Shorter Means Smarter
"I may be small, but I have a big brain!"Being the smallest in a group will always make you smarter (and usually more agile] than the rest. This, of course, is supposed to make up for being physically weak. Reflectively, in a Big Guy, Little Guy Odd Couple the short one is always the planner, the schemer, the wise one. The taller may be The Hero, the Dumb Muscle or the loon, the lazy one, or just the wild one, but the short guy is always somehow smarter. The Teen Genius Wise Beyond Their Years is especially often paired with a Gentle Giant, and the child in a Badass and Child Duo will often at least attempt to play the smart guy for the pair. Results will vary. Naturally, seen often with The Smart Guy and The Big Guy of the Five-Man Band. Interestingly enough, the Trope Maker of the modern Five-Man Band, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, had a Tagalong Kid as the Smart Guy, who was only 'smart' in the trickster sense rather than the technical sense. The two roles would become conflated later. And, of course, everpresent in The Short Guy with Glasses. Contrast Genius Bruiser and Badass Bookworm. See also Brains and Brawn and Geek Physiques.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Kai (or Kaisuke, in the manga) and Yamagata from AKIRA, with Kai being the short, smart guy in question.
- Yue Ayase of Mahou Sensei Negima! is the shortest of the post-pubescent characters, and easily one of the smartest.
- Koushiro "Izzy" Izumi of Digimon Adventure. He and Mimi are both ten years old, but she's a good foot taller, while he's roughly the same height as eight-year-old Hikari.
- Gene Starwind and Jim Hawking in Outlaw Star.
- Chiyo from Azumanga Daioh, the petite resident Cheerful Child, is the most intelligent of the bunch. She's smallnote even for her age.
- Death Note plays with this in the cases of Mello and Near. While Mello is average-short for a man (5'7) his companions in the Mafia are all a good six inches taller than he is. Near is only 5 feet, but he's the one who takes Kira down in the end, so he must be fairly intellegent.
- Dragon Ball Z example: Vegeta and Nappa. Notable in that shorter is also more powerful as well.
- The Prince of Tennis: Ryoh Shishido, with is taller, stronger doubles partner Ohtori. Of course, this is in part due to the fact that he is Ohtori's upperclassman.
- Lyrical Nanoha has the N2R Nakajima Sisters' Cinque, the white-haired Token Mini-Moe who's actually the oldest and most experienced of the bunch, one of the two strongest Numbers, and serves as the Squad Leader. She's also described as being especially "mature and adult-like" by Subaru.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, being the complete genius he was, Edward Elric would probably be the short and smart person of most of the cast, despite the fact that many others are probably just as wise, but don't fit the age group. Just...don't mention the short part to him.
- In Detective Conan, Conan Edogawa is the shortest of the Detective Boys, even shorter than the girls. This was, however, subverted with his teenage alter ego Shinichi Kudo, as Shinichi is of a more appropriate height for his age.
- Chiriko from Fushigi Yuugi. Not only is he the shortest Seishi, he's also the youngest.
- Inverted in Naruto: the smartest character, Shikamaru, is pretty tall. Among the rookies, the title character is the shortest boy and he's also tied for being the second dumbest. After the Time Skip he's smarter, but he's also one of the taller ones.
- In Muhyo And Roji, Muhyo is one of the most intelligent and talented Magic Law practitioners, but also shorter than virtually everyone else.
- Nami from One Piece is the shortest human member of the crew and one of the shortest grown-up characters overall (she's even shorter than Luffy!), but is both the most normal member and incredibly smart. Robin (who is very tall) is probably even smarter, though, at least as for book-smarts.
- Also, Chopper's "Brain Point" form boosts his analytical ability and also makes him the very shortest member of the crew.
- Completely inverted with Luffy himself. Even though Word of God says he's taller than for example Nami, he's drawn shorter than her most of time, and is all in all a little midget compared to most One Piece characters. He is also dumb as a rock.
- Suzu from Seitokai Yakuindomo; just don't remind her.
- Exsedol Folmo from Super Dimension Fortress Macross is relatively one of the smaller Zentradi and serves as an advisor/historian. Inverted in Macross 7 where a retconned version of the character is one of the largest cast members.
- Subverted in Attack on Titan: Armin's intelligence is repeatedly praised in-series, and he's the second shortest male among the 104th Trainee Corps...the only boy shorter than him among them is Connie. (Krista is shorter than both of them, but her intelligence is not particularly noted). Zoe Hange and Erwin Smith, who are both called brilliant by several characters, are also fairly tall.
- Astérix from the comic of the same name is much smaller than his pal Obelix, but is the brains of the duo.
- Of the three Bone cousins, the two shorter ones (Fone Bone and Phoney Bone) are more intelligent than the tallest one (Smiley Bone), although they both have different kinds of intelligence.
- The Dalton brothers in Lucky Luke superficially extend this trope to four persons, but actually are a subversion. Joe is both the shortest and the leader of the gang, while Averell is the tallest and the most obvious dimwit. However while Joe clearly thinks he's the brains of the gang (rather in the way that Oliver Hardy's character believed himself to be much smarter than Stan Laurel's), he's actually just as stupid as his brothers, only in a different way. Goscinny himself once pointed out that Joe is merely the most malevolent or evil of the Daltons and that evil does not equal smart.
- In Watchmen, the local crime boss leading the rioting in prison is a man named "Big Figure," who is half the height of his two thugs. His Fatal Flaw is a Napoleon Complex.
- Teela from Pocket God is the shortest pygmy of her tribe, but is also a Gadgeteer Genius.
- Inverted in Sam & Max, where the shorter Max is the less rational and more anarchic of the two.
- The Princess Bride: Vizzini is more or less a a tiny-sized, dictatorial control freak with a brain... until the Man in Black shows up, anyway.
- Pintel and Ragetti from Pirates of the Caribbean. At least, Pintel (short) has the more practical intelligence; Ragetti (tall) is several bottles short of a rum crate, but what's left sometimes drops erudite comments about, for instance, the Scandinavian origin of the word "kraken".
- In the movie adaptations of Hellboy, compare Bruiser Hellboy to his partner Abe Sapien, who's both smarter/more well-read and psychic. (Note that this is Adaptation Displacement at work; in the comics Hellboy is a Genius Bruiser and Abe has no psychic powers.)
- Inverted in The Ice Pirates; the towering Killjoy is the smartest one of the pirates, if not the smartest person in the movie.
- In the Star Wars universe the wisest of all Jedi is little Master Yoda. "Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not.".
- In the Home Alone movies, Harry Lyme isn't really that smart himself (he never made it to the sixth grade in fact), but he's much less stupid than his sidekick Marv Merchants.
- Marco from Animorphs is the team's manipulative, wisecracking tactician, and is frequently described as being the smallest Animorph. Which also implies being shorter than the character who is under five feet tall.
- In Ranger's Apprentice, Will is constantly described as short and smart in the same breath, while his friend Horace is both tall and happy to let others do the thinking for him.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, arguably two of the smartest characters in the series are Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, a short Chessmaster, and Tyrion "the Imp" Lannister, a cunning dwarf.
- In, Harry Potter, it's implied that Hermione is the shortest of the group (and she's obviously the smartest as well).
- Kruppe from The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Frequently smarter than gods.
- Played straight with Bean in Enders Game, although this is justified in the Shadow series because Bean has been genetically modified. He will never have an adolescent growth spurt, but his body and brain will continue growing slowly his entire life. This makes him fearsomely smart, but he'll eventually run afoul of the Square/Cube Law and die prematurely.
- Short is common among Deal Relway's crafty secret police in the Garrett, P.I. novels, although this is a result of recruitment bias rather than innate intelligence: Relway favors cops who can be both cunning and inconspicuous, and he knows others tend to underestimate short people.
- A lot of Eoin Colfer's characters seem to have this. At any rate, all the Teen Genii do.
- Silk, resident Smart Guy of The Belgariad, is significantly shorter than any other male adult in the party. When first introduced he's described as being barely taller than the then-prepubescent protagonist.
- Scobie in Don't Call Me Ishmael! is the shortest of the main characters, and the smartest. He is also the best debater on the team and good at all school subjects, except anything relating to physical activity.
Live Action TV
- Mr Vandemar and Mr Croup of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Croup, though not necessarily the smarter, is the more eloquent of the two, and both are equally (which is to say frighteningly) competent at what they do.
- Bud and Kelly Bundy in Married... with Children with Bud being the smart one and Kelly very much not. This one is probably coincidental — David Faustino (Bud) was a prepubescent when the show started, but even as an adult he remained shorter than Christina Applegate (Kelly).
- Kerry and Bridget from 8 Simple Rules. This seems to be an unintended result of making Bridget taller (i.e. hotter) than her sister.
- The Mighty Boosh's Naboo the Enigma, a tiny stoner shaman who probably measures out to stand less than five foot, is the smartest main character. But considering the other three are a demented jazzman, a bubble-headed pop singer and a talking gorilla, the title was pretty easy to win.
- The smallest person on the Firefly-class freighter Serenity is five-foot-nothing, ninety-pound River Tam, and there is absolutely no doubt that she's the smartest person on the ship. Similarly, her brother Simon and the Wrench Wench Kaylee are also pretty small compared with the rest of the crew, and they're also the brains of the ship.
- Benjamin Linus might not be the smallest guy on Lost, but he's quite a bit shorter than most of the other men — and probably the cleverest person on the island.
Valerie Valerie's Family: The HogansThe Hogan Family featured fraternal twins Willie & Mark; they started out about the same size, but as the actors grew up it ended up that Willie (the irresponsible one) was taller than Mark (the brainy one). Note though that these characterizations appeared before the split in height.
- Doctor K from Power Rangers RPM - tiny, but the brains behind just about everything they have.
- Gilmore Girls has Paris Geller who wants to remain the best in her class and is shorter than her two Brainless Beauty friends and her competition, Rory.
- Inverted in The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon, supposedly the smartest character, is also the tallest. Though it's hard to tell, as every character on the show, aside from Book Dumb Penny, is extremely intelligent.
- In Tales of Symphonia, the second-shortest (and youngest) character, Genis, is The Smart Guy (and also a bit of a Bratty Half-Pint). Furthermore, the most cunning of the Desian Grand Cardinals, Rodyle, is also the shortest.
- Another Tales series game this follows into is Tales of Legendia where Jay the Unseen is one of, if not, the smartest members in the party and also the shortest. It's even lampshaded throughout the game
- Gomar and Shioh in F-Zero.
- Inverted in Professor Layton and the Curious Village. While Layton and Luke are both smart, the titular tall character is the smartest and Luke is his apprentice.
- Reese Worthington of Backyard Sports placed in the 99th percentile in a class test and was placed in the honors program. But he's really short.
- Zexion of Kingdom Hearts. Compare him to every one else (except Roxas and Xion), and you'll find he's the shortest out of them, especially the other "Basement Members." Then again, he's the youngest apprentice...
- Erik from The Lost Vikings.
- Miles "Tails" Prower of Sonic the Hedgehog is a mechanical genius, and his IQ is implied to be 400. He's two and a half feet tall.
- Subverted with Dr. Eggman who is certainly one of the taller characters, even by human standards. He is also a genius with an IQ of 300 and easily one of the smartest characters in the series (save maybe his grandfather who's also pretty tall, and Tails).
- The Engineer from Team Fortress 2 is the shortest of the nine playable classes, though always standing up straight obfuscates this. He holds 11 PhDs. The Medic is one of the tallest characters (and his posture makes him look even taller), but he is also built lightly.
- Naoto Shirogane from Persona 4 is the shortest playable character, (at one point before the reveal, Yosuke even refers to her as a "shrimpy, half pint detective"), yet she is also the most intelligent character in the Investigation Team, using her incredible powers of deductive reasoning to bring the team one step closer to finding the killer.
- Which leads to her tag-line in Persona 4 Arena, the 2000 IQ Killjoy Detective.
- Mega Man X series: X5's Shining Firefly/Izzy Glow and X8's Gravity Antonion. Both are extremely intelligent reluctant mad scientists and are the smallest bosses in their games due to being based off a firefly and an ant respectively.
- Kiel from Rune Factory 4 is the resident Ditzy Genius and shortest of the bachelors (he's even in the running for shortest adult in town; only the Token Mini-Moe girls Amber and Xaio Pai are shorter than he is, plus Pico, the ghost with an unknown but presumably prepubescent age).
- In Freedom Wars, Citizens are genetically modified to favor brains over brawn, being intelligent while having small, energy-efficient bodies. Sinners, in comparison, tend to be only of average intelligence while being genetically modified to be strong enough to lift concrete slabs connected to rebars with their bare hands, making them more suited for combat.
- Played with to hell and back in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series with two of the Dark H—"Steves" that try to rid of Yugi and Kaiba—the audience originally lead to believe the suave-voiced villain and squeaky-voiced idiot are the tall and short Steves respectively. Then their faces, and thus, lip movements, are revealed.
- In RWBY, the shortest member of the titular team (Weiss) is not necessarily smarter than her teammates, but definitely the most analytical.
- Pinky and the Brain: Even though they're lab rats and already pretty small by default, Brain is also shorter than Pinky, who's also an idiot.
- The titular character of Hey Arnold! is shorter than a good number of his friends by mere inches and is also one of the smartest characters on the show.
- Helga's best friend Phoebe, who happens to be shorter than Arnold himself, as well as the shortest student in Mr. Simmons's fourth grade class is a straight-A student and easily the most intelligent student in the class. She was even (temporarily) promoted to the sixth grade.
- Rita and Runt from Animaniacs. Inspired on the above example, although Runt is based on Rain Man.
- Timon and Pumbaa from The Lion King are a subversion. Timon only thinks he's the smart one, while Pumbaa doesn't realize how smart he really is.
- Played straight with Mufasa and Scar, however.
Scar: Well, as far as brains go, I got the lion's share. But, when it comes to brute strength... I'm afraid I'm at the shallow end of the gene pool.
- Played straight with Mufasa and Scar, however.
- Mickey Mouse and Goofy also would qualify. The latter is almost twice the former's height, but probably twice as dumb too.
- In Dragon Hunters, Gwizdo is much smaller than the enormous Lian Chu, and also the brains of the operation.
- Dexter from Dexter's Laboratory. Not so much when paired with his much taller rival Mandark, but definitely when paired with his sister Dee Dee.
- Severely inverted with Genius Ditz Bulkhead in Transformers Animated.
- Inverted in the animated TV show Aladdin. Recurring shortarse baddie Abis Mal is an absolute doofus compared to his tall, thin lackey, Haroud.
- This is both inverted and technically played straight in The Penguins of Madagascar. Kowalski, the tallest penguin, is also the smartest. However, the leader Skipper is the second smallest but is quite intelligent at times.
- Debatable in Invader Zim. The Irken society bases authority on height, but at least one of the Almighty Tallest is somewhat scatterbrained.
- Zim himself is the shortest Irken known, and is about as tall as a human child.
- In Jimmy Two-Shoes, Heloise is smarter than her tall friends Jimmy and Beezy.
- Velma Dinkley in Scooby-Doo, by far the shortest and also the youngest-looking of the primary characters (though she is actually supposed to be two years younger than Shaggy, Daphne and Fred).
- Ben 10's Grey Matter transformation. We eventually meet the race: the Galvans are a Planet of Hats whose hat is being geniuses. However, the other "smart" alien, Brainstorm, and his fellow Cerebrocrustaceans, are not so tiny.
- Toadwart from Adventures of the Gummi Bears.
- Even more so with his cousin, Tadpole.
- Charles Foster Offdensen of Metalocalypse. His somewhat short stature is even remarked on by another character at one point. Bonus in that not only is he the smartest of the six main protagonists (he's been called a genius, particularly on financial matters), he's also an insanely formidable Badass Bookworm to boot.
- Brainiac 5 from the Legion of Super Heroes Then again, he is twelve.
- Averted in the comics.
- Inverted in Teen Titans. The shortest member of the team is Beast Boy, who is also the least intelligent (though he does have his moments, particularly where pop culture trivia comes up); the team's Smart Guy is Cyborg, who is also the tallest and, after Starfire, second-strongest.
- Rocky of the Looney Tunes gangster duo Rocky and Mugsy.
- Played straight in Young Justice where Robin is the shortest and youngest member of the team but is the most all-around intelligent.
- Of the male characters on Total Drama, the four shortest—Cody, Noah, Ezekiel, and Cameron—are all intelligent and geeky (though Ezekiel's intelligence is mostly confined to the manual). There are aversions, however, including the tall, lanky geek Harold.
- On Gargoyles, Lexington is The Smart Guy as well as the shortest, wiriest member of the Clan.
- Inverted on Recess, as genius girl Gretchen is the second tallest member of the gang.
- Albert the Fifth Musketeer is probably the best example among French cartoons.
- Rocky and Bullwinkle.
- The Tick and Arthur, most definitely.
- In Taz-Mania, the alligator Axl tends to accidentally ruin the shorter Bull Gator's plans.
- DuckTales has Big Time Beagle, who is about as tall as Huey, Dewy and Louie, and is easily the smartest of the Beagle Boys.
- Gravity Falls:
- Dan Vs. plays with the trope. Dan is in fact the shortest member of the main cast, and is shown to be fairly smart at times, but his knowledge tends to vary based on what he thinks is useful for his purposes. He is almost certainly smarter than his much taller, naive friend Chris, and by Chris' admittance it is hard to tell exactly what Dan does or does not know.