Young Face, Old Eyes
A character's eyes look much older than the rest of their appearance to indicate an unusual past.
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(permanent link) added: 2010-12-26 13:15:46 sponsor: whynarwhal edited by: Melkior (last reply: 2013-05-14 23:16:52)

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A character who looks young by all appearances--except their eyes, which belong to an old person instead. Since the Eyes Never Lie and are Windows of the Soul, it usually means that the character is much older than their body appears to be, had a very Dark and Troubled Past, or has Seen It All and is Wise Beyond Their Years. Also a frequent attribute of Shell Shocked Veterans as the so-called Thousand-Yard Stare.

This is specifically an In-Universe trope, where other characters remark on the apparent age discrepancy between the character's face and their eyes.

A common inversion, where a character who looks very old has the eyes of a child, indicates that the person retained the youthful sense of wonder for life despite experiencing most of it already.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • In Lady Snowblood, a thieves guild chief recognizes Oyuki, who poses as a harmless young woman, as a major threat by noticing that her eyes can only belong to someone who has walked through hell.

Film

Comic Books
  • In one of the ElfQuest stories from "Hidden Years", the human couple who Tyleet befriends are at first amazed when Tyleet tells them she's pregnant, because she looks like a child to them (canonically, Tyleet is older than most trees). Then the man points out that they should have known by Tyleet's eyes.
    Unnamed Human Man: "-- a child, wife? No... we should have known! Her wondrous eyes always said so! She may be older than the trees... older, even, than the mountains they grow on...!"

Literature
  • In Use of Weapons, a character notices how the while the protagonist looks like a young man, a glance at his eyes indicates someone much older and wiser, and gives a hint at his Dark and Troubled Past. It seems though like this might be true to a certain degree of everyone in The Culture, even if they haven't had troubled lives- a rather spoiled and beauty conscious character in Excession notes that she can tell how the difference between a rejuvenated person who is actually a couple of centuries old and someone who is actually in their 20s or 30s.
  • When meeting Nanka Yok for the first time in Labyrinths of Echo, Max remarks on the contrast of his young face and his eyes, which seem more ancient than the world itself. This is because Nanka is an immortal who learned to evade death by wandering through The Underworld for thousands of years.
  • In the last Animorphs book, Jake is described as having gone from a boy general to a young man with an old man's eyes.
  • Mentioned in regard to Sethra Lavode from the Dragaera novels, justifiably because she's unimaginably-ancient even by the standards of her extremely long-lived race.
  • Mitsuko of Battle Royale happens to be described as very cute 9th grader and is described as having a look like this in her eyes by Yuichiro and yes, her past is terrible.
  • Elves in Lord of the Rings, are Really 700 Years Old, but Cirdan is so old (11,000 years old at the end of the Third age, to be exact) that he even has grey hair and a beard, both extremely rare in elves. His eyes, however, are described to be "keen as stars", making him an inversion of this trope.
  • Played very much for "creep factor" in Maggie Stiefvater's Lament. The faerie Queen is thousands of years old, and though she has the face of a pretty young girl, her eyes reveal not just her true age but also her evil.
  • People are sometimes startled by the appearance of the eyes of the title character of Casca: The Eternal Mercenary. In this case it's a combination of both trauma and Really 700 Years Old, since he's spent the vast majority of his cursed existence as a soldier.

Live-Action TV
  • The Doctor of Doctor Who is repeatedly reborn in young bodies, with only the eyes giving away his real age. Inverted in the episode "Silence in the Library", though, when River Song (who knows him better in his Eleventh regeneration) notes how young his eyes look compared to his successor.
  • Inverted in Babylon 5: When Sheridan becomes "unstuck in time" in the two-part episode "War Without End" , and his consciousness ends up temporarily inhabiting the body of Sheridan 17 years later in a Centauri prison cell with Delenn, and he asks her what is happening, Delenn realizes that what he told her of this timeflash incident later was true, because she sees that his eyes still had an innocence that had long disappeared in the intervening years.

Will go under Eye Tropes and Literary Tropes.
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