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Naïve Animal Lover

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When you want snuggles but get struggles.

There's an old story in which a boy encounters a rattlesnake. The snake asks the boy to pick him up and be his friend. After the boy does so, the snake bites him. When the boy, now dying, asks, "Why did you bite me?" the snake merely responds, "You knew what I was when you picked me up."

Some characters in fiction suffer from the same delusions. No matter how dangerous an animal is, no matter how sharp its teeth or claws are, no matter how many people it has eaten, they insist that it's perfectly safe to be around and get cozy with. Sometimes this stems from a mindset that Humans Are the Real Monsters or "we can learn so much about them", but more often than not, it leads to someone else getting killed or seriously injured. Done well, this can lead to An Aesop about watching yourself around wild animals. Done poorly, and it will come off as needlessly cruel.

This is a subversion of Friend to All Living Things or the Mountain Man. Compare The Farmer and the Viper which is about good deeds being repaid with evil (and a variant of the "old story" described at the start). Characters like this usually are a Horrible Judge of Character except applied to animals instead of people, and will often be Too Dumb to Live. A character may become this if he loves animals but Animals Hate Him. Can overlap with Infantilization Retaliation. If the person actually succeeds in getting bloodthirsty, vicious animals to like them, they're a Fluffy Tamer. May be a member of an Animal Wrongs Group. Can also be related to Nature Is Not Nice. Subtrope of Animal Lover.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Pokémon Adventures manga, Ruby is convinced the pack of wild Mightyena are willing to take part in Contests, even when they're attacking him.

    Comic Books 
  • The Gary Larson book Theres A Hair In My Dirt is about a young worm finding, well, a hair in his plate of dirt. His father starts telling him about a woman called Harriet who loves nature and doesn't understand a damn thing about it. So she goes through the woods "helping" animals in ways that make their situations worse (helping an invasive species at the cost of an endangered one, throwing a tortoise into a pond, rescuing a disease-ridden rodent from a snake), until eventually her lack of comprehension kills her (never kiss a rodent). The final panel is that the hair belongs to the long-dead Harriet's corpse.

    Fan Works 
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Izuku is fond of animals and loved "playing" (read: getting bitten, scratched, and otherwise attacked) by Katsuki's cat Dexter (who isn't a Red Lantern) when they were kids. He's still in complete denial over how much the cat hates him.
    Kyouka: I'm pretty sure this cat hates you.
    Izuku: Come on, that's ridiculous! I've known Dexter my entire life! Sure, he's a little rough around the edges, but he never means anything by this stuff. Things might get a heated, blood may be drawn here and there, but at the end of the day—
    Katsuki: He fucking hates you, Deku.
    Izuku: What? No... no! No, no way. Just, just no! No... but-no, come on! No way!

    Films — Animation 
  • The Disney version of Mowgli from The Jungle Book insists he has all the necessary skills to survive in the jungle when he clearly doesn't, and as such, he thinks he can handle animals that want to kill and/or eat him on his own. The most notable example of this is before the final battle with Shere Khan. Despite the Vultures' insistence to run away, Mowgli refuses to move. Khan probably would have succeeding in killing him, too, if not for Baloo holding him back by his tail at the last second. His lack of jungle savviness is especially ironic since he's spent his whole life being Raised by Wolves.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The events of 28 Days Later were kicked off by a bunch of animal-rights activists liberating a bunch of infected monkeys from a lab.
  • In Elf, Buddy runs into a raccoon and goes over to pet it. The raccoon hisses at him, but Buddy thinks he just needs a hug. That's when the raccoon attacks him.
  • The Werner Herzog documentary Grizzly Man shows the life of Timothy Treadwell, who was one of these in Real Life (see that folder below for more info), and the horrible death that befell him and his girlfriend because Nature Is Not Nice.
  • In Man's Best Friend, the heroine rescues a large and seemingly friendly dog who was being experimented on. Unfortunately the dog is incredibly dangerous and kills several people before the end, although the ditzy 'heroine' escapes completely unscathed.
  • Nope: After escaping Gordy's rampage as a kid, a shell-shocked Ricky attempts to accept the blood-soaked chimp's offer of another fistbump before the animal is shot down. Some of this apparent faith in a human ability to tame animals extends into adulthood, as he tries to put a flying saucer, which turns out to be an even more dangerous animal than any chimp, into a show for his profit.
  • In Prometheus, a character finds a snake-like creature who is obviously acting in an aggressive manner but still decides to get in close to touch it while calling it "baby". It doesn't end well.

  • Ward in Dragon Bones is thought (partly due to his Obfuscating Stupidity) by other characters to be this with regard to a very vicious horse, but in fact is really a Friend to All Living Things, as he knows his way around horses and the horse in question is actually not so much aggressive as ruined by his violent father. The horse actually killed his father, but Ward decides to keep it and give it a cutesy name.
  • In Masques, Aralorn does something incredibly stupid ... she rescues a wounded wolf from a pit trap. Subverted, as she can magically calm the animal down ... and it wasn't an actual animal, anyway. "Wolf", actually a magician in disguise, becomes her friend.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Hagrid, who is known to befriend all sorts of dangerous beasties, from dragons, to flesh-eating books. Played with, in that although they really don't harm him (much), his monsters are often a danger to the heroes.
    • This is at least partly because he doesn't fully grasp just how much stronger and more resilient he is than most humans (he's a three-meter tall half-giant); and also because most of these creatures legitimately don't pose much threat to him. Not to mention, not fully understanding how dangerous said creatures can be to the average human aside, he does know his way around creatures.
    • After his former pet Aragog died, he was genuinely surprised to discover the only reason the giant spiders in the Forbidden Forest didn't attack him on sight was because Aragog told them not to. With Aragog gone, he was no longer off-limits.
  • Referenced in The Colour of Magic:
    [Rincewind] always held that panic was the best means of survival; back in the olden days, his theory went, people faced with hungry sabre-toothed tigers could be divided very simply into those who panicked and those who stood there saying "What a magnificent brute!" and "Here, pussy."
  • In Devolution, everyone is one of these except Dan and Mostar. Despite being so faint when she sees Mostar skin a rabbit, Kate gets over it fairly quickly, but everyone else is immensely dense about it. Bobbi, Carmen, and Effie all refuse to see that actual Bigfoot could be a danger to them, repeatedly insisting that a giant creature who tried to break into their camp was actually just "friendly" and they could make peace with it and feed it.
  • Lone Huntress: When early exploration discovered a habitable planet already host to not just life, but a massive rain forest with kilometer high trees dominating its single continent, colonists eager to embrace an idyllic forager lifestyle quickly discovered just how harsh, brutal, and bloodthirsty nature could be. The survivors soon settled on "hunter-gatherer" lifestyles as an alternative to "forager," and their cultural development over the centuries gave rise to the society of the protagonist's childhood.
  • Reign of the Seven Spellblades: Katie's Friend to All Living Things tendencies give her a reckless streak when it comes to nonhuman life. She sometimes overestimates her very real ability to befriend dangerous critters, which repeatedly lands her in trouble: on the first day of magical biology class, she tries to stop a magical silkworm from metamorphosing into an adult moth and gets badly bitten. She admits in volume 10 that she used to be even worse about it: she once stopped eating entirely as a young girl, preferring to waste away rather than harm another living thing to survive, and then fed her own arms to a litter of egg badger pups rather than witness them cannibalizing their mother to survive during a drought. This comes to a head in volume 9 when she tries to communicate with the god of Uranischegar during a tír migration: the other Sword Roses lock her in their base for the better part of a week while they try to figure out how to address this, leading to the aforementioned Backstory.
  • Small Game has two examples:
    • Lenny the showrunner warns the cast that they should not eat rabbits on camera because "the network doesn't like it". He fears the show's audience might include such animal lovers who ignore the survival setting and complain about eating cute animals.
    • Ashley proves herself one when she adopts a baby fawn even though her teammates insist its mother will return for it. The fawn accepts Ashley as a guardian, but Ashley has no access to deer milk so the fawn starves to death. Later Ashley requests that someone make the potentially dangerous trip back to their previous site to disassemble the fish trap so they won't die in captivity.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Fatal Attractions (2010) tells true stories about Naïve Animal Lovers, many of which ended in tragedy.
  • The Last Place on Earth: A rare example in which it's not the animals themselves doing the harming. Captain Robert Scott is using ponies to haul supplies, which are to be dropped in advance as storage depots for his 1911-1912 march to the South Pole. Scott gets squeamish about the suffering ponies (they aren't doing well in the cold, and one is torn apart by the dogs) and elects to send them back. The ponies wind up dying anyway, and sending them back instead of working them to death on the march south results in the supply depot being too far north, with disastrous consequences.
  • Primeval: In the second series, a woman finds a Smilodon cub that had fallen through an anomaly and decided to adopt it. She thought that because he saw her as his mother, he wouldn't harm her. During the final confrontation, where the protagonists tried to get her away from the now fully-grown predator that had been hunting and eating humans for weeks, she refused and insisted that he wouldn't hurt her. One swipe from his paws proved her fatally wrong.
  • In an episode of Grace Under Fire, Grace's daughter, Libby tries to keep a squirrel in the yard as a pet. Problems arise however later on when the squirrel bites her when she tries to feed it, and it has to be euthanized in order to test for rabies.

    Video Games 
  • Bugsnax has Gramble, who sees Bugsnax as friends, rather than food. Not only does he refuse to eat them, he also tries to tame them in his ranch, with very limited success: he manages to train one Strabby to follow a laser pointer, but none of the others really care much about him, regularly breaking out and running back into the wilderness despite his constant attempts at keeping them around. Gramble fails to understand that Bugsnax are wild animals who don't really take well to being domesticated.
  • One of the special encounters in Fallout Tactics is a Take That! with an NPC attempting a "Deathclaw Liberation". This ends rather quickly... and rather messily.
  • Canary in Phantom Brave creates a monster rights group called "Human Activists for Rare Monsters". Its acronym is also what the average monster wants to do to Canary.
  • An early quest in Xenoblade Chronicles X has an Interceptor named Carl task you with clearing a cave of indigens, but balk at the prospect when it turns out the beasts in question are all young. You're given the option to spare them, in which case they come back later in the game, now grown up and very hungry, and kill several BLADEs in their rampage — including Carl himself.

  • Stand Still, Stay Silent has a gag in which Reynir goes to check on Onni in the dreamspace after the latter contributed to a battle long-distance, finds an animal in Onni's protected area, pets it assuming it's Onni's luonto and finds out it's actually Onni in his luonto form. Onni's luonto is an Eurasian eagle-owl, which it just what it sounds like and an animal nobody with half-decent survival instincts would want to pet, even it can be presumed to be benevolent to an extent.

    Web Original 
  • Impractical Magic: Yam is an animal lover obsessed with getting many many familiars. He loves all animals. Particularly monsters. Particularly dangerous monsters. Particularly horrifying, disgusting, dangerous monsters that he doesn't actually know how to make friends with. Those he wants to steal and raise as his own by default.

    Web Videos 
  • In Noob, a running gag is to have the Kindhearted Simpleton who likes collecting pets think he can do the same with enemy monsters. The story is set in a fantasy MMORPG, so game mechanics are quite clear-cut on what is here to be adopted as a pet and what is here to be killed for experience points. The only exception is one species that has been shown to be subject to Pet Baby Wild Animal.

    Western Animation 
  • In the South Park episode "Rainforest Schmainforest", a Costa-Rican tour guide reassures a frightened Stan that coral snakes are more scared of humans than we are of them — just before the snake attacks him, swallows him whole, and poops him out in a matter of seconds.
    Mrs. Stevens: Jesus Christ, is he dead?!
    Kyle: My guess would be yes.
  • Leela in Futurama is this way.
    • In "The Sting", she gets Fry killed although it's just a dream by bringing a killer space bee aboard the Planet Express because "it's so cuuuutteee!"
    • In "Bender's Game", she refuses to save her friends from a giant worm called the Tunneling Horror because she has just vowed to never kill another living thing.
  • Elmyra Duff from Tiny Toon Adventures is a sweet animal lover and an idiot. It doesn't matter if the animal is ferocious and has sharp teeth and claws, her undying love for them keeps her quite oblivious to how dangerous they are. When she does manage to get her hands on them, the animals find out from the way she treats them that she's even more dangerous than they are.
  • An Animaniacs sketch ("The Hip Hippos") involves a Jane Goodall Expy maintaining vigilance over a pair of City Slicker, Nigh-Invulnerable (because of their obesity) Idle Rich hippos. The Running Gag is her seeing them in (what she believed to be) danger and try to save them, only for the hippos to come out of the stunt all right and her hurt in some comedic fashion (with them not even noticing she was there).
  • The Simpsons: In "The Squirt and the Whale" after failing to save a beached whale, Lisa tries to save its pod of offspring from a group of sharks. But then she learns An Aesop that sharks need to live too, and in order to live they eat other animals — such as baby whales.
  • Bubbles of The Powerpuff Girls (1998). A friend to just about every creature great and small. Magnified in "Helter Shelter" when she brings a beached baby whale home.
  • While Fluttershy of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is usually good at dealing with animals, she becomes this in "Swarm of the Century" when she decides to adopt a cute parasprite, which then multiplies and very nearly destroys Ponyville by eating everything (even buildings) in sight. After Twilight and the others have found a way to rid the town of the parasprites and are congratulating themselves on a job well done, what do they find but a new colony in Fluttershy's cottage. She couldn't resist keeping one, despite knowing the damage that they cause and the fact that they breed like tribbles.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants has quite a strong admiration for jellyfish (which this show treats as an undersea equivalent to honeybees), but this ends up biting him in the back a couple of times. In one episode ("Jellyfish Jam"), SpongeBob decides to take one home as an exotic pet, believing that he can tame it. In another episode ("Nature Pants"), SpongeBob decides he wants to live as a wild man alongside the jellyfish in their natural habitat. But on both occasions, SpongeBob eventually finds out the hard way that the jellyfish are aggressive, ill-tempered, wild animals that don't really care for him.
    • "A Pal For Gary" certainly showcases SpongeBob as one. He's too fooled by Puffy Fluffy's cuteness to realize how dangerous it is, completely ignoring the seller's warning and stealing it without paying.
  • The Wild Thornberrys: Eliza has a tendency to think that just because she has the ability to talk to and understand animals, she knows more about the animal in question than actual experts. However, regardless of whether or not she has the ability to talk to them, at the end of the day, they're still wild animals, who behave (for the most part) exactly as wild animals behave in real life. For example, she wants to meet and talk to a Komodo dragon in "The Dragon and the Professor", and when she finally slips away from camp and finds one, it immediately tries to eat her because it sees her as easy prey. That said, Eliza does know better than to try to talk to or seek out crocodiles, because she knows they're opportunistic predators who will eat her regardless of her animal-talking abilities. She also generally avoids bears and big cats unless she's trying to help them out in some way, and even then, they still react how an animal would around a human. For example, when Eliza and her grandfather, Frank, find a bear caught in a trap in "The Anniversary", they attempt to free it. The only reason why they succeed is thanks to Eliza's animal talking abilities convincing the bear to trust them, and Frank doesn't hesitate to point out how dangerous helping an injured animal is without the proper training and equiptment.
    Frank: Eliza, get back! You have no idea what an animal in pain will do!
  • Pax, a recurring Anti-Villain on Ben 10: Omniverse, constantly attempts to free alien creatures that are actively harmful if left to their own devices (in his first appearance, he talked Ben into helping him free a Screegit not knowing it would grow big and rampage once exposed to an atmosphere with nitrogen in it, and in his second he freed the Grackleflint which Rook says wants nothing more than to eat anything that isn't another Grackleflint) and then has the nerve to complain when Ben and Rook try to contain them again when said creatures inevitably cause trouble.

    Real Life 
  • Thankfully, this is mostly averted with people who work with animals, like zookeepers and veterinarians. They love and want to help animals, but are educated about animal behaviors, and wholly understand that not all animals are going to be friendly. They might appear jovial about the animals, but they are experts who aren't ignorant of the danger.
  • Timothy Treadwell wanted to spend some time in the wild living with grizzly bears in Alaska, in an attempt to show the public that the animals are not the murderous monsters everyone believes them to be. While he survived that experience, he and his girlfriend did not survive their later encounter with a brown bear. Also see the documentary about this called Grizzly Man.
  • Obviously, this happens a lot in real life. Sometimes nothing worse than a bad scare comes of it, sometimes the consequences are downright tragic, and everything in-between. Even animals that most people see as harmless — deer and rabbits, for example — can cause painful and even serious injuries if they feel threatened.
  • In 2003, the Eco-Terrorist group Animal Liberation Front freed and released 10,000 minks from a fur farm. Minks are just cute harmless rodents, right? Nope, they're vicious predators and though they may look a little like rodents they are actually in the same family as wolverines and honey badgers. Once they were set free, they hunted down and killed numerous animals in the area, including dogs, ducks, chickens, and fish on a nearby farm. Many of them also got killed when they ran into traffic, having learned to associate the sound of a running motor with food from the motorized food delivery carts on the mink farm. When they were recaptured and put back into cages, many of the minks killed and ate each other (a mink can live peacefully with its family members, but the farmer had no way of identifying which of the recaptured minks were related).
  • Another scenario similar to the example above occurred in 2017. Between 30,000 and 40,000 farm-raised minks were released into the wild after animal rights activists cut the fence to a mink-pelt farm and opened the cages holding the mammals, letting them run into the wild. Unfortunately, farm-raised animals rarely survive for long in the wild, and many of the minks died once released because of the heat, or being run over by cars. What's worse, the ones that were recovered killed one another due to the disruption to their social grouping.
    • It happened yet again in late 2022 and 2023.