Lightworlder

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/22_41.jpg
How's the weather up there?

Lightworlders are skinny, delicate people from low-gravity habitats, or orbital colonies without artificial gravity (see Space People). They aren't nearly as common as their opposite, the Heavyworlders, since such delicate creatures are unlikely to be Big Damn Heroes. Like their heavy-gravity counterparts, though, they may be either human or alien. Low-gravity characters are often female, fragility being more forgivable in women to many writers.

Ordinary humans who visit low-gravity planets, and seem much stronger there than on Earth, are a Humanity Is Superior variant. (Although the humans themselves probably count as Heavyworlders in such a case.) While this variant is common in vintage scifi, the natives of such worlds are seldom portrayed as skinny, fragile versions of this trope. That's probably because it makes for poor fanservice if the Distressed Damsel rescued by the "incredibly strong" human hero makes Olive Oyl look like Pamela Anderson.

In real life, astronauts who spend significant time in low-gravity situations rapidly suffer health problems, especially muscular and bone degeneration, such that men and women who were healthy upon liftoff may have trouble standing up under their own strength when they get home. This is the reason why becoming an astronaut has such strict physical fitness requirements. Astronauts working without artificial gravity have to strenuously work out and alter their diets to reduce the effects of this; there's a reason why the International Space Station has a treadmill inside.

For the opposite, see Heavyworlder.
    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Zone of the Enders Dolores, i portrayed people born on Mars as being weaker than those born on Earth. It's mentioned that it's a criminal offense for an Earthling to strike a Martian, as there's a good possibility it could kill them. Which is why they built themselves Humongous Mecha about six times the power of Earth models in their most mass produced forms.
    • This is also mentioned when main character James Links is challenged to a fist fight by a Martian gangster. James figures the fight will be easy as he's a Earthling, only to get his ass kicked in record time. Apparently the gangster works out in heavy G, just so he can knock arrogant Earthlings down a peg or two.
  • Nono in Planetes. She's two meters tall. She's twelve. She was born on the Moon. However, since the human body wasn't designed for this sort of environment, the effects of lunar gravity to her physiology lead to her living permanently in a hospital, both to monitor her health as well as to aid medical research into the effects of low-gravity environments on humans —which is vital for deep-space missions like the Jupiter-bound Von Braun expedition. There is also a subversion of the "Earthborn protagonists are stronger" aspect of the trope in that professional astronauts who spend too much time in zero-G will suffer muscular atrophy and a form of osteoporosis. This is shown explicitly when the elderly Harry Roland easily overpowers the 25 year-old Hachimaki because the veteran astronaut actually made a substantial effort to maintain his muscle mass and bone density. Hachi is inspired to do the same after the incident.
  • Although the world of MÄR Heaven doesn't have gravity that is notably different from Earth's, in that the humanoids look no different, it does give Ginta and Nanashi an extreme power up in strength and jumping ability when compared to the standard occupants of the world.
  • Space colonies in Gundam generally don't have this issue, as they rotate to provide roughly 1G gravity on the interior. This is not as true for the Jovian colonies though, in which a full 1G of gravity is rare, and most time is spent weightless, or nearly so. A couple of Jovians in Crossbone Gundam visit the Earth and are barely able to walk across a room without collapsing.
    • While we don't see much of them in the series proper, Moon people also have this problem, the semi-realistic tech level of most Gundam shows not being up to the task of making the Moon spin fast enough to generate centrifugal force. The most notable example would be the original Mobile Suit Gundam's Zeon Sovereign and de-facto Big Bad Degwin Zabi, who suffers from various health problems due to spending most of his life on the Moon. Contrary to the popular depiction of lightworlders as tall and elf-like, he's abnormally short and dwarfish due to severe osteoporosis.
      • It might be just Degwin, though, — while living most of his life on the Moon, he wasn't born there, and his children subvert this. The younger kids, Garma and Kycilia, are of average height, while his two senior sons, Gihren and (especially) Dozle are tall, but not in any way elfish. In fact, Dozle is The Brute of the family, with 7' height and Heroic Build at that.
      • Degwin's eldest son, Sasro, assassinated early on and not shown in the original series, is a bit of flip-flop. In the Tomino's novels he is said to look like an older Garma, while The Origin shows him as a younger Degwin himself, though not in the tiniest bit small and skinny in both cases.

    Comic Books 
  • The Lawlords in Judge Dredd turn out to be this. Despite being over eight feet tall and muscularly built, when they capture him, Dredd discovers that he's physically stronger than them. Then again, Dredd is also an expert unarmed combatant as well, which helps.
  • The Venusians in Dan Dare. Venus has a gravity of 0.9g, meaning they stand One Head Taller than the human protagonists, but are also slightly weaker, giving them an edge ina straight fight.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Mercurians in Dan Dare fulfilled this trope by being very spindly in build, but also subverted it by being superhumanly strong.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Avatar, the Na'vi live on the lower-gravity Pandora. They're in the range of ten feet tall and skinny as a rail. Averts the weakness part: they're much stronger and more durable than humans, with the ability to use a hunting/war bow as tall as an average human man and their bones are practically natural carbon-fiber. Perhaps justified in that Pandora has only marginally lower gravity and the Na'vi evolved on a planet where everything tries to kill you. Not to mention that being so large, they have more places for muscles to attach too and just more muscles in general. And then the longer limbs could give them more leverage.
  • In Return of the Jedi, the Ewoks are a lot weaker than humans, not just because they're small but also because Endor is a low-G moon. This shows up more in the Ewoks TV special/movie where a 30' giant appears and can move around without suffocating under its own weight.

    Literature 
  • The native Martians in John Carter of Mars are considerably weaker than John Carter, who can easily make 50-foot standing leaps in Barsoom's low gravity.
  • In Pellucidar, another series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, gravity is slightly lighter on the interior of the hollow Earth than on the exterior due to tidal forces from the other side of the sphere. Which might explain how the surface-worlder protagonists often beat the crap out of natives.
  • The aristocratic Exultant caste in Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun are described as being very tall, possibly due to being originally from a low-gravity world and/or genetic engineering by their forefathers.
  • Charlene Dula, a visiting gamer from The Barsoom Project, grew up in the orbital colony Falling Angels. Her elongated frame reminds people of a Tolkien elf, and she has a hard time with Earth gravity despite months of intensive exercise before coming to Earth.
  • Larry Niven's works:
    • In the setting of The Integral Trees and The Smoke Ring, the inhabitants of Integral Trees are somewhat taller and slimmer than Earth people, but they are strong, tough Heavyworlders compared to people from the rest of the Smoke Ring. The tidal forces acting on the trees provides at least a little simulated gravity, but everyone else grows up in zero-G. One character, often referred to as a "dwarf", actually has an Earth-normal build; he's described as "monstrously strong" and is the only person who can wear one of the original spacesuits.
    • The Known Space series has the planet "We Made It," whose homeworld has low gravity and such severe storms that everyone is forced to live underground. Its inhabitants are all tall, wiry, and albino — basically the opposite of the Jinxians.
    • Earth's moon, Luna, is also colonized in Niven's stories. The people who grow up there, "Lunies," average around eight feet tall and are said to look like fantasy elves.
  • The Overlords in Childhood's End are speculated to have come from a low gravity world (once they reveal their appearances) as they're twice as tall as humans and have wings. They wear belts that seem to have anti-grav tech when on Earth.
  • Martians in the Red Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. There is a section where a second generation Martian travels to Earth, but is forced to leave because the higher gravity and air pressure are damaging his health.
  • Brikar from Star Trek: New Frontier. Unusually, Brikarians aren't fragile; in fact they have some of the qualities of Heavyworlders.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress uses a related idea — the tendency of muscles to atrophy in lower gravity — as a major obstacle in Mannie and Prof's trip to Earth.
    • It even goes to the point of saying that living on the Moon for more than a few weeks can cause "irreversible physiological changes," to the point that a person who has lived their whole lives on Earth will be unable to handle Earth's gravity after about six weeks in the Moon, unless they exercise regularly and "stretch time" by using centrifuges to keep their bodies adjusted to 1g. Even then, it's chancy.
      • In the Real Life it's a quite large stretch, actually. 0G does have an adverse effect on the muscle strength and bone composition, but it's completely reversible, and can be quite easily mitigated by the special diet and exercises, though the amount of exercise is quite considerable (2 hours per day is usually seen as a minimum). The record so far stays at a year and a two months (Russian physician Valery Polyakov during his '94–'95 flight, he also posted 8 months in orbit in '88) without any ill effects, though the cosmonaut in question could barely walk for a couple of months even with the exercise. Of course, all this is about 0G/microgravity; even lunar gravity, while much weaker than Earth's, is substantial (0.165 g) would mitigate these problems to some extent.
  • Inverted in the Gor series, where the planet is often described as having lower gravity than Earth but the men of Gor are far stronger.
    • That's because they use the muscles they have — wind, water and muscle are Gor's only motive powers, so they get plenty of exercise. It should be noted that the occasional Earth exports — Tarl Cabot and Jason Marshall — benefit from their Earth-developed muscle mass, even though Jason takes half of Fighting Slave of Gor to find out how strong he is. Otherwise, the usual comparison is between Gorean men and Earth women, where testosterone trumps gravity every time. And though Gor's lesser gravity is, plotwise, doubtless a tip o'the hat to John Carter of Mars, Gor is much nearer to Earth in size than Mars.
  • In C.S. Lewis's The Space Trilogy, the Malacandrans (Martians) are all thinner and taller than humans.
  • In The Gods Themselves, Moonborn people have weaker bones, leading to slight sexual incompatibility with Earth people. And due to the metabolism being about the same, they need constant exercises to keep their bodies under the proper strain. A human from Earth who comes to the Moon must spend at least a week every two months on Earth, unless he wants to become a permanent resident. It is said they remember every Moonborn child whom their parents took to Earth without realizing they were signing their child's death sentence.
  • The "1 on 1" gamebook Battle For The Ancient Robot had Zanleer from Venus as one of the human player's allies. His vital stats are given as 7' 6" and 169 pounds. As an aside, the surface gravity of Venus is about 90% of Earth's.
  • Sector General again, this time with the GLNO Cinrusskin, a meter-long insectile species from a planet with 1/8 G. Requires an antigravity belt to survive, much less be able to move, in 1G conditions (if the belt failed it'd die of shock within minutes, assuming its exoskeleton didn't collapse first).
  • In the Green-Sky Trilogy, the titular world does have much lower gravity, so much that a toddler's fall from the high treetops will injure, but not kill. The Kindar are on the willowy and frail side, while the ground-walking Erdlings descended from Kindar Exiles have developed a sturdier frame from generations of living underground.
  • In the Hyperion Cantos, Kassad is from Mars, which has a lower gravity than Earth. He's very tall and slender, but he keeps in shape (it helped that he had to spend a year as a menial worker in a 1.3 G environment).
  • The Martians in The War of the Worlds are massive, octopus like beings who could walk on their tentacles on their home planet, but can only drag themselves on their bellies on Earth.
  • Honor Harrington also features a few lightworlder characters, such as Joachim Alquezar from the Talbott Quadrant world of San Miguel. They are described as being tall and lightly built.
  • Rather harshly deconstructed in 3001: The Final Odyssey. After being effectively resurrected in the year 3001, Frank Poole (the member of the original crew from 2001 that floated off into space in his suit) spends a long period of recovery in the lower gravity of a ring built entirely around the Earth at about half the distance to the moon. While he feels completely physically fit by the end of his rehabilitation, when he takes a trip to the planet himself along a Space Elevator, he ends up in a wheelchair due to the relative lack of musculature.
  • The Eldritch in M.C.A. Hogarth's Paradox Universe are from a planet with significantly lower gravity than Alliance average, they tend to be six-seven feet tall and thin, with noticeably elongated limbs. And they're notably fragile, in Mindtouch Jahir passes out from the strain Seersana's standard strength gravity puts on his body, though he goes on medication to help strengthen his skeleton and cardiovascular system.
  • "Belters" in The Expanse, people who grew up on the colonies in the asteroid belt, have long, thin bones from the low gravity in the asteroids they inhabit. They have trouble surviving on Earth for more than a few hours without bone density enhancements or special water flotation tanks, to the point where exposure to Earth's gravity is used as a form of torture for them.
  • All Tomorrows: The Striders were genetically modified from human ancestors by the Qu for life on a moon with one-fifth Earth gravity, being reduced to animalistic intelligence in the process and being given grotesquely elongated limbs and necks, becoming giraffe-like browsers of their world's skyscraper-high trees.
  • The protagonist of Gerard Klein's short story "Jonah" was born and grew up in zero-g, and is very lonely.

    Live Action TV 
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine gives a Lightworlder in Ensign Melora Pazlar, the only Elaysian in Starfleet. She is mostly bound to a wheelchair (or a quite clumsy "exoskeleton" harness) because of her difficulties in adapting to standard gravity. In her quarters, she turns the artificial gravity to that of her world. Dr. Bashir tries a strengthening regimen, but when told it would be irreversible (thus making it impossible for her to return to her homeworld), she declines. Eventually, Melora beat some bad guys by turning off the artificial gravity and being the only one who could easily maneouver. She goes on to be a main character in the Star Trek: Titan novels.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • One of the Tau's subspecies is the Air Caste, Tau who crew the empire's spacefleet. As they have lived almost exclusively in a low-gravity environment for generations, they are described as having developed very fragile, lightly-built bodies. This may actually be an inversion; in some versions of the Tau backstory the tribes that became the Air Caste could fly under their own power even before the race moved into space and so has nothing to do with their environment.
    • The Longshanks are a variety of abhumans (stable Human Subspecies who diverged from baseline humanity as a result of natural evolution and/or ancient genetic engineering rather than Chaos corruption) descended from colonists who settled low-gravity worlds in the time of the ancient, advanced human civilization tens of thousands of years in the past. As a result, they became extremely tall, thin and delicate, to the point that they're unable to endure Earth-normal gravity or the rigors of a spaceships' takeoff — most Longshanks are effectively stuck on their homeworlds, which is why they don't show up much.
  • Most post-Fall transhumans in Eclipse Phase live on planets, moons, or habitats with lower gravity than old Earth. Though the only morphs that particularly fit the "lightworlder" profile are Bouncers and Titan's "Hazers".
  • Moonbabies in GURPS Terradyne are humans raised in Lunar gravity. They're tall and fragile, as one might expect, and can't safely return to Earth.
  • Similarly, in the backstory of Trinity, "Lunar Aggravated Osteoporosis" was a massive problem for humanity when first colonizing the moon, before the invention of Artificial Gravity.
  • In Hc Svnt Dracones Core: Extended Cogsune are designed for life in space stations with microgravity. Their "field agents" need to have augmented musculatures to survive planetary gravity and even then they have minimal Body: Strength and Resilience stats.

    Video Games 
  • Halo's Covenant has two prominent light-worlders in its ranks.
    • The Kig-Yar/Jackals hail from Eayn, which has 87.5% Earth's gravity. They are not physically strong or durable (being birdlike and thus likely having fragile skeletons doesn't help them either), relying on shields to protect them. However, even in Earth gravity they're pretty fast on their feet. There is also a subspecies of Kig-Yar that settled on the asteroid of T'vao, which has a much harsher environment and higher gravity than Eayn, and over generations the "Skirmishers" that resulted are much physically stronger, tougher and faster than their counterparts.
    • Unggoy/Grunts come from Balaho, which has only 70.8% Earth's gravity, but are actually pretty strong judging by the weapons they've been seen carrying; in First Strike the ODST Cpl. Locklear has great difficulty hefting a fuel rod cannon over his shoulder, while Grunts carry FRGs with no problem. Some of the Unggoys' strength might be due to their homeworld being a Death World, with flame geysers and other hazards. This is also responsible for their rapid rate of reproduction, to the point where contraceptive chemicals are put in their gas and food while offworld to prevent overcrowding.
  • In Meteos, Luna=Luna (two dwarf planets resembling Earth's Moon) and Arod (an Asteroid Thicket) have very weak gravity. In both cases, inhabitants seem to like jumping from one terrestrial body to another. Gameplay in these areas are more lethargic.
  • In Master of Orion II, races with the Low-G World trait suffer a penalty in ground combat, as well as production penalties on normal-gravity worlds in addition to the penalty most races have on high-gravity worlds. While the trait removes the production penalty most races have on low-gravity worlds, it is considered a disadvantage since low-gravity worlds are slightly rare and tend to be small and poor in resources.

    Webcomics 
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, Voluptua has said she is more fragile than she looks because Earth has higher gravity than her homeworld.
    • In fact Fructose Riboflavin (same species) refers to Bob (a completely normal human) as a Heavyworlder while fighting him, commenting on how he had to punch him dozens of times in a few seconds to even affect him, while if Bob got one good punch he'd be done for. Of course, we don't get to see the latter happen due to Galatea intervening.
  • In Quantum Vibe Spyders and Beltapes were designed for microgravity, they can't even take Martian gravity for long. Though Beltapes avert the usual lightworlder build by looking like six-foot gorillas.

    Web Original 
  • Everything not from a Deathworld in The Jenkinsverse. Which is basically every spacefaring sentient being in the galaxy. Humans living among other races have to be extremely cautious, because a friendly slap on the back could kill most aliens.

    Western Animation 
  • Filmation's version of Flash Gordon claims that Mongo's gravity is a bit lighter than Earth's, so humans are stronger there than on Earth. Flash mentions this to encourage Dale when she has to jump across a wide gap to safety.
  • Gems in Steven Universe are an artificial race meant to travel all over space. One ability of their is automatically and immediately adjusting to a planet's gravity, so they'll have the same strength and movement wherever they are. They also have Super Strength, but that's totally separate.
  • The Samurai Jack episode "Jack and the Flying Prince and Princess" had a prince and princess from another planet crash land on Earth. As their home world had lighter gravity, they could barely move in Earth's gravity and needed Jack's help to survive. Then near the end, they managed to use a device to change the surrounding area to their home world's gravity. Unused to it, the mooks helplessly flopped around and flew through the air whenever they tried to move, while the prince and princess picked them apart, demonstrating great speed and strength.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Lightworlder