Shelly22 on Dec 20th 2018 at 5:19:04 PM
Last Edited By:
Shelly22 on Jan 11th 2019 at 5:54:05 PM
Page Type: trope
It might not look like a human or talk like a human, but it's still a human, at least by name. Even if they have Pointy Ears, a rubber forehead, or Psychic Powers - so what? So do all the other humans they know.
Basically, this is what you get when you call a smeerp a human.
So maybe you have an idea for a novel and want it to be original. Maybe you have seen too many stories with Our Elves Are Better or Our Monsters Are Different plots and want to make things interesting. Maybe you want to create a fantastical race but you don't want to just recycle the same ones that everyone else has already used.
The problem with making up an entirely new race is that it can be hard, especially since so many things have already been done before. This is probably why so many writers recycle the old races in the first place. Recycling old races also has the bonus of saving the writer the trouble of explaining things as much. Saying a creature is an elf, for instance, prepares the reader for the fantasy genre without the writer having to mention said genre.
So what if you want the benefits of using a recycled race in a fantasy story but don't want to use elves or dwarves? What if you think that having a bunch of humanoid races who are called something not-so-human strains the Willing Suspension of Disbelief?
Well, you could just make up a fantastical race anyway and call them humans.
This trope is for when you want enough fantasy elements to make your story pop in your selected genre, but you don't want to make it as crazy as, say, Dungeons and Dragons. Maybe Middle Earth is a little too racially divided, and you want your story to have a different feel.
It is important to note here that humans are the most common race used in fiction (probably because, well, Most Writers Are Human). Humans are usually considered to be the most mundane of all the other races, because to us, well, they are. In this sense, "mundane" is less about what is magical or not and more about what is "normal" or not.
It is also important to clarify what is meant by the word "human." Does the creature even have to look humanoid at all or does the writer have the right to call it human anyway, no matter what it looks like? This is made especially complicated by the fact that humans seem to be able to procreate with anything (Half-Human Hybrids, anyone?).
Ways to show that your humans are different:
- By making humans have superpowers. This is the most obvious one, but it can be harder than it sounds. It is not the same as "my human character found a fountain of youth and now lives forever." In order to qualify, the character has to have powers because they are human, not because they chanced upon a Mass Super-Empowering Event.
- By making humans have a different origin story/evolutionary path. So instead of saying that humans are primates you could say that they are crustaceans (or that their ancestors were). Notice that giving humans a different backstory as a species counts; but if it is events, rather than the humans themselves, that have changed, then it is just an Alternate Universe and not this trope. Also note that examples of this trope can lead to an Alternate Universe, but they are not exclusive to it.
- By giving humans a bizarre ability or weakness that they don't normally have in real life, such as an allergy to movies.
- Give humans a different way of thinking. You could make them Actual Pacifists or a Proud Warrior Race, to contrast with humans in real life, who do both. Or you could alter their brains to give them different abilities such as better memory.
- Give them unusual physical traits, such as cat ears or weird hair colors. You could also give them some kind of ability that has to be cultivated, such as Training the Gift of Magic or Supernatural Martial Arts.
Please note that this trope relies on the humans themselves, not any events surrounding them. Creating an Alternate Universe with Crystal Spires and Togas does not make your humans different unless it is explained in-story that humans are Perfect Pacifist People who like to build utopian societies on a genetic level.
The opposite of Humans by Any Other Name. Contrast Human Aliens (aliens which appear indistinguishable from humans but are explicitly not). See the Not Quite Human index for a list of common traits that might make your humans different. Also see Humans Are Indexed for tropes about humans in general.
Compare and contrast Human Subspecies (which may or may not look like standard humans but are genetically related) and Witch Species (which may be either of the above but are primarily distinguished by their ability to do magic where other people can't). See also Superpowerful Genetics, Randomly Gifted, The Gift, and Our Mages Are Different, although not all wizards (or Jedi, psychics, mutants, etc.) are necessarily human in the first place. Whether or not human-descended Mutants, Differently Powered Individuals, and Posthuman Cyborg qualify or not tends to vary depending on the setting and specific example.
While it can be difficult to draw a hard line, generally this trope is only in play when a significant proportion of greater humanity is different, not just a few special individuals - The Chosen One or even The Chosen Many are not examples of this trope (although The Chosen People could be).
Also contrast Ambiguously Human, which is for when whether a character is human or not is not always explicitly mentioned in-universe.
- In A Centaur's Life, all humans are a Little Bit Beastly or are Cute Monster Girls. This ranges from people with cat ears and tails, to centaurs, to merfolk who appear similar to real life humans until their legs merge at the knees. The explanation given was that in this version of Earth's past, six-limbed creatures became dominant instead of those with four limbs, giving humans diversity based on how that extra pair of limbs developed (whether that be extra legs for centaurs, or wings for angelfolk). Highlighting the distinction, there are also anthropomorphic frog people, snake-like Antarcticans, and Starfish Aliens, but they are all explicitly not human.
- One Piece: Humans, while otherwise fairly real-life standard, regularly reach heights and sizes well beyond those of real-life people. Besides normal humans around a meter and half to two in height (most characters), there are also humans around two and half to five meters high (Crocodile, Brook, Kuzan, Doflamingo, Katakuri, etc.), and some really big folk six to eight meters from head to toe, and often quite broad as well (Gecko Moria, Kuma, Whitebeard). These are distinct from giants, which are a distinct species in-universe - Word of God is that this is simply how height naturally varies among humans in the One Piece world.
- My Hero Academia: Prior to the beginning of the series, humanity began to develop "Quirks", natural superpowers that range from glowing to shooting fire to growing wings. This radically changed the definition of what it meant to be "human", leading to a period of unrest and strife as people struggled to figure out what to do about Quirks. By the present day, 80% of humanity has a Quirk, while 20%, like protagonist Izuku Midoriya, are born Quirkless.
- In Strange Frame, humans have colonized the Jovian moons, resulting in many humans becoming genetically engineered to survive in the differing environments of the moons. Thus, there are now humans with furrier bodies or even extra limbs who are still considered humans.
- In The Culture, "human" is an umbrella term referring to all the species of bipedal, hairless apes (or non-primate ape analogues) that have evolved independently across the galaxy. While it's frequently glossed over and agents of the utopian Culture were able to move about on Earth with only minor modifications, detailed descriptions note that there can be enough differences in the height, proportion, skin color, and reproductive processes to qualify as Rubber-Forehead Aliens. Others have drastically altered their physical forms to the point where they're only considered human for the sake of legal and oral convenience, and some Culture expatriates have even gone on to join other species.
- The Death Gate Cycle: Humans have a natural affinity for mental and elemental magic, in contrast to the elves' affinity for Magitek and the creation of enchanted objects and the Sartan and Patryn's powerful probability-based magic. In something of a twist, this makes the humans, as a species, considerably more closely tied to natural life than the elves are - their mental magic, for instance, allows the humans of Arianus to tame dragons, which the elves cannot, while the humans of Pryan are better farmers than the local elves, who have not even mastered basic crop rotation.
- The Halfblood Chronicles: Humans are naturally suited for mentally-focused magic, such as illusions and telepathy, but have little in the way of magic pertaining to control of physical matter. This in contrast to the elves, who have considerable power insofar as physical magic and the creation of magical artifacts goes but cannot manage anything in the way of mental magic without the aid of artifacts. On those rare occasions where elves and humans produce half-elves, these possess the magic of both their parent species, making for potentially very powerful mages.
- In The Silmarillion, humans and elves were similar races, created by Illuvitar and referred to as his children. At that time, humans were like elves in strength and stature, but this changed later as the world aged. The most crucial difference between elves and men was that men were mortal, and elves were immortal.
- The Fifth Season: Humans have "sessapinae" in their brains that let them sense vibrations and seismic phenomena, a survival trait in the Death World they inhabit. Those born with the Functional Magic of orogeny can "sess" the exact composition of the earth for miles around, drain energy from their surroundings, and control seismic activity in the region.
- Lilith's Brood : By Adulthood Rites, the human race is Long-Lived on the order of centuries, resistant to disease, and sterile, thanks to genetic manipulation by the alien Oankali who rescued them After the End. All children that are born are human-Oankali hybrids.
Stargate SG1: After humanity discovers the Stargate, they learn that Earth was originally colonized by the Ancients, who later left the cosmos when they ascended. "Humans" as we know them are descended from the remnants of those who did not ascend. After a timeskip, it is discovered that humans eventually regain the old technology that the Ancients used, and end up with a similar society, although it is not clear whether they choose to ascend this time.
Babylon 5: Human history is relatively the same in this series as it is in real life, except one crucial difference: human history was actually tampered with by aliens (the Vorlons and the Shadows, to be precise). The Shadows were to blame for much of humanity's warlike nature, because they taught them to fight and kill in the name of progress as a species. Meanwhile, the Vorlons tampered with human genetics, trying to create human telepaths to fight the Shadows with. Sadly, humans became little more to either side than weapons to be used against each other.
- Jak's species in Jak and Daxter has long Pointy Ears, natural hair colors in various abnormal tones, and some have technicolor skin. They're still referred to as humans.
- The Legend of Zelda: Most games treat Hylians as a Human Subspecies. They're known for their long, elfish ears and their ability to "hear the gods" better than round-eared humans. Other than those differences, however, they're interchangable with non-Hylian humans. There aren't any physical or social differences and they interbreed just fine.
- In Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2, humans are one of the five main races in Tyria. Despite looking like and being called humans, they're more like elves. Humans are a race that was once very powerful but have now fallen into decline. They tend to shun technology and consequently are socially stuck in the past, especially the isolated human nations of Elona and Cantha in Guild Wars 2. They originally had a special affinity and respect for magic, due to it being granted to them by their gods, who brought humans to Tyria.
- World of Warcraft: Early in its history, the world of Azeroth was seeded by the Titans with a variety of species crafted from earth, rock and metal. These were later afflicted by the Old Gods with the Curse of Flesh, which turned many into creatures of flesh and bone that became the ancestors of several later species. In one ancient species, the giants, the Curse resulted in the Vrykul, who while still large and powerful were much smaller and fleshier than their stony progenitors. The Curse further affected the Vrykul, giving them even smaller and fleshier - and in their view stunted and weak - children. Many of these were killed, but some were raised in secret and hidden away in another continent to live their own lives, where they became the progenitors of the human race. While otherwise fairly normal (by fantasy standards), WoW's humans are technically the smallest species of giant in the world, and technically closer kin to hill-sized beings of living stone than to elves and dwarves.
- In Legend of Mana, the human race encompasses a wide variety of sapient beings: from the Little Bit Beastly to full on Civilized Animals, mythological creatures such mermaids and centaurs, and various others in addition to "ordinary" humans like the player character. Basically any sapient creature that isn't said to not be human such as Sproutlings, Faeries, or Jumi is human.
- Unsounded: Humans are unique in that they demonstrably possess a soul, which lets them access the Background Magic Field of the Khert and delivers their memories to the Khert upon death. Other sapient beings, such as the ancient Senet Beasts and the "Two-Toe" Lizard Folk, see this with some envy or consternation, not least because the dominant religion takes this as proof that Humanity Is Superior.
- Genocide Man is set in a future world that was ravaged by Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke and that now bans any form of "genetic deviancy". The Reveal that the One World Order genetically engineered the entire human race to be more peaceful and complacent via a Synthetic Plague that killed 1.5 billion people as a side effect doesn't go over well.
- Humans in Hero Oh Hero are able to use magic and can also randomly have strange hair colours (the latter typically being from being born in high magic areas regardless of if the person in question has any powers). The setting's elves are a race (in the non-Tolkien sense) of humans with green hair, skin and Green Thumb powers who're called "elves" as a slur by The Empire.
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