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Picky People Eater

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"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver, with some fava beans and a nice chianti."
Dr. Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs
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Humans, like most living things, are composed of many different organs and tissue types. Some people-eating monsters out there will not find all of those parts appetizing enough to eat.

A monster can be made more horrifying if instead of simply eating people, it eats only certain parts of people. The vampire is the best known example of this type of monster with its interest in blood. But for every organ or tissue type composing the human body, there will be some critter that finds it a delicacy. This makes some amount of sense, since humans themselves often favour certain parts of their livestock as food, instead of just eating the whole hog.

The horror quotient can really be ramped up if the part the monster is interested in can be extracted without immediately killing the victim. The victim can then suffer a slow, screaming death in front of their companions and the audience as the monster painfully extracts its chosen food. Also a partially consumed corpse can be stumbled over announcing to the audience and the characters that something is rotten in Denmark.

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I'm a Humanitarian is the supertrope if feeder and victim are both human. If they're not, then see To Serve Man for human-eaters, or Monstrous Cannibalism for non-humans eating fellow non-humans. Brain Food is a subtrope, as is vampirism (blood drinking) in most cases. Those who are unfit for eating are usually Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth. Only distantly related to Picky Eater, which is rejecting normal foods out of immaturity.


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Examples:

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     Anime and Manga 
  • In Delicious in Dungeon, kelpies eat all of the body except the liver. Senshi is affronted that Anne, a kelpie he befriended who later tried to eat him, would have wasted one of the most nutritious parts of him.
  • Mushishi: The mushi are often fond of eating strange things. People can have their eyes, memories, dreams, "life force" and so on consumed. One particularly strange example involves a mushi that can take a recently dead human corpse, eat the "lifespan" of that corpse and revert it into an embryonic form that can be implanted into a pregnant woman. (Of course, most of these examples aren't nearly as squicky as the usual examples of this trope, and some people are even able to benefit, at least temporarily, from the mushi taking over and/or consuming some part of their body.)
  • Mermaid Saga: Natsume Came Back Wrong after being brought back from the dead using a mermaid's liver. As a result, she now exclusively eats livers, be it those of animals or humans.
  • Claymore: The Youma and Awakened Beings prefer to eat entrails.
  • In InuYasha while demons tend to feed on people, many of them have specific preferences, including a Mantis monster that'll feed on innards, Juromaru (one of Naraku's creations) who was fond of livers and a giant, skinned Salamander demoness who needs to eat the skins of male people or demons in order to regain her form. There's also the Zushi Rat, who leaves the flesh to his countless rat children and takes the bones for himself.
  • Hunter × Hunter: The Chimera Ant King prefers the brains of Nen-users. To make things worse, he absorbs his victims' Nen to make his own aura even stronger.
  • Tokyo Ghoul: Shuu Tsukiyama is so picky about his victims that he earns the alias The Gourmet. Unlike other Ghouls, he primarily focuses on victims with some unique or exceptional trait (a marathon runner's thighs, or beautiful sepia-toned eyes) and tends to only take those excellent parts. He considers consuming the finest, rarest ingredients to be a higher calling and wraps up all the brutality in a veneer of high-class dining.

     Comic Books  
  • The Sandman: The Corinthian likes to eat the eyes of his victims — with the little mouths that he has in place of his own eyes. In doing so, he is able to see the last thing they saw before they died.
  • In Lucifer there was a monster that fed on humans. A demon offers it a human she has befriended. It turns out the monster feeds on corruption and the only example of that in the man is cancer which it extracts harmlessly.
  • Batman foe Cornelius Stirk operates under the delusion that he needs the nutrients and hormones from people's hearts in order to stay alive, and these are best prepared with norepinephrine by inducing fear in the victim prior to death. In other words, he scares people, then kills them and eats their hearts. You can probably guess what era of comics decided they needed a Darker and Edgier People Eating version of Scarecrow.
  • Marvel Comics:
    • Venom: In the The Dark Age of Comic Books, Venom was given the trait that he needed to regularly consume dopamines, meaning he could either become a huge chocoholic or else gorge himself on human brains.
    • X-Men: Emplate of the feeds on mutant bone marrow.
  • Top 10: The Libra Killer feeds on human pineal glands.
  • In Grendel, Tujiro was an Asian vampire who consumed eyeballs as well as blood.

    Fanfic 
  • In Lost in Camelot, a Lost Girl Merlin (2008) crossover, Kilgharrah contemplates eating Kenzi because her attitude annoys him when she comes to talk to him on her own, but decides against it because she is so thin that he would be picking bits of her out of his teeth for ages afterwards.

    Film 
  • Island of Terror had the bone-eating Silicates. They used their tentacles to inject a bone-dissolving enzyme into a victim, then suck the liquefied skeleton out, leaving behind misshapen, boneless bodies.
  • Deep Rising had a creature interested only in human bodily fluids. It left its victims as a pile of bone and digested guts.
  • Jeepers Creepers: The Creeper's modus operandi is to frighten his victims, causing them to release pheromones which he sniffs to detect whether or not they have the... pieces he wants (or needs to replace lost bits). He the proceeds to remove body parts from his chosen victims, consuming the smaller parts like eyes. Whether or not the victim is still alive at the time of "extraction" doesn't seem to matter to the Creeper.
  • The Silence of the Lambs: Hannibal Lecter, but only as an extension of his gourmet tendencies when it comes to all his food. For example, he'll often take delicacies such as sweetbreads, kidneys, the liver or oyster meat — a tendency which first clues Will Graham in to the notion that his suspect is a cannibal, and ultimately leads to Lecter's capture. He's also picky as to which people he'll eat.
  • The Mummy (1999): Imhotep is probably one of the pickiest people eaters around. He takes body parts only from the people who have already stolen his.
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army: The "tooth fairies" eat the whole person, but go for the teeth first.
  • Fiend Without a Face: The title critters puncture people's skulls and slurp out their brains and spinal cords "like an egg," leaving behind the empty-headed corpses.
  • The Return of the Living Dead is the Trope Maker for the idea of Zombies craving only Braaaaaainnnnssss...
  • Autoshop Of Horrors is about a psychotic who, inspired by literature about the ancient Aztecs, begins killing people so that he can eat their eyes, convinced that doing so would eventually imbue him with precognition.
  • La Peau Blanche: The succubus-like vampires prefer to feed on black people, because apparently more melanin = tastier.
  • Meat The Jones: Instead of a rural white family, the Cannibal Clan is an urban black one that only eats white people, because along with being crazy they are also racist (though, amusingly, not to the point of being unwilling to sell their meals to the Caucasian members of the underground cannibal network that they are apart of).

    Jokes 
  • What do cannibals call <insert Acceptable Targets here>? "Junk food".
  • What did the cannibal eat when he was on a diet? Children.
  • What does a vegetarian cannibal eat? PVS cases.
  • A battleship is sunk, killing the vast majority of the crew. The only survivors are three sailors and their captain, who, seeing the chances of his charges' survival drop rapidly after days of drifting aimlessly and running out of rations, decides to shoot himself so that his men may eat his body and survive. When the captain stands up and places a pistol to his temple, a young seaman stops him from pulling the trigger, saying "Oh captain, please don't shoot yourself in the head." The captain states "I have to, son- for the good of my crew." The seaman replies "But you don't understand- brains are my favorite dish!"
  • One Feghoot concerns a man named Steve searching for his friend Bob, who went to Darkest Africa to market a soda called Fresca. As he travels through Africa, Steve encounters all manner of locals, missionaries, explorers, etc., drinking Fresca with any food they gather or catch. They all learned from Bob that "[whatever they're eating] tastes good with Fresca". Eventually, Steve runs across a Cannibal Tribe who ate Bob after buying a bunch of Fresca from him. As the leader explains, "Bob tastes good with Fresca." Horrified, Steve inquires about what exactly the cannibals ate from Bob's body: "You mean you ate his eyes? His legs? His heart?" And so on. The leader explains that yes, all those body parts taste good with Fresca too. Finally:
    Steve: Uh...wait a minute. Wait one minute. You don’t mean to tell me you — you ate his — you know, his, uh, thing?
    Leader: Yes.
    Steve: ...You ate his thing with Fresca?
    Leader: No.
    Steve: Huh? But I thought...
    Leader: Things go better with Coke. (Note: for younger readers, that was an advertising jingle for Coca-Cola in the 1960s.)
  • Why don't cannibals eat clowns? Because they taste funny.

    Literature 
  • Orson Scott Card's short story "Kingsmeat", collected in Maps in a Mirror. The alien king and queen would kill a person and only use a small part for their meals, so the "shepherd" convinces them to let him merely remove what they want and let the people keep living. When the people are liberated, they reward the shepherd with many gifts, and also remove those body parts he doesn't strictly need to survive (though they leave him his eyes).
  • Paul Jennings and Morris Gleitzman's children's book Wicked! (no connection) featured the Slobberers, slug-like nasties that sucked the bones right out of their victims' bodies. While still alive.
  • Ella Enchanted contains a scene in which the heroine is captured by a family of ogres, who argue over how to divide up her parts. (The neck is the best part, apparently.)
  • Cthulhu Mythos: Some monstrosities have weird dietary preferences for blood, brains, marrow, etc.
  • The Deltora Quest children's books feature the Granous, large furry humanoids who prefer fingers and toes, eaten one by one as they play sadistic riddle games with their victims.
  • Secret Of The Sixth Magic, by Lyndon Hardy, has the skyskirr subsist on bone marrow, which they can somehow drain from living creatures' limbs without necessarily killing them.
  • Santa Steps Out: The Tooth Fairy lived on teeth and bones, although she had a few other uses for the rest of the body. You really don't want to know where that dime under your pillow came from — she eats the tooth and then shits out the dime.
  • Discworld:
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Night Lords series has Uzas, who shows a great fondness for eating geneseed, preferably from the still living flesh of loyalist marines. One could take it solely as a sign of his status as the resident Ax-Crazy, but even the hero Talos makes mention of the practice, and later eats the heart of a Blood Angel he killed in act of revenge.
    • A Bastion Wars novel shows a rebel insurgency of Chaos cultists trying to liberate their planet, and they have a tendency to cut out and eat the livers of their Imperial counterparts.
  • The Relic featured a creature that could only survive by consuming a specific protein found in a certain Amazon plant and human hypothalami.
  • The Doctor Who Expanded Universe short story "She Won't Be Home", the Festulasions kidnap humans and harvest their toes as party snacks. Festulasion toes grow back, and they're horrified when they finally realise human toes don't.
  • The BFG: Some giants like specific kinds of human meat. Only the Bloodbottler explicitly prefers a specific body part (take a wild guess what it is), but some other giants have names that likely indicate their favorite body parts to eat (Bonecruncher, Gizzardgulper) or their favorite types of people to eat (Manhugger, Maidmasher, Childchewer). The Bonecruncher is also considered a picky eater because he likes Turkish people, who apparently (ha ha) taste like turkey. The giants will also go out of their way to avoid Greeks due to them tasting like grease.
  • The Weakness Of Beatrice The Level Cap Holy Swordswoman: Kallikantzaros is a vampire who only feeds on the blood of Iberian Orcs (and hence will only make new vampires out of them). This is because she hates the taste of any other kind of blood. Unfortunately, at the time of the series there's only one Iberian Orc because the others were all killed, but fortunately Kallikantzaros is willing to wait until the population builds back up (Iberian Orcs can interbreed with other races and the offspring are still Iberian Orcs).
  • In Tales of MU demons and their part-human descendants need to consume specific human parts which vary by the individual. Half-demon Mack drinks a pint of virgin's blood once a month while her father eats ovaries, a more human part-demon mentions she gets by on blonde hair.

     Live Action TV  
  • The X-Files:
    • Eugene Victor Tooms fed on human livers.
    • The "fat-sucking vampire" from "2Shy" that fed on overweight women. There's a business model right there.
    • A monster from "Leonard Betts" that replenished itself by eating tumors.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Gnarls have a thing for skin.
    • There are other species mentioned as having this habit, like Small Bone Eaters and Large Bone Eaters. (Note that those names refer to the size of the bones they eat, not the creatures themselves.) For that matter, vampires themselves technically count, since they're only interested in the blood.
  • Angel: One demon ate only the hearts of heroes. This gave Angel a bout of low self-esteem when it didn't want his, though a couple of people pointed out that maybe it just didn't want to eat a heart dead for two hundred years.
  • Sliders: Among the Kromaggs human eyes are a delicacy. The series' first recurring Big Bad, Colonel Rickman, suffered from a degenerative nerve disease that required him to regularly steal brain fluid and inject it into himself to survive. His victims were left in comas.
  • Farscape: There was the girl who ate bones. And Scorpy's girlfriend who liked to eat eyes. Especially blue ones.
  • Fringe: "Midnight" has a woman who's been turned by mad scientists into a cerebrospinal fluid sucking vampire.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • Eddie Mays from "Blood Hungry" ate a body part believed to contain the soul. Of course, so many religions believed the soul existed in a body part and they were all different, so Eddie just wound harvesting a different one from each victim (liver, stomach, and heart).
    • Then we have Floyd Feylinn Ferell, who did not like to eat junkies because "they tasted funny".
  • CSI: One perpetrator has her attack dogs kill people, then converts the most blood-rich of their internal organs into a milkshake-like slurry. She suffers from porphyria, a metabolic disorder that caused insanity in her case, and was convinced that consuming such organs was the only way to self-medicate.
  • Smallville: In "Static", the alien Aldar tears people apart and eats their bones, leaving the rest to rot.
  • Supernatural: Monsters and pagan gods tend to be humanitarians with picky tastes. Aside from vampires, there's South American pishtacos that only eat fat, kitsune that only subsist on a single gland from the brain and Greek Goddesses of truth and moral purity that only eat tongues and livers respectively. Werewolves in this continuity are known for never leaving the heart behind when they feed.

    Music 
  • Sheb Wooley: The eponymous monster in "The Purple People Eater" only eats purple people.

    Mythology 
  • The Each-uisge in myths of the British isles would take the form of a horse and lure children on to its back, where it would eat their insides — except for their kidneys or livers, which would float to the surface. The same is true of the Kelpie of Scotland.
  • Oriental mythology is full of these.
    • The kappa of Japanese Mythology would pull children (and sometimes adults) underwater and suck their intestines (or blood, or liver, or ki/lifeforce — the mythology is inconsistent on just what they ate) out through their anus. (This part is pretty consistent.) You could only protect yourself from this fate by carving your name on an even tastier treat and tossing it into the water. The one food they preferred over human innards? Cucumbers. Well, that or trick the kappa into bowing, causing the water to be poured out of its head and rendering it powerless. Obviously, if the kappa is in a body of water at the time, this technique is useless.
    • The kumiho of Korean Mythology (a form of nine-tailed shape-shifting fox spirit with a serious mean streak in later myths) is said in various myths to eat people, but only one particular organ. In some, it's the heart, while in others, it's the liver, as that's where your Life Energy is supposed to reside.
  • Aztec Mythology: The ahuizotl eats human flesh, but was said to be especially fond of teeth, eyes, toenails, and fingernails.
  • It's common among cannibalistic peoples not only to be picky about what parts to eat, but about which people to eat. As eating is often held to absorb someone's moral characteristics as well as their physical ones, they go out of their way to be sure to eat a Worthy Opponent. In other words, if you ever get eaten, just consider it a compliment!
  • Classical Mythology: Prometheus' Fate Worse than Death was to be chained to a rock and have an eagle to return every day to eat his liver, which would then regenerate overnight.
  • The Indus worm, a creature purported to live along the banks of the Indus River in Greek, Roman and medieval European literature and bestiaries, is an ambush predator that feeds on large beasts and on humans, dragging them beneath the water and devouring every part of them except for their intestines, which it leaves to float back to the surface.
  • The Malaysian Penanggalan is said to only feed on the blood of pregnant women and/or children, or on the heart/blood/flesh of unborn babies, depending on which region you hear it from. The Manananggal is often similarly picky in its choice of victims, with its traditional favorite food being the blood of pregnant women and the hearts of unborn babies.

     Other Sites 

     Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • The game is stuffed full of these such as the bonedrinkers which, funnily enough, drink their enemies' bones. Inverted with the Chuul, which eats everything except for the brain, which is toxic to them. Mind Flayers, who play this straight, keep them as pets to throw brainless corpses to.
    • One monster with a very specific — and very revolting — diet is the avolakia, a magical abomination resembling an unholy cross between a lamprey, insect, and octopus in its true form. It can eat the flesh of living or dead beings, but it's disgusted by both; it much prefers the flesh of undead beings. All avolakia are skilled in necromancy, so they can raise hordes of zombies to serve as both bodyguards and walking larders at the same time.
    • In Ravenloft there's Tiyet, the Darklord of Sebua. Technically a mummy, even though she doesn't look like one or any sort of undead being (resembling a beautiful Egyptian queen), Tiyet is compelled to kill victims to eat their hearts (preferably fresh and still beating); this is very much an addiction connected to the curse that earned her the position of a Darklord. This addiction is also connected to the one way she can be killed; she can regenerate From a Single Cell if defeated, but she can be slain permanently by tricking her into eating her own heart, which is still in the temple where the mummification ritual was done that transformed her into an undead. If it were ever offered to her, it would start to beat, and she would be unable to resist it, even though it would mean her doom.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade, this is the clan Flaw of the Ventrue. Being of such refined taste and upbringing, they can only partake of blood that comes from a certain kind of subject. This varies from Ventrue to Ventrue, with such "tastes" including virgins, gay men, priests, etc.
    • The 20th anniversary Dark Ages book for Masquerade introduces the Impundulu, an African bloodline who can only feed off their founder's descendants, the Bomkazi family of witches (who fortunately have the ability to heal). Trouble is, by the time of the game's setting in the 13th century, the Impundulu are running into problems, as the Bomkazi are becoming either so inbred they're developing problems, or so distant their blood can't sustain the Impundulu.
    • In the successor game, Vampire: The Requiem, this quality leaves the Ventrue (in favor of a whole different Flaw), but shows up in some of the bloodlines; the Mekhet clan's Morbus (can only gain sustenance from those with a disease) and Brothers of Ypres (can only gain sustenance from blood that is tainted; they prefer poisons, but disease, drugs, and radiation all count), and the Daeva clan's Anvari (gain less nourishment if they drink from people who aren't high on narcotics — the blood must be tainted with opiates to have its full effectiveness for them).
      • In all of these cases, there's a bit of a loophole — the requirements don't apply to blood from other vampires. However, drinking vampire blood is full of its own problems.
      • In fact, in Requiem, vampires become increasingly picky eaters, starting out being able to drink blood from anything, then only human or vampire blood, and then only vampire or monster blood.
      • Requiem has several twisted "relatives" of the vampire community who particularly embody this trope. The Formosae only feed upon the fat and/or ugly; this is because they actually make their victims thinner and more beautiful (if they survive the feeding), and so they can get people to willingly feed themselves to the Formosae. Mnemovores eat memories in an attempt to fill out the mental fugue that clouds their own memories. Baykosh is a unique ghost who only eats the hearts of warriors — and that's just a bit of symbolism to let him eat their lifespan.
  • Deadlands features plenty of monsters that prefer specific bits and pieces of people. One character even invokes this trope in the After the End sequel when talking about intelligence gathering. It boils down to "if a monster's been eating spleens, you better know the whole situation, or you'll be minus one spleen."

     Video Games  

     Web Comics 
  • Sluggy Freelance: Subverted with the zombies, who don't have a preference for any parts. Double Subverted by Jane, who figured out that her own parts would be maintained by the parts she eats, and selected Brain Food. Triple Subverted by the zombies she misled while they still had the intelligence to catch on to it, so she could keep them dumb and controllable.

     Western Animation  
  • Stroker and Hoop: One episode has the eponymous characters' organs stolen by a "friendly" cannibalistic cult that only eats the non-vital organs of its victims.
  • In The Smurfs, a monster called the Creepodile lived in the Pussywillow Hollow swamp, usually in a deep slumber; if it ever woke up, it would not return to sleep until it found and devoured a king. Naturally, King Bullrush of the wartmongers — whose kingdom was the swamp — was terrified of what might happen if it awoke, and when Vanity actually did so, Bullrush made him king so it would go after Vanity instead. (The Smurflings were able to save Vanity by fooling the beast into eating a gourd dressed up in royal clothes.)
  • Men in Black: In the opening of "The Inanimate Syndrome", Kay and Jay save a girl being preyed upon by a shapeshifting alien who eats hearts.
  • Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot: Dr. Neugog consumes people's intelligence and as a result prefers to feed on brilliant minds such as doctors and scientists and passes up less intelligent meals, however he does make an exception for Donovan because in his own words "I don't like you".
  • Futurama: In "Spanish Fry", it's revealed that human noses are in high demand among aliens as an edible aphrodisiac. Once it's explained to him that "human horn" is not actually a part of Earthling males' genitalia, Lrr immediately adjusts his plans for a romantic dinner with his wife, intending to consume Fry's ... "lower horn" instead.

     Real Life 
  • A lot of parasites are very picky eaters; which is to say they have evolved into highly specialized niches.
    • Eyebrow mites only eat the sebum (oils) secreted from sebaceous pores around our eyebrows.
    • Dust mites only eat flakes of dead skin.
    • Some liver flukes can only survive in the bile duct, or the gall bladder.
    • Most viruses can only enter specific cell types:
      • Many Herpes-type virues only attack nerve cells.
      • Some cancer causing Human papiloma viruses can only attack skin cells at the boundry of external skin and intestinal tract (i.e. rectum and throat).
      • HIV only attacks cells expressing the ccr5 or cxc4 receptors (usually cd4 t-lymphocytes).
  • While most carnivores will more than freely pick a corpse clean, predators that have to compete with something bigger that will run them off from a kill (IE, a Cheetah avoiding lions or hyenas, wolves avoiding a bear or a larger pack) go directly for the liver and other organs where carbs and nutrients are richest.
  • In Lake Tanganyika, a species of cichlid fish specializes in attacking other fish by biting off and eating their prey's scales. Individuals of these scale-eating fish will have their long jaws twisted to permit them to attack either the left side or the right side of their victims. One can easily tell whether the right-side attacking population or the left-side attacking population is greater by seeing which direction other fish flee towards when spooked.
  • In Siberia, the Blakiston's Fish Owl, as with other fishing owls, preys on fish it captures in rivers and streams. The Pel's preferentially starts with the head of the fish, and in times of plenty, an owl may eat only the head and abandon the rest of its meal.
  • During the salmon season, a grizzly bear, depending on how well it's fed up to that point in the year, may only go for certain parts of the fish they catch, such as brains and caviar, and leave the rest to rot (or be eaten by scavengers).
  • While a bearded vulture will eat meat if it has to, it prefers to eat bone, often digging through a corpse to get to the bones and ignoring the meat.
  • Cannibalistic serial killer Dorángel Vargas only preyed on fit male adults. When asked why, he explained that women and children were too "pure" to kill and eat, and that he thought that "fat people" would be too unhealthy and high in cholesterol.
  • The reason that kuru was more common among women and children in the tribes that practiced ritual cannibalism as part of funerary rites, had to do with the parts that they were eating. Men were eating mainly the skeletal muscle, while the women and children were restricted from doing so, and consumed the brain and other organs instead. (i.e. the parts more likely to be infected with the causative prion.)

Alternative Title(s): Picky Cannibal

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