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Polar Bears and Penguins
He just wants to wake him up so he can ask for directions.

Well, I'm down in the bay with the Eskimos
With the polar bears and the Arctic snows
With a party of penguins who do not know
How I can get back to thee.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Supernaturally

The primary difference between the Arctic and the Antarctic is that one has polar bears and one has penguins — if you're lucky enough not to see them in the same place or one of them in the wrong place. Oh, and they're on opposite ends of the Earth, but who can remember which one is where? Certainly not Hollywood, which treats them as interchangeable lumps of ice to send doomed expeditions up. The (Ant)Arctic circle is full of snow, chasms, avalanches and those great big ice bridges that collapse just as the last person makes their way across. Cannibalism may be unavoidable. If one is lucky (or unlucky) you might find that weird hidden tropical valley filled with... interesting denizens.

In Christmas Specials, children's cartoons and comics, there will literally be a South or North Pole that looks just like the striped poles outside barbers' shops. Christmas Elves, reindeer and Santa Claus will no doubt be somewhere nearby, at least in the case of the North Pole. In these cases, the cannibalism rule can be waived, although, in a comedy, the word 'venison' is a guarantee.

For the record, the North Pole is a frozen sea and the South Pole is an actual frozen continent, but that doesn't come up much either. If it did, we might start wonderingnote  why Santa built his house not on a rock, but on a floating mass of ice.note 

Incidentally, the word 'Arctic' actually comes from the Greek word for bear, Arktos. This is in origin nothing to do with polar bears, but refers to the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (the great and the small bear, respectively), which are always in the north as seen from Greece. However, it makes for a convenient mnemonic — the Arctic is the land of the bears, the Antarctic is the land opposite the bears.

Of course, it's probably just easier to remember NORTH IS BEARS, SOUTH IS PENGUINS.

May be explained by the fact that Everything's Better with Penguins. Then again, Bears Are Bad News, so the penguins might just balance things out. On the other hand, the bears may also be Beary Funny, in which case both bears and penguins make for a real cool Rule of Funny.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertisement 
  • Coca-Cola mostly averts this. In one, they lampshade it. It may be justified, if the bears were travelers.
  • Kid Cuisine, a brand of frozen TV dinners, has a penguin and a polar bear as their mascots. (Though they're apparently smart enough to buy clothes, so maybe one of them got a plane ticket and flew to the other one's place.)
  • In a CapitalOne advertisement, they supposedly can only afford to go to Antarctica, even though a plane trip to Antarctica would cost MUCH more than a trip to an equatorial region. The commercial ends with the father pointing out that it's walrus mating season with a herd of walruses appearing onscreen, even though it was clearly stated to be Antarctica.
  • A promo for Netflix included sample clips from nonexistent movies in various genres, including a "documentary" that apparently plays this trope straight.
  • In the 1970s, TV adverts for Cresta soft drinks in the UK featured a polar bear with a retinue of penguins. (It's frothy, man!)

    Anime & Manga 
  • Penguin Musume Heart's lead is Sakura "Penguin" Nankyoku. Her rival is "Polar Bear" Marie. Convenient.
  • In one episode of the Lupin III (Red Jacket) series, Lupin tries to bring polar bears to the South Pole and the penguins to the North. Just to find some hidden treasure.

    Board Games 

    Comic Books 
  • A much-derided scene in Avengers vs. X-Men showed Wolverine hiking through the snow of Antarctica wearing the skin of a polar bear he'd killed.
  • In one issue of the DC Looney Tunes comic, Wile E. Coyote gets blasted to the South Pole and starts chasing the little top-hatted penguinnote . One of the coyote's misfired schemes results in him being attacked by a polar bear, which he protests (via sign of course) due to this very trope. It turns out the bear was on vacation.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Far Side. Gary Larson drew a few strips featuring this trope for the same reason he did strips with humans and dinosaurs living together: Rule of Funny. A typical example has a group of penguins on a small ice floe commenting on the ongoing rash of mysterious disappearances, while a polar bear sits among them, wearing a fake beak as a disguise. Larson later implies that at the time he made this particular drawing, he didn't know that polar bears and penguins don't live on the same pole.
  • Garfield has frequently talked about going to the North Pole to eat penguins. Nermal once caught on to his mistake.
  • An infamous French cartoon from around 1908 commented on the controversy over whether explorer Robert Peary had truly been the first man to reach the North Pole. He is shown surrounded by penguins.
  • A Soviet artist once drew a caricature about Eisenhower looking all over the Arctic for the Communist threat. Everyone laughed at him for making the trope mistake... until they learned Josef Stalin approved of the picture.
  • Justified in Arctic Circle; the main penguin trio are immigrants from Antarctica to the Arctic.

    Films — Animation 
  • In the Christmas Special Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town, the young Kris Kringle runs into a penguin who is lost trying to find the South Pole. Kringle makes a point of noting that that pole is on the opposite end of the planet and "you're about as lost as you can get."
  • Originally, The Rescuers was actually going to be about Bernard and Miss Bianca trying to save a polar bear from an evil penguin.
  • Wonderfully averted in Happy Feet. Despite being a movie about adorable dancing emperor penguins, not a single polar bear can be seen.
  • Most recent penguin movies avert this trope; Surf's Up for example doesn't feature any mammal besides cetaceans and an otter.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Elf, which portrays the North Pole as a magical land populated by clay-animation creatures and talking snowmen, supposedly would be able to get away with this. Instead, it averts it by having polar bears and puffins instead, which are arctic animals.
  • Batman Returns: The designers of the Gotham Zoo obviously swallowed this trope whole, since their aquatic exhibit features only penguins, yet is called Arctic World and is topped by a statue of a polar bear. Although "arctic" (small "a") is also an adjective meaning "extremely cold", which is a valid description of both polar regions.
  • In Zombieland, Tallahassee compares the rumors of which region of America is still zombie-free to penguins in the North Pole thinking that the South Pole would be warmer. Columbus immediately calls him out on his Critical Research Failure. His response?
  • In Strategic Air Command (1955), before leaving for Greenland, Jimmy Stewart asks his wife what she'd like for a souvenir: "polar bear, penguin?" After crashing his plane, he does bring back a (plush) penguin. Apparently the Thule AFB gift shop is used to dealing with this trope.
  • The Early Films pioneer Georges Méliès has a rejoicing crowd of Arctic penguins wave to our heroes in his The Conquest of the Pole.

    Literature 
  • Mr. Popper's Penguins; there is a good reason for this happening
  • Terry Pratchett makes a joke of this (like everything else) in Discworld, describing in Thief of Time a south-drifting iceberg populated by polar bears and seals, seeking a better life in the southern hemisphere where the ice floes are lined with crunchy penguins.note  Too bad that darned Titanic was in the way....
  • Older Than Radio: Wyss's Swiss Family Robinson was riddled with an impossible concentration of animals and plants on an island. Penguins arrived in numbers on an island that's so close to the equator that it never snows — although penguins aren't restricted to snowy or frigid climes by any means, the Galapagos Penguin is the only surviving species that lives in outright tropical climates.
  • There's a book about Santa Claus which subverts this — Santa's workshop has a penguin population nearby, but they're noted as emigrating from the South Pole somehow (maybe stowing away at Santa's vacation spot). This particular breed has developed a bowtie-like spot on their chests.
  • One of Margery Sharpe's The Rescuers books (not the Disney films) manages to invoke and invert this at the same time: The titular characters, while on a mission to Antarctica, do run into polar bears, who admit that this isn't their home, they are on an exchange program with the Arctic Ocean.
  • Jez Alborough's delightful children's picture book Cuddly Dudley may not have any Polar Bears but it does manage to include an Eskimo — and trees — in tne story of the titular penguin, who is just too cuddly for his own goon.
  • The fact that penguins and polar bears aren't found in the same place provides the vital clue in one Encyclopedia Brown mystery. Which is used to spoof Encyclopedia Brown in this article of The Onion.
  • Made use of in The Extreme, twenty-fifth book in the Animorphs series. Marco gets the polar bear as his cover morph for that book.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Kenan & Kel episode "Natural Born Kenan", Kenan dreams about his "real" parents as snow people (Eskimos), they have a pet penguin which Kenan has to walk.
  • In one episode of QI, Stephen mentioned that penguins had few natural land predators, and Alan confidently mentioned that polar bears ate them. Stephen had to correct him.

    Music 
  • Punk band Millencolin have a song called "Penguins and Polar Bears". Being from Sweden however, they're aware the two animals live far apart — in fact, the song is about two lovers who end hating each other, and includes the line "'Cause we're stuck in roles as other's antipoles".
  • The Moody Blues sang "Dr. Livingstone I presume", the second verse of which is about Captain Scott of the "Antartic"[sic] — who somehow meets polar bears.

    Video Games 
  • The first Endless Ocean plays this to the hilt. Then again, about half the wildlife is misplaced anyway due to the Rule of Fun, so it's not quite as noticeable. Endless Ocean Blue World averts the trope as part of getting to see marine life in more reasonable locations, and acknowledges the difference between diving in a frozen sea and next to a frozen continent.
  • The "Arctic" scenario from Repton Around the World.
  • FarmVille's 2009 Christmas event introduced a lost penguin arriving on your farm to be adopted by neighbors. If you posted it to your Facebook page, the description would note that the penguin had walked all the way from the North pole. There's lost, and then there's lost.
  • This trope is avoided in one of the Magic School Bus computer games, The Magic School Bus: Animals. One of the minigames involves a penguin who got very, very lost and ended up at the North Pole rather than the South Pole Fridge Logic  You take control of the penguin and guide him across the world and back to the South Pole in Frogger-style levels.
  • One game for the iPad had you launch penguins across icy hills to escape a polar bear.
  • In Doki Doki Penguin Land and its sequels, polar bears are the penguin's enemies. Both species appear to be living underground. It's best not to think about it too much.
  • In World of Warcraft, the northern continent of Northrend — setting of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion — has both polar bears as common beasts and a couple penguin colonies. However, this is a fantasy world and not Earth.
  • Spy vs. Spy III: Arctic Antics. The game's creators were obviously not informed that penguins don't live in the Arctic.

    Web Comics 
  • Tyler Martin's Wally and Osborne (originally titled On the Rocks) deliberately plays with this trope by placing Wally the polar bear in Antarctica, where he forms a Laurel and Hardy style partnership with Osborne the penguin. How Wally got to Antarctica or why is never explained, although Osborne once suggested that Wally might be bipolar.
  • There's also South Pole, with a penguin, a polar bear, and an arctic fox at the South Pole. The strip's subtitle is Strangers in Antarctica, so the author is apparently aware that one or two of these don't belong here. The reason was finally explained in strip 73.
  • Averted in The KAMics... well, except for that time when Drunk Aliens returned a penguin to the wrong hemisphere.
  • While there aren't any polar bears in Pokey the Penguin, there ARE a whole lot of penguins, and they all proudly live in the Arctic Circle.
  • During The Last Days Of FOXHOUND, Liquid Snake wounds up in Alaska after using as Ejection Seat (from a helicopter). He incorrectly assumes that he's in the North Pole, and wonders why there aren't any penguins around. Then again, Liquid is an idiot.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Walter Lantz's cartoon penguin Chilly Willy is often paired up with a polar bear.
  • A U.S. Acres segment on Garfield and Friends plays with this. When reading a book, Orson's imagination gets away with him so badly that it impacts what everyone else perceives in the world around him. As Orson pulls out a book on the frozen north, he wonders to himself if he'll read about penguins. At this point, a penguin toddles up to Wade, who decides to pet it. Orson then realizes that polar bears, not penguins, live in the frozen north, and then penguin transforms into a polar bear, which sends Wade into a panic.
  • Chilly Beach, which was clearly set somewhere in Northern Canada, had a recurring character who was a polar bear with an English accent. His sidekick was a penguin.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • The Bugs Bunny cartoon Frigid Hare has him turning up at the South Pole, where a penguin is being pursued by an Eskimo.
    • Another Bugs Bunny cartoon, 8 Ball Bunny, has Bugs trying to return a lost penguin to the South Pole, only to get there and find out that this penguin is a native of Hoboken, New Jersey.
    • And yet another where Bugs takes a penguin to the Arctic. Only, after the journey, the penguin begins crying and puts up a sign saying, "Penguins are native to the Antarctic".
  • In one episode of Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue! a penguin can be seen while the titular characters and their robot butler are in the Arctic.
  • In Adventure Time, the Ice King says that it is natural for polar bears to eat penguins.

    Real Life 
  • The word "penguin" originally designated a fish-eating, flightless, black and white dweller of the Northern Hemisphere: The Great Auk. It's been extinct since around 1850, though. Penguin comes form the Welsh "pen gwyn", or "white head". There have been at least two serious attempts to introduce penguins into the Northern Hemisphere to fill the biological niche left by the great auk note . Both failed miserably, mainly due to the penguins being killed through contact (hunting, fishing etc) with the local human populace — pretty much why the great auk became extinct in the first place and why penguins are increasingly at risk in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • While polar bears themselves are absent from the southern hemisphere, some other Arctic species have been introduced there. One notable case is the reindeer, which occurs now in sub-antarctic islands, and they can be seen next to penguin colonies.
  • Many zoos have both polar bears and penguins.
  • It's not penguins and polar bears specifically, but there are certain animals that can be found both in the Arctic and Antarctic such as the Arctic Tern.
  • Norway technically has both polar bears and penguins, though neither are on the Scandinavian peninsula (which is what most people think of when they mention Norway). There are polar bears on the Arctic islands of Svalbard, and penguins in Queen Maud Land, a dependent territory of Norway in Antarctica.
    • The Norwegian military's domestically-produced anti-ship missile is known as "the Penguin", possibly in reference to the presence of Great Auks (Pinguinus impennis) in Norway prior to their extinction.
    • The mascot and Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian Royal Guard is a King Penguin named Sir Nils Olav. He lives in the Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland.
  • Related: when Pittsburgh won a National Hockey League team, its owner was thinking some names. Once the owner's wife heard their arena was nicknamed "The Big Igloo", she suggested Penguins, and he thought it was a good name. Considering the Pittsburgh Penguins are one of the most successful teams ever since, it's easy to forgive igloos and penguins are in opposite hemisphere (the Inuits live on the Northern hemisphere; not only is Antarctica uninhabited except for the occasional research team, but it's too cold for an ice-with-a-bonfire house to help).
  • Penguins (at least in Antarctica) have no land predators and therefore don't fear land animals and move very slowly and awkwardly on land. If polar bears and penguins were ever in the same place, it wouldn't stay that way for very long.


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