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Friendly Skeleton

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A subtrope of Dem Bones, Skeletons are often symbols of death, but in recent years especially in much of the West, Skeletons have also become a symbol for revelry and good old fashioned spooky fun. Skeletons in fiction will often be portrayed as funny, jolly, and sometimes clever. They will often dress in dapper suits, and may be graceful and agile. Bone and skeleton puns are almost guaranteed, as are scenes of rib cages being used like xylobones or skulls being juggled and tossed about. The skeleton in question will usually either be on the hero's side, be the hero, or at least be a really fun antagonists. Can often be a Skeletal Musician.

This is due, in no small part, because of their association with Halloween and Dia de los Muertos (with Calacas being a related trope/subtrope of this in most depictions that's particularly tied to Mexican culture and heritage), as well as the fact that they always appear to be grinning. Skeletons are associated with death, but that isn't always a bad thing. In many circles and cultures, skeletons and skulls can serve as a reminder to accept and even embrace death, thus the oft sympathetic portrayals of the Grim Reaper. As an extension of their association with death and thus endings, they may sometimes be associated with change. They may be further used to symbolize life after death, or with one's family or ancestry. In a sense, a skull or skeleton can sometimes be a symbol of embracing life. There's also the fact that there is something inherently funny about a skeleton just getting up and walking around.

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Whilst skeleton's have the potential to be a little bit creepy, they also have brought us a lot of humor with funny skeleton classic one liner jokes such as "A skeleton walks into a bar and says to the bartender "I'll have a beer please, and a mop". They also bring us really funny puns too like "What is a skeleton's favorite thing to do with their mobile phone? Take skelfies." source: https://www.keeplaughingforever.com/skeleton-jokes

This trope is especially common in works centering around Halloween, or that have a decidedly Goth aesthetic, so friendly skeletons are especially likely to be found in Halloweentown. They can also be an example of Our Monsters Are Different. Related to Friendly Zombie, Friendly Ghost, and Friendly Neighborhood Vampire. If the skeleton is the Grim Reaper, it's also Don't Fear the Reaper. Can often overlap with Stingy Jack.

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Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Brook from One Piece is a living skeleton and all around jovial guy. He has a fondness for skull jokes such as "I can't believe my eyes. Then again, I don't have eyes to begin with! YOHOHOHOHO!"
  • In Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san the creator depicts himself as a skeleton. As a retail worker, he's kind and polite, though maybe not the typical happy skeleton.
  • Anpanman: Horrorman the skeleton is extremely friendly and easygoing, and on good terms with most if not all of the other characters. This turns out to be a bit of a problem, though, because he's so personable and chummy that he treats everyone as his best friend and will cheerfully help them with whatever they need help with... even if the person he's helping is, say, a major villain.
  • Death from Gregory Horror Show is an unexpected ally of the guest. He doesn't show up in the hotel proper however.

    Arts 
  • Death and the Maiden was a common motif in Renaissance art, particularly in Germany, that would depict a beautiful young woman with Death himself, usually depicted as a skeleton. While not all depictions show death as a particularly friendly fellow, some depictions show the maiden and death embracing, romantically or sometimes even erotically. This motif was revived in the Romantic Era of art.

    Comedy 

    Comic Books 
  • Scary Godmother features Mr. Skully Pettibone, a flamboyant Skeleton in the Closet who wears a top hat and bowtie. Keeping with the general theme of the series that monsters are nothing to be afraid of, he's of course a delight.

    Films — Animation 
  • Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas is possibly the most well-known example in most regions, being defined as excitable, eager, though sometimes self centered and impulsive.
  • The Last Unicorn features a laughing Skeleton who knows the way to the Red Bull and would only exchange this information in exchange for wine, despite not being able to taste or smell it.
  • Corpse Bride of course features quite a few, including the Skeletal Musician who tells us the story of our titular Corpse Bride. In song, of course.
  • In The Book of Life, the dead are depicted as walking skeletons with glowing eyes, but all of them retain the experiences they had in life and most of them are nice. Similarly, La Muerte is depicted as a skeleton made of candied bones, but she's sweet, caring, and reasonable.
  • In Coco, the dead are all depicted as skeletons and are perfectly personable. When accidentally whisked into the Land of the Dead, Miguel is initially terrified of them (and they are of him) until he meets his dead relatives.
  • The various Las Leyendas movies and their associated reboots and spin offs feature Finado and Moribunda, two cute little skeletons who often times help our heroes, or simply get into cute little antics in the background.

    Film — Live Action 

    Literature 
  • Unseen Academicals has Charley, the good-natured assistant at Unseen University's Department of Necromancy... sorry, Post-Mortem Communications. Charley might need a bit of wiring in strategic places to help him articulate and move, but he is the cheerful and down-to-earth background technician who works closely with Dr Hix, the University's licensed Evil Wizard.
  • The titular character of Skulduggery Pleasant is usually nice and friendly enough, unless you're foolish enough to earn the ire of a centuries old skeletal sorcerer.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Halloweentown features a skeleton taxi driver named Benny who is nice to the Piper grandkids (until Kalabar takes control of him) and provides them with exposition.
  • The Halloween episode of Teen Angel features an appearance by Ron Glass as a talking paper skeleton.

    Music 
  • The song "Spooky Scary Skeletons" by Andrew Gold and all its various remixes has the lines "We're so sorry skeletons/You're so misunderstood/You only want to socialize/But I don't think we should" and "Spooky Scary Skeletons/Are silly all the same" implying that these skeletons aren't actually malicious just....Spooky scary.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Pakahk from Cree mythology are the animate bones of people who died from starvation, or who were cursed as a result of some misdeed in life. They have a chilling cackle, but sometimes they will help people with healing or hunting.
  • Nuestra Senora de la Santa Muerte (or Santa Muerte for short) is a Mexican folk saint that generally appears as a skeleton. She is associated with healing, protection, financial well-being, and assurance of a path to the afterlife. She is particularly believed to protect people who work late at night, like taxi drivers and bar owners, as well as a protector of the LGBT community. She's become so popular, that some devotees have begun forming churches dedicated entirely to her. As with many other aspects of Mexican culture, she has also gained a following in the US, having been brought by the Mexican Diaspora northward.
  • Friendly skeletons pop up a lot in Halloween costumes and decorations.

    Podcasts 
  • The Adventure Zone: Graduation introduces us to the Skeleton Crew, a trio of skeletons who essentially serve as sentient training dummies. They are cordial and helpful, and genuinely enjoy their job.

    Video Games 
  • Undertale has the skeleton brothers Sans and Papyrus, who are well liked in their Monster Town and can become friends with the human Player Character. Papyrus refuses to kill the human even when they're hostile to him, and the player even has the option to go on a date with him. Sans is friendly unless you choose the genocide route, and often makes skeleton puns, much to his brother's annoyance.
  • Fran Bow gives us Itward, a dapper looking skeleton who shows up on occasion, usually helping the protagonist along the way.
  • In Moshi Monsters, the Creepy Crooners are a species of walking skeletons who are quite friendly despite playing scary music.
  • Insaniquarium has Vert, a friendly skeleton fish who is one of the unlockable pets. He produces coins for you, just like large guppies, but unlike guppies, he doesn't need you to feed him as he's undead.
  • Originally a cowardly knight, Sir Daniel Fortesque from MediEvil is resurrected by the evil wizard Zarok, giving him a chance to redeem himself. Despite his new undead form, he's a heroic, if a bit cowardly, knight, who goes above and beyond to vanquish evils from his kingdom.
  • Card City Nights 1: The Freezing Ghost. A blue skeleton in a ship's captain costume that you can talk to and play card games with.
  • Grim Fandango features a few, including the main character Manny and particularly Mercedes.
  • An April Fools update of Minecraft added the Friendly Wither, who would heal everyone and make plants grow (unlike its counterpart, who would destroy blocks and kill everyone in sight).
  • The Skeleton Merchant from Terraria is relatively helpful to the player, however he will not hurt his own kind to help the player.
  • Discworld II: the intro features a chorus of singing, dancing, friendly skeletons.
  • King of Dragon Pass has an event involving Bundalini's All-Skeleton Band. Although undead are a ever-present threat for your people, these animate skeletons are harmless and fun.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: An undead Player Character can choose heroic and compassionate plot options, just as any other PC, and can crack wise about their skeletal state. Several undead NPCs are also very friendly, such as Gratiana, a priestess in La Résistance who provides advice and healing to atone for a life of villainy.
  • Being based on the Day of the Dead, Fiesta from Skylanders is a polite, friendly, mariachi band leader who happens to be a calavera-themed skeleton. When he found out the respected Count Moneybone was intending to conquer Skylands, he and his band worked to distract the Count's army while the Skylanders stopped him. It was this act of heroism that led Master Eon to make him part of the Skylanders.

    Web Animation 
  • In Double King we see a skeleton queen who graciously invites the main character and every king he had killed to a feast and appears to be a good host. That is until Double King tries to steal her crown. She does eventually give in though, giving up her crown so that Double King would calm down.
  • There're various Latin American Halloween songs for kids starred by skeletons on YouTube, some of them are known characters that have their own videos (like Los Piratas Esqueletonote ), and there're songs like "Chumbala Cachumbala" that have a lot of versions, also starred by friendly skeletons.

    Web Comics 
  • Rusty and Co. features the skeleton boyfriend of the Princess. He was the White Knight, now he's the Night Wight, basically an armored skeleton. And he's the one who asked the titular group to rescue the Princess.
  • In Tales To Behold, the Human Skeleton is, as his name suggests, a human skeleton. He is one of the heroes.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Grace's decision to spare some skeleton NPCs turns them into allies.

    Web Original 
  • Skeletons feature quite heavily in a lot of internet memes, most famously the Skeleton War meme from Tumblr 2014, which places them as the natural enemies of fuckboys (i.e. overly-promiscuous men who do not respect the women they pursue).
  • Mahu: In "Frozen Flame" the bartender of the pub known as "The Crossing" is a friendly skeleton. It helps that the owner of the place happens to be a necromancer.
  • Tropers: The Series: Downplayed. Bob is a living skeleton and one of the heroes, who later even becomes The Grim Reaper. Bob is kind of abrasive on the surface, having some very violent tendencies, but still remains on the side of good.

    Western Animation 
  • In Ruby Gloom we have Skullboy (pictured), the main character's friend and Love Interest. Interestingly, his main character trait is that he's constantly trying to figure out where he came from and what his ancestry is.
  • While maybe not entirely friendly, Grim from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy has his moments.
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes features a character named A Real Magic Skeleton who's a part of Those Two Guys and works at the frame store.
  • In Over the Garden Wall it's revealed that all of the residents of Pottsfield are skeletons wearing vegetable costumes to celebrate the harvest.
  • There's the classic animated short The Skeleton Dance which is possibly one of the earliest examples of this trope in pop culture, and invented and popularized many tropes associated with skeletons in general, especially within Animation.
  • Skeletor from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) while not exactly kind, is definitely hammy enough to qualify. This is especially true in the Christmas Special, where he becomes overwhelmed with Christmas Spirit, much to his confusion.
  • A recurring character in Beetlejuice is Jacques, a skeleton with a French accent who wears a beret and is mildly obsessed with building his muscles... of which he of course has none.
  • One Halloween Episode of Pocoyo features a group of dancing skeletons part of the Halloween Theatre organized by Pocoyo and Nina. To the (frightning) surprise of all, the skeletons aren't managed by any of the characters, but later they discovered the skeletons are part of a travelling theatre company and they made a show for Pocoyo and friends.


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