Created By: ZenoseiyaDecember 7, 2013 Last Edited By: ZenoseiyaDecember 12, 2013
Troped

Rat Men

Bipedal rat-like creatures, common in fantasy games. Prone to trickery and backstabbing

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope

aka Rat Folk, Ratfolk, Rat Race, Rat People, Nezumi

Ratmen are the rat equivalent of Lizard Folk: an entire race of intelligent anthropomorphic rodents or a single specimen thereof. They may be villainous creatures that live in filth and squalor, reproduce at a dizzying rate and worship foul deities, just another humanoid race with no particularly outstanding good or bad traits, or simply victims of an unwanted transformation. They may be (or descend from) rodents that developed humanoid features or humans that developed rodent features, whether through magic, science, radiation or natural selection.

Ratman supervillains often have either "rat" or "vermin" somewhere in their names. Ratman civilizations are sometimes given a quasi-Japanese flair or called "Nezumi," which is simply the Japanese word for mouse or rat; the proper Japanese translation for Ratmen would be "Nezumi-jin."

Subtrope of Petting Zoo People. Contrast Rodents Of Unusual Size (where the rodents are huge but not humanoid or intelligent).

Note when adding examples: Do not confuse ratmen with wererats: the latter are humans who can assume the form of a rat (or a giant rat, a human-rat hybrid, etc). Normal-sized rodents with human mannerisms do not count unless they are explicitly called out as abnormal in the fiction they appear. Refer to Sliding Scale Of Anthropomorphism for guidance. —

Examples:

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    Comic Book 
  • The Rat Man from Tomb Of Terror #5 (1952). A man is resurrected into a giant rat by a life-restoring fluid. He is intelligent and can talk and use things, but is also evil, like later examples.
  • One character from the comic strip Snarfquest was a human prince who'd been transformed into this trope by an evil wizard, and was seeking to be restored to normal.
  • One of Ghost Rider's minor villains is the bipedal, flesh-eating rat creature Verminous Rex, the sole survivor of an entire race of such creatures that lived int he spaces between dimensional walls.
  • The Klarion and Manhattan Guardian miniseries in Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers briefly feature a race of sentient, bipedal rats who dwell beneath New York City's subways. Since they're still the size of ordinary rats, Klarion's cat Teekl rather casually devours their king off-panel.
  • The Spider-Man and Captain America villain Vermin is a human being mutated against his will into a cannibalistic, insane Rat Man.
  • In Joe The Barbarian, the hero, a diabetic teenager trying to stave off death, hallucinates that his pet fancy rat is a noble Rat Man warrior who aids him on his Maybe Magic Maybe Mundane quest to defeat "Lord Death" and retrieve his insulin.

    Film 
  • In the 1984 Italian post-apocalyptic horror movie Rats: Night of Terror, the group of survivors gets decimated by common rats that seem to be driven from their underground habitat, making them extremely aggressive and dangerous. In the film's twist ending, it is revealed that intelligent mutant rat-humans are responsible.
  • The title character of the 1986 flop Ratboy is a mysterious hybrid of human and rat found in a dumpster by the female protagonist.
  • In Peter Jackson's Brain Dead (aka Dead Alive in the States) the zombie plague is carried by the "Sumatran Rat-Monkey." It has as much in common with ratmen as monkeys do with human beings.

     Folklore, Mythology and Religion 
  • Japanese folklore gives the tale of Raigo the Rat, based on a historical figure from the 11th century. The emperor broke a promise to him and uses black magic so that when he dies he comes back as a giant rat, with a rat army to eat valuable scrolls.

    Literature 
  • The Rats in the Rats Bats And Vats series by Dave Freer and Eric Flint. Technically, they are not rats or even rodents, but genetically modified and cybernetically uplifted elephant shrews. Everyone (including themselves) call them rats, though.
  • The bakenezumi ("queerats" or "monster rats" in translations) of From The New World are bipedal rat people who live in warring colonies and serve only their respective queens, occasionally helping humanity out. However, there's a lot of Fantastic Racism going on, with the humans despising them and the bakenezumi eventually growing to resent the humans for lording their Psychic Powers over them. As it turns out, the bakenezumi were originally humans with no Psychic Powers, genetically engineered to mutate into rat-people in order to protect the psychics' oligarchy.

    Multiple Media 
  • Master Splinter in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Depending on the continuity, he was either a normal rat or a Japanese ninja who was mutated into a ratman.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer Fantasy, the Skaven are a race of ratmen that live in squalor and may be something of a Trope Codifier, having inspired numerous imitators in tabletop gaming.
  • In the third-party Dungeons And Dragons campaign setting Scarred Lands, the Ratmen (expies of the Skaven) are rats that became intelligent humanoids by consuming the flesh of the fallen Titans. Some of them have been further mutated to develop special powers related to the Titan they are descended from.
  • Ratmen can be found in the third-party Dungeons And Dragons campaign setting Ptolus. Here, they are divided by size into the halfling-sized ratlings, the human-sized ratlords, and the ogre-sized ratbrutes.
  • Some third-party d20 supplements have included varieties of ratmen, such as Aradan (from AEG's Mercenaries), Cavian (from Races of Neo Exodus) and Ikrikit (from Masterwork Monsters: Rats in the Walls)
  • Ratfolk in Pathfinder are halfling-sized, highly social, and good at tinkering. Many of them are Intrepid Merchants. For the most part, they are portrayed fairly sympathetically - most of them are neutral in alignment, and they can be player characters - but some of their racial options, like the Plague Bringer alchemist, have more of a Skaven feel.
  • Magic The Gathering has Nezumi Rat Men in the Kamigawa sets of cards from 2004.

    Video Games 
  • In Warcraft, Kobolds are a race of ratmen miners that live in Kalimdor. They are low-level neutral monsters, though they can be annoying in large numbers.
  • Ever Quest II introduced the Ratonga race.
  • Slade the Thief from Shining Force II is a human-sized anthropomorphic rat.

     Western Animation 
  • In the Invader Zim episode "Game Slave 2," Dib stumbles across a group of "horrible rat people" living in a parking garage. They were originally normal people who became permanently lost in the parking garage and now live by scavenging, and this somehow mutated them into rat people. They don't look very much like rats, and Dib is skeptical that they've turned into actual rat people.
  • The Captain Planet villain Verminus Skumm is a particularly anthropomorphic variation on this. Apparently he was created to represent the effects of urbanization and pollution on biodiversity.
  • In one episode of Batman Beyond, the villain Shriek's lab assistant is apparently a teenaged Splicer who has given himself rat traits.
Community Feedback Replies: 23
  • December 7, 2013
    Floria
    • Ratfolk in Pathfinder are halfling-sized, highly social, and good at tinkering. Many of them are Intrepid Merchants. For the most part, they are portrayed fairly sympathetically - most of them are neutral in alignment, and they can be player characters - but some of their racial options, like the Plague Bringer alchemist, have more of a Skaven feel.
  • December 7, 2013
    kjnoren
    Not sure the Skaven can be cited as an Ur Example, at least not without a lot more research and example gathering.

    Literature:

    • The Rats in the Rats Bats And Vats series by Dave Freer and Eric Flint. Technically, they are not rats or even rodents, but genetically modified and cybernetically uplifted elephant shrews. Everyone (including themselves) call them rats, though.
  • December 7, 2013
    Chernoskill
    • In the 1984 Italian post-apocalyptic horror movie "Rats - Night of Terror", the group of survivors gets decimated by common rats that seem to be driven from their underground habitat, making them extremely agressive and dangerous. In the film's twist ending, it is revealed that intelligent mutant rat-humans are responsible
  • December 7, 2013
    SharleeD
    • Ratpeople are one of the more prominent non-human races in the Garrett PI series, being descended from magically-modified laboratory rodents. Three strains of rat-folk live in TunFaire, where they're treated terribly by other races. Garrett dislikes them early in the series, but changes his mind when he becomes mentor/boss/father figure to genius rat-girl Pular Singe.
  • December 7, 2013
    DAN004
    Would The Great Mouse Detective (and maybe Ratatouille) count here?
  • December 7, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    Redirect: Nezumi
  • December 7, 2013
    abateman
  • December 7, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    I'd say the rats of Ratatouille don't count, as they are real rats and Remy is considered strange for walking on his hind legs.
  • December 7, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Capitol Critters: a bunch of Half Dressed Cartoon Animals living in the White House's crawlspaces, including rats and mice.
  • December 7, 2013
    Chabal2
    Kobolds are low-level neutral monsters in Warcraft III, though they can be annoying in large numbers.
  • December 7, 2013
    Synchronicity
    • The bakenezumi ("queerats" or "monster rats" in translations) of From The New World are bipedal rat people who live in warring colonies and serve only their respective queens, occasionally helping humanity out. However, there's a lot of Fantastic Racism going on, with the humans despising them and the bakenezumi eventually growing to resent the humans for lording their Psychic Powers over them. As it turns out, the bakenezumi were originally humans with no Psychic Powers, genetically engineered to mutate into rat-people in order to protect the psychics' oligarchy.

    Contrast Rodents Of Unusual Size.
  • December 8, 2013
    Arivne
    Would this include wererats that can achieve a Partial Transformation that's a hybrid of their rat and humanoid forms?
  • December 8, 2013
    Snicka
    There are many versions of anthropomorphized rodents. Which of these should count? I think the first two shouldn't be this trope.
  • December 8, 2013
    Pichu-kun
  • December 8, 2013
    Surenity
    • Slade the Thief from Shining Force II is a human-sized anthropomorphic rat.
    • The Jewish characters in Art Spiegelman's Maus.
  • December 8, 2013
    dmorton
    Looking around for an early example:

    Comic Book
    • The Rat Man from Tomb of Terror #5 (1952). A man is resurrected into a giant rat by a life-restoring fluid. He is intelligent and can talk and use things, but is also evil, like later examples.

    A later example: Trading Card Games

    Both Skaven and the MTG rat men have Japanese elements to them. Looking for examples in Japanese folklore gives the tale of Raigo the Rat, based on a historical figure from the 11th century. The emperor broke a promise to him and uses black magic so that when he dies he comes back as a giant rat, with a rat army to eat valuable scrolls.

  • December 8, 2013
    SharleeD
    • One character from the comic strip Snarfquest was a human prince who'd been transformed into this trope by an evil wizard, and was seeking to be restored to normal.
    • Rizzo the Rat was a Deadpan Snarker from The Muppet Show and several of the Muppet films.
  • December 8, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    Unlike Petting Zoo People, which have animal heads and tails on humanoid bodies, Funny Animals have a body that is generally shaped like that of their respective species (or no species in particular)

    Keep in mind the difference between tropes when making suggestions. Rizzo and co are Funny Animals.
  • December 8, 2013
    robinjohnson
  • December 8, 2013
    Generality
    • Planescape Torment has a society of wererats living in the sewers. There are greater and lesser varieties, with the former being immune to mundane weapons.
  • December 8, 2013
    Someoneman
    Namespaced work names
  • December 8, 2013
    OmarKarindu
    Many characters like this have either "rat" or "vermin" somewhere in their names.

    Comic Books
    • One of Ghost Rider's minor villains is the bipedal, flesh-eating rat creature Verminous Rex, the sole survivor of an entire race of such creatures that lived int he spaces between dimensional walls.
    • The Klarion and Manhattan Guardian miniseries in Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers briefly feature a race of sentient, bipedal rats who dwell beneath New York City's subways. Since they're still the size of ordinary rats, Klarion's cat Teekl rather casually devours their king off-panel.
    • The Spider-Man and Captain America villain Vermin is a human being mutated against his will into a cannibalistic, insane Rat Man.
    • In Joe The Barbarian, the hero, a diabetic teenager trying to stave off death, hallucinates that his pet fancy rat is a noble Rat Man warrior who aids him on his Maybe Magic Maybe Mundane quest to defeat "Lord Death" and retrieve his insulin.

    Literature/Theatre
    • For practical reasons, what with actors being bipedal, hairless apes, nearly all stagings of The Nutcracker present the Rat King in this way. Some film adaptations and illustrated versions of the book have followed suit.

    Live-Action Film

    Western Animation
    • The Captain Planet villain Verminus Skumm is a particularly anthropomorphic variation on this. Apparently he was created to represent the effects of urbanization and pollution on biodiversity.
    • In one episode of Batman Beyond, the villain Shriek's lab assistant is apparently a teenaged Splicer who has given himself rat traits.
  • December 8, 2013
    Karalora
    In the Old World Of Darkness, the Ratkin (were-rats) have a war-form pretty much identical to the page image.

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