Dude... it's definitely over.
"It ain't over till the fat lady sings."
Brawn Hilda is, essentially, a strong, mannish, usually foreign woman (particularly German, Russian, or Scandinavian). However, she's not
an Amazonian Beauty
, her strength is seen as unattractive, as she usually (purposely or not) emasculates the hero by beating him up or outdoing him in "manly" activities (such as arm wrestling, boxing, hot dog eating, pretty much anything unfeminine really...) She usually has a thick stereotypical accent, has a masculine face, and is often a stereotypical female immigrant (maid, mail-order bride, etc
....) or some sort of hardcore Olympic-esque athlete. Basically, the Brawn Hilda is the Fat Girl on steroids
. Her personality can run from motherly but overprotective to gruff and cantankerous, but the vast majority of the time her personality is irrelevant: she's just a gag character whose humor stems from being the opposite of a hot exotic chick. In one Stock Plot, for example, Bob books "Ekaterina" as his masseuse
or cleaning woman, expecting someone young and attractive, and gets this character instead, who violently rearranges his house and life (and, if a masseuse
, also causes him considerable personal discomfort).
In more serious contexts, she tends to turn into The Rosa Klebb
version of The Baroness
. Bonus points if she's blond, wears braided twin tails, and possesses the name Helga, Hilda, or Olga (which is the Russian version of Helga!).
If a cave woman
is not a Nubile Savage
, she will probably be this instead.
The trope name
is a reference to the Icelandic queen Brunhildnote
in the German epic Das Nibelungenlied
, who could possibly be the inspiration for such characters. In the story she challenges men who attempt to wed her into warlike games, throws boulders with ease, and even ties her own husband up and hangs him on the wall. These traits, combined with the large women who usually play her in operatic adaptations, have led people to commonly assume she's an unattractive, mannish woman, even though the story actually describes her
as very attractive. "It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings" is likely a reference to Brünnhilde's famous (and memetically glass shattering
) immolation scene in Richard Wagner
. Big women (like Frieda Leider
, Birgit Nilsson
, and Jessye Norman
) play her in the operas because they're usually the only ones with the vocal vigor to take on Brünnhilde's role.
Contrast with the Fat Girl
, who is large, but probably not athletic; with Amazonian Beauty
, when she's attractive because
of her masculine traits; with The Baroness
, who is the classic East European Femme Fatale
; with the Big Beautiful Woman
, whose bulk is considered attractive in and of itself, and who is often non-European. Compare No Guy Wants an Amazon
, when this keeps her from finding a man; and Butch Lesbian
, if she likes the ladies instead. See also Lady Looks Like a Dude
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- When the UK banned all tobacco advertisements, cigarette manufacturers Lambert and Butler ran their final billboard advert just before the law took effect... a large woman singing.
- Mari from Project A-Ko. Considering she's Kenshiro of Fist of the North Star turned into a Huge Schoolgirl by the most minimal physical alterations (maybe not minimal, but she's huge!) (and a uniform).
- In One Piece we have Boa Marigold of the Kuja Amazons, who, oddly enough, used to be a skinny and conventionally attractive girl, but bulked up using the same methods used by Sumo wrestlers. As a bonus, her hair looks a bit like a Valkyries' helmet.
- This trope holds for most of the Gonk type women among the Kuja, however to they themselves it can be considered as an aversion in universe; in the eyes of the Kuja tribe, strength itself is beauty. Most outsiders will likely disagree, however, with the exception of Boa Hancock, who just so happens to be beautiful in the conventional sense and the strongest woman on the island.
- The Alpha Team's housekeeper in Dinosaur King.
- The manga of AKIRA gives us one particularly badass aunt who is the size of a mountain and strong enough to smash bad guys' heads in by using a rocket launcher as a blunt weapon. She's a heroic protagonist, but really not very good-looking at all.
- In Fairy Tail, the Gonk fetishist has a couple of these in his employ, but the summon spirit Virgo takes the cake; she's approximately the size of a minivan, with a face like a pug that hates everyone in the world, alarmingly out-of-place Girlish Pigtails, and such an expansive bosom that her blouse's buttons burst. Later, when Lucy makes a contract with her, it turns out she actually can look very attractive if she wants, but she always takes on the form she thinks will please the contract-holder. Contrary to Natsu's observation, she's not any less powerful in a more compact form.
- Biscuit, from Hunter × Hunter, usually takes the appearance of a cute young girl◊ but her real form is huge, muscular and very manly◊. She's aware of this and hates using her real form.
- Much to the dismay of the men she saves, Big Bertha of the Great Lakes Avengers is one of these. Much to her dismay, Deadpool is a fan.
- She only looks like that when she's using her powers. In civilian mode, she looks like this.
- Monstress of the post-Zero Hour Legion of Super-Heroes is a girly-girl type who was accidentally mutated into a tall, stout, and very muscular Brawn Hilda build. The comic refrains from depicting her strength as particularly unattractive—she doesn't humiliate any male teammates and pseudo-Cloudcuckoolander Element Lad seems to find her appealing - but she's definitely no Amazonian Beauty either. Her personality is largely that of a teenaged Apron Matron.
- Judging by her original green skin color, the idea seemed to be, "What would She-Hulk look like if she actually had a physique like the Hulk?" Later, Element Lad changed her skin color to orange (probably a Shout Out to the Thing) and she decided she liked it.
- The Baker Twins in Strangers in Paradise are big, tough and battle-scarred. They tower at least one head height over every other character and are the top enforcers for The Syndicate. They are never portrayed as "ugly," but are also never portrayed as feminine.
- Bianca Castafiore in the The Adventures of Tintin books ("The Milanese Nightingale") is somewhat like this.
- Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story has one straight example, played by Missi Pyle. She looks a lot better in the epilogue after losing the unibrow. Also one in a girl scouts team.
- Coach Balbricker in Porky's
- In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Maid Marion's lady in waiting is an example.
- Robin Hood: Men in Tights parodies Maid Marian's lady in waiting in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves; she's even named "Broomhilde." Little John, however, definitely doesn't see her as unattractive...
- The East German Olympic team (details in the Real Life section), appear in Top Secret
- The woman in the opening scenes of The Boondock Saints.
- In The Fifth Element, the government's plan to sneak the hero Korben Dallas onto a galactic cruise ship involves passing off one such agent as his wife. Interestingly, it's not the primary reason he turns them down...
- In What's New Pussycat?, such a woman is married to Viennese psychiatrist Peter Sellers - she tracks him down to a hotel in full Wagnerian dress to stop his philandering, and appears to be a Freudian nightmare to Woody Allen.
- In Revenge of the Nerds, the homely sorority that teams up with the nerds includes a very large girl who holds her own in the arm-wrestling contest before being (narrowly) defeated by Ogre, who cries after nearly losing to her.
- The Trunchbull from Matilda.
- One of these appears as a wedding singer in The Illusionist.
- The brief appearance by Helga in Shallow Hal.
- A stocky German woman appears in The Living Daylights, who does a fairly good job at distracting her supervisor while Bond helps Koskov defect to the West.
- Eorache of Bored of the Rings, as a parody of Éowyn, a Germanic warrior-maiden.
- In The Fifth Elephant, Vimes' wife sings part of a very famous dwarf opera, at which point Vimes mentions that given a winged helmet and a horse, she'd have no problem ferrying dead warriors off the battlefield.
- Her Brawn Hilda status was established even earlier, in Guards! Guards!, when it is mentioned in passing that her proportions were such that ancient cultures would have worshipped her as a fertility goddess. (Look at a Stone Age fertility idol and you'll see what we mean.)
- There's sort of a stereotype in British literature (but sometimes American works, too) of having a female gym instructor be like this — in the Discworld book Soul Music, the protagonist sees an actual valkyrie whom she imagines as looking like her gym mistress.
- Honoria Glossop, Cora Bellinger ("Pretty massive. In shape, a bit on the lines of the Albert Hall◊"), and Madeleine Bassett's friend Hilda (!) Gudgeon in P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories.
- Wodehouse's description of the Bellinger (in Very Good, Jeeves!) is priceless:
... she proved to be an upstanding light-heavyweight of some thirty summers, with a commanding eye and a square chin which I, personally, would have steered clear of. She seemed to me a good deal like what Cleopatra would have been after going in too freely for the starches and cereals. I don't know why it is, but women who have anything to do with Opera, even if they're only studying for it, always appear to run to surplus poundage ... [she] had sung us a few songs before digging in at the trough, and nobody could have denied that her pipes were in great shape. Plaster was still falling from the ceiling.
- Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine.
- Brienne of Tarth from A Song of Ice and Fire is something of a deconstruction of the trope. She's a huge, ugly and tomboyish woman who desperarely wants to be a knight, but who constantly suffers for not fitting society's mold. Her Ironic Nickname is "Brienne the Beauty."
- The sci-fi writer Poul Anderson wrote a comedic short story entitled "Wherever You Are" in which a woman of this type is stranded among Bug-Eyed Monsters along with a milquetoast man. Ends like you'd expect, but manages to subvert most BEM-cliches in the process.
- Agatha Trunchbull from Matilda is a hulking, squinty-eyed, downright scary ex-jock with a rotten temper. She probably offed her brother, too.
- The protagonist of Fay Weldon's The Life and Loves of a She-Devil is this trope for most of the novel.
- There was a kid's novel called Fearsome's Hero in which the titular "Fearsome" was a sixth-grade girl named Honey, who was bigger and stronger than all the boys in her school, and who had been a bully to the main character, Tully, for several years prior. At the start of the novel, Tully kept her out of trouble with some policemen, and she fell in love with him instead, which was even worse than the bullying.
- Though not foreign, Lieutenant Violette Retancourt, a recurring character of Fred Vargas' crime novels, is positively huge, often described as unattractive (and disliked by some of her fellow policemen solely because of her appearance) and physically stronger than any of the men at the Brigade. While she is not portrayed very sympathetically when she is first introduced in Have Mercy On Us All, the main character, Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, eventually develops a vitriolic friendship with her, and her incredible strength and resilience become essential points in some novels (especially This Night's Foul Work).
- Millicent Bullstrode from Harry Potter is described as reminding Harry of a picture he'd seen in "Travels With Trolls" and enjoys putting Hermione in headlocks whenever she corners Hermione.
- Henrietta Harcourt, the DuCaral household cook in Aunt Dimity: Vampire Hunter, is described as physically massive and she proceeds to haul a wet and shivering Kit and Lori into her kitchen. She also physically took them to the scullery, helped them clean up in an experience Lori likens to "taking a ride in a spin dryer," and drags them into the kitchen to sit and eat while their clothes dry.
- Sookaiya "Soo" Venatosh, a Binnikod mercenary in Riesel Tales: Two Hunters, is muscular, heavyset, tall, masculine, and speaks in a deep (but still surprisingly feminine) voice. This is enhanced by how her species is something of a cross between a minotaur (replete with horns) and a collie dog.
Live Action TV
- Jim Croce's song "Roller Derby Queen" (lyrics and a link to a video of him performing it here) tells of a man who fell in love with a Brawn Hilda when he saw her on TV in the Roller Derby.
And the roller derby program said
that she was built like a 'fridgerator with a head,
Her fans call her "Tuffy"
But all her buddies called her "Spike"
- In Phil Dunlap's Ink Pen, Norse demigod Tyr, himself a big dude, has a wife who positively dwarfs him (we only see a portion of her as she's too big to fit in the strip's panels).
- Helga from Hägar the Horrible.
- Katrinka in Fontaine Fox's Toonerville Folks.
- Sergeant Louise Lugg from Beetle Bailey is Distaff Counterpart to Sergeant Orville Snorkel, so what else could she be? She's not foreign, but is blond, obese, physically powerful, aggressive, and foul-mouthed (though often also femininely sensitive in some ironic way). The biggest difference between her and Snorkel is that she's sexually aggressive, whereas he's afraid of women.
- The Fat Broad from B.C.
- Chyna - before her makeover and becoming an Amazonian Beauty.
- Nicole Bass
- Bull Nakano
- Asya played this trope straight for the most part. However, since she was popular among Amazon Chasers before ever starting pro wrestling, she wore skimpy outfits and used moves that emphasized her legs, making her a sort of pandering-to-the-base Amazonian Beauty as well.
- Kia Stevens, better known as Awesome Kong (TNA) and Kharma (WWE)
- GLOW Girls Mountain Fiji and Matilda the Hun.
- Rhonda Singh - she was trained in Stu Hart's Dungeon and wrestled as Monster Ripper (AWA, Japan) and Bertha Faye (WWF).
- Jazz, during her WWF/E run. In her ECW run she had a One of the Boys gimmick and was pushed as a face, her attractiveness was never so much as discussed. This was most likely due to how she would probably have beaten the crap out of anyone who said she wasn't attractive. She did participate in the WWE Divas photo shoots, but was never the star attraction.
- This happens a good deal in opera, particularly with Heldensopran parts, due to the necessity of finding women with sufficient lung power to outsing a 100-piece orchestra without amplification. This is also sometimes done deliberately for comedy effect, as in the part of the Fairy Queen in Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe. Other common examples include:
- A situation similar to the Wagner example in the main description comes up in productions of Puccini's Turandot. The eponymous princess is supposedly so beautiful, men will risk beheading for her hand in marriage — and yet, because you need "a silver trumpet instead of vocal chords" for the part, most of the sopranos cast in the role fall squarely in this category: Monserrat CaballéGwynneth Jones; Eva Marton; Birgit Nilsson
- Such a woman is a One-Scene Wonder in The Sound of Music, when she wins second place at the concert and won't get off the stage to keep soaking up applause.
- Fruma Sarah, Lazar Wolf's deceased wife in Fiddler on the Roof, is sometimes depicted as one of these.
- Cha-Cha DiGregorio is intended to be this in the musical Grease, and was usually played by larger women. Some stagings avert this and try to cast more conventionally attractive actresses, due to the popularity of the film version (where she was much prettier).
- Ellie, from Borderlands2.
- Helga from Clayfighter.
- A supernatural version appears in Ghostbusters: The Video Game. And good heavens, her scream hurts.
- The alternate female version of the Vanguard of Bloodline Champions is this. The normal one is large, tall, and has a paunch while the female version is more or less the same size.
- The first level of Dragon's Lair 2: Time Warp has Dirk escaping his mother-in-law, who comes complete with horned helmet and Rolling Pin of Doom, and is royally pissed about Daphne getting kidnapped again.
- In Exit Fate, the character Brunhild fits this trope for many reasons. She's not fat, but vaguely tomboyish, more resolved than her twin brother and fights more physically-oriented than him.
- Meg, from Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, is indeed strong (according to her father) and heavy-set, but is still just a little girl. She also is drawn to be cute and there are no comments on her appearance in-game, but fandom looks at her size and deems her ugly as sin.
- They appear a lot in Nitrome's Icebreaker series as puzzle elements.
- One of the main antagonists in the original No One Lives Forever.
- Space Mama from Rayman.
- Hammer in Fable II. A female protagonist with a really high Strength will also become this.
- There exists a mod of Team Fortress 2 that turns the Heavy into one of these.
- Helga from the Ratchet & Clank series.
- Not to mention an entire army of enemy Valkyries in A Crack in Time.
- In Double Dragon, Linda the token female mook was a tough mohawked chick with a muscular but mannish build. She became Progressively Prettier to a great degree during the Double Dragon/Battletoads crossover games, though.
- Female super mutants in the Fallout series are like this, and sound exactly like the males.
- Helga von Bulow in Return to Castle Wolfenstein.
- Big Bertha is considered the strongest human in all of Almia in Shadows of Almia.
- Any Conkeldurr, Machamp or similarly muscular Pokémon that happens to be female.
- Invoked by Ralph the Guard in an Animaniacs episode. As the "Ride of the Valkyries" plays, he (defending a car from airborne pigeon attack) falls into other cars and debris. He rises..looking a bit more like the page image than you'd want to see in dear Ralph.
- Doctor Scratch-n-Sniff also dates Brawn Hildas.
- In Courage the Cowardly Dog Muriel gets mistaken for a Valkyrie by an entire race of Brünnhilde-esque Valkyries.
- Disney's World War II propaganda film, Education for Death: The Making of the Nazi (1943) depicts the "Sleeping Beauty," Germany, this way.
- In Jimmy Neutron, after time traveling into an alternate future where Jimmy is rich, he soon discovers he has a cranky, hideous nanny named "Hilgo".
- In Johnny Bravo, the main character orders a mail order girl friend and gets a burly European woman who happens to have the same (low-brow) interests as Johnny.
- Millicent the "Slobovian rabbit" in the 1957 Looney Tunes short, "Rabbit Romeo."
- The Scotsman's wife on Samurai Jack.
- This trope was parodied in The Simpsons when Bart's impression of an East German woman (See Real Life, below) consists of a fake moustache and saying "Kiss me or I crush you!" in a deep voice.
- Also Lisa's gym teacher Brunella Pommelhorst.
- Averted when Bugs Bunny disguised himself as "Bwunhilde" to fool Elmer Fudd (depicted as the hero Siegfried) in Whats Opera Doc (as it was when he had originally dressed as her in Herr Meets Hare); his valkyrie is actually quite petite. The horse more than makes up for it.
- Eva from Total Drama Island is the strongest chick in the show and is even seen arm wrestling in the opening song; she has a nasty temper and, of course, all of the other characters fear her (except Izzy and possibly Noah).
- Revenge of the Island brings us Jo, who is the strongest female contestant physically. However, this falls more into Informed Attribute; and is Played for Laughs. It's pretty obvious to the viewer that she's female. And pretty much everyone else except Lightning, who doesn't get that she's female until she's eliminated.
- Strika from Transformers Animated looks to be a giant robot version of this, from the two or three minutes we saw of her. She's, er, "big-boned" even relative to other Cybertronians.
- Not that Lugnut seems to mind.
- Her namesake from Beast Machines has shades of this as well, although the Vehicon generals tend to be less human-like than other installments of the franchise.
- In How to Train Your Dragon, most of the grown Viking women, even the short ones, have this sort of build. ( Hiccup finds out, for example, that his Missing Mom's Breast Plate was reforged into two helmets, just after one was given to him.)
- In an episode from Dave the Barbarian ("Beef!"), Princess Candy has eyes for a hunk named Golder the Hot. However, he (and most of the other male villagers) are wooed by Bicepia the Warrior Woman, a tall and muscular Action Girl. Seeing that she needs to bulk up if she hopes to snatch away from Bicepia, Candy digests magic broccoli to achieve the same effects, gaining a similar figure and rechristening herself "The Can". While Candy is seen as an Amazonian Beauty at first, she still feels that Bicepia is bigger than her and continues to eat more broccoli. With each and every stalk, Candy grows more and more buff, at the cost of her beauty and brains (halfway through the episode, Candy even starts using Hulk Speak). Eventually, everyone is freaked out (especially Golder, who promptly decides to cancel his picnic date with Candy), forcing "The Can" to realize that she was better off as regular ol' Candy, a moral she quickly forgets seconds afterward.
- Aunt Figg actually dressed up as one for a few seconds during her Villain Song from the infamous 1992 animated film Tom and Jerry: The Movie.
- An episode of DuckTales was actually about Mrs. Beakley being kidnapped by Vikings due to her being dressed up like this while performing at an opera.
- The wife of the Odifferan leader Prince Uncouthma in an Aladdin The Series episode; she was named Brawnhilda (everyone in the series had a Punny Name, after all.)
- In the second episode of Glenn Martin D.D.S. ("The Grossest Show On Earth"/"Circus"), Jackie Martin befriends the circus strongwoman (herself a shining example of this trope and Husky Russkie) and decides to take up a training regime. Unbeknown to her, the strongwoman slips in a cheat card: steroids. Thus, when Jackie finishes her very brief workout, she immediately removes her jacket to reveal huge guns and chiseled abs. She still retained her beauty in the facial department (and believed herself to very much be an Amazonian Beauty), but she sported a deepened voice and increased aggressiveness as a result of the roids (at one point, she strips Glenn—who has an Oh Crap expression—down to his underwear and then tells him to hang on to the bedpost as she forcibly has sex with him). Most characters seemed to ignore her muscularity, but those who didn't always mistook her for a man, earning them a punch from an offended, violence-prone Jackie. At the end of the episode, she walks into a men's bathroom and checks herself out, commenting that she's hot, but then two guys mistake her for a guy again, and Jackie finally agrees with their sentiment that she's unattractive. By the next episode, the muscle (and all of the other negative side effects) is gone.
- Helga, of Hey Arnold! fame. Physically, she's just a young, scrawny kid, but her attitude and mannerisms more than make up for it. Extremely competative and cantankerous, she spends much of her time picking on the main character, even though she has a huge crush on him and admires him. She also plays sports (though most of the girls in the show play sports). Her older sister, Olga, is a saccharine opposite. Big Patty also counts as this trope.
- Both Muscle Princess and Susan Strong in Adventure Time. Both of them are about three times Finn's height and as big across at the shoulders as Finn is tall. Neither one is actually presented as explicitly attractive or ugly, since everyone's pretty cutesy in the show's signature noodle-style. Muscle Princess is particularly proud of her beef; she remarks that her hairstyle is deliberately unflattering so as not to distract from her muscles.
- Muscle Princess seems to be a much straighter example, but Susan strays closer to Amazonian Beauty territory; while Finn doesn't necessarily have an opinion either way on Susan's physique, he does gravitate towards her because Finn believes her to be a human like him. He even blushes at one point during "Beautopia" when she touches his neck and discerns that he has no gills.
- Alice from Superjail A slight variation in that she's transsexual.
- Subtly implied by Kronk in an episode of The Emperor's New School ("The Astonishing Kuzco-Man"), where he remarks that Yzma, having used a ray that previously gave Kuzco superpowers (but now set to "Medium") to transform into a muscular (and deeper-voiced) version of herself (now dubbed Yzma Woman), "looks more like Pajama Llama than Kuzco does." That being said, he does give something resembling a gesture of admiration to her flexing right after, although that could just be Kronk's Punch Clock Villain tendencies coming into play.
- Devastation, a Wonder Woman villain, is portrayed as a huge, muscular woman on Young Justice.
- Doctor Robotnik's mother in The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog is clearly one of these. The most effective description of her is "Robotnik, complete with his baldness and moustaches, but twice as big, and with breasts and dainty eyelashes, crammed into a pink dress".
- The East Germans (this was back in the days before the Berlin Wall fell) doped their entire women's Olympic swimming team with steroids. The result was about as pleasant as you'd expect for a group of young women being doped with male hormones.
- In a 20/20 story about it, one of the U.S. swimmers stated: "We saw these powerful, broad-shouldered swimmers in the pool, and we only realized they were the women's team when we saw their shoulder straps."
- Other female East German athletes were doped as well— in particular, the 1986 European Championships in Athletics gold medal woman's shot putter, Heidi Krieger, was so thoroughly androgenized that she eventually underwent gender reassignment surgery and lives now as a man named Andreas.