I'm a Humanitarian

aka: Cannibal

It is every citizen's final duty to go into the tanks, and become one with all the people.
Chairman Sheng-ji Yang - "Ethics for Tomorrow" (accompanies the "Recycle Tank" building), Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri

No, this trope is not about humanitarianism. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Cannibalism is considered one of the greatest taboos, so, naturally, it's become a trope. One idea which stands out is that human flesh is superficially similar to swine flesh, hence the nickname "long pig" and the phrase "eating the long pork".note  A robot designed to taste wine corroborates this idea. Thus, it should be delicious, which is reflected both in Hannibal Lecter's gourmet taste and in the idea in Sweeney Todd that pies with this ingredient would sell like hotcakes.

You'll often have people eat something and not know what it is, and then discover the ghastly truth, such as in many an Inn of No Return.

A mostly Discredited Trope (see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest for an exception) is a variation that portrays members of non-European societies as cannibalistic, often attempting to cook visiting Europeans in a pot. See Cannibal Film.

In Speculative Fiction, cannibalism is generally extended to include all sapient or humanoid creatures, even if they aren't technically human. Any species that includes humans (or other humanoids) in its diet is usually portrayed as villainous, as is any species that routinely eats members of its own social group. Likewise, humans treating other sapient species as food are rarely treated sympathetically (unless What Measure Is a Non-Human? is in effect).

To various degrees, anthropophagy is usually expected of Zombie Mooks.

If the cannibal systematically hunts down people on a regular basis so he/she can eat them, they'll be a Serial Killer as well.

A subtrope of I Ate WHAT? and Human Resources. Can also involve Carnivore Confusion without furries (or maybe with furries - see the paragraph on Speculative Fiction above.) See To Serve Man for the Alien Invasion version of eating people. Brain Food for those not interested in mere muscles. See also Let's Meet the Meat. Compare No Party Like a Donner Party, in which persons are forced into cannibalism due to starvation. And when you get down to the bitter dregs, there's Auto Cannibalism. Also see Fattening The Victim, where people are fattened before being eaten.



    open/close all folders 

    Fairy Tales 
  • Little Red Riding Hood used to have more gruesome elements to it. In certain once-common tellings, the Big Bad Wolf didn't just eat Red Riding Hood's grandmother — he fed her the leftovers.
    • The Newgrounds flash animation Red Riding Hood features this.
    • Hoodwinked, the 2006 animated adaptation of this story, features a Fridge Logic example: a few police officers seen at Granny's house are pigs. But at the same time, we learn that Kirk sells schnitzel on a stick out of a truck. Schnitzel, for the record, is created from pork, which comes from pigs. Unless we to assume there are two different kinds of pigs - sentient and non-sentient types - existing in this part of the forest, you wonder what would happen if a pig ate something from Kirk's truck.
  • In some versions of Snow White, the evil queen wants Snow White's heart returned to her by the woodsman to eat (and also possibly regain youth and beauty, like historical pseudo-vampire Elizabeth Bathory, who bathed in young girls' blood for this reason, following local folklore).
  • In Sun, Moon, and Talia (a forerunner of "Sleeping Beauty"), the King (not Prince) already has a wife who, in jealousy, has Talia's (Sleeping Beauty's) children sent to the palace chef to be killed. The chef takes pity on them and kills a couple of goat kids instead and passes them off as the children to the evil Queen, who then feeds them to the King. When the King finds out he kills his wife and marries Talia. Incidentally, the children are his... through rape/necrophilia.
    • In Perrault's Sleeping Beauty, the only difference is the woman trying to eat them is her mother-in-law (and there is no rape and the kids are born in wedlock). The mother-in-law even insists on having Sleeping Beauty and her children cooked in sauce Robert.
    • There's one variation that's arguably even worse, where Sleeping Beauty, realizing she's got two children by rape, eats them.
  • In The Juniper Tree, a stepmother kills her stepson by chopping off his head with a chest lid. She then hides the body by cutting it up and using it to make a stew. And her husband spends the meal saying how tasty the meat is!
  • In The Wonderful Birch the girl's biological mother is turned into a sheep by a witch. The witch then takes the mother's form and convinces the girl's father to kill the sheep and have it for dinner. The mother-turned-sheep instructs her daughter not to eat the meat but instead bury the bones under a tree, so she can later help the girl.
  • According to many Russian fairy tales, the witch Baba Yaga is a cannibal.

    Fan Works 
  • Many members of the dezban species (post Great War) feast on the flesh of their fallen soldiers, comrades that have antagonized them, and their enemies in the Mass Effect fanfic The Council Era.
  • Being a Snake Person, the titular character of the Tale of Solaron has shades of this. While he hasn't eaten anyone yet, he often responds to the obnoxious rogue by threatening to eat him. Fans of the story speculate that Solaron is entirely capable of swallowing a full grown human whole.
  • While the characters aren't human, anyone who knows about My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic knows about Cupcakes, even if they never read it. The titular cupcakes have ponies that an insane Pinkie tortured to death in her basement as an ingredient.
  • Null Metal Alchemist plays with this, with Ed Elric declaring his intention to eat various characters, either to claim their powers for himself (like Father Cornello in Liore) or as a form of revenge (Shou Tucker).
    • As of Episode 9, he hasn't actually eaten anyone.
  • The monitor lizards from What Lies Beyond the Walls. Nearly all of them feast on other beasts for food, and some of them (such as Ulwort) will go as far as eating other monitor lizards just because they can.
  • In Hivefled, it's mentioned that baby trolls hatch in batches of millions at a time and if they all survived the planet would be stripped bare, so they've become a staple food source for older trolls. Adult trolls also aren't too bothered about eating each other.
  • Queen Of Shadows: General Tsume and his tribe enjoy eating human slaves (a little too much in the opinions of the other Oni), and Tsume himself is apparently not above eating other Shadowkhan (but only with the permission of the Queen).
  • In the Monsters, Inc. fan fiction Monstrous: Suel hunts humans for their fear because that's what he eats, but he eats them because it's fun.
  • Young Justice: Darkness Falls: King Shark is unapologetically a cannibal. Then again, being an underwater humanoid, his cases aren't quite the same, though since he ate atlanteans, it still counts. His cannibalism is actually responsible for the reason why we never saw Ocean Master in season 2.
  • From Another Note, Beyond Birthday has this reputation among the fandom, probably because In-Universe he took his second-to- last victim's left arm away from the crime scene for unknown reasons. (The story itself never says he isn't a cannibal, but it never says that he is, either.)
  • Ashley McFly/Leather Ashes appears at the end of episode 48 of Pretty Cure Perfume Preppy, chowing down on a bit of one of her victims' corpses.

  • Reoccuring theme of rapper Brotha Lynch Hung.
    Guess what daddy's bringing home for supper?
    Nigga nuts and guts and slabs of human meat, muthaf*cka, now eat.
  • "Cannibal" by Kesha.
  • ANY version of the song 'King of the Cannibal Islands' addresses this trope.
  • C.W. McCall, otherwise best known for trucking songs like 'Convoy', did a song about the legendary cannibal killer Al Packer, titled 'Comin' Back For More (Al's Cafe)'.
  • The German punk band Die Ärzte has a slow power ballad titled "Baby", which starts out as a plea to stop killing animals for food and directly proceeds to suggest eating people as an alternative for several verses. Quite likely a spoof of PETA-like activism.
  • Voltaire's song "Cannibal Buffet" consists of a Hurricane of Puns on the subject:
    I'm in the middle of the Cannibal Buffet
    I'm feeling well — they like me that way!
    So if you really wanna know what's eatin' me
    It's the man-eaters on the coast of Barbary
  • "Cannibal's Hymn" by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds.
  • "Mein Teil" by Rammstein, about that famous German cannibal a few years back. "You are what you eat, and you know what it is."
    • Taken one step further in the Volkerball tour, where Till Lindemann dresses up as an Evil Chef (complete with a microphone disguised as the handle of a meat cleaver) and proceeds to cook Flake Lorenz.
    • "Du Riechst So Gut" has cannibalistic references as well.
  • Walpurgisnacht, Neuruppin and Ich esse Reiche ("I eat rich people") by the German band KIZ. They're famous for posing with meat...
  • "To Serve Man" by Creature Feature.
  • "The Chainsaw Buffet" and "Candy For The Cannibal" by Lordi.
  • "Cannibal" by Static-X.
  • The 1970s hit "Timothy" by the Buoys, in which three men are trapped in a mine and only two come out.
    Timothy, Timothy, where on earth did you go?
    Timothy, Timothy, God why don't I know?
    • When Dave Barry held a survey for what his readers considered the worst songs ever made, this was one of the top finishers, despite being nowhere near as big a hit as the others. Barry noted that it made up for a lack of success with its extremely memorable subject matter.
  • Flanders and Swann did a song called 'The Reluctant Cannibal'. Being from 1956, it has a political edge to it, satirizing the Cold War.
    Going around saying "don't eat people", that's the way to make people hate you!
    We always have eaten people, always will eat people — you can't change human nature.
    You might as well say don't fight people!
    "Don't fight people?.... That's ridiculous!
    My boy!
  • The Celtic song Jesuitmont. While the lord of the castle is out hunting with his knights, his wife and the cook kill his daughter and bake her into a pie for no adequately explained reason. They probably should have thought the whole thing through more, as the first thing the lord asks when he gets home is where his daughter is, inevitably uncovering the horrible truth—and ensuring a slow and painful death for the murderers.
  • Propagandhi's Human(e) Meat (The Flensing of Sandor Katz) is a satirical vegan response to some of the writings of the culinary author Sandor Katz. It's about eating him.
  • There's a very well-known, very cheerful French nursery rhyme about a little boat. Most children only know the first verse and the chorus of it, and then discover years later that the song actually goes on to say the crew got short on food and
    They had to draw lots, they had to draw lots
    To choose who, who, who would get eaten
    To choose who, who, who would get eaten

    Oheeey oheeey ! Ohey, ohey, ohey little sailor
    Little sailor, sail on the waves

    Fate designated the youngest, fate designated the youngest
    Though he wasn't, wasn't, wasn't very thick
    Though he wasn't, wasn't, wasn't very thick
    • All that very cheerfully. To be fair, in some versions of the song the boy is saved by something like thousands of fish magically dropping on the deck from the sky.
  • "Cannibal" by Reel Big Fish.
  • "Where I End and You Begin" by Radiohead concludes with this as a Madness Mantra:
    I will eat you all alive and I will eat you all alive and I will eat you all alive and I will eat you all alive...
    • Another Radiohead example: "Knives Out" appears to be about getting lost in the wild and being forced to eat other members of your traveling group to stay alive.
  • A lot of Death Metal bands write songs about this, with special mention going to Cannibal Corpse for reasons that should be obvious.
    • "Eaten" by Swedish death metal group Bloodbath was written with the exact same concept for "Mein Teil" (see above). And it's much, much, MUCH more blatant and horrifying than the German band's song. Obviously, the lyrics are well-hidden with the trademark death metal growls.
  • Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London"
    I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand
    walkin through the streets of Soho in the rain.
    He was lookin for the place called Lee Ho Fooks
    gonna get a big dish of beef chow mein
    • This becomes really creepy when you find out that there is a restaurant called Lee Ho Fooks in Soho... but beef chow mein isn't on the menu.
      • But did it have that as a menu item before the song came out?
  • Angelspit love this trope, and it shows up in a lot of their songs. 100%, Juicy, Devilicious, Meat...
  • Get Set Go has a very cheery little tune called "Cannibalism is the Cure", which suggests that eating others will solve all of society's problems.
  • Hot Hot Heat's "Island of the Honest Man" seems like it is going to be this at first, until it subverts it, completely changing the tone from edgy to cheery with the opening line of the chorus.
    But right then the clouds parted in the sky / The horizon took us all a little by surprise / Watch the sky / And as the howling winds subsided, the locals ran out, all waving their hands and singing / Welcome to the island of the honest man
  • The video for "Feathers" by Coheed and Cambria features a suburban family set roughly in the 1950's where the mother abducts and grinds local milkmen, mailmen, etc into meat for her family (the eaten are played by the band). Despite the description, the song and video's tone are very cheerful.
  • How did we get this far with no mention of Aerosmith's "Eat the Rich"?
    • Because it's hard to tell if the cannibalism is literal or figurative?
  • Played for Laughs in Ellen Hikuki's "I Ate The Who."
  • Goober and the Peas "Cordially Invited"
    • I'm sure you're all wondering why I invited you all here tonight, and more importantly, what was that meat? Well, I've chosen a particularly flavorful poison, and now you're all mairinating for next year's SHISH-KABOB!
  • In Necro's "Human Consumption".
  • Hatsune Miku in The Full Course For Candy Addicts
    • Masa's extremely gory Onibi series has Gumi becoming a cannibal thanks to Miku cursing her while being tortured to death by her.
  • Played for Laughs with Rob Cantor's song "Shia LaBeouf"
  • Slayer's "Piece By Piece".
    As soon as life has left your corpse I'll make you part of me!
  • Club Moral's song "In Tirol"
    Eating limbs is my kind.
    Flesh and blood are in my mind
  • The music video for "Sick ,Sick, Sick" by Queens of the Stone Age.
    • Also there's "Mosquito Song."
  • The song "Maneater" by Blue Eyed Blondes. At first the title refers to the heroine's status as as a heartbreaker. Then she falls in love. And then she catches her boyfriend cheating on her...
    And then I cut him up in pieces,
    my handsome charming midge.
    I sorted him in big black bags,
    and put him in the fridge.
    Now I am a maneater, in more than just one way...
    He tastes like pig, but that's okay,
    I eat him every day.''

     Music Videos 
  • At the end of the music video for "Miserable" the band (Lit) is running away from a giantess (played by Pamela Anderson) who is trying to eat them (having already eaten one of the guitarists). By the end of the video she has devoured most of the band leaving only the lead singer, who she tosses into her mouth and swallows.

  • Older Than Feudalism: Classical Mythology has several examples:
    • The gods had heard such wonderful things about the kitchens of Tantalus that they invited themselves to dinner (they also wanted to give him a chance to redeem himself for the time he'd misbehaved while a guest at a banquet on Olympus). Tantalus found himself a bit short on meat, so he had his son Pelops slaughtered and boiled in a stew. The gods noticed and refused to eat—except for Demeter, who at the time was so overwrought over the kidnapping of her daughter, Persephone that she absentmindedly took a bite out of his shoulder. While dear little Pelops was brought back to life, his shoulder replaced by an ivory one by Demeter, he then went on to spawn the cursed House of Atreides. Tantalus was punished in such a way as to give us the word "tantalizing."
    • Pelops had twin sons: Atreus and Thyestes. Thyestes was having an affair with Atreus's wife, so as revenge Atreus killed and cooked Thyestes's toddlers and fed them to their own father before stealing the throne of Mycenae (back) and kicking Thyestes out. For more Squick, Thyestes has one more son, Aegisthus, with his own daughter, Pelopia (it was a condition of a prophecy to get revenge...). So then Aegisthus kills Atreus and rules Mycenae with his dad until Atreus's sons come back for their own revenge. These sons are Agamemnon (later killed by Aegisthus and Agamemnon's wife, Clytemnestra) and Menelaus.
    • There's also Philomela, who was raped and had her tongue cut off by her brother-in-law, King Thereus. In revenge, Philomela's sister Queen Procne killed her baby son Ithys and roasted the body, serving it to her rapist asshole of a husband. The three were, according to the myths, turned into birds; Procne became a nightingale (forever calling "Ithys, Ithys"), Thereus became a hawk or owl (calling "Where? Where?"), and Philomela was made into a songless swallow.
    • And Lycaon, who fed his son to the god Zeus and was turned into a wolf as punishment. This is the origin of the word lycanthropy.
      • One version of this myth has it so that it's not own his son, but that of his cook. Zeus, visting Lycaon in disguise, boasts that he can identify any meat regardless of how it is prepared. Not knowing his guest's true identity, Lycaon decides to really mess with him, and, rather than go with the typical goat, or lamb, or even horse, forces his cook to kill and roast his own son as a meal for Lycaon's boastful guest. For tricking him into eating human flesh, Zeus turns Lycaon into a wolf. Nothing is said of how Zeus treated the cook for his (unwilling) role in the deception, however.
    • In some versions of Athena's birth, Zeus eats her mother to avoid having Hera find out he knocked someone else up. (The lengths which he'll go to to disguise his affairs is just ludicrous sometimes.) He apparently didn't learn the lesson from his father. And in Zeus' case, Athena is born by bursting out of her father's skull. Something that could have been avoided by not eating her mom in the first pace.
  • In the Norse Lay of Atli, Attila the Hun invites his brothers-in-law, one of who is the king of the Burgundians. Attila's wife, their sister, warns them that its a trap to gain their immense wealth, but they come anyway. After an impressive amount of badass from the Burgundian heroes they're killed. In revenge Attila's wife kills her own children the sons of Attila and has him unknowingly use their heads as drinking vessels and eat their hearts. Then depending on what version you read, she either kills him and sets free his dogs and burns down his house, or attempts suicide herself (and fails).
  • Cannibalism was one of the biggest taboos to the First Nation peoples. According to their mythology, if you eat a person, you will turn into a wendigo.
  • Kumiho, the Always Chaotic Evil Korean counterpart of the kitsune, were infamous for this, and sometimes they'd trick the humans they encountered into eating one of their own too. There's at least one story where a Kumiho claims she'll become human herself if she eats enough human livers, though this doesn't seem to be the motivation for most of them.

  • Dice Funk: Leon wonders aloud if the creepily kind townsfolk are feeding them human meat. Austin responds that it's not cannibalism for Anne, since she is a halfling.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • CRUSH had "Annabelle the Cannibal"
  • During her TNA run, Winter entertained the idea of draining Mickie James of all her blood and then eating her bones after the rest of her body rotted away. Angelina Love was too heavily drugged to comment.
  • Kris Wolf of Wonder Ring STARDOM is apologetic about her desire to eat humans(is that so wrong?) and tendency to claw and bite at her opponents during matches.

  • In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the murder victims are baked in meat pies, which become very popular among the unsuspecting populace.
  • Even William Shakespeare uses this one. In Titus Andronicus, Titus' daughter Lavinia is raped by Chiron and Demetrius, with their mother's help. To get revenge, Titus kills the two brothers, bakes them into a pie, and feeds them to their unwitting mother. This is based on the Thyestes and Philomela myths mentioned above.
    • In the 1999 film adaptation, Titus was played by Anthony Hopkins, which makes it even better.
    • When they visit Titus, Tamora introduces herself as "Revenge" and her two sons as "Rape" and "Murder". Literary critic John Sutherland observed that therefore, when Tamora eats the pie, Revenge has consumed Rape and Murder.
    • Caliban's name is (allowing for Elizabethan spelling) an anagram of Cannibal and he is a savage on a remote island. Allegedly he was portrayed as a stereotypical African savage in the days of slavery.
  • Suddenly Last Summer climaxes with its main character recounting her cousin's murder and cannibalization at the hands of a gang of young boys.

    Web Original 

Alternative Title(s):

Cannibal, I Am A Humanitarian, Hominivore, Anthropophage