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Gentle Gorilla

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Their jimmies remain unrustled.

Gorillas are often (or rather, used to be) depicted as ravenous, dangerous beasts and stock monsters for heroes to fight. As time has gone on and primatology has advanced, it's been generally understood that gorillas are considerably nicer than many other primates, particularly chimpanzees and baboons, are almost exclusively herbivorous, and generally avoid violence in most circumstances. In response to this, many writers, especially in recent years, have presented gorillas in a more sympathetic light, demonstrating them to be placid creatures. This being said, they're still usually depicted as willing to throw down in order to protect themselves, their friends, or their family. Often, fictional gorillas initially appear threatening, but calm down and become this trope after realizing that their percieved opponents mean no harm.

Contrast this trope to Killer Gorilla, which it was created to challenge. This trope is also a Sub-Trope of Gentle Giant. See also Intelligent Primate, since friendly gorillas also have a tendency to be shown as intelligent.

Mostly Truth in Television, as gorillas are among the least aggressive primates and will leave humans alone unless they feel directly threatened (though they do find proximity and eye contact threatening, so in Real Life it's better to treat them with caution). Friendlier examples of a King Kong Copy can qualify for this trope. Compare Big-Hearted Bigfoot, another example of a large but friendly hairy hominid, and Erudite Orangutan, a smart and usually friendly ape. Could dovetail with Abhorrent Admirer, if it's a female who is very friendly, and the object of its affection isn't too keen on it, or even a male of the gorilla species. For tropes about other large, gentle herbivores, see also Genial Giraffe and Honorable Elephant.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Gori from Aggretsuko is a large and muscular gorilla who looks intimidating at first glance, but she turns out to be very sweet and friendly once Retsuko gets to know her.
  • Kemono Friends: Western Lowland Gorilla acts like an intimidating boss in order to keep her underlings behaving, but in reality she is a pacifist who gets stressed from having to act stern.
  • Dr. Goriki from Odd Taxi is a large and boisterous gorilla, but also a friendly and benevolent medic who cares for Odokawa both as his patient and his friend.

    Comic Books 
  • Generally speaking, the inhabitants of Gorilla City in DC Comics are portrayed as this; a peaceful Hidden Elf Village that shields itself from humanity to avoid conflict. However, the most notable resident is the main exception: Gorilla Grodd, a Killer Gorilla and enemy of The Flash.
  • Aleron from Boom! Studios' Planet of the Apes largely averts the standard portrayal of gorillas in the classic films as dimwitted brutes, with him being a stern but friendly general who eventually leads a rebellion against the Ape caste system and treatment of humans.

    Fan Works 
  • The Amalgamverse has King Kong, an evolved kaiju sized descendent of Ardipithecus. While brutal in combat against rivals and the skullcrawlers, he's a Gentle Giant unless provoked and specifically protects the Iwi islands. He becomes the Mentor Archetype to a young Godzilla Junior.

    Film - Animated 
  • Played for Laughs in Dumbo, where a seemingly aggresive gorilla shaking the bars of its circus cage accidentally pulls it out, and it drops its monstrous act and sheepishly puts it back.
  • Johnny from Sing is an easygoing, soft-spoken gorilla who wants to be a singer. This puts him in contrast with his Killer Gorilla father Marcus, who's a hardened criminal and wants Johnny to join his gang in their heists.
  • Tarzan (1999) portrays the eponymous ape foundling's adoptive family as gorillas (the original books depicted them as a fictional ape race known as Mangani, who very much played the Killer Gorilla trope straight), and they behave more in line with a modern understanding of what gorillas are like. They're all pretty friendly, for the most part, and Kala, Tarzan's foster mother, was the first to connect with Tarzan after rescuing him as a baby. The only gorilla who's by no means friendly is Kerchak, the silverback leader, and he's more Good Is Not Nice and has understandable reasons not to want Tarzan as a son; in fact, in the opening montage, he's shown to be a caring father to his gorilla child, and was clearly grief-stricken when he realized that the latter had been killed and eaten by Sabor.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • Baby's Day Out: The zoo gorilla is perfectly peaceful and friendly around Baby Bink, sharing fruit with him. However, when the three crooks try to take the baby away from the ape, it gets very protective and starts acting more like a stereotypical Killer Gorilla.
  • While King Kong started off as a Killer Gorilla, he gradually became this trope over the years as gorillas became better understood by science. His Monsterverse incarnation has him in an almost completely heroic light, with Godzilla vs. Kong in particular showing him being close friends with a deaf human girl.
    Marlow: Kong's a pretty good king. Keeps to himself, mostly. This is his home. We're just guests here. But you don't go into someone's house and start dropping bombs unless you're picking a fight.
  • Mighty Joe Young: In both the 1949 and the 1998 versions, Joe is a gigantic, but friendly gorilla who shares a strong bond with a woman named Jill Young. Similarly to King Kong, he gets captured and exhibited to the public, then escapes and rampages through the city; while people are first terrified of him, he proves himself to be nice in the eyes of the public by rescuing a human child from mortal danger (burning orphanage in the original, ferris wheel in the remake).
  • Rampage (2018): George is a highly intelligent and docile albino silverback who was raised by the human protagonist David Okoye. After exposed to the mutagen he turns into a gigantic rampaging Killer Gorilla, but after the heroes feed him an antidote he becomes friendly and intelligent again, although he remains gigantic in size.
  • Mr Go, a South Korean movie, stars a friendly circus gorilla named Ling Ling with amazing bat-swinging skills who joins a baseball team.

  • In Richard Scarry's Busytown franchise, Bananas Gorilla is usually portrayed as a friend to Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm, though his exact characterization depends on the specific work. Sometimes he's Huckle's Big Fun classmate; sometimes he's a petty fruit thief.
  • In Congo and its film adaptation, Amy is a tame female gorilla who can communicate with humans through sign language. She acts as a mediator between the humans and the Killer Gorilla tribe that dwells in the city of Zinj. The novel also goes to some lengths to note that gorillas are normally not aggressive, and the Killer Gorillas of Zinj act that way because the original human inhabitants taught them to act that way (to be guards), and they have been teaching their descendants ever since.
  • The Fruit of Evolution: Saria is first introduced as a pink-furred gorilla who tries to attack Seiichi, but she's quickly revealed to be very motherly and kind after falling in love with him. After evolving into a human girl, she's still capable of transforming into her original gorilla form at will.
  • Anthony Browne's children's classic Gorilla features Hannah's toy gorilla that turns into a real one who then takes the girl out for a trip to the zoo and for ice-cream, providing companionship that she's dearly missing from her father. Gorillas feature in a lot of the author's works, and for his part, he finds them fascinating for their contrast between their huge strength and gentle personalities as detailed in an interview here.
  • The book Gorilla! Gorilla! ends with this plot twist when it turns out that the scary-looking gorilla that seemed to be chasing the mouse protagonist has been trying to return her baby all along.
  • Ishmael (1992): The eponymous Ishmael is a wise old gorilla who engages in philosophical conversations with the narrator about the fate of humanity.
  • The One and Only Ivan is a novel about Ivan, a talented and gentle gorilla in a mini-zoo at a shopping mall. His memories of Africa and his lost mother cause him to start painting pictures. The book is Very Loosely Based on a True Story and has also been adapted as a motion picture.
    • Ivan does have a much angrier side, but far from being a Killer Gorilla, his deeply-buried impulses are more about expressing his unhappiness and frustration, and a desire to be taken seriously and respected, than any degree of malice or bloodlust. As he says, anger for a silverback is an important thing reserved for protecting someone, as his father tried to protect his troop. Until Ivan starts to feel kinship and responsibility for Ruby, he has no one to protect.
  • A Stranger at Green Knowe: Hanno, the escaped gorilla who takes refuge in the garden, is a gentle creature who befriends the child protagonist.
  • Life of Pi: While no gorilla itself appears, Pi does mention one; he unfavourably compares a chimpanzee being loaded into the ship he's travelling on to a gorilla by saying the former lacks melencholohy gentleness the latter have.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A legendary moment in David Attenborough's career as a documentary maker was the sequence in one program which had him discussing mountain gorillas while sitting close to a gorilla family in Rwanda — when they drew him into their grooming activity. He always emphasizes that they are indeed gentle creatures and the danger to him was low, but given their raw strength, and the fact that he was close to their young while their parents were present, Attenborough's calm was astonishing. Attenborough was accompanied by Dian Fossey, who had habituated this gorilla family for ten years. He always emphasizes that only her presence made it possible to approach the gorillas.
  • The Electric Company: Paul the Gorilla, who helped Jennifer of the Jungle in reading skits. Sometimes characters would (comically) faint at the sight of him but Paul was harmless and one to make a quick friend with many others.
  • Smash in Power Rangers Beast Morphers is a loveable Gentle Giant. Same goes for his Sentai counterpart Gorisaki Banana in Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters

    Video Games 
  • ClayFighter: The cancelled character from C2: Judgment Clay was Lucy the Gorilla, a playful female gorilla with Tertiary Sexual Characteristics that is shown as a Gentle Giant in the first previews of the game in beta state. It was cancelled for schedule reasons.
  • Donkey Kong: The Kong clan as of the Donkey Kong Country series consists of primates who just want to lead a peaceful existence. While some of them are other species such as orangutans or chimps, they mostly consist of gorillas.
    • Donkey Kong is one of the most prolific examples of this trope in popular culture. While his initial appearance was villainous (though still sympathetic), all of the Donkey Kong Country games present him as an easy-going individual who only fights in order to protect his horde of bananas from King K. Rool.
    • Funky Kong is a gorilla mixed with Totally Radical, being a very supportive and nice person who helps Donkey Kong and his partners out.
    • Kiddy Kong is an oversized baby gorilla who faithfully follows Dixie Kong on her rescue mission and has fun through it all.
    • Chunky Kong, Kiddy's brother, is by far the largest and strongest of the extended Kong clan. He's also extremely timid and such a Gentle Giant that one of his idle animations involves a bunch of butterflies landing on him.
  • Overwatch: Winston is a genetically-augumented, super-intelligent gorilla. While he can go bananas in the midst of combat, outside of battle he is polite and affable to a fault.
  • Pokémon: Rillaboom is a gorilla-like Pokémon that looks intimidating, but according to its Pokédex entry in Pokémon Shield, it has a gentle disposition and values harmony among its group.
  • The Garangolm from Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak is a large, gorilla-like Fanged Beast known to normally be calm and peaceful. However, this overlaps with Killer Gorilla, as it's known to get angry at things that disturb its peace, and has such massive strength that is considered a member of a trio of legendary monsters known as the Three Lords.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • From the 1960s onwards to her death in 1985 the primatologist Dian Fossey transformed gorillas' reputation with her pioneering studies of wild mountain gorillas. Fossey discovered that, contrary to popular myths, mountain gorillas were not blood-thirsty beasts, but gentle vegetarians with strong family ties. Her work pioneered gorilla habituation, identification, tracking, range mapping, and gorilla tourism.
  • Gorilla tourism in Rwanda and Uganda takes advantage of the docility of wild mountain gorillas. The tourists are taken close to wild gorilla troops accompanied by rangers who can read the animals' behaviour. The humans must keep a distance from the gorillas so that they don't stress the apes out, but sometimes the gorillas approach the humans and sit down to feed in their close proximity.
  • Koko was a female gorilla born at the San Francisco Zoo in the late 1970s. She was the most successful subject in an long-term experiment to teach sign language to primates. She also was unusual in the ability to handle and show affection to kittens, suggesting that pet keeping isn't unique to humans. Koko died in 2018 after teaching us a lot about how gorillas think and communicate.
  • There are two separate incidents where a child fell into a gorilla habitat and was met with friendly behaviour by the gorillas:
    • On August 31, 1986, five-year-old Levan Merritt fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Durrell Wildlife Park in Jersey, Channel Islands and was knocked unconscious. The silverback Jambo sat down in-between the child and the rest of the gorillas, and gently and curiously stroked the child's back. When the child woke up and cried, the silverback retreated, leading his family to a small hut in the enclosure, allowing the zookeepers to rescue the child.
    • On August 16, 1996, a three-year-old boy fell into the gorilla enclosure in Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, Illinois. The female gorilla Binti Jua (a niece of the aforementioned Koko) picked up the unconscious boy and cradled him in her arms, then laid him down when the zookeepers arrived.


Video Example(s):


Kala adopts Tarzan

With no one left to take care of him and having lost her son, Kala the gorilla adopts the orphan human boy Tarzan, despite her mate Kerchack's wishes having grown to love the young boy.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / InterspeciesAdoption

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