Young Face, Old Eyes

A character who looks young by all appearances—except for their eyes, which belong to a much older person instead. Since the Eyes Never Lie and are Windows of the Soul, it usually means that the character is 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. Compare Prematurely Grey-Haired.


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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 the Accel World anime, Yuniko Kouzuki aka Scarlet Rain makes this facial expression whenever she becomes serious or when she stops pretending to be innocent and naive. For example, Yuniko made this facial expression in episode 21, titled "Insurrection", when she asked Haruyuki Arita how he learned about Incarnation. This occurs in the real world in the backroom of the cake shop.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.

  • In Use of Weapons, a character notices how the while the protagonist looks like a young man, a glance at his eyes indicates someone much older and wiser, and gives a hint at his Dark and Troubled Past. It seems though like this might be true to a certain degree of everyone in the Culture, even if they haven't had troubled lives — a rather spoiled and beauty conscious character in Excession notes that she can tell how the difference between a rejuvenated person who is actually a couple of centuries old and someone who is actually in their 20s or 30s.
  • When meeting Nanka Yok for the first time in Labyrinths of Echo, Max remarks on the contrast of his young face and his eyes, which seem more ancient than the world itself. This is because Nanka is an immortal who learned to evade death by wandering through The Underworld for thousands of years.
  • In the last Animorphs book, Jake is described as having gone from a boy general to a young man with an old man's eyes.
  • Mentioned in regard to Sethra Lavode from the Dragaera novels, justifiably because she's unimaginably-ancient even by the standards of her extremely long-lived race.
  • Mitsuko of Battle Royale happens to be described as very cute 9th grader and is described as having a look like this in her eyes by Yuichiro and yes, her past is terrible.
  • Elves in Lord of the Rings, are Really 700 Years Old, but Círdan is so old (11,000 years old at the end of the Third age, to be exact) that he even has grey hair and a beard, both extremely rare in elves. His eyes, however, are described to be "keen as stars", making him an inversion of this trope. Since elves don't wither from old age, his eyes are both very knowledgeable and lively, which contrasts with the typical image of knowing yet tired.
  • Played very much for "creep factor" in Maggie Stiefvater's Lament. The faerie Queen is thousands of years old, and though she has the face of a pretty young girl, her eyes reveal not just her true age but also her evil.
  • People are sometimes startled by the appearance of the eyes of the title character of Casca: The Eternal Mercenary. In this case it's a combination of both trauma and Really 700 Years Old, since he's spent the vast majority of his cursed existence as a soldier.
  • In Les MisÚrables, 16-year-old Éponine is described as having "the eyes of a corrupted old woman."
  • Mary in Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal:
    She couldn't have been more than nine or ten, but there was something very old in her eyes.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    Tell me Doctor. How can one so young have eyes so old?
    The Doctor: I do a lot of reading
    • Inverted in the episode "Silence in the Library", though, when River Song (who knows him better in his Eleventh regeneration) notes how young his eyes look compared to his successor.
    • Matt Smith (the Eleventh doctor) in particular played this trope for all it's worth.
    • "The Doctor's Wife" has an inversion; there are two characters who the Doctor notice seem to be made up of recycled parts of other people - as such, one of them has eyes that are thirty years younger than the rest of him.
    • From "A Town Called Mercy":
      "My favorite story was about a man who'd live forever but his eyes were heavy with the weight of all he'd seen."
    • Again inverted in "Day of the Doctor", where Clara's friendship with the War Doctor develops based on her observation that he has very young eyes compared to both the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, despite him appearing to be in his 70s and the other two appearing to be in their 30s and 20s respectively.
  • 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.