In perhaps the most graphic form of Kick the Dog
, writers often display how vicious, ravenous, or just plain evil
a predatory species is, by having the strong among them literally prey upon the weak. While cannibalizing outsiders or eating sentient creatures is nasty enough, doing so to members of one's own social group
is indicative of betrayal as well as cruelty, suggesting an evil or Horror Hunger
so indiscriminate that no one is exempt.
With non-sentient creatures, Monstrous Cannibalism conveys how voraciously hungry
the predators are, and may indicate that their species as a whole is starving and desperate. For sentients, it demonstrates a ruthlessness that bodes ill for any other species they interact with: if their instincts or culture make eating their weaker fellows a standard practice, what hope might a stranger have of being spared? In either case, seeing them turn upon their own for food is often what pushes a species over the Moral Event Horizon
into being monsters
in the eyes of the audience, not just beasts or antagonists.
Subtrope of I'm a Humanitarian
; often a supertrope to Cannibal Tribe
, if the tribe eats its own as well as enemies/strangers. Compare To Serve Man
, in which victims from outside
one's social group are preyed upon, and No Party Like a Donner Party
, in which cannibalism is an abhorrent last resort. Contrast No Zombie Cannibals
and Ape Shall Never Kill Ape
May result in a Food Chain of Evil
within the group. A common way for the Monster Lord
to establish its dominance over its underlings. Sometimes overlapped with Always a Bigger Fish
Anime and Manga
- Subverted in InuYasha. When fighting the youkai brother Hiten and Monten, one of them is killed by the team. His brother then seems to eat his brother's corpse. While the main characters think it's hideous that he's eating his brother, he's actually absorbing the Shikan Jewel Shard embedded in his brother to defeat the people who killed his brother.
- Kyuubey from Puella Magi Madoka Magica combines this with a bizarre case of Autocannibalism when he's shown to devour his own corpse after it gets blasted by Homura and the new one appears. In this case it's half this trope and half of the Incubator's fanatical desire to prevent entropy and avoid wasting energy.
- The titular species from Tokyo Ghoul are stated to engage in it, though attitudes vary heavily about it. Some frown on it, primarily because Ghoul flesh is stated to taste unpleasant, while others take pleasure in hunting weaker Ghouls for sport. It is noted that cannibalism is more common in the most violent Wards, partially because eating their own kind actually increases the cannibal's strength. Some cannibals even experience a mutation, and gain the rare Kakuja-type kagune. In a twist, protagonist Kaneki Ken makes other Ghouls his primary food source after the time skip in order to become more powerful. Others note the serious toll it takes on his sanity.
- The intelligent undead of Marvel Zombies are quite open about the fact they'd like to devour one another, but are balked from doing so by the fact that zombie flesh tastes unbearably awful to them. A few stubborn ones try anyway, but have to spit out any bites they take out of a fellow-zombie.
- The Hulk of Ultimate Marvel proves itself to be even nastier than the mainstream Incredible Hulk through this. The 616 Hulk rampages but just wants to be left alone. The Ultimate Hulk will eat people alive.
- On Primeval, the team catch a baby raptor in a shopping mall, then use it as bait to set up an ambush for an adult that's still on the loose. They expect that, being from the same pack, the adult will come to the crying hatchling's aid, but it pounces on and eats the leashed juvenile instead.
- The Hundjager, from Grimm, are said to consume their mother from inside the womb. They have been shown to be cold, unmerciful, and relentless trackers and assassins who usually work for the Verrat.
- In Supernatural, the Leviathan race are expressly shown to be cannibalistic to emphasize their voraciousness. For instance, the monsters' leader Dick Roman consumes one of his minions alive for losing a holy tablet to the Winchesters.
- The ending of The X-Files episode "Our Town" implies the cannibals ate their leader.
- This trope applies to many evil Dungeons & Dragons races, but is a particular hallmark of sahuagin culture, in which the maxim "Meat is meat" is used to justify their preying upon everything from other races to deformed sahuagin hatchlings to their own dead.
- Dragon Magazine's article "The Ecology of the Flind" attributed this gnoll subrace's physical superiority and fearsome reputation to their tribes having ritually preyed upon regular gnolls for generations, ensuring only those flinds who could best an ordinary gnoll would ever breed.
- Subverted in depictions of trolls from the Mystara D&D setting. While they readily chomp on one another whenever they're feeling peckish, their regeneration powers ensure that any troll who's nibbled upon will quickly and painlessly recover. It's implied that some man-eating trolls are actually inoffensive by nature, but simply too stupid to grasp that non-trolls they try to make friends with don't like having their arms or legs bitten off.
- Vampire: The Requiem:
- The vampire bloodline called the Noctuku are apex predators to apex predators, preying on other vampires' blood and flesh. If they drink all of their vampire victim's blood they commit diablerie by consuming their soul. While Noctuku are normally loners, they're known to form Cannibal Clans called clutches that systematically prey on other vampires. If their activities are ever discovered, they're hunted by vampires unironically enforcing the double standard that only humans should be hunted and killed.
- Another bloodline, the "En", are also cannibals... but of the megalomaniacal king variety. They gain power over a city and give free reign to their dark appetites, creating children only to feed on them later (unless their child gets the drop on them).
- In Warhammer40000 the Tyranids consume all lifeforms, including their own units once they're no longer needed.
- Arcanum: The chapter of the manual dealing with Orcs notes that they prefer to cannibalise rather than bury their dead. It's also an accepted orcish custom for an orc mother who gives birth to triplets to present one of the newborns to the father, who eats it in celebration of his own fertility.
- It is implied that Seekers of the Name from Fallen London will eat other humans when their Horror Hunger is out of control. Your character can do it too, if you're a Seeker.
- In Elona, cannibalism causes one to go temporarily insane, unless one undergoes a mutation that makes them OK with eating other people. From that point on, they'll kill and eat anyone they encounter, each other included.
- The Primal Zerg in StarCraft kill and eat other creatures in order to absorb their genes and become more powerful. They gain the most essence by eating one another.
- In StarCraft I, the Defiler can eat other zerg to regain energy. This is transplanted to Infested!Kerrigan and zerg Samir Duran.
- In Mass Effect 3, you encounter a new type of mooks called 'Cannibal'. Its 'special move' is to eat their own kind in order to restore health, showing how much of an eldritch abomination the reapers have turned them into.
- In Dragon Age, the darkspawn are known to kill and eat each other when there's nothing else available. Even though they don't actually need to eat at all.
- When the Kvrk-chk are introduced in Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger it's stated that they devour their dead on the spot, at social gatherings it's considered common courtesy to tear off a limb as a gift to the host, and their youngest adults have to disperse far from home every thirteen years to avoid being eaten by their younger siblings. To say nothing of their attitude towards other sapient races.
- Stated to be the case in Drowtales; drow (especially homeless lowborn) will eat each other when desperate enough, and the drow are on dire straits by the time the comic takes place that this is fairly common. All the soft tissues usually pink on a healthy elf are purple from malnutrition; and even clan matriarchs have this.
- In Australia, the decimation of rodents' natural predators in a farming community caused an explosion in the rat population. In desperation and starvation, the stronger rats preyed on weaker ones until they virtually died out.
- Happens often on ships which are adrift. Once the resident rats have eaten all the victuals, they turn upon each other. In the end the rat population will die out by such cannibalistic predation.
- Ant colonies regularly "recycle" injured or dead colony members as food. Averted if a dying ant suffers from an infectious disease its fellows can detect by smell, in which case it's killed and dumped outside the nest to prevent sickness from spreading.