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Reluctant Monster

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"I'm just a shade shy of true wickedness
I'm just a shade shy of truly loving this
Yeah, there are other things I'd rather be doing
Even nothing."
The Tragically Hip, "Family Band"

The Reluctant Monster (usually) has no idea that they're a monster. They're a member of a species that traditionally does nasty things to people, but for them it just never crossed their mind. Folks tend to scream and run away, which is rather disheartening and lonely.

In darker stories, people will try to kill them — cue a classic Van Helsing Hate Crimes setup. Occasionally there are other, more traditional members of their kind who do terrorize humanity, but the Reluctant Monster's mild temperament sets them apart from their own kind just as much. In more traditional groups, they're the Minion with an F in Evil.

The people trying to kill the Reluctant Monster may be Fantastic Racist Knights Templar who just kill monsters out of hatred or otherwise good people with the Freudian Excuse of having lost loved ones or their homes to other members of the Monster's species. The latter can be played as White-and-Grey Morality, such as the Monster apologising for their species' actions while dissociating themselves from the incidents which in turn drives the people in question to forgive and seek forgiveness themselves in turn.

True heroes look past appearances and befriend them, even advocating better treatment. Usually, someone notices they aren't attacking and discovers their true nature. If the monster realizes that people see them as a monster and pretends to behave accordingly, that's a Monster Façade. They may be The Exile if their own species don't like having them around.

The very extreme of My Species Doth Protest Too Much — unless they're all like this, that is. If the character is of great size, they may be a Gentle Giant. If they're "ugly", they might be a Gorgeous Gorgon. Compare Non-Malicious Monster, Reluctant Psycho, Obliviously Evil, and Monster Adventurers. Likely to result in Van Helsing Hate Crimes.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Attack on Titan, the Rogue Titan is something of a dark example of this. Unlike other Titans, it does not attack or devour humans, but seems more interested in furiously fighting and killing any other Titan that it finds. The Rogue Titan is actually Eren Yeager, one of the few humans who possess the ability to shift into Titan form. True to the cynical tone of the series, many of the military want nothing more than to kill him even when he reverts back to human form.
  • Misaki from Blood Alone is a completely innocent little vampire girl. At her worst, she's a pouty Clingy Jealous Girl.
  • The "Fat Buu" incarnation of Majin Buu from Dragon Ball Z is an enormously powerful, childlike, playful, generally friendly creature that only causes mass destruction because he was ordered to by his creator; the character of Mr. Satan is able to reform Buu simply by informing him that it is wrong to kill and asking him not to do so anymore. Much later, after the Big Bad has been defeated, the people of Earth shun Buu, citing the worldwide devastation he caused prior to his Heel–Face Turn; this forces the Z Fighters to erase Buu from the memories of everyone on the planet so that he will be able to live among them.
  • Seras Victoria of Hellsing is fully aware of her condition, but she does her best.
  • Shades of this, mixed with Bad Powers, Good People, color the God of Poverty in Kamichu!.
  • Young Gaara from Naruto fits this trope to an extent as he holds within him a monster but is quite a kind and helpful person... who everyone runs away from screaming. This further upsets him and makes the sand react in a dangerous manner, reinforcing the fear. An attempt made on his life by the only person to have ever shown him kindness causes him to snap and embrace his monstrous side.
  • Another ghost who is barely aware of it, Aisaka Sayo from Negima! Magister Negi Magi. The manga version is a Cute Clumsy Girl who manages to trip over her own feet despite not actually having feet. The anime version gets an entire episode.
  • An interesting case is Garou in One-Punch Man. While he hates heroes and desperately wants to be a monster, and his desire is so great that he eventually transforms into one, he still holds up his ideals, refusing to kill humans and only 'hunting' heroes to defeat them and not kill them.
  • Ichiko from Otoboku - Maidens Are Falling For Me. The main character has a hard time convincing her that she's a ghost, despite her constant floating, not to mention the fact that she hasn't aged in about twenty years, during which she's been living in a closet (although certainly not in the closet).
  • Shia from Pita-Ten. Worst... demon... ever. She's nicer than the angel. Than most angels. Her Right-Hand Cat is embarrassed. This has disastrous consequences, much more so in the manga.
  • The Ranma ½ anime has Kogane, the least frightening of all the various monsters, spirits and demons that have shown up (a list that includes, but is not limited to, a pair of giant, but harmless, jellyfish, a badly drawn female panda come to life, an evil spirit that possesses people to feed on their evil impulses and their life-force, a hideous horse kami and his equally ugly boar kami friend, the Orochi and a demonic cherry tree). She does have Ghostly Goals... finding a tanuki doll she forgot to pick up when she bought the notebook that her spirit is anchored to, and is so shy and retiring she bursts into tears when Nabiki demands to know what she wants (quoth Kasumi; "Nabiki, please stop scaring the ghost").

    Comic Books 
  • The stupid rat creatures in Bone argue about whether they should act like monsters or not, and on occasion try to get out of trouble by telling the good guys "It's not our fault we're monsters, we were born this way!"
  • The Incredible Hulk: The Hulk is often portrayed this way, having a childlike psyche and repeatedly claiming that he just wants to be left alone, yet the military and various supervillains are always after him.
  • Judgment Day (Marvel Comics) has Syne the Memotaur, a skyscraper-sized fire-monster that, when unleashed, causes unending destruction because that is her nature. Despite this, what she really wants is to be a poet, and even while attempting genocide she manages to connect to the internet and befriend a poetry fan named Sally.
    Sally: You're a killer. And when you die, you kill people. And I saw footage of what you did to the mutants. It doesn't matter if you joined up with them at the last minute. You still did that. That's some *** up ***.
    Syne the Memotaur: It is, and if I am ever released I will likely do it again. I hope this is the last the world has seen of me and my sisters. While we stay in storage, I will write laments for all I have seen and done. If I am unleashed again, may I share the poems with you or your children or your children's children?
  • Superman: Bizarro is often written as possessing all of Superman's heroic tendencies, but with such a... well, bizarre view of the world that his attempts to express them only cause disaster.
  • Swordquest: Earthworld has Cancer, a gigantic green crab who cheerfully helps rescue explorers who've fallen into its tidepool.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Tiger, the cat Fievel befriends in An American Tail. Unlike the other cats he doesn't enjoy eating mice and is vegetarian, it's not clear why he was a member of the Mott Street Maulers cat gang that was terrorising the mice as he switch sides to Fievel's after one conversation. It's possible he just wanted friends.
  • In Monsters vs. Aliens, Susan Murphy grows to a height of almost fifty feet after being stuck by a meteorite. She is quickly labeled a "monster" by the government and is put in a detention facility, despite not doing anything malicious or intentionally destructive at all. She is joined by her fellow inmates Doctor Cockroach, the Missing Link, B.O.B., and Insectosaurus.
  • Unlike his brethren, Louis the Alligator from The Princess and the Frog doesn't want to eat frogs or scare people. He just wants to play jazz trumpet and perform on stage.
  • The title character of Shrek, more cynical and self-aware than most, is fully aware of his species' reputation; he just wants to be left alone. He plays up the monstrous act to keep people with Torches and Pitchforks away from his swamp.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • That one alien in Aliens in the Attic.
  • Possibly the eponymous monster in Cloverfield. According to the producers, Clovie was given a rude awakening by a falling satellite and was more disoriented and grumpy than actually malicious. He's also supposed to be a baby, and so the whole movie could just be considered the result of a kaiju temper tantrum.
  • Theresa & Allison: Theresa is horrified at herself after she's killed repeatedly for blood as a vampire, resolving not to and using only donations. She's even more horrified at seeing how many vampires have no qualms about this, and even play with their food first. This turns out to include Allison, whom she's become lovers with.
  • The titular Van Helsing refuses to kill Frankenstein's monster for this exact reason.
    Van Helsing: Evil may have created him, evil may have left its mark on him, but evil does not rule him, so I cannot kill him.

  • The title character of The BFG is the only giant who eats vegetables instead of humans. He's also a midget runt (for a giant) so the others enjoy beating him up.
  • In Bride of the Slime Monster by Craig Shaw Gardner, the eponymous Slime Monster doesn't really like scaring people. His name is Edward, and he's simply very misunderstood.
  • Discworld:
    • The novel Reaper Man features a boogeyman who is actually very agoraphobic and vastly prefers hiding behind things over jumping out from behind them at people. He gets better just in time for a Big Damn Heroes moment, where he saves everyone from a sentient shopping mall.
    • Unseen Academicals has Nutt, an orc pretending to be a goblin-thing because of the stigma surrounding orcs. (Orcs were created by an Evil Overlord to be used as super-soldiers in some war).
    • The Watch books have Angua, a werewolf who is really quite civilized and hates the monstrous members of her race.
  • The various Frankenstein films have often portrayed the monster who acts as a main character as a confused beast who doesn't want to hurt anyone and is unfairly hunted down by the villagers. In the original Frankenstein novel, the monster is like this at first, but after being hunted wherever he is found, he vows revenge on his creator and kills Frankenstein's brother, friend and wife, at which point Frankenstein becomes the hunter.
  • Ryner Lute from The Legend of the Legendary Heroes is constantly labeled as a monster because of his Alpha Stigma, a power which eventually goes out of control, destroying everything around it and killing the user. However, he rarely uses the Alpha Stigma outside of battle.
  • The main character of The Outsider (1926) is one, if only for a minute. He spends most of his life completely alone, thinking he's human. When he finally does meet other people, they run away in terror, and he even terrifies himself when he sees his reflection. He quickly decides to just go with it.
  • The Reluctant Dragon is an 1898 children's book by Kenneth Grahame (originally published as a chapter in his book Dream Days), which served as the key element to the 1941 feature film of the same name from Walt Disney Productions.
  • Nicole from Super Minion mutated three years ago into a 25-ton acid-spitting quasi-scorpion, escaped from a catastrophic-mutation containment facility, and now roams the monster-infested sewers of E13 as the apex predator of the darkness. She's also one of the most reasonable and helpful people anywhere in the setting, and lives a peaceful life tinkering with her gadgets, adjusting her environment to attract the more benign monsters, and wishing she knew some people who weren't terrified of her. And then along comes Tofu, who genuinely doesn't mind her looks and is also at home in the hungry dark...
  • Temeraire: While no creature in the British Aerial Corps is more vicious than most men (certainly no more vicious than any soldier), Temeraire in particular seems frequently befuddled and occasionally offended over how readily most humans are frightened by a barn-sized predator with sharp claws the size of a woman's forearm and a maw that can devour a cow in three bites.
  • Somewhat downplayed but still in the vein of this trope are the children's books of Tomi Ungerer starring disliked animals like a constrictor, a vulture, et cetera.
  • Voyage of the Basset: Medusa is initially rather cold and arrogant, but she doesn't even want to petrify animals, and she is as horrified as anyone when she accidentally does it to a member of the crew.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Barney & Friends: Barney the Dinosaur is a Tyrannosaurus, and has not once in the show's fifteen-year run tried to eat the children or Baby Bop. Instead, he'd rather play make-believe and sing.
  • Barnabas Collins of Dark Shadows is one of the earliest reluctant vampires in fiction.
  • The Munsters: They're monsters ripped from the old Universal Horror movies, but they act as a fairly typical, if eccentric, working-class family who can't understand why most strangers seem to turn pale and run whenever they see them. The reboot pilot Mockingbird Lane portrays Grandpa Munster as... definitely not reluctant, although he seems to (grudgingly) hold back on outright homicide.
  • The Outer Limits (1963): The episode "Behold Eck!" was originally titled "The Reluctant Monster". The titular creature is a meek, polite two-dimensional being from Another Dimension who accidentally winds up in our world and wreaks unintentional havoc while the heroes figure out how to send him home.
  • Sesame Street: Herry is this in the earliest seasons. Everybody is singing and playing, then Herry shows up roaring (which is what monsters do, after all), and when everybody else runs away, he turns to the camera and says something like "I just wanted somebody to play with".
  • Cirque du Soleil's Solstrom plays with this via a Metamorphosis — in the horror pastiche "Howling Wind", a hotel is transformed into a Haunted Castle/Hell Hotel hybrid via magic. While surprised, the elderly Hotel Owner decides to go on with business as usual as best he can, and thinks nothing of (if he even notices) the help being transformed into ogres, vampires, and sundry eccentrics, or even that Death is now a guest. As it turns out the magic is slowly turning him into a Wolf Man. But he's hardly aware of his increasingly monstrous form — when he notices that his fingernails are turning into claws, his response is simply to try filing them down. So preoccupied is he with being a good host that it's a shocked guest whose reaction alerts him to the fact that he's grown a tail. In The Stinger, the transformation is complete, but he is still affable and harmless.
  • Possibly Amy from Supernatural. She didn't want to be a kitsune and even killed her mother to save a younger Sam from her. Sam in turn saved her from John and Dean, who were on the hunt. She was only killing to save her son, who was sick. Then again, it's left ambiguous whether or not this is really the case. Dean kills her rather than wait to find out.
  • Cadence from The Troop. She tries her hardest to stay in her human form and doesn't eat humans. Her brother, on the other hand, is a Fully-Embraced Fiend.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Greek Mythology: In Ovid's telling of Medusa, she was a beautiful maiden who lay with Poseidon in Athena's temple. In some tellings, she's raped. For this "offense", she's cursed by Athena with living serpent hair and a terrible visage that would turn any man who looked upon it into stone. Thus, Medusa's powers are unintentional and unwanted. Perseus, who eventually kills her, believes that the punishment is well-deserved. The trope is averted in earlier myths, however, which describe Medusa as one of three monstrous sisters, the Gorgons (the others being Sthenos and Euryale). Perseus kills Medusa simply because she is the only mortal Gorgon.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Most of the Atelier Series games feature a ghost named Pamela who either does not know she is a ghost or is oblivious to the fact that people find her scary.
  • In the first Don't Escape game, you play as a lycanthrope who is aware of how dangerous he is, and hates it. Hence the goal of the game, which is to prepare an escape room challenging enough that once the night falls and you turn into a werewolf, getting out will drain enough of your energy to render you no longer threatening.
  • The Architect from Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening is a Rogue Drone sapient Darkspawn that actually wants to end the Blights and free all his kind from the Old Gods giving them sapience and free will as well. Unfortunately, he suffers from Blue-and-Orange Morality and thus has done some horrible things that jeopardized his plans simply because he didn't realize that what he did was horrible. The Messenger, one of the Darkspawn who the Architect has awakened to sapience, is an even better example apparently being a genuinely nice person who, depending on the player's choices, can end up as a Mysterious Protector of travelers in trouble, albeit accidentally spreading the Blight in some cases.
  • Fallout:
    • Fawkes in Fallout 3. After much time splattering the brains of Super Mutants across the wasteland, the player encounters a genetic experiment gone wrong in cell 5 of an abandoned Vault. He knows that he is a monster, but while the FEV that created all Super Mutants made most of them hulking, bloodthirsty monsters with the IQ of a vegetable, Fawkes is intelligent and has a good heart, and offers to help the player in their quest.
    • There's also Uncle Leo, the friendly Super Mutant who wanders the wasteland.
    • Fallout 2 gives us Marcus, another intelligent Super Mutant who was initially part of the Master's army. Later, he became friends with a Brotherhood of Steel paladin, and they decided to settle down and create a town where humans, ghouls, and Super Mutants can live together peacefully (most of the time, anyway). He makes another appearance in Fallout: New Vegas.
  • A quest chain in Final Fantasy Tactics A2 begins with a mission where the player must bring a potion to the client. It turns out that the client is a zombie and doesn't know it; it's not aggressive though, and upon being informed of its post-life status, it sadly shambles off into the mist. The rest of the quest chain reveals that the zombie is Frimelda, a legendary swordswoman, and completing the quest chain cures her zombification and lets her join the player's clan.
  • In Moonrise, the player is forcibly turned into a werewolf and can express rage, grief, and regret about this transformation. They can even go so far totally rejecting the person who turned them.
  • In Ōkami, the imp merchants only want to sell you something — even when you attack their bases.
  • Vivian the Shadow Siren from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is a rather friendly creature of darkness (possibly even a demon of the same race as the Shadow Queen) who joins Mario's party.
  • In Shadows of the Damned, the traveling trader Christopher is a monstrous-looking creature with a Slasher Smile, who tells you he is half man, half "beast". When Garcia, the main character, calls him out on it, Christopher shoots back with, "you gotta look past the leath'ry exterior! Deep down I am a sensitive and understanding listener!" He even surrounds himself with flower gardens and lamps, the latter of which keeps hell's demons away. How sweet!
  • Touhou Project is filled with creatures with quite nasty traits and histories, but the days of animosity between humans and youkai are long gone and the denizens of Gensoukyou are more interested in parties than following past trends. Even Remilia, local vampire princess who boasts about being a terror of the night, never drinks enough blood in one sitting to kill anyone and the worst thing she ever did was block the sun for a while so she could go flower viewing during the day. The (initial) exception is Utsuho Reiuji, who after gaining the power to control nuclear fusion decides to torch the world. After the heroines beat some sense into her, she instead opts to use her power by controlling a nuclear fusion powerplant to provide Gensoukyou with electricity.
  • The entire population of monsters in Undertale are one, despite being monsters, they are far from being evil. In fact, it is unknown whether any of them can really, truly hate when faced with enough kindness. Even a seemly sinister and unfeeling being like Flowey is sympathetic once we get to know his true nature. The only malicious beings are none other than the humans.
  • World of Warcraft has a lot of these.
    • The Forsaken started out as this, but eventually decided Then Let Me Be Evil and have become the most evil faction in the game. Only a few unplayable factions are worse.
    • Blood Elves until the Sunwell was restored. They were basically energy vampires and most of them hated it. There were a few who were and still are addicted to magic so badly that they look like hardcore drug abusers.
    • Thrall. Everyone sees his race as monsters, but Thrall is The Messiah, super kind and gentle, a Warrior Poet, a Genius Bruiser, and loves everyone, even giving the guy who tortured and enslaved him the ability to fight back. Some fans don't like him because of this and prefer Garrosh Hellscream.

  • Daniel Ti'Fiona from Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures doesn't want to be an incubus. This is both Played for Laughs and Played for Drama.
  • The title character of George the Dragon has a steady diet of junk food and can't even eat a hamster, never mind a human (and has set a bunch of food-type hamsters free).
  • In Keychain of Creation, "Secret" is, on paper, an Evil Counterpart to the Knights in Shining Armor of the setting, the Solars, since she is a Death Knight, got her Exaltation from a Deal with the Devil, and is supposed to follow their orders, which would lead to the destruction of Creation. However, in practice, she's more like this: she tries to avoid hurting people when possible, she doesn't follow her lord's orders, and she only made her Deal because she was afraid of the fact that she was dying of the plague that ravaged her island. She's still a minor Walking Wasteland, however, and she infrequently has bursts of Resonance, which she gains from the aforementioned disobeying of her lord, and they are not pretty. Corollary to this, she is not a fan of these outbursts, and is currently looking for ways to get out of her plight, such as sorcery. Later, it unfolds that there might be a way for her to become a Solar.
    Misho: [after nearly choking from surprise] Really? Secret, why would you want to learn sorcery?
    Secret: Ah. Well. Me being all... death. I've been thinking it might be better for me to learn how to do more... healthy things. More non-killing options.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • The Monster in the Darkness knows he's a monster (although even he's not sure what kind), and is incredibly dangerous (he knocks one character and her horse through a wall and several miles when trying to hit as lightly as he could, and caused an earthquake when he stomped his foot down hard), but is so innately sweet-natured that he is horrible at being monstrous and could even be considered to be somewhat helpful to the Order of the Stick.
    • Starting in Strip #878, Durkon Thundershield is now this. He was briefly under mind control from Malack, but with the latter's death in Strip #906, is now free to resume adventuring with the Order, and by his own words is no more evil than Belkar Bitterleaf, which doesn't mean that much, but at least implies he's willing to work with the Order. Ultimately subverted. Durkon is actually demonically possessed by a servant of an Evil-Aligned God, who is sick of dealing with squabbles with her pantheon, and who wishes to get the gods to agree to destroy the world in order to prevent the Snarl from escaping so that she'll get the souls of every dwarf in existence and become more powerful than any of the other Northern Gods. She was just trying to have Vampire Durkon avoid suspicion with his following this trope until she could carry out her plans. Though at a critical time, Durkon was able to push all his memories into the demon possessing him, which overwhelmed said demon and caused Durkon's normal personality to reassert control just long enough to thwart her plans via Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Our Little Adventure has a village full of people who rose as various kinds of The Undead after a massacre. Some of them hate it enough to go picking fights with people who might put them back in their graves for good; others just go about their business as usual and help the survivors restore the town. The latter group includes a snarky skeleton archer and Jeremy the vampire cobbler.
  • Jareth in Roommates is a highly powerful fae who tries hard to defy his very nature. Also, his motivations are more humanlike than natural for his species (thanks to his dad mostly), but he kinda sucks in this whole acting good thing — and if he overexerts himself, he can snap.
  • Schwarz Kreuz's main character, Nikolas Von Helsing, is a descendant of that Von Helsing. He used a ritual to turn himself into a vampire when his group of Paladins/Clergymen was under attack by Nazis, and thus manages to survive to continue his order. He doesn't drink blood, but does drink alcohol — lots of it.
  • Buwaro of Slightly Damned just wants to give the world a big hug. However, being a member of the vicious and powerful Demon race makes most people more likely to scream in terror. Justified in that all Demons have a limit-break berserk mode, and he has a health condition that forces his normal state to be berserker. Not justified in that, with medication, Buwaro is a noble demon and incapable of harming anyone who doesn't harm his friends.
  • Done in reverse during the "That Which Redeems" arc from Sluggy Freelance. When people from the Dimension of Lame are transformed into demons, they readily identify themselves as evil, but because of how ridiculously pure and good-natured they were to begin with, their idea of "evil" is making scary faces at young children.
  • In Succubus Justice, the Villain Protagonist, Karina, is attending a school for the purpose of correcting her Minion with an F in Evil personality.

    Western Animation 
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force has an onion-bodied spider named "Willie Nelson" who lives in the Aqua Teens' attic. He's very mellow, except for when he's actually in the attic.
  • Betty Boop: In Boop-Oop-a-Doop, while Betty is taming three lions, another lion sneaks up behind her menacingly. An audience member screams "Look out!" Then the lion stands up on two legs and says "Pardon me, you dropped your handkerchief" in a surprisingly non-threatening voice, and hands Betty her handkerchief with an innocent smile.
  • Mr. Bumpy from Bump in the Night once had an episode where, upon hearing that some monster under the bed was upsetting his boy, resolved to track down the interloper and deal with him. A brief investigation led to Squishington quickly realizing that the monster was Mr. Bumpy, and his late-night, hard-partying ways were scaring his boy awake. Mr. Bumpy is horrified at this, since he loves his boy, as he's the main source of all his stuff and the dirty socks he eats.
  • The title character of Casper the Friendly Ghost, and his pal Wendy, both of whom just want to be friends with people instead of doing the bad things that other ghosts and witches like to do.
  • Loopy De Loop, a wolf character from Hanna-Barbera who often gets in trouble for things he clearly didn't do because he's a wolf.
  • Muzzy from Muzzy in Gondoland is a big, hairy green alien who is actually very kind and only eats clocks and other metal objects.
  • Roger the Alligator, from The Penguins of Madagascar. A notable aversion of Reptiles Are Abhorrent, he is extremely pacifistic and would rather bake muffins for his enemies than hurt them.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Incomplete Monster


Oh I tried once!

Louis the alligator remembers the only time he tried to play jazz trumpet on a human riverboat.

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Main / ReluctantMonster

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