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Good Taming, Evil Taming

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"You are responsible for what you've tamed."
The Fox, The Little Prince

When dealing with an especially wily beast, how one keeps them from killing your friends and family within biting and clawing distance from one another shows one's character.

How one handles beasts can affect the animal's behavior immensely, ranging from becoming like the family pet, watching over sleeping babies and rubbing against their owner like a cat wanting affection, to becoming an animal lashing out as it is backed into a corner, losing all trust it had for humans due to the many scars and bruises across its body.

The Hero might learn that it is best to bait the creature with the carrot, giving the animal its space, shower it with affection and compliments, give it a treat every now and again, and give them a little trust. This creates loyalty from the animal, the animal protecting the trainer when threatened and even rescuing them in a hopeless situation. The villain, having no understanding of compassion, might think that simply showing the beast who's boss through fist and cattle-prod might teach the beast to understand its "betters." In a story where both methods are presented, the villain's method may come across as cruel and unusual to the audience, especially when they are given the option of a calmer and friendlier method only to reject it. Stories like this usually lead to a Death by Irony, being consumed, trampled or eviscerated by the very monster they created in their attempts at controlling it.

In a Grey-and-Gray Morality tale, on the other hand, the white and black will naturally blend together. After all, some animals were not built to be domesticated, and thus need a reluctant firm hand from a pragmatic Anti-Hero.

Related to Good Animals, Evil Animals.

Supertrope to Bad People Abuse Animals. Compare Friend to All Living Things, who may or may not engage in actual taming of animals, but is nigh-universally liked by them either way. See also Monster's Favorite Petting Spot.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Pokémon: The Series, Ash and most other trainers treat their Pokémon kindly and properly, which causes them to be loyal and friendly to the trainers. Interestingly, the main villains of the show, Team Rocket, aren't the abusive ones. In fact, Jessie and James have as close a bond with their Pokémon as Ash and his friends do with theirs, and the episodes focusing on them are often very emotional. Instead, this portrayal is typically reserved for single-episode characters like Damien and Shamus and rivals like Paul.
  • Not really dwelt upon, but implied in Toriko: the titular hero, as well as two of his fellow Shitenno Coco and Sunny have made friends with their respective animal companions, treating them well and considering them part of the family. Meanwhile, the bad guys seem to employ animals or modified chimeras merely as attack tools and nothing else. Emphasized by Bishokukai member Cedre during the Regal Mammoth arc: he forces a giant octopus monster to attack Sunny by whipping him furiously while claiming that he's his loyal pet. However, once Cedre's in a pinch, the octopus doesn't come to his aid.

    Films — Animation 
  • The many breeds of the How to Train Your Dragon franchise vary greatly, with the relationship between man and dragon a recurring theme.
    • On the good side of the spectrum there is Hiccup, Valka from How to Train Your Dragon 2, the Defenders of the Wing and the Winged Maidens from Race to the Edge. Hiccup (and by extension, every person he has ever taught dragon-training to) learned about making oneself vulnerable as a sign of trust, feeding them, petting them and simply getting to know them on a personal level. Valka lived among them for twenty years as one of them, helping rescue captured and hurt dragons and living as a fellow dragon. While the Defenders neither ride nor live among them like the Hooligans, the Defenders worship dragons and have learned ways of pacifying them without harming them. The Winged Maidens are a commune of Viking nuns who dedicate themselves to taking care of the Razorwhips that live on their island and preventing their extinction. They also allow baby Razorwhips to cling to them, which in turn gives them wings that allow them to fly.
    • On the evil side of the spectrum are Dagur, the Dragon Trappers, Krogan and Drago Bludvist. Dagur captures a Skrill and binds it with ropes to use as a weapon, the Skrill shocking him and leaving as soon as it is freed. The Dragon Trappers use a variety of ways of using live dragons to their advantage. When not killing or selling them, the trappers use the living dragons as weapons — forcing them to fight in gladiatorial arenas for entertainment, using Quakens as wrecking balls for mining, chaining a Submaripper to the sea-bed to obstruct Berk's trading routes, attaching the Shellfire to a warship — but still objectifies them, all of which ending badly. Krogan establishes an "Anti-Dragon Rider" team in the form of his flyers, capturing Singetails, wrestling them into submission, using dragon-proof chains as harnesses, and riding crops to make them fire. Because of their methods, however, they and their dragons lack any real bond or loyalty with each other which the Riders have exploited more than once. Drago Bludvist, the General of the Dragon Army, uses intimidation to frighten individual dragons in a "beat the dog until it stops barking" sort of way and even tortured a Bewilderbeast after it first hatched so that he could have an alpha to mind-control all other dragons. Because he did not earn the loyalty of his dragon army, all of his enslaved dragons turn on him after Toothless overpowers the Bewilderbeast.
  • In Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, the Colonel attempts to tame Spirit through the old-fashioned way of breaking horses, that is, mount them while they're wild and let them exhaust themselves till they can't help but submit. When Spirit comes under the care of Little Creek the Lakota, he befriends Spirit through being patient with him and waiting for Spirit to let him ride him, something he finally is temporarily allowed to do in the end.

  • Campfire Cooking in Another World with My Absurd Skill's other world, populated by the wizards and warriors endemic to fantasy stories, beat mystical beasts into submission in order to make pacts with them as their familiars. The protagonist Mukohda Tsuyoshi, being from Earth and a nice humble man, would never consider such a thing and instead befriends his familiars with a gentle hand and his delicious meals. This leads his more loyal wards to achieve feats previously unknown in the setting, such as telepathic communication with Mukohda and power boosts from his meals.
  • In the Wildwitch series by Lene Kaaberbol, the good wildwitches don't really tame animals, they communicate with them and ask them for favours. Their animal companions tend to choose them, not the other way around. However, it is implied that if a wildwitch turns to evil, she is able to enslave animals with her magic. Those wildwitches are considered to not be wildwitches anymore.
  • In Dragon Bones, the protagonist's father owns a stallion that's called "Stygian" after the river in the underworld, and is so fierce that only he can ride it. Which he does by using violence to force the horse to do what he wants. When the protagonist, Ward, inherits said stallion after his father died in a riding accident, he is kind to the horse, which he renames "Pansy" and the stallion, in turn, becomes very docile and gentle, at least when Ward rides it.
  • Subverted in The Wee Free Men, when Tiffany asks how the six-inch-high Hamish the Aviator can tame a buzzard several times his size.
    Not-as-big-as-Medium-Sized-Jock-but-bigger-than-Wee-Jock-Jock: Ach, all it takes is a wee drop o' kindness, mistress.
    Tiffany: Really?
    Not-as-big-as-Medium-Sized-Jock-but-bigger-than-Wee-Jock-Jock: Aye, an' a big dollop o' cruelty.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Techpriests believe that while they get machine-spirits to work by observing the proper rituals and giving them the respect they deserve, the Orks merely threaten their machines into working. The orks actually have genetic knowledge of various branches of science to the point where even the basic footsoldiers can bash together a (barely) functional firearm, while much of Imperial science has degraded into religious rituals with little understanding of how it works even high up the ladder.
    • The limited AIs (and the fact that their machines work without requiring hours of rituals and incantations) used by the Tau confuse them, and some try to entreat Tau tech by offering the xenos machine-spirits reverence (when others aren't looking; manipulating xeno tech in any other way than "safe disposal" is seen as heresy).

    Video Games 
  • Pokémon:
    • In general, it's been stated repeatedly that Pokemon that have been trained are stronger overall than wild Pokemon and it's been implied that part of the reason behind the existence of Random Encounters are wild Pokemon engaging in training themselves or looking to impress trainers enough to capture them. Inversely, Pokemon that are implied to be poached from their homes or stolen from other trainers tend to perform worse in battle and meaner or more malicious Trainer types like Cueballs/Roughnecks, Bikers and Evil Team Grunts are going to do worse than more on-the-level Trainer types like Gym Leaders, Ace Trainers, and Breeders.
    • Pokémon Gold and Silver introduced a mechanic to determine how much a Pokemon likes its trainer. It takes a lot of work to get a Pokemon to dislike you, like letting it faint a lot and using bad-tasting items, with the only real benefit being to power up the Frustration attack (when there are many better moves anyway).
    • In Pokémon Black and White we see an in-universe example with Ghetsis. His Hydreigon knows Frustration at its highest possible level, and given Ghetsis's anger issues, it's not hard to imagine why.
    • Even in Pokémon Red and Blue, before the happiness mechanic existed, there was the "Tamer" class, who carried bullwhips and hypnotic discs with which to control their Pokémon. While nothing in the game explicitly condemned these severe measures, it's notable that most of them were working for Giovanni, and their Pokémon were no stronger than the player's lovingly-raised ones anyway.
    • At the end of Red and Blue, Professor Oak comes by intending to congratulate Blue on winning the championship, only to find out that he'd just been defeated by Red...and scolds Blue for not caring about his Pokemon as much as Red does, saying that that was the key to Red's success, not just having strong Pokemon. (However, there is no evidence In-Universe of Blue actually being neglectful or abusive towards his Pokemon.)

    Western Animation 
  • In Dino-Riders, the heroes tame their dinosaurs using telepathy while the villains used mind control helmets on theirs. In the first episode, this comes back to bite them when one of the heroes shoots the helmet off of the villains' Tyrannosaurus Rex.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang and his sky bison Appa share a strong bond with one another when they first met before they were trapped in the ice, using encouragement and regular feeding to be on the bison's good side. In "Appa's Lost Days" flashbacks of Aang and Appa's first meetings are contrasted with Appa's experience in a Fire Nation Circus with an animal tamer who had him locked in a cage and tried using a fire whip in hopes of breaking his spirit to perform tricks for them and their audience. After he escaped, Guru Pathik had to gradually gain the bison's trust back due to the abuse from the circus and the Shoo the Dog moment with Azula and the Kyoshi Warriors.


Video Example(s):


Dragons: Riders of Berk [Both]

In "How to Start a Dragon Academy", the riders play a game of Good Idea/Bad Idea. Good Idea: scratch the dragon's sweet spot and get them to drop what isn't theirs. Bad Idea: yell at the fire-breathing monster and hope for the best.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

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Main / GoodTamingEvilTaming

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