Victorian-era Europeans invented 'childhood'. Inspired by the ideals of The Enlightenment and an interpretation of The Bible's New Testament based on them, they came to the conclusion that the time people spent between being a baby and being useful in mines and fields was special and precious - that people this age were innocent and full of wonder and beloved by God, and that they should be loved and protected and cared for by society in general. They came to believe that there was a stark contrast between the innocent and instinctual goodness of children and the cynical evil of adults. After several decades the grassroots belief in and support for 'childhood' became so strong that childrennote Or more usually, failing that, just the girls under certain ages were actually forbidden from doing certain types of work despite the dedicated lobbying of business interests who didn't want to lose their smallest and cheapest workers (e.g. smaller coal-miners mean smaller mineshafts). By 1900 only a fifth or so of British and US children (under 16) were in full-time employment and even the world's most pro-corporation and rabidlyanti-socialist democratic state, the USA, actually banned child labour entirely in 1938.
The age European culture has assigned to the end of 'childhood' has grown over the years and an 'inbetween' period was added in the 1960s or so - 'teen-age'-hood - but the meme remains: a child is a Blank Slate not yet sullied by the evils of the world. Only upon coming of age do they lose this innocence and the protection it confers. A child's death, even that of a boy, is a tragedy; but a young man just a year older than him is in the most expendable demographic in the world.
The Children Are Innocent trope captures the idea that children are never naturally evil. A consequence is that harming one is the ultimate evil act, no matter how provoked — unless that is forcing others to harm them. This is an extremely pervasive trope that is at the heart of many other tropes, such as Friend to All Children and Harmful to Minors as well as frequently the root of both Papa Wolf and Mama Bear. When the Big Bad kills nameless hundreds, the heroes will say the villain killed women and children. The Children Are Innocent trope is old enough that it is difficult to assign it an age; but certainly it goes back to the New Testament.
Expect those who buy into this trope to hold that any villain character Used to Be a Sweet Kid until something badhappenedtothem, especially if they also believe that Rousseau Was Right. Sometimes that "sometime bad" is as simple as puberty and thus "wordly experience" which again ties into the New Testament stuff.
Off-stage children almost always fall under this trope; like some legal systems, children are 'innocent until proven guilty'. Being informed that a character has killed, injured, exploited, etc. children is always a mark of evil without such proof. Indeed, one of the commonest ways to disprove Always Chaotic Evil is to bring up their children, as in the Genocide Dilemma. For instance, nothing makes a 'heroic' human adventurer look more villainous than an Empathy Doll Shot in a decimated goblin village.
Where blond hair is found naturally, children are often depicted with it. This trope is considered to drive Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold because children (and the young) are more likely to have blond hair than older people, thus, blond hair is a sign of innocence.
This is the standard for an Innocent Prodigy and often comes into play for A Child Shall Lead Them. Innocence is also generally behind Constantly Curious and Curious as a Monkey.
Frequently children Cannot Tell a Lie, because they are too innocent to think of suppressing the truth. Children who do start to lie often show this is new to them by being momentually Bad Liars. On the other hand, this very quality can lead to their being Too Dumb to Fool.
Part and parcel of this is depicting children as the other meaning of innocent: naive, guillible, and too trusting. They can misunderstand anything other than the most obvious. This can lead into an uawareness that they're doing anything wrong. They can commit offenses unwittingly and face a Bewildering Punishment. Children have to learn empathy, and not to be self-centered, and also often have a poor grasp of consequences of their actions. This can then lead to Ambiguous Innocence.
In contrast, the Creepy Child, the Enfante Terrible, and Corruption by a Minor draw much of their force from their knowingness. They understand as much, if not more, than the adults about them, which contradicts not only this trope but the general understanding of children. A Serial Killer can give anyone the chills but the effect is magnified if the killer is a child.
The Spoiled Brat, the Mouthy Kid, the Bratty Half-Pint, and Kids Are Cruelcan be complex examples. They may have been born that way, have been this trope and then something happened to them remove that aspect, or they could have a Hidden Heart of Gold which restores the aspect. In the first case, if the causes of the spoiling are clearly identified, and the children revert to innocence when they are removed, the children may still be innocent.
Teenage Wasteland is a similar case; since children now have adult power and responsibility despite still being children, the forced loss of innocence may be a major theme. Ironically, it is reinforced by a Childless Dystopia, what with how miserable things generally become without them.
Subtrope for Children Are Special. In this case it is their innocence that makes them special.
Amnesiacs Are Innocent is based on a similar idea. The Amnesiacs has returned to the Blank Slate status of a child because they've lost all the worldly experience that made them lose it.
Invoked, however derisively, by Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!. A more worldly yet still innocent child may reply that Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!.
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Anime & Manga
Spirited Away: Chihiro, while somewhat spoiled and whiney, intuitively realizes that her parents are trespassing when they eat the food of the gods.
In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, this is one of the stated reasons why Fate's sentence was light despite being an accomplice in the dimensional interference; she was just a child who was following her mother's wish and didn't fully understand the crime that she was committing. Also, Precia's an evil bitch for not only taking advantage of that trust, but abusing it.
In Phantom Dreams, when a Jaki kills a child for a spell, Tamaki is enraged.
Such a... small life... crushed.
In Space Runaway Ideon, the children on the Solo Ship are represented as the indifference between the warring sides, genuinely playful and optimistic, and completely oblivious to what's happening around them. Despite Karala Ajiba being an alien, the children accept her and see the good in her, in comparison to their paranoid older counterparts. Interestingly enough, In the final film, Be Invoked, it's discovered that the children's innocence is the key to controlling the Ide, with Karala's recently revealed pregnancy by human Bes Jordan acting a sign that peace is possible. However, this being a Tomino anime, Karala is shot, the Ide is ticked off, and ends both races through their intense fighting. The themes explored in Ideon concerning the children are retouched in Neon Genesis Evangelion.
believe it or not Mao (the Psychopathic Manchild) touches upon this trope. Most of his evil deeds are a direct result of serious Moral Myopia brought about from his lack of normal human experience since childhood. With his mind-reading powers, he first learned about humanity's evil impulses much too young, and so automatically assumed that the people thinking them were bad and deserved to be killed, a fact that carries over into the actual plot action, where he's seventeen. This is all talked about in the supplementary readings, where CC frequently comments on his misplaced innocence.
In the second season of Ai Yori Aoshi, Chika asks the assembled female cast if they "love" Kaoru. They freak, because their definition is different than hers. The episode follows Chika's attempts to get answers from the group individually, including Aoi's explanation of the term Enishi. At the end, Chika concludes that everyoneloves Kaoru.
Czeslaw Meyer from Baccano!! likes to act the part, but he's actually very paranoid and cynical. Then again, he's Really 700 Years Old and so only looks like a child and his paranoia is due to an abusive caretaker.
Tokomon serves this purpose in Digimon X-Evolution. But in all honesty, the entire Digimon franchise is built on this trope.
Season 1: In a nutshell, the Chosen Children (DigiDestined) are children because Adults Are Useless.
Season 2: Same as above, and ultimately their innocence, hopes, and dreams are what defeats the Big Bad, whose power was built on corruption and despair.
Season 3: The Wild Bunch (Monster Makers) based Digimon off of children's ideas, and the Tamers' naďveté to believe that they could do anything is what let them prove it.
Season 4: Only those pure of heart answered Ophanimon's call, and all of them were children.
In Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, Ponyo's father wishes she could stay pure and innocent forever. Later, when Ponyo's mother proposes putting Sosuke to the test, he is distressed at how innocent Sosuke is.
Haru initially believes this in Katekyo Hitman Reborn!!. During their first meeting with her, Reborn is with Tsuna. Naru asks to be friends with Reborn, then to hug him. After Reborn tells her he is an assassin, she punches Tsuna, telling him that babies are innocent, pristine angels, an he should be ashamed of himself for tainting him. She changes her mind soon enough.
While Monster prefers to play this trope straight (considering Dieter, Nina and most of the Kinderheim 511 survivors), it also has the one exception: Johan, who is the "monster" in the title.
The pretty, doll-like, children in the works of Suehiro Maruo are usually sexually aware and amoral, if not downright sadistic and depraved.
Averted in Tekkon Kinkreet: Black can't be older than 13 and has already mugged, assaulted and maimed several people. His usually innocent partner White also nastily averts this trope when he lights one of their alien attackers on fire and burns him alive.
Ikigami. In "The Last Lesson", : The entire point is to disprove this trope. The National Welfare Act was passed was to deal with underage crime.
A school teacher loses his job because a kid took pictures of underage children with the teacher's phone, getting him branded as a pervert. Later, when the kid admits to setting up the teacher, the teacher responds with "If you're truly sorry, then you have done no harm."
Tthe headmaster of the school where the kid went fired teachers if the children were failing, the logic being that kids will study as hard as they can and if they're failing its the teachers fault.
Black Lagoon has a Crapsack World setting so naturally it doesn't follow this trope. Hansel and Gretel are by far, the least innocent characters in the whole show. Though their Dark and Troubled Past might be a reason for this, thus restoring the trope..
Eren Yeager is shown to have used this to his advantage in an incident of Troubling Unchildlike Behavior. Going on his own to rescue a girl (Mikasa) from a gang of criminals, he lulls the first man into believing he's just a scared, lost child...and then stabs him in the throat with the knife he'd been hiding behind his back. He then proceeds to brutally murder the second crook, revealing our hero was a very disturbed child long before The Call knew where he lived.
Subtly exploited by the Survey Corps during Eren's trial. Several groups wanted Eren dead immediately but Levi suddenly started beating the crap out of him in front of everyone as part of Erwin's gambit. While those groups wanted to kill Eren as a human titan, they were visibly horrified seeing Eren getting savaged as a human child.
A recurring element in Strontium Dog is that children are (usually) not prejudiced against mutants, and often cheer them on even when their parents complain about how freaks should stay out of sight of decent folks. One particular story deserves special mention - a kid was caught in the crossfire between Johnny and a criminal. Johnny was wracked with guilt and chased away from the funeral, so in desperation to make amends, he dug up the corpse and brought it to a necromancer to be revived. This didn't end well.
subverted in a scene when Rudi talks with a mother who believes in this trope, while at the same time the kids play with Adolf Hitler dolls and throw atomicCluster F Bombs at each other.
X-23 was born innocent and for that reason she deliberately broken by her creators. Innocence Lost, Target: X and flashbacks in her solo series show in detail the horrific amounts of abuse and torture piled on her to strip away her innocence and turn her into a Living Weapon. Her "field test" was at the age of nine and said field test was the assassination of Presidential candidate Greg Johnson, his wife, yheir kids, and an entire roomful of staffers, press, and other functionaries. All-told, she killed several dozen people in the attack and it only gets worse from there. She's explicitly implied to have a bodycount in the hundreds by the time she's 16, enough that Captain Americapersonally devotes himself to hunting her down and nearly turns her over to S.H.I.E.L.D. for trial (before he recognizes S.H.I.E.L.D. would just use her, too). Even after escaping and joining the X-Men, Laura still struggles with her past including the time she spent as a 15/16 year-old Street Walker.
Batman Vampire: The sight of her master Dracula about to kill an innocent child is what enabled Tanya to break free of his control and escape.
The Emperor's New Clothes, with the classic case of a kid who is Too Dumb to Fool.
In The Brothers Grimm' The Children Who Played Butcher, some kids watched a farmhand slaughter a pig, then cut it up. They decide to play this "game" and slit the throat of the child picked to be the pig, killing him. Before they can cut up the body one of the mothers come across them and drag them before the magistrate. The magistrate, with the help of the local elders, comes up with a way to determine if they are innocent or guilty. Each child is offered an apple and a silver coin. If they took the apple then they are innocent of the ways of the world and didn't intend to kill the other child. However, if they took the coin then they were wise to the ways of the world and intentionally killed the other child and will be hung for murder. It never said which they chose. This is one of their tales that appeared only in the first edition.
A Growing Affection has Minato sites this as one of the reasons he sealed the Nine-Tails in Naruto; as an innocent baby/child, he would be more resistant to the demon's influence.
Played with in the Eva fic Nobody Dies. The Ree, the Reego, and the Keiworu are all innocent... by which we mean they do not seem to have a good grasp of morality. They tend to think that killing and violence, especially if explosions and/or knives are involved, is FUN. However, they also have very strict prohibitions against killing humans, because humans, like them, are "people", and harming people is a bad thing according to their parental figures. Kaworu speculates that they may be closer to what humanity was like before the "Fall": uninhibited and unaware of Good and Evil.
Played With in Gensokyo 20 XX in terms of mostly Reimu and Chen and later on the others.
In Reimu's case, this is mostly justified and played straight because she is age-regressed, mentally as well as physically, coupled with being mentally conditioned, thus she wouldn't be able to grasp things that those older than her might (Like why swearing is bad). However, later on, when she is a witness to Chen's suicide attempt, it is made note that she never did seem to be able to make sense of it and is likely suffering from mental trauma as a result.
Played with even more so in Chen's case in that, naturally, being a the mental-equivalent of a human child, has fluctuating maturity, and knows what some words mean but doesn't know what other words means but is also naive to what infertility is. Also, in 20XXIII, she pretty much knows there is a war going on but doesn't understand why Ran would be against building an inner core or refuge as a part of their preparations. At the same time, later on, in Gensokyo 20XXIV, at two points, she couldn't understand why Ran had changed and, later on, attempted suicide, something children 'don't' do. However, aside from her innocence, she is smarter than what she tends to let on.
Kind of in Sakuya's case, as Yukari brought her back as a child, she is more or less this as demonstrated in chapter 53 of Gensokyo 20XXIV when she suggested Ran "drink some herbal tea" and was genuinely remorseful that it seemed to upset her. Whether or not she actually knew what she was talking is unknown.
Definitely played straight with Maribel and Renko.
Films — Animated
Lilo from Lilo & Stitch has some unusual interests in things kids her age shouldn't even be aware of, but when she's about to be taken away from her older sister Nani by a social worker, she has no idea what's really going on.
Toy Story: Sid tortures toys for fun. On one hand, it's easy to imagine this kid growing up to torture his fellow humans. On the other hand, he didn't know the toys were alive.
Pixar plays with this trope in some films: In Monsters, Inc. it is played straight with Boo, in Finding Nemo, Darla's innocence make her unable to realize that she terrifies the fishes (who consider her a "fish-killer" after she accidentally killed a goldfish by constantly shaking the bag. In Up, Russell's innocence made him reveal Kevin's existence in Muntz's airship.
Films — Live-Action
Just about every movie made before the mid-1950's invoked this trope. Children were almost always portrayed as innocent and trusting, with nary a shed of cruelty or disrespect. This began to change once Youth Counterculture became a major social issue during the 1950's, with Rebel Without a Cause being first among the stories to abandon this trope.
Kevin in Time Bandits. Ironically enough, one aspect is that he is curious and willing to read rather than wallow in sloth and greed, and so he is in many respects the most knowledgeable character in the film, except for Agammenon, the only good adult.
Hard Candy starts out with this trope played straight by the cute, innocent protagonist. Then 20 minutes into the movie it suddenly does a 180-turn and averts it.
Hotel Rwanda has terrified children who simply cannot understand the concept of genocide. One of the most heartbreakingly memorable lines in the film comes when a Red Cross worker recalls being Forced to Watch as the Hutu militia slaughter Tutsi children, and one of the children says "Please don't let them kill me. I promise I won't be Tutsi any more". She is killed anyway.
Inverted by the play and movie The Bad Seed (and its remake "The Good Son").
Mocked in Blazing Saddles. This belief was the undoing of the Waco Kid way back when.
The Waco Kid: Well, it got so that every piss-ant prairie punk who thought he could shoot a gun would ride into town to try out the Waco Kid. I must have killed more men than Cecil B. De Mille. It got pretty gritty. I started to hear the word "draw" in my sleep. Then one day, I was just walking down the street when I heard a voice behind me say, "Reach for it, mister!" I spun around... and there I was, face-to-face with a six-year old kid. Well, I just threw my guns down and walked away. Little bastard shot me in the ass. So I limped to the nearest saloon, crawled inside a whiskey bottle, and I've been there ever since.
Played with in Enemy at the Gates. Sacha hero-worships Vasili as, well, a war hero, but he's also actively working to help Vasili kill Major König. On the other hand, he has little to no idea just how dangerous a situation he's got himself into and it winds up getting him killed. Given the fact that the kid's grown up in a war zone and has presumably lost his father to that war, his partial loss of innocence is quite understandable.
the brutal head of the Flaming Dragon drug ring seems to be about twelve years old.
the adorable local toddler Ben Stiller's character wants to adopt stabbing him multiple times in rage before being flung off a bridge.
In The Wild Bunch children are shown to be among the most violent characters in the film, and in a Peckinpah film that's impressive. A child smiles as he watches the Mexican Army (which his father is the general of) get massacred by rebels, and later lands the killing shot on Warren Oates, still smiling. In the first 25 minutes, a group of children are shown torturing scorpions (who only LOOK scary) by trapping them and coating them with fire ants, and later setting the cage ON FIRE, and, after the massacre in town, run around pretending to shoot the corpses, yelling "Bang! Bang!" in a way that will make anyone feel chills.
In Spawn, the hellish main character runs into his human daughter Cyan after secretly observing a lecture given by his former fiancé Wanda. The little girl isn't afraid of the imposing figure and innocently notes his weird (burned and scarred) face before exchanging names.
In Hellraiser: Inferno, the Engineer's victim is just an innocent kid whom Joseph desperately tries to save before it's completely destroyed. Not only that, the child is the literal embodiment of Joseph's childhood innocence before he became a narcissistic asshole as an adult. The Engineer, Joseph's savage hedonistic side, pretty literally mutilates and destroys that innocence. Pinhead notes in his role as the psychologist that he admires that trait in children and is genuinely disgusted at Joseph when he gives him his karmic punishment.
In Fugitives of Chaos, Amelia warns Colin that the Ring of Gyges might not work on the innocent, and cites children as possible.
In The Secret Garden, Mary and Colin are both Spoiled Brats when they first appear. However, the causes are delineated: Mary's mother neglected her, and the servants learned to indulge Mary to keep her from coming to her mother's notice, and Colin's father had neglected him after his mother's Death by Childbirth. Letting them play together and experience the beauties of the garden and nature causes them to shed the characters and become their true, innocent selves.
In James Thurber's The 13 Clocks, one of the wicked duke's wickedest deeds was imprisoning children in the tower. Late in the book, the sounds of children's laughter from the tower and a ball rolling down the steps deeply enrages him.
In Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos, the narrator and his wife have many run-ins with evil forces. The final one, which shocks them to the core despite all they have seen, is the kidnapping of their baby daughter to Hell.
In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novels, the Ghosts on several occasions make special provision for children. In Necropolis, Criid takes two children, total strangers, under her wing when their mother dies, and when Caffran sees that a child and a woman are looting, he brings out what they had intended to steal, and gives them a gun as well. In Sabbat Martyr Criid opens a deserted building to shelter children and stands down the Obstructive Bureaucrat who objects; later, the Ghosts are particularly protective of the children among the refugees. This lends particular horror to Caffran's death at the hands of a child in The Armor of Contempt.
"Oh, then, Curdie, you must call me just Irene and no more." "No, indeed," said the nurse indignantly. "He shall do no such thing." "What shall he call me, then, Lootie?" "Your Royal Highness." "My Royal Highness! What's that? No, no, Lootie. I won't be called names. I don't like them. You told me once yourself it's only rude children that call names; and I'm sure Curdie wouldn't be rude. Curdie, my name's Irene."
In Bram Stoker's Dracula, the vampire Lucy preys on children. Although she doesn't kill them, the children's innocent inability to understand that she was harming them — some even wish to meet her again — is horrific.
Simon Spurrier's Night Lords novel Lord of the Night: Sahaal captures a child who cries for its mother and then, when he's close enough, tries to stab him, even a Chaos Space Marine such as Sahaal reflects that there is no place for innocence in the underhive. Later, when he orders Chianni to kill child hostages, she merely nods, and he is impressed that it does not perturb her.
Death Masks, Susan tells Dresden that the Red Court prey on children, which disgusts them both. Ortega offers to turn Dresden into a vampire rather than kill him in a duel, claiming they are Not So Different. Dresden fishes until he establishes that Ortega preys on children and cites it as a difference.
In Dead Beat, Wardens can not bring themselves to leave children behind in danger while they deal with the bad guys.
In Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality books, the souls of infants are pure — except, in some interesting theology where they can be tainted down to "in balance" by such things as the circumstances of their conception, or by their deaths owing to genetic disease precipiating their mother's suicide.
Songs of Innocence and of Experience: Children are portrayed this way in Songs of Innocence and they are not portrayed this way in Songs of Experience, in the poems "NURSE'S Song" and "Infant Sorrow".
In Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals, Vetinari speaks coldly of killing children; those he is addressing counter that they had exterminated pups — which only makes them look bad. Then we learn they are speaking of orc children which is just as bad.
In each such glimpse, the face seemed to grow more childish and more innocent: and, when I had at last thought the veil entirely away, it was, unmistakeably, the sweet face of little Sylvie!
Both played straight and averted in Swan Song. Swan, the titular protagonist, is very innocent in spite of the upheaved life she's lead, while Roland shows signs of being evil at 12 years old.
In John C. Wright's The Golden Transcedence, Ungannis declares that humanity is unspeakable and only was endurable when mortal, because then those guilty of crime would die and the children, temporarily innocent, took their place. Then, she's The Resenter.
'Cita in the Petaybee books, oddly enough. She was raised by a cult where children are married by ten and beaten regularly, but she still believes people are naturally good and trusts easily.
The Little Prince, who always comes to the conclussion that adults are strange after watching their usual behavior.
In Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London (known as Midnight Riot in the US), getting a warrant for a ghost who murdered his wife and child is complicated by the ghostly magistrate asking whether the woman was a shrew. The quick-thinking narrator tells him that she was a terrible shrew but the baby was innocent, which gets the warrant.
Left Behind uses this, no doubt due to the conundrum of "what of people who were not raised Christian or were too young to understand what it really means", and similar. The writers being pro-life, they also raptured children in the womb, and there is surprisingly little angst when every child under twelve (the cutoff point) suddenly vanishes.
In Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, a character warns not to be deceived by a child's innocence — since she was drawn to a man they know is a traitor, she must be as bad.
In Devon Monk's Allie Beckstrom book Magic to the Bone, Allie is surprised by a question of whether she cast a curse, and (truthfully) denies it — the target's just a little boy.
In Seanan McGuire's Velveteen Vs The Junior Super Patriots, at one point, going up against the Junior Super Patriots leads to reflections that they are as innocent as those fighting them were, when they were recruited.
In Coda Alpha and Omega are very innocent, which is why Anthem works so hard to protect them from the Corp.
Averted in Harry Potter, where we see that Lord Voldemort (formerly Tom Riddle) had always had the instinct to take what is not his and had always delighted in hurting others (hanged another orphan's pet rabbit, forced two other children into a dark cave and did something to them that mentally scarred them).
His Dark Materials. Children are immune to the Spectres, and can have special affinity to the Alethiometer, and have transforming daemons symbolizing their infinite potential - but one of the main themes of the books is that children have to grow up, and it's not a bad thing. Neither Will nor Lyra take directly part in the war against the Authorit; they don't share Lord Asriel's Rage Against the Heavens - they're just trying to survive. They do end up killing the Authority, but it's not an act of violence; they didn't know who he was, and were trying to help him.
Averted in Stephen King's It with the kids who bully the protagonists, but Henry Bowers and Patrick Hockstetter are the most psychotic. For example, Henry chases down Ben Hanscom, pins him to the ground with help of his fellow bullies, and proceeds to carve his name into Ben's stomach (fortunately he only gets as far as "H"). Patrick Hockstetter is a solipsist, but his world view is shaken when his baby brother is born and he loses some attention from his parents. This makes him afraid that his little brother may exist, so he smothers the infant with a pillow. No one ever finds out.
Played with in Ray Bradbury's The Small Assassin, in which a mother becomes convinced that her newborn baby will kill her. She's right. And the father too.
A very similar short story is "Baby Hate" by Elizabeth Fancett, where a father believes his newborn son cannot stand to be around him. We are initially led to believe that he is simply projecting his own psychological issues onto the baby - until the baby horrifically and gruesomely murders his father.
Averted in the Confessions of St. Augustine. He opines that even newborns, suffering as all humans do from the taint of original sin, are capable of selfishness and spite, perhaps even more so than adults, who have learned to behave through education and experience. Some modern humorists agree.
Lampshaded and mocked by Terry Pratchett in Hogfather, with the comment that the sound of children at play is a wonderful thing to hear, provided you're too far away to make out what they're saying.
Subverted in the Andrew Vachss Burke book Dead and Gone where the first of the ambushers trying to kill him appears to be the very same child he was there to receive.
Averted in the works of P. G. Wodehouse; children (usually boys) are almost always portrayed as obnoxious, grubby little pests.
Sergey Lukyanenko's Knights Of The Forty Islands is a case of Playing with a Trope. Aliens abduct teenagers (duplicates, actually) and distribute them among the forty islands connected by bridges. They are told that the group that manages to conquer all forty islands gets to go home. The kids are supplied with wooden swords that turn into metal whenever they get aggressive (i.e. fight). The Protagonist quickly learns that this is not a game, and people really die here. Very quickly, the teens realize that it is simply impossible to conquer all forty islands, as each island only has no more than a dozen people. Eventually, the protagonist suggests allying with the nearby islands in order to be able to achieve their goal. While this works at first, it later turns into a disaster, as their former allies turn on them, kill the boys, and rape the girls. In fact, they find remains of children from World War II era who have tried the same thing with the identical results. This novels seems to be about breaking every child stereotype to claim that, under the right circumstances, even a child is capable of anything. The worst thing is, the aliens never planned to release anyone.
Deconstructed in Joe Hill's NOS4A2 where the children of Christmasland are innocent forever, which means they never learn or gain experience or develop empathy. As one character states, "Innocent little kids rip the wrings off flies, because they don't know any better." In other words, perpetual innocence means no Character Development, for good or ill.
Other religions similarly use children as symbols of being innocent and receptive, such as Daoism: "If you receive the world, the Dao will never leave you, and you will be like a little child."
Some religions go as far to preach being like something even younger than a child, like the Zen koan: "What did your face look like before your parents were born?"
Michael Jacksonalways played this trope completely straight in his work, and frequently claimed that children could/would right the wrongs in the world through their innocent goodness if only adults would listen to them.
Live Action TV
A strongly held belief of Jesse's in Breaking Bad, and in the early seasons, a sign that he isn't just a stupid, jerky, gangsta-wannabe type that his first impression gives off. He destroys a joint that he finds in his little brother's possession, and in a later season, attempts to kill two drug dealers that killed an 11-year boy. This trait also eventually ends his partnership with Walt, when a "co-worker" of theirs murders a boy during one of their operations, and when he realizes that only he is really horrified and disgusted by it.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The demon from the Season 3 episode "Gingerbread" uses this to get the parents of Sunnydale to kill witches and anyone who protects them, including their own children.
Gil Grissom: Let me tell you something, Humbert. You're twice the age of these kids, and half of them couldn't find their own ass with a map. You prey on innocent children, concocting God-knows-what from God-knows-where, selling Russian Roulette in a bottle and you think we came all the way out here to bust you for possession, you dumb punk? I'm gonna get you for murder. Cool?
An important subplot in the fifth season of LOST involves a time traveling Sayid shootingBenas a child to stop him from growing up and causing misery for everyone. However, Kate and Sawyer choose to save his life, arguing that he shouldn't be punished as a child for things he will do as an adult.
Dexter feels affection for children because of their innocence, since he himself lost his childhood innocence at a very young age. He also is very protective of them, and whatever else happens find s the idea of hurting a child repulsive.
Chance of Noah's Arc strongly and explicitly believes this, which is why he keeps taking care of Kenya even after he and her father are separated. He even states a variation on the trope name at one point.
Initially played straight in Conspiracy ThrillerUtopia, but as the gang of unwitting protagonists are pushed further and further, eventually both of the ~12-year-old children involved have committed murder. One in cold blood.
In an episode of Angel in which a young boy is being possessed by an evil demon we eventually learn that the demon is actually trapped inside the boy's body and the boy in question has no soul and is pure evil, shown by his actions after he is exorcised of the demon, when he burns down his house while his parents and younger sister are still inside, starting in his sister's room to make sure she cannot escape
Dungeons & Dragons enters this trope in a roundabout and downplayed way: being evil requires either being made of evil or combining doing wrong with the ability to understand the concept of 'wrong'. End result: most children don't become evil until at least a few months after hitting Intelligence 3, even ones of generally evil races like drow or goblins.
The Arthur Miller play The Crucible uses this trope as a plot point - the children would never lie about who the witches of Salem are, right? Not even if one of them's 17 and wants to bone the main character, and concocts the entire crisis in order to take his wife out of the picture. The reality was even worse: the aforementioned 17 year old was actually eleven.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is complex. While Link and Aryll are still innocent, Tetra defies it with all her might. After all, a pirate captain has no need of such a thing. Then she turns into innocent Princess Zelda who takes up a bow and helps Link kill Ganondorf rather in an incredibly brutal way. When the fight is over, the King of Hyrule calls the gods themselves out to this trope, refering to Link and Tetra. Also, many players have noted that, aside from Link and Aryll, most of the children in the game behave like small adults, especially (aside from Tetra) Medli. Yeah, Wind Waker just loo~ooved to screw with this trope.
Surprisingly touched upon in Killer7. When assassin Jean DePaul brings up MASK de Smith's popularity with children, MASK responds by declaring that children's purity makes them the most objective judges in the world. Turns out they're right.
Played straight in Nightmare Realm for Emily and most of the children that appear.
One of the few survivors from Cabadath's blood trail in Trilby's Notes is the woodcutter's son. According to the Evil Bible within the game it is because he is an innocent, but the book tends to downplay the bloodshed to say the least.
A set of twins, Mireille and Mischka, can join you in Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume. They're both 12 years old and take much joy in killing, yet don't see what's wrong with killing other people after they have surrendered. Their reasoning is that since they signed up in the first place, they should be prepared to die. Their dialogue is completely 100% innocent.
Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer: the spirit of a priest is convinced that "the child" can't have committed the crimes he was convicted of. It turns out "The Child" is a brilliant liar who was more than capable of murder by arson and centuries old due to being trapped in a furnance and so isn't a child anymore anyways. If the requirements are met, joins the party in control of a mis-mash of spirits called One Of Many.
Played with in BioShock the little sisters will original call for the protectors to kill you, but then seem more friendly and innocent once restored to 'normal' however later they will stab the final boss to death with syringes Although genetic engineering and behavioural programming gets most of the blame.
In the sequel, we discover how they've been programmed to see Rapture - to them, the whole thing is elegant and beautiful (except for the occasional lapse into reality), with "angels"(read: corpses) lying on the ground waiting for them to gather their ADAM. They completely trust "Daddy" whatever he does to them(although they may be scared of him if you go the evil route, they'll still go with him and gather for him).
Pearl Fey's so innocent, she doesn't even notice when her mother orders her to kill her cousin and best friend and heartbreak her aunt.
Regina Berry is so innocent she doesn't even know what the word "death" means. Yeah, in a certain way, Ace Attorney plays this trope straight and yet also plays with it.
While played mostly straight in Nightmare Realm, there is exception for Jeff and Phillip, who are both Big Bad in different ways. To be fair the latter is a Broken Bird while the former is implied to be one: Phillip wants to maintain the Dream World(later transformed into Dark City) because he don't want to go back to be Ill Boy while Jeff wants to be talented in somethings.
Averted in Painkiller: Battle out of hell. The first level is called 'orphanage' and features some of the most disturbing enemies in the game, most of which are children.
Averted in Rule of Rose: the game revolves around the Byzantian machinations and rivalries of the "Red Rose Aristocrats Club", a group of children living in an orphanage, pretending to be powerful and magnificent. Each of the children in this clique is utterly vile, completely pathetic yet still at least somewhat sympathetic due to a variety of FreudianExcuses.
During the Oblivion quest, Shadow Over Hackdirt, Jiv Hiriel cites the reason he decided to help you rescue a young Argonian as "she's so innocent."
One of the missions in Fairy Maids involves a tough-talking Hansel and Gretel hiring your service to clean the witch's gingerbread house so that it looks like "we were never there."
Ellie: I'm sure your friend will be missing this tonight. Joel: *driving, not paying attention* M-hm. Ellie: Light on the reading but it's got some interesting photos. Joel: Now, uh, Ellie, that ain't for kids. Ellie: Whoa! How... How the Hell does he even walk around with that thing? Joel: Get rid of that, jus- Ellie: Hold yer horses! I wanna see what all the fuss is about. Oh. Why are all these stuck together? Joel: ... Um... Ellie: Hehehe, relax, I'm just fucking with you.
Looking for Group: What looks like a tiny girl is in fact a tiny undead abomination capable of ripping a man's heart out of his chest.
Averted in Precocious. Most of the children in the main cast are each evil in their own special ways. Special mentions go to Autumn (who uses this trope to her advantage; she even wears a schoolgirl outfit in order to heighten people's perception of her innocence) and Dionne (who takes great pleasure in crushing the souls of others due to her lack of one).
Perhaps even more telling is its treatment of the children who aren't evil. Jacob is a sweet, caring young boy who is so kind and selfless that his being selfish or mean for a change has been a punchline unto itself and there was even an arc about it. He's the strip's resident Butt Monkey, who is constantly hurt and never really treated with respect. Max is even nicer. He seems oblivious to the existence of bad or evil in the world. He's considered kind of strange by the rest of the kids, and although respected for his abilities, he's also frequently manipulated by the others or resented for the consequences of his Incorruptible Pure Pureness. The moral of the story? Children are evil, and those who aren't will end up used or mistreated by those who are.
Defied with several examples in Sandra and Woo. Cloud gets an erection when seeing Sandra in bathing-suit and, according to Larisa, Sanda graviates towards feeling needy for Cloud half of her waking hours. Speaking of Larisa, she has pyromanic tendencies, jokes about being a "junkie" when she injects insulin (with the predictable results), accuses a teacher of molesting her just so she could get out of a homework assignment and is generally very flirty at an adult level. Cloud's mom, Ye Thusa, used to be a Burmese guerrilla Child Soldier.
Too damn innocent in Landmines Are Not Toys, as Toki didn't know landmines were dangerous, something that you were supposed to stay away from, rather, she seemed to like what they do and went to her 'playground' and her fascination is what lost her leg. Then again, this can be justified as she hasn't encountered landmines up until that point, thus she wouldn't have otherwise known they were dangerous, as she hasn't learned to fear them from prior experience, and had, at the time, the overall mindset of a small child.
Disclaimer: All of this is in spoilers cause it is a major plot twist. Subverted inThere Will Be Brawl. At first, it had been the main motivation for Luigi to keep fighting: that as long as there was one child laughing in the world, there was hope for it. When he started to lose his focus, he saw Ness and Lucas playing, and that motivated him to go on. Come the final episode though, and he finds out that the murderers are Ness and Lucas. They are such pure evil that even Ganondorf wonders how heroes can exist in the face of it.
This is an important plot point from the Rise of the Guardians film, where the power from the guardians depend of the belief of the human children in them.
A charitable interpretation of Snips and Snails in "Boast Busters". Determined to prove true the impressive though unlikely claims of "The Great and Powerful" Trixie, the two clearly not that bright colts lure a giantbear into Ponyville, a heavily populated town where Trixie is temporarily residing during her traveling performance. Snips are Snails are thus STUNNED when Trixie proves to be a fraud despite Spike having told them earlier that the unlikely claim is not neccesarily true just because Trixie said so. Main CharacterTwilight Sparkle may believe in this trope, given the rather lenient punishment she gives them after she stops the rampaging bear and saves the town
This conception is played for laughs at the end of season 1. The girls are changing into their gala dresses and Spike is locked out, banging on the door and unable to understand why they won't let him in. Rarity is utterly repulsed that he wants to come in while they're dressing, until Applejack reminds her that they're usually naked and nudity isn't taboo.
In Avatar: The Last Airbender, flashbacks show that Zuko, Mai and Ty Lee were all nice kids, but Azula was cruel even as a small child. According to her, her own mother saw her as a monster.
This trope comes up again when Katara finds a painting that she believes to be a Zuko as a baby. Zuko responds that it isn't him in the painting: it's his father, Firelord Ozai, the Big Bad. The group find themselves disturbed looking at this innocent, happy child while knowing the monster he'd one day grow up to be.
Stewie from Family Guy embodies this trope to a tee, at least in the early seasons.
Stewie: All right, yes, bring me ice cream. But no sprinkles! For every sprinkle I find, I shall kill you.
The show runs on inverthing this trope for Black Comedy. Even the good main characters are foul-mouthed and mean to each other. The creators mention on the commentary that they wanted to challenge the conventional wisdom of innocent children.
Butters is the closest thing to innocent on the show and Stan and Kyle, despite their foibles, have at least some shred of innocence in them when a plot calls for it.
Played straight in some episodes even by Cartman, like the one where the kids simply cannot fathom that people kill each other for having different-colored skin, or when they use "fag" without implying gay (for obnoxious Harley riders), or when they run around town trying to buy "a nerection" for Kyle's dad so that Kyle's parents will stop fighting.
Freud famously called children "perverse polymorphs" to illustrate his theory that humans are born with unfocused and multifaceted sexual drives that last until the age of five.
Deadspin presents a father admitting how frequently he has to fight the urge to put his kid through a wall. Innocent, sure, but the level of bastardy behavior most parents put up with certainly clashes with the stereotypical applications of this trope.
The assumption that children are innocent and would never ever lie led to many people being falsely accused and imprisoned for child molestation. The 2004 Outreau trial in Northern France : a child's lies led to several innocent people spending years in jail and one committing suicide.
Many countries have rules which exempt children and young teens from responsibility for their crimes. This is because children often lack a full understanding of what they're doing, and they certainly lack an adult's impulse control. Furthermore, imprisoning children with adult criminals would be a very quick way to get dead, molested, or further-corrupted kids. Juvenile sentencing laws exist for good reason.
Corruption of a minor is a crime: It involves encouraging or aiding a minor to commit a criminal act (e.g. using drugs), or sexually abusing minors. In Canada the maximum penalty is 2 years.
Age restriction legislation exists in North America prohibiting minors from purchasing and partaking Tobbaco, Pornographic material, and liquor. Minor ages however differ, between states and provinces of Canada and America. However the minor ages usually range from 18-21. Other countries in particular European countries have different laws permitting minors to consume liquor in the supervision of parents or caregivers. As with tobbaco the definition of minors differs. Cinematic content is also governed by similar laws, where minors may be permitted to view R rated movies with the presence and supervision of a adult non-minor. Minor laws differ between jurisdictional countries.Violating the Tobbaco and Liquor restrictions, adults could be fined and imprisoned for 2 years as with corruption of a minor.