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A character who looks young by all appearances—except their eyes, which belong to an old person instead. Since the Eyes Never Lie
and are Windows of the Soul
, it usually means that the character is much older than their body appears to be
, had a very Dark and Troubled Past
, or has Seen It All
and is Wise Beyond Their Years
. Also a frequent attribute of Shell Shocked Veterans
as the so-called Thousand-Yard Stare
This is specifically an In-Universe
trope, where other characters remark on the apparent age discrepancy between the character's face and their eyes.
A common inversion, where a character who looks very old has the eyes of a child, indicates that the person retained the youthful sense of wonder for life despite experiencing most of it already.
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Anime and Manga
- In Lady Snowblood, a thieves guild chief recognizes Oyuki, who poses as a harmless young woman, as a major threat by noticing that her eyes can only belong to someone who has walked through hell.
- In one of the ElfQuest stories from "Hidden Years", the human couple who Tyleet befriends are at first amazed when Tyleet tells them she's pregnant, because she looks like a child to them (canonically, Tyleet is older than most trees). Then the man points out that they should have known by Tyleet's eyes.
Unnamed Human Man: "— a child, wife? No... we should have known! Her wondrous eyes always said so! She may be older than the trees... older, even, than the mountains they grow on...!"
- The Thousand-Yard Stare is discussed in Full Metal Jacket.
- In Come and See, the protagonist, a young boy enlisted in the Belarusian army to fight the Nazis, quickly becomes traumatized by the horrors surrounding him. Horrible wrinkles form around his eyes and he has a glassy stare for much of the film, although his hair eventually grays a little, turning this trope up a few notches.
- Doctor Who:
- Inverted in Babylon 5: When Sheridan becomes "unstuck in time" in the two-part episode "War Without End" , and his consciousness ends up temporarily inhabiting the body of Sheridan 17 years later in a Centauri prison cell with Delenn, and he asks her what is happening, Delenn realizes that what he told her of this timeflash incident later was true, because she sees that his eyes still had an innocence that had long disappeared in the intervening years.