open/close all folders
Film - Live Action
- Chewbacca of the Star Wars franchise wears a bandolier over his shoulder and handles various repair tools and weapons, which helps visually affirm that he's a technology-using alien and not some sort of bipedal beast in spite of his only vocal sounds being grunts, growls and roars.
- Averted in The Cat from Outer Space (1978). An alien that looks like a cat is stranded on Earth. His super-computer/communication device looks like a glowing cat collar, so he is mistaken for a common house cat.
Film - Western Animation
- In Lilo & Stitch, Stitch is mistaken for a dog after he loses his laser guns (despite having six limbs) and then Lilo later realizes that Stitch is intelligent when he does things like riding a bike and building elaborate models of San Francisco.
- In the Honor Harrington universe, the Treecats of Sphinx (small, six-limbed arboreals) were originally thought to be nonsentient. It began to dawn on the human colonists that they were wrong when they were seen to use stone-age tools (chipped stone hand-axes and woven nets).
- In Alice in Wonderland, the main story begins when Alice sees a rabbit with a pocketwatch and waistcoat and follows to investigate.
- In A. Bertram Chandler's short story "The Cage", survivors from a crashed starship (on a planet where clothes don't survive due to some aggressive fungus) are captured by aliens and put in a zoo. Attempts to convince the aliens they are sentient by making baskets or demonstrating mathematics fail. But when they build a cage and put an alien mouse into it... well, only sentient beings are bastards enough for that.
- In the Little Fuzzy novels, the first indication that the Fuzzies were sentient was their use of sharpened sticks to kill invertebrate prey.
- One of the countless hominids on Ringworld was a borderline-sentient species which, while unable to use fire in their aquatic habitat, did use flaked stone tools (a borderline example since it is never stated whether or not the species wears clothes).
- In Tarnsman of Gor, Tarl meets a Nar, a member of the Spider People, who wears only a Universal Translator strapped to his thorax.
- Inverted in David Brin's Uplift series when humans are considered inferior to whales and dolphins because we are unable to do things without using tools.
- In Anne McCaffrey's Decision at Doona, human settlers on a new world encounter a village of intelligent cats. Both species assume the other is pre-sentient due to the primitive living conditions in each other's colonies. The aliens decide the humans are intelligent based on a child's ability to play games.
- In L. Neil Smith's Confederacy novels, there is an uplifted coyote named G. Howell Nuahuatl (the G. stands for Greenriver). He wears a vocoder collar, synced to the impulses in his cybernetically augmented brain, and a custom motile collar equipped with twin guns and ear pads to protect his hearing. In later stories, he uses a backpack that has a cybernetically controlled hand
- Discussed in Janet Kagan's Hellspark, in which a survey team are trying to figure out if the local birdlike aliens, which have never been seen using tools, are sapient. The protagonist points out that on some planets she's visited, the surveyors themselves might not necessarily be recognised as sapient tool-users because the nature of their tools would not be apparent — for instance, an observer might note that they don't build fires for warmth, not knowing that their clothes have integrated heating elements. This turns out to be the case with the birdlike aliens, which have a highly advanced technology they control by means not apparent to the survey team.
- In the fantasy trilogy The Balanced Sword, one of the main characters is an Intelligent Toad who doesn't wear clothes but does wear a sword belt and a pack with his equipment in. Both are actually spelled to prevent people noticing them if he doesn't want them to, because in his line of work there are times when it's useful for people to not realize he's sapient.
- The so-called Beagles in The Long Earth series are basically a race of Wolf Men. Because they're furry, they don't need clothing, and because they lack opposable thumbs, they have a limited ability to use tools, but they still wear belts containing basic implements and weapons.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who: In the Fifth Doctor story "Kinda", the titular beings are initially thought to be non-sentient—but the human scientist points out that their necklaces look remarkably like DNA double-helices.
- In Kamen Rider Gaim, one of the story's many Nothing Is the Same Anymore moments is triggered by the appearance of a blurry photo that seems to depict an Invess carrying a sword. Dr. Sengoku immediately has all records of the photo erased while he conducts his own investigation, fearing that if the Invess have "Overlords" smart enough to negotiate with humans, then this could ruin his plans to use their invasion for his own benefit.
- Conventional paleoanthropology divides prehistoric hominins between "pre-human" australopithecines and the early members of Homo, the "human genus" by the employment of stone tools, although since skeletons of both have been found in association with stone tools, it's rather up in the air if australopithecines used tools too.