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Simple-Minded Wisdom

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Pinkie Pie: "The Elements of Harmony: A reference guide."
Twilight Sparkle: How did you find that?
Pinkie Pie: It was under EEEEE!

A "simple" character (particularly a servant or rural character) displays uncommon wisdom — usually much to the surprise of an arrogant main character. Creates An Aesop moment.

This would seem to derive from Cervantes' Don Quixote, where the archetypically "simple" Sancho Panza occasionally produces statements of great wisdom (although in that case the main character, Don Quixote, often fails to notice or credit that wisdom).

Dungeons & Dragons players will lecture, in great detail, that Wisdom and Intelligence are not the same thing: while a character with high Intelligence would be able to identify a Cursed Item as such, a character with high Wisdom would know better than to touch it.

Compare Dumbass Has a Point, which is what said Insufferable Genius may say after hearing the simple character's idea, and Eccentric Mentor, when the character is not simple, but just extremely quirky.

See also: Achievements in Ignorance, Too Dumb to Fool, Whoopi Epiphany Speech, Infallible Babble, Hanlon's Razor, Profound by Pop Song, and Wisdom from the Gutter. Contrast Ditzy Genius, which is in many ways the diametric opposite of this trope, and Seemingly Profound Fool, in which other characters erroneously read wisdom into the genuinely banal observations of a bona fide fool.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Gon Freeccs in Hunter × Hunter is surprisingly insightful for a naive kid, which saves him and his friend's lives many times as he's good at thinking outside the box. For example, he figures out there must be a loophole in Kurapika's Judgement Chain if Kurapika was able to put a chain in his own heart. He also suggests offering their services to the one who bought the Greed Island game rather than attempt to raise billions of money within 2 days, which Killua never even thought of and even remarks it has a higher chance of success.
  • Okuyasu Nijimura from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable is often like this. For example, he convinces himself that Yoshihiro Kira, the ghost Stand user, doesn't actually need to breathe because if he did, in his words, "all the dead people would suck up the air and we'd all suffocate". Even though he's technically correct, he still sounds like he's got rocks in his head.
  • Misaki Yata from K has moments of this. Particularly, late in season 2, to Saruhiko: "You're not a traitor! If you'd go this far for him, the Blue King was your King all along!" Saruhiko lampshades this when he's thinking about it just after Misaki leaves.
  • In Pokémon Journeys: The Series, Ash's primary distinction from Goh is that he's Book Dumb and doesn't know how to use words good, but he still manages to teach Goh things the book-smart boy wouldn't understand otherwise, because he has more life experience.
  • Zombie Land Saga: The protagonists, an Idol Singer group secretly made of Friendly Zombies, get deep in debt after a failed concert in a large venue. Their manager Kotaro, who has also been the one doing the makeup work that allowed them to leave their mansion while being able to pass for live humans, gets too busy drowning his sorrows to take care of that task. Soon, the girls, minus the member who failed to recover her full mental capabilities upon revival, are having a meeting to address the growing debt, their lack of money and their depleted food supply. During the discussion, Tae, the aforementioned member with limited mental capabilities, comes in wearing Uncanny Valley Makeup, turning out to have gone shopping after stealing Kotaro's savings. This allows the others to realize they can do each other's makeup and find jobs.

    Comic Books 
  • Not a perfect example, but the Rhino in Spider-Man does this occasionally, much to the surprise of other villains.
  • Obelix in Asterix. He's a bit socially awkward and only seems to have a vague idea what's going on most of the time, but because of this is able to see contradictions and strangeness in cultural behavior everyone else sees as being normal. His catchphrase — "these Romans are crazy" — represents this about half of the time (the other half of the time, he is just mistaken about what the Romans are thinking).

    Comic Strips 
  • In Beetle Bailey, Zero the resident ditz becomes inspired by Plato to write his own version of Plato's philosophical graffiti. On the graffiti wall, Zero lists such simple pleasures and acts of kindness, which include "Pet a dog, plant a flower, smile at the bus driver, smile at a stranger, go barefoot, pick up someone else's litter, look for funny shapes in the clouds, visit an old person, stop an argument, warm a heart, call up an old friend, wash a window, take an ordinary object and find beauty in it, show a child how to whistle, think of three good things that happened to you yesterday, forgive a mistake, do what someone else wants to do, be patient, put yourself in someone else's place, say 'Thank you' with meaning, look for truth, inspire someone, lower your voice, make time for a young person, let your kindness come out, erase worry and fear of the unknown, have some fun." Beetle and Plato are so overwhelmed by the simplicity and profoundness of Zero's musings that they serve Zero breakfast in bed the next morning.
  • In Twisted Toyfare Theatre, Mego Spider-Man seems to totally lack his signature super-powers, but also happens to be the only person in Megoville apart from maybe Dr. Doom who has a single lick of common sense.

    Fan Work 
  • Alicorn: Celestia, an immortal alicorn with an endless list of regrets, asks Rainbow Dash, a Book Dumb athlete with no impulse control, if she has any regrets. Rainbow says she doesn't, to Celestia's surprise, and goes on to explain her belief that regret doesn't help anyone, it's just beating yourself up to no one's benefit and serves no other purpose than dragging you down and holding you back. Celestia, surprised at Rainbow's philosophy, calls her one of the wisest ponies she's ever met.
  • Crimson and Noire: After learning that Alix is aromantic, Kim takes it as a no to his Valentine's Day confession to her. When Alix expresses her surprise, Kim responds that it's her decision to say no regardless of her orientation and that he never expected their friendship to turn awkward if she turned him down. He even wonders if romantic confessions or being aromantic makes things not simple, with Alix answering that it is as simple as he thinks but most people never see it that way.

    Films — Animation 

  • The Scarecrow from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, both the book and movie. He wishes for a brain, yet neither he nor anyone else he's traveling with notices the discrepancy.
  • Older Than Steam: The Beast in the original literary fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast" is described as speaking with much common sense, but "never what the world calls wit." (And yes, at the end of the story, the Prince is transformed to be witty and eloquent in addition to handsome.)
  • In Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock, right before the incredibly epic battle over an involuntary haircut, Clarissa, probably a lower-status lady than most of the players, rebukes everyone on how it's silly to waste energy over such a trivial matter, and how good humor is a better tool than beauty or tantrums to weather the storms of life. Of course, no one listens to her.
  • Discworld:
    • Witches sometimes provide this, since they're often quite intelligent about human nature while not being very well-educated. Sometimes, they even do it to other witches. In Wyrd Sisters, after an attempt at some complicated mental magic by Granny Weatherwax fails to work on the Duchess, Nanny Ogg deals with her by hitting her over the head with a cauldron so the guards can arrest her. Maskerade has an example from someone who's not a witch; Walter Plinge is asked "if your house was on fire what would you take out?" and answers "The fire!"
    • This is one of Captain Carrot's defining traits. At the start of the Watch sequence, he really is naive to the ways of the city, arresting the head of the thieves' guild for thievery and not recognizing that his boarding house is actually a brothel, but he also takes literally Vimes' order to "throw the book at [Wonse]", while Wonse is at the edge of a three-story drop. As the books progress he wises up, but continues to act in a very simple matter. To free a golem, he puts its receipt of sale in its head, to stop a war, he suggests arresting the armies for breach of the peace. And it all works.
    Vimes: (internally) Colon thought Carrot was simple. Carrot often struck people as simple. And he was.
    Where people went wrong was thinking that simple meant the same thing as stupid.
  • Samwise Gamgee of The Lord of the Rings has plain good hobbit-sense, even more than the other three hobbits because he's a simple gardener and not in the gentry. When forced to carry the Ring himself for a time, it naturally tempts him and chooses to do so with visions of Mordor as a beautiful garden. Sam considers it and then shakes his head because he could never manage a garden that vast on his own. And when the Ring tries to tempt him with the idea of having hordes of servants to manage the garden for him, Sam shrugs that off because if other people are doing the actual gardening, then it wouldn't be his garden.
    • This trope shows up in The Hobbit as well. Thorin Oakenshield remarks that Bilbo has "some wisdom and some courage, in equal measure." Thorin goes on to say this about hobbits and their Arcadian lifestyle as a whole, remarking that "if more of us valued food and cheer and song over hoarded gold, this world would be a merrier place."
  • Horace Altman of Ranger's Apprentice has a fair bit of this. While not a Guile Hero or The Strategist like his Ranger friends, he's intelligent and sensible in his own way, and methodically thinks through problems while Will jumps from one idea to another.
  • In The Story of Valentine and His Brother, the vagabond Myra is almost completely uneducated in every subject, including religion, but she has a much greater sense of the presence of God than most other people.
  • A favorite trope of Mercedes Lackey:
    • The Heralds of Valdemar series has Talia, who at 13 has enough experience with children to turn the Royal Brat around though a combination of gentleness, firmness, and honesty — before she ever becomes a full Herald. Mags, who had almost no education before being Chosen, does all right on his instincts and his lack of pretension, maturing into a Guile Hero as an adult.
    • The "Fool" archetype in the Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms is a Traditional role that combines humble wisdom with a certain amount of blind luck. Characters who can make the most of this find themselves at the center of all sorts of interesting happenings.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sheriff Carter, from Eureka. It's the whole point of having him as the sheriff in a town of full geniuses with too much brains and not enough sense.
  • Friends:
    • When a door-to-door salesman tries to sell Joey encyclopedias, he gets to the price and Joey points out that he's at home in the middle of the day and has patio furniture in his living room, so of course he doesn't have that kind of money. "Guess there's some things you don't get from book learning."
    • During Thanksgiving, Rachel shows interest in Tag, who's just been dumped that morning and is a little upset about having to spend Thanksgiving away from his family at the same time. Rachel asks Joey, Monica, and Phoebe when is the right time to ask someone out after a breakup; Phoebe says 1 month, Monica says 3-4 months, and Joey initially says 30 minutes. Joey adds to his answer by saying she's asking the wrong question because if Tag's already not interested in Rachel then there's no point worrying about the right time to ask him out. Rachel is baffled by this argument and surprised that this makes sense, whereas Monica dismisses it and says that Rachel should be more empathetic since Tag is obviously upset and needs a friend.
  • Jack O'Neill of Stargate SG-1 often falls into this. Although he's also smarter than he lets it show.
  • Merlin from Merlin is a subversion. Everyone thinks this of him, but he's actually The Smart Guy.
  • Edith Bunker, of All in the Family, might be the patron saint of this trope. She lived with her blue-collar, bigoted husband Archie, feminist daughter Gloria, and liberal, atheist son-in-law Mike, and often seemed uninformed or unaware of the major political and sociocultural debates that the other three had. However, Edith was often the only person who was able to apply practical, plain-spoken solutions to issues, whether it was solving a riddle about a female doctor, not allowing racism to tint her opinions while she served on a jury, or defusing a potentially catastrophic argument by rhapsodizing about maple syrup. She also embodied the principles of kindness and embracing those different from her (without being condescending, as Mike tended to do) that the rest of her family could get too caught up arguing about to practice. For example, Edith happily called the African-American Louise Jefferson her best friend while their respective husbands refused to even speak to each other, "adopted" the gay drag performer Beverly Leslie as a member of her family, and immediately accepted her lesbian cousin Liz's longtime relationship with her "roommate" Veronica as completely legitimate. It's not for nothing that critics considered Edith, who spoke plainly but wisely, the "anti-Richard Nixon," who was very intelligent but widely perceived to lack honesty and common sense.
  • The Golden Girls often did this with both Rose and Sophia. Rose's common sense usually helped her play peacemaker between Dorothy and Blanche (whose polar opposite personalities could lead to trouble) and perceive other people's lies. Sophia, meanwhile, was unafraid to frankly state what was going on rather than being tactful; while this occasionally rubbed people the wrong way, her approach was far more effective than any Zany Scheme the others cooked up.
  • Much of the humor of The Big Bang Theory stems from this trope. Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Raj are all geniuses in various scientific fields and uber-nerds, but they lack social skills and awareness of anything outside their spheres (Sheldon, for instance, has no idea who Radiohead is), and generally get so caught up in their own projects and brains that they run into countless issues. In contrast is Penny, Sheldon and Leonard's extremely attractive neighbor and a waitress/would-be actress who didn't even finish community college in Nebraska—but what she lacks in formal education, she more than makes up for in wit and practical knowledge. In one instance, she is able to recover all of Sheldon's hacked World of Warcraft items by kicking the guy who stole it in the crotch (after the guys failed to do so using nerdy threats); in another, the guys turn to her when they need some help learning how to fish.
    • The later seasons play this up even further with Amy Farrah Fowler, who starts out as a female version of Sheldon. She and Penny are polar opposites in every way, but the two gradually become best friends, with Penny's "girly" personality and more traditionally feminine wisdom contrasting with Amy's dour demeanor and purely cerebral worldview (the latter has to look up how to have a slumber party, for instance). In just one example, Amy doesn't know how to settle an argument she's having with Sheldon, so Penny teaches her the valuable art of making a scene in public (which she's apparently mastered to the point of being banned from three separate Chili's restaurants).
    • Even Sheldon and Leonard's mothers get in on this trope. Beverly Hofsteader, Leonard's mother, is a genius sociologist/anthropologist, as well as an extremely frigid person who's almost robotic in her complete lack of affection for anyone and anything (her advice to Leonard when he's going through a tough time? Telling him to "buck up, sissypants" and buy her books on Amazon). Sheldon's mother Mary, by contrast, is a sweet-natured and cheerfully bigoted Baptist Christian from the "Bible Belt" of Texas, and rarely understands anything her son and his friends are doing. Needless to say, Mary is far more adept at solving problems than Beverly; for starters, she actually considers other people as human beings rather than test subjects.
    • Mary has this relationship with Sheldon, too. Her son may be a genius, but Mrs. Cooper is able to easily sort out Sheldon's overthinking, neurotic behavior with some plain wisdom and occasional trickery. In one instance, Sheldon and Amy break up, prompting the former to adopt dozens of cats to make up for the void, all while denying any problem. Mary comes at Leonard's request and, after assessing the situation, invites Amy for dinner, then tells the pair that it's a good thing they've separated, as they're clearly a terrible match for each other. A stunned Sheldon disagrees and promptly makes up with Amy to prove Mary wrong—which is naturally just what she expected her son to do.
    • Even Penny's Dumb Muscle ex-boyfriend Zak gets in on this. In one episode, Leonard, Howard, and Raj explain the prototype guidance system they're working on, and Zak immediately points out it could be used by the military, a thought that genuinely never occurred to them.
    Zak: You sure you guys are smart?
  • The West Wing features a downplayed example with Donna Moss, Josh's assistant. She's quite intelligent and not "simple" at all, but she's also extremely new to the world of government as opposed to the rest of the main cast, who are longtime political players. As such, she often ends up asking questions about particular procedures or policies in the White House (which in turn helps the audience make sense of them, too). However, Donna's non-political perspective often allows her to see things more clearly than her colleagues, who can get too caught up in their own agendas to see easier solutions or the views of the people they supposedly represent. For instance, in "20 Hours in America," Donna, Josh, and Toby miss their flight back to D.C. and have to travel across the Midwest via trains and cars; along the way, they meet various individuals who are being affected by the White House's policies. Donna is the only one who actually listens to what those people are saying and the problems they've faced, whereas Josh and Toby are too busy arguing about the "big picture" and abstract theory to notice. Toward the end of the episode, she calls the guys out for their insensitivity, and they take the lessons to heart, as shown when Toby sits down for a drink with a local man and has a genuinely compassionate chat about the difficulties he and his children are having.
    • Donna was also able to occasionally come up with simple solutions to knotty political problems by pointing out easy but overlooked tactics. In "The Stackhouse Filibuster," for example, she finds a way to help the titular Senator continue his speech by pointing out the rule that he's able to take questions as part of the filibuster, and further that there's nothing that states how long those questions need to be. Sure enough, the White House staff is able to get other Democratic Senators to ask Stackhouse twenty-plus part questions, saving the day.
  • Frasier: A recurring theme is those around Frasier (his father, Daphne, Roz) having more sensible approaches to the problem of the week, only for Frasier to dismiss them because they don't have his Harvard education and once it all inevitably spirals out of control they'll be proven right.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons can invoke this when a character with low Intelligence has a high Wisdom score. The closest analogue for these stats are IQ vs. EQ, with Intelligence representing things like knowledge, education, and problem-solving while Wisdom is more about empathy, introspection, and the ability to read motivations in others.

  • In Erasmus Montanus, Erasmus' brother Jacob strikes a balance between Erasmus' Insufferable Genius, and the townsfolk's Working-Class People Are Morons by maybe not having the fancy oratory skill or education of his brother, but being clever enough to recognize when you should stick to your principle and when you should go with the flow.

    Video Games 
  • In the first Knights of the Old Republic, you get questions to see what kind of Jedi you'll be. None are "wrong", but guess which answer here leads you to become the wisdom-seeking, magelike Jedi Consular:
    There is a locked door, and you need to get to the other side. What do you do?
    1. Blast it open.
    2. Hack into the lock to get it open.
    3. Knock.
  • Final Fantasy V's protagonist, Bartz, is described in the manual as a "simple wanderer." He has some Book Dumb traits, but he also has a very uncomplicated and un-angsty outlook on saving the world. For instance, when Krile's wind drake will die if not treated with a plant that only grows in a place so dangerous no one has ever returned from it, it sends the party into a brief despair, until Bartz breaks it with these words:
    "Guess that means we'll be the first who do!"
  • Sera from Dragon Age: Inquisition occasionally makes surprisingly profound statements based on straightforward observations, stumping even the more book-smart party members. For example, when Solas badgers her one conversation too many about organizing the Red Jennies to dispose of the nobility for good:
    Sera: What, just lop off the top? What does that do, except make a new top to frig it all up?
    Solas: I... forgive me. You are right.
    • This exchange becomes even more tragic in hindsight after you learn Solas's backstory; it turns out that his actions against the elven "gods" in the distant past resulted in pretty much this.
  • Twisted Metal: Head-On has Cousin Eddy, a mentally deficient hillbilly, winning the Twisted Metal tournament. Typically, this is where Jackass Genie Calypso would grant a wish that he would horribly corrupt in various ways. Cousin Eddy points at his vehicle, and simply asks Calypso to "make it better". Calypso initially refuses to grant Eddy's wish due to Eddy not having been invited to the tournament, but Eddy "persuades" Calypso by threatening to break his neck. Despite the higher-than-usual motivation Calypso had to be a Jackass Genie, there's not a lot of alternate interpretations for "make it better", and he just grant Eddy's wish without his usual dickery.
  • In BlazBlue: Central Fiction, Izanami manipulates much of the cast by dangling the power to literally create their ideal world in front of them, then explaining that the only way that power would work is if they kill the main heroine. Taokaka, despite her three-second attention span and her nature as a constant source of comic relief, is the only member of the cast not only to realise that she actually has everything she needs to be happy already, but that she would rather live in something genuine rather than in a custom-tailored world that couldn't possibly be anything else.
  • In Skylanders: SuperChargers, Flynn, the resident arrogant ditz, warns the Skylander to be careful while they go through the fog-induced Cloud Kingdom, as it is the perfect place for the bad guys to ambush. Cali is then surprised that good advice like that could come from someone like Flynn.

    Visual Novels 
  • Lily from Daughter for Dessert says a lot of things that seem like profound revelations on the importance of relaxation, but a closer inspection reveals that they are predicated on a lack of or aversion to responsibilities.

    Web Comics 
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, this is very nearly Bob's most prominent personality trait.
  • Ben from Weak Hero is a simple person who doesn't bother hiding his emotions and doesn't seem to suffer under any complex issues. That said, he has an emotional depth to him that's partially responsible for drawing the rest of the gang to him. He's the first person that Gray opens up to about his traumatic past, and he's well experienced in counselling Alex from their ten years of friendship.

    Web Video 
  • Critical Role: Caduceus Clay has the highest Wisdom and lowest Intelligence scores of the Mighty Nein; he makes no attempts to hide his ignorance about many aspects of the wider world, having never left his home outside the village of Shadycreek Run before the Nein stumbled into his life, but he has an ability to see through to the hearts of people, comprehending their motives and true feelings that borders on the supernatural.

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):


A Moo Point

Joey gives Rachel some sage advice on whether to ask her assistant out.

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