"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver, with some fava beans and a nice chianti."
Humans, like most living things, are composed of many different organs and tissue types. Some people-eating monsters out there will not find all of those parts appetizing enough to eat.
A monster can be made more horrifying if instead of simply eating people, it eats only certain parts of people. The vampire is the best known example of this type of monster with its interest in blood. But for every organ or tissue type composing the human body, there will be some critter that finds it a delicacy.
The horror quotient can really be ramped up if the part the monster is interested in can be extracted without immediately killing the victim. The victim can then suffer a slow, screaming death in front of their companions and the audience as the monster painfully extracts its chosen food. Also a partially consumed corpse can be stumbled over announcing to the audience and the characters that something is rotting in Denmark.
I'm a Humanitarian
is the supertrope if
the feeder is also a human (although, technically, this also works for other species that eat their own kind). If he's not then see To Serve Man
. Brain Food
is a subtrope. Those who are unfit for eating are usually Too Spicy for Yog Sothoth
. Only distantly related to Picky Eater
, which is rejecting normal foods out of immaturity.
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Anime and Manga
- The mushi in Mushishi were often fond of eating strange things. People could have their eyes consumed, their memories consumed, their dreams consumed, their "life force" consumed, etc. One particularly strange example involved a mushi that could take a recently dead human corpse, eat the "lifespan" of that corpse and revert them into an embryonic form that could be implanted into a pregnant woman. (Of course, most of these examples aren't nearly as squicky as the usual examples of this trope, and some people were even able to benefit, at least temporarily, from the mushi taking over and/or consuming some part of their body.)
- Natsume from the Mermaid Saga Came Back Wrong after being brought back from the dead using a mermaid's liver. As a result, she now exclusively eats livers, be it those of animals or humans.
- The Youma and Awakened Beings from Claymore prefer the entrails.
- In InuYasha while demons tend to feed on people, many of them have specific preferences, including a Mantis monster that'll feed on innards, Juromaru (one of Naraku's creations) who was fond of livers and a giant, skinned Salamander demoness who needs to eat the skins of male people or demons in order to regain her form. There's also the Zushi Rat, who leaves the flesh to his countless rat children and takes the bones for himself.
- The Chimera Ant King from Hunter × Hunter prefers the brains of Nen-users. To make things worse, he absorbs his victims' Nen to make his own aura even stronger.
- Shuu Tsukiyama from Tokyo Ghoul is so picky about his victims that he earns the alias The Gourmet. Unlike other Ghouls, he primarily focuses on victims with some unique or exceptional trait (a marathon runner's thighs, or beautiful sepia-toned eyes) and tends to only take those excellent parts. He considers consuming the finest, rarest ingredients to be a higher calling and wraps up all the brutality in a veneer of high-class dining.
- The Corinthian in The Sandman comics likes to eat the eyes of his victims — with the little mouths that he has in place of his own eyes. In doing so, he is able to see the last thing they saw before they died.
- In Lucifer there was a monster that fed on humans. A demon offers it a human she has befriended. It turns out the monster feeds on corruption and the only example of that in the man is cancer which it extracts harmlessly.
- Batman foe Cornelius Stirk operates under the delusion that he needs the nutrients and hormones from people's hearts in order to stay alive, and these are best prepared with norepinephrine by inducing fear in the victim prior to death. In other words, he scares people, then kills them and eats their hearts. You can probably guess what era of comics decided they needed a Darker and Edgier People Eating version of Scarecrow.
- Emplate of the X-Titles feeds on mutant bone marrow.
- The Libra Killer in Alan Moore's Top 10 fed on human pineal glands.
- In Grendel, Tujiro was an Asian vampire who consumed eyeballs as well as blood.
- Island of Terror had the bone-eating Silicates.
- Deep Rising had a creature interested only in human bodily fluids. It left its victims as a pile of bone and digested guts.
- The modus operandi of The Creeper from Jeepers Creepers was that he'd frighten his victims, causing them to release pheromones which he'd sniff to detect whether or not they had the... pieces he wanted (or needed to replace lost bits). He'd proceed to remove body parts from his chosen victims, consuming the smaller parts like eyes. Whether or not the victim was still alive at the time of "extraction" didn't seem to matter to The Creeper.
- As above, Hannibal Lecter in his series of books and movies, but only as an extension of his gourmet tendencies when it comes to all his food. For example, he'll often take delicacies such as sweetbreads, kidneys or oyster meat — a tendency which first clues Will Graham in to the notion that his suspect is a cannibal, and ultimately leads to Lecter's capture. He's also picky as to which people he'll eat.
- Imhotep in The Mummy (1999) is probably one of the pickiest people eaters around. He took body parts only from the people who had basically stolen his.
- The "tooth fairies" from Hellboy II: The Golden Army eat the whole person, but go for the teeth first.
- What do cannibals call <insert disliked ethnic group here>? ‘Junk food’.
- Orson Scott Card's short story "Kingsmeat". Yup, it's exactly what you think it is. The alien king and queen would kill a person and only use a small part for their meals, so the 'shepherd' convinces them to let him merely remove what they want and let the people keep living. When the people are liberated, the people reward the shepherd with many gifts, and also remove those body parts he doesn't strictly need to survive (though they leave him his eyes).
- Paul Jennings & Morris Gleitzman's children's book Wicked! (no connection) featured the Slobberers, slug-like nasties that sucked the bones right out of their victims' bodies. While still alive.
- Ella Enchanted contains a scene in which the heroine is captured by a family of ogres, who argue over how to divide up her parts. (The neck is the best part, apparently.)
- Ray Bradbury's short story "Skeleton".
- Some Cthulhu Mythos monstrosities have weird dietary preferences for blood, brains, marrow, etc.
- The Deltora Quest children's books feature the Granous, large furry humanoids who prefer fingers and toes, eaten one by one as they play sadistic riddle games with their victims.
- The skyskirr from Secret of the Sixth Magic by Lyndon Hardy subsist on bone marrow, which they can somehow drain from living creatures' limbs without necessarily killing them.
- Santa Steps Out: The Tooth Fairy lived on teeth and bones although she had a few other uses for the rest of the body. You really don't want to know where that dime under your pillow came from.
- In The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents the sentient rats don't object to eating each other, but they always spit out the "green wobbly bit".
- The Warhammer 40,000 Night Lords series has Uzas, who shows a great fondness for eating geneseed, preferably from the still living flesh of loyalist marines. One could take it solely as a sign of his status as the resident Ax-Crazy, but even the hero Talos makes mention of the practice, and later eats the heart of a Blood Angel he killed in act of revenge.
- A Bastion Wars novel once shows a rebel insurgency of Chaos cultists trying to liberate their planet, and they had a tendency to cut out and eat the livers of their Imperial counterparts.
- The Relic featured a creature that could only survive by consuming a specific protein found in a certain Amazon plant and human hypothalami.
Live Action TV
- The X-Files:
- Eugene Victor Tooms fed on human livers.
- The "fat-sucking vampire" from "2Shy" that fed on overweight women. There's a business model right there.
- A monster from "Leonard Betts" that replenished itself by eating tumors.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Gnarls have a thing for skin.
- There are other species mentioned as having this habit, like Small Bone Eaters and Large Bone Eaters. (Note that those names refer to the size of the bones they eat, not the creatures themselves.) For that matter, vampires themselves technically count, since they're only interested in the blood.
- Angel: One demon ate only the hearts of heroes. This gave Angel a bout of low self-esteem when it didn't want his, though a couple of people pointed out that maybe it just didn't want to eat a heart dead for two hundred years.
- Sliders: Among the Kromaggs human eyes are a delicacy. The series' first recurring Big Bad, Colonel Rickman, suffered from a degenerative nerve disease that required him to regularly steal brain fluid and inject it into himself to survive. His victims were left in comas.
- Farscape: There was the girl who ate bones. And Scorpy's girlfriend who liked to eat eyes. Especially blue ones.
- The Fringe episode "Midnight" has a woman who's been turned by mad scientists into a cerebrospinal fluid sucking vampire.
- Criminal Minds: Eddie Mays from "Blood Hungry" ate a body part believed to contain the soul. Of course, so many religions believed the soul existed in a body part and they were all different, so Eddie just wound harvesting a different one from each victim (liver, stomach and heart).
- Then we have Floyd Feylinn Ferell, who did not like to eat junkies because "they tasted funny".
- One perpetrator on CSI: Las Vegas would have her attack dogs kill people, then convert the most blood-rich of their internal organs into a milkshake-like slurry. She suffered from porphyria, a metabolic disorder that'd caused insanity in her case, and was convinced that consuming such organs was the only way to self-medicate.
- The eponymous monster of Sheb Wooley's "The Purple People Eater" only eats purple people. (In fact, this would imply that the monster itself may not necessarily be purple.)
- When Sheb pleads to not be eaten, the Purple People Eater replies "I wouldn't eat you 'cause you're so tough!"
- The Each-uisge in myths of the British isles would take the form of a horse and lure children on to its back, where it would eat their insides — except for their kidneys or livers, which would float to the surface.
- Oriental mythology is full of these.
- The kappa of Japanese Mythology would pull children (and sometimes adults) underwater and suck their intestines (or blood, or liver, or ki/lifeforce — the mythology is inconsistent on just what they ate) out through their anus. (this part, however, is pretty consistent) You could only protect yourself from this fate by carving your name on an even tastier treat and tossing it into the water. The one food they preferred over human innards? Cucumbers.
- The kumiho of Korean Mythology (a form of nine-tailed shape-shifting fox spirit with a serious mean streak in later myths) is said in various myths to eat people, but only one particular organ. In some, it's the heart, while in others, it's the liver, as that's where your Life Energy is supposed to reside.
- The Aztec ahuizotl only ate eyes, toenails, and fingernails.
- It is common among cannibalistic peoples not only to be picky about what parts to eat but about which people to eat. As eating is often held to absorb someone's moral characteristics as well as their physical ones, they go out of their way to be sure to eat a Worthy Opponent . In other words if you ever get eaten just consider it a compliment!
- Classical Mythology: Prometheus' Fate Worse Than Death was to be chained to a rock and have an eagle to return every day to eat his liver, which would then regenerate overnight.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- The game is stuffed full of these such as the bonedrinkers which, funnily enough, drink their enemies' bones. Inverted with the Chuul, which eats everything except for the brain, which is toxic to them. Mind Flayers, who play this straight, keep them as pets to throw brainless corpses to.
- One monster with a very specific - and very revolting - diet is the avolakia, a magical abomination resembling an unholy cross between a lamprey, insect, and octopus in its true form. It can eat the flesh of living or dead beings, but it's disgusted by both; it much prefers the flesh of undead beings. All avolakia are skilled in necromancy, so they can raise hordes of zombies to serve as both bodyguards and walking larders at the same time.
- In the Ravenloft setting, there is Tiyet, the Darklord of Sebua. Technically a mummy, even though she doesn't look like one or any sort of undead being (resembling a beautiful Egyptian queen) Tiyet is compelled to kill victims to eat their hearts (preferably fresh and still beating); this is very much an addiction connected to the curse that earned her the position of a Darklord. This addiction is also connected to the one way she can be killed; she can regenerate From a Single Cell if defeated, but she can be slain permanently by tricking her into eating her own heart, which is still in the temple where the mummification ritual was done that transformed her into undead. If it were ever offered to her, it would start to beat, and she would be unable to resist it, even though it would mean her doom.
- In Vampire: The Masquerade, this is the clan Flaw of the Ventrue. Being of such refined taste and upbringing, they can only partake of blood that comes from a certain kind of subject. This varies from Ventrue to Ventrue, with such "tastes" including virgins, gay men, priests, etc.
- In the successor game, Vampire: The Requiem, this quality leaves the Ventrue (in favor of a whole different Flaw), but shows up in some of the bloodlines; the Mekhet clan's Morbus (can only gain sustenance from those with a disease) and Brothers of Ypres (can only gain sustenance from blood that is tainted; they prefer poisons, but disease, drugs and radiation all count), and the Daeva clan's Anvari (gain less nourishment if they drink from people who aren't high on narcotics — the blood must be tainted with opiates to have its full effectiveness for them).
- In all of these cases, there's a bit of a loophole - the requirements don't apply to blood from other vampires. However, drinking vampire blood is full of its own problems.
- Deadlands features plenty of monsters that prefer specific bits and pieces of people. One character even invokes this trope in the After the End sequel when talking about intelligence gathering. It boils down to "if a monster's been eating spleens, you better know the whole situation, or you'll be minus one spleen."
- In Xenosaga, Realian nerve tissue contains compounds that act as an addictive drug.
- Dimitri Maximoff will only drink the blood of beautiful women. Fortunately for him, he has a power named Midnight Bliss, which makes women beautiful and turns men into women.
- Subverted with Sluggy Freelance's zombies, who don't have a preference for any parts. Double Subverted by Jane, who figured out that her own parts would be maintained by the parts she eat, and selected Brain Food. Triple Subverted by the zombies she mislead while they still had the intelligence to catch on to it, so she could keep them dumb and controllable.
- An episode of Stroker and Hoop had the eponymous characters' organs stolen by a "friendly" cannibalistic cult that only ate the non-vital organs of its victims.
- In The Smurfs, a monster called the Creepodile lived in the Pussywillow Hollow swamp, usually in a deep slumber; if it ever woke up, it would not return to sleep until it found and devoured a king. Naturally, King Bullrush of the wartmongers - whose kingdom was the swamp - was terrified of what might happen if it awoke, and when Vanity actually did so, Bullrush made him king so it would go after Vanity instead. (The Smurflings were able to save Vanity by fooling the beast into eating a gourd dressed up in royal clothes.)
- A lot of parasites are very picky eaters; which is to say they have evolved into highly specialized niches.
- Eyebrow mites only eat the sebum (oils) secreted from sebaecious pores around our eyebrows.
- Dust mites only eat flakes of dead skin.
- Some liver flukes can only survive in the bile duct, or the gall bladder.
- Most viruses can only enter specific cell types:
- Many Herpes-type virues only attack nerve cells.
- Some cancer causing Human papiloma viruses can only attack skin cells at the boundry of external skin and intestinal tract (i.e. rectum and throat).
- HIV only attacks cells expressing the ccr5 or cxc4receptors (usually cd4 t-lymphocytes).
- While most carnivores will more than freely pick a corpse clean, predators that have to compete with something bigger that will run them off from a kill (IE, a Cheetah avoiding lions or hyenas, wolves avoiding a bear or a larger pack) go directly for the liver and other organs where carbs and nutrients are richest.
- In Lake Tanganyika, a species of cichlid fish specializes in attacking other fish by biting off and eating their prey's scales. Individuals of these scale-eating fish will have their long jaws twisted to permit them to attack either the left side or the right side of their victims. One can easily tell whether the right-side attacking population or the left-side attacking population is greater by seeing which direction other fish flee towards when spooked.
- In Siberia, the Pel's Fishing Owl, as with other fishing owls, preys on fish it captures in rivers and streams. The Pel's preferentially starts with the head of the fish, and in times of plenty, an owl may eat only the head and abandon the rest of its meal.
- During the salmon season, a grizzly bear, depending on how well its fed up to that point in the year, may only go for certain parts of the fish they catch, such as brains and caviar, and leave the rest to rot.