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Monstrous Seal

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This penguin is pretty damn sure that his fate is sealed.

"You know, we're a very emotional species. You know, we think penguins are cute, and we think leopard seals are ugly, therefore leopard seals are bad, penguins are good."
— Diver and photographer Paul Nicklen, talking about his encounter with a leopard seal.
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Despite having a reputation for cuteness, seals are also well-known for being predators, which aren't exactly the most beloved animals. Some, like the leopard seal, eat penguins, which is a bit of a problem, considering that people love penguins. And so, when they're not Ridiculously Cute Critters, fictional seals are often portrayed as either mindless brutes or malevolent monsters.

This trope mostly applies to large, stereotypically aggressive seal species such as leopard seals and elephant seals. Small ones, such as the harbor seal and the harp seal, are much more likely to be portrayed as Sweet Seals. If a small seal does act evil or aggressive in fiction, it's a case of Killer Rabbit. There's some aspects of What Measure Is a Non-Cute? involved here too; generally, the larger seals that prey on penguins and other seals are portrayed more negatively in fiction than the smaller ones that mostly eat fish, and fish aren't usually seen as cute or appealing enough.

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This trope also includes sea lions. They're different from seals — for instance, they have ear flaps, and flippers that allow them to "walk" on land — but are also included due to being highly similar to them in most if not all other respects; in fact, the entirety of the immediate clade that includes them both consists of marine mammals of the same general body plan and carnivorous behavior, including walruses and fur seals (the latter being the sea lions' closest relatives). And their closest relatives? Bears.

Compare Wily Walrus (since walruses are related to seals), Threatening Shark and Devious Dolphins. Contrast Sweet Seal. Sub-Trope of Sea Monster. Not to Be Confused with Sealed Evil in a Can or seals on letters. Also not to be confused with Navy SEALs, although their targets may very well be scared. Has nothing to do with the singer Seal.

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Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Batman: In one comic, the Penguin attempts to feed Batman to a huge leopard seal he keeps in his nightclub. The Penguin later says he never considered it a serious Death Trap, and he fully expected him to escape, but he wanted to see Batman sweat for a bit.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Happy Feet a leopard seal is a recurring antagonist of the penguin heroes. Elephant seals also recur in both films; they make no attempt to harm the heroes, but they are terrifying. The second film goes into the "beachmaster" social order noted under real life. Also in the second film, a leopard seal and an elephant seal cross paths, and the leopard seal, a species generally considered The Dreaded in penguin stories, flees in terror.
  • Ice Age 4: Continental Drift: One of the pirates is an elephant seal named Flynn. He's more of a Cloudcuckoolander than a truly threatening villain, though.
  • In The Pebble and the Penguin, there are several instances where various leopard seals attempt to eat the main protagonist, Hubie. The first time, Hubie narrowly escaping the predator after a chunk of ice gets lodged in its mouth. Later in the film, Hubie and his friend Rocko end up waking up another seal and again, narrowly escaping with their lives. There's one final encounter the duo with a leopard seal atop a submarine, only this time, Hubie has mastered martial arts from Rocko, allowing him to fight back.
  • In Penguins of Madagascar, the penguins are shown to despise leopard seals, which are portrayed as mindless penguin killers with Black Eyes of Crazy. Curiously, the leopard seals seem to be the only animals in the movie who are not humanized in any way, which is especially strange considering that one of the heroes is a harp seal.
  • In Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss, Prince, a Composite Character of three antagonistic characters (Tybalt, Prince Escalus and Paris) from the original play, is a gigantic elephant seal who terrorizes the other seals on the beach, and even threatens to eat Romeo at one point.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Eight Below, when Max is investigating a dead orca as potential food, a leopard seal lunges out of the carcass and chases him off. Max manages to lure it away by running off with a piece of meat, with the seal chasing him beneath the ice and leaving the other dogs free to eat until it figures out what’s going on and doubles back, lunging at the dogs from behind and crippling Maya.

    Folklore 
  • Inuit mythology mentions the Tizheruk, a sea monster said to resemble a giant long-necked seal. Legends tell of it snatching people from boats and piers and dragging them underwater to eat. Some cryptozoologists suggest that the legends are based on a real undiscovered animal, perhaps a relative of the leopard seal (despite that species being native to Antarctica).

    Literature 
  • The Jungle Book: Subverted in The White Seal by Kotick, an affable albino fur seal who lives in the Aleutian Islands and makes it his quest in life to find a home where his fellow seals won't be victims of the fur trade. He comes to tell the other seals he found such a place... and when they refuse to listen to him, beats the shit out of everyone until they agree to follow him.
    • Probably helps that he's the son of Seacatch, his herd's beachmaster, and as such, Asskicking Equals Authority runs in the family.
    • There's Seacatch himself, who in addition to having to scare off challengers to his position, sends a few growls his son's way as well.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians:
    • The Telekhines are literal monsters that are often compared to seals — specifically sea lions — in appearance.
    • The spirit of the East River, a hostile and unfriendly minor god, looks like a humanoid combination of a seal and a wolf.
  • The Winter Of The World: Amicac the Sea Devourer is a seal the size of a war galley, and he's ferocious enough to make a leopard seal seem as meek and mild as a lamb. His appearance in the third book (The Hammer of the Sun) is... impressive.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition had the Sea Lion, a seal/lion/shark hybrid creature that was noted for being a highly aggressive coastal predator. Later editions renamed it the Sea Tiger, presumably to avoid confusion with the actual sea lion.
  • Pathfinder:
    • Bunyips are enormous seal-like monsters with shark-like teeth (and sometimes dorsal fins), and are infamous for their ferocious and aggressive natures, insatiable appetites and willingness to attack and devour anything smaller than themselves. They often compete for food and territory with other predatory pinnipeds, such as leopard seals.
    • The ice sheet over the Antarkos Ocean is home to ferocious, ten-feet-long leopard seals that literally tear penguins out of their skins before devouring them — their territories can be identified by the bloody, discarded penguin skins left lying around.
    • The setting's take on selkies, in their natural form, look like vaguely humanoid leopard seals, complete with a vicious array of teeth. And while some are friendly enough when they're not snowing you, some would as soon eat a player character as look at one.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama: Not quite a monster, but in the episode satirizing Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, the Beachmaster (Bender's elephant seal counterpart) is an obnoxious Jerkass whose only response to being told he's just crushed a bunch of helpless seal pups is to gloat about how he now gets to sire more of them.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar: Subverted with Hunter, a friendly leopard seal pup who Private saves from a fishing net. Her family are all right too, when they aren't trying to eat the heroes.
  • Pingu: The seal/sea lion/walrus... thing was so unnerving that the episode it appears in, Pingu Dreams, is banned in a number of countries.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In one episode, Homer reads an article in Reader's Digest magazine which describes the bark of a sea lion as a sound all polar explorers dread.
    • In another episode, Homer and Marge tried to vandalize Judge Harm's houseboat, only to be menaced by Poncho, Harm's pet seal that she had somehow trained as an Angry Guard Dog.
  • Wild Kratts:
    • Martin and Coach the sea otter have a close call with a Steller's sea lion, a major predator of sea otters.
    • The first penguin-themed episode also features the penguins' major natural predator, the leopard seal.
  • The Wild Thornberrys: Played with in the episode, "Tamper-Proof Seal", where the Commvee becomes blocked by a group of northern fur seals and their aggressive beachmaster, because the Commvee happened to be parked on the seals' breeding ground. Eliza has to negotiate with the beachmaster by offering his group plenty of fish to eat.
  • The animated short film of Kipling's The White Seal has the aformentioned Asskicking Equals Authority moment. In addition, there's also Kotick's response to witnessing his fellow seals falling victim to human seal hunters where, out of fear and desperation, he yells for them to stop. The hunters, having apparently never seen a white fur seal before and thinking it's the ghost of all the seals they've slaughtered thus far coming back for revenge, promptly drop what they're doing and flee in terror, with an emboldened Kotick chasing them all the way to their boats.

    Real Life 
  • Pelagiarctos, an extinct relative of the walrus, was a macropredator, specialized to hunting prey as large as other pinnipeds.
  • The Southern Elephant (Beachmaster) Seal fits the trope: a massive creature with a Darwinian social ethos, one where the largest and most dominant males ("Beachmasters") ruthlessly enforce their dominance over the majority of lesser males and gather the females together as exclusive harems, fighting and defeating other males who try to challenge. (The majority of males remain un-mated and single). It's kind of evocative of some nightclubs at two in the morning. Fittingly, beachmasters can grow up to 4 tons, meaning they're Large and in Charge!
    • Despite this, quite a few camera-happy tourists unfamiliar with the seals' habits and fooled by their cumbersome appearance on land often find themselves promptly disavowed of that notion when they get too close for a photo.
  • Although there is at least one instance of a leopard seal killing a human, they actually tend to subvert this trope when meeting humans. There have been a few stories of divers coming face-to-face with a leopard seal, only for it to react with curiosity or even playfulness. One such encounter, documented by National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen (see page quote above), resulted in the seal offering dead penguins to him thinking that he was starving and needed food.
  • On the other hand, sea lions, which are often seen as (and usually are) playful and puppy-like have been known to attack and maul humans, especially people who have gotten too close to their pups and/or territory. This usually is a result of one or more persons trying to pet or take a picture with them, although unprovoked attacks have happened as well.
  • Bizarrely, it has been observed that male fur seals rape penguins. Scientists speculate that they are sexually frustrated young males that were unsuccessful in obtaining females of their own species as partners.

 
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Alternative Title(s): Monstrous Sea Lion

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Pingu's Dream

The seal/walrus/sea lion 's appearance in the episode "Pingu's Dream". It's appearance was quite unnerving, and it caused this episode to be banned.

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