In fiction, almost anything can be food. Many characters have Bizarre Taste in Food
, but they still eat things recognizable as food. Many characters are Extreme Omnivore
, but at least they eat physical objects. An Abstract Eater eats things which aren't so much things but concepts.
Individuals with these tastes will feed on anything from lost possibilities to sanity, love, or even coolness. Though they may also enjoy the material as a side dish, all of these foodies get some kind of benefit from the abstract dish of their choice.
The process of eating something abstract could be portrayed in any number of ways, as it's up to the creators of the work to describe what it looks like to see something intangible be devoured.
This can often be Horror Hunger
, as it often leads to the Eater of the Abstract feeding of the actions or traits of folks like us, leading to humans in behaviour farms and/or a deficiency of the tasty concept in the world or its previous host. A common aspect of Eldritch Abominations
and Spacetime Eater
are subtropes where the abstract food is human emotion and the fabric of the universe, respectively. When prayer is eaten, this overlaps with Gods Need Prayer Badly
Anime & Manga
- Dragon Slayers in Fairy Tail each have their own signature element, which they use to attack. They can also replenish their energy by eating that same element. Elements, of course, don't usually count as abstract concepts... except the specific case of darkness, which is really only absence of light.
- In Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro, the plot is kicked off when the demon Neuro comes to Earth to feed off the complexity generated by riddles, puzzles, and mysteries. To do so, he starts solving murders and feeding off the culprits. One of the later story arcs has Sicks offer him a mansion full of fabricated crimes for his consumption, and Neuro is appalled by the artificial riddles.
- The grammasites, from Thursday Next. Parasites that live in books, examples include adjectivores, spelling vyruses, and the like.
- From the Eighth Doctor Adventures, the Fendahl Predator devours concepts — as a group of beings who believed You Cannot Kill an Idea discover to their cost.
- And let's not forget about the Babelfish from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. That little creature feeds on the thought processes around its host and excretes a neuronal matrix into the hosts brain. Incidentally, this enables the host to instantly understand any form of communication whatsoever. It is said, that the poor Babelfish has wreaked more havoc on sentient life in the universe than all armies that ever marched combined due to obliterating all boundaries to understand one another.
- Diane Duane's Star Trek novels have the Iruhe, who eat the minds of sentient beings, leaving only breathing but mindless bodies. They appear briefly in The Romulan Way, where they devour the minds of two ships' worth of Romulans (who have just left Vulcan and were in the process of looking for a new homeworld, and were lured in by the Iruhe's illusions of a water-rich, habitable planet); the rest of the fleet barely escape. The Iruhe are also the villains of her TNG book Intellivore, where they have gained the ability to move their planet about to prey on planets rather than just starships.
- The eponymous darkangel in The Darkangel Trilogy must feed on the souls of human maidens in order to complete his transformation into a vampyre — leaving them mindless, emotionless “wraiths” who slowly wither away physically as well.
Myths & Folklore
- Red Dwarf has the emohawk, a domesticated breed of the Emotion Eater ploymorph that instead feeds on personality traits, during it's episode it enjoys a meal of Rimmer's bitterness and Cat's cool. While this left the Cat in his bumbling and useless Duane Dibbley persona, it radically helped Rimmer, who became his heroic parallel universe persona Ace Rimmer. What a guy!
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer season five Big Bad Glory had to manage her hell god composure by eating human sanity. Leaving her victims gibbering wrecks.
- Doctor Who has a few examples;
- The Weeping Angels send people back in time so they can feed on the lives they never lived. To resurrect an entire cave system of dying angels one crashes a star ship into it that happens to harbour one of series five's cracks in time, the Angels have a feast on all the lives the crack had stolen from existence, until the crack starts swallowing them.
- The minotaur from "The God Complex" eats faith and lives in a maze designed to show its inhabitants fears that will cause them to call onto their faiths, "cooking" them.
- The planet-sized creature known as the Old God from the episode "The Rings of Akhaten" fed on stories. The people living in his system used items of sentimental value as currency so they could be given as offerings to it and taught their Queen of Years all the stories of their culture so that if it ever awoke he could feast on her rather than their entire system. They even believe that the Old God made the first life in the universe, possibly to create tasty stories for it to feast on.
- The Trickster (from Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures) and his minions, the Trickster's Brigade, feed on the chaos created when an established timeline is altered in some way.
- The Teller in the episode "Time Heist" eats guilt, and will turn your brain to soup to get to the buried stuff.
- The episode "Flatline" features bizzare creatures which eat dimensions; shrinking items or turning them into images for sustenance.
- The Wraith in Stargate Atlantis consume human life forces via organs in the palms of their hands.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- Several monsters eat the psionic energy of psionic creatures, such as Brain Moles, Cerebral Parasites and Intellect Devourers.
- The undead known as a shadow drains the strength of other creatures.
- The Forgotten Realms setting has Dendar the Night Serpent, an Eldritch Abomination who feeds on the nightmares of mortals and deities alike. Among the duties of the Chultan god Ubtao is guarding the Realms against Dendar's emergence from beneath the Peaks of Flame. If Dendar defeats Ubtao, legend has it his next meal will be the universe itself.
- Drowzee of Pokémon fame takes after its Baku inspiration and eats bad dreams
- Keine Kamishirasawa from Touhou is a were-hakutaku, whose ability is to eat history in human form, and create history in hakutaku form. It is unexplained how she eats history, but the effect seems to conceal the thing whose history is being eaten, without actually removing its existence.
- Adventure Time has a few examples; a character who eats drawings from within the paper they reside, and Marcelline, a vampire who eats not blood, but the colour red.