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Ingesting Knowledge

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On the way to Martha's stomach, the alphabet soup lost its way. It traveled to her brain and now she's got a lot to say!
Why bother reading if you can just eat knowledge? This trope is about characters who, due to some Bizarre Alien Biology, Applied Phlebotinum, or simple artistic license, can have knowledge directly pumped into their brains by eating or somehow absorbing knowledge recipients such as books, computers or Magic Balls of Holding Knowledge.

This however only applies to non-organic knowledge sources. If a character learns by ingesting Brains, that is simply Cannibalism Superpower, which not only is frowned upon by connaissance connoisseurs, it's also considerably more messy.

See also Powers as Programs, for abilities instead of knowledge, and Instant Expert.

A subtrope of Abstract Eater and, through that, of Fantastic Diet Requirement. Ingesting Knowledge is a common ability of the Literal Bookworm.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist (2003): Scar somehow is able to absorb some of the investigations made by the Elric brothers related to the Laboratory Five.
  • In one chapter of Doraemon, Nobita eats a special kind of bread that lets him remember anything printed on it. It backfired due to the day before test is the day where Shizuka and also Nobita's family are inviting for feast, resulting in Nobita over-eating and in the next morning, have to eat the breads all over again after a bad toilet trip.
  • In Brave10, Rokuro has a Magical Eye that can absorb letters from a page and store the information inside it. With it he can also access people's memories and strip information from them. Naturally, it's so valuable a tool The Mole tries to steal it and he has to stab it out to protect all that knowledge.

    Asian Animation 
  • Motu Patlu: In "Robot of Furfuri Nagar", Motu tries to learn his robot's instructions by turning the manual into a soup and ingesting it, taking the referee's advice to "drink up" the information in the manual too literally.

    Comic Books 
  • One Janosch story is about a family of mice wherein the son became smart by eating books.
  • In the French comic Fuzz et Fizzbi, the Big Bad of the first book in "Anorgul le Mangerunes" (the "Rune Eater"), an Eldritch Abomination who increases its power by eating knowledge: by looking at any script, his eyes absorb all the letters, leaving blank paper behind.
  • Parodied in The Simpsons comic book story where the people of Springfield decide to make it constantly daytime in a misguided attempt to revamp the economy. Lisa uses the extra hours to learn everything at the library. Eventually when a lack of sleep kicks in, she decides that it will be more efficient to simply eat the books instead.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Meteor Man, the meteor can give someone the ability to temporarily absorb the contents of anything written by touch. At one point the main character uses it to quickly read and grade tests.
  • In My Stepmother Is an Alien, the stepmother is shown opening books, laying her arm across the pages, and reacting to the contents.

  • Book Girl: It's not used for information particularly (she mostly eats fiction), but the title character experiences books by eating them.
  • Firmin by Sam Savage is a book about a rat uplifted this way.
  • In the novel Professor Mmaa's Lecture, the protagonists — termites — "read" human writing by eating the paper and remembering where they can taste the ink, then reciting the writing from memory. They also eat other thermites' associative substance (brains) to aquire their memories.
  • Samsonite is a chemical invented by Samson Fandorin, an ancestor of Erast Fandorin in Boris Akunun's book "Quest". Drinking it lets the user hear a message from Fandorin. It can also contain general knowledge (in the novel, Russian language and culture).
  • In The Dragon Knight, this is how Magickians use the Encyclopedia Necromantick Book Of Shadows.
  • Discworld:
    • Gaspode the wonder dog claims to have picked up much of his knowledge through chewing books.
    • The Books That Bite in Unseen University library have been known to eat each other. Many of the weird creatures in L-Space are implied to be infovorous as well.
  • In China Miéville's Kraken, one villain needed to absorb the information in a book (printed in kraken ink) right now. And the villain was also made of ink. He forced the ink out of the book and mixed himself with the ink. Alas, it turns out kraken ink can remember its prior identity.
  • In Andre Norton's Dread Companion, eating the fruit of the land confers knowledge of it — also a Forced Transformation into creatures of it.
  • In Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain story "The Foundling" Dallben is cooking something when it splashes on his hand. Popping the hand to his mouth means it confers knowledge on him.
  • In Gulliver's Travels, one project underway at the Academy of Lagado is a special ink "of a cephalic tincture." A fasting student, by eating a wafer inscribed in this ink with a mathematical proposition, will thereby learn the proposition as the tincture is digested. Unfortunately, most students find the ink nauseating to the point of vomiting it up before it can work.
  • Eric Sanvoisin's The Ink Drinker is about a boy discovering that vampires are real but, rather than drink blood, they drink words out of books through a straw. In this way they experience the stories while nourishing themselves.
  • Happens in the Italian children's book Atomino. The protagonist, a living atom that has been recently enlarged to human size and is therefore completely ignorant of human culture, is told that he needs to get in the library and "devour books" if he wants to learn. He takes the advice literally and it actually works. Unfortunately, he ate too much in a single sitting and he get indigestion — when he takes an antacid, his new knowledge goes away as well.
  • The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers revolves around a boy named Henry who gains knowledge through literally eating books. However, his plans on becoming the smartest boy in the world are derailed when he discovers the hard way there's a limit on how much knowledge he can ingest.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The entire premise of Chuck is that Chuck accidentally absorbs all knowledge of the CIA and NSA in a single night, and has flashes of said knowledge whenever he sees something related to them.
  • Manny, Bill Bailey's character in Black Books, absorbs The Little Book Of Calm, which transforms him into a messianic figure.
  • One episode of Charmed has Phoebe use a smart spell that allows her to absorb the knowledge of a book by waving her hands over it. When this happens, the pages flip by themselves and there's the sound of whispering, as if the worlds were being spoken sotto voce.
  • Series Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe show several alien interfaces allowing human to access massive knowledge from a Precursors civilization.
  • An Amazing Stories episode has a strange event cause an old janitor at a school suddenly gain the ability to absorb knowledge by being in a classroom, especially if something is written on the board. At the end, he runs into the middle of a football field at night. A flying saucer arrives and beams all that knowledge from him and leaves.
  • Locke & Key (2020): Physical objects can be stored in people's heads with the Head Key; if this is done with books, the person will know everything that is written in the book without having to read it. Tyler takes advantage of this to do well at school and impress a girl.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • Happens in a vision in the Book of Jeremiah.
    • In another vision, the Book of Revelation, the narrator (who is by tradition the Apostle John) is told to do this, and he does. It's "sweet in his mouth, and bitter in his belly".
  • Odin of Norse Mythology does this.
  • Sigurd was innocently roasting the dragon's heart for his companion when some blood splattered on his hand. Then he heard birds talking about how his companion intended to murder him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Crimestrikers the characters sometimes use edu-strips, which are modeled on the breath strips sold in drug stores and allow users to absorb information (or have secrets implanted in their minds) by swallowing them.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Kroot are able to do this as a species, though their Shapers are the ones who decide what their kin should eat depending on the useful traits in their victims. Their spacefaring and mechanical abilities are believed to have resulted from ingesting ork DNA (who instinctively know how to build guns, and meks can build bigger things).
    • A little-seen power of Space Marines is to gain the memories of things they eat.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney Investigations 2: Back when he was an assistant to Gregory Edgeworth, Raymond Shields would write down information in his notepad, then immediately tear out and eat the page, claiming it helped him remember what he wrote down better.

    Web Comics 
  • Carbosilicate amorphs in Schlock Mercenary evolved from data storage systems. They share memories by writing a copy into chosen piece of body, then exchanging and absorbing these.
  • "Ask your doctor" on chainsawsuit about Doctorex, a pill that imparts all medical knowledge to the consumer.
  • The Wayward Vagabond in Homestuck learns human etiquette by eating a book on the subject. Although it's possible that he read it and then ate each page when he was finished with it.
  • One side comic of Looking for Group showed that the demon judge was hatched and ate a library's worth of law books just before the trial, and the judges are then killed after the trial to maintain objectivity.

    Web Original 
  • It's just a way to keep prices up and intelligence stats coveted, but books in Neopets mysteriously disappear when you read them to your pet.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius, Jimmy creates Books chewing gum with this effect. It's dangerous to eat more than one at the same time, which Jimmy finds useful later.
  • In the first episode of Animaniacs (2020), Yakko manages to learn about everything that's happened in the past 22 years by swallowing a computer tablet like a pill tablet.
  • Raven from Teen Titans. In one episode a mage teaches her an ability to absorb (not literally) many books at the same time, as it's faster than reading them.
  • One Polish children's show from the 1980s had this in a song about bookworms.
  • The Archmage from Gargoyles gains the power of the Tome of Eldritch Lore by eating it. Though he has to use another MacGuffin to make it possible, so when he loses it, the energies of the book end up burning him alive from the inside.
  • Martha Speaks: the title character is a dog uplifted this way by regularly eating alphabet soup. One episode leaves her stuck speaking Spanish because she ate a special Mexican flavor version. It becomes a plot of another episode where this stops working altogether because the company changed the recipe. And in yet another episode, the recurring villain who is always trying to dognap Martha covertly switches out her soup with the Polish version and then tries to claim that Martha is his dog from the old country.
  • Chowder: Attempted by Mung Daal on Chowder. He tries to cram a stack of books in his head instead of getting him to study! Then he gives him a dish that makes Chowder super smart, so smart that he is able to break the 4th wall.
  • Trollhunters: One episode has Toby drink a potion called Elix-Lore, that causes words to fly off of books and into his mouth gaining its knowledge. He somewhat loses control and eats an entire library, he almost finds the information he was looking for but the previous info was too much and he uncontrollably vomits it out.
  • The Owl House: Echo Mice, small skull-headed rodents that live in the Bonesborough Library, eat books and can replay their information like a theater projector.
  • Played for Laughs in The Amazing World of Gumball where an episode states that Richard ate Gumball and Darwin's homework to be smart.


Video Example(s):


Eating a tablet for knowledge

Hearing that a tablet contains the sum of all human knowledge, Yakko takes it all in, literally.

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Main / IngestingKnowledge

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