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Handy Helper

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The Court of the Wakeful Eye may be filled with citizens of unusual strength, but that doesn't mean they can perform tasks that require thumbs.

Alice has a handicap or deformity. And we're not talking inspirationally or awesomely disabled here. We're not playing it for quirkiness or to make her stand out. This disability is a genuine handicap which makes Alice's life harder, and perhaps even affects her self-image and sense of worth. For purposes of illustration, let's say Alice has no hands.

Bob loves Alice, and is dismayed by her sadness over her handicap. So Bob takes Alice's face tenderly in his hands and tenderly tells her "Do not worry, I will be your hands."

And Bob makes good on his promise. Bob feeds Alice, he applies her make-up, he writes her letters, dresses her. Hell, he becomes so familiar with Alice's quirks and behavior that he can even anticipate her, cupping her mouth when she yawns, holding a finger to her nose when she's about to sneeze, scratching her where she itches before she even tells him.

This trope is a character compensating for another character's disability or deformity by basically becoming the appendage the other person is lacking (or, in cases like Cumbersome Claws, an appendage hard to use for other reasons). This altruistic attitude is usually attributed to, at least, a bond of friendship, and often is borne out of genuine love, be it brotherly, parent-child or romantic. There are also situations where both characters are disabled in different ways and serve as this to each other.

Compare The Caretaker. Not to be confused with Helping Hands (although it's entirely possible for Helping Hands to be a Handy Helper). Voice for the Voiceless is a specific variant when the handicap is muteness.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In a chapter of Black Jack, an aspiring sushi chef is accidentally hit by a truck driver and loses his arms. To make amends, the driver offers to help the chef by serving as his hands. However, in a cruel twist of fate, the truck driver is himself killed in a traffic accident. Black Jack ends up grafting his arms onto the sushi chef.
  • Used and brought to a mentally scarring twist ending in Franken Fran.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Colonel Mustang fights Father while blind, with Lieutenant Hawkeye serving as his eyes.
  • At the end of El-Hazard: The Magnificent World, the hero and the chick cooperate like this — he wields the sword while she helps him with her ability to see through illusions of the Big Bad.
  • In One Piece, Chopper, the medic, is unable to move very much after after using Monster Point so Robin helps him with medical duties, by moving him around.
  • In Naruto Raiga serves as this for Ranmaru, who is crippled with respect to his arms and legs. The people of Ranmaru's village used to bring him food but became convinced he was cursed due to his psychic abilities. Raiga arrived to the village on a mission and was going to kill Ranmaru but decided instead to invoke this trope. In a bit of an inversion, the line that typically accompanies the formation of such a bond was used by Ranmaru when in a blatant display of Troubling Unchildlike Behavior He causes fog to appear and assures Raiga that he'll "be his eyes" The problem? Ranmaru's plan is to trick Raiga into walking off a cliff so that the two of them can die as atonement for all the wrong they've done.

  • In Dæmorphing, ever since Loren went blind, her daemon Jaxom has seen for her.
  • In Gensokyo 20XXV, a toddler Youmu plays this role to a near-blind Reimu, guiding her around. It genuinely sweet, even if Youmu is a bit young to understand the situation fully.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Ratatouille, Linguini is a bad cook bordering on lethal. Remy is a good one, but he also happens to be a rat. They discover that if Remy hides in Linguini's hat, Remy can smell the ingredients and direct Linguini to choose the right ones by pulling his hair.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Barbarella: Barbarella wants Pygar, an angel, to fly her to Sogo. He says he can't do that because he's blind, so Barbarella says she'll be his eyes and she continues to guide him throughout the movie.
  • Blindness: A woman who is immune to the virus causing blindness helps guide seven blind people.
  • The Bone Collector: Amelia takes over the job of of Rhymes and kills Thompson.
  • In the kung-fu film The Crippled Masters, the title characters (one armless, one legless) are Handicapped Badasses individually, but also serve as Handy Helpers to one another when they work together as Bash Brothers.
  • The Incredible Mr. Limpet: The title character loses his glasses, so his crab friend Crusty becomes his eyes.
  • Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome: Master is an intelligent-yet-physically-weak midget. The strong-yet-dim Blaster (he has Down Syndrome) serves as Master's arms and legs.
  • Maleficent: The recently wingless fairy Maleficent invokes this when the raven Diaval, in exchange for her saving his life, offers her his service:
    "I need you to be my wings."
  • Once Upon a Time in Mexico: Agent Sands is blinded and has to rely on a street kid he met earlier to guide him around, and later tell him where to aim his gun.
  • Santa Sangre: Protagonist Fenix quite literally is his mother Concha's arms and hands, as he stands behind her and uses his hands as her own, to the point that they almost move without his conscious thought. Which is actually true, since when Concha commands her to kill The Virgin, Fenix literally cannot stop his hands from doing so.
  • A mutual example in See No Evil, Hear No Evil: Dave is deaf, Wally is blind. Dave acts as Wally's eyes, Wally conveys information to Dave through lipreading.
  • In Shredder Orpheus, since Axel's hips and lower nervous system don't work and he skates using his hands, Scratch and Razoreus help him get around in a hurry if need be.
  • Three Seasons: Kien An takes the role of being Teacher Dao's "fingers" and writes down his poetry. Until he met her he had all but given up on writing another poem.

  • In The Sharing Knife series, Dag is one-handed. Normally this isn't a problem for him, but when he breaks his other arm, his then-fiancée Fawn ends up acting as his hands.
  • In the Little House on the Prairie series, Mary is stricken blind and her sister Laura becomes her eyes by describing everything she sees for Mary's benefit whenever she asks.
  • Gathering Blue provides a proposed mutual example. Kira's father turns out to be alive despite his being Left for Dead before Kira was born and now lives in a village where people with disabilities all live this way. He is blind and offers Kira the chance of coming with him to his village, with Kira as his eyes and him as her legs (Kira has a deformed leg).
  • In The Book of Exodus, Aaron serves as his brother Moses's speaker, since Moses has a speech disability.
  • Magpie and Dog in Fox by Margaret Wild. Magpie's wing was injured in a forest fire, and Dog has only one eye, so Magpie rides around on Dog's back being his binocular vision, and when he runs it's almost as good as flying.
  • Ben-Hur has a mutual example. When Simonides and Malluch meet in the dungeons and are both released, Simonides acts as Malluch's tongue and Malluch acts as Simonides' legs.
    • In the film version, Simonides says "together we make a considerable man".
  • Freak the Mighty (and of course the movie adaptation, The Mighty) is a mutual example of this. Freak is brilliant and outspoken but frail, while Max is big and strong but none too bright; together they can face down just about anybody.
  • At the end of the Mage Storms trilogy, Karal is blinded preventing The End of the World as We Know It. He can only see while in the spirit world and through his mind link with Altra, who swears to stay with him. When Natoli writes to ask him to return to Valdemar, she says: "I can be your eyes too." (less literally than Altra, as she doesn't have any Psychic Powers).
  • Invoked in Fate/Zero; when Kayneth becomes crippled as a result of getting shot by Kiritsugu's Origin Bullet, Sola-ui offers to become Lancer's new master, whether forcefully or otherwise.
  • After Bran Stark loses the use of his legs in A Song of Ice and Fire, his hulking manservant Hodor takes to carrying him around.
  • In Enchanted Pony Academy, all monarchs must choose a Glitter Pony, who serves as their advisor and mount. For Princess Alana, who can't walk, the choice is even more important: riding allows her speed and manoeuverability she can't achieve in her wheelchair. Fortunately, Electra doesn't mind Alana giving her verbal rather than physical commands.
  • Early in Dr. Franklin's Island Semi loses her contacts in a plane crash and is quite near-sighted. Her new friend Miranda describes things that Semi can't see for her. When they're transformed into monsters, Semi's eyesight is stronger but she's stuck in a pool and has no hands, while Miranda is a birdlike monster with Handy Feet. Semi's more reliant on Miranda than ever to tell her what's happening and manipulate objects for her, but The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body and Miranda becomes less reliable over time, especially as they hear about the prospect of Semi and only Semi turning human again.
  • In Dinoverse, the first party of kids sent back to the Cretaceous possess an Ankylosaur (obligate quadruped with forefeet like clawed boots), a Tyrannosaur (tiny arms with two fingers), a Leptoceratops (has some dexterity but is hampered by the requirement to walk on the forefeet sometimes), and a Quetzalcoatlus (thinner, sharper fingers on the wings). The girl in the form of the Leptoceratops isn't comfortable being naked and wants to "pull a Little Mermaid" but can't manage to pierce the seashells and string them together with vines as she'd like to, nor can she or the Tyrannosaur boy manage to tie it to her. The Quetzalcoatlus girl does both for her with a certain condescension, as they have history.
  • Brainships in The Ship Who... setting are Living Ships each paired with a "brawn", an ordinary human able to do things like leave the ship (or take passengers by the shoulders and shake them). Brainships are carefully conditioned not to mind this and to prioritize their own power and abilities more highly, but they do still often need brawns. A good brain-brawn partnership is seamless and mutually supportive, each working together to be more effective than they would be alone. One brainship does have a Remote Body made so that she can interact with the world more like a regular person (and have a physical relationship with her brawn, as in other cases brains and brawns Can't Have Sex, Ever) but using it takes so much of her processing power that she's otherwise inert, so it's not something that can be used constantly.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One episode of MacGyver (1985) has MacGyver and his boss, Peter, working together. Peter has been temporarily blinded and MacGyver can't use his hands. Together... they can operate a golf cart!
  • Invoked in an episode of The Mentalist where Jane gets a millionaire to let him drive his car while blindfolded — Jane steers by having the person's hand on his shoulder, responding to his tension as Jane drives.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the diplomat Riva is deaf from a hereditary genetic deficiency, but has his "chorus", an entourage of three people in telepathic communication with Riva and able to enunciate his thoughts. This trope is repeated in the same episode when Riva's "chorus" is killed and Data must read his sign language and translate for him This happens in another episode of Next Gen where LaForge and a Romulan lose the use of some of their senses due to interference from the planet Galorndon Core, and compensate for each other's lost senses.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • Spoofed in season I when, after being brought back to life as an hologram Rimmer asks Lister to be his hands. Lister refuses on the grounds he knows the type of things Rimmer liked to touch.
    • In a season VII episode Lister has lost an arm, so Kryten does everything for him, including things he could still do, like wiping his mouth with a napkin.
  • In Firefly Simon Tam is River's Amygdala built for two.
  • Sue Thomas' dog in Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye.
  • Downplayed, since the impairments aren't permanent, in an episode of M*A*S*H ("Lend a Hand"): Hawkeye and a visiting surgeon (played by Alan Alda's real-life father Robert) who he's been butting heads with get injured during a bombing raid, leaving one with a sprained wrist and another with a broken arm. They work side-by-side, each as the other's missing hand, to save the life of a soldier.
  • Speechless begins its pilot with the DiMeo family transferring schools so that J.J., who has cerebral palsy and communicates with a laser-pointer and word-board, can have a full-time interpreter in his classes.
  • Haven: Downplayed, but Nathan's Trouble is that he can't feel anything. Both Audrey and Duke fill those role, mostly reminding him that just because he can't feel something doesn't mean hes not injured. Nathan asking Audrey to check the temperature of his coffee so he doesn't burn himself is a smaller Ship Tease moment, which gets a callback after they get together when Audrey has to remind him the coffee he just brewed (and took a huge swig of) is really hot.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Subverted in Dungeons & Dragons — The naga are a race of snake-headed humans and most of them cope just fine, either through dextrous mouths or magic. However, they do notice the trope and consider it a proof that they are a superior race — after all, they are best suited for thinking, while lesser creatures serve as their limbs — so this must be the intended natural order.

  • In King Lear, Glouscester's faithful son Edgar (under the guise of Poor Tom) leads his father around after his eyes are plucked out on Edmund's orders.

  • BIONICLE: In the Mata Nui Online Game, Takua becomes Pohatu's eyes when the latter was blinded by a Nui-Jaga.

    Video Games 
  • Fallen London: The tigers that come from the jungles of the Elder Continent are as sapient as the humans of the eponymous city, but they're still physically animals with the same paws. Any task that requires opposable thumbs has to be done for them by humans; there is even one storylet in the Labyrinth of Tigers where you can offer Strong-Backed Labour as tribute to the Banded Prince.

    Visual Novels 

  • In Wurr, Delicate and Sickly Sinjal is carried around on his packmates' backs.
  • Goblins has a double example; Pan the Ogre is blind, while his companion Yala the Kobold is mute and has had her legs amputated. Pan permits Yala to ride on his head, and in return Yala acts as his eyes, touching his head to indicate which direction she thinks he should walk and warning him of danger.
  • Out-of-Placers: The Baxxid are a sapient race with memories and language-learning skills greatly surpassing humans, but their spiky insectoid limbs are incapable of writing or using tools. So the Baxxid in Val Salia have to rely on human servants to do those sorts of manual tasks.

    Western Animation 
  • The Land Before Time IV: Journey Through the Mists had villains Dil and Ichy, a near-blind crocodile and a bird, respectively. Ichy would act as Dil's eyes.
  • The Classic Disney Short: Morris the Midget Moose is about a tiny moose with normal-sized antlers. He meets up with a normal-sized moose with tiny antlers, and the two combined themselves to make one complete moose.
  • An episode of The Smurfs (1981) had Brainy lose his glasses, so he is forced to rely on Clumsy, whom he had earlier derided as being useless.

    Urban Legend 
  • A cop sees a car driving erratically, pulls it over on suspicion of drunk driving. Turns out the driver is blind. He's driving because his passenger is drunk (so he's acting as Designated Driver), but the drunk passenger is giving the blind man driving directions because the man is blind.

    Real Life 
  • Service dogs; depending on what type they are they act as their handler's eyes, ears or even hands (well, in a manner of speaking).
  • There's a famous pair of World of Warcraft players, one of whom is a veteran who lost his sight in Iraq. His clanmate acts as his eyes using macros and sound cues. Blizzard found the duo so inspiring that they put out two in-game items named after their characters.
  • This famous photograph of circus performers Eli Bowen and Charles Tripp on a tandem bicycle is an allusion to this trope. In the picture, the legless Bowen is in front guiding the handlebars, while the armless Tripp occupies the back seat, working the pedals. (In real life, while the two men were friends, they were each able to function independently of one another.)

Alternative Title(s): The Handicapped And The Helper