into this problem as well. This is when being super-size actually serves as a hindrance to a character instead of a benefit.


Anime and Manga
  • In the Kyoto arc of Rurouni Kenshin, one of his first opponents is a giant man who is basically as fast as Kenshin. Kenshin forces him to accelerate to keep up, until his larger size simply can't take the strain and his ankle snaps.
  • In One Piece, Oars Jr is a giant larger than three regular giants standing on each other. Against giants, he does pretty well as they never fight anyone bigger than them. Against small opponents who are used to fighting giants and have impressive firepower of their own, he just presents a massive target, and he falls to focused fire very quickly.

Comic Book
  • In Run, part of the Final Crisis aftermath series, the Human Flame grows into a massive monster made of radioactive slag. He keeps growing bigger and bigger until he can't move under his own weight. It's suggested he might be able to shrink as well, but the thought never occurs to him.

  • In the Dresden Files, one of the Brothers Gruff is a giant in armor the size of an elephant, with his bipedal gait supported on relatively small goat feet. Attempting to turn rapidly on a waxed floor proves to be a very bad idea for a creature his size.

Community Feedback Replies: 18
  • August 4, 2011
    • Subverted with Godzilla. Sure he's big and slow, but he's still going to destroy anything that gets in his way. And, for faster targets, he just uses his Thermonuclear Breath. And, while high-powered missiles might strike him, he just regenerates and keeps going.
  • August 4, 2011
    • The origin (or at least the Trope Codifier) of the phrase "The bigger they are, the harder they fall." is a Real Life example. It was said in 1902 by a boxer named "Robert Fitzsimmons", prior to fighting a rematch against a much larger boxer (who had previously beaten him) named James J. Jeffries. Fitzsimmons later went on to become the first boxer to win titles in three weight-divisions.
      "If I can get close enough, I'll guarantee to stop almost anybody. The bigger the man, the heavier the fall."
  • August 5, 2011
    I don't think subversions should be here at all, since this trope is itself one. Otherwise it'll get really crowded and the original point will be lost.
  • August 5, 2011
    In Baki The Grappler, Mount Toba is a veteran wrestler whose massive body is gradually breaking down under its own weight. Only his Determinator streak keeps him going.
  • August 5, 2011
    And what about the story of David and Goliath?
  • August 5, 2011
    In the Beavis And Butt Head episode "Bedpans and Broomsticks", Billy Bob has caught up with the duo and is advancing on them, when he suddenly clutches his chest and faints. Butt-Head comments that "the fatter they are, the fatter they fall".
  • August 5, 2011
    In the Kekkaishi anime, the powerful and swift ayakashi Sakon falls victim to this. Upon transforming into a larger, armored form, his opponent Masamori grins at this mistake. He subdues him much more easily than he could have before. Masamori taunts Sakon, even saying "Don't you know? The bigger they are, the harder they fall" in the English dub.
  • August 5, 2011
    This trope happens all the time in Inuyasha, with demons growing bigger and becoming easy targets for Tessaiga's blade and/or Wind Scar.
  • August 6, 2011
    See also the Square Cube Law.
  • August 8, 2011
    David and Goliath is probably one of the earliest examples. In some versions of Jack and the Giant, the giant falls from a height that would be survivable for a human, but fatal for a creature of his bulk.
  • April 9, 2015
    Heroes Of The Storm has this as well: The higher a character's level is, the longer it takes that character to respawn if he/she dies.
  • April 9, 2015
    Ain't this exactly Square Cube Law?

    We also have Big Things Are In Slow Motion ykttw, and this seems to be a needlessly specific version of it.
  • April 10, 2015
  • October 5, 2015
    In Asura's Wrath, Wyzen's transformation into his planet-sized Gongen Wyzen form to kill Asura proves to be a fatal mistake: it takes an enormous amount of Mantra just to attain this form, and so much effort is based on merely containing that Mantra that he can barely move.
    Augus: Hmph. He lost the moment he believed that size equals strength.
  • October 6, 2015
    Again, this is Square Cube Law.

    Please tell me why this still needs to exist.
  • October 6, 2015
    ^ The last line of the Description should be the Laconic. It says:

    This is when being super-size actually serves as a hindrance to a character instead of a benefit.

    The rest of the Description mentions one such hindrance: how vulnerable large creatures are to attacks from smaller creatures.

    Square Cube Law is a lengthy description of that scientific law. Most of it is not the same as this trope at all. Small parts of it mentions that each doubling of a creature/object's dimensions cubes its weight (and the structural/leg strength necessary to keep it upright), giving it effectively less muscle strength.

    It doesn't mention increased vulnerability to attack in any way.

    tl:dr The Harder They Fall and Square Cube Law are Sister Tropes because they're both partially about large creatures, but they only intersect in one way: vulnerabilities of large creatures. There are parts of The Harder They Fall (e.g. vulnerability to attack) that aren't related to Square Cube Law.
  • October 6, 2015
    • Examples section
      • Italicized work names.
  • October 6, 2015
    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons
      • Early editions of Advanced D&D. When a dwarf or gnome is attacked by gigantic humanoids (giants, ogres, ogre magi, titans, trolls etc.) the larger creatures take a -4 "to hit" penalty, partly due to the dwarf/gnome's small size.
      • Basic D&D (Mentzer 1983) "Dungeon Master's Rulebook". When a halfling is fighting an opponent greater than man-sized, all attacks by the larger creature take a -1 penalty to hit the halfling.