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Dumb Muscle / Literature

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  • Discworld examples abound, though they are usually at least partly subverted. Here are a few:
    • Banjo, from Hogfather
    • Paul Perks, Polly's brother from Monstrous Regiment
    • Detritus the Troll, more-so in his earlier appearances. Most Discworld trolls are Dumb Muscle, depending on the weather. Trolls have silicon-based brains, much like computers. In warm climes, their brains overheat, and they become stupid. It's been said that while smart trolls come down from their cold, cold mountains, dumb trolls arrive on the warm, warm plains. Detritus got his intelligence upgrade when a friend figured this out and built a fan into his helmet.
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    • Mr. Tulip, from The Truth
    • Terry Pratchett often subverts this trope by putting clever or profound statements in the mouths of Dumb Muscle characters, often with the smug addendum, "I may be slow, but I ain't stupid."
      William de Worde: William de Worde. Ankh-Morpork Times.
      Detritus: I don't read dat.
      De Worde: We'll put out a large print edition.
      Detritus: Ho, ho, dat very funny. But fick as I am, I'm still the one saying you can't go past.
  • The titular character of Archer's Goon certainly acts this way.
  • Tiny (Wolfgang Creutzfeldt) from the WW2 novels by Sven Hassel.
  • Lennie from Of Mice & Men is an archetypal example. Deconstructed in that being a mentally retarded individual with huge strength brings him and those around him nothing but misery, and ultimately leads to the infamously tragic ending where Curley's wife stupidly flirts with him, then his dim-witted fixation with petting her hair makes her panic; he's so dumb he can't realise that she's scared and so, when she screams in fear, he tries to make her be quiet only to smother her in the attempt, forcing George to shoot him to keep him out of the brutal hands of a lynch mob.
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  • Jabor from The Bartimaeus Trilogy.
  • Subverted in the Dragonlance series with Caramon Majere. Although at first glance he seems like a Dumb Bruiser, content to just hit stuff and let Raistlin or Tanis do the thinking, he is quite insightful and the authorial annotations remark that although he may not be smart, he has always been very wise and capable of making good decisions if he thinks things through.
  • Gamorreans in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, especially Jabba the Hutt's Gamorrean Guards, who include such powerhouses as Thok, the incredibly appropriately named Thug ("When you need muscle for a job, a Gamorrean makes a good choice"), and Gartogg, who was dim even by Gamorrean standards, having Hulk Speak while others do not.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Hodor, the retarded giant, and Small Paul, the simple-minded soldier. Even those big and strong characters who aren't exactly stupid, such as Gregor Clegane and Victarion Greyjoy, tend to scorn complexity and subtlety. The race of actual Giants in the series is noticeably low-tech. On the flip side, the series's smartest characters, Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish and Tyrion the Imp, are quite short.
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  • Subversion: This is how most characters in L.A. Confidential perceive Bud White. Dudley Smith ostensibly drafted him into his enterprise based on his scary looks and propensity for violence. Turns out, however, that he is both smarter and more noble than anyone (himself included) gives him credit for.
  • In the third Artemis Fowl book, Mulch is taken away by two of these, Pex and Chips. They were not hired for their brains, and are not allowed out of Chicago, "as this could involve map reading." When they're taking Mulch away, their conversation is them figuring out the other's nicknames-after much discussion, they figure out that one has huge chest muscles, and the other eats-oh, never mind.
  • Crabbe and Goyle in Harry Potter are thicker than trolls and built about the same way — they spend most of their time flanking Draco Malfoy and hardly even speak. On the Muggle side, Dudley Dursley (Harry's cousin and childhood bully) is mostly "dumb blubber", though his sheer size is enough to intimidate most kids his age. He gets worse after taking up boxing, though Harry himself is used to things much scarier than Dudley by then.
    • Also trolls themselves, as well as giants (typified by Hagrid's half-brother Grawp).
    • Hagrid himself is the friendliest half-giant man you'll ever meet, able to resist tremendous amounts of damage, even his friends and colleagues know he's just not very clever. Exemples include hatching dragons and crossbreeding manticores and fire crabs (in a wooden house), trying to teach Grawp to speak English, and hosting a "Support Harry Potter" party at his house during a Death Eater Reign of Terror.
  • The Honorverse has the Scrags (formally, Sacred Brotherhood), a decayed group of Super Soldiers that, as of the present, are rarely used as much else. The Amazons (Scrags who didn't care for the whole "women are slaves to do with as men please" thing of Masadan theology) attached to Thandi Palane, in Crown of Slaves, though, were put through schooling to correct their educational deficit, though socially they're still not quite up to speed on "subhuman" social skills.
  • Boxer from Animal Farm is probably stronger than all the other animals on the farm combined, but it's noted that he's pretty Book Dumb. Nevertheless, he is a very hard worker who steadfastly believes in his leader. Unfortunately, as time goes on, he ages and loses the muscle, so the pigs sell him to the knacker.
  • Justified in Area 7. Goliath has a steel plate in his head. The other Giant Mooks in later books are about as smart.
  • In Narnia, giants may be good or evil, but they're never clever. The "Gentle Giants" of the northern wastes try to be deceptive, but they're no good at it.
  • Hoppy Uniatz, regular companion of The Saint.
  • Adus, The Brute in The Elenium, is a barely literate thug who struggles to say any word with more than one syllable, eats raw meat, spurs his horses to death on a regular basis, and communicates with his Mooks through kicks, slaps, and grunts. He is something of a savant when it comes to small unit tactics, ably deploying his Zemochs in pairs and trios to fend off the Church Knights despite his lack of communication skills, but in the words of the author is, in "most other respects profoundly, even frighteningly stupid."
    • From a magical standpoint, Azash’s high priest Otha is feared across the world as one of the most powerful sorcerers alive... but Sephrenia realizes his incredible laziness and stupidity has the world shaking in their boots over an imbecile.
  • The independent, overmuscled thug known as Tony Donuts in "Callahan's Lady," by Spider Robinson. Tony is actually so stupid that he's difficult to con; against him, a character warns, a plan has to be not just foolproof, but moron-proof. This comes to a head when he demands his counterfeit money back and a con artist tries to give him real bills; the trouble is that all of Tony's bogus bills have the same serial number — it was too much trouble to change the plates — so that he instantly recognized he was being tricked.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Monster Men, the created men.
    Your greatest error was in striving at first for such physical perfection. You have overdone it, with the result that the court of mystery is peopled by a dozen brutes of awful muscularity, and scarcely enough brain among the dozen to equip three properly.
  • Nicko Heap in Septimus Heap is described as being unusually strong but also often as careless.
  • In terms of the Achaian warriors of the Trojan War, Ajax Telamon is this. He is the largest and strongest fighter in the war, and the Achaian's second best fighter after Achilles. He is also noted for being less cunning and eloquent than the other big name heroes. His downfall comes when Odysseus defeats him in a debate on who should get Achilles' armor. The stories differ, but all agree that he ultimately kills himself in shame.
  • Br'er Bear in the Uncle Remus' stories.
  • Shota from Paladin of Shadows. He has difficulty counting to five, but wears ridiculous amounts of armour and carries a rocket launcher like the other Keldara carry rifles.
  • Menelaos in Greek Ninja sometimes appears dumb, although he's more of a goofball rather than actually dumb.
  • In Firebird (Lackey), all of Ivan's sons, save for Ilya, are Dumb Muscle to varying degrees. Piotr however is the most cunning... not smart, but cunning. The Katschei's demons are even worse.
  • Almost always averted for human beings in The Laundry Files; you have stupid zombies, demons, etc. but even the random human guard or mook is actually smart. The OCCULUS team, which is The Cavalry (a Badass Normal elite military unit specialized in dealing with occult threats), are both expert fighters, well-organised soldiers and very intelligent people in their own right. Justified, because the books make it very clear that people involved in occult intelligence or in sorcerous schemes to take over the world just can't be dumb if they expect to survive a few weeks of work, whatever their level of badass.
  • James Bond
    • Caber from Licence Renewed, at least Dr. Murik thinks of him that way. He is glad that Bond (under the guise of a mercenary) is offering his services, since he has a need for "intelligent muscle".
    • Nicknamed "The Idiot", Kauffburger from COLD is a typical example; big, strong, but barely enough brains to even speak properly.
    • Bond's ally Mathis Never Dream of Dying comes across a mook of this caliber, and is able to deal with him quickly.
  • In the Dred Chronicles, one of the gang bosses on the lawless Prison Ship Perdition is noted for actively preferring things this way. He favours this kind of prisoner to recruit into his gang, and really, is a pretty big example of it himself. He doesn't get subtlety, and tends to kill people who try to explain it to him.
  • The Hork-Bajirs in Animorphs are very strong and resistant creatures. They are also peaceful and meek. But with few exceptions, they are not very clever.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians shows us one of the few, female examples. Clarisse, the daughter of Ares, is a warriorness who should not be underestimated. She is also, for a girl, very strong and muscular. But intelligence is not her forte.
  • In Smaller & Smaller Circles, the police and the NBI rank-and-file could count as this on an institutional scale. They may have the authority to arrest, detain and kill suspected criminals, but they're not very strategic in their thinking, and if not for the Director's foresight to call on outside expertise in the form of the priests, their collective power would still prove useless against a smart Serial Killer, at least partly because both agencies can't be bothered to solve what they perceive to be non-essential, "nobody cases" (i.e., the victims were nobodies).
  • The zombies/goblins in the Monster Mash neo-noir Wolfman Confidential serve as the foot soldiers of the two most powerful mafias in the city. Ogres also serve this purpose in general, but we only see the one doorman.
  • Subverted by Conan the Barbarian. It is often suggested that Conan is in fact one of the most brilliant men of his age. Not only does he have a brilliant tactical mind and sharp wit to go with that ripped physique, but he also spoke multiple languages (including dead ones) and is implied to be the author of the Song of Belit. He's no scholar, but he's not an idiot either.
    Conan: "I have known many gods. He who denies them is as blind as he who trusts them too deeply. I seek not beyond death. It may be the blackness averred by the Nemedian skeptics, or Crom's realm of ice and cloud, or the snowy plains and vaulted halls of the Nordheimer's Valhalla. I know not, nor do I care. Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content."
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: People getting their mandatory education at the Royal Academy can do one of four paths: leadership (reserved for the heirs to duchies and their back-up siblings), scholar, knight or attendant. While several smart knights have been introduced, the path seems to be a magnet for people who consider themselves to be dumb or hate doing work that requires them to use their head.


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