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An elf, a halfling, and a dwarf.

Demihumans are the Fantasy Counterpart to Rubber-Forehead Aliens. Related to Half-Human Hybrids, Human Aliens, and Human Subspecies. Mythology and folklore have no shortage of fantastical beings that resemble good old Homo sapiens until you start to notice something off about them. Depending on the story, they've been called elves, dwarves, giants, angels, trolls and many other names. Most of the Standard Fantasy Races are demihumans of some sort.

Typically, creatures that fit this trope have some sort of physical trait that distinguishes them from regular humans. They may have:

  • A combination of stature and body shape which is just far enough from human norms that it would be clearly odd or unusual without being obviously nonhuman.
  • Some physical feature (or more than one) that is slightly yet obviously outside human norms, such as Unusual Ears or Cute Little Fangs, and instantly identifies them as nonhuman to any racist or savvy human character.
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  • Some sort of affinity for, or resistance to, Functional Magic.
  • A nonstandard lifespan.

They may also:

  • Have a combination of skin, hair, and eye color that is outside the range for humans.
  • Some different preferred environment to humans (e.g. mountains, caves, tundra, deep forest).
  • Some sort of crafting/building ability. Lots of dwarves have this trait.
  • Be Always Chaotic Evil, Always Lawful Good, etc.
  • Possess abilities/senses well beyond (and/or skills far superior to) the human norm.

This serves as a supertrope to numerous types of demihumans with their own tropes, although all or only some of them may be portrayed as such in any given work:


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     Anime & Manga 
  • In Record of Lodoss War, elves, dark elves, dwarves, and grassrunners. Goblins, ogres, and kobolds are treated as barely-human monsters.
  • The titular characters in Interviews with Monster Girls are referred to as Demi-Humans due to being Cute Monster Girls. In-series, they prefer the term "demi".
  • Delicious in Dungeon has elves, halflings, dwarves and orcs as the most prominent examples of this. Laios argues with Chilchuck over whether or not fish-type mermaids are more monster or demi-human. There are also beastmen in the setting, but they are artificially created when a beast soul and human soul are put in the same vessel. The effects of this can vary from relatively minor changes as we see with Itsuzumi who has grown fur all over her body and grown cat ears and a tail, to rather monstrous changes such as with Falin, who has turned into a giant half human half dragon monstrosity after being fused with a dragon soul.

     Fan Works 
  • With Strings Attached: C'hou has elves, but Word of God states that they're just another race of humans with pointy ears and fine features. However, the Hunter's world has goblins and trolls.
  • In The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, C'hou now has plenty, though not the standard ones (though there are some of those amongst the outworlders). Among many others, C'hou is now home to demihumans such as Brillymen, Gashans, and Svenjaya. Most humans take a dim view of these folks (e.g., the Svenjaya are indentured servants on the Flying Island of Tipaan). Because the four are actually nice to them, interesting things happen.

  • J. R. R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings, etc): Elves, Hobbits, and Dwarves, and maybe orcs/goblins and trolls depending on your interpretation.
    • There's some grounds for supposing that Hobbits are a sort of pygmy human. Tolkien went into some details about the origins of the other humanoid species, but never mentioned anything about the Hobbits.
    • Adaptations of Tolkien's races and their Theme Park Versions appear in many, many, fantasy novels since, sometimes filtered through Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Discworld: dwarves, gnomes, vampires, werewolves. Trolls are about as normal as people; they're just biologically very distinct—demihuman in treatment, but not in biology. Elves are Always Chaotic Evil. Orcs appear in Unseen Academicals, .
  • Codex Alera: The Marat. They look human, but they all have white hair, Bond Creatures, and some other things that set them apart from humans. Justified, as they are implied to be descendants of Neanderthals who were brought to Another Dimension.
  • The Lost Years of Merlin and its Sequel Series have a lot of the standard races, like dwarves and elves, and add a few more, including some werebeasts like deer people and eaglemen. There are also the flameons, who are basically orange-eyed humans who can shoot fire from their hands.
  • Rivers of London: The demi-monde are various beings that look human enough that they don't get many strange looks in the pub, but have an innate and often hereditary connection to magic. Words like "elf", "goblin" etc. get thrown around, but there's no consistent definitions for them, except that The High Fae come from Another Dimension.
  • Bazil Broketail: The Enemy uses imps, who are somewhat human-like and born from captured women, as their main foot soldiers. Elves appear occasionally as well, along with dwarves, with stereotypical shapes. Trolls and ogres also have the same basic body plan, but are clearly inhuman.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Outpost: Blackbloods look visually indistinguishable from humans except for having pointed ears with black tips and, well, black blood. This is because they're all descended from a human woman along with a Master, making them all Half-Human Hybrids ultimately.
  • Cursed: Sky Folk look visually identical to humans, while Ash Folk are distinguished only by facial markings that look like black tears dripping down their faces.

  • Devil's Dare has a gaggle of green-skinned demons with large dragon wings, horns, pointy tails, and three-toed talon feet (on the males, anyway).

     Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: elves, dwarves, halflings, gnomes (in 2e), irda (in Dragonlance) tieflings and eladrin (in 4e), etc.
    • The trope-namer; 1st and second edition D&D used the term "demi-human" to describe the "good" races and "humanoid" to describe the "evil" races of orcs, goblins, bugbears, etc.
      • And Planescape did away with this trope entirely, explaining what the prefix "demi-" actually means. For example, demigod doesn't mean "like a god" it means "half god".
      • Parodied in Toon: in the "ToonQuest" setting the equivalent to humans were Dogs, dwarves became Badgers, elves turned into Squirrels, and halflings became Mice. The capitalization is where the 'demi' part comes in — yes, these races are specifically distinct from regular old Toon dogs, badgers, squirrels, or mice as dictated by the rules of the mighty wizard Teeyessarr.
  • In Shadowrun, several 'traditional' demihuman races exist, but count more as Human Subspecies In-Universe. All of them arose from baseline humans when the magic came back and can interbreed with both 'baseline' humans and with each other (their offspring are not hybrids, but belong to one of the parents' subspecies). "Metahumanity" is the term used to cover both humans and demihumans. There are, however, some (much rarer) humanoid species who do not have a human origin: Centaurs, Pixies, Drakes and Shapeshifters (who are intelligent animals able to take human shape) being the most common.
  • Marvel Super Heroes uses the term "demihuman", but it refers to Beast Men.
  • In New Horizon, not only are there three races of Ridiculously Human Robots, but there's also the group of humans who merge with wild animals called Medeans.
  • Warhammer 40,000 started as a straight analogue of Warhammer IN SPAAAAACE but evolved over time with some additions and some removals. So far there have been Squats (Dwarfs), Eldar (High Elves), Dark Eldar (Dark Elves), Exodites (Wood Elves), Ratlings (Halflings), Ogryn (Ogres), Orks (Orcs) and Space Undead (Undead) (the latter started off literally as skeletons in space but have now become the Necron legions).
  • Exalted:
    • The Mountain Folk, also known as Jadeborn, look almost identical to humans (even if the Worker and Warrior Castes look like fairly short ones), except for the stony appearance lent by the fact that they're "born" by being carved out of magical jade, as well as innately having a variety of magical powers and generally greater lifespan. They're actually supposed to be the race that humanity was based off of, and are even capable of interbreeding with them (the only form of sexual reproduction the Jadeborn experience).
    • Some groups, like the Lintha, think of themselves like this, but they're really just another Human Subspecies.
    • There are also some places in the East where local plant life has developed mobility and sapience as well as vaguely human shapes (but still generally having the biological features of plants).

     Video Games 
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • The races of Mer (Elves). While primarily humanoid in size and shape, each race of Mer shares at least a few features outside the range of normal humans including unusual skin tones, classic Pointy Ears, and elongated skulls of varying degrees.
    • There also exist several "Beast Races" (also known as "Betmer") in Tamriel, with the Lizard Folk Argonians and Cat Folk Khajiit being the only ones to make an appearance in the series to date. Both have generally humanoid forms but numerous saurine and feline traits as well, respectively.
  • Chrono Cross uses the term for Funny Animals. The Fair Folk are considered a subspecies.
  • Elemental - War of Magic - The only "official" one is the Fallen, a bunch of half-dragon, half-human gents.
  • BlazBlue has these in the form of Beastkin, human-animal hybrids manufactured to fight the Black Beast. These hybrids are considered by almost everybody to be second-class citizens.


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     Western Animation 

     Real Life 
  • Neanderthals, a physically hardier species of hominid (or possibly sub-species - it seems they weren't as different to us as was thought at first and inter-breeding may have been possible). Anthropologists have even speculated that many modern people of virtually all ancestry but sub-Saharan African may in fact have Neanderthal ancestors. The Cro-Magnon subspecies won out in the end over that durability through a pelvis better shaped for running and a better ability to throw projectiles (like spears).