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Ridiculously Small Wings

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Maybe she's part bumblebee?

"According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway, because bees don't care what humans think is impossible."
— The opening narration of Bee Movie

When you think of a flier, you expect something with a huge or at least serviceable wingspan so that it can fly.

Well, This Is Not That Trope.

Instead, said flyer has wings so small that one must wonder how they could carry anything. In spite of this violation of the Square-Cube Law, however, they can still fly just as well as if they had normal wings, perhaps even excelling in competitions involving good flying.

There can be several reasons for this. Firstly, sometimes, a Lazy Artist can't be bothered to depict large, complex, and structured wings, so they instead fall back on small, simplistic, stylized wings; a side benefit is that such small wings don't take up a lot of panel space, leaving plenty of room for character poses and dynamic posturing. Or maybe they have purely aesthetic wings and their ability to fly is completely unrelated. The main reason though is for Rule of Funny — after all, there is nothing more hilarious than seeing something fly around on the most tiny and pathetic-looking wings.

If it does get acknowledged in-universe, expect it to be Handwaved either through magic or even have the character be confused at why they can fly using said pair of wings, perhaps even leading to them losing their ability to fly as a result of this realization.

This can be Truth in Television — there exist animals such as bees that can somehow fly in spite of their tiny-looking wings. As such, it is often said that they "shouldn't be able to fly" according to science. This is out of date: for years, their flight could not be explained using aerodynamic models that had been developed for planes, but now the physics are well understood with models that take into account the viscosity of air (which is negligible at the scale of planes).

Mercury's Wings may be an example of this (if the bearer can actually fly at all), usually with the justification that said flight is magical in nature.

Compare Flying Flightless Bird for similar cases of animals that don't look like they should be able to fly but can.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon: Petitmon, Babydmon, and Dracomon have small wings for their bodies, but can fly nonetheless, with it being Handwaved as Petitmon and Babydmon being light enough and Dracomon only being capable of flight (and even then only for short times) under the influence of the X-Antibody.
  • In Ranma ½, Pantyhose Tarō got one of the weirdest transformation curses from the magic springs of Jusenkyō: he was bathed in the "Spring of Drowned Yeti Riding an Ox While Carrying a Crane and an Eel" shortly after birth. Despite, as indicated, the wings on his back being sized for a normal crane atop a minotaur-like chimera of massive size (which tends to vary), his monster form is not just perfectly able to fly, but a quite fast and strong flier to boot.

    Comic Books 
  • Fantastic Four: The team first encountered Prince Namor, ruler of Atlantis, as an antagonist bent on forbidding humans from traversing his waters, which would be all seas and oceans everywhere. Not only can he speak English just fine, but he can fly using two tiny wings on his ankles. Reed Richards remarks that Namor's ankle wings shouldn't have that much lift power, but Namor flies nevertheless. Captain America even alluded to the supposed bee conumdrum while discussing Namor with Union Jack ("Only problem is, nobody's told the bees!"). Namor's wings are meant to resemble the winged feet/sandals of the Greco-Roman god, Mercury, although the latter was never said to explicitly fly.
  • Vampirella can grow wings and fly, but their size is a case of Depending on the Artist. From her inception in 1969, she has often been drawn with cute little wings that cannot support her weight. At the extreme opposite end, some artists give her an enormous, 36-feet wingspan.

    Films — Animation 
  • A Bug's Life: At the end of the movie, Heimlich the caterpillar emerges from his cocoon with a pair of tiny butterfly wings. Deconstructed when it turns out that he can't fly at all with such tiny wings and his heavy caterpillar body. He still has to be carried by others who can actually fly.
  • The Flight of Dragons: Anyone watching the movie would realize the wings of the dragons, even detailed, are nowhere near big enough to allow them to fly, especially with the sort of lazy soaring they do. While never actually pointed out in the story, it is revealed that the wings aren't actually used for lift but for steering like a rudder. Dragons have less sparing and more controlled floating like a blimp.
  • How to Train Your Dragon: Most of the different dragon species have wings that are at least plausibly large for the size of the body, but Gronckles somehow manage to support their huge bodies on wings only a couple of feet long. Fishlegs' Gronckle, Meatlug, even carries a pretty hefty human as well as her own weight. That being said, the animators do take this into account by having Gronckles beat their wings very fast like hummingbirds compared to the more gentle soaring of other species.

  • Downplayed in Dragonriders of Pern, where dragon wings, whilst large, are not large enough to lift dragons and their riders; in addition, dragons often carry other passengers and cargo as well. For much of Pern's history, dragonriders explain this by saying that if the dragons think they can fly, then they will be able to. It's only late in Pern history that dragons and their riders learn that dragons are telekinetic, which explains how they are able to lift such heavy loads.
  • Les Voyageurs Sans Souci: Justified. Sébastien and Agathe's flying suits have four pairs of small wings sprouting from their caps, shoulders and ankles. They are not large enough to lift their weight, but they don't need to because their outfits are magical. The wings are mainly used for steering.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Sandman (2022), episode "Imperfect Hosts": Goldie the baby gargoyle has a pair of tiny batlike wings on his back. In the last scene he appears in, he flies to Abel with his tiny wings buzzing furiously. As a magical creature who exists only in the Dreaming, he's not bound by realistic physics.

  • West African band Osibisa became famous in Britain for the way they fused African music with European jazz/rock. The band's mascot, which appears on at least their early LP covers, was a flying elephant. Unfortunately — in a variation of this trope — it is held aloft on scaled-up insect wings, which would be too flimsy and delicate to support a full-grown elephant in the air.

    Myths & Religion 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Nalfeshnee are a race of demons that stand twice the height of a human, with a pair of wings sprouting from their shoulders that look small in comparison to their corpulent bodies. Despite this, they are capable of flight and have a flight speed that's faster than their walking speed.
    • The Hollyphant is a small elephant-like creature with even smaller fluttering wings on its back. In spite of this, however, it is capable of flying at great speeds.

    Video Games 
  • Banjo-Tooie: Chilli Billi and Chilly Willy are two dragon brothers whose long serpentine necks sticking out of their respective pools belie their small submerged bodies and equally small wings, which they use to fly away after being defeated.
  • Disgaea: Etna has a small pair of bat-like wings on her back which she often uses to hover above the ground when she feels like posing while teasing others. Ancillary material like novels, artbooks and manga reveal that Laharl has an even smaller pair of wings on his back, but if he actually wants to fly (something he never has reason to do in the games) they grow to a much more appropriately huge size.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, the Lightwarden of Kholusia, Innocence, first appears with a pair of tiny wings that allow it to fly despite being too small to reasonably support its size. But rather than comedy, this is Played for Horror, as it emphasizes just how inherently wrong and inhuman it is as a Hume-sin eater hybrid. This is then subverted later on, when Innocence undergoes a Bishōnen Line transformation and gains far more appropriately sized Razor Wings.
  • In Griftlands, the wings of the Flead Queen are described as "impossibility small" when she emerges to confront the grifter.
  • In Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, the tiny wings of the dragon Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty are shown for the first time to enable her to fly, and it looks quite awkward and implausible not only due to the wings' small size but how close they are to the front of her bulky body.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • One of the premium mounts your character can ride in Ni No Kuni: Cross Worlds is a bumblebee called Buzzbee with these kind of wings. The game's description for the mount even lampshades this, reading "How is Buzzbee able to fly with those tiny wings? That's a secret!"
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door: The dragon siblings (Hooktail, Gloomtail, and Bonetail) all have extremely tiny wings that should in no way allow them to fly, yet Hooktail is seen flying perfectly fine. It is unknown if Gloomtail or Bonetail can fly as well.
  • Pokémon: Some Pokémon can fly despite their wings being tiny compared to their body.
    • Dragonite's wings are tiny compared to its bulky body, but this doesn't seem to stop it from being able to fly around the world. Its pre-evolution Dragonair has been described as being capable of flight as well in spite of its wings being even smaller and located on the sides of its head, although this is usually Handwaved through a combination of levitation and being capable of making them bigger.
    • Dunsparce is a chubby snake-like creature based on the Tsuchinoko. It has tiny, comical-looking wings similar to those of a bumblebee, but Pokédex entries suggest that it can at least use these wings to get a few inches off the ground — and that in ancient times it may have used those wings to actually fly through the sky. When it evolves into Dudunsparce, it gains a second pair of tiny wings.
    • Whilst Combee's wings seem sizable enough, they don't increase in size very much when it evolves into Vespiquen, leading to small wings on top of a huge bee-like body. Doesn't stop it from flying though.
    • Zekrom and Kyurem have small wings situated on top of giant draconic bodies, but it doesn't stop them from being able to use "Fly".
  • Przygody Reksia: Smokręt is a giant dragon with a plump body, but his wings are rather small. He doesn't have trouble flying, although he's a bit slow. When he doesn't fly, he stays afloat in the water.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 1:
    • The High Entia are a group of Mages that live in the upper Bionis region at Eryth Sea, with their Capital City being called Alcamoth. They all have wings on their head, with those of mixed blood (such as Melia) having smaller wings. Tyrea shows the ability to fly with them at the end of a sidequest.
    • Come Xenoblade Chronicles 3, it seems that this ability is not retained by the High Entia soldiers of the Kevesi colonies, as, in Ino's Ascension Quest, Eunie rebuffs Ino's suggestion that she fly after the Nopon Eater. Of course, this could be down to the fact that none of the soldiers, High Entia or otherwise, age past the physical equivalent of a 20-year-old human, owing to their fixed lifespans.

  • The Order of the Stick: As shown in strip #754 "Maybe She Ate a Zeppelin", the Empress of Blood is capable of flight in spite of being morbidly obese by dragon standards and having tiny wings. Elan, Tarquin, Vaarsuvius and the strip title all lampshade how ridiculous this is.
    Elan: She can FLY???
    Tarquin: Quite a stumper, isn't it?
    Vaarsuvius: I should avoid casting any spells tonight, if only to give the laws of physics time to cry alone in the corner.

    Western Animation 
  • In Dragon Tales, all of the eponymous dragons have small, fairy-like wings, far too small to plausibly get them off the ground (magic is expressly involved in their flight). This is called attention to by a single-episode dragon whose wings are of a much more realistic size relative to her body, who has body-image issues as a consequence.
  • Here Comes the Grump: The Dragon has wings too small for his plump body, but they support his weight and Grump's on the air.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Pegasus foals have tiny wings relative to their body size, but some of them are still able to fly. Strangely, even though Scootaloo's wings are the same size as other pegasus foals her age, she cannot fly and is implied to be disabled in some fashion.
    • Bulk Biceps is a massively muscular pegasus stallion with foal-sized wings. He can fly perfectly fine and even competes in the Equestria Games, the country's version of the Olympics.
    • Discord has a pair of mismatched wings (one shaped like a bird's, the other shaped like a bat's), which he flaps when flying despite how ridiculously small they are compared to his body mass. Of course he's a being of pure chaos, so there are strong hints that his flight is entirely magical.


Video Example(s):


Gronckle wings

Gronckle wings are way too small to logically hold up a hefty dragon like Meatlug, yet they do anyway.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / RidiculouslySmallWings

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