It's time for the second TV Tropes Halloween Avatar Contest, theme: cute monsters! Details and voting here.
"The sheer number of creature possibilities is staggering, and it's impressive how you can give them eighteen legs and seven eyebrows and it'll still somehow find a way to walk and make suggestive poses."
Thousands of species of Real Life
organism move by walking, swimming, or flying with wings. Most Speculative Fiction
species do the same. But whether to showcase the physical demands of a creature's unusual habitat, to prove it can be done, or merely to make them stand out in a crowd, writers sometimes dream up truly weird ways for their creations to get from point A to point B. Wheels are a common example, possibly for the sheer absurdity of the image.
This trope is not intended for teleportation, plane shifting, and other means of travel that break the laws of physics. (Bending
those laws is acceptable, however.) Bizarre technological methods of locomotion belong under the various vehicular tropes.
Subtrope of Bizarre Alien Biology
. Supertrope of Heli Critter
. Usually applies to a Living Gasbag
- In The Amber Spyglass, the Mulefa clutch giant seed pods in specialized gripping appendages and roll around like living motorcycles.
- One of the alien races from the Cluster series roll around on a single large sphere embedded at the bottom of their tear-shaped bodies.
- IIRC there's also a species that rolls on disc-shaped projections from its cylindrical body.
- Wheelers in the Land of Oz have wheels instead of hands and feet and locomote by rolling around on them.
- Lexx: Cluster lizards have long flat segmented bodies and roll into hoops that can roll rapidly. They're also predators, so you don't want to get in their way. When Zev/Xev accidentally acquires Cluster lizard DNA she also acquires the ability to curl up and roll fast, though it's not demonstrated until season 3.
- Similarly the Gorons of The Legend of Zelda fame primarily move by rolling. While they can walk, their stubby legs and extremely top heavy stature make them so slow they can be outrun by a small human child. However, in ball form they can roll fast enough to keep up with a giant mechanical goat.
- The mythical "hoop snake" of folklore moves the same way, holding its tail in its mouth and rolling like a wheel.
- M.C. Escher's lithographs "Curl-Up" and "House of Stairs" feature creatures called "curl-ups," which resemble metallic caterpillars with plated bodies and can either curl up and roll, or walk around their weird environment on six humanoid legs.
- Pangolins do this in Real Life, aside from having only four legs instead of six.
- In David Brin's Uplift series g'Keks have wheels.
- The Lensman series book Galactic Patrol. The inhabitants of Aldebaran I are the Wheelmen, who are literally wheel-shaped aliens, like a living example of Monowheel Mayhem. As you might expect, they move by rolling around like wheels.
- The cover art for The Science of Discworld III shows men riding on a giant tortoise with wheels in place of its feet. This was probably created by the God of Evolution, who'd been working on a wheeled elephant when he'd previously appeared in The Last Continent.
- Before it became its own theme, BIONICLE offered some weird machine-animal mixes under the LEGO Technic logo: the Tarakava and Tarakava Nui lizards, Muaka tiger, Kane-Ra bull, Kuma Nui rat, Manas and Mana-Ko crabs are all creatures that had tank threads for back legs. What's more peculiar is that in the story, everyone regarded these as having honest-to-goodness legs.
- On the original Ben 10, Ben's Kineceleran form XLR8 has small black wheels on both feet. His Petarola form as Cannonbolt can curl into an armored sphere and roll at high speed.
- The Waterwraith from Pikmin 2 usually moves around on stone rollers which it uses to crush your Pikmin, making it an extremely dangerous enemy. It is capable of walking normally on its back legs like a person if its rollers are destroyed.
- One tiny species of Real Life frog, native to high mountain rock faces, braces its limbs and lets go of the cliff to roll to safety when threatened by a predator. It weighs so little that it seldom gets hurt as it tumbles down slopes.
- There are also spiders in the desert that fold their legs and cartwheel away when threatened.
- One of the smaller lifeforms from Fragment are wheel-shaped creatures with many forked appendages that protrude from a slot in the edge of the wheel. They roll on their edges, extending their forks to adjust speed or direction.
- Gymnastics such as cartwheels or floor-level somersaults are humans' method of invoking this trope.
- In StarCraft II, banelings execute this trope with an upgrade (which increases their speed).
- The Crites from the Critters films curl up and roll when they need to move quickly. In one of the films, a whole swarm of them bunch up into a single large rolling ball.
- Riddick. The scorpion creatures have perfectly good legs, but in a scene where a horde attack Riddick and Boss John, one of them is seen rolling into the action like the mythical hoop snake before unraveling to attack.
- In Strata, paleontologists have named one of the alien Precursors believed to have engineered aspects of the universe "Wheelers", as they apparently had dome-shaped bodies that rolled on three wheels.
- In How to Train Your Dragon 2, the two-headed dragons called Zipplebacks reveal a new ability usable in battle: they curl into a ball and roll across the battlefield, breathing out flammable gas and igniting themselves into tumbling balls of fire.
Flyers & Floaters
- In Real Life, human infants sometimes find absurd ways of moving before they can walk, such as butt scooting, bunny hopping, leg shuffling, and even back-crawling.
- Alan Dean Foster's Icerigger trilogy features the Tran, a race of ice world natives with claws on their feet that act as natural ice skates, and sails beneath their arms that let them catch the wind for propulsion.
- The quadrupedal spikers from Quofum have legs that twirl around in circles, moving up and over their hips between steps, rather than swing forward and back.
- The Skiapods from Greek Mythology have one giant foot at the center of their bodies, so move about with tremendous jumps.
- Having no legs, the titular mermaid from The Singing Mermaid escapes from the circus after the acrobat teaches her how to handstand. She then walks back to the ocean on her hands.
- Real Life example: Sidewinders are desert snakes that crawl rapidly across the sand by throwing loops of their own bodies ahead of themselves.
- Another Real Life example: Springtails, tiny close relatives of insects, have a long springy appendage under their bellies, which they can release to hurl themselves into the air and escape from predators.
- Yet another Real Life example: Human Beings as far as other mammals are concerned. The majority of mammals are quadrupedal, but bipedalism only evolved a few times in different groups, Macropods (Kangaroos), a few rodent groups (such as Gerbils and Kangaroo Rats), Pangolins, and a couple of primate species. Most of these are really only able to hop or can only walk for a short bit before reverting to all fours again. Only Human Beings are able to walk on two legs and use that as their main form of locomotion.
- Doing so with a vertical spine also makes us radically different from Earth's most numerous bipedal walkers, birds.
- Skipping is an even weirder variant on humans' already-strange means of walking.
- Star Wars:
- Kitonaks move by extending and contracting their toes. It's very slow, but then again Kitonaks are never in a hurry.
- The Dugs from Star Wars walk on their hands, while using their feet as... well... hands.
- Like the Dugs above, night stalkers from the future-evolution book After Man: A Zoology of the Future walk bipedally on their forelimbs, while fighting with the long claws on hindlimbs that reach forward. Justified in that they evolved from bats that became flightless due to isolation on an island chain, so their forelimbs were the only ones strong enough to walk on.
- Web Comics: One of the species in Unicorn Jelly and spinoffs has a tube-shaped body with a foot at each end, and they ambulate by placing one foot on the ground and then arching over to place the other one, etc. Leeches crawl and climb in a similar fashion in Real Life.
- The Rhinogrades from the mockumentary ''The Snouters: Form and Life of the Rhinogrades'' are a groups of fictitious mammals, some of which walk on their multiple nasal trunks.
- On an extraterrestrial life-themed episode of Into The Universe With Stephen Hawking, one of the hypothetical creatures shown is an herbivore with two legs and a huge suction-cup mouth. Using the latter, it could walk up and down vertical cliff faces.
- At one point in John Carpenter's The Thing (1982), a piece of the alien uses an elongated tongue to drag itself along the floor.
- Dominic, a greyhound that lost both right legs when he was hit by a car, manages to stand, walk, run and even jump on his two left legs: an arrangement never seen in nature.
- Wayne Barlowe's Expedition features an alien that hops around on one leg.
- Most of the animals featured in the book have bizarre ways of locomotion. For example, the Flipstick is a 60-meter long pole-like creature that moves by flipping itself on both ends. The Gyrosprinter is a two-legged animal with one leg in the front and the other in the back (not unlike the Dominic example above). It supposedly evolved from a four-legged ancestor and both of it's front legs and back legs fused together. There is another creature that starts out with four legs but the hind legs atrophy as it matures and it's hind skid develops.
- Oddworld practically breathes this trope, with several species (Sligs, Glukkons, Gloktigi, etc.) walking on their hands, and that's only scratching the surface.
- Tigger from the Winnie the Pooh stories is depicted bouncing around on his spring-like tail in cartoon adaptations. This probably comes from the original stories, in which Milne's son misunderstood tigers "pouncing" on their prey as "bouncing".
- The Future Is Wild has a few odd creatures, such as the Megasquid: A terrestrial squid that moves around on eight modified pillar-like tentacles (Which have no bones like an elephant's trunk). It moves with a gait not used by any living animal today: moving its first and fourth legs on one side in unison with the second and third legs on the other side.
- One hypothetical desert creature from the "Alien Faces" episode of The Universe had pillar-like legs anchored to a flat, scaly base that could slowly glide over sand.
- A strange mythical creature in North American folklore was the Sidehill Gouger, a mountain-dwelling creature that resembled a wild boar save for the fact that the legs on one side were much longer than the other two, allowing it to walk on steep hillsides. However, they are unable to turn, and spend their whole lives rotating the mountain in a single direction. Should two opposing Gougers meet, they must fight until one falls off.
- The Dahu of Alpine legends is is very much the same, although it looks more like a goat.
- Gibbons and siamangs use brachiation, swinging alternately from each arm, to travel at up to 55 km/h through treetops.
- Lowly Worm, from Busytown, stands upright on one shoe. In animated adaptations, his boneless body contorts in several ways to move about, depending on circumstances and the artists' preferences: sending ripples down his length, coiling up to bounce like a spring, or folding bow- or zigzag-fashion and then extending to launch himself into the air.
- The rubberado, a tongue-in-cheek cryptid from the tall tales of 19th century American lumberjacks, is a porcupine with rubbery spines and flesh. It bounces around the landscape like a rubber ball, and anyone who eats rubberado meat will bounce around the same way for a few days.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's The Star Beast, the eponymous Lummox is an eight legged space dinosaur. It normally moved in a 1,4,5,8,2,3,6,7 gait, good for anything from a slow crawl to as fast as a trotting horse. However, if in a hurry, s/he could move in a double-ended gallop moving legs 1 & 2 & 5 & 6 together, alternated with 3 & 4 & 7 & 8.
- Artwork depicting the pre-Fall Garden of Eden sometimes includes images of a snake balancing or hopping on the tip of its tail, on the grounds that it shouldn't crawl on its belly until after it tempts Eve.
- The gukuy and owoc from Mother of Demons have two parallel 'rails' which operate much like a snail's foot. They're faster than you might expect, though humans are faster and can get through rougher terrain.
- In one episode of Futurama, Earth goes to war against an alien race that are basically intelligent basketballs. Naturally, they mostly get around by bouncing.
Swimmers & Skimmers
- Alan Dean Foster likes this trope. His two novels set on Midworld include many alien animals that drift in the air with helium bladders, while in Quofum there's mention of spiral-winged critters that corkscrew through the air. Squirks — tiny swamp reptiles from the Spellsinger series — use four rotating props to hover like helicopters.
- The inhabitants of Forte (Faulte in Japan) move about by leaping high into the air and using their parachute-like bodies to slowly descend.
- Planet Bavoom seems to be a gas giant, so the creatures on it just drift around the planet's powerful winds.
- Dumbo the elephant from Disney's Dumbo is able to fly using his oversized ears.
- One of the Ages from Uru: Ages Beyond Myst has disc-shaped creatures that spring up into the air and drift down like parachutes, similar to the Forte creatures listed above.
- Battle for Terra - The aliens can fly and use their tails in a fashion similar to how fish use their tails to swim underwater.
- Jetdarters and Skewers, in Expedition, use jet propulsion. The former are bug-sized, the latter are... jets.
- Also used in Tremors 3, with he jet-propelled Assblasters.
- Used by another race of Cluster series.
- Errol the swamp dragon manages to turn his flame inside-out and do this in Guards! Guards!. The lunar dragons from The Last Hero use it as their normal mode of propulsion.
- In After Man: A Zoology of the Future, the juvenile parashrew grows a parachute made of hair on the tip of its tail, and uses this to catch the mountain winds, dispersing over distances such a tiny animal couldn't otherwise traverse. The parachute-hairs fall out once it finds a territory of its own.
- In Alien Planet, the last life forms encountered by Ike the probe are able to hover using large bags of methane gas.
- The fan lizard from Avatar.
- Keelerak spiders from BIONICLE could fly by spinning in the air like a Frisbee, using their pointy feet to become giant buzz-saws. There are also shore turtles, which are simple turtles, that can, for whatever reason, fly. Though it's never explained how — they don't have wings or thrusters.
- The Careening Dirigibug from Pikmin 2 flies via inflatable sacs that resemble party balloons.
- The Snitchbugs from the same games used to have normal wings, but lost them during their evolution. Instead their antenna now serve as their wings.
- Some small pillar-shaped organisms in the swamps of The Dark Crystal fly straight upward with propellers.
- Squid and octopuses can use jet propulsion, squirting water out their siphons to quickly move forward. Some have even been seen jetting out of the water.
- There's also the real-world basilisk, also referred to as the "Jesus Lizard", which can run on water for short distances if it builds up enough speed and rises up on its hind legs. On land, it's just a regular lizard.
- Water striders are insects that can also walk on water, distributing their slight weight far enough for surface tension to support them.
- In After Man: A Zoology of the Future, a tiny mammal called the pfrit does the same, using long hairs on its feet to distribute its few grams of weight over the water's surface.
- In The Future Is Wild, the ocean phantom is a colonial jellyfish-relative that drifts on the surface, using tall flaps of tissue to catch the wind and sail from place to place.
- In Small Favor, Dierdre forms her animated blade-hair into a shark-like tail for swimming with when she dives into Lake Michigan.
- One hypothetical alien creature from Through The Wormhole With Morgan Freeman had a tubular body and vane-shaped fins that propelled it through water by rotating like a drill.
- The stream gobies of Hawaii are small fishes that, while they swim normally, also ascend waterfalls to reach their breeding pools. They cling to the rocks behind the falling water with their mouths and a set of modified pelvic fins that form a suction-cup disc.
- A minority theory for why some pterosaurs sported such broad head-crests is that they could use them as sails while sitting on the surface of the water, drifting along without expending any muscular effort.
- In Terry Pratchett's Nation, a footnote describes how the sailfin crocodile (Crocodylus porosus maritimus) travels immense distances at the surface of the Great Southern Pelagic Ocean using the movable skin-and-cartilage sail on its back to catch the wind.
- Globin is a planet-sized living thing; it has an intelligent, sentient civilization comprised of leukocytes traveling around Globin's bloodstream.
- The people of Wiral are made of electricity. They normally just float about but prefer to do high-speed travel through electric wires.
- H.P. Lovecraft's Elder Things from At the Mountains of Madness could somehow travel through outer space using their fan-shaped wings. The original text depicts them flying through the aether, but Fanon insists that their wings are biological solar sails.
- In Ghost Story, wraiths that aren't under the direct control of a more powerful entity are described as drifting ethereally through Chicago's ghost-realm, just barely out of contact with the ground, occasionally touching down with their toes to push themselves along. When commanded, they fly freely, suggesting that it's simply their lack of individual willpower that hinders their independent motion.
- In the Animorphs prequel The Andalite Chronicles, Visser Thirty-five (later Three) has a pair of weird pets that move on wheels—until their upper bodies detach so that they can attack on wings.
- In Quofum, a small burrowing creature has a fleshy slot on its back, in which it grips and rotates a hard conical crystal, drilling its way through the soil.
- Whereas most burrowing mammals claw or push their way through the soil, mole rats create their tunnels by scraping away at hard-packed dirt with their enormous buck teeth.
- Star Trek: Voyager. In "Basics" a cave-lizard has four limbs spaced around its circumference, so it can pull itself along the cave roof as well as the ground. And in "Elogium" Voyager encounters space-dwelling lifeforms that propel themselves via flatulence!