"His enemies all fear him, you can barely hear him, invincible and inaudible - Sotto Voce!"
A character who never speaks, at least not in a way understandable by the audience. There are three variants: The Voiceless
(and its sub-variant The Silent Bob
), The Speechless
, and The Unintelligible
Note that this category includes those who do not speak understandably, or at all, as a Running Gag
. But it does not include characters who have a legitimate reason not to speak (e.g., most babies, people in comas, mute).
This character may be a Silent Partner
Compare with He Who Must Not Be Seen
. Has nothing to do with He Who Must Not Be Named
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Anime and Manga
- Sumiyoshi of Excel Saga, who never talks, but communicated solely by speech bubbles, in a Kansai/Geordie accent.
- Subversion: No Face in Spirited Away usually fits this trope as he is typically only able to communicate in sighs, murmurs and gestures that often leave the other characters baffled as to what he's trying to tell them, but he does temporarily become able to talk halfway through the film.
- Most Pokémon are restricted to speaking their own names, although the humans around them sometimes take a long time to cotton on to their intentions.
- Most of the Angels in Neon Genesis Evangelion are completely silent, and it's unknown if they even have the capacity to speak. While one Angel does have a conversation with Rei (by assuming her form and voice within her mind), only Kaworu, the final Angel, ever actually talks.
- Rise Matsumoto of Yuru-Yuri is never audibly heard by anyone other than Nishigaki-sensei (and possibly Chitose), who will then comment on what she said, or say it to the other characters. Anytime she speaks, her mouth moves but nothing can be heard. One character says she can't hear what Rise is saying when watching the play that Rise is in and "speaking" in episode 12 of Season 2.
- Black Bolt, king of The Inhumans from the Marvel Universe, has a voice that destroys anything in its path, whether he wants it to or not. Because of this, he never speaks in the presence of allies (and even with enemies, usually only as a last resort).
- He's also been subjected to Power Creep, Power Seep. If he whispered, you'd be ripped to pieces. If he shouted, it'd be like a nuke. Maybe several of 'em.
- Hell, if he happens to whimper when hurt he makes the whole goddamn planet he's on tremble.
- The torso from the 2000 AD strip Strontium Dog. He has no head and therefore no mouth, yet everyone seems to understand him just fine.
- Snake Eyes from GI Joe A Real American Hero Marvel can't speak due to his face being horribly scarred in a helicopter explosion.
- "Pee-wee" from Harvey Comics' Richie Rich stories can understand everything said to him but never vocalises. His big brother "Freckles" always knows what his little brother wants to say and speaks for him.
- God in Dogma. Since God's voice is the voice of creation, living humans would die instantly if they ever heard her speak out loud (though saying "Beep" seems to be an exception). Handily, she has the Metatron around to pass on instructions to mortals.
- Possibly subverted by Cotton from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. He's lost his tongue and the parrot talks for him. Of course, the Parrot only used nautical terms to do so, so someone has to interpret for the parrot. Except for the one time when, after passing the order down the line to "Watch the boat," the parrot passed the order to Cotton himself and Cotton, dejected, realizes that not only is there no one else to pass it along to, he couldn't do so even if there was.
- Zorro's manservant, usually named Bernardo, is mute in most versions. He often pretends to be deaf as well in order to gather intelligence for his master (who is able to understand him). In some Darker and Edgier versions, this is the result of his tongue having been cut out by the bad guys; in the 1990's TV remake - which featured a teenage version of this character named Felipe whom Don Diego had previously rescued from a battlefield - it was explained as psychosomatic. Naturally, the episode that explains this also includes Felipe's dramatic one-shot cry of 'Zorro!' just in time to alert Z to a bad guy behind him.
- Harpo Marx. For a character who never speaks, he isn't especially quiet...
- Mitch, the trainee from Waiting, is a subversion. After several Preemptive Shut Ups and interuptions, he cracks and says everything that he wanted to say over the course of the day.
Live Action TV
- Stan from Will and Grace, who also doubles as an unseen character, is never ever heard speaking, by the audience at least.
- The Creation King, Kamen Rider Black's Ultimate Evil, "speaks" using deep sounds that only his servants can understand. Luckily for us, those are interpreted for plot exposition.
- In an episode of Scrubs, the wife of an Episcopalian couple is never heard talking, and is at one point told by her husband to stop making a scene when she audibly exhales. Like most elements in Scrubs, this is taken to a deeper and more serious level when the husband explains to JD and Turk that he and his wife don't communicate or get along well outside of the bedroom, and now that is being threatened by his erectile dysfunction.
- The Butler from The Prisoner. Originally the role was going to be a speaking one, as a tall, erudite gentleman. However, Patrick McGoohan decided to be a little less on the nose and cast dwarf actor Angelo Muscat in the role, also making it silent in the process.
- Morn on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Of course, the rest of the cast joked that you could never get him to shut up.
- Morn laughed at a joke once, albeit in a muffled voice.
- Also the Breen, allies of the Dominion and the Cardassians (who are also Faceless Goons as well), spoke in unintelligible noise ... but all the characters around them, notably the Female Changeling, seemed to understand them perfectly.
- The Stig in the current format of Top Gear, also extended to The Stig's American cousin, The Stig's African cousin, and The Stig's lorry driving cousin.
- Sooty, in all his incarnations, never speaks as far as the audience can hear merely whispering his words into the ear of his human handler. His companion Sweep also has a restricted vocabulary, though in his case he does make a squeaking noise. In fact Sue, the female panda puppet, being the only one of the puppets that can speak...
- Maris from Frasier never makes any vocal sounds onscreen despite being quite an influential character — all her offscreen dialogue is related to the viewer through discussions of it by other characters, including Repeating so the Audience Can Hear. She is also rarely seen in any way (except once as a silhouette, and once more in a brief glimpse of her completely covered in bandages in the hospital.)
- Rowan Atkinson, as Mr. Bean, is based mostly on silent comedy, so he rarely speaks. Atkinson has also said that the voice hurts his throat.
- The Micallef Program. Australian comedian Shaun Micallef had a skit where he was a Stylistic Suck Spaghetti Western hero called Sotto Voce who'd ride up to characters on his white horse, whisper his lines faintly, then ride off (or shoot them) while they were trying to work out what he'd just said.
- Darth Nihilus of Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II 'spoke' only in guttural whispers in a way that was utterly unintelligible to all but the characters of the game.
- It actually sounds an awful lot like the sounds made by the metal spider-things in Lost in Space, the 1998 film.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, three of the four Greybeards cannot speak even in whisper, as their voices are powerful enough to cause earthquakes. Thus, Arngeir speaks for them.
- The game draws attention to this in a rather awesome manner—if the player attempts to talk to one of them, they will greet him/her with a single whispered word, and the entire castle shakes as they say it.
- The main character of "Edna & Harvey: Harvey’s New Eyes" usually gets interrupted before she can get a word in. That doesn't stop other characters from guessing (with suprising accuracy) what she was going to say though.
- Pom Pom in Homestar Runner cartoons. He bubbles. Also the Poopsmith, who's taken a vow of silence.
- While most of the animal cast in Happy Tree Friends are unintelligable, Mole the blind mole, Cro-Marmot the marmot, and Mime the reindeer mime have never spoken a word in the entire series.
- Maine, from Red vs. Blue, is only capable of growling menacingly due to being shot in the throat. Even before that, he never actually spoke on screen.
- Screech, at the Super Hero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe, has the 'Black Bolt' problem. She's such a powerful siren that if she makes a sound, the objects or people in front of her mouth are likely to be incinerated. She's incredibly depressed over this.
- Gimpy Bear, in Bear Nuts.
- Joel Deitrick of Survival of the Fittest: Evolution is notable for not speaking at all during his time on the island, his only lines of actual dialogue coming from flashbacks.
- Darius in Misadventures Of Awkward Black Girl. J first meets him when she partners with him for an icebreaker at work. Neither she nor the audience can understand him. In another episode, at Fred's party, he is the DJ and tries to start everyone singing "Happy Birthday" but nobody can hear him so everybody is off.
- One of the Sheep in the Big City's shorts showcased a ridiculous example of this: The Inaudible Man. A thief/villain who managed to steal Queen Elizabeth's necklace and kidnap the segment's presenter in the middle of the day and recording... and no one heard anything.
- Kenny from South Park mumbles through his parka, though there are a few rare occasions when he speaks without it (such as at the end of The Movie).
- Skurge the Executioner, Annihilus, and Galactus from The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
- Mr. Funny from The Mr. Men Show is the only character that does not talk, but only communicates by doing miming acts like Harpo Marx, imitates other, and honks at times during the show.
- A running joke in The Spectacular Spider-Man involved the character Hobie Brown (the future vigilante Prowler) being interrupted whenever he was about to speak. He finally speaks in the series' penultimate episode.
- Shimmer never speaks in Young Justice. She's a bit of a Butt Monkey, so a Running Gag is that she usually ends up knocked out by the heroes before she even has a chance to open her mouth.
- Wallace & Gromit: Gromit!
- Leonoardo from the "Clyde Crashcup" shorts of the original The Alvin Show would only talk by whispering in people's ears, but was inaudible to the audience.
- He did speak once, when he was angry at Clyde, but in an unintelligible whimper; it still wasn't very loud.
- The Roadrunner and the Coyote never talk.
- At least not to each other. When the Coyote met Bugs Bunny it was another story; "Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius."
- Tom and Jerry are, for the most part, entirely voiceless (though "Spike the bulldog" does talk at times).
- Well, if you don't count when Jerry does something particularly painful to Tom and he howls in pain.
- In the Fantastic Four animated series, Black Bolt communicates in sign language because a whisper can kill. When his brother imprisons the Inhumans in a "Negative Energy Barrier", the only thing that can break the barrier is Black Bolt choosing to speak.
- Boomhauer's father from King of the Hill never speaks on screen, on at least one occasion he had just finished a conversation and Hank and the others complement how intelligent he is.
- Solomon Grundy only speaks in unintelligible grunts in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, mostly due to his mouth being stapled shut.
- Miss Othmar and the other adults in the Peanuts specials are unintelligible to the audience, with their speech coming out (to us) as "wonk-wonk-wonk." The kids, however, can understand them - though since the kids only speak English, this leads to awkward moments of the kids repeating what has just been said to them by way of translation.
- The Simpsons - Maggie normally doesn't speak simply because she's a baby. But even in the episode "Lisa's Wedding" she was still never able to say a word without being interrupted. In other episodes set in the future, she's often conveniently somewhere else for the duration of the episode in order to avoid having to answer the question of what Maggie will actually sound like. One Christmas episode does feature her as an adult and a rockstar famed for her magnificent voice. Unfortunately, due to a poorly explained pregnancy complication, she is medically forbidden from speaking until the baby is born. At which point she's back to being interrupted before actually saying anything.
- Ruffled Feather of The Go-Go Gophers always emitted sputters and sound effect verbal tics whenever he had an idea. His partner, Running Board, would translate it.