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Cannibal Tribe

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These are the Adventure Archaeologist's stock enemies... Well, they used to be.

M'Baku: One more word, and I will feed you to my children.
Agent Ross: [loud gulp]
M'Baku: I'm kidding, we are vegetarians.

Once upon a time, it was pretty much a given that any dark-skinned, non-Christian native tribes encountered by a European explorer hero would be consumers of human flesh. The stereotypical Cannibal Tribe are Always Chaotic Evil, dress in very little but for the Skeletons in the Coat Closet, and live in wooden huts around a large fire with an enormous cooking pot sitting on top of it (notably this pot will usually be iron, despite the tribe otherwise seeming to be stuck in the stone age).

The Missionary may be already there, trying to make them change their ways, or he might be in our hero's party... or those might be his bones adorning the chief's throne. Monstrous Cannibalism may be practiced within the tribe if they run out of captives, with simply foraging for vegetation or nonhuman animals apparently having never been considered as a source of sustenance.

Often provide the Angry Natives for a Chased by Angry Natives scene, often followed by a Tribal Carry scene. Contrast Noble Savage.

Subtrope of Hollywood Natives. Supertrope of Captured by Cannibals and the related exploitation film genre, Cannibal Film. Contrast with Cannibal Clan, where the cannibals are just a family, typically from a culture where cannibalism is not acceptable. Subtrope of Humans Are Bastards. And ironically, the Cannibal Tribe's attitude towards foreigners makes them a subtrope of Politically Incorrect Villain.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Attack on Titan Hange mentions a cannibal tribe of ordinary humans who hid out in the mountains for some time, attacking travelers for their valuables and then eating them. She names two captured Titans after the leaders of the tribe, "Sonny" and "Bean", a reference to the myth of Sawney Bean.

    Comic Books 
  • Alan Ford: in A Jump in the void, the heroes end up in the Amazon and are captured by a tribe of primitives who wants to eat them (having already eaten the villain for lunch), but thankfully they mistook the Team Pet Cyrano for their god and let the heroes go.
  • Barracuda: Having led his crew to his loss, Blackdog ends up on an island populated by cannibals, the Moori, whose sorcerer, Penilla, wants to get hold of the jewel.
  • Often used by Condorito, always for humorous purposes, in fact the vast majority of jokes set in Africa involve a cannibal tribe.
  • In the Savage Sword of Conan comics, Conan encountered a cannibal tribe who believe they can become invincible for a short time by "eating the moon", which they accomplish by devouring the flesh of a Human Sacrifice bathed in moonlight. They're absolutely correct, though their invulnerability may be powered by belief. Conan defeats them by "slaying" the moon — he releases a cloud of smoke from a special pellet, which completely obscures the night sky.
  • In Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris, the eponymous princess discovers a ruined city inhabited by a tribe of savage White Martians that eats exclusively flesh. They aren't picky about what they eat, be it wild beasts they hunt, unfortunate travelers who get lost and even their own dead. In contrast to other examples that are rife with Unfortunate Implications, these savages are blonde haired, blue-eyed and pale skinned, as they are related to the Holy Therns (who are also cannibals themselves, but far more civilized and eat only Red Martian flesh).

    Comic Strips 
  • Parodied in a Don Martin comic, where a cannibal tribe is preparing to have an explorer Stewed Alive. The Missionary runs up and stops them, asking if they've already forgot all she has taught them. The cannibals take pause, thinking heavily... then remembers; they'd forgotten to add carrots and onions to the broth. Cue the Missionary sitting down to join the meal.
  • Several stories in the early years of The Phantom featured cannibal tribes, including a few tribes in the Phantom's own neighborhood who were officially reformed, but prone to backsliding when they thought he wasn't looking. One later story ends with the Phantom placing the villain of the piece in the custody of one of these tribes, encouraging good behaviour by warning him of their history. He carefully neglects to mention that since then, not only have they kicked the cannibalism, but they have all become vegetarians.

    Fan Works 
  • Fallout: Equestria: The friendly ponies of Arbu are actually cannibals, killing and eating anyone who stays too long without joining the tribe. They do let ponies leave unharmed, but in some ways that's actually worse — they've been selling the meat to merchants and had a decent reputation throughout the Wasteland. Anyone who doesn't want to participate ends up leaving, but then they usually get caught and killed later. When Littlepip finally finds out what's going on (especially the part where they fed an unknowing colt his own father), she kills every single one of them. Her companions have mixed reactions to this; Velvet Remedy for once agrees completely and likens it to cutting out a cancer, Calamity agrees that what they were doing was wrong but considers the slaughter unacceptable, Xenith has done terrible things to survive and so can't blame them, and Steelhooves agrees they needed to die but wished Littlepip could have discussed it with them so that they could operate in a colder and more calculated manner. The townspony who showed Littlepip what was going on says that the town deserved far worse than what it got. He kept a ledger of all the ponies who were eaten, and uses it to recover Littlepip's reputation.

    Films — Animation 
  • Surf's Up has a tribe of cannibal penguins in the island where a surf competition is held. They capture Chicken Joe, and only don't eat him because he gives them Squid on a Stick, which Tastes Like Chicken.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Bad Batch: The first people Arlen meets in the wasteland are a group of cannibals who cut off and eat the limbs of their victims to keep them alive longer.
  • In Black Panther, M'Baku implies that the Jabari are this to scare Agent Ross. He then reveals that they are in fact vegetarians and has a good laugh.
  • The Troglodytes/cave people in Bone Tomahawk. And seeing how they're all blackout inbred, they also qualify as a Cannibal Clan.
  • Cannibal Film Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death parodies this trope. It's about two feminist tribes who have fallen out over whether men should be eaten with guacamole or clam dip.
  • In Casanova, for failing to catch Casanova, Pucci's predecessor and his entire staff get sent off to be missionaries somewhere where they have "a great hunger for religion".
  • The Kona tribe from Cloud Atlas.
  • Eden runs across a group of wild Glaswegians with a taste for human flesh in Doomsday. She takes over said group via Klingon Promotion at the end of the movie.
  • The Field Guide to Evil: "Beware the Melonheads" is upon legends of a cannibalistic tribe of children with oversized craniums said to dwell in the American north woods.
  • Played almost comically straight in the 1960 adaptation of The Lost World (1912), when the explorers are captured by the Hollywood Natives of the plateau. When debating their situation and what to do next, Prof. Challenger flatly states that "They're obviously cannibals" and everyone just goes along with it. He's right, too.
  • In Nate and Hayes, King Oatapi's people on the island of Ponape.
  • Played straight in The Navigator, in which Buster Keaton and his girl, who have been adrift on the open ocean in a cruise ship, run aground on an island inhabited by cannibals, who then try to eat them.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Jack has been declared the god of a Cannibal Tribe—who want to eat him to release him from his weak mortal form.
  • The Kzamm, a fearsome horde of paleolithic man-eaters are major antagonists in Quest for Fire. The original novel elaborates that they are they only cannibals known to the protagonists who find their habits repulsive.
  • The Ewoks in Return of the Jedi could be considered the Sci-Fi Counterpart of this trope. They're technically an example of To Serve Man, since they're not the same species as their victims, but they play this role in the movie when they capture and try to eat Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. This tendency is swept under the rug as the film goes on (they aren't shown eating the dead Stormtroopers, for example), and ignored in all subsequent media to feature the Ewoks.

  • One Feghoot concerns a man named Steve searching for his friend Bob, who went to Africa to market a soda called Fresca. As he travels through Africa, Steve encounters all manner of locals, missionaries, explorers, etc., drinking Fresca with any food they gather or catch. They all learned from Bob that whatever they're eating "tastes good with Fresca". Eventually, Steve runs across a Cannibal Tribe who ate Bob after buying a bunch of Fresca from him. As the leader explains, "Bob tastes good with Fresca." Horrified, Steve inquires about what exactly the cannibals ate from Bob's body: "You mean you ate his eyes? His legs? His heart?" And so on. The leader explains that yes, all those body parts taste good with Fresca too. Finally:
    Steve: Uh... wait a minute. Wait one minute. You don't mean to tell me you — you ate his — you know, his, uh, thing?
    Leader: Yes.
    Steve: ...You ate his thing with Fresca?
    Leader: No.
    Steve: Huh? But I thought...
    Leader: Things go better with Coke.note 
  • Cannibal tribes are a staple in Russian Humour. Usually, the stories feature someone captured by the cannibals and trying to avoid being eaten, the chief offering some impossible task and threatening to cook and eat the captured if they fail. Some stories reveal that the cannibal chief Majored in Western Hypocrisy at the Moscow Patrice Lumumba University, which specialized on giving university education to citizens of developing countries. Usually, whatever the cannibals are eating still isn't as awful as the university food.
  • Three men were lost in the jungle, and found themselves captured by a trible of cannibals. They are brought to the king, who tells them that they will be set free if they can pass a test. Naturally, all three jump at the chance to not be killed, and accept the challenge eagerly. They are told to go into the jungle and gather up 10 each of a fruit of their choice, then to come back and await further instructions. The first man comes back with 10 apples. The king tells him, "You must put all these apples up your butt, without showing any emotion. If you can do that, you will be allowed to go free and unharmed. But if you show any emotion, even the slightest hint, you will be killed and cooked for the village feast. With that, the man took a deep breath, dropped his trousers, and began the test. He managed to get the first one in OK, but on the second one, he winced in pain and was immediately killed. The second man returned with 10 berries, and had to pass the same test. He got 9 berries in, but on the 10th one, he burst out laughing. He, too, was killed. Later, he met the first man in Heaven, who asked him, "Why did you laugh, you idiot? You almost made it!" The second man replied, "I couldn't help it! I saw Bob coming back with pineapples!"
  • Two explorers are captured by a cannibal tribe and left to stew, when one of them starts giggling. "What could possibly be funny about this?" "I just pissed in the stew!"
    • In a variant, the cook gets mad and starts banging one of the explorers with his ladle. The chief tells him to knock it off, the cook says "But chief, he's eating all the rice!".
    • In yet another, the village women start dancing provocatively in front of the cauldron. The explorer complains about this extra sadism, the cook tells him it's so there's more to eat.
  • A Finnish joke has an explorer thrown in the cauldron and the lid closed. A little later, the cannibals open the lid briefly to see how well the man is boiling, only to see him quite alive and quite angry: "Jumalauta, can't a man take a sauna in peace here?"
  • Spike Jones: "[A tribe] was a happy little tribe. They were known to love their fellow man — medium rare."

  • Heart of Darkness: one of the only African characters Marlow describes as an individual is among a group of rowers for the European explorers (for lack of a better term), and they are described as being cannibals, but considerate enough not to practice that while Europeans are watching.
  • In Longarm and the Man-Eaters, Longarm travels to the Texas coast to investigate rumors of a cannibal Indian tribe.
  • In Moby-Dick, Queequeg comes from one of these on the fictional South Pacific island of Rokovoko. At one point he tells a story about a victory feast after a battle, in which fifty of his tribe's enemies were eaten — and he got indigestion afterwards! However, Queequeg is presented as a Noble Savage, and he's best friend to the novel's protagonist, Ishmael, who takes a very live-and-let-live approach to Queequeg's cultural practices. Herman Melville had a great admiration for Polynesian culture.
  • The natives of Tsalal in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.
  • There's a Cannibal Tribe in Nation, but aside from being terrifying raiders who take human prisoners for slaves (and dinner), they're really quite reasonable... and not nearly as terrifying as First Mate Cox.
  • In Odtaa, the Pituba Indians are reputed to be cannibals, but we never see evidence of it, and Rosa says their reputation is overstated: "They don't eat all the babies they're credited with. They may munch a finger here and there."
  • In The Peshawar Lancers, Europe and North America are full of savage cannibals. The civilised nations of the Southern Hemisphere, most notably the Angerez Raj and France outre-mer are in the process of (re-)colonising them and civilising the natives.
  • Redwall: Pick a tribe of reptiles or amphibians, they will be played this way. From King Glagweb's toads to Lask Frildur's monitors, almost every cold-blooded animal in the series lives in a tribe and eats other sentient beings. The only exceptions are the adders, who are still cannibals, but loners (or in the case of the triplets in Triss a Cannibal Clan).
  • Friday's tribe in Robinson Crusoe. Despite his friendship with Friday, Crusoe remains convinced that Friday's people will eat him if he ever ventures over there, despite Friday's insistence otherwise. They later rescue a Spaniard and Friday's father from being eaten by another group of cannibals.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire the Wildling Ice-river clans are known for being this (not the Thenns, unlike in the show) as they live north of The Wall which is nothing but ice and snow. They are more savage and primitive than the rest of the Free Folk, who view them with fear and disdain.
    • The people of Skagos are said to be this, they once raided the nearby isle of Skane and ate all the men in a fortnight. Rickon Stark went there in hiding with Shaggydog and Osha, and Davos Seaworth dreads having to go there to find him, as the island and its inhabitants are infamous among sailors.
  • The Martians in Stranger in a Strange Land engage in this after a “water brother” discorporates.
  • This Immortal has the Kouretes, a tribe of half-human mutants led officially by Procrustes and inofficially by would-be shaman Moreby from Taler. They live in wooden shacks in the mountains near a Hot Spot and engage in cannibalism of whoever they manage to capture.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blackadder: Would-be explorers Blackadder, Percy and Baldrick hire the utterly incompetent Captain Rum and end up running afoul of one of these on some tropic isle. Of course, the show being budgeted as it was, we never actually see the cannibals, just Baldrick describing "that crowd of beckoning natives rubbing their tummies and pointing to a large pot."
  • The Danger Island live-action segments from The Banana Splits had three separate cannibal tribes in an island archipelago.
  • Game of Thrones has the Thenns, who are a clan of cannibal Wildlings that even Tormund Giantsbane finds appalling.
  • The Reavers in Firefly are a particularly savage Cannibal Tribe IN SPACE!!
    Zoe: If they take the ship, they'll rape us to death, eat our flesh, and sew our skins into their clothing—and if we're very, very lucky, they'll do it in that order.
  • Such a tribe appears in Sinbad, but they are slightly more sympathetic than usual as they appear to be near-starving.
  • A regular threat in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World.
    • Averted, though, in The Lost World (2001), where the plateau natives are a pretty okay bunch. When they do eventually turn against the British explorers, they have a pretty decent reason for it. There's also a brief scene early on, before we've even reached the Plateau, when Prof. Challenger casually points out an Amazonian tribe as cannibals, but they seem content to leave our heroes alone.

  • Kids Praise: Discussed in the ninth album; while adventuring in Africa, one of the kids voices a concern that they might run into some, but Psalty tries to assure them that there aren't many cannibals left in modern times. Then they meet a tribe that only eats books, and the main character is an antropomorphic songbook....
  • Used as an Evil Is Not a Toy motif in Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' song "Cannibal's Hymn".
    If you're gonna dine with the cannibals
    Sooner or later, darlin', you're gonna get eaten
  • In the video for the song "Funky Monkey" by M-Kids, the girls get kidnapped by a jungle tribe and almost get roasted over a fire.
  • Voltaire's song "Cannibal Buffet" is a punny song about the narrator's encounter with a cannibal tribe who end up devouring him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Nearly every evil humanoid race in Dungeons & Dragons has been portrayed as cannibalistic at one point or another, but orcs, ogres, hill giants, ettins, trolls, goblins, and gnolls are especially prone to this depiction.
    • In the Dark Sun setting, halflings are depicted as this trope. They remain a playable race, though, for those wishing to create a Barbarian Hero type character (though the Barbarian character class isn't always an optimal fit for halflings, depending on the edition you're playing).
    • Another instance of cannibal halflings is the Jerren from 3rd edition's Book of Vile Darkness supplement; unlike the Dark Sun example, they are very much Played for Horror and almost universally vile, vicious little monsters (those who aren't tend to end up on the menu sooner rather than later).
    • Icewind Dale Rime Of The Frostmaiden combines with with No Party Like a Donner Party:
      • In one of the quests in Chapter 2, the adventurers learn that a Reghed Wolf Tribe camp has been resorting to cannibalism to survive during the Everlasting Rime, first by eating their sled dogs and their elderly, then by abducting furriers and trappers from across the wilderness.
      • At the start of Auril's Test of Cruelty, the Reghed Bear Tribe have began resorting to eating their sled dogs and elders once they have ran out of food and their hunters were unable to return to the camp due to a strong blizzard.
    • Isle of the Ape is an extremely difficult Greyhawk module featuring a cannibal tribe called the Kawibusa. The island is a Hungry Jungle, and the tribe have been hardened by its perils to present a serious threat to max-level characters.
  • Rolemaster Shadow World setting supplement Star Crown Empire and the Sea of Fates. A tribe of cannibals help to guard the Elephant Graveyard in the Chimen jungle in G'thal by eating explorers who are searching for it.
  • Warhammer has the Ogre Kingdoms who are an entire race of this, as they have no quams on eating their own kind should food become scarce. Its not uncommon for Ogre clans to fight each other and the victor eating the defeated clan.
  • Warhammer 40,000 gives us a Recycled In Space version with the Kroot, a race of bird-like aliens loosely based on various "tribal" cultures. While they don't eat each other very much, they do eat everybody else (though smart ones abstain from anything associated with Chaos and the Tyranids. And the Tau, usually, since they're the ones footing the bill for their gastronomic tours of the Milky Way). Because of their Bizarre Alien Biology, they're able to absorb DNA from their meals, playing on the belief prevalent in cultures that practiced cannibalism that you could absorb the strength of people you ate. Depending on the Writer this may in fact be how the Kroot evolved into an intelligent life form, having been fairly ordinary birds until they started scavenging the corpses of some Orks that happened to crash on their planet.
  • Postmortem Studios' published adventure Black Mass has the characters running afoul of one of these in the modern-day UK. The Jukum are a forgotten Nigerian tribe that were infamous for ritualized cannibalism of both their own dead and enemies. Their descendants still secretly keep to these traditions, having bought out and turned their apartment building into their own kingdom.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • Borneo: A Jungle Nightmare is a point-and-click horror adventure game where the player is among a group of explorers in the jungles of Borneo (like what the title says) only to run afoul of a cannibal tribe.
  • In Diablo III, Mount Arreat is inhabited by the Unclean, Barbarians who descended into madness after their home's destruction and turned to cannibalism. The sane Barbarians see their existence as a deep shame for their culture and are attempting to exterminate them.
  • In Diablo IV, the Dry Steppes are home to the Cannibals, clans driven by an insatiable need to feast on other humans. They've recently sacked the major city of Guulrahn and begun to invade Kehjistan as well. Some of their members appear to be Barbarians and it's speculated the first Cannibals might have been Unclean who left Mount Arreat.
  • Deconstructed and played for drama in Far Cry Primal; while the more brutal Udam do indeed eat their captured prisoners and are vilified for it by the Wenja, they have begun to eat far more in an attempt to cure themselves of what they call "skull fire", believing that uninfected human flesh will give them the strength to drive away the sickness slowly killing their tribe. Sadly, the affliction they suffer from is actually the prion disease, Kuru, with several Udam tribesmen showing increasing signs of neural degeneration — meaning that the more they eat, the greater the symptoms eventually become.
  • Kingdom Rush Frontiers features these as the vast majority of the enemies you face in the jungle stage.
  • Monkey Island features a former cannibal tribe that has since turned towards vegetarianism (apparently out of concern for their cholesterol levels), and now commit sacrifices to their volcano god, Sherman, with human effigies made out of fresh produce. Although this has had the added benefit of halting the number of daily eruptions (Sherman has a very delicate stomach), it's also completely killed tourism on the island.
  • Starbound has an entire race of these in Florans. They'll stab and eat anything, including each other.
    Birdman not behave, he get eaten.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The cannibal kingdom of Darfar shows up in one episode of Conan the Adventurer, though given that it was a '90s kids' cartoon, understandably no cannibalism is actually seen. Also, the Darfari were changed to somewhat pale brown borderline-Frazetta Men, to avoid the obvious Unfortunate Implications of black cannibals.
  • The name of the Cannibal Bikers in Dallas & Robo is very literal.
  • In King of the Hill, after being encouraged to educate himself on Native American history by John Redcorn, Bobby does a presentation in which he states that according to the books he read, the local Anasazi tribe cannibalized their enemies in the past. Naturally, this has the exact opposite effect that John Redcorn wanted and further alienates him from Joseph.
  • In The Legend of Korra, when he is in The Mist of Lost Souls, Bumi has a hallucination where he thinks he is surrounded by cannibals, that is clearly a memory of a real experience he had, but more details are never given.
  • The Yaneemengo in Metalocalypse apparently practice this, as Nathan's grandmother writes about her shock at finding out she ate her husband. She's not too torn up about it as by then she had gotten together with Nathan's biological grandfather, the chief of the Yaneemango tribe. At the end of the episode, while Dethklok is high on yopo, the Yaneemango tribe they find eat General Crozier's men.
  • In the Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) episode "Fed Up With Antoine", Antoine accidentally becomes king of the Nasty Hyenas, a biker gang that is a splinter group from a cannibal tribe that always eats their king. While they get as far as trying to cook him (though he mostly protests that they're using pepper instead of paprika), he's rescued in time.

    Real Life 
  • The whaleship Essex — whose 1820 voyage directly inspired Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick — was wrecked in an area of the Pacific known as the Offshore grounds (a popular whaling destination). Stranded in lifeboats, Captain George Pollard and First Mate Owen Chase disagreed about their next move: Pollard wanted to sail to the Marquesas, but Chase believed that those islands were inhabited by cannibals and argued instead for a doubly long voyage towards South America. Ironically, because the boats were adrift for so long, the crews ended up resorting to cannibalism themselves just to stay alive.
  • There are a few tribes in Papua New Guinea that used to still practice it until very recently, only stopping in the last 20 years or so. Primarily it was done to prisoners of war. Most (if not all) have stopped by now, but it's come to bite a lot of the tribes in the ass, because apparently, there's a very dangerous neurological disease called kuru that only seems to occur among people who have eaten human brains over long periods of time.
  • Chimpanzees who kill members of other clans in fights for territory often eat their dead enemies after the battle.


Video Example(s):


"Eat of my People"

Lizard Priest serves food from his tribe... which is the flesh of his Great-Grandfather. Dwarf doesn't seem to mind.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / CannibalTribe

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