Created By: Lightblade on November 4, 2012 Last Edited By: sl1m on November 16, 2012
Troped

Eating Optional

It eats even though it doesn't need to.

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Damn 'em, they do eat, but they don't need to! That's the rare part! A month, you say, without food? Lud, Sir, you be modest! ... Devil take ye, those cursed things have been howling down there ever since Curwen was done for a hundred and fifty-seven years gone!
Charles Ward Actually Curwen assuming his identity, The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward

This trope is a trait of some supernatural beings. These beings are not bound by the natural limitation of needing to feed to survive. Yet for one reason or another, they do so anyway.

The being in question might have once been human, and eats because they still enjoy the taste of food. Or they might eat because they are among Muggles and need to maintain the Masquerade.

In stranger cases, the being has no need to eat but still hungers. If this is the case, then they can be vulnerable to a Fate Worse Than Death. They can be trapped or imprisoned without food indefinitely, forever starving, yet never starving to death.

Such beings also vary in intelligence and in their choice of food. Some are as sentient as any human and enjoy the same foods normal humans do, while others are mindless man-eaters.

If a story has man-eating monsters, then having this trait makes them even more monstrous. Most natural beings eat so they can survive. These guys don't even have that excuse.


Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
  • In Vexille the nanite-transformed metallized humans still eat as a way of maintaining a semblance of normalcy in their lives, despite no longer needing food.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya: Yuki Nagato is an artificial humanoid interface, which is either a fancy way of saying she's a Ridiculously Human Robot, or simply an alien. Whichever is the case, she explains (to Kyon) that she doesn't need to eat, and only does so to blend in, which is necessary in order to observe Haruhi.
  • Outlaw Star: Melfina is a highly advanced bio-android, created by Professor Gwen Khan. Even though eating isn't necessary to her vital function, she finds she enjoys certain foods, after being prompted by Jim to try some. She was even surprised to learn she could distinguish different tastes.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
  • In many incarnations of Superman, Supes doesn't need to eat, but often will out of habit or because he enjoys the taste.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
  • In A.I.: Artificial Intelligence David, a robot child, enters into an eating competition with his human sibling which results in David becoming broken.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
  • In the H.P. Lovecraft story The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward, the protagonist confronts Ward after exploring the catacombs under his ancestor Joseph Curwen's farm. "Ward" is actually Curwen, who has killed the real Ward and assumed his identity. When he mentions the abominations that have gone unfed for the month since his commitment to the insane asylum, he replies:
    Damn 'em, they do eat, but they don't need to! That's the rare part! A month, you say, without food? Lud, Sir, you be modest! ... Devil take ye, those cursed things have been howling down there ever since Curwen was done for a hundred and fifty-seven years gone!
  • When Harry Potter visits Nearly Headless Nick's deathday party in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, there's a banquet of rotten food laid out for the ghosts. Harry figures they let the food rot so that the flavors are strong enough for the ghosts to actually taste.
  • Death of Discworld likes takeaway curries. Don't think about how he manages to swallow, or where the food goes next.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]] [[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
  • Several youkai races in the Touhou games have this trait. According to the Universe Compendium Perfect Memento in Strict Sense, fairies don't need to eat, but do so in an attempt to imitate humans. Magicians also don't need to eat. Alice Margatroid eats anyway, as she is a former human (at least according to the book) who became a youkai magician and still isn't used to not needing to.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Comics]]
  • In Kid Radd, sprites can eat and drink, though they won't suffer if they don't. Word of God explained that since sprites are human creations, they're imprinted with various human drives and habits.
[[/folder]]


Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • November 4, 2012
    KZN02
    Death Note: Ryuk has a fondness for apples, but doesn't really need to eat. He explains that it's like smoking a cigarette.
  • November 4, 2012
    NimmerStill
    • In Buffy and Angel, vampires often eat solid human-type food even though all they really need is blood; the food doesn't even help.
  • November 4, 2012
    StarSword
    Anime And Manga
    • In Vexille the nanite-transformed metallized humans still eat as a way of maintaining a semblance of normalcy in their lives, despite no longer needing food.

    Literature
    • When Harry visits Nearly Headless Nick's deathday party in Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, there's a banquet of rotten food laid out for the ghosts. Harry figures they let the food rot so that the flavors are strong enough for the ghosts to actually taste.
  • November 4, 2012
    JonnyB
    In Star Trek The Next Generation, Lt. Commander Data eats even though he does not have to, in order to more closely emulate human behavior.
  • November 4, 2012
    Kellor
    In Kid Radd, sprites can eat and drink, though they won't suffer if they don't. Word Of God explained that since sprites are human creations, they're imprinted with various human drives and habits.

    In Stargate Atlantis, Wraiths feed by sucking the life out humans through their hands. Some were shown to be eating normal food with their mouths, and they explained that they gained so sustenance from it; they just liked the novelty.
  • November 4, 2012
    Lightblade
    I'm not quite sure whether beings like Death Note shinigami or Buffy-verse vampires would count. On the one hand, they sometimes eat "human" food despite not needing to. On the other, shinigami like Ryuk sustain themselves by killing people with their Death Notes and adding the victim's remaining lifespan to their own, so they do "need to eat" in a sense.

    I don't know enough about how necessary blood is to the survival of Buffy-verse vampires to make a call on them. In fact, with vampire lore in general, they are often said to be immortal except for a few specific ways of killing them. Starving them to death is almost never listed among their weaknesses, which would imply that they follow this trope.

    Does anyone have any opinions on whether or not they should count?
  • November 4, 2012
    atheist723
    Superman in most adaptions do not need to eat, although he does out of habit and for pleasure.

    Eragon in Inheritance Cycle is shown to be able to keep himself alive with life energy leeched from other living beings, although it is unpleasant and he still gets hungry.
  • November 4, 2012
    NimmerStill
    ^^Well it depends. Is this about eating per se, or feeding? Vampires don't need to eat; they need to drink.
  • November 4, 2012
    cygnavamp
    • In many incarnations of Superman, Supes doesn't need to eat, but often will out of habit or because he enjoys the taste.
  • November 5, 2012
    Arivne
    Robots doing this is covered by Eating Machine (Data is already on that page).
  • November 5, 2012
    Stripeycat
    Death of the Discworld likes takeaway curries. Don't think about how he manages to swallow, or where the food goes next.
  • November 5, 2012
    Earnest
  • November 5, 2012
    MiinU

    Anime and Manga

    • Haruhi Suzumiya: Yuki Nagato is an artificial humanoid interface, which is either a fancy way of saying she's a Ridiculously Human Robot, or simply an alien. Whichever is the case, she explains (to Kyon) that she doesn't need to eat, and only does so to blend in, which is necessary in order to observe Haruhi.
    • Outlaw Star: Melfina is a highly advanced bio-android, created by Professor Gwen Khan. Even though eating isn't necessary to her vital function, she finds she enjoys certain foods, after being prompted, by Jim, to try some. She was even surprised to learn she could distinguish different tastes.
    • Bleach: Similar to the Outlaw Star example, Nemu Kurotsuchi is an artificial lifeform, created by her "father" Mayuri. In all likelyhood, she doesn't need to eat. Yet, her official character profile mentions she likes saury, but dislikes green onions.
  • November 5, 2012
    zarpaulus
    ^ Bleach: I believe it was stated that ordinary inhabitants of the Soul Society, being dead, don't need to eat. But those with significant spirit energy (i.e. shinigami) do get hungry. And that the background energy in Hueco Mundo was sufficient to sustain most Hollows, but they could only gain more power by devouring human or Hollow souls.
  • November 5, 2012
    Astaroth
    In Dungeons And Dragons, Outsiders are sustained by energies from their home plane, and do not need to eat (though they can choose to do so if they wish). Demons in particular are fond of hunting and devouring other creatures, since they are Always Chaotic Evil and enjoy inflicting suffering.
  • November 5, 2012
    MiinU
    ^^@zarpaulus - You're right, I forgot about that. In that case, Nemu technically wouldn't qualify.
  • November 6, 2012
    blueflame724
    One Piece: If I recall correctly, the character Brook doesn't need to eat since his devil fruit already keeps him alive(though he claims milk helps him regenerate).
  • November 6, 2012
    Nomic
    Most Tyranid organisms in Warhammer40000 don't actually have a functioning digestive system, as they're bio-engineered killing machines and such a thing would tkae space and energy away from muscles, reinforced endo- and exoskeletons, weapon-biomorphs etc. If they aren't killed by the enemy first, they will eventually starve to death. Many of them still have instinctive behaviour to feed, tho, as it makes them attack the enemy even when not under controll of the synapse creatures. The Ripper swarms are the most obvious example, as their whole purpose is to eat any biomass they come across in order to transport it to the reclamation pools to be digested and fed to the Tyranid hive ships.
  • November 6, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    • Older Than Feudalism. In The Bible, Jesus ate with his disciples after his resurrection to prove he was real and not a ghost or vision. The pre-resurrection Jesus did get hungry, as seen with the temptation in the wilderness, but after getting better he no longer needed to eat.
      • Word Of Dante is that believers in heaven will also be able to eat as much as they like, but not actually need it nor need to worry about getting fat.
  • November 6, 2012
    McKathlin
    • In DMFA, incubi and succubi derive their energy from emotions instead of food, but many choose to eat food anyway because they enjoy it. For example, Mink likes sandwiches, and Abel bakes cupcakes that get snatched up before he has a chance to eat any.
  • November 7, 2012
    Sligh_Br
    Seems to be the case of vampires in Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. They are sustained only by blood, but they can still eat if they wish to (and Spike particularly really likes buffalo wings for some reason).
  • November 7, 2012
    GameKeeper28
    • In Invader Zim, being a robot, GIR doesn't need to eat, but he does anyway out of enjoyment of Earth food.
  • November 7, 2012
    KingZeal
    Related to The Needless.
  • November 7, 2012
    Lightblade
    So far this is looking like it's just about ready to launch. But I'll be leaving for a week-long vacation later today, so I'll launch it after I get back. Feel free to add any more examples until then.
  • November 15, 2012
    Lightblade
    And I'm back from my trip. I'll launch this either tomorrow or the day after, depending on how jet-lagged I feel.
  • November 15, 2012
    GameChainsaw
    • In Lirael the Disreputable Dog and Mogget don't need to eat, but they sure like to. Lirael is more than a little annoyed when she finds this out, given the trouble she had to go to to keep the Dog fed.

    (Just giving you a bit more work to do OP.) :P
  • November 15, 2012
    ArcadesSabboth
    A lot of the examples in the comments haven't been added into the draft yet.
  • November 15, 2012
    HaggisMcCrablice
    The gods of Class Of The Titans eat, even though they don't need to. Hercules is partial to fried chicken, and Athena bakes. May be Older Than Feudalism, as food was a common sacrifice to the Greek and Roman gods, who as the stories go would punish or kill those mortals whose offerings displeased them.
  • November 16, 2012
    billybobfred
    A kid in Super Stupor has this as his power. It's not very good, as while he doesn't need food and water to live, he still suffers hunger and thirst.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=wrbki4151l96gp8d5ynrh4xb&trope=EatingOptional