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Dog In The Manger

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A character has something they don't need (or want) but refuses to let anyone else have it. (Title Crowner)

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
DrSleep on Jan 10th 2019 at 10:47:08 AM
Last Edited By:
DrSleep on Jan 16th 2019 at 7:34:19 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

He's like the gardener's dog that eats no cabbage and won't let others either
Lope de Vega

Ever heard the phrase "sharing is caring"? Not for these people.

Alice has something she doesn't need. Maybe it's a Money Sink. Maybe it's a lame present. Maybe it's just something she doesn't like. But here comes Bob, offering to take it off her hands, and Alice refuses - it's hers goddamit!

A Dog in the Manger scenario is when a character has something of no use or value to them (it may not even be something they want) but won't let anyone else have it. Or, alternately, a character has something and refuses to share it with anyone else, even if such sharing would come at no cost to themselves. Note that this trope doesn't only apply to things - in fact a common variant is when a character cuts off or monopolizes the time of another character, preventing them from interacting with anyone else.

The Trope Namer is the fable "The Dog In The Manger", where a dog lying in a manger full of barley refuses to let any other animals eat even though it can't eat the barley itself and has no use for it.

Compare Tall Poppy Syndrome, when people put down their peers' ambitions and successes while having none of their own. Contrast No Man Should Have This Power when this trope is done because if anyone (else) gets this thing, it'll lead to disaster. Sister Trope to If I Can't Have You...

See also X Must Not Win.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Films - Animated 
  • Cinderella: Anastasia and Drizella complain about their old jewelry and even make a point of throwing it away. However, when Cinderella shows up wearing the beads in preparation for the ball, they still consider it theft and violently take it all back.

     Literature 
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: As a kid, Gregor Clegane attempts to kill his younger brother Sandor for playing with one of his discarded toys, burning half his face in the process.
  • Wuthering Heights: Isabelle name-drops the trope when accusing Catherine of keeping her from Heathcliff
    You are a dog in the manger, Cathy, and desire no one to be loved but yourself!
  • Dune: Paul Muad'Dib forbids his wife Irulan to have any affair that might produce a child, even as he refuses to so much as touch her himself, neglecting her in favor of his concubine Chani.

     Live-Action TV 
  • In El Chavo del ocho we have Spoiled Brat Quico, who refuses to share his toys with his neighbors, even when he is not using them. In one episode he fought with el Chavo to return his toy, only to set it aside because he was doing his homework.

     Mythology and Religion 
  • One of Jesus's criticisms of the Pharisees was that they prevented others from being righteous while being unrighteous themselves. From Matthew 23:13
    Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces; you do not enter yourselves, nor will you let others enter.

     Web Comics 
  • The Order of the Stick: Defied when Vaarsuvius' raven Familiar Blackwing snags an enticingly shiny bauble that happens to be a powerful magic item. Blackwing won't give it up, so an artificer Item Crafts it into jewellery that extends its powers to Vaarsuvius while Blackwing is nearby.

     Web Originals 
  • The Adventure Zone: Balance: Played for Laughs when the Squishy Wizard Taako scams his way into acquiring the Flaming Poisoning Raging Sword of Doom, then sticks it on his back as a fashion accessory with no intention of using it. Zig-zagged eight episodes later when he finally gives it to the team fighter.

     Western Animation 
  • Utilised in the Looney Tunes short "Well Worn Daffy", where an even more mean spirited than usual Daffy is hoarding a water well to himself, shooting at Speedy and his comrades whenever they try to take from it. After a lengthy war fending them off, Daffy decides the blow up the well just to ensure once and for all Speedy can't get his hands on it, though the explosives expectedly backfire.
  • Played for Laughs several times in The Simpsons:
    • In general, Homer can be convinced to hold onto any random possession he is disinterested in if he finds out Flanders wants it.
    • In the episode, "Treehouse of Horror III", when Grandpa explains how he managed to get Bart wads of cash as a birthday present:
    Marge: Where'd you get that money?
    Grandpa: The Government. I didn't earn it. I don't need it. But if they miss one payment, I'll raise hell.
    • In "Homer Badman" Homer fetches the kids an enormous supply of candy. They feast until eventually they are sick and refuse anymore. Marge suggests donating the candy to someone more needy, Bart and Lisa immediately cling onto it and begrudgingly eat more.
  • In the Bojack Horseman episode "Bojack Hates the Troops", Bojack gets into an argument with someone at a supermarket over calling "dibs" on a box of muffins. Despite not even wanting the muffins, he takes them to spite the other guy who demands them back. The entire episode afterwards becomes a television documented Escalating War based on the principle of who had rights to said box of muffins, with Bojack refusing to apologise over the feud (despite having ate all of them at the start of the episode and quickly regretting the purchase).

Feedback: 67 replies

Jan 10th 2019 at 11:17:31 AM

Maybe this is just me, but the title wasn't clear until I read to the end. I know we have other tropes named for fables (The Farmer And The Viper comes to mind) but I'm sure those were added when naming rules were less strict; now the emphasis is on being as clear as possible (and if they don't sacrifice the clarity in the process, concise and witty).

Anywho; this counts, yeah?

  • Cinderella: Anastasia and Drizella complain about their old jewelry and even make a point of throwing it away. However, when Cinderella shows up wearing the beads in preparation for the ball, they still consider it theft and violently take it all back.

Jan 10th 2019 at 11:31:21 AM

Yeah, I've never heard this fable so it comes across as a Bad Trope Namer.

Jan 10th 2019 at 11:39:09 AM

That definitely counts.

My reasoning was that while it's not as often used in modern times, the "dog in the manger" proverb/metaphor goes back literally centuries as a description of this phenomenon and as a common saying. If someone can come up with an equally succinct way to name the trope I'm okay with that but in the meantime I figured it made sense to go with the most commonly cited example of "person won't let other people touch their stuff out of spite".

What about "Nobody Touching My Stuff!" as a trope name?

Jan 10th 2019 at 11:45:15 AM

That one violates No New Stock Phrases, unfortunately.

Maybe something like Greed For The Sake Of Greed? I don't know, wordy, but I'm just getting the ball rollin'.

Jan 10th 2019 at 12:06:12 PM

  • The Adventure Zone Balance: Played For Laughs when the Squishy Wizard Taako scams his way into acquiring the Flaming Poisoning Raging Sword of Doom, then sticks it on his back as a fashion accessory with no intention of using it. Zig-zagged eight episodes later when he finally gives it to the team fighter.

Jan 10th 2019 at 12:33:24 PM

I don't know, I was familiar with the trope by its current name (Dog In The Manger).

I'm going to take the same tack as Platonic Cave and Occams Razor and say that even if we didn't have it and some people aren't familiar with it, it's better to use the existing name for it rather than try and invent our own. That way the people who are already familiar with it by its previous name will be able to search for and find it, and those who aren't will gradually pick it up by osmosis as it spreads through the website.

Jan 10th 2019 at 12:35:34 PM

Maybe...

Would it be possible to make Dog In The Manger a redirect and have the best of both worlds?

Jan 10th 2019 at 1:04:55 PM

Sure, I could go for that. Still need to come up with something reasonably clear and concise.

Jan 10th 2019 at 1:27:49 PM

Personally I like the current name, even if I didn't know about the fable beforehand. For something more concise, maybe "Just Mine Mentality"?

Live-Action TV

  • In El Chavo Del Ocho we have Spoiled Brat Quico, who refuses to share his toys with his neighbors, even when he is not using them. In one episode he fought with el Chavo to return his toy, only to set it aside because he was doing his homework.

Jan 10th 2019 at 1:48:57 PM

I'm fond of the current name but if the consensus is that it needs to change El Buen Cuate's proposal seems nice and concise.

Jan 10th 2019 at 1:50:35 PM

Maybe we can just have a title crowner later on then, because admittedly the current title is growing on me a bit...

Jan 10th 2019 at 1:52:10 PM

I like it too, though I also like the current name. We could maybe flip it and have Just Minementality be the redirect while keeping Dog In The Manger as the default name?

Jan 10th 2019 at 1:53:28 PM

Personally not familiar with the fable, and the name reminds me of the story of the Nativity.

Jan 10th 2019 at 1:55:56 PM

^^ I don't know, I suggested it the other way around so that tropers who don't understand the name wouldn't be relegated to a redirect, but people searching for the trope from the fable can still find it under the well-known name.

^ That was one of my problems too.

Throwing a bomb. The draft is fine- but this is NOT ready to be launched until we agree on this title issue; ya'll need to be a little less hat-happy.

Jan 10th 2019 at 2:01:09 PM

^ The search will find it either way. And I feel like it's good for the website to be informative in this way, you know? We're collecting tropes, but we're not really the first people to ever do that, just the most extensive and coordinated. This is a pre-existing trope with a history behind it. As with Platonic Cave, Occams Razor — hell, Freudian Excuse — I think it's good to raise the level of discussion in that way.

Jan 10th 2019 at 2:03:41 PM

All I really mean is that, if we use this as a title, there's no point in having a redirect. I suggested the redirect idea so we could have a title that was clear from the start but also keep this current title; having it swapped just seems kind of pointless.

Jan 10th 2019 at 2:08:39 PM

^Unsung beat me to what I was just about to say. I feel like the main trope name should be "Dog in the Manger" since that's the "classic" name for the concept, but then we have "Just Mine Mentality" as a redirect/alternate option so people don't get confused if they see an entry on it.

Plus, I'm looking for more examples and it's pretty common for the metaphor to actually be mentioned (See the Wuthering Heights example I cited) so we might as well be upfront about the origins of the concept.

Jan 10th 2019 at 2:12:37 PM

I just don't see why the more clear name should have to be the redirect, if we have a redirect at all it should be the one that isn't as clear simply because...well...it makes more sense that way. Keeping the more clear but less famous name in the back seems silly. If we keep this as the name then fine, but having another, more clear, title as a redirect just kind of seems like a wasted opportunity since if we're going to be admitting one title is more clear, well, we might as well use that title as the title if the agreement is that the clarity trumps familiarity.

Jan 10th 2019 at 2:29:18 PM

I think Dog In The Manger is the clearer option in this case, since those who know it will recognize it straight away, while those who aren't familiar with it would still need to read the description to really know what Just Mine Mentality refers to.

I don't really think having the latter as a redirect is a big deal, but I won't push for it.

Jan 10th 2019 at 2:29:27 PM

I disagree on Dog In The Manger being clearer, but I won't argue on that for now: my point is just that using a redirect, if we keep Dog In The Manger, is kind of pointless since if we make it the title then we'd be in agreement that it's the most clear option and thus there's no need to have the other title.

However if we think Just Mine Mentality is worth keeping that implies at least some level of doubt about how clear Dog In The Manger is and if that's the case Dog In The Manger shouldn't be the main title, but keeping it as a redirect makes sense since it's a term that is used.

Jan 10th 2019 at 2:33:58 PM

I think it would be better to vote on that already and decide which title to use and if a redirect is necessary.

As a side note, I think this trope should be under Obsession Tropes and Selfishness Tropes

Jan 10th 2019 at 2:35:24 PM

Yeah, debating doesn't do anything a vote won't accomplish.

We should get some more examples too.

Jan 10th 2019 at 2:39:10 PM

Sure, I'm willing to put it to a vote.

Jan 10th 2019 at 2:41:32 PM

Eh, maybe I was over explaining it. My basic thought is:

  • If Dog In The Manger is decided upon as the title, that means people think it's clear enough to stand as the title with some boost given by it's familiarity. It'll stand on it's own; having a redirect would just be unnecessary.
  • However, if Just Mine Mentality is something people think should be kept, that discredits the clarity of Dog In The Manger, meaning Dog In The Manger would not be suitable for the main title; however for familiarity sake it should be a redirect.

Edit: In any case, I'll drop the subject now as I've made my side clear and I don't want to keep wasting time.

Jan 10th 2019 at 2:45:37 PM

Spite is often the biggest factor behind displays of this proposed trope. If the title is changed, maybe the word "spite" should be worked into it.

Jan 10th 2019 at 3:07:13 PM

Okay, how can I set up a title crowner so we can vote on a name?

Jan 10th 2019 at 3:11:56 PM

I was mostly just thinking of the redirect as a courtesy, not really a necessity.

I wouldn't say spite necessarily predominates. Possessiveness, stubbornness, or sentiment can also drive certain examples, like a farmer who's too old to work his land anymore, but refuses to sell it.

Note for the description:

Spanish playwright Lope De Vega wrote a play titled Dog in the Manger, also known as The Gardener's Dog. It's actually a case of the subtrope, with a countess who falls in love with her lower-class secretary and will neither allow him to marry his lover, the lady's maid, nor marry him herself.

^ Right here: How Crowners Work

It's less daunting than it looks.

Jan 10th 2019 at 3:15:58 PM

^Yeah I was just using that quote to give at least something of an idea of what the trope is right off the bat instead of having to read the whole entry in order to understand the title.

I feel in this case I'm okay with sacrificing clarity for historical continuity. It's not self-evident what the trope is based on the title alone, but it's such a well established name for the trope with a long history that it doesn't seem right to me (for lack of a better term) not to use it.

Jan 10th 2019 at 3:19:06 PM

Oh, I didn't mean you couldn't use the quote, just that you might want to make that connection with If I Cant Have You part of the description.

Jan 10th 2019 at 5:28:05 PM

I thought I commented on this draft before... Strange.

I've suggested my own title in the crowner.

Contrast No Man Should Have This Power when this trope is done because if anyone (else) gets this thing, it'll lead to disaster.

Jan 10th 2019 at 5:35:53 PM

  • The Order Of The Stick: Defied when Vaarsuvius' raven Familiar Blackwing snags an enticingly shiny bauble that happens to be a powerful magic item. Blackwing won't give it up, so an artificer Item Crafts it into jewellery that extends its powers to Vaarsuvius while Blackwing is nearby.

Jan 10th 2019 at 5:46:21 PM

Didn't realize the crowner was up, which is a problem— you should post the link in the laconic or at least post in the laconic that there's a crowner.

Jan 10th 2019 at 7:29:51 PM

I definitely knew what that meant based on the current title. You can easily look up the expression on Google, which would seem to indicate it's fairly well known.

Jan 10th 2019 at 7:53:18 PM

Problem is, we don't want readers to have to stop and look up what a certain trope title means if they don't already know. It's why we have policies like Clear, Concise, and Witty in the first place— and granted I'm not saying this title isn't good, but that we all need to consider the people who don't know the expression.

Jan 10th 2019 at 7:56:13 PM

With all due respect to the original poster, I let people know about the crowner on laconic.

Jan 10th 2019 at 8:13:18 PM

Literature

  • In Dune, Paul Muad'Dib forbids his wife Irulan to have any affair that might produce a child, even as he refuses to so much as touch her himself, neglecting her in favor of his concubine Chani.

Jan 10th 2019 at 10:01:48 PM

Thanks El Buen, fixed it so the crowner is in Laconic.

Jan 11th 2019 at 1:33:28 AM

@War Jay: Which is why we have the crowner. We're checking whether enough people know what Dog in the Manger means.

And it's currently leading.

Jan 11th 2019 at 4:17:17 AM

Compare Tall Poppy Syndrome, when people put down their peers' ambitions and successes while having none of their own.

Jan 11th 2019 at 10:20:17 AM

A Christmas Story: This is the central point of the sub-plot about the mannequin leg lamp; while the whole rest of the family absolutely hates the lamp's design (a female mannequin's lingerie-clad leg), especially because of how harshly it clashes with the rest of the house's Christmas decorations, the father is incredibly proud of the fact that it's a prize he won (because it's not unsubtly implied that he's got some really crappy luck overall) and thus goes to war with the rest of the family for the sake of keeping it (both at all and in the home's living room, where it looks even more ridiculous).

Jan 11th 2019 at 10:45:24 AM

^^^ I know, I was really responding to the statement that someone can just Google the meaning, which is a bad way to think about it, as it basically brushes off the idea of people not understanding as "eh they just have to look it up"- if we thought like that for every title, well... we'd have some awful titles is all.

Jan 11th 2019 at 12:11:05 PM

I voted in the crowner. If I could think of a title suggestion to add, I would.

Jan 11th 2019 at 9:08:55 PM

See also X Must Not Win.

  • Utilised in the Looney Tunes short "Well Worn Daffy", where an even more mean spirited than usual Daffy is hoarding a water well to himself, shooting at Speedy and his comrades whenever they try to take from it. After a lengthy war fending them off, Daffy decides the blow up the well just to ensure once and for all Speedy can't get his hands on it, though the explosives expectedly backfire.
  • Played For Laughs several times in The Simpsons:
    • In general, Homer can be convinced to hold onto any random possession he is disinterested in if he finds out Flanders wants it.
    • In the episode, "Treehouse of Horror III", when Grandpa explains how he managed to get Bart wads of cash as a birthday present:
    Marge: Where'd you get that money?
    Grandpa: The Government. I didn't earn it. I don't need it. But if they miss one payment, I'll raise hell.
    • In "Homer Badman" Homer fetches the kids an enormous supply of candy. They feast until eventually they are sick and refuse anymore. Marge suggests donating the candy to someone more needy, Bart and Lisa immediately cling onto it and begrudgingly eat more.
  • In the Bojack Horseman episode "Bojack Hates the Troops", Bojack gets into an argument with someone at a supermarket over calling "dibs" on a box of muffins. Despite not even wanting the muffins, he takes them to spite the other guy who demands them back. The entire episode afterwards becomes a television documented Escalating War based on the principle of who had rights to said box of muffins, with Bojack refusing to apologise over the feud (despite having ate all of them at the start of the episode and quickly regretting the purchase).

Jan 11th 2019 at 10:18:17 PM

Why not call it the Jar of Dirt?

Jan 11th 2019 at 10:20:10 PM

^ What does that mean? That's even less clear than Dog In The Manger...

Jan 12th 2019 at 7:41:07 AM

^^^ Well that trope is definitely comparable...

So X Must Not Win is when "if the other guy has it, it'll be a bad thing/spell doom/etc", while in this draft, it's simple, mindless greed?

Jan 12th 2019 at 9:22:57 AM

Not just greed or spite — also pride, stubborn sentiment, possessiveness, etc. General selfishness. But somewhat the opposite of X Must Not Win, because here, whether the dog keeps the manger or loses it, it's not really doing any good to the dog.

Jan 12th 2019 at 9:02:43 AM

^More specifically the dog gains/loses nothing regardless of whether it keeps it or not, and it's directed at anyone who wants to take thing Y, not just a specific character.

Gotta say this has been a very interesting thread in terms of dissecting this trope.

Jan 12th 2019 at 11:24:54 AM

Huh, realizing the dog gains nothing from his actions made me realize another potential title could be Gainless Greed. I'll add it to the crowner, though I don't think it'll make a big difference at this point, because it doesn't hurt to have options.

Jan 13th 2019 at 7:53:57 AM

Since Dog in the Manger seems to be the winning vote, I'm going to launch it with that name.

Jan 13th 2019 at 9:38:46 PM

Hold it right there.

Notice the number of hats and bombs. The net hat count (hats-bombs) is too low. If it's below 5, do not launch.

Unlaunched.

Jan 13th 2019 at 11:11:24 PM

And Gainless Greed ties with the original title in the crowner.

Jan 15th 2019 at 9:49:30 AM

"Dog in the Manger" is clearly suffering from Trope Namer Syndrome. That alone should disqualify it for voting. Regardless, Gainless Greed is leading the crowner with (after my voting) a 2.50:1 ratio.

Jan 15th 2019 at 10:14:46 AM

Huh. Gainless Greed is gaining traction much quicker than I thought it would.

Jan 15th 2019 at 10:28:46 AM

It's not Trope Namer Syndrome. Maybe not everyone here is familiar with it, but we're not the ones coining the current title — it's existed by that name for hundreds of years. We'll see how the vote goes, but I don't think it should be disqualified.

Jan 15th 2019 at 10:30:53 AM

Again, if Gainless Greed wins and becomes the official title I still think Dog In The Manger should live on as a redirect; I just don't think it should be the official title because of reasons I've already made clear, but we'll see how the vote goes.

Jan 15th 2019 at 10:53:32 AM

I appreciate it. We'll see what happens.

Jan 15th 2019 at 11:48:34 AM

^^ Agreed on all accounts.

Jan 15th 2019 at 12:03:27 PM

Anyway, I'm not sure how the Biblical example on the draft is an example? How are the Pharisees being greedy there?

Jan 15th 2019 at 3:49:12 PM

^ Well, reading the description, it doesn't mention greed, is more selfishness, as it was discussed earlier on.

Jan 15th 2019 at 4:00:08 PM

Right, the motive can vary, the important part is that they're keeping something from others that they don't intend to use themselves.

Jan 15th 2019 at 5:50:05 PM

I guess so, but my point is they aren't really keeping anything physical from anyone else, they're just preventing people from being righteous while they themselves aren't. Does it still count if it's not something physically present being kept?

Jan 16th 2019 at 3:52:07 PM

Maybe a title like "I don't want it but you can't have it?" Anyway, an almost literal "Dog in the Manger" occurs in Planes Trains And Automobiles, where Del and Neal are riding in the back of a pickup truck in the middle of winter; Neal (who doesn't have any gloves) goes to get some gloves he sees in the back of the truck when suddenly the driver's dog pops up out of the hay and barks at Neal (presumably, the dog thought Neal was trying to steal them); of course, the dog has no use for those gloves...

Jan 15th 2019 at 8:23:22 PM

^^ I don't think it needs to be a physical object or restraint. It just has to be someone somehow preventing someone else from having something in a way that they don't really benefit. I'm not really familiar enough with that verse to comment on it specifically, though.

Live-Action TV

  • In the finale of Fargo Season One, as Lester is being escorted out of the police station, Molly takes the time to tell him a parable about a man who was boarding a train and found that he left one of his gloves on the platform. With no time to get it back, he instead threw the other glove out the window so that someone else could have the pair if they needed it. The parable is Molly's attempt to tell Lester that it makes more sense to let go of his selfish viewpoint and make the decision to tell the truth because there is enough evidence built up around him that he will never be completely off the hook. The gloves can be seen as a metaphor for the evidence, and the stranger who will find the first glove is the police department. It does no good to lie anymore because they will continue to pursue him forever, but if he gives up his second glove, so to speak, some good can come of the whole mess. Naturally, Lester has no idea what her point is.

Copied from the Let Me Tell You A Story entry on the series' current works page, where I think it would make sense to rewrite the entry and move the current content to this trope once it launches.

Jan 16th 2019 at 7:34:19 AM

Gainless Greed sounds nice, alliteration aside. My shadow of a doubt is will the rest of the trope thrive with that title after it launches?

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