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Fantastic Vermin

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"Ma, we got unicorns again!"
"They sure come around a lot, they must really like you!"
"The only problems are the pests. Most places have mice or mosquitoes. We have... dragons."

Fantastic Vermin are everyday creatures — a setting's equivalent of city, household or garden pests — that are fantastical or otherworldly in some way. These can include alien animals, miniature versions of fantasy creatures, common animals with peculiar traits such as vivid coloration, chimeric anatomies or magical properties, or anything along those lines.

One purpose for including fictional vermin is to emphasize the fantastical nature of a setting — a place must be magical and wondrous indeed if even its pigeons are otherworldly, and flocks of tiny drakes or fairies or alien bugs flitting through the streets is a pretty obvious sign that the story isn't in Kansas anymore. Similarly, such creatures may be a logical derivation of a world's magical nature: if a setting is permeated with magic and magical creatures, or its ecology is distinct and separate from the mundane world's, then it's likely that even its smallest denizens will be unusual in some way — not every creature in the world can be something rare and majestic, after all.

Another common aspect of this is the exploration of day-to-day issues in fantastic settings. If regular rats and pigeons already cause a fair amount of damage and headaches through their activities, then pests that can drool acid or set things on fire must be even more problematic to deal with, and can thus provide challenges even to cultures armed with magic or more advanced technology than ours. These effects may also be tailored to a world's endemic technology or magic, affecting it in specific ways beyond what mundane pests could do — for example a creature whose secretions harm the local Unobtanium, or which feeds on magic.

If these things go from being minor annoyances to an active danger, they may well become a Horde of Alien Locusts.

These creatures will often be treated as Fantastic Fauna Counterpart to real-life pests species such as rats, mice, pigeons or raccoons. See also Alien Kudzu, for the closely related concept of fantastic weeds, and Explosive Breeder, which may of these creatures often are. Contrast Endangered Species and Fantastic Livestock.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: The society on the plane of Kaladesh makes extensive use of complex, ornate Magitek powered by a substance known as ether. Kaladesh is also home to anteater-like gremlins, who feed on ether and eagerly use their sharp, strong claws and acidic drool to dig through rock and metal to get to it. Gremlins are thus the most destructive pests on the plane, and can cause immense damage to Kaladesh's technology and infrastructure. In a twist, however, the gremlins' feeding plays an important part in recycling ether back into the environment, and the extermination of gremlin colonies is causing real harm to Kaladesh's ecosystem.

    Comic Books 
  • Usagi Yojimbo: The little lizards seen in almost every comic take the place of vermin in a world populated by sapient animals.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Boxtrolls are short, Ugly Cute scavengers who wear discarded cardboard boxes (to the point of living in them, like a turtle's shell), live in the Absurdly-Spacious Sewer beneath the town of Cheesebridge, and love to tinker. They've become such a nuisance for Cheesebridge that the citizens (seeing them as an infestation) hire exterminators to get rid of them. This ends up being deconstructed in the long run, because while the human citizens despise them (due to propaganda that the exterminators themselves spread that portray the Boxtrolls as eating babies), they're Not Evil, Just Misunderstood, and are just as capable of showing compassion as humans.
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs has a Failure Montage of Flint's inventions. One of them was a project to splice bird traits onto rats, resulting in bird-winged rodents that quickly broke captivity and in the present have bred into a sizeable population. Besides snatching food, flocks regularly kidnap people into the sky before dropping them from great heights. They have some respect for Flint as their creator, enough to save his life in the climax, but not enough to stop doing what they're doing.
  • Onward: Winged Unicorns, of all things, are garbage-eating, hissing pests in the vein of raccoons.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Bright: Fairies are urban pests of animal intelligence, acting much like aggressive birds.
  • The Fifth Element: Spaceport ground crew use flamethrowers to deal with the problem of alien lifeforms hiding in spacecraft landing gear wells.
  • Labyrinth: The fairies, which in appearance are stereotypical little flying sparkly things, are seemingly unintelligent and bite. They're treated much like pest insects by the Labyrinth's denizens, as seen when Hoggle goes after them with an insecticide gun.
  • Star Wars:
    • Mynocks are bat-like Silicon-Based Life that feed directly on energy, and like to chew on starship power cables. As seen in Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back, a mynock infestation can quickly drain a ship's entire power supply.
    • Tatooine is home to two-meter-long womp rats that can birth litters of sixteen or more at a time and are aggressive predators and scavengers, making them a severe pest to local human and alien populations. This led the government of Anchorhead to place a bounty of ten credits per womp rat killed, something Luke Skywalker and his friends took advantage of to help pay for their education and upgrades to their speeders. In Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, Luke mentions "bullseyeing womp rats in [his] T-16" when another Rebel pilot claims hitting the similarly-sized exhaust port on the Death Star is impossible.

  • Artemis Fowl: Haven City is infested by swear toads, amphibians magically altered to constantly repeat obscenities. They began as a practical joke, got severely out of hand, and now live in every damp corner of the city.
  • Discworld:
    • The Unseen University is saturated with sometimes dangerous levels of magic, which has given rise to some rather unusual pests and indoor fauna. These include .303 bookworms, which feed on dangerous magical tomes by burrowing through them at extremely high speeds and present a potentially significant danger for anyone in their path when they shoot out of a bookshelf's far end, ants intelligent enough to pull carts and use beetles as beasts of burden, cockroaches that can march by the billions with their steps perfectly in time, escaped demons in the cellars, rats capable of understanding or even using human speech, and "that very rare indoorovore, the Uncommon Sock Eater".
    • The Last Hero says that feral swamp dragons are becoming a problem in Ankh-Morpork, despite the best efforts of Lady Sybil and the other dracophiles at the Sunshine Sanctuary.
  • Future Boston: One of the signs used to illustrate Boston's status as an increasingly diverse interstellar trade center is the presence of alien vermin within the city, with extraterrestrial arthropods arrived as stowaways on spaceships sharing crawlspaces and dark corners with mundane rats and mice in a manner paralleling humans and aliens sharing the city above.
  • Harry Potter: Gnomes — tiny, ugly, stupid and sharp-toothed humanoids — take the role of outdoor pests in a manner similar to moles, infesting the gardens of wizarding families.
  • Liv in the Future has "street mutants", colorful geckos with cat fur and ears. They coexist alongside rats with glowing eyes and aren't regarded as the sort of animal one would rent out as a pet.
  • Shades of Grey: Chromatacians have to deal with some fairly unusual pest animals, such as bouncing goats (kangaroo-goat hybrids that frequently bounce over stockwalls to raid farms and gardens) and ripping turtles (turtle-shaped robots built by the Previous to harvest scrap metal, which can and will tear their way into buildings to harvest metallic objects).
  • Star Wars Legends: The Wildlife of Star Wars describes silica parasites such as granite slugs and duracrete worms, which are a group of inveterate animals with silicon-based biology. They can feed directly on silicate minerals and thus thrive on the City Planet of Coruscant, where untold numbers of these creatures graze directly on the foundations of buildings and cause expensive and potentially dangerous structural damage to them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Red Dwarf: The Starbug has an infestation of "space weevils" the size of large rats. At one point their supplies get so low that Kryten cooks one for Lister's dinner, but that violates his "no animals with cute cartoon characters" rule.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Cardassian voles are six-legged creatures resembling very big rats. They infest the titular station's out-of-the-way crawl spaces and service areas. They are notoriously tenacious and hard to get rid of due to being Explosive Breeders.
    • "Trials and Tribble-ations": Worf says that Klingons view tribbles this way, since they endlessly eat and reproduce, to the point that they eradicated the tribble homeworld in the 23rd century. However, the episode ends with tribbles being reintroduced into the 24th century thanks to the crew bringing back at least one tribble from their trip to the 23rd century into the events of the TOS episode "The Trouble With Tribbles".

    Tabletop Games 
  • Pathfinder: Pest drakes are dragonets about the size of a pigeon that became major fad pets a few centuries in the setting's past. Many escaped into the wild, either fleeing on their own or after being deliberately released after they grew too big or the fad passed, where they ended up forming immense colonies in many major cities that endure into the present day. They're ubiquitous nuisances where they live, picking through trash for food and badgering people for food scraps, but their real danger comes from their tendency to aggressively defend their roosts (which makes construction near them extremely difficult) and the way their acidic secretions eat through stone, paint and mortar to damage walls and ruin frescos and statues.
  • Shadowrun: Awakening, the process by which magic transforms mundane creatures into variedly magical versions of themselves, affected common rats same as every other animal. The resulting devil rats are hairless, resistant to most poisons and capable of controlling normal rats, although their sensitivity to sunlight keeps them confined to the sewers and nighttime forays. Demon rats are a further variant that mutated from devil rats during the Year of the Comet, and additionally possess fur, short horns and corrosive saliva. They also have opposable thumbs and are smart enough to open latches and simple doors. Some are even capable of regeneration.

    Video Games 
  • Bloodborne: "Vermin" refers to tiny parasitic creatures infecting the bloodstream. They are invisible except to a certain magical vision, but are theorized to manifest themselves in the "slow poison" status effect within gameplay. A group known as the League has discovered the vermin and hunts down infected humans and creatures, collecting and destroying the vermin in their blood.
  • Bug Fables has Seedlings, which, according to their Bestiary entries, reproduce fast and have insatiable appetite which they calm by devouring farmers' crops.
  • Dwarf Fortress: Fantastic species such as pixies and fire snakes have been defined as vermin, meaning creatures that spawn randomly and spoil food, along with more mundane creatures like rats and bats. The most unusual ones tend to live in evil biomes (which can hold demonic rats, pulsing bloodsucking insects and ghostly spiders) and the sometimes rather alien underground layers (which can produce infestations of crawling masses of fingerlike appendages or of the aforementioned snakes made out of fire).
  • Hollow Knight: In a world where most inhabitants are bugs, mosquito-like beings serve as a counterpart of birds. One of the first things seen in the game is the Player Character landing, followed by a large crowd of them flying away with flapping noises. The bugs also have their own, even smaller versions of arthropods: Tiny firefly-like beings called Lumaflies are seen everywhere used for lightbulbs, and Deepnest has swarms of tiny spiders that can be seen scattering along the floor in some areas.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: A sidequest has the player dealing with an invasion of gizka — small, froglike critters with an exponential breeding rate — on their ship. They're considered pests on many worlds and many different traders in the game stock gizka poison.
  • Mass Effect has the varren, jackal dog-like creatures that adapt well and breed rapidly, allowing them to quickly colonize other worlds, frequently becoming pests to locals.
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Middle-earth: Shadow of War: Apart from the usual Morgul Bats and Mordor rats, Mordor seems to suffer from a country-wide Ghûl infestation. They are a pestilent species of nocturnal, small, hairless bipedal things with glowing yellow eyes, long, dog-like skulls, and sharp teeth and claws. While weak individually, Ghûls come in large swarms to overwhelm foes, some spitting poison on their unfortunate prey. It's implied in the Appendices that the Ghûls are growing in number due to the dramatic increase in unburied corpses littering Mordor in the wake of Sauron's return and the spread of the Uruk-hai.
  • Pokémon: Rattata and Raticate are often seen as pests who eat almost anything and are Explosive Breeders in locations with lots of food; this is especially so for the Alolan variants, which were introduced to the islands by mistake and quickly became invasive. The mongoose-like Yungoos and Gumshoos were introduced to Alola to deal with the problem, but wound up creating an infestation of them too after the Rattata and Raticate changed their lifestyles to become nocturnal in order to evade them.
  • Space Colony: One sidequest has your complex become infested with mouse-like aliens. Tami decides to keep them as pets.
  • Terraria: The Underworld has feiry counterparts of regular Critters, such as fire butterflies and lava snails. In spite of the name, they're harmless aside from causing a bit of damage when trying to catch them without a proper net. The Hallow has Lightning Bugs, which the game seems to treat as a distinct holy-themed insect, instead of just a synonym for fireflies.

  • Drowtales: The small, insectoid fairies known as Locust Queens are considered vermin by the drow, and typically exterminated much like mice or rats.
  • Freefall has shipments of feral waffle irons, which regularly attack parked ships to drain their power cells.
  • Girl Genius: Mimmoths are mouse-sized mammoths created by a Mad Scientist some time in the past, which escaped and bred in the wild to become ubiquitous microfauna in both the wilderness and in cities. They're mostly harmless, but can make machines malfunction by getting inside them and pushing components around with their tusks.
  • Unsounded: Waterwomen are viewed as a common pest for sailors, commonly drowning sailors and sometimes causing violent storms when they're upset. Smoke eels, which are malevolent ghosts using particulate to manifest in reality, are also a common annoyance but rarely gain enough strength to be truly dangerous or difficult to disperse with a small breeze.

    Web Videos 
  • Critical Role: In Critical Role: Campaign Three, the third season, Fearne Calloway, herself a Fey creature, considers Faeries to be the Feywild equivalent of rats or pigeons, to be ignored when possible, shooed away when not, and disgusting at all times.

    Western Animation 
  • Chowder has Fuzzballs, which are literal balls of dirt.
  • Futurama: By the year 3000, owls have supplanted pigeons as New New York's standard flying vermin. Golden marmosets are also mentioned as unremarkable urban wildlife.
    Hermes: Concerning our pest problem: somebody's been leaving food around, and it's attracting owls! And I, for one, am getting tired of cleaning those owl traps. [Trap snaps, an owl hoots]
  • Gravity Falls has a rather bizarre example. In the episode "Boyz Crazy", after Mabel releases her pet boy band out into the wild, one of them is seen rummaging through Stan’s trash like a raccoon.
    Stan: Darn beautiful men. Always... eating, eating out of my trash. (Beat) Wait, what?
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Parasprites are locusts turned to eleven. They resemble round, insect-like creatures capable of eating multiple times their own body weight in a single sitting, with excess food being horked up in the form of a new parasprite. They can form enormous swarms in a matter of hours, stripping towns and fields clean of food as they do so, and can be extremely difficult to get rid of once they build up their numbers.
    • Fruit bats — in this case, literally bats that are also fruits — infest fruit orchards much like real-life fruit bats do. A colony of the regular kind nesting in one of the Apple family's fruit orchards has made it inaccessible for use, while vampire fruit bats devour entire orchards' worth of fruit and leave the trees themselves sickly and drooping.
  • The Legend of Korra: The fauna on the world of Avatar is dominated by a variety of Mix-and-Match Critters, and its urban vermin is no exception. Republic City in particular is home to lizard crows, scavenging creatures with the bodies of reptiles and the heads and wings of corvid birds, which are often seen rooting around the streets for scraps of food, as well as spider rats, household pests resembling rodents with spider legs,
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes:
    • Miniature Living Dinosaurs as the setting's equivalent to pigeons.
    • Gloops are Blob Monsters that, while seemingly harmless, can multiply and infest any place they're in within short periods of time, consuming everything in their path. If left unchecked they can grow big enough to consume whole buildings and even entire cities. The best way to get rid of Gloops is to freeze and then shatter them.
  • Rick and Morty: Space parasites infest the Smith household in "Total Rickall" by stowing away in space rocks Rick brought home. They can reproduce quickly by getting people to remember false memories and then go on to take over the planet once there is enough of them. Luckily they're all killed before they can take over Earth.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • "Home Sweet Pinapple": A herd of nematode worms quite literally eats Spongebob out of house and home. They do, however, leave behind a seed, which Spongebob mistakes for a pebble, buries, and cries over, and from which a brand-new, fully-furnished pineapple house grows. Nematodes are later mentioned by a realtor who is helping Squidward sell his house ("Opposite Day"), and it's implied that they are the undersea version of termites.
    • "Eek, An Urchin!": A sea urchin invades the Krusty Crab's kitchen much like a mouse would, and the crew trying to find a way to get it out of the restaurant.
  • Transformers:
    • The Transformers cartoon often has the Transformers mention various fauna native to Cybertron, including ant-roids and retro-rats. We never actually see this native fauna, but at the very least they exist and some animal-form Transformers are hinted at having alternate modes based on them.
    • Transformers: Prime has Scraplets, tiny, vicious robotic life forms native to Cybertron that consume any and all metal in their path, including whole Transformers. They can be killed easily by luring them out into extremely cold temperatures.