I am the Eater of Worlds... and of children!
— Pennywise the Clown
In folklore, many different kinds of monsters kill and eat children and infants. Others merely make children seriously ill or cause them to vanish (replacing them with fairy changelings). These stories were explanations for the high infant mortality rates seen in primitive cultures.
Naturally, various media use these tales as source material for their own monsters. Some media monsters target children to use them as a slave work-force. Some drain their life energy to stay alive.
It is taken as a given that specifically targeting children, especially if you are planning on eating them, is a sure sign that you are a monster in the truest sense of the word. Differs from Eats Babies
as this trope covers creatures who go after babies because they specifically target children, while Eats Babies
is about villains so evil they would target babies but don't go out of their way to do so. By definition, though, most (but surprisingly not all) Child Eaters
qualify for Eats Babies
Given how long some of these stories have been around, this trope is Older Than Dirt
. Related to Would Hurt a Child
. Also see Eats Babies
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Anime and Manga
- Grand Fisher in the Bleach manga. In the anime version, he preyed on women.
- The Orb of Bask from YuYu Hakusho took the souls of children, which the wielder could use as food.
- In Darker Than Black, one Contractor is required to drink the blood of small children in order to use her powers of Explosive Decompression. And the crazy part? She's The Woobie. Yes, really.
- She's The Woobie because she lost her powers (and with them, her emotionlessness) and is now horribly haunted by what she did. She never harms any children during the actual series, since she dies shortly after regaining her powers.
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Arf threatens to swallow the nine-year-old Nanoha whole to get her out of their way, though it is unclear whether she meant this or not.
- Donato Porpora from Tokyo Ghoul is a Ghoul famous for his preference for child victims. To this end, he established himself as a Sinister Minister and opened a Catholic Orphanage where the children lived happily with their beloved "Father". Then, one by one, the children would be "adopted"......and suffer brutal deaths before being eaten. He even went so far as to feed leftovers to the other children disguised as treats. Eventually, his favorite child, Kotarou Amon, discovered him eating another child and his secret was revealed. Because he couldn't bring himself to kill Amon, he ended up captured and remains an infamous Ghoul considered vile even by other Ghouls.
- The Walkers from the graphic novel Midnight Nation will kill, torture, and eat adults and children alike... but they prefer children.
- Lawbringer Qztr (and later on, Charon) attempts to kill baby Memi in Negation. They fail, because Memi has cosmic-level superpowers.
- One really squicky villain in Hellblazer, who was the demonic embodiment of rape trapped in the body of a dead child, sustained itself by drinking babies. While investigating the monster's house, Constantine accidentally discovered what was left of them when he opened a closet and a pile of dozens of dead bloodless babies collapsed on him.
- The Corinthian in The Sandman is already a repulsive Picky People Eater, but he seems to strongly favor the eyes of barely-pubescent boys.
- A taste he shares with Tojiro XIV, the Asian vampire from Grendel.
- In Countdown to Final Crisis, Mary Marvel, after her Face-Heel Turn, briefly encounters a demon who claims to be the harvester of souls of stillborn children. After introducing himself as such he threatens to disembowel her and eat the digested food from her intestines. In other words, he's the dead baby monster that eats poop.
- According to folk legend, cats steal the breath from sleeping babies. This is an explanation of Sudden Infant Death syndrome.
- Ogres are depicted as child-eaters in many stories. One variant from German folklore is even named Kinderfresser, which translates as Child Eater.
- When Dracula made Lucy Westenra into a vampire, her preferred victims were children. Dracula also fed at least one baby to his wives.
- The Witches in Roald Dahl's book of the same name want to kill children because they smell horrible. They eventually decide to turn them all into mice, because the parents would then poison, trap or otherwise dispatch the newly arrived rodent infestation, not realizing it was their children. The witches get sick satisfaction from tricking the parents into offing their own kids.
- Shows up again in Dahl's The BFG, where the evil giants tend to eat people regardless of age, but seem to prefer kids. In the animated adaptation, they seem to eat only kids.
- The opening Little Bad of the third book from The Dresden Files was a ghost who was stuck in the same pattern of actions: trying to make her baby be quiet by singing and covering his mouth, so that her husband wouldn't lose his temper. She was haunting a hospital nursery and suffocating children.
- In the first short story of the series (eventually published in the Side Jobs compilation), Harry has to save a runaway child from a Bridge Troll that eats children. It specifically mentions that under The Unseelie Accords, 'naughty' children who have run away are its (apparently only) legitimate prey.
- In the book Demon Keeper, a demon known as the Beast ate lost children. However, they didn't have to still be children by the time he ate them - a teenage runaway grown-up was still a prime meal.
- Several Goosebumps villains, including King Jellyjam, the Beasts (when the loser of their game is a child), Cuddles the hamster, and Mr. Mortman.
- Harry Potter has Fenrir Greyback, a werewolf who tries to bite as many people as possible, particularly young children, even when he's not transformed. And he gets as close to children as he can before transforming. Pedophile stand-in?
- Jenny Green-Teeth in The Wee Free Men. And the headless horseman. And dromes. And elves.
- The title monster from Stephen King's IT is "the Eater of Worlds, and of children!"
- The Nyar lath-Hotep cultists in The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross hold their monster summoning ritual next door to a primary school so that they can grab a bite to eat after church. Later on, after capturing Bob and performing a spell to turn him to their side (among other things), they offer him some "refreshments."
- One of the Mole-Men listed in More Information Than You Require is "Ms. Edna Humanchildstealer".
- The alien overlords in S.P. Somtow's Mallworld series not only eat their own children, they've been known to serve them up as the main course at diplomatic dinners. Their children are non-sentient and considered vermin until they reach a certain age.
- The alien Tendu of The Color Of Distance and Through Alien Eyes, have several life stages, and as with the above example, early ones aren't very intelligent. The first stage, the tadpole-like narey, feeds a lot of the wildlife. Eventually they metamorphize into the tinka, adult-shaped but smaller and not as smart. Tinka roam around until they can wander into more distant Tendu villages, where they act as servants. They can age and die, or else get chosen by fully adult Tendu to go through another metamorphosis and become bami, who are intelligent and considered somewhere between children and apprentices. From there they potentially have two more metamorphoses. Bami and above, if female, can lay unfertilized eggs for animals to eat. It's seen as a common courtesy for a Tendu female, taking some narey from a pool to eat, to lay some eggs to feed the others.
Live Action TV
- In the Star Trek TOS episode "And the Children Shall Lead", the Gorgon orphans all of the children living on one planet because orphaned children are more easily influenced by parental figures... such as the "friendly angel", as the kids call the Gorgon.
- The Supernatural episode "Something Wicked" features a Shtriga, which sucks life force from children, leaving them in comas.
- The demon Lilith likes to drink the blood of newborn babies. She even has a personal chef.
- Also, the Angel fifth season episode "Smile Time." Demonic puppets are sucking brain power from the children that watch their TV show.
- There was also a season 2 ep with a demon in Lorne's karaoke bar who was announced as Durthok the Child-Eater. Another child-eating species popped up in early season 5. Angel killed it but later learned he was supposed to be meeting with it.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer has several:
- According to Anya, Santa Claus is real, but instead of leaving presents, he comes down chimneys to disembowel children on Christmas.
- Olaf the Troll demanded he be brought babies to eat. Spike at first suggested they check the hospital, and then suggested onion flowers as an alternative.
- Der Kindestod ('The Death of Children') from the second season episode "Killed By Death," who preys on sick children and kills them horribly. His appearance is clearly an homage to Freddy Krueger.
- In the third season episode "Band Candy," the demon Larconis requires a tribute in the form of a ritual feeding every thirty years. What does it feed on? Newborn babies.
- In "I Only Have Eyes For You" Angelus is so disturbed by being forced to feel love (he and Buffy were possessed by the ghosts of dead lovers) that he insists on going out and killing a child to bring back a sense of evil in himself.
- In the episode "Gingerbread", a demon actually creates a panic by falsely making people believe children have been killed. Buffy laments the fact that this creates a panic, but the daily killing of innocent adults doesn't even cause a stir.
- In the Torchwood miniseries Children of Earth, an alien being called the 456 comes to Earth and demands 10% of the child population of the planet. It doesn't want the children to eat them, it wants them because the children release chemicals which to it are like a drug. It's essentially getting high off of kids. Very, very squicky.
- In the first episode/movie of Lexx, the Cluster Lizards prove to be this. However, the kids they're eating happen to be the cream of the crop chosen by His Divine Shadow, so arguably this isn't such a bad thing in this case.
- In the second season of Blackadder the title character owes a large sum of money to which he can't possibly repay to the Bank of the Black Monks. They send the 'Baby-Eating' Bishop of Bath and Welles to collect or if Blackadder doesn't pay up, he gets to have his 'fun'. He seems to live up to his name when on first confronting Blackadder he asks if he has any children. When he gets a 'no', he says he'll skip breakfast and move on to business then.
- The Outer Limits (1995): In the season 1 episode "Under the Bed", a boogeyman-like monster steals children from their bedrooms to devour them.
- Lamia, in Greek mythology, stole other women's children as vengeance for the theft of her own.
- Lilith in Hebrew tradition is supposed to feed on babies, as well as being a succubus. It's only relatively recently (Older Than Print) that she's been known as the first wife of Adam who wouldn't stay in the metaphorical kitchen.
- In Mesopotamian mythology, the she-demons Lamashtu and Akhkhazu (Dimme and Dimme-kur in Sumerian) liked to harm, kidnap, kill, maim and/or eat children and babies, just For the Evulz.
- Gello and Abyzou of Mediterranean myth and folklore, out of jealousy.
- The Buddhist goddess Hariti or Kishimojin, who grieves over her own lost child and becomes a child-eating demoness. Buddha makes her see the error of her ways (or, in some versions, has her lost child restored to her, or converts her), and she makes a Heel-Face Turn and is now a protector of childbirth. She eats pomegranates instead.
- Atavaka was originally a baby-eating demon until Buddha converted him. He then became an attendant to Bishamonten and protector of the south-west.
- The Leyaks, and their queen Rangda, from Balinese mythology.
- In Danish mythology, they have the Valravn, a raven that has eaten the corpse of a man who died in battle and gained his intelligence, but they are only able to fly at night. To break this curse, the Valravn has to eat the heart of a child, so they regularly tried to kidnap children or make deals with mothers for their firstborn. If they succeeded, then they would be turned into either a knight or a wolf/raven hybrid.
- Cronus/Saturn in Greek/Roman mythology. After hearing a prophecy that he will be overthrown by one of his children, he eats every one of his children except Zeus/Jupiter, who was saved when Cronus/Saturn was tricked into eating a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes, under the impression that it was the real deal.
- Kelpies in Scottish mythology fit this. Their modius operandi was to trick children into riding them, or merely touching them, at which point the child would be trapped by their adhesive skin and the kelpie would drag them into a river to drown. Then the kelpie would devour everything but the liver.
- A comic from The Far Side depicts two parents telling a stereotypical-looking Wicked Witch, "Now let me get this straight. We hired you to babysit the kids, and instead you cooked and ate them BOTH?" In The Prehistory of The Far Side, a retrospective book, cartoonist Gary Larson expresses particular pride at emphasizing the word "both".
- Another comic has a witch with a house made of brussel sprouts, frustrated that a rival witch's gingerbread house is attracting all the kids to eat.
- In Exalted, the ancient and mad sorceress Raksi is known for feasting on babies.
- The Dark Dragon God, Loputousu, and its current host in Fire Emblem 4 demand sacrifices of children ages 7 to 13. Large sacrifices.
- The midquel, Fire Emblem 5, reveals that Loputousu and his cult are not "sacrificing" the children per se; rather, they are forcing them to fight to the death, with the winners being rewarded with positions of nobility in the Lopt Empire. That said, the vast majority of the children are killed in these battles.
- Kusaregedo from Samurai Shodown is a rather monstrous version of this.
- In Icewind Dale 2, the witch Limda is a particular sadistic variant. To preserve her youth, she drains lifeforce from the children of a nearby group of fur-traders and turns them into minks as a side effect. Minks that are hunted and skinned by their own unwitting parents. She gets sick kicks from watching the traders murder and skin their own missing children.
- Arioch from Drakengard is a psychotic Serial Killer who eats children, and only children. While she'll kill adults, children are the only ones she cannibalizes due to psychosis from having lost her family to The Empire and rendered infertile by a Deal with the Devil.
- The game also provides a sick inversion where gigantic children eat the main characters. More specifically the aforementioned Arioch.
- In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, one of the demons you may meet around is the above mentioned Hindu goddess Hariti - who, unfortunately, was once a vicious ogress with a serious case of these which the full moon threatens to bring back. Luckily, her friend Persephone is more than willing to give her a pomegranate, just so she won't be tempted to restart the habit.
- No Rest for the Wicked: Saying anything would spoil the fuel.
- One storyline of And Shine Heaven Now features an Adze, a vampire that feeds on children and can take the form of a firefly.
- Harvestman of Daddy-Long-Legs is, amazingly, a heroic example. (Partly justified since neither he nor the children in question are human.)