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Shy Shelled Animal

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"You've probably heard this expression: 'He was so afraid, he rolled into a ball, like an armadillo!'"
Malcolm, Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger

Animals that have hard shells for protection—turtles, armadillos, snails, crabs, etc.—have a tendency to be depicted as timid, cowardly or nervous characters. While these shells exist in real life as a means of protection from predators, fiction tends to associate them with traits like shyness and introversion. In fact, this is probably the origin of the expression "come out of your shell" to describe someone overcoming their shyness.

Subtrope of Animal Stereotypes. For other tropes related to shelled animals, see Removable Shell and Shell Backpack.


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    Anime & Manga 

  • In the This Time Round Alternate Tooniverse of This Toon Round, Daibhid Chelonidae is a tortoise who "ums" a lot when he speaks and disappears into his shell whenever something unexpected happens.

    Film — Animation 
  • Sebastian the crab from The Little Mermaid (1989) is the uptight, Nervous Wreck servant of King Triton.
    "My nerves are shot! This is a catastrophe! What would her father say? I'll tell you what her father'd say. He'd say he's gonna kill himself a crab, that's what her father'd say!"
  • Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers: The Troubadour is a cartoon turtle who gets nervous around some characters, like his apparent boss Mr. Narrator, and Captain Pete. He sometimes literally hides in his shell from them.
  • Toby Turtle from Disney's Robin Hood (1973) is often seen hiding in his shell when he feels scared. One such example is when Skippy tells him that he's going to get the arrow he shot back from Maid Marian's castle, fearing that Skippy will face execution if Maid Marian spots him.
  • Over the Hedge: Verne is a neurotic turtle whose tail tingles when something seems suspicious. He is very cautious about the neighborhood on the other side of the hedge and hides whenever humans are around. Considering the events of the film, it's justified.
  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie: In the first trailer, one Koopa Troopa (a turtle-like creature) is seen shivering with fear, with his head tucked into his shell, when Bowser steps forward.

  • According to Om, a god who has accidentally taken the form of a tortoise in Small Gods, and is starting to think like one, "Tortoises are cynics. They always expect the worst." When asked why, he replies "Because it usually happens to them."
  • In the poem "Shelly Snail and Swallowtail", from The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast by Alan Aldridge and William Plomer, Swallowtail (a butterfly) asks Shelly what he's like beneath the mask he's wearing to the ball. Shelly replies that without the mask, he'd be too shy to socialise at all.

    Video Games 
  • Clam Man:
    • Lindsey is some sort of animal with a seashell. When she loses her job at the beginning of the game, she is hurt deeply and retreats into an alley, where she sets up a recreation of her office out of cardboard boxes. She pretends that she's still working, except at a relish company instead of a mayonnaise one, and tries so hard to act like everything's okay. When Clam Man asks too many questions, she tries to hide under her "desk" and refuses to speak with him anymore.
    • Averted with Clam Man. Despite being, well, a clam man, he's not particularly introverted. He's just an all-around decent guy, although he is kind of an underdog.
  • Diddy Kong Racing: Tiptup the turtle is described in the manual as somewhat clumsy and nervous.
  • Dillon's Rolling Western: The Last Ranger: Discussed when Dillon first meets Mayor Malcolm, who is an armadillo like him. Malcolm mentions his dislike for the stereotype of armadillos as cowardly animals, and he and Russ both note how Dillon is an aversion of the trope, being a capable fighter known for his Rolling Attack.
  • Insaniquarium:
    • Stinky the Snail hides in its shell whenever an enemy alien appears.
    • Rhubarb the Hermit Crab snaps its claws to get fish off the ground where he lives.
      "He's not aiming to be a crowd pleaser. He's not trying to prove anything to anyone. He just wishes those darn fish would stay off the ground!"
  • The Legendary Starfy: Starfy's friend is a clam named Moe. While more a Jerk with a Heart of Gold than anything else, Moe does have some cowardly tendencies, such as when he tries to stop Starfy from jumping into the ocean to save Bunston (and dragging Moe himself along) because he's afraid of Big Squiddy, a Giant Squid that lives there.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door: Koops, the second partner to join the party, is a timid and somewhat awkward Koopa Troopa who is unable to get his words out during his first attempt to talk to Mario. Despite his shyness, he soon proves himself to be braver than he appears by accompanying Mario to fight the dragon Hooktail.
  • Sly Cooper: Bentley Turtle is a shy awkward ally to Sly, who originally acted as his Mission Control. In later games, he starts to take a more active role.
  • Spectrobes: Segu is encased in an egg-like shell, and its description in the first game says it's a little shy.
  • In A Tiny Sticker Tale, Luca is a shy turtle who wants to be a musician, but lacks self-confidence. The player can help him find the confidence to play by using the sticker book to take him to the town auditorium and find some spectators for him.


    Western Animation 
  • Bubsy: Arnold the armadillo is depicted as a fearful character with a crippling fear of trucks who becomes terrified at the mere mention of them, possibly due to some form of post-traumatic stress.
  • Dinosaur Train: Downplayed with Adam Adocus. While he's mostly easygoing, he retracts into his shell when he gets startled.
  • Rocko's Modern Life: Filburt the turtle is your stereotypical, glasses-wearing, socially awkward comic book nerd, and he's very timid to boot. He's still a Nice Guy, he just doesn't have many friends aside from Rocko, Heffer, and his wife Dr. Hutchison.
  • Work It Out Wombats!: The crab family are all very shy and are quick to scatter if they hear a loud noise.

    Real Life 
  • Hue the Pride Turtle is a mascot whose message that it's okay to not come out of the closet if you don't feel ready to do so, and your identity is still valid even if you choose not to openly express that you are gay, queer, trans, etc. He is a turtle with a rainbow-colored (or other pride-flag-colored) body, hiding inside his grey shell.