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Gentle Gorilla

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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.

Contrast this trope to Killer Gorilla, which it was created to challenge. This trope is also a Sub-Trope of Gentle Giant.


Mostly Truth in Television, as gorillas are among the least aggressive primates and will leave humans alone unless they feel directly threatened. 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. 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.

    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 
  • 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.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 unfavourably compare a chimpanzee being loaded into the ship he's travelling on to a gorilla by saying the former lacks the latter's melencholohy gentleness.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.

    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
    • 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.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • 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. 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.

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